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Posts Tagged ‘af-pak’

Does India Want to Be a Part of America’s Plan for Asia?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 9, 2012

The U.S. Secretary of Defense swung through New Delhi on his eight-day visit to Asia to encourage Indian leaders to help the U.S. with its military and strategic goals in the region
image: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta walks to lay a wreath at India Gate in New Delhi during a visit on June 6, 2012.

JIM WATSON / POOL VIA REUTERS
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta walks to lay a wreath at India Gate in New Delhi during a visit on June 6, 2012

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrapped up a short visit to India this week, calling for Washington and New Delhi to deepen security ties and defense cooperation in the region. As NATO-led troops get ready to leave Afghanistan and the Obama Administration continues its effort to counterbalance China’s growing military heft, Panetta’s goal was to shore up India’s support in the region during his meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defense Minister A.K. Antony, among others.

In a speech on Wednesday at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, an Indian defense think tank, Panetta urged India to help Afghanistan during and after NATO’s exit by supporting its neighbor through trade and investment, reconstruction and help for Afghan security forces. “We both realize how important it is to ultimately have a stable Afghanistan if we are to have peace and prosperity in this region,” he said. To achieve that, Panetta said both India and the U.S. “will need to continue to engage Pakistan, overcoming our respective and often deep differences.” He applauded India’s recent progress in boosting trade ties with its neighbor as being key to “helping Pakistan turn around its economy and counter extremism within its borders.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Must-Reads from Around the World: March 20, 2012

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 20, 2012

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaking during a Ramadan Iftar banquet in honor of Muslim clergymen, in Damascus, Syria, 24 August 2011. (Photo: SANA / EPA)

SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR ASSAD SPEAKING DURING A RAMADAN IFTAR BANQUET IN HONOR OF MUSLIM CLERGYMEN, IN DAMASCUS, SYRIA, 24 AUGUST 2011. (PHOTO: SANA / EPA)

More Syria Leaks – Al Jazeera reveals details from confidential Syrian intelligence and security documents handed over by one of the government’s most trusted officials who recently fled to Turkey. The trove shows President Bashar Assad’s strategy to suppress anti-government protests, including orders to stop protesters from getting into Damascus and detailed security plans for crushing protests in the cities of Aleppo and Idlib, as well as warnings about countries trying to influence Syrian diplomats to defect and indications the government spied on last year’s Arab League monitoring mission in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »

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TIME Exclusive: Q&A with Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 5, 2012

Ahmad Jamshid / AP

AHMAD JAMSHID / AP
Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar speaks during a joint press conference with her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rasool, unseen, at the foreign ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 1, 2012.

Since she was appointed as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister in July of 2011, Hina Rabbani Khar has had to deal with the fallout from the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, a deterioration in relations with Afghanistan, and a botched cross border operation that saw 24 Pakistani soldiers mistakenly killed by U.S. forces in November. She is Pakistan’s youngest and first female foreign minister. On the eve of her first high-profile visit to Kabul since the assassination of Afghan peace envoy Berhanuddin Rabbani (no relation), she talks about her country’s relationship with Afghanistan, the U.S., and with its own army.

(READ: NATO report says Pakistan is still propping up the Taliban.)

TIME: What prompted your trip to Kabul?

Hina Rabbani Khar: As Foreign Minister of Pakistan, I would say that the most important capital in the world is Kabul. If this track works, if Pakistan and Afghanistan can work with confidence in each other’s intentions and actions, we can go a very long way. With that trust we can fix a lot of things and will not need outside influence and interference. Therefore we would be open to engage with Afghanistan at any level and at any time. Since 2008 [when the elected government came to power] we have given a very consistent message to Afghanistan that we mean business, that we would want to support anything that Afghans feel is for their betterment. They have to choose the direction, and we would be behind them following that direction. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sarkozy Unexpectedly Calls Earlier French Troop Exit From Afghanistan

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 29, 2012

By BRUCE CRUMLEY

JOEL SAGET / AFP / GETTY IMAGES French soldiers from the 1st Infantry Regiment return to the Nijrab FOB (Forward Operating Base) military base in Tora, in the Surobi province in Afghanistan, on Dec. 31, 2011.

So it turns out France is indeed leaving Afghanistan earlier than planned, and will seek to bring the last of its current 3,900 troops home by the end of 2013. Despite signs earlier in the week from French government officials indicating no premature pullout was in the works (and stories like mine explaining why that was the case), French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday announced he’d draw French troops down a year ahead of the current 2014 NATO departure date—and will moreover urge Alliance partners to replicate France’s stepped-up hand-over of security duties to Afghan forces.

Sarkozy’s decision came after a meeting with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It also occurred one week after Sarkozy threatened to pull French forces from Afghanistan after four unarmed French troopers were gunned down in a fortified base by an allied Afghan army soldier. Infuriated at those killings—which came less than a month after two other French soldiers were killed by presumably friendly Afghan forces—Sarkozy suspended training of and joint patrols with Afghan units. He also said he’d consider withdrawing France’s entire contingent rapidly if the risk from  Afghan allies couldn’t be diminished. In making their comments in Paris Friday, Karzai and Sarkozy sought to allay fears that moves were afoot to bring the NATO operation to an end before its current 2014 deadline. But they also said the ability and numbers of Afghan forces had increased to the point where they could now assume responsibility for the country’s security ahead of the current NATO time table. Read the rest of this entry »

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How 9/11 Provoked the U.S. to Hasten its Own Decline

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 9, 2011

by 

The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building in New York, September 11, 2001. (Photo: Marty Lederhandler / AP)

During his first year in office, President George W. Bush was confronted by the key strategic challenge facing the United States in the new century, in an incident that began with the diversion of a U.S. aircraft — by Chinese fighter planes, which forced a U.S. Navy spy plane to land on the island of Hainan after a collision that downed a Chinese jets, killing its pilot. What followed was a tense 11-day standoff between Washington and Beijing, serving an early warning that China’s emergence as an economic superpower would inevitably alter the geopolitical balance of power in Asia, and globally.

But then came 9/11 — a mass-casualty terrorist provocation on an unprecedented scale — and the Bush Administration convinced itself, and much of America, that the world had changed. The new president had found his “calling” in a campaign to “rid the world of evil doers”, declaring a “war on terrorism” that would become the leitmotif and singular obsession of U.S. foreign policy for the remainder of his presidency — a presidency that despite massive, kinetic displays of military force, left the U.S. strategically weaker at its close than when Bush entered the Oval Office.

“We’d always treated terrorist attacks before primarily as a law enforcement problem… going after and finding the guilty party, bring them to trial and put them in the slammer,” Vice President Dick Cheney told TIME in an interview published in this week’s edition. “After 9/11, you couldn’t look on those as just law enforcement problems anymore. It was clearly an act of war. And that’s a significant shift. You’re going to use all of the means available…”

But while the scale and brutality of the attacks might have been akin to an act of war, 9/11 was the work of a tiny network of transnational extremists, founded on the remnants of the Arab volunteers who’d fought in the U.S.-backed Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reality Checking Obama on Afghanistan: Five Questions on Ending the War

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 24, 2011

By Tony Karoh

First, credit where it’s due: President Barack Obama has burst the spin bubble by telling Americans that the U.S. military has largely achieved that which can be achieved militarily in Afghanistan, and by admitting that the Taliban will be part of Afghanistan’s political future. He’s also ditched the notion of a “conditions-based withdrawal”, recognizing that it’s a trap that would require effectively making Afghanistan a permanent U.S. military protectorate.

Still, having signaled an intent to cut bait on a war that will continue for the next three years, Obama has left himself with some more complex and challenging questions to answer:

1. What will Obama tell the loved ones of Americans killed in Afghanistan in the next three years?

President Obama wouldn’t call going into Afghanistan to get al-Qaeda a mistake, but he clearly sees the mission’s original nation-building goals as tragically misguided. So, on Wednesday, he narrowed down the U.S. objectives to that which is achievable in the very near term: “No safe-haven from which al-Qaida or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland, or our allies.” He added, “We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government,” starting in 2014.

The goal defined by President Obama has largely been achieved. Bringing peace to Afghanistan, now, will require a political settlement that will include the Taliban, he explained.

But admitting that the war is in its terminal phase and that the Taliban can’t be destroyed poses new questions for the morale and focus of the fight going forward. American troops are risking life and limb in a fight that has largely become a matter of shaping the terms of a political settlement with the enemy.

2. How does the U.S. persuade Afghan civilians or neighboring countries to do its bidding when it acknowledges its presence is temporary?

The military has long warned that when Washington puts a withdrawal date on an expeditionary mission, the enemy’s confidence is boosted — and he becomes a lot more persuasive to the local population, who’re never going to put their faith in a force that has signaled its intent to leave. In the Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan whence the Taliban draws most of its support, it’s hard to persuade civilians to support a war effort against an entity that will, as a result of any political settlement, likely find itself in charge of local government. Read the rest of this entry »

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