Monday, July 28, 2014

C-Span Book TV Features 'The Taliban Revival'

From C-Span Book TV
July 27, 2014

JULY 15, 2014: Book Discussion on The Taliban Revival - Carnegie Endowment 

Hassan Abbas talked about his book, The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier, in which he discusses the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He said that after being kicked out of power in 2001 by U.S. and NATO troops, the Taliban scattered around Afghanistan, but they eventually regrouped and had retaken large portions of the country. Professor Abbas spoke at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

For video, click here

Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Excerpt: 'The Taliban Revival' - Asia Society

Book Excerpt: 'The Taliban Revival' by Hassan Abbas

June 26th, 2014 by Asia Society

In 2001, when NATO forces entered Afghanistan in their offensive against Al-Qaeda, they also aimed to eradicate the Taliban, Islamic fundamentalists who had lent help to Osama bin Laden. The Taliban were flushed out of Afghanistan's major cities and a new, interim government under Hamid Karzai was established. However, a new book by Dr. Hassan Abbas shows that the Taliban, rather than disappearing, instead persisted and regrouped to the point where they were once again a significant security threat.

In The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier (Yale University Press, 2014), Abbas chronicles how the Taliban managed to not only survive, but spread as an insurgent movement. Furthermore, he writes, understanding the causes of this seemingly mysterious "Talibanization" is essential for reversing its resurgence in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Drawing on research and interviews in the area, The Taliban Revival presents a comprehensive account of the Taliban's fall and resurrection, beginning with Pakistan's volatile Pashtun frontier, weaving through the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and leading up to current U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan.

Hassan Abbas is Professor and Chair of the Department of Regional and Analytical Studies at National Defense University's College of International Security Affairs in Washington, D.C. He is also a Senior Advisor at the Asia Society and was an Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow in 2010. Below is an excerpt from his book.


In theory, a negotiated settlement with the insurgents is a necessary prerequisite for an end to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. But the million-dollar question is: at what cost? Reconciliation with the Taliban is an issue that affects more than just Afghanistan. It has regional implications: the interests of all neighbouring countries need to be taken into account before any major political adjustments can be made. The reality is that the Obama administration was initially very reluctant to pursue a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban, though President Karzai had already reached out to them for "reconciliation." After 2008, Pakistani intelligence also made a case to its U.S. pursuing talks with the Afghan Taliban, and it even offered to mediate. On the ground in Afghanistan, there was an important initiative from German diplomats to talk to the Taliban in 2010.

The problem is that the Afghan Taliban are no longer a hierarchical organization, with leaders who are easily identifiable. A range of localized insurgent groups with different agendas and grievances are operating in the field, as are criminal networks and organizations that are semi-independent Taliban affiliates, such as the Haqqani group, which uses Pakistan’s tribal areas as a base from which to conduct and coordinate its activities in Afghanistan. American defense officials believe that 10-15 percent of insurgent attacks inside Afghanistan are directly attributable to Haqqani group warriors. Pakistan is capable of bringing the Haqqani group to the table — and presumably others from the inner circle of Mullah Omar — but it is doubtful whether the Taliban sitting in Pakistan could negotiate on behalf of all Taliban insurgent leaders operating inside Afghanistan.

No major communication breakthrough with the Taliban leaders was in sight when former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a major policy speech at the Asia Society in New York in February 2011, in which she set out three conditions for the Taliban if they wanted to come to the negotiating table — sever relations with Al-Qaeda, renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution. For the Taliban, this was a non-starter. But they had little inkling that Secretary of State Clinton was moving in this direction after having overcome stiff resistance from the other important power centers in Washington. For Pakistan, it was a welcome development, though Islamabad believed in a slightly different approach, suggesting to the U.S. that the three preconditions could be converted into the end goals of a negotiated deal. Washington agreed in principle, and Pakistan was given the go-ahead to play its part in making this happen.

At the time, Pakistan was itself under tremendous pressure from the TTP — the local faction of the Taliban — which was constantly on the offensive, targeting major military and intelligence infrastructure counterparts from inside Pakistan. For Pakistan, an accommodation between the Taliban and Kabul would ease the pressure and also reinstate Pakistani influence in Afghanistan to balance the inroads India had made there.

Karzai, who was running his parallel reconciliation efforts via the "High Peace Council," led by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, wanted to control the process, but Pakistan was not inclined to trust him, and opted rather to communicate direct with the U.S. in this regard. The Afghan approach — enshrined in a document entitled "The Peace Process Roadmap to 2015" — emphasized an "Afghan-led" and "Afghan-owned" process that would ensure the freedoms and liberties of all Afghans. The assassination of Rabbani at the hands of Taliban (whose spokesman claimed responsibility) in September 2011 was to be a blow to the Afghan reconciliation effort.

Meanwhile the bold U.S. operation in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May 2011 to eliminate Osama bin Laden, followed in November 2011 by the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers and officers at the hands of NATO forces at Salala, a checkpoint on the Pakistan–Afghanistan border, changed the atmosphere in Pakistan and led to a deterioration in U.S.-Pakistani relations that froze the planned negotiation initiative.

The situation only improved in mid-2012 after some "give and take" that led to a resumption of Pakistani efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Over two dozen Taliban militants languishing in Pakistani intelligence "guest houses" (or in some cases in the "protective custody" of local militant groups) were advised to return to Afghanistan. In official U.S.-Pakistan discussions on the subject, Pakistani military and intelligence officials continued to emphasize that there were no "guarantees" and that they only promised "facilitation."

The opening of a Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, in June 2013 for talks with the U.S. and the Afghan government was an important step. The initial agenda included the issue of Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the removal of some Taliban leaders from the UN sanction lists.

The plan foundered, however, when the Taliban erected a plaque outside the office that read "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" and hoisted the Taliban flag — despite a categorical objection from the U.S. According to an American insider, it was all a misjudgement on the part of the government of Qatar, which acceded to the Taliban request. Anyway, President Hamid Karzai was not amused. He conveyed his displeasure to Qatar, and that led to cancellation of the whole process.

The whole episode exposes a debilitating disconnect, caused by mutual apprehensions on the part of all the sides involved in this sensitive and controversial enterprise. Soon afterward, a senior Pakistani diplomat asked me: "Are the Americans really serious in negotiating with the Taliban, or is this only a tactic to force Pakistan to show its hand?" The inference was that perhaps the U.S. is indirectly attempting to drive a wedge between Pakistan and Afghan Taliban leaders. This perception explains Pakistani skepticism about U.S. interests and its long-term commitment to the region.

For complete excerpt, click here

Related Media Coverage:

Book Review: Kirkus Review
India Today: 'Pakistan tried to woo Taliban post 26/11, says new book The Taliban Revival'

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Does Modi's rise mean .....

What Does the BJP's Big Win Mean for India? Experts Weigh In
by Joshua Rosenfield, Asia Society, New York, May 16th, 2014

In the wake of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s resounding victory in India’s elections, Asia Society reached out to our network of fellows and experts in a variety of fields for their reactions to the vote. What do the election results mean? And what developments should observers watch for and expect as Narendra Modi is seated as Prime Minister and begins to implement the BJP’s agenda?

Hassan Abbas
Senior Advisor, Asia Society; Author of the forthcoming book The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan–Afghanistan Frontier

Though in India, the political rise of Narenda Modi and the revival of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is being projected as the victory of common man, Pakistanis recognize him more as a right-leaning politician who was hands-in-gloves with elements who orchestrated the brutal killings of Muslims in communal violence in Gujarat in 2002.

Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif called Modi to congratulate him on BJP’s landslide election victory and invite him to visit Pakistan, hoping to fully revive the peace process which Sharif had initiated with India in early 1999 when another BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister of India. Sharif, like many other leading Pakistani politicians, is now convinced that peace with India is a must for Pakistan’s progress. The question is whether Sharif can “help” Pakistan’s military establishment in overcoming their concerns and inhibitions in the matter. Pakistan’s right-wing political forces are also ever ready to obstruct any talk of peace with India.

On the brighter side, one earnestly hopes that soon-to-be Prime Minister Modi will follow what he said about relations with Pakistan in early May in an interview with The Times of India: “Both countries faced a common enemy in widespread poverty which they could tackle to together if a new trust could be established.”

Alyssa Ayres
Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

Mr. Modi has campaigned on an economic growth and governance platform. That’s likely good news for resolving many of the U.S.-India economic frictions, such as FDI limits, tax predictability, and openness to greater trade in general. American companies are looking forward to getting back to business with India.

Surjit S. Bhalla
Columnist, The Indian Express; Chairman, Oxus Investments; Senior Advisor, Zyfin

This election will be a significant departure from history. While the curtain has not yet been dropped on caste politics, we are near to that dream reality. It is poetic justice that Narendra Modi, a lower caste OBC, and one who has never played the caste card and indeed vehemently argued against it, should be the one to provide a death blow to Mandal politics. What has also nearly ended is Communist politics. The Left parties managed to obtain only 10 seats, half their 2009 amount, and ended their masquerade as a national party.

But the real political story of this election is the near complete decimation of the Congress party. The party has had two humiliating defeats in the past: the first in the old India of 1977, and the second in 1999. Election 2014 is witness to the Congress hitting its lowest ever seats, 45. The reality is that the Congress as we know it, and have loved and hated it, is destroyed, and it is the political death of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. When a 130-year-old national party obtains less than a twelfth of the total seats on offer, and barely makes it as the second-largest political party, regional or otherwise, it cannot, should not, and for its own survival must not remain the same.

Marshall Bouton
Interim Director, Asia Society Policy Institute; Senior Fellow, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania

From a politics of scarcity to a politics of aspiration—that is the central meaning of the historic Indian election so resoundingly concluded today. Over the last 15 to 20 years the Indian people have discovered that with economic growth comes the possibility of better lives for themselves and their children. No longer is the struggle about who gets what slice of an unchanging chapati, but how growth can afford more opportunity for many. And those young Indians for whom this was the first time to vote have never known the politics of scarcity and will accept nothing less than a positive vision based growth and opportunity.

Nor is the new narrative of Indian politics just an urban phenomenon. Exit polls showed the BJP and its allies winning almost as decisively in the rural areas as in the cities, despite the UPA Government’s multiple schemes to shower goodies on farmers and rural labor.

Somehow the Congress Party missed the emergence of a new India that is optimistic about the future. Perhaps lacking true political leadership, it has been imprisoned in the mindset that elections can be won by framing “rights” and implementing poorly designed welfare schemes.

For all the credit due to Mr. Modi—and yes, this was a Modi wave election—he faces the enormous challenge of somehow fulfilling the high expectations of renewed growth, more jobs, subdued inflation, improved infrastructure, and less corruption that the Indian people have placed on him and his party. If he strays from the pursuit of growth and opportunity that he has promised, and especially if he allows the agenda of the Hindu right to distract his government and the country, he will in time be held equally to account.

For complete story, click here


Friday, May 16, 2014

Pakistan Conference at Oxford University (May 9-10, 2014)

Scholars Discuss Pakistan Beyond Bombs and Beards
The Asians, May 14, 2014
Pakistan is a land of opportunity which like USA was built by keeping an eye on future. These views were expressed by scholars debating Pakistan’s current state of politics, economy, foreign policy, media and education at a conference in Oxford University on May 10-11.
The conference, titled ‘Pakistan: Opportunity in Crisis,’ brought together 27 established as well as emerging academics and policy experts from Pakistan, UK and other countries, and around 150 delegates from across Britain. It was convened by Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad, the Quaid-i-Azam Fellow at Oxford University and was hosted by Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College.
In the opening address, Imran Mirza, the Acting High Commissioner said, “There is a different Pakistan beyond the narrative of bombs and beards. It’s the tale of a society resilience enough to defy all doomsday predictions, of an economy that has innate ability to absorb global financial crisis, and of a people with exceptional traits of hospitality.” 

Tahir Wasti (speaker) with Mosharraf Zaidi and Imtiaz Gul

In his keynote address, Dr. Faisal Devji, Director of Asian Studies Centre, said that Pakistan was founded with an eye into the future, just as the United States. This remarkable reality, in his view, was contrary to the role that factors such as soil, blood and history played in the founding of traditional European nation-states. Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, the newly appointed chairman of Higher Education Commission, pointed out in his keynote address that, even amid apparent security quagmire, the higher education sector in the country had flourished unprecedentedly. “Expanding international collaborations with universities and academics in all disciples of humanities, social and natural sciences is our priority at HEC.” Speakers on the occasion, among others, included Prof Ian Talbot, Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, Prof Mohammad Waseem, Prof Saeed Shafqat, Imtiaz Gul, Prof Hassan Abbas, Dr. Adeel Malik, Tariq Malik, Owen Bennett-Jones, Prof Maya Tudor, Taoha Qureshi, Prof Rashid Amjad, Mosharraf Zaidi, Hamayoun Khan, Dr. Tahir Wasti, Hannes Ebert, Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, Prof Yunas Samad, Dr. Tahir Kamran, Dr. Yaqub Bangash, Tayyab Safdar, Mr Adnan Rafiq, and Huma Yusuf.

For complete article, click here

Mian Sohail, Ayesha Siddiqa, Hassan Abbas and Ishtiaq Ahmed -
outside Nissan Lecture Theatre, Oxford University

Also See:
Conference website:

Opportunity in Crisis By, Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Pulse, May 12, 2014

Pakistan's Multiple Crisis by Imtiaz Gul, Express Tribune, May 14, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

'Injustice of Silence': Dawn - Rape in Pakistan

For Details, click here

Preserving honour through a woman’s body

By Maliha Zia Lari - Advocate High Court

The criminality of rape is a contentious matter in Pakistan. Already entrenched in social stigma, the offence is so closely correlated with cultural and political conditioning, that it is difficult to treat the issue as merely a legal one.

In actuality, the crime, it’s investigation and it’s prosecution all reflect a deeper cultural dynamic that ultimately results in how rape is addressed in Pakistan.

In a patriarchal culture such as Pakistan’s, women are viewed to be subordinate to men. They are not recognised as individuals but through their relationships, those of a mother, daughter, sister, wife. Rather, seen as a ‘commodity’ being transferred from one man’s home (her father’s) to another (her husband’s), a woman must therefore be protected to maintain her best possible form until lead-time.

This prevalent mindset stems from local traditions, values and practices across the country that perpetuate pigeon-holed roles for women as mere reproducers.

The concept of ownership and with it the ‘preservation’ of a woman is the crest of why men exert control over restrictions of space, mobility, and behaviour among other liberties.

This control is designed to ensure that a woman does not bring shame to her family. While she is contrastingly viewed as ‘fragile’, the weight of upholding her family’s honour starts the day a girl is born.

With such limited social standing, women often suffer the lack of financial benefits of their work, inevitably rendered as the ‘family’s’ money. In some cases, women are not allowed to work, in many others, they are unable to due to illiteracy, resulting in permanent economic handicap.

Consequently, women are unable to leave abusive relationships where they are consistently exploited without an avenue of long-term state support.

The core reason behind the rising incidence of rape in Pakistan lies within the confines of sexual objectification – violating a woman’s body for the ultimate dishonour.

This is evidenced by the punishments meted out by the illegal parallel systems such as jirgas and panchayats, that order the rape or stripping of womenwhen men in their family have committed an offence. Such systems are particularly dominant in southern Punjab, where the majority of rape cases are reported.

For complete article, click here

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Nature of the threat from the Punjabi Taliban

'The Punjabi Taliban' by Dr. Syed Manzar Abbas Zaidi
Centre for International and Strategic Analysis, February 2014

Executive Summary

This paper discusses the evolution of the Punjabi Taliban in context of their organizational depth in Punjab in Pakistan, and argues since they share a confluence of interests with regards to global jihadism, they are a logical ally of the Taliban & al-­‐Qaeda groups. The author argues that it was natural that they would be activated due to this confluence of interests, particularly in wake of the of Pakistani Army's military operations in the tribal areas which placed the TTP under duress. This confluence of interests-­‐ activation sequence is argued by the author in the post 2008 period with the help of examples, whereby the terrorist threat from the Punjabi Taliban has become a distinct possibility.


The discourse on Punjab has to be understood in two contexts. Punjab is not a Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA); the analogy of 'lawless badlands' which tends to be applied to FATA is far away from the truth in reference to Punjab. It is considered by many as the most progressive province of Pakistan, and boasts a number of cities which are well established metropolitan centers of modernity and liberalism. At the same time there is the 'other ' Punjab. This is the rural Punjab of the South and even adjoining major urban centers, which has traditionally been the nursery for organizations like Sipah-­‐e-­‐Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Jaish-­‐e-­‐Muhammad (JM). These groups have sprung up from a conflict between a Shia elite and a burgeoning Sunni bourgeoisie in the city of Jhang in the case of SSP; and in the case of JM, a long standing toleration of militancy in Bahawalpur. This 'other' Punjab does not suffer from terrorist attacks as have been witnessed in cities in Punjab like Lahore and Rawalpindi, arguably because it is a sanctuary for these militants. As an Urdu proverb goes' One does not spit in the vessel in which one eats', the militants have tried not to attract attention in the South of Punjab so that they can continue to train and recruit without interference.

Punjab accounts for almost 50 percent of Pakistan’s 172 million population. There are more than 20,000 madrasahs in Pakistan, 44 percent of which are situated in Punjab. The government has banned 29 organizations and put 1,764 people on its wanted list, out of which 729 are from southern Punjab2. The linkages between both al-­‐Qaeda and the Pashtun Taliban groups to extremists in the core Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh has long been documented, but so far much of the fighting within Pakistan has remained a struggle between the Pakistani government and the Pashtuns. Accordingly, the mobilization of Punjabi islamist militants may be the next phase in the militancy as a consequence of the pressure on the Taliban in Waziristan and Swat due to the Pakistani Army’s military operations in these regions.

For complete article, click here

Sunday, February 16, 2014

An initiative by the Eqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education


GOAL: EACPE seeks to foster the use of science and reason to understand nature and society and so better enable citizens of Pakistan to participate fully in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of their society; to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities; to value human rights, democracy and the rule of law; to promote cultural and religious diversity; to raise awareness of global issues and the natural environment; and to advance the goals of international peace and justice.

The immediate aim is to produce and promote, equally in Urdu and English, 6-10 minute videos on important social, political, and scientific issues. One new video will be uploaded every week (see website).

Interviews of prominent Pakistani scholars and commentators will be undertaken at the next step.

We welcome others to be part of this effort and will host other suitable videos.

The current video list:

1. WHY IDEOLOGY? (Nazariyyeh Ki Zaroorat?)
Many people never ask, never question. They simply believe. Could this
be because of human biology?

2. A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS? (Tahzeebon Ka Tassadum?)
Many think that Islam and the West are at war with each other. True?
Let's have a second look.

(Ameer Aur Ghareeb Mulk -Akhir Kyon?)
Culture is critical in deciding between poverty and progress. But which aspects of culture?

4. THE DOWNSIDE OF NATIONALISM (Qaum Parasti Kay Muzir Asrat)
The world is integrated economically and yet torn apart by nationalist fervour. Why? After all, you and I had no choice in choosing our parents or country.

5. NATIONALIST MOVEMENTS ? GOOD OR BAD? (Kya Qaum Parast Tehreekon Ki Himayat Ki Jaey?)
Thousands have been killed in the separatist struggles against the central authority of various nation states in South Asia. Whose side should one be on?

6. THE BIG BANG - JUST A MYTH? (Big Bang - Mehz Aik Nazariya?)
Every culture and religion has its own version of creation. But here is the evidence that science offers.

7. WHERE IS THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE? (Kainat Ka Markaz Kahan Hai?)
A student recently asked me if Mecca was where the Big Bang started from. Yes, I said, but Karachi is also the centre....

8. HOW WILL OUR UNIVERSE END? (Kainat Ka Anjam Kya Hoga?)
Until a decade ago we didn't know how everything would end. Now, we do and it's nothing to look forward to!

9. BLACK HOLES IN EUROPE? (Zameen Par Black Hole Banana Mumkin Hai?)
Citizens of France and Switzerland are very worried they will be eaten up by a black hole made at CERN. Should they be?

10. LIFE IN OUTER SPACE? (Ghair Shamsi Sayyaron Par Zindagi?)
Over 1000 extrasolar planets have been discovered and there are billions more. What is the chance of finding life?

11. SWINDLES IN SCIENCE (Science Kay Double Shah)
A car that would run only on water enthralled Pakistan. How can we save ourselves from such embarrassments in future?

12. IS AMERICA CAUSING STORMS AND EARTHQUAKES IN PAKISTAN? (Kya Pakistan Main Anay Walay Toofan Aur Zalzalay Amrika Kay Tuhfay Hain? )
People allege that America has developed the means to change weather and Pakistan is among its victims. True?

Thank you,
Pervez Hoodbhoy

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Negotiations with Taliban: Lessons for Afghanistan & Pakistan

From Stalemate to Settlement: Lessons for Afghanistan from Historical Insurgencies That Have Been Resolved Through Negotiations
by Colin P. Clarke,  Christopher Paul, RAND, 2014

In June 2013, the Afghan Taliban opened a political office in Qatar to facilitate peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan governments. Negotiations between the United States and the group that sheltered al-Qaeda would have been unthinkable 12 years ago, but the reality is that a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is one of several possible end games under the current U.S. withdrawal plan. Negotiating an end to an insurgency can be a long and arduous process beset by false starts and continued violence, but a comprehensive review of historical cases that ended in settlement shows that these negotiations followed a similar path that can be generalized into a "master narrative." This research examines 13 historical cases of insurgencies that were resolved through negotiated settlement in which neither side (insurgents or counterinsurgents) unambiguously prevailed. Taken together, these cases reveal that the path to negotiated settlement generally proceeds in seven steps in a common sequence. Although this resulting master narrative does not necessarily conform precisely to every conflict brought to resolution through negotiation, it can serve as an important tool to guide the progress of a similar approach to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw.

Historical Insurgencies That Were Resolved Through Negotiated Settlement After a Stalemate Followed a Common Path: a "Master Narrative"

Of the 71 insurgencies resolved between 1944 and 2010, 13 ended in a negotiated settlement in which neither side (insurgents or counterinsurgents) unambiguously prevailed.

Each of these 13 cases generally proceeded from stalemate to resolution in seven steps executed in a common sequence: (1) military stalemate and war-weariness created an environment that was "ripe for resolution," (2) the government accepted the insurgents as legitimate negotiating partners, (3) the parties brokered one or more cease-fires, (4) the government and insurgents entered into official intermediate agreements, (5) the government extended a power-sharing offer to the insurgents, (6) the insurgent leadership became more moderate and willing to engage in political compromise, and (7) a third-party guarantor helped reinforce the settlement and transition.

The Master Narrative Distilled from These Historical Cases Could Guide a Negotiated Settlement to the Conflict in Afghanistan

As the United States prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, a negotiated settlement is one of several possible end games.

The master narrative distilled from historical analysis could help guide such an approach to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, should policymakers and Taliban leaders choose this option. It reveals what has been successful and what has been less successful in past negotiations, providing some indication of the challenges that lie ahead and what concessions the Afghan government, the Taliban, and U.S. and coalition forces may be required to make to achieve a lasting settlement.

For complete report, click here

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Afghanistan After the Drawdown - CFR Report

Afghanistan After the Drawdown
Council Special Report, Council on Foreign Relations, November 2013


Following the recent endorsement of the U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement by Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, a new CFR report outlines the composition, role, and rationale for the roughly ten thousand U.S. troops that will possibly remain in the country after the 2014 drawdown. RAND Corporation's Seth G. Jones and Keith Crane explain in a new Council Special Report how the United States should manage the complex political, security, and economic challenges that will accompany the reduction in U.S. and allied forces. They argue for a force of eight to twelve thousand troops to assist Afghan national security forces and prevent a resurgence of al-Qaeda.

"The United States has made an enormous expenditure of blood and treasure in Afghanistan since 9/11. Though not readily apparent to an American public weary of more than a decade of fighting, important gains have nevertheless been achieved to make Afghanistan a better place." The authors warn, however, that "these gains are reversible" and cite risks such as the continued expansion of al-Qaeda and affiliates, regional instability, increased radicalization in Pakistan, and a perception by allies and enemies alike that the U.S. commitment is unreliable.

The report specifies two main missions for the remaining U.S. troops and maintains that the commitment should not be open-ended. A majority should be assigned to train, advise, and assist Afghan national and local forces. Smaller numbers of troops should be tasked specifically with conducting strikes against terrorists by killing or capturing high-value targets, working with high-end Afghan forces in Taliban-controlled areas, and using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and occasional strike missions.

The authors also assert that focusing on regional dynamics is essential to Afghan stability. The United States should rely less on Pakistan to help in accomplishing its goals in Afghanistan, while tying U.S. military assistance to Islamabad to its efforts to combat militant groups.

Jones and Crane make additional recommendations to support the diminished U.S. military presence beginning in 2014:

1. foster a realistic peace process that includes supporting Afghan government–led discussions with the Taliban over prisoner exchange, local cease-fires, and reintegration of combatants
encourage multiethnic coalitions during the 2014 presidential elections
2. work with international donors to sustain funding levels for Afghan education, health, and infrastructure
3. support regional economic integration, including the transit of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline through Afghan territory, as well as détente between India and Pakistan.

For complete report, click here

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Mysteries of the China - Pakistan Border

Murder on the Roof of the World
My travels along the China-Pakistan border

On June 22, 2013, murder occurred on the “roof of the world.” Ten mountaineers were killed at the foot of Nanga Parbat—the world’s ninth-tallest peak, located in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region on the border with China where some of the world’s tallest mountain ranges converge. The victims included American, Chinese, Lithuanian, Nepali, Pakistani, Slovakian, and Ukrainian nationals, and the audacious attack shattered a rare sense of calm in Pakistan’s northernmost corner, bewildering locals. Members of the Pakistani Taliban doggedly scaled the heights to the mountaineers’ camp at an altitude of 15,000 feet and stormed the tents in the dead of night dressed as paramilitary police. One media outlet’s coverage flashed a haunting image of vulnerability: an orange tent on the mountain slopes bathed in moonlight.

Five days later, I boarded a plane to Gilgit-Baltistan.

I had set out to complete a journey I began 10 years ago: to traverse the mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH) connecting China and Pakistan. A decade earlier, I had traveled along the 800 mile-long KKH from Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region to the border with Pakistan. My travels became my college thesis—an analysis of the relationship between China, Pakistan, and Xinjiang’s restive Uighur Muslims in light of the traffic of militancy, drugs, and arms from Pakistan to Xinjiang. I argued that the KKH, a symbol of Chinese-Pakistani friendship, had proven to be both a blessing and a curse.

Now I set out to complete the journey from the Pakistani side in a week-long trip by plane, car, and boat. Once again, I discovered how lofty international relations and local communities intersect on the KKH—from tales of a “new Great Game” between China and America and infrastructure woes along the Pak-China Economic Corridor, to remarkable strides for women’s empowerment and development in communities keen to plug into China’s prosperity. I wound my way up through a land of glaciers, ibex, and snow leopards to the Khunjerab Pass at 14,000 feet—one of the world’s highest international border crossings. All the while, I was shadowed by the murder on the roof of the world.


I began my journey in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. I was lucky. The flight to Gilgit is frequently canceled due to inclement weather; travelers can be stranded in the purgatory of Islamabad for days on end. As the plane taxied and took off past military hangars, a reminder of the ever-fuzzy line between Pakistan’s civilian and military realms, the pilot pointed out the breathtaking convergence of three towering ranges that swiftly surrounded us: the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and the Himalayas. White knuckles gripping the seat, I alternated between awe and fear as the pilot deftly maneuvered among them, buffeted by unrelenting winds. As the plane reached cruising altitude, the pilot proceeded to outline the blood-stained route below: Abbottabad (where Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011), Mansehra (where seven people were killed when gunmen attacked the office of an NGO in 2010), Babusar (where 22 Shiite Muslims were pulled off buses and shot in a sectarian hail of bullets in 2012), and Nanga Parbat, in its gory majesty.

For complete article, click here