Afghanistan defence minister’s resignation: implications August 31, 2012Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Future Directions International , Comment
For the last eight years, Abdul Rahim Wardak has been the Afghan Defence Minister, but a recent Vote of No Confidence by the national parliament has forced his removal and subsequent resignation. The problem associated with these events is two-fold: can President Karzai maintain stability and what will this mean for the coalition countries, particularly the United States, as the 2014 troop drawdown agreed upon in the 2010 Lisbon summit approaches.
Afghanistan releases hydrocarbon acreages July 26, 2012Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, By country, Future Directions International , Comment
In July, the Afghan Mining Ministry announced the release of exploration rights for oil and gas developments in the state’s north-west. Extractive industries could provide Kabul with much needed revenue as it enters the next stage of its post-Taliban reconstruction period. The existence of resources, however, does not automatically translate to productivity. Geopolitical politicking, corruption, governance issues and the security situation may constrain the sector.
Pakistan: Gilani ‘cops it sweet’ – for now June 20, 2012Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , Comment
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has apparently decided to accept the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and to try to avoid calling new elections. The job now is to choose a new Prime Minister and keep the minor coalition partners on side. As it is, elections are not scheduled till early next year. The Electoral Commission (EC), which has 90 days to make its own ruling under the Constitution, has come in early and endorsed the dismissal, which is backdated from the time of Mr Gilani’s conviction (26 April). Rule of law apparently pertains, at least for now.
It seems the PPP had little option but to comply once the EC came out in support of the Court. Unless backed by the powerful military (which it is not), the PPP would have had a difficult time in defying the Court. To take to the streets would have, effectively, meant taking to the streets against itself. (It could not have done so against the military, which is not nominally in control; nor against the Court, which would have meant defying the Constitution, further weakening the slender hold of civilian government). If it had called a fresh election it may well have lost, given Pakistan’s chronic power shortage, which is occurring during a time of recession and summer heat. So it will appoint a new Prime Minister and try to hang on till next year’s general elections. (more…)Afghanistan, Motwani, Nishank, Pakistan , Comment
The NATO summit held in Chicago last month confirmed that NATO’s combat forces would be withdrawn by the end of 2014, leaving behind an unknown number of training units in Afghanistan. As the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) mission to hand over combat command to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) draws closer, Pakistan is shifting gears to protect its strategic interests in the Afghan endgame. Understanding Islamabad’s objectives is thus essential to evaluate where it stands and how and why its defined ends oppose the desired goals of Afghanistan and its US-led ISAF stakeholders.
India: which way will the ‘swing state’ swing? June 8, 2012Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan, Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
According to a leading article in The Times of India, India now finds itself in the enviable position of being courted by both the US and China, thus confirming its status as a ‘swing state’ of Asia.
Two recent meetings highlight India’s emerging role in Asian security. On 6 June, American Secretary for Defense, Leon Panetta, told a think tank in New Delhi that India is a “linchpin” in America’s re-engagement with Asia. He also promised India access to significant military technologies.
Following that meeting, Mr Panetta bypassed Islamabad and warned from Kabul that the US is “losing patience” with Pakistan.
Meanwhile, in the wings of the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Beijing, Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang – widely expected to be China’s next premier – told Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna that Sino-Indian ties would be the most important bilateral relationship in the twenty-first century. According to The Wall Street Journal, in return Mr Krishna made a strong pitch for full membership of the resource-rich SCO.
Pakistan: fallout over NATO supply route escalates May 29, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Pakistan , Comment
Although there has been recent progress in cross-border cooperation, the modalities of a revised agreement between Pakistan and the US to re-establish a NATO supply route, have escalated domestic and regional tensions.
On Friday last week, after six months of stand-off, Pakistan for the first time authorised a US supply convoy to pass into Afghanistan, with office supplies destined for Kabul. The symbolic cross-over, however, after months of ongoing tension, has not resulted in the recommencement of the NATO supply route, a goal much desired by the US.
Since the imposition of the blockade, US and NATO forces in Afghanistan have been compelled to use the Northern Distribution Network. This is a series of alternative, and more costly, supply routes that transit through the Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia. The US is also eager to resume the NATO supply route through Pakistan to facilitate the withdrawal of its forces and military equipment from Afghanistan by 2014.
Pakistan and Russia seek enhanced cooperation March 24, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Pakistan , Comment
Serge Desilva Ranasinghe
This post first appeared on Future Directions International on 21 March 2012.
As part of its changing foreign policy focus, Pakistan’s rapprochement with Russia is one of its most significant attempts to shape the post-2014 geo-political order in Afghanistan. Islamabad is looking to alternative strategic partners to counterbalance India’s rising influence in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East and its own strained ties with the US. In this context, the recent visit to Moscow of Pakistani Foreign Minister Ms Hina Rabbani Khar on 7-9 February is symbolic of the rapidly transforming relationship between Islamabad and Moscow.
Such bilateral interaction is a significant departure from the acrimonious 1980s and 1990s, when Pakistan heavily supported the Afghan Mujahadeen against invading Russian forces in Afghanistan and accused Russia of covertly supporting Baluchi separatists. Similarly, Russia had also accused Pakistan of providing support to Islamist insurgents active in Chechnya and Tajikistan.
In Moscow, the Pakistani Foreign Minister relayed her country’s growing interest in developing stronger ties with Russia through trade and investment, especially in the areas of joint co-operation in Pakistan’s energy sector. The visit is indicative of the vastly improved bilateral relations between the two countries over the last decade. For example, according to the website of the Consulate-General of Russia in Karachi, two-way trade between Russia and Pakistan increased from a minute US$92 million in 2003, to US$441 million in 2006 and US$630 million in 2008.
Pakistan and the Afghan End-Game: need for a rethink? February 11, 2012Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , Comment
Washington has now moderated Secretary for Defense Leon Panetta’s statement that the US as a fighting force would be in the barracks by mid-2013. US forces may now come out to fight as and when necessary till departure at the end of 2014. But that doesn’t change much. The fact is the Afghan endgame has been in play at least since the death of bin Laden.
On the surface Pakistan appears to be a highly dysfunctional country caught up in the current ‘AfPak’ uncertainty and poorly positioned to benefit from the endgame. Perilously poised between a dysfunctional civilian government and an Army reluctant to seize power but willing to shape events from the wings, beset by terrorist and insurgency violence, with a failing and near bankrupt economy and shocking social sector indicators, on numerous occasions commentators have predicted Pakistan’s demise.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar
Speculation swirls around Pakistan’s President Zardari December 8, 2011Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , Comment
President Zardari reportedly suffered a minor heart attack on December 6 and is now in Dubai. The normally well informed STRATFOR reported that Zardari had been ‘incoherent’ in an earlier telephone conversation with President Obama. According to the BBC, Zardari’s staff say the problem is minor and there is no question of his resigning.
There have, however, been a series of worrying developments in the Af-Pak region recently and it is quite possible either that it has all become too much for Zardari or that he has been given the nod to leave by the military.
NATO attack on Pakistani border post: what it means November 28, 2011Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , Comment
The raw facts are known. A long-standing Pakistani military base just within the northern border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) was attacked by helicopters and possibly fixed-wing NATO aircraft on 26 November and at least 25 Pakistani officers and men killed. Since then, Pakistan has reacted by “indefinitely” closing border traffic for NATO goods from Pakistan into Afghanistan and giving the US 15 days to vacate its UAV base at Shamsi.
What is less well known is what prompted the NATO night attack. NATO is investigating. But it is possible that firing came from the base in support of a Taliban training facility, which was being concurrently attacked by US special forces. Or it may simply have been the result of a mix-up – all too easy in night fighting in the complex tribal area.