Posts Tagged ‘War’

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Afghan Crunch Time: Obama Must Decide Whether To Talk To The Taliban

April 27, 2010

Ahmed Rashid

Before President Hamid Karzai arrives in Washington next month, President Obama has to make clear key decisions on the course of war and peacemaking in Afghanistan.

Neighboring countries and most Afghans believe that the endgame has begun for a post-U.S. Afghanistan. There are just 14 months for the U.S. military surge to show results while Washington simultaneously prepares to begin its July 2011 troop withdrawal and handover to the Afghan government. Already, efforts to jockey for future control of Afghanistan have been seen among Pakistan, India, Iran and even Russia. Several NATO countries eager to withdraw forces are frustrated. It is clear in the region that someone will have to mediate with the Taliban, but in the absence of U.S. leadership, a tug of war is taking place over who will do it, when, how and where.

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Taliban’s Supreme Leader Signals Willingness To Talk Peace

April 18, 2010

Stephen Grey

The supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has indicated that he and his followers may be willing to hold peace talks with western politicians.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, two of the movement’s senior Islamic scholars have relayed a message from the Quetta shura, the Taliban’s ruling council, that Mullah Omar no longer aims to rule Afghanistan. They said he was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks.

A senior US military source said the remarks reflected a growing belief that a “breakthrough” was possible. “There is evidence from many intelligence sources [that] the Taliban are ready for some kind of peace process,” the source said.

At a meeting held at night deep inside Taliban-controlled territory, the Taliban leaders told this newspaper that their military campaign had only three objectives: the return of sharia (Islamic law), the expulsion of foreigners and the restoration of security.

“[Mullah Omar] is no longer interested in being involved in politics or government,” said Mullah “Abdul Rashid”, the elder of the two commanders, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.

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Why Pakistan’s Military Is Holding Back in North Waziristan

April 17, 2010

Rania Abouzeid

It took just a few months for the Pakistani military to clear the Swat Valley’s lush, mountainous tribal terrain of its Taliban usurpers last summer, using some 30,000 troops to dislodge the guerrillas from the once-bustling tourist haven, 80 miles northwest of the capital Islamabad. Now, however, almost a year after winning the war, the same number of troops are still in place in order to hold Swat, rebuild it and prevent a Taliban resurgence — and that may keep Islamabad from going after the extremists in other parts of Pakistan’s unruly frontier with Afghanistan.

The U.S. has often appealed to Pakistan to do just that, specifically against elements in North Waziristan. More than 200 miles south of Swat, the tribal territory is a base for militants targeting U.S. troops just across the border in Afghanistan; it is also believed to be a refuge for senior al-Qaeda leaders. Yet the Pakistani military has refused to go into North Waziristan because it says its forces are already stretched thin (the bulk of the country’s troops are stationed along the eastern border with India, the nation Islamabad still considers its primary foe).

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Reconciliation Strategies In Kabul

April 16, 2010

There is a window of opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. It has to be grabbed. For the first time in a decade the U.S. and the U.K. are acting in concert with Pakistan to proffer real solutions for Kabul. The former allies, turned protagonists, turned friends are once again on the same side–this time working for peace.

Mr. Karzai is once again calling his favorite friends for a big powwow which he calls a “Jirga” or tribal council. It is to be held in Kabul in two weeks. Pakistan is working with the UK and the US to ensure that this Loya Jirga represents all the Pakhtuns so that it becomes a vehicle for peace in West Asia. Islamabad has offered to hold a joint Loya jirga between the Afghan and Pakistani Pakhtuns. The last time Mr. Karzai hijacked the societal consensus for ending the war through the traditional means of a consultative assembly. Mr. Karzai used the grass-roots method to rubber stamp his own brand of government. Obviously the corruption, lack of peace, and loss on the ground has proven that a repeat of the previous methodology will not work.

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Now It’s Pakistan Blaming The US For Letting The Taliban Slip Away

April 16, 2010

Con Coughlin

While both Pakistan and the West have made significant military gains against the Taliban, they are critical of the lack of support they are receiving from their allies, says Con Coughlin.

The young, immaculately turned out Pakistani soldiers responsible for guarding the world’s most inhospitable terrain were finding it hard to conceal their frustration. For the past 18 months, they had been fighting to drive thousands of Taliban militants from their strongholds in the remote tribal regions that straddle Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

The campaign reached its climax last month, when Pakistani forces finally dislodged the Taliban from heavily fortified positions in Bajaur, just a few miles from the forbidding mountain passes that lead to Afghanistan.

This week, when I became one of the first Western journalists to reach Bajaur following the Taliban’s defeat, the detritus of battle lay everywhere. Along the roads to the border villages stood semi-demolished houses riddled with bullet holes, where Taliban fighters had made their last, desperate stands. Occasionally, frightened children would peer from dilapidated alleyways and wave nervously at our passing convoy of military lorries.

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Pakistan Army Anger At NATO Border Tactics After Forcing Militants Out

April 15, 2010

Richard Beeston

Fresh from a bloody victory against the Taleban in this rugged frontier outpost, the commander of Pakistani forces has lashed out at the NATO operation across the border in Afghanistan, where he says hundreds of militant fighters have sought refuge under the noses of American troops.

Colonel Nauman Saeed, the commander of Pakistani forces in the Bajaur tribal agency, has led his men on a two-year campaign to drive out thousands of militants, including al-Qaeda members. He lost 150 soldiers during the operation, which culminated in a battle over the militant headquarters in a series of tunnels dug out of rock.

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American Troops Pull Out Of Korengal Valley As Strategy Shifts

April 15, 2010

Tom Coghlan

American troops have withdrawn from a notorious valley in eastern Afghanistan that has seen some of the worst fighting of the war, with commanders citing a shift in strategy.

A low-key press release yesterday announced the “realignment” of US forces out of the Korengal Valley, where 42 American soldiers have been killed and hundreds wounded since 2005. One base established at the northern end of the six-mile-long valley will be retained to block a Taleban infiltration route.

“Repositioning forces from the Korengal Valley to more populated areas will allow us to have greater flexibility,” said Colonel Randy George, the commander of US forces in Kunar province. “The area was once very operationally important but, appropriate to the new strategy, we are focusing our efforts on population centres. We’re still able to conduct operations there, even without a base, like we do in other remote valleys.”

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