Tolo News: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview with Deutsche Welle said that the US and Taliban representatives are “heading toward a ceasefire in Afghanistan.” While the Afghan government does not consider the Taliban’s reduction in violence acceptable, the Pakistani prime minister told Deutsche Welle that US envoys would go to the ceasefire with the Taliban. Speaking to Deutsche Welle, Imran Khan emphasizes that Islamabad is working to achieve positive results for the two sides to reach peace in Afghanistan. Click here to read more (external link).
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
January 20, 2020
The Taliban has killed six members of the same family, including an infant girl, in a remote village in the country’s north, Afghan officials say.
The Taliban denied involvement, saying the attack on January 18 was triggered by a personal dispute.
However, local Afghan officials said January 19 the family was sentenced to death by the Taliban for immoral acts before being shot dead, said Jawed Bedar, a spokesman for Faryab Province’s governor.
The infant girl’s mother and twin sister survived, but both of the child’s legs had to be amputated, Bedar said.
Afghan security forces deployed to the village early January 19 and helped evacuate the two survivors to the hospital.
Bedar said the Taliban attacked the government troops when they arrived. Three Taliban members were killed in the ensuing gun battle.
The Taliban now controls or holds sway over approximately half of Afghanistan.
With reporting by AP
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
January 19, 2020
A right-wing US veterans group has begun a TV advertising campaign aimed at urging American voters to demand from their congressional representatives to put an end to “endless wars,” focusing on the need to pull out of Afghanistan.
As part of the effort, the first order of business for the sponsor of the ad campaign, Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), is to press US lawmakers to “get America out of Afghanistan,” US-based military news outlet Task & Purpose reported Friday.
In the 30-second television ad that is due to be aired in states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, five US veterans of the country’s 18-year military occupation of Afghanistan speak against the longest war in American history.
“When will it end?” asks US Army veteran Laura Hechel in the ad. “Over 60 percent of veterans like me think it’s time to get out of Afghanistan,” further states another veteran, former Marine Adam Miller.
“We would like to see a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible,” said Nate Anderson, an Army Green Beret and executive director of CVA, as quoted in the report.
“The reality for us is that leaving our forces there only puts them at further risk in a country where we don’t have a strategic objective that we have not already met,” Anderson said, pointing to the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, “punishing” the Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda, and “largely uprooting the terror group” from the country.
“All those things happened,” he added. Yet, his group supports Trump administration peace talks with Taliban and submitting to its demand the US troops should pull out from Afghanistan with or without a deal.
According to the report, “18 years, 3 months, and 9 days after ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ was officially launched in Afghanistan, the war continues to grind on, albeit under a different name – Resolute Support, purportedly a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.
In addition to the human cost of more than 2,400 American troops killed and tens of thousands wounded, the US government has spent nearly $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, secret documents published by The Washington Post in December showed that top officials in Washington had repeatedly lied to the American public about the war in Afghanistan, which many believed was unwinnable.
Quoting Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Afghanistan in 2002 and then again from 2011 to 2012, The Post wrote: “Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption. Once it gets to the level I saw, when I was out there, it’s somewhere between unbelievably hard and outright impossible to fix it.”
Despite these fundamental failures, according to the daily, top American officials have said in public that the US military was making progress in Afghanistan, in part by distorting statistics to “present the best picture possible,” as one counterinsurgency adviser said.
“Candidate Trump campaigned heavily on the need to end our endless wars,” Anderson said. “I think his gut is right on this issue, but the establishment is pushing back hard. That’s why we’re taking action now.”
The issue is personal for Anderson, who served five years on active-duty with Army Special Forces, deploying twice to Afghanistan as a communications sergeant. The five other veterans in the ad, also CVA staffers, served in the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps.
“When you’re on the ground as an operator or an infantryman, you want to do your part in the mission. You want to demonstrate success in whatever mission that you are part of. We certainly did our best to do that,” said Anderson, but “it felt like we were running in place… that’s demoralizing.”
Meanwhile, the Taliban and the United States have resumed peace talks aimed at ending the war, though their outcome is far from certain.
This is while critics insist that an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan could result in a Taliban takeover of the war ravaged nation, risking the possibility that the country will once again turn into a safe haven for “terrorists.”
1TV: Afghan jihad occurred at the behest of the United States and the West, top Pakistani cleric Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman has said. The cleric, who has long been seen as a sympathizer of the Taliban, also did not rule that the Pakistani establishment supported militants. Click here to read more (external link).
January 19, 2020
ISLAMABAD – A senior American diplomat began a four-day official visit to Pakistan Sunday amid warming bilateral relations that have followed meetings last year between President Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The principal deputy assistant secretary, Alice Wells, is scheduled to discuss with senior government officials in Islamabad issues related to bilateral and regional concerns. She will also hold meetings with civil society representatives during her stay in the country, according to a pre-trip U.S. announcement.
The visit is part of a ten-day regional tour that has already taken Wells to Sri Lanka and India. It comes a couple of days after Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood’s trip to Washington where he held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.
“Enjoyed meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister @SMQureshiPTI today. We discussed countering Iranian aggression, the Afghan peace process, trade ties, and regional stability,” Pompeo tweeted after his talks with Qureshi on Friday.
The warmth in long, close and turbulent U.S.-Pakistan relations stemmed mainly from Islamabad’s cooperation in facilitating Washington’s peace talks with Taliban insurgents aimed at bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan.
The Trump administration last month announced it would soon resume International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs for young Pakistani army officers. U.S. officials say they are also working together with counterparts in Islamabad to boost bilateral trade and commercial ties.
“We expect our bilateral relationship to continue to mature to one more focused on trade than aid, and we are continuing to target investments in ways that help improve the overall business climate,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA in an email.
She noted there is much room to grow the current $6.6 billion annual bilateral trade relationship, adding Washington looks forward to working together with Islamabad on energy and agricultural exports in 2020. The Trump administration sees the U.S.-Pakistan relationship as one of potential, she added.
“We have made clear that fulfilling that potential requires progress on our joint efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan and on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible action against the militant groups and terrorist groups that destabilize the region from its soil,” the spokesperson stressed.
Pakistan hails IMET
The IMET was a part of U.S. security assistance for Pakistan worth some $2 billion that Trump suspended in January 2018 to press Islamabad to crackdown on militant groups on its soil and help in Afghan peace-building efforts. The overall security assistance remains suspended, however.
U.S. officials maintain the resumption of IMET, administered by the State Department, was meant to boost military-to-military cooperation between the two countries to advance “our shared priorities” of regional security and stability through concrete actions.
“U.S. decision to revive IMET is one more step in the right direction and reflective of our growing bilateral relationship,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui noted in her official reaction.
Farooqui emphasized, however, the two countries needed to work for a “broad-based and enduring relationship, based on mutual trust and mutual respect.”
Washington credits Islamabad with helping to facilitate U.S. negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, mostly held in Qatar, to help bring an end to the 18-year-old conflict, America’s longest.
U.S. officials have long alleged the Taliban insurgency has organized itself militarily and logistically on Pakistani soil with covert support from the neighboring country’s military. Islamabad rejects the charges.
Latest round of meetings between U.S. and Taliban negotiators underway in the Qatari capital of Doha are said to have brought the two adversaries on the verge of signing a peace deal.
Khan ‘Sort of’ Trump of Pakistan
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, has also called for offering more economic incentives to Pakistan to encourage it to do more to bring stability to Afghanistan. Graham noted after his last month’s visit to Islamabad that Pakistani leadership wants an end to the Afghan war to promote national and regional peace.“
Prime Minister Khan is a different kind of politician. In many ways he is sort of Trump of Pakistan. So, we got a magic moment here where we could persuade Pakistan to do things differently and give them an economic incentive they never had before to do things differently,” Graham told reporters after his last month’s visit to Islamabad.
Senator Mushahid Hussain, who heads the foreign affairs committee of the upper house of Pakistani parliament, says Washington’s emphasizes on broadening bilateral ties beyond Afghanistan and security-related cooperation will go a long way in resetting relations between the two nations.
“We welcome this American initiative as it doesn’t view Pakistan from the prism of geopolitics, rather, the focus is on people-centric development. This augurs well for future as it means 2020 will be promising for Pakistan-American relations,” Hussain told VOA.
Michael Kugelman, the deputy director Asia program at the Wilson Center in Washington, expects the trajectory of bilateral relations will be tied to the trajectory of U.S.-led Afghan peace efforts, pointing to the turbulent history of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership.“
Recent decades have seen a consistent pattern in U.S.-Pakistan relations: Washington frames its relationship with Islamabad through the lens of Afghanistan, while Islamabad seeks to get the U.S. to adjust that lens so that it looks at Pakistan through the lens of Pakistan alone,” observed Kugelman.
But regardless of the fate of Afghan peace process, critics say, the U.S.-China trade and political tensions are likely to weigh heavy also on U.S.-Pakistan relations.
While Beijing has traditionally maintained close defense partnership with Islamabad, the two neighboring allied nations have in recent years deepened economic cooperation under China’s trillion dollar global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
Roughly $30 billion in Chinese investment, including soft loans and grants, has built or building highways, power plants, special economic zones, Gwadar deep-water Arabian Sea port and an airport there. The investment has come under the bilateral collaboration, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship of BRI.
U.S. officials are critical of both CPEC and the BRI. In a recent statement, Wells said that the infrastructure development projects are burdening struggling economies like Pakistan with expensive Chinese loans that ultimately will turn into“debt trap” for recipient nations.
Islamabad and Beijing reject the criticism as unfounded and politically motivated.
1TV: The United States may get prepared to sign deal with the Taliban with reduction in violence, but it wouldn’t solve anything for the Afghan people, Afghanistan’s Second Vice President Sarwar Danish said on Sunday. He said that unless intra-Afghan negotiations begin and unless there is a ceasefire, there would be no trust between the parties and there would be no hope for the future. Click here to read more (external link).
1TV: Zakariya Zamani, an Afghan professional boxer, last night beat his Nigerian opponent, Gabinga, once again. To date, Zamani has had 3 professional matches, with no losses at all. Click here to read more (external link).
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