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2018 Review: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and United States

How did Pakistan's political landscape change in 2018? Have the Sharif family and the PMLN been marginalized? How was the security situation after continuing decline of terror fatalities since 2013? How has PTI done so far? Will NAB-led accountability of politicians continue or intensify in 2019? How will Imran Khan's government deal with the fact that the Zardari-led PPP rules Sind? Will President Arif Alvi impose governor's rule under the Constitution's article 234 or financial emergency under the Constitution's article 235 in Sindh province? Why is financial emergency more likely? How will PPP leadership react to such a move?

President Trump has reportedly already decided to remove US troops from Afghanistan after a similar decision on American troops pull-out from Syria. Will Trump actually pull bulk of US troops from Afghanistan? How will it affect the situation there? Can Afghan government survive without the presence of US troops? Who will rule Afghanistan when the Kabul government collapses? Taliban? Will Taliban be able to pacify Afghanistan? If the Taliban take control of Afghanistan, how will this affect the neighborhood? Will instability in Afghanistan continue? Will it hurt Pakistan?

How did President Trump's administration do in 2018? What message has the loss of the House to Democrats sent to President Trump and the Republican Party? Will the chaos continue into 2019? What problems has Trump's foreign and trade policy created for the United States and its allies? How will it affect Asia and the Middle East, particularly Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia?

Terrorism Deaths in Pakistan. Source: satp.org

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with panelists Sabahat Ashraf (iFaqeer) and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/jiXFvRVzCZ4

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Views: 87

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 2, 2019 at 7:47pm

#Trump wants 'great relationship' with #Pakistan, eyes meeting with leadership. Trump said his administration has initiated peace talks with the #Talibans. #US President announced at his his cabinet meeting he will meet PM #ImranKhan "very soon". #POTUS https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/414077-trump-wants-great-relation...

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump early on Thursday said that he wants a "great relationship" with Pakistan and is looking forward to meeting the country's new leadership.

The US President underscored that his administration has initiated peace talks with the Taliban. He also announced that a meeting with the new leadership of Pakistan will take place "very soon".

Despite inviting Pakistan to play a more active role in Afghanistan, Trump was reported to have said his Cabinet colleagues in the same meeting that he cut $1.3 billion aid to the South Asian country "because they haven't been fair to us."

It is worth mentioning here that Trump, a month ago, had written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking Pakistan's help with stuttering Afghan peace talks and support in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table to end the 17-year brutal war in the neighbouring country.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had met Prime Minister Khan in Islamabad in September last year and pressed him to take "sustained and decisive measures"against the militant groups threatening the regional peace and stability.

Earlier, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, who is considered close to President Trump, told CNN in an interview that if Pakistan helped the US in bringing the Taliban to the table for negotiations, then the US would focus on counterterrorism and the IS.


The senator wants the US to offer Pakistan a free trade agreement as an incentive for Islamabad to push the Taliban to the peace table to end the Afghan war.

While during a press conference at the White House, Trump blasted the United States's extended involvement in Afghanistan, where it has waged its longest war against the militant group. He said that Washington was currently in talks with various actors, including the Taliban, in search of peace, but then called on regional powers to step up.

"India is there, Russia is there, Russia used to be the Soviet Union, Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan," Trump said in response to questions over whether he planned to scale down US military presence in the war-torn country.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 3, 2019 at 11:34am

#Saudi #investments at #Gwadar port will soon be announced in #mining, #energy, #oil, #electricity, #renewable #energy sectors in #Pakistan. #Saudi delegation of #businessmen, #investors, members of #trade and #industry chambers visiting #Gwadar. #CPEC https://aawsat.com/node/1530696

A delegation of Saudi businessmen, investors and members of trade and industry chambers visited Wednesday Pakistan’s Gwadar port, the main hub for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor linked to the Silk Road initiative.

During the visit, the delegation reviewed investment opportunities at the port as well as in the special economic zones created by the Economic Corridor.

Saudi ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf al-Maliki indicated that Gwadar has many commercial and investment benefits for Saudi investors.

He pointed out that the Pakistani government promised to provide them with incentives and services.

Maliki stressed that the Kingdom is keen to invest in the Economic Corridor, saying Saudi investments at Gwadar port will be announced soon, a move that contributes to boosting Pakistan’s economic stability.

Adviser to the Saudi Minister of Energy, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Saudi-Pakistani Coordination Council for Economic Collaboration will inform businessmen and other government agencies in Saudi Arabia about investment opportunities in the Pakistani port.

“Saudi Arabia is seeking to find an investment opportunity in Pakistan in general and in the port (Gwadar) in particular given its strategic area,” he said.

The adviser revealed that several Saudi state projects in mining, energy, oil, electricity and renewable energy, are underway in Balochistan province.

For his part, a member of the Council of Saudi Chambers, Khalil Mansour al-Afraa, stressed that the Council’s efforts come in tandem with the search for investment opportunities in industry and infrastructure by Saudi businessmen.

Afra revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that an exhibition for businessmen from Pakistan and China will be held at the port in March.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 11, 2019 at 8:59am

Ex #Indian diplomat: #Trump's U-Turn on #Pakistan is moment of truth for #India. Trump’s #invitation to #ImranKhan is beyond gratitude for Pakistan’s cooperation in making peace with #Taliban. Pakistani goal of ‘strategic depth’ vis-a-vis India is intact. https://indianpunchline.com/trumps-volte-face-on-pakistan-is-a-mome...


Pakistan is being assigned a pivotal role to ensure that Afghanistan will never again be a ‘lab of terrorists’ (to use Trump’s words) threatening the western world. Pakistan is hugely experienced in handling its relations with the US and it will of course make sure that the US reciprocates — politically, financially, militarily. 

If Trump had praised India as the ‘critical part’ of his unfolding Afghan strategy in August 2017, he is now replacing India with Pakistan in a most curious reversal of roles in South Asia’s regional security paradigm. The White House announcement says explicitly that Imran Khan’s visit will ‘focus on strengthening cooperation between the United States and Pakistan to bring peace, stability, and economic prosperity to a region that has seen far too much conflict.’

It goes on to say that the US is meeting Pakistan’s longstanding demand for a wide-ranging, full-bodied relationship on par with US-Indian relations, ‘including counterterrorism, defense, energy, and trade.’ More importantly, in what can only be regarded as a veiled reference to the Kashmir issue and India-Pakistan tensions, the White House says that the US will keep in sight ‘the goal of creating the conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership between our two countries.’ 

To be sure, Washington has marginalised India and ignored its sensitivities regarding the Afghan situation by choreographing the post-war scenario in Afghanistan almost exclusively with Pakistan (and China.) And, yet, India-US relationship was supposed to be one between ‘natural allies’ and was described until fairly recently as the ‘defining partnership’ of the 21st century. 

From the Indian perspective, therefore, Trump’s invitation to Imran Khan to visit the White House is a bitter pill to swallow. At best, it can put a brave face on the colossal setback to its regional policies during the past five years, which stubbornly refused to engage Pakistan in dialogue, strove to ‘isolate’ Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism, regarded Afghanistan primarily as a proxy war with Pakistan, refused to regard Taliban as an Afghan entity and fantasised an Indian-American convergence over regional security in regard of Afghanistan. 

Clearly, when it comes to Afghanistan, Pakistan is Washington’s preferred partner, while India’s assigned role will be to serve as a doormat for the US’ containment policies against China, bandied about as its ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’. The Indian foreign policy elites owe an explanation as to how this bizarre situation came about. The entrenched Sinophobia in the Indian mindset has clouded rational thinking. 

The emerging regional security scenario thoroughly exposes the myths shrouding India’s ‘defining partnership’ with the US and scatters the delusional thinking that what is quintessentially a transactional relationship rests on the bedrock of ‘shared values’ and ‘common concerns’ between the two countries. It was never really an equal relationship based on respect and trust or transparency — leave alone strategic convergence. 

In retrospect, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative through the last year and a half to build a warm personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin with a view to revive the India-Russia relationship that was systematically atrophied as a matter of Indian policy during the past decade (with an unspoken agenda to give more ballast to the budding military ties with the US), and to expand and deepen the strategic communication with China following the Wuhan summit with President Xi Jinping with a view to improve India-China relations came not a day too soon.

That providential transition — for which wide acceptance is still lacking within our strategic community — significantly enhances India’s capacity today to adjust to the emerging US-Pakistani entente over post-war Afghanistan. 

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 11, 2019 at 8:27pm

Incoming #US military chief calls for close ties with #Pakistan “ key partner in achieving US interests in #SouthAsia, including developing a political settlement in #Afghanistan; defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan; providing logistical aid for US forces https://www.dawn.com/news/1493607

Gen Mark Milley, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also warned at his nomination hearing that a premature withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan would be a strategic mistake.

“If confirmed as chairman, my objective will be to preserve the defence relationship between the United States and Pakistan even as we press Pakistan to take action on US requests,” Gen Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing in Washington.

“While we have suspended security assistance and paused major defence dialogues, we need to maintain strong military-to- military ties based on our shared interests,” he added.


The statement, coming 10 days before Imran Khan’s first visit to Washington as prime minister, underlines a key element of the US-Pakistan relationship, the long, and once, close partnership between the two militaries.

It also highlights Pakistan’s support to the Afghan reconciliation process and hints at the role Islamabad played in persuading Taliban leaders to join talks with US in Doha. Pakistan is also believed to have cooperated with the United States in arranging an intra-Afghan dialogue, held in Doha earlier this week.

“I think pulling out prematurely would be a strategic mistake,” the general added while responding to a question about Afghanistan from one of the senators.

Gen Milley, currently the Army’s Chief of Staff, has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Colombia and is likely to be confirmed without any opposition from either Republican or Democratic lawmakers.

In Afghanistan, he served as the Commanding General, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and Deputy Commanding General, US Forces.

The Senate panel had sent him a set of written questions on sensitive issues, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. His responses underlined the need to maintain a defence relationship with Pakistan, the country’s importance as a key strategic partner, Islamabad’s role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and the need for Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

“If confirmed, what changes, if any, would you recommend to US relations with Pakistan, particularly in terms of military-to-military relations and International Military Education and Training?” the committee asked. Gen Milley pointed out that President Trump’s South Asia strategy recognised Pakistan as “a key partner in achieving US interests in South Asia, including developing a political settlement in Afghanistan; defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan; providing logistical access for US forces; and enhancing regional stability”.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 11, 2019 at 10:14pm

Ex #Indian Diplomat: "interdependence between #US and #Pakistan. #IMF bailout, #Baloch #BLA #terror list, near-certainty Pakistan is off the hook at the upcoming plenary of the #FATF, an official visit by #ImranKhan to the #WhiteHouse are just starters."
https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/17232/Afg...

There could be several ways of interpreting the US State Department’s decision on Tuesday to designate the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, which imposes economic sanctions on the group and anyone affiliated with it. What is absolutely certain is that this is by no means an altruistic decision by Washington.

The BLA is based in Afghanistan and has been waging a violent armed struggle against Pakistan for the past decade and a half upholding the right of self-determination of the Baloch people and demanding the separation of Balochistan province from Pakistan, apart from being involved in ethnic-cleansing of non-Baloch minorities in Balochistan.

Curiously, the BLA’s timeline (starting from 2004) has been co-terminus with the US’ occupation of Afghanistan. It is inconceivable that the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan were unaware of the BLA’s subversive activities or who were its mentors. Islamabad has been shouting and screaming from the rooftop all this while that its adversaries exploited the group as a proxy to destabilise Pakistan.

Put differently, the timing of the State Department decision banning the BLA is noteworthy. Why now, at this juncture?

These are extraordinary times when almost anything and everything that the US does in the Greater Middle East would have an eye on Iran with which it is locked in an epochal rivalry. Can it be that by making this gesture, Washington hopes to recruit Pakistani military and intelligence to strengthen further its ‘maximum pressure’ strategy against Iran? The possibility cannot be ruled out.

Of course, this is not to suggest that Pakistan will make hostile moves against Iran. Although Pakistan-Iran relations have been highly problematic through the past four decades since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and their mutual animosity kept frothing from time ti time, things never reached a flashpoint as both sides observed certain ground rules of how far to go and what not to do. In the present context, Pakistan will take utmost care not to get entangled in the US-Iran standoff.

Having said that, there is a vital US-Pakistani convergence over Iran that cannot be overlooked, either. That is, when it comes to the Afghan situation. Iran has made it clear that if the US attacks it, it will retaliate against American assets all across the region. There have been two statements at least by senior US officials lately that Iran is moving against American assets in Afghanistan. Iran, of course, has stoutly rejected the allegation, but the US is paranoid — and not without reason.

The point is, apart from the traditional links with the Shi’ite groups in Afghanistan, Tehran also has dealings with the Taliban. Coincidence or not, Washington moved against the BLA within days of an incident in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak on June 26 in which two US soldiers were killed by the Taliban in an ambush.

The incident took place only a day after after Pompeo stopped in the Afghan capital, Kabul, for daylong talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as other senior leaders and opposition politicians to discuss two topics, namely, the US’ ongoing efforts to reach a pace agreement with the Taliban and the potential that Iran has to carry out actions that would jeopardise the US exit strategy out of Afghanistan. (Read a report in the Geopolitics magazine entitled Two Topics Dominating Pompeo’s Visit to Afghanistan.)

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