US Afghan Pullout: Any Spillover of Possible Afghan Civil War into Pakistan?

Many fear the return to civil war in Afghanistan after the US pull-out. Are these fears well-founded? If so, who will be the main combatants in such a civil war? The Afghan Taliban? Or notorious warlords of yesteryears like  Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ismael Khan, Abdur Rashid Dostum and progeny of Ahmad Shah Masood? Or terror groups like ISIS, TTP, ETIM, IMU, etc etc.? 

Can the Northern Alliance, made up mainly of Tajiks and Uzbeks, reconstitute itself? Who will back them? Will India back them? Russia, China and Iran are already seriously talking with the Afghan Taliban. 

Can the Afghan Taliban quickly prevail over other groups to stabilize Afghanistan? Will China and Russia help?

How's Pakistan's geo-economic pivot working out? Will Chinese investment in CPEC and Russian involvement in Karachi-Lahore gas pipeline help build Pakistan's geo-economic strategy? Will both of them help Pakistan if India attempts to disrupt these projects with covert attacks via proxies? 

How does the creation of US-led QUAD with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan help Pakistan's geo-strategic pivot? Will it help bring stability to Afghanistan? 

How's US-China technology war unfolding? Is the US succeeding in denying supply chain inputs to the Chinese semiconductor industry? 

Please watch this video for a discussion of the above questions:

https://youtu.be/EZuCLz6KzKE

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Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2021 at 6:07pm

Regional powers #Russia, #China, #Iran, #Pakistan Extend Hands to #Taliban Now in Control of #Afghanistan. All 4 neighbors continue to maintain embassies in #Kabul

https://www.newsweek.com/russia-china-iran-pakistan-extend-hands-ta...


s the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan shakes the international community's commitment to the country, regional powers Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan continue to maintain their embassies in Kabul while expressing their willingness to work with its new leaders.

Just as the Taliban was getting settled in the capital, Russian ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov met with the group on Tuesday to discuss embassy security. Following his talks, he spoke highly of a group he said was conducting itself "in a responsible and civilized manner" since its largely peaceful capture of Kabul.

"They want to be sure there will be no provocations, to avoid shooting," Zhirnov said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 outlet. "Because practically everyone possesses weapons, even teenagers. It looks like they are afraid that should anything happen not through their fault it may cast a shadow on them as masters of the situation. They don't conceal it."


Speaking in Kaliningrad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also saw "a positive signal" from the Taliban, specifically in the infamously hardline group's public commitments to respecting the views of others.


"We are convinced and have known that for quite a long time that only, as they say now, an inclusive dialogue involving all key forces can serve as a step towards normalization of the situation in Afghanistan," Lavrov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

Russia's turn toward accepting the Taliban's legitimacy comes after its own difficult history in Afghanistan. In 1979, the Soviet Union entered into a decade-long war in hopes of saving a Kabul-based communist administration from a mujahideen resistance that was backed the U.S. and regional powers including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It was forced to withdraw in defeat a decade later, paving the way for the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s.

The group took control of most of the country and effectively held Afghanistan until 2001, when the 9/11 attacks conducted by Taliban ally Al-Qaeda drew a massive U.S.-led intervention. Moscow initially supported the Western effort in Afghanistan, but came to criticize its handling over the course of two decades.

With the Taliban now back in control of Kabul, Lavrov told reporters that Moscow was "not rushing a recognition" of an Afghan government led by the a group that Russia still considers a terrorist organization. The decision mirrors the hesitation of other nations including Russia's strategic partner, China, which borders Afghanistan directly.

"Just yesterday I spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi," Lavrov added. "Our positions are in line."

Beijing is seeking to portray an open mind as the new dynamic unfolds.

"China has all along maintained contact and communication with the Afghan Taliban on the basis of fully respecting Afghanistan's sovereignty and the will of all factions in the country, and played a constructive role in promoting the political settlement of the Afghan issue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday.

There was an important caveat, however.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2021 at 6:07pm

#Taliban says no one will use #Afghan territory to launch attacks against anybody or any country. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid asserted that #WomensRights will be protected within Islamic law. #China #Pakistan #Iran #Russia #US https://aje.io/f95z8w via @AJEnglish

The Taliban held its first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city, declaring on Tuesday it wished for peaceful relations with other countries.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said.

The spokesman asserted that the rights of women will be protected within the framework of Islam.

The group previously declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos as thousands mobbed the city’s international airport in a desperate attempt to flee.

Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed as a Western security official told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the Kabul airport’s tarmac and runway – which troops from the United States control – were now clear of crowds.

The official said military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan have started taking off.

At least seven people died in Monday’s chaos, including several people who clung to the sides of a jet as it took off.

The Taliban has meanwhile declared the war in Afghanistan over and a senior leader said the group would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

China said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2021 at 6:28pm

#Afghan #Taliban visit #Hazara Neighborhood in #Kabul, Attend #Shia Majlis

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1427803350154715140?s=20

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2021 at 6:48pm

#Taliban Having Fun in #Kabul, #Afghanistan: Surreal Footage Appears to Show #Afghan Taliban Driving Bumper Cars and Lifting Weights. In one clip, a group of men are trying out exercise equipment as one person holds a rocket launcher. https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5gng4/taliban-bumper-cars-afghanis... via @viceSince the Taliban took control in Kabul on Sunday, the world has witnessed eerie and horrific scenes from the Afghan capital: people scrambling to secure passports, heartbreaking footage of Afghans clinging to flying planes (and later falling to their deaths), and pictures of women being covered up from public view.

But amid the chaos and uncertainty that has gripped the war-torn nation as it again faces life under Taliban rule, another set of videos shows members of the fundamentalist group engaging in almost childlike playfulness at local theme park rides and in a workout facility.

In one viral clip emerging in recent days, two men shared a ride in a bumper car while holding onto what appear to be rifles. Outside the rink, people looked on.Meanwhile, another video shows bearded men perched on small painted ponies on a merry-go-round.

Yet another video showed armed men using the gym. In the recording, a man pedals backwards fiercely on an elliptical machine while another is seen holding what appears to be a rocket launcher.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 18, 2021 at 10:41am

#Pakistan has expanded its #economy at 4% CAGR & multiplied its #exports 10X in last 20 years. It's a global player in apparel/textiles, & lately exported its first #smartphones. #Taliban win next door could be a godsend or a nightmare
https://www.barrons.com/articles/pakistan-spent-decades-expanding-i... via @BarronsOnline

The Taliban’s triumph is also a nightmare of sorts, making Pakistan an easy scapegoat for global outrage at the repression its fundamentalist clients are expected to impose. “Pakistan is very vulnerable to sanctions,” Nooruddin says. “All the capital they need to develop could get frozen pretty quickly.”

A key barometer to watch will be the Financial Action Task Force, the global anti-money laundering body. FATF put Pakistan on its “grey list” in 2018, finding “serious deficiencies” in the country’s monitoring regime. The Global X MSCI Pakistan exchange-traded fund (ticker: PAK) has lost half its value since then. Post-mortem scrutiny into Islamabad’s Taliban financing may quash chances of removing this blight. It could also affect further tranches of a $6 billion aid package Pakistan signed two years ago with the International Monetary Fund.

Imram Khan, the Oxford-educated prime minister who came to power two months after Pakistan’s grey listing, has underwhelmed as a reformist outsider. “There hasn’t been a huge amount of change,” says Alison Graham, chief investment officer for frontier-markets specialist Voltan Capital Management. “Khan seems to be cut from the same cloth as the surrounding political environment.”

She is still eyeing Pakistani investments on valuation grounds. “The trajectory of the market has been straight down for reasons I don’t quite understand,” she says. “Pakistan’s million political problems don’t affect its economic situation that much.”

Maurits Pot, chief investment officer at Dawn Global, chose Pakistan as one of five countries in his recently launched Asian Growth Cubs ETF (CUBS). Companies that leverage the nation’s youth and education levels, like software provider Systems (SYS.Pakistan), will prosper whatever geopolitics may bring, he argues. “It’s a very vibrant but cheap capital market,” he says.

Western ostracism of Pakistan should reach a limit, too. China, which has marked a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as one of the flagship projects in its One Belt One Road master plan, will be happy to take up slack as the West retreats. More importantly, Islamic revolution returning to underdeveloped Afghanistan may be a tragedy; Islamic revolution spreading to 225 million-strong, nuclear armed Pakistan would be a catastrophe. “The last thing the U.S. wants is two failed states next to each other,” Pot observes.

Pakistan had little choice but to become embroiled in Afghan politics, the Atlantic Council’s Nooruddin says. It is home to 25 million Pashtuns, the ethnic group that dominates the Taliban (and the just-ousted Afghan government), and needs to handle their loyalties delicately. “The Taliban have been a hassle for Pakistan to manage, and they’ve handled it reasonably well,” Graham adds.

That subtlety will quickly be lost, though, as the Taliban consolidates their reconquest of their homeland with cameras rolling. Pakistan won’t have much time to celebrate its good luck.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 21, 2021 at 7:57am

A tale of two Talibans

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/a-tale-of-two-talibans-45617


A UN report last year assessed that there were more than 6,000 Pakistani foreign fighters in Afghanistan, most belonging to TTP. These fighters not only fight with the Afghan Taliban but also stage cross-border attacks against Pakistan. According to the UN’s latest figures, there were more than 100 such attacks from July to October last year.

The Taliban has in the past denied that it hosts foreign fighters. But, when asked about this matter by TRT World, Mujahid would neither confirm nor deny the presence of TTP members in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. The US State Department declined to comment for this story, and Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not reply to emailed questions.

While much of the focus has been on Al Qaeda’s continuing relationship with the Taliban, less attention has been paid to TTP, a brutal terrorist organisation which wreaked havoc in Pakistan from 2007 to 2014 and seems to be undergoing a resurgence after several years of degraded capability.

TTP is a similar, but distinct, movement from the Afghan Taliban. While the latter emerged in the 1990s, TTP originated in the years following the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, when pro-Taliban Pakistani tribesmen along with Arab, Chechen, and Central Asian militants fled into Pakistan’s tribal areas and coalesced to form a new umbrella group, TTP, in 2007.

Where loyalties lie

TTP has from its inception supported the insurgency in Afghanistan, fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban and helping to shelter its fighters in Pakistan. TTP’s emirs have repeatedly pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban’s leader, although the two groups have separate chains of command.

Moreover, the Haqqani Network – part of the Afghan Taliban – has helped to repair divisions in the fissiparous TTP. “Both Jalal and Siraj Haqqani mediated jirgas to resolve organisational issues and factionalism in the TTP,” said Asfandyar Mir, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation.

However, although the two groups’ aims overlap, they do not match. “The Afghan Taliban, while it has ties to international terror groups, is a local insurgency targeting the Afghan state,” said Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center.

“The Pakistani Taliban targets the Pakistani state, and when it had more strength, it also had overseas targets in its crosshairs, including America,” Kugelman told TRT World. TTP, unlike the Afghan Taliban, has been designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US.

The two also have different sponsors. The Afghan Taliban receives sanctuary from Pakistan, while the TTP has allegedly been backed by the Afghan government. Afghanistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Islamabad insists that India backs the TTP, too, and produced a largely secret dossier last year that apparently contains evidence of those links. Delhi has firmly rejected such allegations.

“The two groups are cut from the same ideological cloth,” said Michael Kugelman, both followers of the Deobandi school of Sunni Hanafi Islam. But TTP is “much closer” to the global jihadist agenda of “targeting the far enemy”, Kugelman told TRT World. It has attacked Chinese nationals and tried to bomb Times Square in New York City in 2010.

While both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban work with Al Qaeda, in TTP’s case the relationship is stronger. “Al Qaeda has played an instrumental role in the foundation, rise, and expansion of TTP,” said Abdul Sayed, an independent researcher on jihadism and the politics and security of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

The TTP’s leadership “sought Al Qaeda counselling or approval” in important decisions, Sayed told TRT World, referring to documents seized from the Bin Laden compound. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the group’s regional affiliate, has also participated in cross-border attacks with TTP, Sayed said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 23, 2021 at 2:06pm

Ambassador Ryan Crocker on #US exit from #Afghanistan:"We have again validated their (#Pakistanis) skepticism". Pakistanis "knew we (US) will go home but they aren’t going anywhere--this is where they live".They'd not "turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy" https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/21/opinion/us-afghanistan-pakistan-...


I recall the comment attributed to a captured Taliban fighter from a number of years ago: You Americans have the watches, but we have the time. Sadly that view proved accurate — the Taliban outlasted us and our impatience. After the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of U.S.-trained and armed mujahedeen in 1989, training that was facilitated by Pakistan, we decided we were done. We could see the Afghan civil war coming — the only thing holding the disparate Afghan groups together was a common enemy. But that was not our problem — we were leaving. On the way out, we stopped helping Pakistan in a key way: We ended security and economic assistance because of its nuclear weapons program, something we’d exempted before. So Pakistan, in its own narrative, went from being the most allied of allies to the most sanctioned of adversaries. That is why Pakistan threw its support to the Taliban when they started gaining ground in the 1990s: It could end a dangerous conflict along Pakistan’s own unstable borders.

And that is why a decade later after 9/11, Pakistan welcomed the return of the United States — and U.S. assistance. It would work with us against Al Qaeda. But we soon learned that the Taliban were a sticky matter. I was ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007. I pushed Pakistani officials repeatedly on the need to deny the Taliban safe havens. The answer I got back over time went like this: “We know you. We know you don’t have patience for the long fight. We know the day will come when you just get tired and go home — it’s what you do. But we aren’t going anywhere — this is where we live. So if you think we are going to turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy, you are completely crazy.”

We have again validated their skepticism.

The Washington Post notes that “as the Taliban swept across neighboring Afghanistan, some Pakistanis saw it as a reason to celebrate.” Yet I doubt there are many high fives being exchanged in Islamabad today. The American disaster in Afghanistan that Mr. Biden’s impatience brought about is not a disaster just for us. It has also been a huge boost for the Taliban, whose narrative now is that the believers, clad in the armor of the one true faith, have vanquished the infidels. That is resonating around the world, and certainly next door in Pakistan where the T.T.P. — the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks the overthrow of their government — has certainly been emboldened, as have Kashmiri militant groups created by Pakistan but that threaten Pakistan itself as well as India. Mr. Biden’s strategic impatience has given a huge boost to militant Islam everywhere.

We need to be engaged with Pakistan on ways to assess and deal with this enhanced threat. The prospect of violent destabilization of a country with about 210 million people and nuclear weapons is not a pretty one. The same is true in Iran. It’s always good to see the Great Satan take a kick in the face, and it’s worth a little gloating, but the Islamic Republic and the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate almost went to war in 1998. A region is worried, and it is right to be so.


Comment by Riaz Haq on August 23, 2021 at 8:40pm

#China warns #India after latest #terrorist attack in #Gwadar , #Pakistan:
“China will not only support Pakistan to strike a heavy blow to these terror forces, but also warn all the external forces to stay away from those terror forces” #CPEC #TTP #BLA

https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202108/1232068.shtml

In this region, some US and Indian intelligence forces keen to infiltrate into Pakistan have held a hostile attitude toward China's BRI. Blocking the development of the BRI has become their main target to contain China's rise.

And, the terror attack that targeted Chinese engineers who worked for the Dasu hydropower project is said to be fueled by the Indian intelligence agency.

The intentions of the international forces must have influenced and incited terror forces in Pakistan. It is highly likely that those forces collude with and support terrorism in Pakistan. China must be prepared for a long-term fight, together with the Pakistani government, against terrorism in Pakistan. China needs to resolutely support the Pakistani government to crack down on terrorism.

In addition, we'd like to urge the new government in Afghanistan to strike the terrorist forces that were groomed in Afghanistan but now active in Pakistan. This is a window through which China could observe the new government of Afghanistan.

Terror forces in Balochistan, especially the notorious Balochistan Liberation Army, have conducted the most attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan. And, the Pakistani Taliban is a vital threat too.

China will not only support Pakistan to strike a heavy blow to these terror forces, but also warn all the external forces to stay away from those terror forces. Once China obtains evidence that they support terrorist forces in Pakistan, China will punish them.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 24, 2021 at 4:24pm

Why so much poppy grows in Afghanistan?

1. Poppy plant is very hardy. It grows easily in Afghan soil where other crops are much harder to grow.

2. Harvesting poppy is labor intensive and uses a lot of people in a place like Afghanistan where there's very little mechanization.

3. Poppy earns a lot of cash to support the economy.

Via APM Marketplace radio show https://www.marketplace.org/2021/08/24/how-the-economic-fundamental...

Despite the U.S. spending approximately $8.97 billion over the past two decades trying to eradicate Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade, it remains the world’s biggest supplier of illicit opium and the crop remains an important source of funding for the Taliban.

Jeffrey Clemens, an associate professor of economics at the University of California at San Diego, spoke with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about the economic fundamentals that helped doom the U.S. effort to suppress opium production in Afghanistan and what it means for the Taliban’s power. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Can we do a little ground truth here before we dig in? Drug trafficking and the Afghan economy — contextualize that for me.

Jeffrey Clemens: Sure. According to the United Nations, in 2020, Afghan farmers would have received something on the order of $500 million associated with selling the opium that they’ve cultivated, and the estimated value of the heroin and other opiates as they cross the border out of Afghanistan and into other countries is somewhere on the order of $2 billion. So, that amount accounts for something like 10% of its overall [gross domestic product].

Ryssdal: OK, here’s the thing: The American government spent billions of dollars over the past 20 years trying to eradicate the opium trade. Obviously, it has failed. First of all, was that a fool’s errand?

Clemens: Yes. I think it was a fool’s errand, in large part because the cultivation of opium poppy by Afghan farmers and the trafficking of that opium and heroin out of the country is something that, unfortunately, just has made sense in terms of economic fundamentals within Afghanistan. Should I take a minute to unpack that?

Ryssdal: Yeah, that’d be great, actually.

Clemens: Sure. So you know, when we think about why Afghanistan has played such a major role in the global trade in opiates, there are a few, you know, in some ways, very mundane reasons why that’s the case. So for one, the agricultural land in Afghanistan is not that great, and opium poppy turns out to be a pretty hardy crop. The second issue is that the infrastructure in Afghanistan is quite bad, which means that there’s more risk than you might expect for cultivating relatively perishable crops. Opium tends to be relatively nonperishable, and it’s also pretty lightweight for the cash value. And then finally, opium poppy is incredibly labor-intensive to harvest. And so an economy like Afghanistan’s, where there, you know, isn’t a lot of high-tech capital associated with the agricultural sector, ends up being a place where opium poppy tends to thrive. And so the U.S. and international effort to suppress the opium trade is trying to push against all of these, you know, pretty basic economic fundamentals, making it, as you said, a fool’s errand.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 25, 2021 at 11:06am

Bruce Reidel on Taliban victory in Afghanistan:


https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/08/24/pakistan...

The Biden administration has taken a curious lack of interest in Pakistan. Routine contacts with the army, diplomats, and spies have continued but President Biden has ignored the country. He has not spoken with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan is the elected leader of the sixth most populous country in the world with a growing nuclear weapons arsenal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been to New Delhi but not to Islamabad. The fiasco in Kabul should be a wake-up call to get involved.


---------------

The Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani army patrons are back in Kabul before the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Pakistan’s army Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) has backed the Taliban since the group’s origin in the mid-1990s. Under intense pressure in September 2001, the ISI briefly removed its experts and assistance, creating the same panic and flight to the Taliban that the U.S. withdrawal just did to the Afghan army. But the ISI quickly renewed its support and that aid continues today. The Taliban/ISI victory in Afghanistan will have significant consequences for Pakistan, some of which may be dangerous and violent.

Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, was trained by the ISI during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. When he was wounded, he got medical attention in a Pakistani hospital. After the Soviets retreated out of Afghanistan, he was one of many warlords fighting for control of the country. As he created the Taliban, the Pakistani army gave him support for the drive on Kabul in 1996 that gave the Taliban control of most of the country. Pakistan provided experts and advisers for the Taliban military, oil for its economy and was their supply route to the outside world.


After the American invasion of Afghanistan, Omar went into exile in Pakistan along with most of his lieutenants. With the ISI’s help, they rebuilt the infrastructure in the borderlands and gradually stepped up attacks on the NATO and Afghan forces. Pakistani aid went far beyond sanctuary and safe haven for the leadership and cadres and their families — it included training, arms, experts, and help in fundraising, especially in the Gulf states. On occasion, Pakistani advisers accompanied the Taliban on missions inside Afghanistan. The ISI is particularly close to the Haqqani network in the Taliban. Omar most likely died in Karachi; his death was not announced for months.

It is fair to assume that the ISI helped the Taliban plan its blitzkrieg this summer. The Taliban’s seizing of the north reflected memories of its enemies using bases there in the late 1990s to resist the Taliban and the CIA using those facilities to bring down the Taliban in 2001. The plan also prioritized seizing border crossings, especially in the west, which kept Iran from providing aid to its Shiite Hazara allies in Afghanistan.

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Islamist parties in Pakistan have celebrated the victory in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly the ISI is hailing the fall of Kabul as their humbling of a second superpower, but it is savvy enough to do its gloating in private.

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