Category Archives: Afghanistan

Video: PIIA event on Afghanistan

PIIA recently held a talk on the Afghan conflict and foreign forces are to blame for the Afghan conflict according to Rustam Shah Mohmand. Indeed, the former Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan urges Pakistan to shift focus away from India.“The India-centric approach will have to be reviewed because it doesn’t deliver much” he said.

Observer Comment on US Strategy in Afghanistan

If we do not have a reasonably competent, friendly government in Kabul, nothing the west achieves will last. Ignoring the Afghan nation’s needs is not an option

This week’s comment in the Observer calls for a more inclusive role for Pakistan than the one recently articulated by Washington. Comment as follows: Donald Trump’s view on the conflict in Afghanistan was highly critical in 2011 when he tweeted that the US was “wasting lives and money” there. He later termed Barack Obama’s strategy a “complete waste”, saying it was “time to come home”. Trump stood on his head last week, ordering the deployment of additional American troops and committing the US to an open-ended war that he vowed to “fight to win”. So which Trump is right – the pre-election sceptic or today’s ardent warrior? The answer is neither.

When Obama took office in 2009, he raised US troop levels to around 100,000, part of a Nato force of about 150,000. His plan was to turn around a war that had already dragged on too long, then hand over to better-trained and equipped Afghan army and police forces. The handover duly took place in 2014, but the conflict was not over. Since then, security has steadily deteriorated. Obama was right to try, and Trump wrong to prematurely scorn his efforts. But what the 2009 surge ultimately proved was that even the most modern armies, wielding the latest weaponry and backed by unchallenged air power, cannot wholly overcome the sort of unconventional, guerrilla campaign at which the Taliban excel. More than 2,400 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001, and more than 450 British troops. But according to US estimates, government forces now control less than 60% of the country. Continue reading

Book Review: The Exile – Osama Bin Laden after 9/11

This is a fantastic book review in the Guardian (1 July 2017) by Owen Bennett-Jones. 

The investigative reporters have produced a revelatory work about al-Qaida members in hiding in Pakistan and Iran between 2001 and 2011. At the time of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden was in an Afghan cave, unable to get a decent TV satellite signal and forced to follow developments on the radio. The contrast between his situation and his impact was to be a theme of the next decade until, eventually, the Americans caught up with him in the raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. It’s a decade that The Exile describes with a remarkable amount of impressive new detail.

Investigative reporters Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy start with a detailed account of Bin Laden’s movements. When the US air strikes began, he flitted through various locations in Afghanistan, all the while trying to manage the movements of his wives and children. He was on his way to a meeting with Mullah Omar in Kandahar on 7 October 2001 when a US drone came close to killing them both. From there he moved to an underground complex in the Tora Bora mountains near the Pakistan border. The US assaulted Tora Bora but, again, Bin Laden managed to slip away, and on 14 December 2001 he turned up in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Feeling too exposed there, he moved back to Afghanistan in February 2002 before reaching northern Pakistan in the summer. There he lived with one of his wives, Amal, and their nine-month-old daughter Safiyah in the remote village of Kutkey, home to the in-laws of his courier and guard, Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti. Continue reading

Pakistan Security Report 2015

Security is the source of global concern these days and Pakistan is one of the worst affected countries in that regard. Below are the details of the security situation in Pakistan. Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) brings out an annual security report at the end of each year, which is widely disseminated in Pakistan and abroad. The report comprehensively compiles data on violent incidents, comparative analysis of various security variables, the changing targets and tactics of militants, strategies of the government and the nature of its response to the security challenges. Pakistan Security Report 2015 (see overview) includes not only the number of conflict-related incidents for the entire year, but also prioritizes the major actors of instability as well as analyses the perpetrators’ tactics and the security forces’ response. The report highlights the progress made by the government on eliminating militancy Continue reading

Arab Shah: Natural Afghan Mystic

The fortune-teller of Kabul is yet another tremendous long read from The Guardian about an Afghan natural mystic called Arab Shah, who people consult for a variety of reasons including whether they should emigrate from the war-torn country east to Australia or west to Europe? The author, May Jeong, asks the seminal question: for centuries mystics have channelled the hopes and fears of Afghans. With the nation in turmoil, their services are as popular as ever. But can they survive the latest crackdown by religious hardliners? She explores Afghanistan’s tense and complicated relationship with Islam. Here is a further extract from her most excellent must read piece: Shah is a fortune-teller – a falbin, a taweez naweez mulla, a djinn hunter – who belongs to a long tradition of men who practise magic said to predate Islam. Spirit mediums inhabit the interstices between the old and the new: in one neighbourhood in old Kabul, a row of falbin fortune-tellers sit receiving visitors just outside a modern medical clinic, to serve those who want to cover all bases. These men – and the occasional woman – are living manifestations of Afghanistan’s complicated Continue reading