The Living Force
Afghanistan has recalled its ambassador from Pakistan over reported remarks by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that suggested Kabul should set up an interim government, calling the comments "irresponsible."

March 26, 2019 - Afghanistan recalls ambassador in row over Pakistan PM remarks
FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a welcome ceremony hosted by  China's Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a welcome ceremony hosted by China's Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Khan told Pakistani journalists on Monday that forming an interim Afghan government would smooth peace talks between U.S. and Taliban officials since the militant group refuses to speak to the current government, according to comments published in The Express Tribune.

“The Afghan government was a hurdle in (the) peace process that was insisting that Taliban should talk to it,” Khan was quoted as saying.

He also said he had canceled a scheduled meeting with Taliban leaders because of objections by the Afghan government.

Afghanistan summoned Pakistan’s deputy ambassador to discuss the “irresponsible” remarks by Khan, foreign affairs ministry spokesman Sibghatullah Ahmadi said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

The Afghan government deemed Khan’s statements as “an obvious example of Pakistan’s interventional policy and disrespect to the national sovereignty and determination of the people of Afghanistan,” Ahmadi said.

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. negotiator with the Taliban, weighed in on Kabul’s side, saying on Twitter that while Pakistan had made “constructive contributions” to the peace process, “Khan’s comments did not.”

“The future of Afghanistan is for Afghans, and only Afghans, to decide. The role of the international community is to encourage Afghans to come together so they can do so,” Khalilzad added.

The Afghan-born U.S. diplomat’s comments come amid tensions between Washington and Kabul over Khalilzad’s exclusion of the Ghani government from the talks with the Taliban. Khalilzad is pressing the Taliban to hold talks on Afghanistan’s political future with a broad spectrum of Afghans, including government officials.

The Afghanistan-Pakistan row marks the third time in just over a month that Kabul demanded an explanation from Islamabad over comments related to peace talks, illustrating the flaring tensions between the two neighbors at a sensitive time.

U.S. and Taliban officials have held recurring talks to end the 17-year war, but the Taliban considers the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani as illegitimate.

Ghani’s mandate expires in May, and pressure is mounting on him to step down before the next presidential election, scheduled for Sept. 28. Ghani has rejected the idea of an interim government.

US Airstrike Kills 14 Members of One Family in Afghanistan March 24, 2019
The United States carried out airstrikes in Afghanistan's Northern Kunduz province after a fatal insider attack, leaving at least 14 civilians dead, mostly women and children.


The Living Force
Pakistan tries to cool row over PM's comments on Afghanistan
Pakistan moved on Wednesday to cool a row with Afghanistan over reported comments by Prime Minister Imran Khan that were taken to suggest that Kabul should set up an interim government to help smooth peace talks with the Taliban.

Afghan ambassador to return to Pakistan after PM Khan's remarks clarified
Afghanistan will return its ambassador to Islamabad after Pakistan clarified Prime Minister Imran Khan's remarks that Kabul had deemed to be political interference, the Afghan foreign ministry said on Thursday.

In U.S. pursuit of peace talks, perilous rift opens with Afghan leader
FILE PHOTO: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan July 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail/File Photo

Washington's relationship with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appears increasingly at risk of permanent damage, the consequence of a U.S. policy shift that has so far excluded his government from talks with the Taliban and of his own determination to retain power and manage peace efforts himself.


The Living Force
Afghanistan's vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, escaped unhurt from an attack that killed one of his bodyguards on Saturday, dodging death for the second time since returning from exile last year.

Afghan vice president narrowly escapes death for a second time

FILE PHOTO: Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum arrives at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 22, 2018.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Attackers ambushed Dostum’s convoy on the way from Mazar-i-Sharif, a city in Balkh province, to Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan, said Bashir Ahmad Tayenj, spokesman for Dostum’s Junbish Party. Two other bodyguards were wounded.

Dostum was aware of a planned attack but decided to travel anyway, the spokesman added.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt, which comes eight months after Dostum avoided injury in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport. In a tweet, the militant group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said four guards were killed and six wounded in the attack.

Last summer’s bombing, which was claimed by Islamic State, took place as Dostum returned home from more than a year in exile in Turkey over allegations of torturing and abusing a political rival.

Dostum had left Afghanistan after heavy pressure from Western donors including the United States.

Less than a year since his return, the general remains a significant, if polarizing, political figure. His Junbish Party is supported mainly by his fellow ethnic Uzbeks.

Dostum has joined the election team of Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, one of several contenders in a presidential election scheduled for Sept. 28.


The Living Force
The United States has revoked the entry visa of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, her office said on Thursday, a response to her inquiry into possible war crimes by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. revokes ICC prosecutor's entry visa over Afghanistan investigation
FILE PHOTO: Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda attends the trial of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda at the ICC (International Criminal Court) in the Hague, the Netherlands August 28, 2018. Bas Czerwinski/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda attends the trial of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda at the ICC (International Criminal Court) in the Hague, the Netherlands August 28, 2018. Bas Czerwinski/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month the U.S. would withdraw or deny visas to ICC staff investigating such allegations against U.S. forces or their allies.

United Nations human rights experts called the reaction “improper interference” in the work of the world’s permanent war crimes court. It also drew criticism from within the European Union.

“We can confirm that the U.S. authorities have revoked the prosecutor’s visa for entry into the U.S.,” Bensouda’s office told Reuters in an e-mail.

It said it understood the move should not impact Bensouda’s travel to the U.S. to meet her United Nations obligations.

The ICC is not a U.N. court, but Bensouda travels regularly to brief the U.N. Security Council on cases referred to The Hague by the UN body.

A State Department spokesman said members of international organizations planning official travel to the U.N. could apply for diplomatic visas. “We recommend that applicants apply as early as possible to maximize the chances of being found eligible,” the spokesman said.

The U.S. in not a member of the ICC, along with other major powers Russia and China.

Double blast kills three people, injures 20 in east Afghanistan

Twin explosions on Saturday in the eastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad killed three people and injured 20 others, local officials said.


The Living Force
The United States has revoked the entry visa of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, her office said on Thursday, a response to her inquiry into possible war crimes by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. revokes ICC prosecutor's entry visa over Afghanistan investigation
Bolton and Pompeo as the acting "Gatekeeper's" ...

Sun Apr 07, 2019 - EU Backs ICC After US Revokes Prosecutor's Visa over Probe into Afghan War Crimes

The European Union expressed its “full support” for the International Criminal Court (ICC), voicing “serious concern” after the United States revoked the entry visa for the intergovernmental organization’s chief prosecutor over a possible probe into US soldiers’ actions in Afghanistan.

On Friday, the office of ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer, confirmed that Washington had slapped a visa ban on her, stressing that according to the Rome Statute governing the organization, she has an “independent and impartial mandate”,
World News reported.

“The EU expects the US to ensure that any measures adopted by the US in relation to the ICC is in full compliance with their international obligations, having also due regard to the ICC-UN Relationship Agreement,” the EU said in a statement.

“The EU fully supports the ICC and its independence and remains committed to cooperate with the ICC to guarantee its effectiveness and efficiency and expects States to lend the necessary assistance and support,” it added.

The European bloc highlighted the “key role” of the ICC in its fight against impunity. It also emphasized that “protecting the neutrality and judicial independence of the ICC is paramount to its effectiveness and proper functioning”.

Back in November 2017, Bensouda asked ICC judges for authorization to launch an investigation into purported war crimes in Afghanistan by the Taliban militant group, Afghan government forces and international forces, including American troops.

The court, however, has not yet decided whether to open a full-scale investigation.

The move against Bensouda came less than a month after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced restrictions on ICC staff who investigate US or allied personnel.

“I'm announcing a policy of US visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of US personnel,” Pompeo stated at a State Department briefing in mid-March.

Washington has refused to cooperate with international investigators over their probe into alleged war crimes committed by US military personnel in Afghanistan, claiming they violate US sovereignty.

The US insists that the ICC does not have jurisdiction over American citizens because the US never ratified the Rome Statute, which established the court in the first place.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has already rebuked and questioned the ICC. One of National Security Adviser John Bolton's first speeches was about the ICC, condemning its investigation into the conduct of US personnel.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and overthrew a Taliban regime in power at the time. But US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.

The ICC has repeatedly highlighted alleged abuses of detainees by American troops between 2003 and 2005. It believes the human rights violations have not been adequately addressed by the US government.

Washington, however, claims that it has its own robust procedures in place to deal with American soldiers who engage in misconduct.

President Donald Trump’s administration is considering reducing its diplomatic footprint in Afghanistan as part of a broader effort to extricate the United States from its costly and deadly 18-year conflict, US officials told Foreign Policy.
Sun Apr 07, 2019 - US Eyes Plans to Cut Diplomatic Staff in Afghanistan, Iraq

US Eyes Plans to Cut Diplomatic Staff in Afghanistan, Iraq

The State Department is preparing to cut by half the number of US diplomats posted in Kabul in 2020, according to three US officials familiar with internal deliberations. It may also advance plans to reduce the number of diplomats posted to the US Embassy in Iraq as Washington winds down its war footing in the Middle East and South Asia to prepare for what it calls an era of “great-power competition” with China and Russia.

The deliberations coincide with US peace talks with the Taliban and assessments on how to withdraw US military forces from Afghanistan.

Once obscure diplomatic outposts, the US embassies in Kabul and Baghdad ballooned into the largest and costliest diplomatic missions in the world following US military interventions there. Diplomats comprise only a portion of embassy personnel in both Kabul and Baghdad, which includes officials from other federal agencies, contractors, and security staff.

In February, NPR reported on a leaked internal document from the US Embassy in Kabul that called the outpost too big and urged a “comprehensive review” of its size, though the document did not outline the scale of the proposed cuts.

The State Department’s presence in Afghanistan pales in comparison to the US military’s, but the embassy in Kabul, along with the embassy in Baghdad, makes up a disproportionate size of State’s budget and personnel compared with embassies in other parts of the world. Some diplomats believe it’s time to shift those resources elsewhere.

“We are regularly hearing from Africa that we are outnumbered by the Chinese diplomats working on economic or other issues 4 or 5 to 1,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding, “We cannot continue to concentrate all that money in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

It’s a matter of “where can we best deploy our very limited resources to avoid losing further ground to major competitors who are rising at a speed that we can barely comprehend”, the official stressed.

The plans under consideration envision eliminating only 20 to 30 diplomatic positions this year from Iraq, where the US diplomatic mission includes the embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil. Up to 30 to 50 percent of the mission to Iraq could be cut in 2020, two of the US officials said, providing details of plans that have been in the works for months.

The embassy in Baghdad has around 16,000 staff, 2,000 of whom are diplomats, :jawdrop: 😖 according to a New York Times report in February that outlined some of the plans.

The State Department does not publicly discuss precise numbers of personnel at embassies or consulates for security reasons, according to a State Department spokesperson.


The Living Force
Three U.S. service members and a contractor were killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device on Monday, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement.

Three U.S. service members, one contractor killed in Afghanistan
An Afghan family ride on a bike past the site of a car bomb attack where U.S. soldiers were killed near Bagram air base, Afghanistan April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

An Afghan family ride on a bike past the site of a car bomb attack where U.S. soldiers were killed near Bagram air base, Afghanistan April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Three U.S. service members were also wounded in the incident near Bagram air base close to Kabul, the statement said.

Colonel David Butler, a spokesman for U.S. Forces- Afghanistan, said a car bomb had detonated near the security convoy, which lead to deaths and injuries. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The latest deaths bring the number of U.S. service member deaths in Afghanistan to seven in 2019, and a total of 68 U.S. military deaths since January 2015, according to U.S. government and NATO reports.

The death toll is one of the deadliest recent attacks against U.S. personnel. In November, a roadside bomb blast killed three U.S. service members near the central Afghan city of Ghazni.

Last month two U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan while conducting an operation.

The Resolute Support Mission consists of 17,000 troops, about half of them from the United States. A smaller number of U.S. troops operate in Afghanistan under a counter-terrorism mission.

Afghan contractor listed as killed in blast is alive
An Afghan contractor who was believed to have been killed in a car bomb near Kabul is alive, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Afghan Taliban insurgents are battling fighters loyal to Islamic State over control of territory in eastern Afghanistan in some of the heaviest clashes over the past year between the rival militants, officials said on Wednesday.

The fighting erupted on Monday in two districts of the eastern Afghan border province of Nangarhar, when Islamic State fighters attacked villages under Taliban control.

“Islamic State fighters have captured six villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts but the fighting has not stopped,” said Sohrab Qaderi, a member Nangarhar’s the provincial council.

About 500 families had fled from the fighting, he said.

Casualty figures were not available.

A spokesman for the Taliban, who control more territory than at any point since they were ousted from power nearly 18 years ago, was not available for comment.

Islamic State fighters first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in around 2014 and have battled the Taliban as well as government and foreign forces.

The Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has made some inroads into other areas, in the north in particular.

It has also established a reputation for unusual cruelty, even by the standards of the Afghan conflict, and has been behind some of the deadliest attacks in urban centers.

While Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, has been an Islamic State stronghold, some villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts have been controlled by the Taliban.

Fleeing villagers said they had to run for their lives.

“I could only rescue my family. We had to leave everything,” said Shawkat, 36, a resident of Markikhel village in Shirzad district who sought safety in a neighboring village.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor said, authorities would help the displaced villagers with food and medicine.

In August, more than 150 Islamic State fighters surrendered to the Afghan security forces after they were defeated by the Taliban in the northwestern province of Jawzjan.

The U.S. military estimates there are about 2,000 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.

Many are former Taliban. There is scant evidence of direct links with Islamic State in the Middle East, where the group has lost territory it once held in Syria and Iraq to Western-backed forces.

7-8 minute Read Snip:
For the first time since the United Nations began documenting civilian casualties in Afghanistan a decade ago, more civilians are being killed by Afghan government and American forces than by the Taliban and other insurgents, according to a report on Wednesday.

Civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces rose in the first quarter of this year even as overall civilian casualties dropped to their lowest level in that period since 2013.

The United Nations said in its quarterly report that pro-government forces were responsible for 53 percent of civilian deaths. But insurgents were responsible for the majority — 54 percent — of civilian casualties over all, even as the number of suicide bombings decreased compared with the same period in 2018, the report said.

During the first three months of this year
, military operations escalated as both sides sought leverage in peace talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. At the same time, there has been a relative lull in insurgent suicide attacks that indiscriminately kill civilians, especially in Kabul, the capital. The city has been a repeated target during the conflict, which is in its 18th year.

“It is unclear whether the decrease in civilian casualties was influenced by any measures taken by parties to the conflict to better protect civilians, or by the ongoing talks between parties to the conflict,” the United Nations report said.

The agency reported 581 civilians killed and 1,192 wounded during the first quarter, a 23 percent decrease in overall casualties compared with the same period in 2018.

A new militant hotbed is brewing in the Central Asia
19.04.2019 -


The Living Force
FOTCM Member

Translated from Persian by Microsoft
#واقعا"The Americans are very ahmghan in the occupation of Afghanistan and my friend illiterate and booby good Klinefelter tabice. So that the stupid and homeland selling in Afghanistan is our homeland and our nation is always a nonram, you must bring the Ghlaman roots from their homeland.

Published: April 25, 2019
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban ambushed a security convoy in western Afghanistan, killing nine policemen, and in Kabul, a would-be attacker died when a bomb he was trying to plant at a private university detonated prematurely, officials said Thursday.

According to a councilman in western Farah province, Abdul Samad Salehi, the ambush took place in Anardara district as the convoy was heading to defuse a roadside bomb on Wednesday afternoon.

Shortly after the attack, other Taliban insurgents targeted and briefly overran the district police headquarters, setting off hours-long clashes, Salehi said. Reinforcements arrived later and managed to wrest back control of the headquarters.

The resurgent Taliban, who have been active in the area and have launched large-scale attacks against Afghan security forces in Farah in the past, did not immediately comment on the attacks.

The insurgents have been staging near-daily attacks across Afghanistan even as they hold talks with a U.S. envoy tasked with finding a peaceful resolution to the 17-year war.



The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#Afghanistan produces over 90% of the world’s black market #opium, from which #heroin is made. The multi-billion dollar business is responsible for nearly a hundred thousand #deaths annually and is a major source of income for #terrorists.
I think this cash commodity is one of the reasons the U.S. is still there. $$$$ :mad:

I have heard that the troops often protect those poppy fields.


The Living Force
Apparently, in an April 25th Moscow meeting - between the US, Russia, and China - to discuss the future of the Taliban peace talks, some type of deal or arrangement was made - with the US accelerating their timetable of drawing down troops and diplomatic staff in Kabul? On the same day, Pompeo ordered that the process would start at the end of May, instead of sometime next year like was originally planned. I have been following the Peace Talks closely but was not aware - India was interfering with the Peace process? More details are available in the last article.

Afghan president opens grand assembly in bid to gain initiative in Taliban talks April 29, 2019
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends a consultative grand assembly, known as Loya Jirga, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Thousands of Afghans congregated in Kabul on Monday for a rare consultative meeting aimed at finding ways to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban and end Afghanistan's war.

Afghan peace deal hinges on ceasefire by Taliban: U.S. peace envoy April 28, 2019
U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks during a debate at Tolo TV channel in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Any peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban would depend on the declaration of a permanent ceasefire and a commitment to end the country's long war, the U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Sunday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is accelerating a plan to cut up to half of the workforce at the U.S. embassy in Kabul starting at the end of next month, sparking concern it will undermine the fragile Afghan peace process, U.S. officials and congressional aides said.
Exclusive: U.S. accelerates plan to drastically downsize Kabul embassy April 25, 2019
FILE PHOTO: View of the U.S. Embassy (front buildings) in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 20, 2016.        REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: View of the U.S. Embassy (front buildings) in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo/File

Pompeo’s order for the largest U.S. diplomatic mission comes about a year earlier than expected, a surprise development given the meager progress in U.S. talks with Taliban militants on an agreement that would pave the way for a U.S. troop withdrawal and an end to America’s longest war.

The Taliban, their negotiating leverage bolstered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s public impatience to end the war, could dig in further because they would regard a large embassy drawdown as more confirmation of his eagerness to reduce the U.S. role in Afghanistan.

The Kabul embassy is a testament to the size of America’s investment in Afghanistan since it went to war there in 2001 after the September 11 attacks. With a workforce of about 1,500, the heavily fortified compound underwent an $800 million expansion four years ago and now includes 700 beds for staff.

One U.S. official said the reduction should be seen as part of a global redistribution of U.S. diplomats required by the Trump administration’s national security strategy shift from emphasizing counter-terrorism to confronting renewed “great power” rivalry with Russia and China.

But a drastic embassy workforce cut - which State Department officials briefed key congressional committees about last week in advance of a formal notification - will likely reverberate throughout Afghanistan.

It could erode a strained U.S. relationship with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government a month after the allies publicly clashed over Kabul’s exclusion from the negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

Ghani “would see this as another step in a betrayal,” said Thomas Lynch, a U.S. National Defense University fellow focused on Afghanistan and former adviser to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

U.S. officials and congressional aides said that among the concerns about a major drawdown was the risk that it could alarm NATO allies, already at odds with Trump over a host of issues, and ordinary Afghans.

A State Department spokeswoman said in an email when asked about the planned embassy cuts that the department “regularly reviews our presence at our overseas missions to reflect changing circumstances and our policy goals.”

Trump’s priorities are “ending the war in Afghanistan through a sustainable peace settlement and focusing on counter terrorism,” she said, adding that Washington will maintain “a robust” presence in Afghanistan. She did not explain why Pompeo moved up the embassy staff reduction plan.


U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, has reported some progress toward an accord on a U.S. troop withdrawal and on how the Taliban would prevent extremists from using Afghanistan to launch attacks as al Qaeda did on Sept. 11, 2001.

The insurgents, however, so far have rejected U.S. demands for a ceasefire and talks on the country’s political future that would include Afghan government officials.

News that Washington was examining a workforce cut in Kabul first was reported by National Public Radio in February. Foreign Policy magazine reported earlier this month that the State Department was preparing to reduce personnel by half in 2020.

Now, the reduction “is starting as soon as May 31 and they want to have it done by September,” said one congressional aide.

Four other sources, including three U.S. officials, confirmed the plan to reduce the embassy staff by up to half. One said it would be achieved by not filling posts that regularly go vacant.

Pompeo’s order was not accompanied by a justification, such as cost-cutting, said a U.S. official and a congressional aide.

“You have to have some parameters, some guidelines, and there weren’t any,” said the U.S. official, adding that Pompeo’s directive triggered “shock and stupefaction” in the State Department when it was issued about two weeks ago.

The congressional aide said that when asked to justify the drawdown in congressional briefings last week, State Department officials said, “Pompeo has asked them to do this.”
Reuters quoted “deep state” sources as reporting that the US will accelerate its diplomatic drawdown in Afghanistan, with this breaking news coming on the same day as its representatives met with their Russian and Chinese counterparts in Moscow to discuss the future of the Taliban peace talks, making it very unlikely that the timing of this possible downscaling is coincidental and adding credence to the theory that it might instead be the result of a backroom deal clinched during Thursday’s summit.
Did Russia & China Get The US To Accelerate Its Diplomatic Drawdown In Afghanistan? April 26, 2019

Did Russia & China Get The US To Accelerate Its Diplomatic Drawdown In Afghanistan? - Eurasia Future

A Quid-Pro-Quo?
Reuters just released an exclusive article (located above) quoting “deep state” sources who report that the US Secretary of State will accelerate his country’s diplomatic drawdown in Afghanistan by dramatically moving up the timeline for halving its number of diplomats in the war-torn country. The outlet’s insiders say that the process will start at the end of next month instead of sometime next year like was originally planned, with this news breaking on the same day as the US, Russia, and China met in Moscow to discuss the future of the Taliban peace talks. The author’s piece earlier this week about this event predicted that some backroom deals will be clinched during this event, and while it can only be speculated what this reported move might have been made in exchange for, it nevertheless appears to be the first possible outcome of that summit.

Sour Grapes
Trump’s “deep state” opponents are already taking to the media to portray this decision as an extremely short-sighted one made by an impulsive president who’s internationally inept, a weaponized narrative that also satisfies the strategic soft power objectives of India, which has sour grapes over the US’ Taliban peace talks. Being self-excluded from this process as a result of its refusal to endorse other countries’ pragmatic peacemaking outreaches to the most powerful armed force in Afghanistan, India instead endeavors to either sabotage their plans or at the very least apply some of its “Bollywood magic” to craft the perception that the talks are a failure and disastrous for the interests of all those involved, except of course for its Pakistani rival that it wants the world to believe is manipulating the international community into doing its bidding.

India’s Interests
In actuality, however, it’s India that’s the real manipulator because its RAW intelligence agency is doing all that it can to keep the US in Afghanistan, including through its efforts to provoke a domestic public outcry against Trump’s policies as a means of pressuring him “from below” ahead of the 2020 elections. Peace in Afghanistan doesn’t suit Indian interests because the South Asian state regards the landlocked country as providing it with “strategic depth” vis-a-vis Pakistan and functioning as a sanctuary for RAW-backed Baloch and TTP terrorists to receive training prior to the attacks that they’re ordered by their overseers to carry out as part of the Hybrid War on CPEC. An American withdrawal, or even a large-scale military-diplomatic drawdown, would greatly hinder India’s ability to wage its proxy war against Pakistan.

Simultaneous Signals
That’s exactly what seems to be in the works, however, since this report would represent a huge policy shift in American strategic planning if it’s true, one that might presumably be due to some kind of backroom deal being reached during the latest round of the Moscow peace talks seeing as how the news broke on the exact same day. Provided that there’s some truth to it, then the US would be sending simultaneous signals to the Taliban and Kabul; the armed group should see that Washington is negotiating in good faith and therefore reconsider its reluctance to talk with Kabul, while the “government” should understand that its days are numbered and that it’s better for them to begin immediately making political concessions to the Taliban before it’s too late. Both of these messages, it should be said, would be extremely disturbing for Indian strategists.

“Keep America Great”!
From the looks of it, the US might indeed be planning to “cut and run” from Afghanistan by sometime next year so that Trump can use the withdrawal (whether it be a full one by that time or just a drastic drawdown) as proof that he’s fulfilling his campaign pledge to “Make America Great Again” by saving it billions of dollars every year on its most costly war ever so that voters re-elect him to “Keep America Great”. The US President keenly understands that his Afghan policy might be the key to winning the heated 2020 elections, which might be why he’s clinching whatever pragmatic deals he needs to with all relevant stakeholders in order to obtain the optics of a major foreign policy victory that might guarantee him a victory at next year’s polls.


The Living Force
U.S. and Taliban negotiators wrapped up their sixth round of peace talks on Thursday with "some progress" made on a draft agreement for when foreign troops might withdraw from Afghanistan, a Taliban official said.

Sixth round of Taliban-U.S. peace talks end
FILE PHOTO: U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks during a debate at Tolo TV channel in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo

The talks, in which the United States has also sought assurances the Taliban will not allow militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage attacks, began on April 30 in Qatar’s capital Doha.

About 17,000 foreign troops are based in Afghanistan as part of a U.S.-led NATO mission to help local forces.

The United States has been pushing the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and to talk with Afghanistan’s government, which the militant group considers a U.S. puppet regime.

“The 6th round of talks ... ended, with some progress made on the draft agreement prepared in the last round of talks,” tweeted Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha

“In general, this round was positive and constructive. Both sides listened to each other with care and patience,” he added.

The negotiations included the Taliban’s political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and a U.S. team led by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born veteran U.S. diplomat, had suggested that the warring sides should declare a ceasefire as part of an effort to end the nearly 18-year war.

Gunmen kill female ex-Afghan journalist in Kabul
Gunmen shot dead a former television journalist and adviser to the Afghan parliament in Kabul on Saturday, underlining threats to women and drawing widespread condemnation.

Taliban fighters double as reporters to wage Afghan digital war
FILE PHOTO: Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's chief spokesman and editor-in-chief of the insurgent group's daily news bulletin, starts every day by collecting reports of overnight fighting with U.S. and Afghan forces.

Mujahid says he gets his team of writers to cross-check facts shared by some of the hardline Islamist groups fighters, who double as reporters in the 34 provinces across the country. The writers prepare press statements in five languages and gather footage and photographs shot on smartphones.

The editor-in-chief then approves final drafts of the reports - highlighting the group’s claimed victories in its war aimed at toppling the U.S.-backed Afghan government - before they are published by IT specialists based outside the country.

While some Afghan journalists say its accuracy is patchy, and its opponents accuse it of spreading “fake news”, the Taliban’s slick media operation has emerged as a key weapon in the information war that often leaves the Western-backed government and its U.S. partners struggling to catch up.

Last month, for example the Taliban was swift to deny involvement in a suicide attack on the communications ministry in Kabul later blamed on Islamic State, while information from the government was slower to emerge.

Taliban spokesmen say they have also stepped up their outreach as the pace of direct talks between its negotiators and the United States on ending the war in Afghanistan has picked up in recent months. They are often quicker than U.S. officials to give their read-out from the talks - the sixth round of which wrapped up in Qatar on Thursday.

“Whatever developments occur during the Doha talks, we share it with journalists,” said Mujahid, adding that the messages were aimed at domestic and international audiences.

Mujahid and his colleague Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, two Taliban spokesmen based in Afghanistan, say they are authorized to interact with journalists, issue statements and tweet. They generally respond to text or voice messages from Reuters correspondents based in Kabul within an hour.

While their location cannot be verified, they use Afghan phone numbers to access WhatsApp. The names they use are pseudonyms assigned to them by the Taliban leadership.

“We are not authorized to reveal our real names, the two pen names are used to retain uniformity,” Mujahid, who has more than 42,000 Twitter followers, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

In 2011, the Taliban leadership started posting regularly on Twitter, a surprise move by the radical Islamist movement that once banned most forms of modern entertainment.

They now communicate on messaging apps WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram in English, Pashto, Dari, Arabic and Urdu.

“We understand the importance of spreading information about our jihad and our determination to re-establish the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan,” said Mujahid, who says he draws a monthly salary of 14,000 Afghani ($180), plus $128 for internet and mobile expenses.

“Now many diplomats from various countries seek an audience with our leaders and follow us on social media,” he added.

“After 17 years of struggle we are winning the actual war and the digital war against infidels and the puppet regime established by the Americans to govern Afghanistan.”

Afghan and Western officials dispute both statements. Government forces and their military allies, they say, are inflicting heavy casualties on the Taliban on the battlefield, and continue to launch air strikes to destroy their camps. The Taliban’s media operation is dismissed as misinformation.

“Their false claims and exaggerated reports have reached an absurd style beyond any reason,” said Colonel Knut Peters, the spokesman for NATO-led Resolute Support in Afghanistan, who closely tracks Taliban statements. “They are obviously trying to boost their own self-confidence while their fighters are dying in large numbers.”

Since October, U.S. and Taliban officials have held talks aimed at preparing the ground for U.S. forces to withdraw from Afghanistan in return for a Taliban guarantee that the country will not be used as a base for militant attacks elsewhere.

In recent months, the Taliban have repeatedly rejected calls to declare a ceasefire, and instead intensified their attacks on Afghan forces and government offices.

Afghan journalists who have been covering the Taliban since the 1990s said before the advent of social media the group sent out hand-written pamphlets and news reports to Afghan reporters based in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Javed Hamim Kakar, a senior editor with Pajhwok Afghan News, the country’s oldest private news agency, said the insurgent group has since created a complex network to disseminate news. But a tendency to exaggerate casualties inflicted undermines the Taliban news operation’s credibility, he said.

In April, for example, the Taliban reported its fighters had carried out a successful attack on Bagram, the largest U.S. air base in Afghanistan about 50 km (30 miles) north of Kabul, in which it said dozens of foreign service personnel were killed or wounded.

U.S. officials in Kabul denied the attack had taken place. “If you send them a query they respond very fast, but accuracy is always a question. Propaganda is part of fighting, the Taliban are very good at it,” Kakar said.

Mujahid and Ahmadi accept there have been numerous instances when they have published unsubstantiated claims of attacks and that sometimes fighters have presented an exaggerated version. “There are allegations that our communication is rife with sensationalism and embellishment but we never abandon the truth,” said Ahmadi. “We correct it immediately.”

The government is also often accused of inflating its battlefield reports. A senior defense official familiar with the situation acknowledged the government often under-reports casualties among Afghan forces, while readily providing numbers for Taliban militants they say they have killed.

There is no independent confirmation of the figures given by either side, making it impossible to fully assess the on-the-ground situation.

The Taliban’s communications operation, which is now run at an annual cost of 25 million Afghanis ($323,000), started out as a small office in Kabul when the Islamists ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 and has expanded since they were ousted.

It now publishes six magazines in Pashto, Dari, Urdu and Arabic, and posts news reports on 10 websites in five languages, as well as operating smaller websites that offer theological guidance, videos, and war poetry written by fighters.

“Despite the threats, we now run an efficient media office,” said Ahmadi, a graduate in religious studies. “But maintaining haze around our identity is more crucial now as we are winning and the enemy is getting increasingly frustrated.”


The Living Force
The Pentagon said on Thursday that it had asked Congress for the authority to help fund lodging and transportation for Taliban members who were interested in negotiating local ceasefires with the Afghan government, as the Washington seeks an end to the more than 17-year-old war. (???)

Pentagon seeks to use funds to transport, lodge Taliban members in search of ceasefires
FILE PHOTO: Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

FILE PHOTO: Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

Last year, the Taliban observed an Afghan government ceasefire over the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival, leading to unprecedented scenes of government soldiers and militants embracing on front lines, and raising hopes for talks.

Since then however, fighting between the Taliban and U.S-backed Afghan government has intensified, even as talks between Washington and the militant group have continued.

In cases where lodging and transportation would be required to facilitate the participation of all required parties to negotiate a local peace deal, the funds could be used for the purpose," Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich said.

She said the Pentagon was seeking “to lay the groundwork in anticipation of opportunities to facilitate talks with the Afghan government to find a way to end the war.” She said until now no funds had been used and the Pentagon did not provide further details of possible funding.

A bill passed this week by the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense barred the U.S. government from using money to pay for the expenses of Taliban members taking part in the peace talks with the United States, unless the talks included members of the Afghan government or did not restrict the participation of women.

The Bill has still not passed the full House Appropriations Committee and it is unclear whether lawmakers would approve the Pentagon's request.

So far, Afghan government officials have been sidelined from talks between Washington and the Taliban.

Rebarich said that the Defense Department was not reimbursing local insurgent groups taking part in the talks.

“The United States also supports local peace initiatives between the Afghan government and insurgent groups looking to cease hostilities against the Afghan Government and coalition forces,” she said.

Rebarich added that the request for this authority was made by the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan following the June 2018 ceasefire.

U.S. and Taliban negotiators wrapped up their sixth round of peace talks on Thursday with “some progress” made on a draft agreement for when foreign troops might withdraw from Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has expressed frustration about not being included in talks with the Taliban and the limited information Kabul is being provided by Washington.

“The government does not feel that they have been briefed enough,” Roya Rahmani, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, told reporters in Washington this week.

“If a peace is to be negotiated and to be durable, it cannot keep on going on without the presence of Afghan people,” Rahmani said.
U.S. air strike kills at least 8 police in southern Afghanistan: official
A U.S. air strike killed at least eight policeman in Afghanistan's Helmand province, a government official said on Friday, the latest casualties from a rise in air and ground operations against the Afghan Taliban.


The Living Force
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed a request on Friday seeking to overturn the rejection of her planned investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan allegedly committed by both Taliban insurgents and U.S. troops.

ICC prosecutor presses for Afghanistan crimes investigation
FILE PHOTO: Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda attends the trial of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda at the ICC (International Criminal Court) in the Hague, the Netherlands August 28, 2018.  Bas Czerwinski/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda attends the trial of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda at the ICC (International Criminal Court) in the Hague, the Netherlands August 28, 2018. Bas Czerwinski/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

In April, the court refused lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to open an investigation into alleged atrocities by all sides during the nearly two-decade conflict.

Bensouda’s new filing, which will be heard by a trial court, was the first step in the legal process to appeal the refusal.

ICC prosecutors had identified the Taliban and its affiliates, the Afghan authorities, and members of the U.S. armed forces and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as potential perpetrators of crimes under the court’s statute.

The court’s decision to block an investigation “affects not only the outcome of any trial but also the very possibility of a trial occurring,” the filing said.

Prosecutors had said there were preliminary grounds to believe U.S. forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan and at CIA detention facilities elsewhere in 2003 and 2004.

The alleged atrocities took place in all 34 of Afghanistan provinces, with a smaller number of crimes alleged in Poland, Romania and Lithuania, where suspected members of the Taliban or al Qaeda were held for questioning.

But the case has triggered a strong backlash from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. In April, the U.S. revoked the entry visa of the prosecutor and has threatened to do the same against court personnel.
Top Bottom