Showing posts with label AfPak. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AfPak. Show all posts

23 June 2017

*** PAKISTAN’S ANXIETIES ARE INCURABLE, SO STOP TRYING TO CURE THEM

C. CHRISTINE FAIR

CORRECTION: This article originally and unfortunately referred to Moeed Yusuf as a proxy of Pakistani officials. Due to a serious editorial lapse, for which I take personal responsibility, this was not removed prior to publication. It absolutely should have been removed and we are implementing stricter editorial practices to help ensure something like this does not happen again.

Dr. Yusuf is a well-regarded and valuable member of the South Asia security community. War on the Rocks does not endorse Prof. Christine Fair’s baseless characterization of him as a “proxy” and we regret that we published it due to an oversight. Dr. Yusuf’s body of work on democracy, militancy, and a host of other issues offers valuable contributions to U.S. policymakers, academics, government officials, and security practitioners. We offer our sincere apologies to Dr. Yusuf as well as to our readers who rightly hold us to a higher standard. It is absolutely vital that we engage in public debate without personal attacks. -Ryan Evans, editor-in-chief

For the last 16 years, the Washington policy community has debated how the United States should deal with its problematic partner in its war in Afghanistan: Pakistan. During the Obama administration, there was a growing consensus that Pakistan was the problem, even if there was no agreement on how to manage it. Despite disagreements, at the end of the Obama administration, there was a grudging acknowledgment that the Washington needed

*** Iran, Russia, and the Taliban: Reassessing the Future of the Afghan State


By Amin Tarzi

The first combat zone utilization of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) device by the U.S. forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) on 13 April 2017 brought the Islamic State–Khorasan Province (ISKP) to the headlines. ISKP emerged in Afghanistan and Pakistan in early 2015 after individuals and groups of militants pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. This ISIS affiliate became operational after only a few months. While the ISKP represents a danger to the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan and to the wider region including India and Central Asia, the outfit has become a vehicle to legitimization of the growing internationalization of the wider Afghan conflict, particularly in changing the calculus of Iran and Russia vis-à-vis the Taliban, and it has the potential of becoming a tool for proxy warfare in Afghanistan evocative of the mid-1990s.

ISKP and the Taliban: Taking Different Paths

Since its emergence in the mid-1990s, the Taliban sought international legitimacy, unlike the self-identified Islamic State. The initial proclamations of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate were mostly Afghan-centric. However, with the cementing of their ties with al-Qaeda after capturing Kabul in 1996, their views took on a more pan-Islamist outlook.1 Retrospectively, the strategies of the Taliban and those of al-Qaeda differed fundamentally, as the former wanted to become a national movement and be recognized by the international community as such, while the latter wanted to keep Afghanistan in a perpetual state of anarchy, utilizing it as a base for waging global jihad. In a 2012 study on Taliban’s attitudes towards reconciliation, most respondents agreed that al-Qaeda was responsible for derailing the Taliban’s initial aim of establishing an Islamic state in Afghanistan.2 Currently, the majority of the Taliban has returned to the founding Afghanistan-centric principles of the movement with an arguably less religiously zealous message, calling on Muslims to avoid extremism in religion with the goal of becoming a legitimate force in the political arena of the country as well as in the international calculations on Afghanistan. Perhaps learning from their initial mistakes, the reemerging Taliban has tried to speak for the totality of Afghanistan, including providing assurances that they will respect the rights of the Shi‘a and other minorities within the country. Nevertheless, the Taliban remains a violent insurgency and is very keen not only on retaining its monopoly over this violence, but also on controlling and managing it to help calibrate the reactions of both domestic and foreign actors.3

As U.S. Adds Troops in Afghanistan, Trump’s Strategy Remains Undefined


By MARK LANDLER 

WASHINGTON — When President Trump made his first major decision on the war in Afghanistan, he did not announce it in a nationally televised address from the White House or a speech at West Point.

Instead, the Pentagon issued a news release late one afternoon last week confirming that the president had given the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, the authority to send several thousand additional troops to a war that, in its 16th year, engages about 8,800 American troops.

Mr. Trump, who writes avidly on Twitter about war and peace in other parts of the world, said nothing about the announcement. But its effect was unmistakable: He had outsourced the decision on how to proceed militarily in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, a startling break with how former President Barack Obama and many of his predecessors handled the anguished task of sending Americans into foreign conflicts.

The White House played down the Pentagon’s vaguely worded statement, which referred only to setting “troop levels” as a stopgap measure — a tacit admission of the administration’s internal conflicts over what to do about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Don Brown 1 day ago

22 June 2017

Afghanistan’s Center of Gravity: The Taliban and Case for AFPAK FATA by Victor R. Morris

Victor R. Morris

Introduction

The Taliban are the center of gravity in Afghanistan. This is not due to the fact the group is the perceived adversary, but because the Taliban wield power. The insurgency predominantly composed of ethnic Pashtuns are a tangible physical agent performing actions. Equally important, the insurgency is emboldened by intangible socio-cultural variables like Sunni Islamic fundamentalism, Salafi jihadism and Pashtunwali. These intangible variables influence relevant populations and actors, but the Taliban insurgency has the inherent capability for action required to achieve their political objectives. After almost two decades of misidentifying and attacking centers of gravity (COGs), another insurgency strategy needs to be considered or re-considered for successful and effective limited defeat of the Taliban hybrid threat.

This article conducts COG analysis on the Taliban sub-system and Pashtun tribal system using revised joint doctrine and non-linear dynamical systems analysis. Identification of vulnerabilities and recommendations for non-military strategies are outputs of the analyses.

Eikmeier Method of COG Analysis

Considering the Taliban as the primary COG in the war in Afghanistan utilizes the new COG definition that both clarifies and modernizes the COG concept, which is a crucial approach as operational environments and population dynamics change over time. The insurgency also called “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” exists in the physical environment and has the capability to attain their objectives. As of May 2017, the Taliban controls or contests 40 percent of Afghan districts and subsequently heavily influences international security policy. In order to elucidate the insurgency’s mechanisms of control and influence, this article employs the Eikmeier method of COG analysis that includes revised definitions, precision and testability. Therefore, the COG identification assertion is validated based on the above criteria. This article also draws from nonlinear science and warfare concepts, which include systems, chaos and complexity theories.

Afghan Government Quietly Aids Breakaway

By TAIMOOR SHAH, ROD NORDLAND 

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It was a particularly bitter fight in the heavily contested district of Gereshk in Helmand Province. The adversaries deployed suicide attackers, roadside explosives and a magnetic bomb stuck to the undercarriage of a commander’s car, amid pitched firefights that went on for several days last week.

When it was over, at least 21 people were dead on both sides — and all were members of the Taliban.

As a result, Gereshk remained one of the few places in the province still mostly under the Afghan government’s control, thanks to a breakaway Taliban faction that has become a de facto ally of the government.

Infighting among the Taliban is nothing new. But Afghan officials have now chosen sides, with a policy that amounts to “If you can’t beat them, at least help their enemies do so.”

In recent months, the government has quietly provided the breakaway faction — popularly known as the Renouncers — with weapons, safe passage and intelligence support in their fight against the mainstream Taliban. The result has been a series of successes in areas where the government has otherwise suffered repeated defeats, particularly in Helmand, a southern province where the mainstream Taliban still control 90 percent of the territory.

21 June 2017

** Afghanistan: It’s Too Late


Ahmed Rashid

When Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, James Mattis, was called before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week to testify about the conflict in Afghanistan, he was unusually blunt: “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” he said. The Taliban have been on a dramatic offensive, he acknowledged, the security situation continues to deteriorate, and the Afghan government holds considerably less territory than it did a year ago. In other words, prospects for any sort of positive outcome are as remote as they have been in this sixteen-year war—the longest war in American history. 

Yet Trump—and Mattis’s—solution to this unwinnable war seems to be once again to send more troops. On Tuesday, Trump announced that the military itself would be given full authority to decide how many troops it needs. (By leaving all decisions in the hands of the military, he has abandoned the usual inter-agency consultations, especially with the State Department.) And Mattis is talking about a review to be completed in July that could add as many as 5,000 troops. It may be too late. 

Afghanistan now faces a far deeper crisis than many seem to understand. Warlords and politicians—including cabinet members—are calling for the resignation of President Ashraf Ghani and his security ministers, accusing them of incompetence, arrogance, and stirring up ethnic hatred. There are as many as ten public demonstrations a day in the streets of Kabul, carried out by young people and by relatives of those killed in recent bomb attacks. 

China May Soon Establish Naval Base in U.S. Ally Pakistan

by WAJAHAT S. KHAN 

LONDON — Nuclear-armed Pakistan is a key ally of the United States — but the relationship is far from untroubled. And one of Washington's main geopolitical rivals appears ready to step in.

The Pentagon is warning that the Islamic republic may soon house a Chinese military base.

While the U.S. gives Islamabad hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, the two countries are not on the same page when it comes to fighting terrorism or ending the war in Afghanistan.

A report released earlier this month suggested that Beijing would likely turn to countries such as Pakistan as it seeks to project its economic and military power abroad.

The Pentagon didn't provide a time frame for such a move. However, a senior Pakistani diplomat confirmed to NBC News that his country invited China to build a naval facility on its territory back in 2011.

“What better way for China to demonstrate clout than to build a military base right in your rival's backyard?”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the diplomat said this request came just days after U.S. Navy SEALs conducted a secret raid to kill Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, when relations between Washington and Islamabad took a nosedive.

What’s Happening at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port?

By Zofeen T Ebrahim

A stray dog snoozes under a red boat lying next to a rickety tea shop on the quay at Sur Bandar, where a few dozen small boats are bobbing in the Arabian Sea. The water is clear and a school of fish is swimming near the shore. The fishermen gather and chat over cups of a strong, sweet concoction they call “doodh-patti” as they watch the world go by. I ask some if they have heard of the much-touted China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), but they shake their heads.

The harbor front is quiet compared to the one at Gwadar, some 20 kilometers away, where a Chinese deep sea port is under construction, promising to transform the sleepy town into a global trading hub.

CPEC is a 3,000-kilometer corridor from Kashgar in western China to Gwadar in Pakistan on the Arabian sea. It slices through the Himalayas, disputed territories, plains, and deserts to reach the ancient fishing port of Gwadar. Huge Chinese funded infrastructure projects, including road and railway networks as well as power plants, are being built along the way. Originally valued at $46 billion, the corridor is estimated at $62 billion today.

Afghanistan: Game Of Lies


June 12, 2017: The recent terror bombings in Kabul were explicitly denied by Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban. Actually both these organizations are now run by the head of the Haqqani Network, which remains a “protected (from attack by Pakistani security forces)” group in Pakistan. Nevertheless the Haqqani Network has been avoiding attacks that kill a lot of civilians and concentrating on the security forces and especially specific commanders. The Afghan Taliban has been ordered to follow the same fuels but observance has been spotty. The usual suspect in large scale attacks, ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has not claimed credit. While Afghan security forces are blamed for not preventing this attack, the Afghan intel and police investigators have become quite good and with American intel back in force it is usually possible to identify who carried out a specific attack based on debris at the scene and the growing informant network and databases the Afghans have created. The Afghan police have already admitted they knew of Haqqani plans for a Kabul attack in late May but underestimated the size of it.

The major sponsor of most attacks in cities is not the Taliban but ISIL or Haqqani Network and continued that is made possible with support from the Pakistani military. That means Haqqani has less trouble obtaining explosives and safe areas in Pakistan where staff for bombing missions can be trained and indoctrinated. ISIL does it for their own reasons while Haqqani does it because that is how they continue to enjoy a sanctuary in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan insists Haqqani has moved to Afghanistan but American and Afghan intelligence efforts keep picking up evidence that leads back to Pakistan. This includes dead, or captured, suicide bombers who turn out to be Pakistanis or Afghans who received training in Pakistan and captive ones casually note that the military and police there left them alone.

20 June 2017

US Still Tilting at Windmills in the ‘Ghan: Why Is the US Sending 4,000 More Troops to Afghanistan?

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Sixteen years into its longest war, the United States is sending another 4,000 troops to Afghanistan in an attempt to turn around a conflict characterized by some of the worst violence since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. They also face the emergence of an Islamic State group affiliate and an emboldened Taliban, who by Washington’s own watchdog’s assessment now control nearly half the country.

In February, Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction John Sopko, in his first report to the Trump administration, offered a bleak picture of a country struggling under the burden of a deeply corrupt government, a strengthening Taliban and a U.S. development budget rife with waste.

While the government of President Ashraf Ghani asked for a troop surge, at least one lawmaker, Nasrullah Sadeqizada, was skeptical of the plan and cautioned that any should be coordinated with the Afghan government and not be done unilaterally by the United States.

“The security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan and the foreign troops who are here are not making it better,” he said.

At its peak, the war involved 120,000 international troops from 42 countries. So many in Afghanistan question whether adding 4,000 troops to the 8,500 U.S. soldiers in the country will bring peace. But failure could leave the U.S. vulnerable to an increasingly hostile Afghanistan and its growing anti-Western sentiment.

Pakistan’s Two-Pronged Game in Kabul

BY ANAND ARNI AND PRANAY KOTASTHANE 

Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaks during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani 

Kabul’s tryst with terror seems never ending. The city was never really out of danger through the last two decades but the frequency, scale, and impact of the latest round of terrorist attacks is comparable only to the darkest days of the Afghan Civil War between 1989 and 1996. 

Now, there’s another common link between that tumultuous period and today’s chaos: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Though there is little to establish direct causation, but the strong correlation between Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s return to Kabul and the spike in the attacks deserves serious attention. 

Who is Hekmatyar? 

US Still Tilting at Windmills in the ‘Ghan: Why Is the US Sending 4,000 More Troops to Afghanistan?

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Sixteen years into its longest war, the United States is sending another 4,000 troops to Afghanistan in an attempt to turn around a conflict characterized by some of the worst violence since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. They also face the emergence of an Islamic State group affiliate and an emboldened Taliban, who by Washington’s own watchdog’s assessment now control nearly half the country.

In February, Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction John Sopko, in his first report to the Trump administration, offered a bleak picture of a country struggling under the burden of a deeply corrupt government, a strengthening Taliban and a U.S. development budget rife with waste.

While the government of President Ashraf Ghani asked for a troop surge, at least one lawmaker, Nasrullah Sadeqizada, was skeptical of the plan and cautioned that any should be coordinated with the Afghan government and not be done unilaterally by the United States.

“The security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan and the foreign troops who are here are not making it better,” he said.

At its peak, the war involved 120,000 international troops from 42 countries. So many in Afghanistan question whether adding 4,000 troops to the 8,500 U.S. soldiers in the country will bring peace. But failure could leave the U.S. vulnerable to an increasingly hostile Afghanistan and its growing anti-Western sentiment.

19 June 2017

ISIS Captures Tora Bora, Once Bin Laden’s Afghan Fortress

Source Link
By ROD NORDLAND 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Tora Bora, the mountain redoubt that was once Osama bin Laden’s fortress, fell to the Islamic State early Wednesday, handing the extremists a significant strategic and symbolic victory, according to Afghan officials and local elders and residents.

Taliban fighters who had previously controlled the extensive cave and tunnel complex fled overnight after a determined, weeklong assault by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, according to villagers fleeing the area on Wednesday.

Hazrat Ali, a member of Parliament and a prominent warlord from the area who helped the Americans capture Tora Bora from Al Qaeda in 2001, said that the offensive was prompted by the American decision to drop the so-called mother of all bombs on an Islamic State network of tunnels in Achin District in April. The 20,000-pound bomb was thought to be the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed.

Pakistan: U.S. Drone Strikes "Against Spirit of Ongoing Cooperation"

By Bill Roggio

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said today that US drone strikes and other unilateral actions “are against spirit of ongoing cooperation” and that any intelligence on terrorist whereabouts should be forwarded to the army for action. Bajwa made the statement despite the fact that Pakistani officials have routinely passed along actionable intelligence to terrorists to help them avoid raids, as well as supposed “counterproductive” drone strikes have historically been effective in killing scores of top tier terrorist leaders.

Bajwa’s view on drone strikes were summarized in an Inter-Services public relations press release that was issued on June 14, just one day after the US killed a Haqqani network leader and two of his deputies in an attack in Pakistan’s northwestern district of Hangu. From the ISPR press release:

18 June 2017

A Flawed Plan for Afghanistan The Trouble With Deploying More U.S. Troops

By Aaron B. O'Connell

In April 2002, in the early days of what would become the longest war in American history, President George W. Bush offered a rousing summary of the United States’ goals in Afghanistan. “We will stay until the mission is done,” he said in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute. “Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan develop its own stable government. Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan train and develop its own national army, and peace will be achieved through an education system for boys and girls which works.”

Since then, the United States has repeatedly sent more troops to Afghanistan; by 2011, U.S. force levels topped one hundred thousand. Drone strikes and special operations raids have weakened al Qaeda’s leadership and killed Osama bin Laden. But almost all of Bush’s other goals remain out of reach. Today, the Taliban is gaining ground, the Afghan army is suffering unsustainable losses, and the government in Kabul is corrupt and riven by ethnic divisions. Eleven thousand civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan last year—the highest toll since the United Nations started keeping track in 2009.

Mr. Trump, Afghanistan Is Your War Now


President Trump was typically self-absorbed in his tweet on Wednesday celebrating the 242nd birthday of the United States Army. “Proud to be your commander-in-chief,” he proclaimed to the soldiers.

Yet, when it comes to the actual life-and-death responsibilities of the commander in chief — overseeing America’s vast war machine and sending men and women into conflict — Mr. Trump seems more like the delegator in chief. The latest evidence was his decision this week to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, which could lead to an increase of as many as 5,000 troops, if proposals favored by Mr. Mattis and his generals go forward.

Mr. Mattis has acknowledged to Congress that the United States-led coalition is “not winning” in Afghanistan. It is not at all clear that adding 5,000 more troops — a roughly 50 percent increase over the current troop level of 9,800 — can make a difference, especially when the administration has yet to confront the basic problem of ensuring public safety and the larger political and economic issues that must be part of a comprehensive strategy to resolve the conflict.

What such a decision would do is reverse the drawdown President Barack Obama put in place and set a new policy of expanding involvement in a war that has already dragged on for 16 years, cost thousands of American and Afghan lives and consumed billions of dollars.

Having spent five years in Afghanistan (between 2004 and 2014) I am convinced that the fundamental problem is governance failure.1) Local... 
stu freeman 42 minutes ago

Pakistan is our "regional partner"? Were it not for that country and its security service the Afghan Taliban would have no refuge to plan... 
OSS Architect 46 minutes ago

Where is the diplomatic initiative in Afghanistan? Mr Trump is de-funding the State department, and the generals like Mr Mattis have told... 

Military commanders chafed under Mr. Obama’s tight controls on troop deployments and war making, which some of them saw as micromanagement. Even so, commanders in chief cannot subcontract their most sacred duties; what the United States faces at this moment is not some routine tactical maneuver or choice. It is what to do about America’s longest war. That is, at bottom, Mr. Trump’s responsibility, and at the moment the nation has no idea what he thinks or where he is headed.

Mr. Trump, who has no prior government experience, leaves the impression that he is cowed by the weighty responsibility of sending more Americans into battle, and is looking to put that onus on Mr. Mattis so he has somebody to blame if things go wrong, as he did when he fingered the generals for a botched raid in Yemen in January, in which one member of the Navy SEALs was killed.

That the president may be distancing himself from a complex challenge is only one concern. Another is the absence of an informed, wide-ranging public debate. Discussions about possible troop increases have largely been theoretical and limited to experts, prompting Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to complain fiercely at a hearing on Tuesday that the Pentagon has yet to present a plan to regain the battlefield momentum that could provide a framework for decision making.

There is an urgent need for just such a plan and such a discussion, not least because everything in Afghanistan seems to be going backward. Mr. Mattis says that he may send some additional troops even before the new war plan is completed, perhaps next month, because the Taliban is once again “surging.” (The Islamic State, a relative newcomer to the conflict, has been flexing its muscles in Afghanistan this year.)

Apart from the fact that the need for additional troops has not been cogently debated, much less established as necessary, such a move now would be premature: None of the big questions have been answered. How will 5,000 more troops turn the tide, when the United States was unable to bring stability to Afghanistan when it had more than 100,000 troops there in 2011? What is the core American national security interest — defeating Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban? Stabilizing the Afghan state? All of the above? None?

American civilian and military leaders have long agreed that the goal must be a political settlement with the Taliban. Yet five months into Mr. Trump’s tenure, the well-resourced Pentagon, which is on track to receive a large budget increase this year, is calling the shots — not the State Department, which Mr. Trump’s budget would decimate.

One major hindrance to sound policy making is the fact that there are few experts in place to do the work; many senior national security positions remain unfilled. However capable and respected Mr. Mattis may be, the Pentagon and American military forces cannot alone bring stability, or whatever counts as “winning,” to Afghanistan. To achieve any worthwhile outcome, the president must be committed and involved, as must his entire national security team. So far the Pentagon is running the show, largely by default.

17 June 2017

**Why Pakistan is gaining strategic ground in Afghanistan’s troubled political landscape

Shakti Sinha

The horrific suicide bomb attack in Kabul on May 31 that left 150 dead, and subsequent similar attacks at a funeral a few days later briefly brought Afghanistan back into the news. But only briefly since the British elections, the string of terrorists’ attacks in that country and general consternation with Trump’s antics and shenanigans meant that Afghanistan soon receded from public attention. This has meant that Pakistan’s game of gaining ‘strategic depth’ has gained substantial traction and the constitutional framework set in motion with the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 is in real danger of unravelling.

America’s failure to stabilise Afghanistan has led to a general sense of fatigue about that country as reflected in the minuscule coverage of the terrible acts of terrorists’ violence that has grown unabated in recent years. America has also been distracted by its domestic political wrangling that marked the presidential election campaign, and has worsened with the coming into office of Donald Trump. This has allowed Pakistan to rearrange regional power equations quite dramatically, ably supported by China who brought in the Russians onto the same side. While the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has made its appearance in the eastern Afghan province of Nangrahar, its influence and ability to launch terrorist strikes has been exaggerated to achieve this. American missteps and the Iranian tendency to adventurism has meant that over the past decade, Iran and the Taliban have become close tactical allies. The result is that despite stepped up terrorists attacks aimed at civilians, the Taliban is being presented by these countries as a moderate player that should have a key role in any peace process.

An Afghan Settlement Will Require America to Work with Russia, Iran and Pakistan

Moeed Yusuf

U.S. policymakers must keep their eye on the ultimate objective of achieving a peaceful Afghanistan that ceases to be a direct threat to the United States.

The recent spate of horrific bombings in Kabul has once again highlighted the urgent need for a coherent U.S. strategy to reverse the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. President Trump’s aides have reportedly asked him to consider additional troops and expanded authorities for the U.S. military to address the problem. His approval will send an important signal of U.S. recommitment to Afghanistan. But this move, even if only aimed at strengthening the United States’ hand in an eventual negotiation with the Taliban, may also lead Afghanistan’s neighbors opposed to long-term U.S. military presence to double down on resisting the United States. Pakistan’s negative role—and increasingly the roles of Russia and Iran—is already helping to sustain the Taliban. Their further support to the insurgency could tip the balance decisively in the Taliban’s favor.

To succeed in Afghanistan, the United States needs to get these regional spoilers to instead back the United States’ desired end state of a Taliban sworn to peace and willing to operate within the Afghan constitutional framework.

16 June 2017

US airstrike target Haqqani network commander in Pakistan

By KHAAMA PRESS

A commander of the Haqqani terrorist network has reportedly been targeted in a US airstrike in tribal regions of Pakistan.

According to the local officials, the airstrike was carried out late on Monday night in the vicinity of Hangu district located in northwestern parts of Pakistan.

A security official quoted by the Mashal Radio of Radio Liberty has said said on June 13 that the commander, identified as Abubakar, died in an overnight strike in the Speen Tal area of the Hangu district.

A resident of Dewal village, Behram Khan, said three more people were injured in the strike, including a boy.

Khan said Abubakar was from Afghanistan’s Khost Province and that his original name was Omar.

Haqqani network was formed in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The group is allied with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region.

The US Department of State designated the HQN as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on September 7, 2012.

The latest airstrike if confirmed by the US officials, has taken place days after the Afghan officials blamed the network for a series of deadly attacks in capital Kabul which left more than 150 dead and more than 400 others wounded.

13 June 2017

*** Giving Afghanistan a Fighting “Last Chance”

By Anthony H. Cordesman

For the moment, the key fight for Afghanistan has shifted to Washington and is centered in the White House. It is a struggle over whether President Trump should grant the request of General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and the Resolute Support Mission for 3,000 to 5,000 more troops, more U.S. combat air support of Afghan forces, and possibly more Special Forces to support the Afghan counterterrorism forces. This is a request that is endorsed by the Joint Chiefs and evidently by the secretaries of defense and state. It is also one that media reports indicate is opposed by those in the White House that still want to put “America First” in something all too close to isolationism.

Like every aspect of the Afghan War, it has received little attention in both American political debates and in media coverage. It is too much to call Afghanistan the forgotten war, but it seems to be all too accurate to say it is one where there is too little open debate over what is happening and over U.S. strategy. As for media coverage, it almost universally meets the acid test of bad military journalism: A focus on total new troop levels without any serious discussion of what they will do and whether they can support a more effective strategy.