Thursday, February 28, 2019

Transcript: President Donald Trump's press conference in Vietnam - Politico

A full transcript of President Donald Trump's Feb. 28 press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Hanoi, Vietnam:

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking the Prime Minister and President of Vietnam. We're in Hanoi. It's an incredible city. What's happened over the last 25 years has been incredible for the people of Vietnam, the job they've done -- economic development. Really something special. So I want to thank all of the people of Vietnam for having treated us so well.

We have, I think, reasonably attractive news from Pakistan and India. They've been going at it, and we've been involved in trying to have them stop. And we have some reasonably decent news. I think, hopefully, that's going to be coming to an end. It's been going on for a long time -- decades and decades. There's a lot of dislike, unfortunately. So we've been in the middle, trying to help them both out and see if we can get some organization and some peace. And I think, probably, that's going to be happening.

We have -- Venezuela, as you know, has been very much in the news, and we're sending supplies. Supplies are getting through a little bit more. It's not easy. It's hard to believe somebody would say "let's not do it." What difference would that make, except it's great for its people to let it get through. But we're sending a lot of supplies down to Venezuela. People are starving to death, and you would really think that the man in charge, currently, would let those supplies get through. We are getting them into some of the cities and some of the areas that need them the most. And it's not an easy job. It's very difficult, actually.

On North Korea, we just left Chairman Kim. We had a really, I think, a very productive time. We thought, and I thought, and Secretary Pompeo felt that it wasn’t a good thing to be signing anything. I'm going to let Mike speak about it.

But we literally just left. We spent pretty much all day with Kim Jong Un, who is -- he's quite a guy and quite a character. And I think our relationship is very strong. But at this time -- we had some options, and at this time we decided not to do any of the options. And we'll see where that goes. - More

Transcript: President Donald Trump's press conference in Vietnam

700 Afghan Women Have a Message: Don’t Sell Us Out to the Taliban - NYTimes

KABUL, Afghanistan — It was a rare sight, even after 18 years of progress in Afghanistan: more than 700 women from across the country, gathered to send an unequivocal message to the men now negotiating with the Taliban.

We want peace, the women said, but not at the cost of our rights.

The conference in Kabul, six months in the making, represented a watershed moment at a time when Afghans are struggling to comprehend what peace with the Taliban would bring, even as the war with the militant group is as deadly as ever. American diplomats are holding talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, but the Afghan government is not involved.

Several women expressed fears that a peace deal could bring the Taliban back into the government, leaving women and girls vulnerable to a new wave of the sort of edicts that constrained their lives until the group’s overthrow in 2001. Women were routinely beaten for violating Taliban codes.

One woman at the conference, held inside an enormous tent-like structure, spoke sharply to President Ashraf Ghani shortly before he delivered a speech emphasizing his support for women’s rights.

“You should put killers in prison, not make peace with them,” said the woman, Nargiss Qurbani, 48, who said the Taliban killed her husband in 1997 and later wounded her son, a soldier.

Mr. Ghani did not respond.

The hundreds of women who attended came mostly from urban areas in 34 provinces. Most wore makeup, a superfluous embellishment when the Taliban barred women from showing their face. Many covered their hair with scarves, but a few left theirs defiantly uncovered.

Rula Ghani, Afghanistan’s first lady, urged women to take advantage of the gathering to express their views publicly.

“Afghan women have their own voice, and now they’re raising it,” Ms. Ghani said.

“You have been pushed aside, but today that has changed,” Mr. Ghani told the women. “You are not a victim any more. You are making the future.”

“We want peace, but we don’t want to lose our achievements,” said Aqilla Mustafavi, 25. “We took a long road to reach here, and we don’t want to go back.”

American and Taliban negotiators have agreed in principle on the framework of a deal in which American troops would withdraw in return for a Taliban pledge that Afghanistan would not be used by terrorists. Under a new Pentagon plan being offered in the peace negotiations, all American and other foreign troops would withdraw from Afghanistan over the next three to five years.

But that framework reached between the Americans and the Taliban is contingent on reaching agreement on other issues, among them a cease-fire and direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The Taliban have refused to talk to the government, calling it illegitimate. Afghan women have demanded a seat at the table if direct negotiations take place. - Read More

700 Afghan Women Have a Message: Don't Sell Us Out to the Taliban

Trump And Kim's Second Nuclear Summit Ends With No Deal

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left their summit meeting on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam, without agreeing on a denuclearization deal. A planned signing ceremony was canceled.

The biggest sticking point was sanctions against North Korea, Trump said at a news conference Thursday afternoon local time. Kim is "totally" willing to dismantle nuclear weapons in key areas, such as the Yongbyon nuclear facility, but the North Korean leader wants all sanctions removed first, Trump said. "We couldn't do that."

Unable to come to an agreement, the two leaders decided to end the summit early. "Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times," Trump said.

But at around midnight, North Korea's government called a rare news conference of its own in which it refuted key details of Trump's version of events.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said his government had asked only for a partial lifting of sanctions. In exchange, he said, "We will permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium."

Ri added that international inspectors could verify the dismantlement of Yongbyon. In addition, he said that the North would offer a permanent freeze on nuclear and long-range missile testing.

Thursday afternoon Eastern time, the White House said it was aware of North Korea's reaction but did not immediately provide comments on it. - Read More

Trump And Kim's Second Nuclear Summit Ends With No Deal

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

چهل سال گذشت؛ سفیر آمریکا در کابل چگونه ربوده و کشته شد؟ - BBC

چهل سال پیش (۱۹۷۹) آدولف دابس، سفیر ایالات متحده آمریکا در افغانستان را افراد ناشناسی ربودند و سپس او در درگیری کشته شد. ترور آقای دابس بر مناسبات دو کشور سایه انداخت و گفته شد که بعد از این رویداد کمک‌های آمریکا به مجاهدین افغان که تازه فعالیت‌های‌شان برجسته شده بود، بیشتر شد. چهل سال بعد از این قتل، هنوز مشخص نشده است که دقیقا کدام گروه به این کار دست زده و هدف چه بوده است.

ساعت ۹ صبح، شهرنو، 'کوچه مرغ‌‌‌ها '
فقیر محمد فقیر در آن‌زمان رئیس دفتر "شورای انقلابی" بود و در ارگ کار می‌کرد. نه ماه پیش از آن حزب دموکراتیک خلق با کودتا، دولت داوودخان را سرنگون کرده و قدرت را به دست گرفته بود.

آقای فقیر می‌گوید چهار نفر در منطقه شهر نو کابل، کوچه مرغ‌‌ها، خودرو سفیر آمریکا را متوقف کردند، به راننده سفیر دستور دادند که به سمت هتل کابل حرکت کند. در آن‌زمان این هتل در مرکز شهر کابل بود جایی که در حال حاضر هتل سریناست.

به گفته فقیر محمد فقیر، این چهار نفر عضو حزبی بودند که به "ستم ملی" مشهور بود. این حزب در اصل به نام "سازمان فدائیان و زحمتکشان افغانستان" (سفزا) یاد می‌شد. سفزا که رهبری آن برعهده بحرالدین باعث بدخشی بود، شاخه جدا شده از "سازمان انقلابی زحمتکشان افغانستان" به رهبری طاهر بدخشی بود.

قای فقیر می‌گوید ربایندگانِ سفیر آمریکا، او را به طبقه دوم هتل کابل بردند و اعلام کردند در صورتی سفیر را آزاد خواهند کرد که رهبر سازمان‌شان، بحرالدین باعث بدخشی از زندان رها گردد. بحرالدین باعث، به علت "توطئه ضدخلقی" در زندان پل چرخی زندانی بود.

ربایندگان که گفته شده همه‌شان یا دست‌کم یکی از آن‌ها لباس پلیس بر تن داشته، سفیر را به اتاق ۱۱۷ انتقال دادند و از راننده سفیر خواستند که به سفارت برود و به دیپلمات‌های آمریکایی اطلاع دهند. - Read More

چهل سال گذشت؛ سفیر آمریکا در کابل چگونه ربوده و کشته شد؟

What Is Wrong With Afghanistan’s Peace Process - nytimes

A hasty American withdrawal will jeopardize hard-won gains such as constitutional rights, citizens’ rights and democratic institutions.

President Trump’s announcement of an impending withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s declaration that the Americans and the Taliban have “in principle” agreed to a framework for a deal have been described by both sides as a leap toward ending the war in Afghanistan.

But a hasty American withdrawal will jeopardize for Afghans the future of hard-won gains such as constitutional rights, freedoms of citizens and democratic institutions. The United States must recognize that the absence of war — the focus of current talks — alone will not translate to peace in Afghanistan.

Mr. Khalilzad’s talks with the Taliban and the signs of an American withdrawal have bypassed numerous Afghan voices and increased fears among the most vulnerable of them — women, ethnic minorities and civil society — about the loss of security and freedoms that Afghanistan’s young and flawed democracy afforded them. - More

Opinion | What Is Wrong With Afghanistan's Peace Process - The New

The President, the Envoy and the Talib: 3 Lives Shaped by War and Study Abroad - nytimes

KABUL, Afghanistan — Today, they are representatives of three central parties to the Afghan war, caught up by a frenzied effort to find an endgame to decades of violence.

But during the last stretch of peace their generation has known, in the 1970s, the three young Afghans — Ashraf Ghani, Zalmay Khalilzad and Sher Mohammed — were all busy finding themselves while studying on scholarships abroad.

During those years, Mr. Ghani and Mr. Khalilzad, now the Afghan president and the chief American peace envoy, were completing degrees in Lebanon at the American University in Beirut, a vibrant hub of ideologies and intellects during a turbulent time in the Middle East. They enjoyed the Mediterranean beaches, went to dances and met their future wives.

The third Afghan, now known as Sher Mohammed Abas Stanekzai, the chief negotiator for the Taliban, spent those years in military fatigues at the foothills of the Himalayas, training at India’s most prestigious military schools. On breaks, his batch of young Afghans would find themselves in the hills of Kashmir, or on the sets of Bollywood films hoping for a photo with the stars.

Each of their lives captures an arc of the long Afghan conflict. And their differing paths and personalities are now converging at center stage of a desperate geopolitical drama. 

To end a war that has lasted, in one way or another, for 40 years is no easy task. And though Mr. Ghani, 69, and Mr. Khalilzad, 67, have a remarkable amount of shared history, they have increasingly been at odds over how to approach the Taliban.- Read More

The President, the Envoy and the Talib: 3 Lives Shaped by War and ...

Afghanistan rebukes Pakistan ambassador in ripple effect from Kashmir attack

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Pakistani ambassador on Wednesday over his remarks that Afghan peace talks could be affected if India resorted to violence after last week’s attack on Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir.

In a statement issued after the meeting with Ambassador Zahid Nasrullah, the Foreign Ministry said it deemed his comments to be “in contradiction with Pakistan’s commitments with regards to realizing peace in Afghanistan”.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have risen sharply since the suicide bomb attack in the disputed Kashmir region, which the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group claimed responsibility for. India has blamed Pakistan, saying Islamabad has not done enough to control militants based on its soil.

Pakistani authorities have denied any involvement in the attack. Nasrullah said on Tuesday that any attack by India would “affect the stability of the entire region and impact the momentum” of the Afghan peace effort. - More

Afghanistan rebukes Pakistan ambassador in ripple effect - Reuters

President Ghani Met With NATO Secretary General -

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, met with President Ashraf Ghani in the sidelines of Munich Security Conference; they discussed Afghan government owned and led peace process and joint combat against terrorism, and stressed on regional countries’ sincere cooperation on peace in Afghanistan.

Secretary General Stoltenberg that NATO is firm on its commitments to Afghanistan, and asserted that peace in Afghanistan is not viable unless led and owned by the government of Afghanistan.

President Ghani thanked NATO member nations for their support to Afghanistan, and said that Afghans from all provinces will hold a comprehensive discussion on peace in a consultative Loya Jirga that will be organized within a month. - Read More

President Ghani met with NATO Secretary General

President Ashraf Ghani met with His Highness Emir of Qatar,...

CNN Anchor, Fareed Zakaria’s Conversation With President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani During World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting (2019) In Davos, Switzerland.

Fareed Zakaria:  How would you respond the people in America, maybe another western countries that have sent troops for seventeen years; this has gone on for 17 years. What have we got now different? We have failed in some sense, they would argue.

President Ghani: No, absolutely, but the first thing is, the United States is not there because it is fighting in Afghanistan. It is fighting for its security. Second, we have engaged in a very open dialogue. The United States as a sovereign power, as a global power, is entitled to leave. But we need to get the departure right. Are the fundamental reasons that brought the United States to Afghanistan—are those objectives accomplished? The first issue is cost. We completely agree that the cost must come down, must become more efficient. So the first thing I request is that everything under the sun should not be built under the war in Afghanistan. When the U.S. navy needs money, when the US army needs money, the U.S. Air Force, it bills it under Afghanistan. What is the cost of the war in Afghanistan?

Second, the number of troops. We are engaged in a discussion, we had initiated this to see that the number corresponds the essential needs, because every U.S. soldier essential at least cost a million dollars a year. On making it more efficient—this is crucial. And we understand that our relationship is based on mutual interest which flows from mutual threats on the one hand, and mutual goals on the other.

So my answer first, I pay tribute to every mother and father who have lost their children in Afghanistan. This has included the highest levels of government, like Secretary Kelly, chief of staff, who lost his son in Helmand.

Second, over a million American soldiers, men and women in uniform, have seen action in Afghanistan; we pay tribute. But the job that we started together needs to move.

Thirdly, since I have become president, a hundred thousand troops left. Over 45,000 Afghan security personnel have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The number of international casualties is less than 72. So it shows you who is doing the fighting, and the support is mutual. We need to get a stable Afghanistan as an entity that can ensure security of America and Europe and others on the one hand, but more fundamentally our own democratic rights and institutions and our right to live in peace and harmony. - Read More

Thursday, February 14, 2019

U.S. troop reduction in Afghanistan 'will be coordinated' with NATO, acting defense secretary says

BRUSSELS — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday that the United States will not withdraw from Afghanistan without consulting NATO allies, and suggested that any coming troop reduction would be coordinated.

"There will be no unilateral troop reduction," Shanahan said in a press conference at the conclusion of a NATO meeting of defense ministers in Brussels.

"That was one of the messages of the meeting today," he said. "It will be coordinated."

Last month, the U.S. began peace talks with the Taliban to try to end a war now in its 18th year. President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address last week to argue “that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace.” "And the other side would like to do the same," Trump said.

There have been roughly 3,500 coalition casualties in Afghanistan, with the United States losing approximately 2,300 troops. U.S. commanders have referred to the conflict as a "stalemate," and the Taliban does not appear to be losing territory 18 months into Trump's new Afghanistan strategy.

On Wednesday, the Taliban said that the talks would resume on Feb. 18 in Islamabad.

Those peace talks, if successful, could lead to a reduction of some of the 14,000 troops that are currently serving in Afghanistan under a NATO mission, according to Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO.

The military alliance has "discussed the possibility, of course as part of a peace deal, to reduce the presence of NATO troops" in the country, Stoltenberg told NBC News on Tuesday.

But on Thursday, the top U.S. NATO commander said that troop reductions did not come up in formal discussions during the two-day NATO gathering of defense ministers.

"There’s no plans right now at NATO to withdraw troops," General Curtis Scaparrotti told NBC News. "We came in together, we go out together." - Read More

U.S. troop reduction in Afghanistan 'will be coordinated' with NATO ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

مراسم تشییع جنازه صبغت الله مجددی برگزار شد - BBC

مراسم تشییع جنازه صبغت الله مجددی، نخستین رئیس دولت اسلامی افغانستان امروز چهارشنبه ۲۴ دلو/بهمن برگزار شد.
آقای مجددی، نخستین رئیس دولت اسلامی افغانستان در دهه نود میلادی و رهبر حزب نجات ملی در سن ۹۳ سالگی روز دوشنبه در کابل درگذشت. او اخیرا بیمار بود.

صبغت الله مجددی در سال ۱۳۰۵ خورشیدی در یک خانواده روحانی در شهر کابل به دنیا آمد. او از مشایخ طریقت نقشبندیه و منتسب به شیخ احمد سرهندی، معروف به مجدد الف ثانی بود.

صبغت الله مجددی در سال ۱۳۰۵ خورشیدی در یک خانواده روحانی در شهر کابل به دنیا آمد. او از مشایخ طریقت نقشبندیه و منتسب به شیخ احمد سرهندی، معروف به مجدد الف ثانی بود. - Read More

مراسم تشییع جنازه صبغت الله مجددی برگزار شد - BBC News

Endless War: A Visit with the Taliban in Afghanistan - SPIEGEL ONLINE

More than 17 years after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the country is still at war. The Afghan army is weak, a resurgent Taliban is mounting fresh attacks and new peace negotiations do not include Kabul. Peace remains a distant goal.
Mullah Niazi sits on top of his mountain and waits -- waits for news from his commanders, waits for his fighters and waits for victory. He's been living up here in his mountaintop fortress -- where the shacks are as brown as the mountain and where no motorcycle, car or tank can travel -- for two-and-a-half years. He is waiting for God's rule to once again take hold on the streets of Afghanistan's, just like when he was a spokesman for Taliban founder, Mullah Omar. His patience seems to be paying off.

Slowly, Niazi's fighters, who are taking us to him, ascend the final slope. The air is still damp and cold from the night before, and it smells like the scree that is dislodged by our every step. The only sound is the fighters' heavy breathing and the metallic clink of ammunition belts against their machine guns.

Apart from our group, silence envelops these mountains southeast of Herat, a range known locally as Haft-Darband. It is where Mullah Niazi is lying in wait to reclaim what the Americans took from the Taliban: control over Afghanistan. Things haven't looked this good for the Islamic fundamentalist movement for 17 years.

Surrounded by his heavily armed men, a smiling Niazi is standing at the entrance to his fortress. He is wearing a black vest over his shalwar kameez along with a black turban. His long, gray beard is forked. "The Americans," he says, "are no longer an enemy. They are pulling out. They have lost."

War has been a constant in Afghanistan for the last 41 years, but recently it has become bloodier than it has been in a long time. The Taliban are on the advance, with just 55 percent of the districts in the country currently under the control of the government, according to a U.S. report. The U.S. military dropped more bombs in 2018 than in the 10 previous years and the big cities have seen repeated attacks. - Read More

Endless War: A Visit with the Taliban in Afghanistan

Germany to extend Afghanistan military mission

The German government has opted to extend the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan for another year. The move defies concerns that the US is preparing to pull out of the country, rendering Germany's contribution futile.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet has decided to extend the military mission in Afghanistan a day after an internal strategy paper showed Germany had offered to host another peace conference, this time with an extra invitation for the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic movement currently at war with NATO in the country. The Taliban took part in framework talks with US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha, Qatar, last month, while further talks, without the US, were held in Moscow.

The Bundeswehr currently has around 1,200 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, part of NATO's Resolute Support mission, though the whole operation was thrown into uncertainty in late December, when news reports from the US suggested that President Donald Trump was planning to withdraw around half of the US military's 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.

No timetable was laid out for the mooted withdrawal, though several German military experts, most notably retired General Harald Kujat, told the media at the time that a US withdrawal would render Germany's continued presence futile. - Read More

Germany to extend Afghanistan military mission | Germany| News and

Monday, February 11, 2019

Pentagon Chief Assures Afghanistan of U.S. Support -- WSJ

The Pentagon’s top official assured Afghanistan’s government on Monday that the U.S. wouldn’t desert the country’s security forces, the Afghan Defense Ministry said, signaling American support for the jittery government while the U.S. holds talks with the Taliban to end the country’s 17-year war.

In his first overseas trip as acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan met senior U.S. military officers and top Afghan officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, whose government has been excluded from the latest effort to negotiate a settlement of the punishing conflict. The Taliban have refused to enter talks with the Kabul administration, which they say is illegitimate.

An Afghan Defense Ministry statement in Dari and Pashto, the country’s two main languages, said Mr. Shanahan had assured Afghanistan’s acting defense minister that under a peace deal the U.S. “wouldn’t abandon Afghan forces in training and fighting terrorism.” An English version of the statement omits the pledge to the Afghan official, Asadullah Khalid.

An aide to Mr. Shanahan said that during the meeting with the defense minister, the Pentagon chief affirmed the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s security and discussed the progress in President Trump’s South Asia strategy.

Earlier, the former Boeing executive, who became acting defense secretary in December following the resignation of Jim Mattis, told reporters accompanying him on his unannounced visit to Kabul that Afghan government participation in the peace process is important.

“The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like in the future,” he said. “It’s not about the U.S., it’s about Afghanistan.”

It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Shanhan indicated to Mr. Ghani how or when his government would be brought into the peace process.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy leading the American negotiating effort, said in a speech on Friday in Washington that he wanted dialogue among Afghans to “start right away.”

In response, Mr. Ghani told President Trump in a letterlast month that his government was willing to discuss how to reduce the size and cost of the American military presence in Afghanistan. The Trump administration requested $45 billion for combat operations in the country this fiscal year and $5.2 billion in aid for the Afghan security forces. - More

Pentagon Chief Assures Afghanistan of U.S. Support - WSJ

Friday, February 08, 2019

Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad on the Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan

The U.S. has redoubled its efforts to facilitate a peace process that will end the conflict in Afghanistan, protect U.S. national security interests, and strengthen Afghanistan’s sovereignty. As President Trump said in the State of the Union address, “my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban. As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counterterrorism.”

USIP is pleased to host Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for his first public event since becoming the special representative. His remarks will discuss recent progress and challenges to advance a peace process in Afghanistan, and will be followed by a discussion with USIP Board Chair and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley. - Read More

Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad on the Prospects for Peace ...

Plan for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan takes shape — but will it stick?

Negotiations that would lead to a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan continue to advance, but are a long way from completion, the top U.S. envoy to U.S.-Taliban peace talks said Friday.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace that ongoing discussions with the Taliban have so far focused on the top two priorities of both parties, and have led to an agreement “in principle” on those issues.

For the U.S., the priority was securing a commitment from the Taliban that it would never again allow a terrorist group to use Afghanistan as a staging ground to attack the U.S. or its allies, and an agreement in principle was reached on that issue.

For the Taliban, "with regard to troops, that was their most important issue,” Khalilzad said. As part of these initial talks, “we have agreed in principle on a framework for possible U.S. withdrawal,” Khalilzad said.

A Taliban spokesman told news agencies this week that the U.S. had agreed to remove half of its forces by May as part of this round of talks.

Khalilzad said the talks are still in the very initial stages. To date theTaliban has not agreed to meet with Afghan government officials directly and Khalilzad said that reluctance is likely to continue through Afghanistan’s July 20 presidential elections. Both of the two agreements would have to be taken up by the Afghan government, along with a host of other issues. - Read More

Plan for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan takes shape — but will it ...

The US has ruined Afghanistan. It can’t just walk away now - The Guardian

The departure of American troops risks civil war, and many Afghans fear the return of a fundamentalist society

The approaching US withdrawal from Afghanistan is not an honourable retreat – it’s a capitulation. The best the Americans can hope for in exit talks with the Taliban, due to resume in Doha later this month, is a promise that coalition troops, unlike the British army led by General Elphinstone in 1842, will not depart under fire. After more than 17 years of conflict, with at least 38,000 civilians killed and millions more injured, traumatised or exiled, none of the long-term objectives set out by George W Bush following the 2001 invasion has been met. In short, the US has lost the war, and lost badly.

The al-Qaida terrorists who used Afghanistan as a base from which to launch the 9/11 attacks have not been wholly vanquished, as Bush promised. Their former leader, Osama bin Laden, is dead but the group, and likewise Islamic State, made territorial gains in Afghanistan last year, according to UN experts. It is unlikely that Taliban leaders could in future prevent jihadists once again using parts of the country as a terrorist safe haven – a key demand of American negotiators – even if they sincerely wanted to.

The idea, promoted by successive US administrations and Nato partners such as Britain, that Afghanistan could become a model nation-building exercise has long since been exposed as a neoliberal fantasy. This is not to dismiss the tenacious efforts of British and allied forces on the ground who struggled valiantly, for instance, to bring stability to Helmand province. But they, and the Afghan people, have paid a terrible price for a lack of clarity and candour on the part of the politicians who sent them there.

Another delusion – that Afghan security forces could be trained and equipped to a point where they could, unaided, contain the Taliban and control the country – has also been shattered. Despite Nato’s best efforts, 30 to 40 Afghan soldiers and police were being killed each day last autumn. About 45,000 Afghan soldiers have died since 2014. This increase in mortality mirrors the decrease in western troop numbers since the 2011 peak.

Despite massive diplomatic and developmental assistance, the Afghan government holds limited sway beyond the barricaded safe zones of central Kabul. The Taliban refuse to allow it to participate in withdrawal talks, dismissing it as a mere puppet. The implications, once the Americans have gone, are ominous. A rapid descent into civil war, involving government forces, jihadist groups and rival warlords, in a rerun of not-forgotten 1990s anarchy, is a strong possibility. Last year saw record civilian deaths, caused by terror bombings, intensified fighting and increased US airstrikes. Coming years may prove yet more deadly.

Even if the worst is avoided, Afghan civil society organisations and education, public health and women’s rights advocates rightly dread the inclusion of Taliban Sunni fundamentalists in any postwar political settlement. Despite assurances to the contrary, the prospective return of Taliban hardliners to positions of influence presages a new dark age of regression, discrimination and bigotry. And how long will any pretence of democratic government persist? As in the past, Afghanistan could quickly revert to a Great Game free-for-all involving Pakistan, India, Russia, Iran – and now China, too. In sum, the Americans are leaving an unholy mess that they, more than any other individual actor, helped create.

From a narrow US viewpoint, there are still plenty of reasons for quitting while they’re behind. Donald Trump campaigned against “endless wars”, and recently decided to halve the current US force of 14,000. Most voters want the troops out. Billions of dollars have been expended to no lasting effect, while millions more have been lost to corruption. In the absence of any post-9/11 foreign terrorist attacks on US soil, Bush’s old claim that fighting terror abroad avoids the need to fight it at home carries diminishing weight.

In a significant shift, the New York Times which, like all major US media, supported the 2001 invasion, called this week for the troops to come home – and eviscerated the overall US approach to fighting terror. Far from eradicating international terrorism as Bush pledged, the “global war on terror” was in large part responsible for the worldwide growth since 2001 of Islamist-inspired terrorist groups, the paper’s editorial noted.

Put this another way. The British-supported US global war on terror, which has claimed about half a million lives, been waged across 80 nations, corroded respect for human rights and international law, and cost an estimated $5.9tn, was, from the outset, a catastrophic mistake based on a false premise, aggravated by self-righteous arrogance and an unforgivable ignorance of the world beyond America’s shores. At long last, reality dawns! - Read More

The US has ruined Afghanistan. It can't just walk away now | Simon ...