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Keep foreign hands off Afghanistan June 22, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Guest authors , comments closed

Gabriela Marin Thornton and Arwin Rahi

For much of its history, Afghanistan has been a battlefield for conflicts over regional influence in what has been called the Great Game. Now a weak state with deep ethnic divisions, located in a challenging security environment, Afghanistan is a key front in the pushback against terrorism.

Once again, the country has turned into a battleground for great powers, mainly in the form of proxy wars.

But if the goal is to build lasting peace in the region, the rules of the game must change. As the US withdraws its forces, regional powers such as India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and (a more recent aspirant) China should stay out of Afghanistan politics.

The Afghan government, for its part, needs to reclaim its sovereignty and oppose foreign interference in its internal politics.

An Afghan girl looks out of a damaged window of a shrine. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

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Book review: Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security March 27, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Guest authors , comments closed

Mark Beeson

Once in a while, a book comes along that forces you to rethink some basic assumptions. I had come to believe that corruption didn’t really matter that much because economic growth seemed to happen anyway.

In some circumstances, it seemed corruption might even have a functional purpose. China was the quintessential exemplar of this possibility. Having read Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes, I can now see how complacent and ill-informed some of those assumptions actually were.

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Thieves of State has two great merits over and above its important central thesis about why corruption threatens global security. First, much of the analysis is based on first-hand observations of the pernicious impact of corruption in pivotally important states such as Afghanistan.

Second, Chayes writes with a journalistic eye for detail that enlivens what might otherwise be a worthy but unread scholarly treatise. The book ought to be read and Chayes’ accessible prose ensures it will be.

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Defence Minister Johnston and Australia’s role in Pakistan September 27, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

As we wind down in Afghanistan after a twelve-year war, new Defence Minister David Johnston reportedly says we need to keep our counter-insurgency skills honed, including for possible use in Pakistan (SMH, 21 September 2013).

Mr Johnston and his advisers need to think such statements through. Does he mean a limited role in advising Pakistan on counter-insurgency or does he envision a more robust involvement in maintaining stability? Either way, there is no useful role for Australia, either singly or in concert with its friends and allies.

Pakistan is both a supporter of the insurgency in Afghanistan and involved in counter-insurgency against groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) within Pakistan.

In the former role, the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the ISI, support Afghan anti-government groups like the Haqqani network and harbour the Taliban leadership in Quetta. US intelligence believes the Haqqani network, with support from the ISI, was involved in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008, in which 58 died. The network also allegedly killed the Karzai government’s chief peace envoy, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

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India’s challenges in Afghanistan post-2014 August 9, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Rupakjyoti Borah

With the United States set to begin direct talks with the Taliban, India’s strategic position in the region has been upended. The talks are the result of a stalemate: the United States knows it cannot defeat the Taliban militarily and the Taliban knows that as long as Western forces are in Afghanistan they can only have partial control of the country. But while Pakistan will gain from a face-saving US exit, since it will allow Pakistan to increase its so-called ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, India faces difficult policy choices in Afghanistan after Western forces pull out in 2014.

So why is Afghanistan important for India?

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Afghanistan defence minister’s resignation: implications August 31, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Future Directions International , comments closed

Gustavo Mendiolaza

Background

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.

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Afghanistan releases hydrocarbon acreages July 26, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, By country, Future Directions International , comments closed

Liam McHugh

Background

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.

Sources: U.S.G.S.; Afghanistan Geological Survey; U.S. Department of Defense

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Pakistan: Gilani ‘cops it sweet’ – for now June 20, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

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…)

Perceptions from Islamabad: Pakistan’s twin objectives in the Afghan endgame. June 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Motwani, Nishank, Pakistan , comments closed

Nishank Motwani

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.

Map of Pashtun majority areas (in green)

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India: which way will the ‘swing state’ swing? June 8, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan, Uncategorized , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

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.

US Defense Secretary Panetta and Indian Defence Minister Anthony from 'The Hindu'

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Pakistan: fallout over NATO supply route escalates May 29, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Pakistan , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

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.

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