The Empire is not done torturing Afghanistan

Despite its resounding defeat, NATO is not quite done with inflicting misery on the land of the Afghans

July 05 2022

By Pepe Escobar

Once upon a time, in a galaxy not far away, the Empire of Chaos launched the so-called “War on Terror” against an impoverished cemetery of empires at the crossroads of Central and South Asia.

In the name of national security, the land of the Afghans was bombed until the Pentagon ran out of targets, as their chief Donald Rumsfeld, addicted to “known unknowns,” complained at the time.

Operation ‘Enduring Captivity’

Civilian targets, also knows as “collateral damage,” was the norm for years. Multitudes had to flee to neighboring nations to find shelter, while tens of thousands were incarcerated for unknown reasons, some even dispatched to an illegal imperial gulag on a tropical island in the Caribbean.

War crimes were duly perpetrated – some of them denounced by an organization led by a sterling journalist who was subsequently subjected to years of psychological torture by the same Empire, obsessed with extraditing him into its own prison dystopia.

All the time, the smug, civilized ‘international community’ – shorthand for the collective west – was virtually deaf, dumb and blind. Afghanistan was occupied by over 40 nations – while repeatedly bombed and droned by the Empire, which suffered no condemnation for its aggression; no package after package of sanctions; no confiscation of hundreds of billions of dollars; no punishment at all.

The first casualty of war

At the peak of its unipolar moment, the Empire could experiment with anything in Afghanistan because impunity was the norm. Two examples spring to mind: Kandahar, Panjwayi district, March 2012: an imperial soldier kills 16 civilians and then burns their bodies. While in Kunduz, April 2018: a graduation ceremony receives a Hellfire missile greeting, with over 30 civilians killed.

The final act of the imperial “non-aggression” against Afghanistan was a drone strike in Kabul that did not hit “multiple suicide bombers” but instead eviscerated a family of 10, including several children. The “imminent threat” in question, identified as an “ISIS facilitator” by US intelligence, was actually an aid worker returning to meet his family. The ‘international community’ duly spewed imperial propaganda for days until serious questions started to be asked.

Questions also keep emerging on the conditions surrounding the Pentagon training of Afghan pilots to fly the Brazilian-built A-29 Super Tucano between 2016 and 2020, which completed over 2,000 missions providing support for imperial strikes. During training at Moody Air Force base in the US, more than half of the Afghan pilots actually went AWOL, and afterward, most were quite uneasy with the pile up of civilian ‘collateral damage.’ Of course the Pentagon has kept no record of Afghan victims.

What was extolled instead by the US Air Force is how the Super Tucanos dropped laser bombs on ‘enemy targets:’ Taliban fighters who “like to hide in towns and places” where civilians live. Miraculously, it was claimed that the “precision” strikes never “hurt the local people.”

That’s not exactly what an Afghan refugee in Britain, sent away by his family when he was only 13, revealed over a month ago, talking about his village in Tagab: “All the time there was fighting over there. The village belongs to the Taliban (…) My family is still there, I do not know if they are alive or died. I don’t have any contact with them.”

Drone diplomacy

One of the first foreign policy decisions of the Obama administration in early 2009 was to turbo-charge a drone war over Afghanistan and the tribal areas in Pakistan. Years later, a few intelligence analysts from other NATO nations started to vent off the record, about CIA impunity: drone strikes would get a green light even if killing scores of civilians was a near certainty – as it happened not only in ‘AfPak’ but also across other war theaters in West Asia and North Africa.

Nevertheless, imperial logic is ironclad. The Taliban were by definition “terra-rists” – in trademark Bush drawl. By extension, villages in Afghan deserts and mountains were aiding and abetting “terra-rists,” so eventual drone victims would never raise a ‘human rights’ issue.

When Afghans – or Palestinians – become collateral damage, that’s irrelevant. When they become war refugees, they are a threat. Yet Ukrainian civilian deaths are meticulously recorded and when they become refugees, they are treated as heroes.

A massive ‘data-driven defeat’

As former British diplomat Alastair Crooke has remarked, Afghanistan was the definitive showcase for technical managerialism, the test bed for “every single innovation in technocratic project management” encompassing Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and military sociology embedded in ‘Human Terrain Teams’ – this experiment helped spawn Empire’s ‘rules-based international order.’

But then, the US-backed puppet regime in Kabul collapsed not with a bang, but a whimper: a spectacular “data-driven defeat.”

Hell hath no fury like Empire scorned. As if all the bombing, droning, years of occupation and serial collateral damage was not misery enough, a resentful Washington topped its performance by effectively stealing $7 billion from the Afghan central bank: that is, funds that belong to roughly 40 million battered Afghan citizens.

Now, exiled Afghans are getting together trying to prevent relatives from 9/11 victims in the US to seize $3.5 billion of these funds to pay off debts allegedly owed by the Taliban – who have absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

Unlawful does not even begin to qualify the confiscation of assets from an impoverished nation afflicted by a currency in free fall, high inflation and a terrifying humanitarian crisis, whose only ‘crime’ was to defeat the imperial occupation on the battleground fair and square. By any standards, would that persist, the qualification of international war crime applies. And collateral damage, in this case, will mean the termination of any “credibility” still enjoyed by the “indispensable nation.”

The full amount of foreign reserves should be unequivocally returned to the Afghan Central Bank. Yet everyone knows that’s not going to happen. At best, a limited monthly installment will be released, barely enough to stabilize prices and allow average Afghans to buy essentials such as bread, cooking oil, sugar and fuel.

The west’s own ‘Silk Road’ was dead on arrival

No one remembers today that the US State Department came up with its own New Silk Road idea in July 2011, formally announced by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech in India. Washington’s aim, at least in theory, was to re-link Afghanistan with Central/South Asia, yet privileging security over the economy.

The spin was to “turn enemies into friends and aid into trade.” The reality, however, was to prevent Kabul from falling into the Russia/China sphere of influence – represented by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – after the tentative withdrawal of US troops in 2014 (the Empire ended up formally being expelled only in 2021).

The American Silk Road would eventually allow the go-ahead for projects such as the TAPI natural gas pipeline, the CASA-1000 electricity line, the Sheberghan thermal power facility and a national fiber optic ring in the telecom sector.

There was much talk about  “development of human resources;” building infrastructure – railways, roads, dams, economic zones, resource corridors; promotion of good governance; building the capacity of “local stakeholders.”

A zombie of an empire

In the end, the Americans did less than nothing. The Chinese, playing the long game, will be leading Afghanistan’s resurgence, after patiently waiting for the Empire to be expelled.

Afghanistan for its part will be welcomed into the real New Silk Roads: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), complete with financing by the Silk Road Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and interconnecting with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Central Asian BRI corridor, and eventually the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Iran-India-Russia-led International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

Now compare and contrast with imperial minions NATO, whose “new” strategic concept boils down to expanded warmongering against the Global South, and beyond – including the outer galaxies. At least we know that should NATO ever be tempted back into Afghanistan, then another ritual, excruciating humiliation awaits.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

من رمال الصحراء إلى القوقاز العين على الصين…

محمد صادق الحسيني

كلّ الأنباء التي تلفّ الكون في هذه الأيام تشير الى حقيقة واحدة باتت أوضح من الشمس…

الأميركيّ الذي كان يوماً القطب الأوحد في العالم والآمر الناهي وشرطي الجهات الأربع في الكون غدا مأزوماً ومهزوماً في كلّ جبهاته وميادينه، ولكن بخاصة على الجبهة الأوروآسيوية، حيث المستنقع الأوكراني او الحفرة التي حفرها بنفسه ظناً منه أنه قادر على تشتيت الاتحاد الصيني الروسي الاستراتيجي الجديد من جهة وجعل أوروبا تخضع له دون شروط!

لكن هذا الأميركي المتعجرف ولشدة عناده ومكابرته، وانغماسه في المستنقع الأوكراني لم يجد خلاصاً له على ما يبدو بعد كلّ جهوده التي ذهبت هباء لهزّ عرش بوتين إلا أن يفعل خديعة تحالف الناتو المزعوم بين أصحاب التيه وأصحاب ما بعد التيه في الرمال العربية المتحركة مغرياً إياهم بأنظمة دفاع جوي حديثة تقيهم خطر إيران المزعوم ويحقق لابنه «الإسرائيلي» المدلل لعبته المفضلة وحلمه بقيادة تحالف «شرق أوسطي» ليدمج وجوده المؤقت الزائل بكيانات مصنوعة من الشمع مثله…

فيما عقل واشنطن البراغماتي، لا يزال مشدوداً نحو التهديد الصيني وكيفية ضرب البيئة الحيوية للصين وطريقها وحزامها الواحد الممتدّ من شنغهاي مروراً بالجغرافيا الحيوية لروسيا ـ آسيا الوسطى والقوقاز، ومن ثم إيران، وصولاً إلى المياه الدافئة يعني بحر الشام وخليج فارس…

لذلك لا بدّ من النظر بريبة شديدة الى خططهم وحشدهم الحقيقي هناك ودور كلّ واحد من لاعبيهم الصغار في منطقتنا وهم البيادق المتحركة بأوامر الشيطان الأكبر…

وفي هذا السياق، يفيد مصدر ديبلوماسي إقليمي مطلع، تعليقاً على الحملة الدعائية لما يُسمّى «حلفاً دفاعياً عربياً إسرائيلياً»، بما يلي:

أولا ـ ان لا وجود لهذا التحالف إلا في عقلية المسؤولين «الإسرائيليين» الأمنيين والعسكريين وأسيادهم في الدولة العميقة الأميركية وليس إدارة بايدن، وهو طرح بعيد عن الاستراتيجية الأميركية العملية.

ثانيا ـ انّ الهدف الاستراتيجي الحالي للولايات المتحدة الأميركية (ادارة بايدن)، في «الشرق الأوسط» ودول أواسط آسيا، هو استكمال الحشد الاستراتيجي ضدّ الصين الشعبية وروسيا وإيران.

ثالثا ـ انّ ادوات واشنطن لتحقيق ذلك هي التالية:

ـ نظام أردوغان، الذي يقدّم التدريب العسكري والإمداد والتزويد، لكلّ العناصر التي تخدم الاستراتيجية الأميركية في المنطقة المشار إليها أعلاه.

والذي سبق أن درّب المجموعات الإرهابية المسلحة، التي عاثت خراباً واسعاً في جمهورية كازاخستان السوڤياتية السابقة، بداية العام الحالي. وهي التي أشرفت الاستخبارات العسكرية التركية على تنفيذ عمليات تسلل وإنزال جوي لها، من خلال طائرات نقل مستأجرة ولا تحمل شارات أيّ دولة، في مطار ألماآتا (العاصمة القديمة لكازاخستان) بعد أن سيطر المخرّبون المسلحون الإرهابيون على هذا المطار في اليوم الأول من الموجة الإرهابية التي ضربت البلاد.

ـ النظام السعودي، الذي يقوم بتمويل ثمانية عشر ألف منظمة غير حكومية، في جمهوريات آسيا الوسطى السوڤياتية السابقة، وهي قوات احتياط بيد الولايات المتحدة جاهزة للاستخدام، إما في ثورات ملوّنة أو في هزات مسلحة وتخريبية، عندما يصلها أمر العمليات من واشنطن.

ـ مشيخات قطر والإمارات، بالتعاون مع حركة طالبان، من خلال إدارة المطارات الأفغانية الرئيسية الثلاثة، حيث وقعت الإمارات العربية اتفاقية خاصة بذلك، مع حكومة طالبان، بتاريخ ٢٤/٥/٢٠٢٢، وهو الأمر الذي يعني سيطرة أميركية غير مباشرة، على تلك المطارات، وما لذلك من أهمية قصوى في نقل الأفراد والمعدات الى أفغانستان، خاصة في ضوء تمركز تركي قطري «تقني» في تلك المطارات، منذ بداية العام الحالي، وذلك بناءً على اتفاقيات موقعة مع حكومة طالبان.

ـ حركة طالبان نفسها، والتي تجري معها الولايات المتحدة محادثات متواصلة تتعلق بمجموعة طلبات أميركية للحركة وعلى رأسها السماح للمسلحين الإيرانيين، سواء من «مجاهدي خلق» الإرهابية المقيمة في ألبانيا، أو غيرهم، بالعمل من الأراضي الأفغانية مقابل رفع تدريجي للتجميد الأميركي المفروض على الأموال الأفغانية.

ـ فلول تنظيم داعش، الذين نقلت منهم القيادة المركزية الأميركية، من العراق وسورية، ما يزيد على ثلاثة آلاف مسلح تمّ نشرهم في محافظة:

*بدخشان/ شمال شرق أفغانستان/ بالقرب من الحدود الصينية والطاجيكية.

*محافظتا تخار وقندوز/ في شمال أفغانستان/ والمحاذيتان لحدود طاجيكستان.

وهنا لا بدّ أن نستذكر موجة التحركات التخريبية المنظمة التي تجتاح محافظة: كاركال باكستان الأوزبيكية، منذ عدة أيام، والتي حاول فيها المشاغبون الاستيلاء على الأسلحة من المباني الحكومية الرسمية.

رابعا ـ انّ الولايات المتحدة الأميركية هي من يقف وراء الحملة الدعائية، التي يروّج لها الإعلام «الإسرائيلي» وبعض الإعلام العربي، بما في ذلك للأسف الشديد بعض وسائل إعلامنا، حول التحالف المزعوم والمشار إليه اعلاه. وذلك لحرف الأنظار عن ساحة الفعل الحقيقي الأميركي، في جمهوريات آسيا الوسطى، بهدف السيطرة عليها واستخدامها كمنصات هجومية او رؤوس جسور استراتيجية، ضدّ جمهورية الصين الشعبية من جهة الشرق، وجمهورية روسيا الاتحادية من جهة الشمال، والجمهورية الإسلامية الإيرانية في الغرب، لزعزعة تحالف الشرق الصاعد هذا…

واحلوا قومهم دار البوار

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

Taliban ousts its only Shia Hazara commander: Report

Taliban clashes with Mehdi Mujahid over a power dispute, ending an era of Hazara representation in its ranks

June 24 2022

ByNews Desk 

Clashes reignited on 23 June between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and locals led by Mawlawi Mehdi Mujahid, the only Shia Hazara commander in the ranks of Taliban, in Balkhab, Sar-e Pol province.

Mehdi was the first to be officially endorsed as a member of the group by its leadership in 2020, despite not being the first Shia to collaborate with Taliban in Afghanistan.

Over the past decades, local Hazara commanders, such as Turan Amanullah, have collaborated with Taliban to solicit more influence, setting a pretext for an unexpected alliance.

However, not long after Mehdi was assigned as the head of intelligence of Bamyan as a show of goodwill by Taliban towards the Shia Hazara community, the struggle over resources and influence caused a rift between the two.

According to footage shared on social media by locals in Sar-e Pol, Mehdi retreated to his hometown to escape possible arrest, rallying the Hazara community to fend against an imminent Taliban attack that was preluded by a siege.

Mehdi accuses the Taliban of persecuting Hazaras and sidelining millions of Shia after banning Jafari jurisprudence from universities and from courts in Shia-majority areas.

However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the dispute over the revenue generated by the coal mines in Balkhab, which Mehdi used to invest into strengthening his leadership in the province and to advancing it economically, without sharing the revenue with the new leadership in Kabul.

Taliban accuses Mehdi of embezzling more than $600,000 from the coal mine export business.

But despite the accusations, the spokesman for the Taliban governor in Bamiyan Mullah Abdullah Sarhadi alleged that Mehdi would be appointed “in a suitable place in Kabul” upon his return.

Mehdi left Kabul in late May after failing in his bid to be appointed the deputy head of the Intelligence Directorate’s Dispute Resolution Council, after opposition by the acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani.

In the wake of the energy crisis caused by the Indonesian ban on coal exports and US sanctions against Russian fuel exports over the Ukrainian war, Pakistan’s reliance on coal imports skyrocketed.

In a report by Voice of America (VOA), Pakistani imports from Afghanistan rose from $550 million to $700 over a year, citing reports of increased purchases of Afghan coal and “extremely good quality cotton”.

“We intend to open several of the proposed gates every two or three months. We have discussed it with Afghan (Taliban) leaders and told them to arrange for manning these posts, so they know who is moving in and out,” a Pakistani official said to VOA.

“In the last six months, we have earned more than three billion Afghanis (Afghanistan’s national currency) from coal exports, and we want to make it easier to have more revenue in this area,” said Ahmad Wali Haqmal, a spokesman for the Taliban-led Ministry of Finance.

With the growing influence of Sirajuddin Haqqani – who is on the FBI’s most wanted list for his alleged connection to Al-Qaeda and terrorist attacks in Afghanistan – the Taliban has engaged in several sectarian and racial disputes with Tajik and Uzbek minorities since its rise to power, a factor that could threaten the status quo.

Everything’s Getting Messy Again In Afghanistan

15 MAY 2022

Source

By Andrew Korybko

Afghanistan’s internal insecurity, border tensions, and the potentially Pakistani-backed US military factor are combining to create yet another storm in the New Cold War that threatens to destabilize the region.

Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine and the US-led West’s unprecedented response to it have distracted the international community from Afghanistan, which is once again becoming an issue of regional concern. The foreign occupiers’ chaotic evacuation from that country last August and the Taliban’s return to power in the aftermath haven’t stabilized the situation all that much. The group is still designated as terrorists by most of the world and their leadership remains unrecognized despite all stakeholders – including Russia — still interacting with them for pragmatism’s sake.

Afghanistan somehow avoided the full-scale humanitarian crisis that many were worried about but its people’s most basic needs still aren’t being adequately met. Observers also feel very uncomfortable about the Taliban returning to its old ways by once again banning women from showing their uncovered faces in public. The comparatively more secular and ethnically cosmopolitan northern part of the country that’s majority inhabited by Tajiks and other Central Asian people might not take too kindly to this decree, which could fuel anti-government movements there.

In fact, it was reported just this weekend that the “National Resistance Front” (NRF) has returned to fighting against the Taliban in the Panjshir Valley. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked about this on Friday following the CIS Foreign Ministers Council meeting in Dushanbe where he reiterated Moscow’s stance that the only sustainable political solution is to form an ethno-regionally inclusive government. He also expressed optimism that “our allies in Tajikistan with serious influence in Afghanistan, primarily the country’s north, will also keep helping us achieve our common goals.”

That former Soviet Republic is a key stakeholder in Afghanistan since it exerts influence over its co-ethnics across the border and was previously suspected of supporting anti-Taliban forces there. President Putin also spoke to his Tajik counterpart Rahmon on Friday, during which time the two discussed Afghanistan and confirmed that they’ll “continue to cooperate to ensure security on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border.” This is especially important following reports that ISIS-K terrorists from Afghanistan recently claimed credit for a cross-border attack that Tajik officials nonetheless denied.

On the topic of cross-border terrorism emanating from Afghanistan, neighboring Pakistan reportedly carried out several strikes there in the middle of last month against TPP terrorists who martyred several of their soldiers days prior. Islamabad also reportedly just handed over two top TPP commanders to the Afghan Taliban, who’ve been mediating peace talks between them. Amidst all of this, Pakistan remains mired in political uncertainty following its scandalous change of government in early April that former Prime Minister Khan claims was orchestrated by the US as punishment for his independent policies.

While its internal security situation is expected to remain stable considering the world-class professionalism of its military and intelligence services, speculation abounds about the trajectory of its foreign policy. Newly inaugurated Foreign Minister Bhutto’s upcoming trip to the US is inconveniently occurring at the exact moment that its political, economic, and international uncertainties are converging. The relevance of this to Afghanistan is the US’ recent reaffirmation that it retains the capabilities to strike terrorists in Afghanistan if it so chooses, perhaps with speculative Pakistani support.  

Former Prime Minister Khan claimed that the alleged US-orchestrated regime change plot against him first started when he publicly said that his country will “absolutely not” host any American bases in the wake of the US’ withdrawal from neighboring Afghanistan. Critics of the new authorities who replaced him suspect that they might be secretly negotiating some sort of military arrangement with the US to facilitate American anti-terrorist strikes there, which could possibly target ISIS-K but also the TTP that Washington also officially regards as terrorists just like Islamabad does.

While there’s nothing of tangible substance to base this speculation on, it’s still a matter of public record that the US said on multiple occasions that it’s actively seeking out regional bases to facilitate its so-called “over-the-horizon” strikes in Afghanistan. Russia was concerned that its American rival might poach one of the Central Asian Republics from its informal “sphere influence” into this scheme, though that hasn’t materialized, at least not yet. Even so, Moscow must be watching Washington’s reported $20 million unarmed Puma drone deal with Dushanbe with suspicion to see where it might lead.

On the topic of cross-border attacks, it also deserves mentioning that reports came in a few weeks back alleging that tensions were boiling along the Afghan-Iranian border. Tehran denied that any clashes took place but most observers still consider ties between it and the Taliban to be very complicated, to say the least. Taking stock of the overall situation, Afghanistan’s domestic stability has been rocked by ISIS-K suicide bombings and the latest reported “NRF” offensive while international tensions are dangerously growing between the Taliban and its Iranian, Pakistani, and Tajik neighbors.

Against the backdrop of the Taliban imposing its strict socio-religious standards onto the rest of the population in spite of the risk that this will only worsen resentment from some minorities against it, as well as the country’s humanitarian crisis being far from resolved even though it hasn’t yet exploded, it can be concluded that everything risks spiraling out of control if all these counterproductive trends aren’t soon reversed. Pakistan’s crossing of the Rubicon by kinetically defending its objective national security interests through reported anti-TTP strikes also adds an unpredictable dimension to this too.

The same can be said for the pivot towards the US that the new authorities’ critics suspect is unfolding and which might manifest itself through those two unofficially teaming up to occasionally fight terrorism in Afghanistan. The US is still actively searching for a regional base, which can only realistically be in Pakistan if it ever comes to pass since its new Tajik partner can’t legally host one without Russia’s approval due to its legal commitments through the CSTO mutual defense pact. Any enhanced Pakistani-American anti-terrorist and/or military cooperation could greatly reshape regional dynamics.

All the while, there’s also some positive news too even though it pales in comparison to the negative. Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke at the beginning of the month about the need for mutually beneficial economic engagement with Afghanistan, which he repeated on Friday after the CIS meeting that was hyperlinked to earlier in this analysis. New Taliban-appointed Afghan charge d’affairs to Russia Jamal Nasir Garwal, who also reportedly attended the Victory Day parade in Moscow, publicly reciprocated this interest by emphasizing how much his country needs Russian energy resources right now.

These signals prompted speculation that a Taliban delegation might soon travel to Moscow to discuss such deals, though Russian Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov denied that anything of the sort was in the cards at this moment. Still, that would represent a positive development if it comes to pass and would complement the Taliban’s planned economic cooperation with China. The larger trend seems to be that while Afghanistan’s ties with Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan become more complicated, its ties with Russia and China are becoming more comprehensive.

To be absolutely clear, correlation doesn’t mean causation so nobody should think that regional stakeholders are dividing into pro- and anti-Taliban blocs, but it’s still an important trend to pay attention to since it suggests that Russia and China might soon be able to exert more influence over the Taliban than previously expected. In the event that Pakistan strikes some sort of anti-terrorist or military deal with the US as part of its speculative plans to repair ties with it through such arrangements that critics might describe as concessions, then those two might become more suspicious of its intentions.

After all, Pakistan has unofficially frozen talks with Russia over what former Prime Minister Khan insists were his previously active negotiations to purchase fuel from Moscow, including at a 30% discount, but which the new Energy Minister claimed had never happened. The latter said this in spite of there being documented evidence from credible sources confirming that his statement was factually incorrect, including Foreign Minister Lavrov revealing while in Islamabad on 7 April 2021 that there was “mutual interest” in this, “appropriate proposals have been put forward”, and Russia is “waiting for a response”.

The scandal over Russian-Pakistani energy talks concerns much more than just those two countries since all interested observers can now see that the new authorities are publicly distancing themselves from their predecessors’ negotiations with the Kremlin for whatever reason, even going as far as to share factually incorrect information with the public about this. The impression that they’re probably left with is that this might be done under American pressure, which in turn adds credence to former Prime Minister Khan’s narrative about the US being behind his ouster and now influencing his replacements.

This insight is pertinent for Afghanistan since it also adds credence to suspicions that Pakistan and the US might be secretly negotiating some anti-terrorist or military deals focused on that war-torn country, with Islamabad possibly even conceding on some issues that its prior government never would have in pursuit of clinching such an agreement in the hopes of repairing its troubled ties with Washington. The reintroduction of US forces to the region, even clandestine ones such as CIA drone teams, could be very destabilizing and thus contribute to even more uncertainty about Afghanistan’s overall situation.

The scenario of Pakistan’s new authorities, who rose to power through scandalous circumstances that the ousted premier attributed to a US-orchestrated conspiracy, facilitating the American military’s and/or intelligence’s return to the region would certainly be frowned upon by all regional stakeholders. No matter what’s said between their diplomats, it’s doubtful that they place much trust in that country’s new leadership after its Energy Minister passionately insisted that former Prime Minister Khan was lying about his energy negotiations with Russia in spite of the official facts contradicting him.

The uncertainty about Pakistan’s grand strategic trajectory after its recent change of government and the credible concerns that its new leadership is preparing to decisively pivot towards the US contribute to the larger uncertainty about everything associated with Afghanistan right now. The overall situation is negative and there’s too much “fog of (hybrid) war” to confidently predict where everything is headed. Afghanistan’s internal insecurity, border tensions, and the potentially Pakistani-backed US military factor are combining to create yet another storm in the New Cold War that threatens to destabilize the region.

Nothing to Celebrate?

May 11, 2022

Source

by James Tweedie

On May 8, when Victory in Europe (VE) Day is celebrated in the West, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN that Russia had “nothing to celebrate” on its own Victory Day on May 9.

Her reasoning, faithfully transcribed on the US mission’s website, was that “They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians.”

Given that Victory Day and VE Day both specifically commemorate the allied defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, Thomas-Greenfield’s comments were like saying the US, Britain and France had nothing to celebrate this year because they got chased out of Afghanistan by the Taliban last August.

The ambassador is either an apologist for Nazism or merely too ignorant to do her job. She should at least read some objective reports about the conflict in the Ukraine.

In fact Russians had two immediate military victories to celebrate that Monday. Russian and Lugansk People’s Republic troops captured the town of Popasna, a lynchpin in the Ukrainian army’s defensive line that it had held for eight years.

Meanwhile Kiev, apparently desperate for a victory of its own to rain on the parade through Moscow’s Red Square, launched an airborne and marine assault on the now-famous Zmeinyy (Snake) Island off the coast of Odessa oblast.

Some sources say the Russians withdrew their small force holding the island as bait for a trap, but either way it went horribly wrong for the Ukrainians. They lost four jet fighters and strike aircraft, up to 10 helicopters, a corvette and three infantry landing craft. More than 60 of their personnel were killed, of which 27 were abandoned on the island.

The Ukraine is like a bull elephant that has been shot right in the heart in mid-charge. The beast keeps on bellowing and rampaging around, not yet realising that it’s already dead.

It becomes clearer by the day that the Ukrainian army attempting to occupy the remains of the Donbass republics, newly recognised by Russia just as the West ‘recognised’ its creations of Kosovo and South Sudan, is dead on its feet.

Its navy, air force, artillery, tanks and transportation are almost destroyed. Its casualties are replaced with boys and old men press-ganged off the streets of Kiev and Lvov, some without proper boots. Its senior officers are fled or dead.

Meanwhile the collective West, dominated as always by the Washington, pours in its hodgepodge of arms that belong in a museum, not on the battlefield. The latest arrivals are the 90 much-vaunted 155mm howitzers donated by the Pentagon — and made in UK, because the US military-industrial complex seemingly can’t produce a simple towed cannon any more.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin insisted on April 28 that the artillery pieces would prove “decisive” in the war with Russia. The former Raytheon executive can’t stop speaking in his arms industry sales patter. 90 guns is about what the Ukrainian army is losing every week. What use are they anyway against Russia’s hypersonic missiles, with a range of hundreds of miles and an accuracy radius of seven metres?

Pouring random assortments of arms into a country and expecting it to win against a well-organised and equipped opponent is just as incoherent a strategy as the war of attrition the US waged in Vietnam, or sending a whole army into a frontal assault on a mountain pass defended by a thousand.

Who is going to operate all this stuff if most of the experienced weapon and vehicle crews have become casualties or prisoners? How is it even supposed to get to the front when Russia has air superiority over the country and stand-off weapons that can reach right out to the border with Poland and kill hundreds of foreign mercenaries?

“Ukraine clearly believes it can win and so does everyone here,” Austin told his NATO counterparts at the Rammstein airbase a few days earlier, in a touching display of mass delusion on a US-occupied piece of Germany. “Ukraine needs our help to win today and they will still need our help when the war is over.”

In a pre-recorded virtual address to the Ukrainian parliament on May 3, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made similar exhortations. “The so-called irresistible force of Putin’s war machine has broken on the immoveable object of Ukrainian patriotism,” Johnson declared triumphantly. “Ukraine will win, Ukraine will be free.”

Kiev is claiming it can rebuild its exhausted, demoralised, bled-white army in the west of the country — or better yet, in NATO-member Poland — and march east in a great wave of self-righteous retribution to reclaim the Donbass and Crimea.

This is accompanied by bizarre fascistic artwork of crusader knights, flying the 30-year-old Ukrainian flag, slaughtering Russian army orcs — literal fantasy role-playing game orcs with the letter ‘Z’ marked on their foreheads. And Western leaders are actually taking this stuff seriously.

Austin believes that fighting this war the last drop of Ukrainian blood will weaken the Russian military enough that it won’t be able to fight another war for years to come. Not so long ago this retired four-star general publicly referred to present-day Russia as the Soviet Union, whether by accident or on purpose we do not now.

Perhaps Austin should read a little history and discover that the USSR lost 27 million human lives in the war against Nazi Germany and its many European fascist allies, all now current or prospective NATO members.

Six million Soviets soldiers and partisans fell on the battlefield. Three million more were murdered by the Nazis as as prisoners of war, along with 18 million civilians.

Yet the Soviet Union emerged from that cataclysmic war stronger than ever, as the superpower that counter-balanced the US in the post-war order.

Like Germany in 1945, the Ukraine is marching fanatically towards its terrible Götterdämmerung, leaving a trail of footprints in its own blood. And NATO is standing behind, cheering it on and prolonging the death-agony.

Seems Like the US after Monkeying Around in Pakistan is Primed for a Relationship Reset

9 May 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen English

Shafei Moiz Hali 

The US’ swift moves and clear contrast instances unmistakably point at foul play in Khan’s ouster.

Seems Like the US after Monkeying Around in Pakistan is Primed for a Relationship Reset

In 2021, as the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan was planned, news of Pakistan and US discussions for the use of Pakistan’s airspace for counter-terrorism in Afghanistan post-US withdrawal started to surface. However, such news and rumors were put to rest in June 2021, during an interview of then-Prime Minister Imran Khan by Jonathan Swan from Axios on HBO. During the interview, Khan’s famous words “absolutely not” regarding the allowance of the CIA’s use of bases on Pakistani soil were not only a surprise for Jonathan Swan but also alarmed the decision-makers in Washington. The messy US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 spawned tremendous criticism from global media, which termed the US’ two-decades-long campaign in Afghanistan as a failure. The failure scrambled the US officials to search for a scapegoat, which led to blaming Pakistan for its role in undermining the war effort, and Pakistan’s efforts for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table in 2019 and 2020 and also in aiding the US coalition forces in their exit from Afghanistan did not receive any acknowledgment. Such cold behavior from the US officials left the Pakistan government weary and critical of the US as a strategic partner. The Pakistani government started thinking regionally and multilaterally to secure the country’s interests, and this directed Imran Khan’s government toward Russia.

Khan visited Russia from 23-24 February 2022, and it was during this official state visit that Russia’s operation in Ukraine began. Following Khan’s Moscow visit, Pakistan was amongst 35 nations that abstained from voting at the UN against Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Such steps taken by Imran Khan’s government irked the US officials, and surprisingly, 44 days after Imran Khan’s Moscow visit, he was voted out of government. The public in Pakistan is baffled and aghast by Imran Khan’s ouster as he is the same Prime Minister who is credited for reducing the country’s external debt to GDP ratio from 31.6% to 28.5% and is also credited with successfully steering the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was also praised internationally and by the World Health Organization. The Economist’s normalcy index ranked Pakistan among the top three countries that handled the pandemic well. Khan’s strongman style of governance and anti-corruption drive were responsible for making enemies at home, and it is speculated that the same were used as tools for Khan’s removal.

A few days before Khan’s removal from office, on March 27, Mr. Khan addressed a public rally and spoke about foreign conspiracies hatched to knock down his government. In subsequent days, he revealed that the foreign country behind the conspiracy is the United States. Khan had received a diplomatic cable from Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed, in which the latter informed him of a peculiar meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu, and the US’ annoyance with Mr. Khan’s ‘independent foreign policy’ and visit to Moscow, warning him against repercussions at the level of the Pak-US relations.

The US is known to have orchestrated regime changes across the world. Some examples from contemporary history comprise: March-1949 Syrian coup d’état and 2012 to present attempts at regime change in Syria; 1953-Iranian coup d’état and 2005 to present; 1954-Guatemalan coup d’état; CIA’s Tibetan Program (although it failed, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan insurgents in Nepal continue to receive subsidies); 1956-58 US meddling in Indonesia; 1959-Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba;1960-1963 interference in Iraq, later in 1992-96 and the 2003 invasion; 1960-65 Congo Crisis engineered by the US; 1961 regime change in the Dominican Republic; 1963 CIA-backed coup in South Vietnam; 1964-Brazilian coup d’état; 1966 military coup in Ghana; 1973 Chilean coup d’état; 1976 Argentine coup d’état; 1979-89 interference in Afghanistan; 1980 Turkish coup d’état; Poland 1980-89; Nicaragua 1981-90; Venezuela 2002 coup d’état attempt; Somalia 2006-7; Arab Spring 2010-2011; 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

The series of events leading up to PM Imran Khan’s removal from office seems like a page out of the CIA’s book of regime changes. Most of the above examples of US interventions start with the identification of local opposition leaders whose loyalties can be bought. Then these leaders in the opposition are funded to spread propaganda and mobilize protests and unrest within the country; making people lose faith in the government. Later, these same leaders are supplied with money to buy out people from the government and state institutions to further weaken the government until it is toppled. The resemblance is uncanny between what happened with Khan and the CIA’s actions in other countries for regime changes.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, some analysts believe that there was no foreign hand in Khan’s ouster; rather, his removal has been due to his failed economic policies and other unpopular domestic political actions. The same analysts state that Khan is using the US conspiracy theory as a political ploy to save face and garner public support for re-election. In order to check whether foreign intervention played a role in Khan’s ouster, a simple test can be run by comparing the Biden administration’s stance toward Pakistan during Khan’s government and after Khan’s government.

During Khan’s government, Pakistan sought economic cooperation rather than security cooperation with the US, which is why Imran Khan categorically refused to discuss options for offering military bases to the CIA in Pakistan. In response, the Biden administration rejected Pakistan’s proposals for economic cooperation. It has been less than a month since the new government in Pakistan has assumed responsibilities and on May 4, 2022, the US State Department during its press briefing hinted at Pak-US counter-terrorism assistance and cross-border security vis-à-vis Afghanistan. On May 6, the newly appointed Foreign Minister of Pakistan Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari received a congratulatory call from Secretary of State Antony Blinken who agreed with his Pakistani counterpart that engagement with mutual respect was the way forward for both countries. There is a striking difference between the US stance in Blinken’s phone call and the diplomatic cable received by Khan’s government.  In the coming days, more is expected to happen as the new Foreign Minister of Pakistan has received an invitation to visit the United States to attend a Global Food Security Meeting this month. Such swift moves and clear contrast instances unmistakably point at foul play in Khan’s ouster.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Russian military is no joke either: Shock waves across US?

21 Mar 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

Ruqiya Anwar 

When it comes to the Ukraine crisis, US citizens are stressing: “We don’t have a dog in the fight.”

The crisis in Ukraine is raising considerable anxiety and rising global uncertainty. It appears that neither war nor heavy economic penalties would bring a sustainable solution to the current situation, which extends beyond Russia and Ukraine. The only way out is through diplomacy. That possibility was squandered when the US and NATO, in response to Russia’s concerns, limited NATO’s eastward expansion.

However, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The special military operation will strive to “denazify” Russia’s sovereign neighbor, its mission is to protect citizens who have been bullied and subjected to genocide for the past eight years. And to do this, Russia will work to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine.

Even as President Joe Biden imposes more sanctions and promises a greater response that could draw retaliation from Moscow, there is little interest among Americans for a US involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. President Joe Biden has been criticized by a faction of the Republican Party for opposing Putin’s plans for Ukraine, with some even suggesting that Russia has the right to invade. 

As history has shown, economic sanctions would only harm innocent civilians, particularly women and children. The rising oil costs owing to the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the economic sanctions the West has imposed on Russia are affecting the entire world, particularly the poor nation-states.

With the general public’s memories of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent Taliban takeover still fresh, much of the worry on both the right and left is centered on the US avoiding military involvement in Europe. Members of the House Freedom Caucus have indeed been particularly loud in their opposition to US intervention in Ukraine, and stressed that “In the Ukraine conflict, we don’t have a dog in the fight”. There should not be a single American soldier killed there. There should not be a single American bullet fired there.

Significantly, Ukraine has no legitimate reason to be a member of NATO, and NATO, as a Cold War relic, may have no present purpose or goal. Getting involved in a military crisis is not in the best interests of the United States.

Similarly, many Americans prefer that the US stay out of the crisis, the escalating violence, and political ramifications are already hitting their budgets. As traders reacted to geopolitical tensions, the price of oil, which has been climbing for the past year, hit an eight-year high this week. According to experts, if US lawmakers pass another round of sanctions, gas prices will certainly rise considerably more.

Moreover, the restriction on wheat or metals, on the other hand, might push the worst spell of inflation in decades even higher. Consumers in the United States will pay more for gasoline and other necessities as commodity prices rise, leaving less money for discretionary expenditure. As costly as another European conflict would be inhuman and economic terms, the financial strain would fall disproportionately on the lower and middle classes in the United States.

Furthermore, the US economic growth could be cut by 1% as a result of tougher sanctions on Russia. Stock market turbulence can also have a psychological impact, undermining consumer confidence and reducing expenditure, thus, slowing down US economic growth. Sanctions implemented by the United States and other countries may worsen inflation in the United States, and stock prices in the United States have collapsed already.

Consumer pricing and consumer confidence in the United States are likely to be affected by the sanctions. Gas prices in the United States have reached new highs, and Biden warned that they will go up even more.

Notably, the issue of “who are they?” lies at the heart of much of the doubt about America’s intervention in Ukraine. Who are they to lecture about national sovereignty and international law when they have a significant history of invasions and interventions? Who are they to set themselves up as paragons of freedom and human rights, given the record of slavery and discrimination, their foreign record of supporting sympathetic tyrants, and the continued injustices of American life? People on the left frequently pose such concerns. Only about one out of every three Americans can locate Ukraine on a map of Europe.

Biden’s presidency is already on the verge of collapsing. His approval rating has dropped to 41%. His grip on the White House is already tightening. Therefore, Presidents in such dire trouble have a history of suffering crushing defeats in midterm elections during their first term.

The US and Europe have already become major victims of the crisis, both economically and geopolitically, and the worsening of the conflict could spell disaster for the continent and the world. Europe, as the continent that saw two previous World Wars erupt, must demonstrate greater foresight and courage in stepping up its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Is Qatar the means for a US comeback in Eurasia?

Energy-rich Qatar’s designation as a major non-NATO ally may upset the Persian Gulf balance, but could be a means for the US to counter a Sino-Russian lockhold on Eurasia.

March 21 2022

Washington’s sudden upgrade of Qatar to a Major Non-NATO Ally is not only about gas, but a means to get a foothold back in Eurasia.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Agha Hussain

The US’ designation of Qatar as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) carries more geopolitical significance than is immediately evident. It in fact can be viewed as one of Washington’s first steps toward a new strategy for a US riposte against Russia and China at key theaters in Eurasian great-power competition.

On 31 January, US President Joe Biden hosted the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hammad Al-Thani in Washington and declared Qatar an MNNA. Also discussed was gas-rich Qatar’s potential role in alleviating Europe’s reliance on Russian gas for its energy supply – a key leverage point for Moscow to dissuade European NATO members from confronting it over Ukraine.

It should be noted, however, that Qatar itself has cast doubt over any speculation that it could unilaterally replace the continent’s gas needs in case of a shortage.

Indeed, there is no western military response to current Russian operations in Ukraine. Whether US or European Union (EU), the western strategic calculus does not deem Kiev important enough to rescue from Russia.

Nonetheless, Ukraine is still crucial for the US as a means to help counter Russian influence in vast, resource-rich Eurasia. Namely, through connecting China to Europe via the multimodal Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan (via the Caspian Sea)-Georgia-Ukraine (via the Black Sea) route and thus helping China reduce reliance on its currently most-used land route to Europe, i.e. via Russia and Belarus, a close Russian ally.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

This strategy would give the US a rare opportunity to leverage China’s global economic expansion through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which it usually tries to counter with limited success, to reduce Russia’s geo-economic depth in Eurasia.

However, the aforementioned Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) is more time-consuming, costly, and closer to conflict areas than Russia-Belarus. And Moscow and Tehran have all but blocked the Caspian Sea as a transit route for pipelines. Moreover, to justify the investment needed to improve Ukraine’s transit capacity and to ensure that traders even use the TITR, the EU needs to sanction Moscow and render the Russia-Belarus route untenable.

Thus, the EU hypothetically replacing Russia with Qatar as its gas supplier, and subsequently becoming more willing to confront Moscow, unlocks a major roadmap for the US to counter Russia.

In this scenario, the EU could enhance and leverage China’s own interest in tilting to the TITR from Russia. According to a 2016 study in the European Council of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine’s harmonization with EU trade standards boosted China’s interest in increasing its Ukrainian food imports, which necessitated enhancing Ukraine’s transport infrastructure since these imports cannot travel to China via the Belarus-Russia route due to Moscow’s sanctions on Kyiv. Indeed, China signed agreements with Ukraine last year to develop the latter’s transport infrastructure.

Afghanistan

The freezing of Afghan central bank assets are burning US bridges with Afghanistan – where the US fought its longest war (2001-21) in its short history. However, the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2021 provided an opportunity for Russian and Chinese influence to fill the void. Thus, as the US’ great-power rivalries with Russia and China deepen, the case for rebuilding contacts and connections in Afghanistan will strengthen in Washington.

Afghanistan is central to the US’ goal of building new international transport routes for the Central Asian Republics (CARs) that do not transit through Russia, whose territory and infrastructure the CARs disproportionately rely on. This is an official US objective, as represented by the C5+1 platform and Washington’s official ‘Strategy for Central Asia 2019-25’.  Afghanistan is the transit state for this strategy, to connect the CARs to its own neighbor Pakistan and Pakistani Arabian Sea ports for access to global shipment.

For a proper ‘return’ to Afghanistan as a Eurasia-focused great-power, the US appears to have selected Qatar as its conduit. In this vein, Washington shifted its operational command for Afghanistan to Qatar during the withdrawal and designated Doha its official diplomatic representative in Kabul in November 2021.

Moreover, the US picked Qatar from amongst a broad mix of options for military involvement in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Such options included negotiating with Pakistan to allow US aircraft to transit its airspace into Afghanistan for combat purposes and even Moscow’s offer, made during the withdrawal, for the US to use Russian bases in Central Asia for intel gathering flights over Afghanistan.

Qatar stood out as the best choice from the US’ great-power perspective. Pakistan’s close regional rapport with China and emphasis on cooperation, made it unlikely to facilitate an inroad for the US. Furthermore, Qatar’s retention of its own diplomatic channels to Afghanistan makes it yet more suitable to the US’ great-power sensitivities.

Qatar hosted US-Taliban peace talks since 2013, years before platforms such as the Moscow-led ‘Extended Troika’ or Beijing’s ‘Quadrilateral Coordination Group’ (QCG) were launched. Doha was not party to either platform, or of other multilateral dialogues on Afghanistan.

Hence, the US can integrate Qatar into its bigger-picture for Afghanistan without making the Gulf state feel as if it is sacrificing its positive bilateral relations with Afghanistan’s other external stakeholders.

Aside from Ukraine and Afghanistan, Washington has another potential front against its Eurasian rivals: Qatar’s home turf in the Persian Gulf region, where common ground exists between Doha’s own ambitions and the US’ containment efforts aimed at China in particular.

The Persian Gulf and China

China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are especially important trading partners to each other given the unmatched size of the former’s market for the latters’ energy exports. Beijing also invests heavily in the GCC to turn it into a commercial and logistics hub for the (BRI), the single most consequential driver of Eurasian geoeconomics.

The US views China’s expanding role in the Gulf – whether in the BRI, tech investment or security realms – as a challenge to its own decades-old status as the GCC states’ main security guarantor. How the Sino-GCC embrace pans out is therefore of special interest to Washington.

As noted by Jonathan Fulton, a specialist on Sino-GCC relations, the extent of GCC participation in the BRI is dependent on each Gulf state’s own development plans with BRI. Saudi Arabia and the UAE lead the way in this respect, hosting the bulk of China’s BRI supply chain in the region in the form of industrial parks and ports heavily invested in by Beijing.

In contrast, Chinese-Qatari relations lack this connectivity dimension and are more restricted to just trade.

“In general, Qatar and China maintain a very warm relationship,” noted Gulf affairs analysts Giorgio Cafiero and Anastasia Chisholm in August last year. “The Sino-Qatari partnership is mainly energy-oriented. Beyond the cooperation in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector, however, there is much less to Doha’s relationship with Beijing compared to Saudi Arabia or the UAE’s relations with China.”

China has also signed ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships’ with the Saudis and Emiratis in contrast to the lower-level ‘Strategic Partnership’ with Qatar.

Since Chinese investments in Qatar do not springboard the BRI the way those in Saudi Arabia and the UAE do, it makes sense for the US to boost Qatar as a hedge against complete Chinese monopoly over the Gulf’s integration with Eurasia via BRI.

The end of the three-and-a-half year, Saudi-led blockade against Qatar has not necessarily led to a halt in Doha’s rivalry with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. Rather it has grown more central to its foreign policy as it reclaims its place in the GCC without letting its guard down. This is a reality of Gulf affairs that will likely accompany the GCC’s closer integration with the BRI.

Qatar can offset its GCC rivals’ gains from the BRI by increasing its military engagement with the US. Both the Saudis and Emiratis still rely on the security umbrella that complying with the US’ great-power priorities brings yet have also strengthened ties with China.

This dilemma could also turn Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s increasing defence ties with both China and Russia into driving factors of a partisan pro-Qatari slant in the US’ Gulf policy. After all, Qatar has kept its own defence dealings with China and Russia minimal compared to those with the US.

The UAE recently suspended talks with the US to import the latter’s F-35 fighter jets. One of the reasons for this impasse is Emirati resentment at the US tying the deal to Abu Dhabi’s 5g contract with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which Washington sees as means for China to compromise the Emirati-imported F35s’ technology. Meanwhile, Qatar’s own talks for the F-35s proceed with less complications and are arguably boosted by its MNNA designation.

China does not want its regional investments getting caught up in the intra-GCC competition for primacy in the Gulf, which could happen if the US greenlights the F-35s for Qatar but not for the UAE, thus setting a precedent for deeper rivalry.

After all, intra-GCC competition has increasingly exhibited zero-sum tendencies. This was seen last year when Saudi Arabia told companies doing business in the kingdom that they would lose their government contracts unless they shifted their regional headquarters to Riyadh from Dubai and then also excluded imports from Emirati economic zones from their preferential tariffs.

Such “zero-sumism” is antithetical to what China wants in the Gulf, which is the harmonization of each Gulf state’s trade and connectivity policies. Beijing needs this to synergize its various Gulf investments into serving a broader, unified global strategy as per the BRI.

Thus, the US could use its ascendant ties with Qatar to cause China a significant headache in the Gulf, especially considering how far Beijing stays from contributing to zero-sum rivalries and standoffs due to its neutrality-oriented foreign policy.

Mutual convenience

However it pans out, the emerging US-Qatari alliance in Eurasia is highly convenient to both sides.

At the very least, the US can try to leverage Qatar’s potential energy role in Europe, its diplomatic role in Afghanistan and its ambitious Gulf policies relative to growing Chinese influence there for its own geopolitical interests.

As for Qatar, the fact that these roles do not threaten its bilateral relations with either China or Russia is a major plus point. Neither of the Eurasian great-powers is zero-sum in its foreign relations outlook and is unlikely to deem Qatar’s prospective participation in the US’ Eurasia strategy a major problem.

Eurasia is once again at the forefront of geopolitics and great power rivalries. Following the US exit from Afghanistan last summer, the incumbent superpower, was perceived to be scaling back if not withdrawing from this strategically important region, however in its relationship with Qatar, the US has shown it may be down but not quite out of Eurasia.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

US is repeating the same mistakes from Afghanistan

March 03, 2022

Source

by Batko Milacic

The United States invested $83 billion in arming the Afghan army. Having lost there, the Americans abandoned all their weapons and they fell into the hands of terrorists, criminal elements, drug dealers, which led to an acceleration of destabilization in the Central Asian region. That’s the price of “planting“ US democracy in Afghanistan.

Built and trained for two decades, Afghan security forces collapsed so quickly and completely — in some cases without a shot fired — that the ultimate beneficiary of the American investment turned out to be the Taliban. They grabbed not only political power but also U.S.-supplied firepower — guns, ammunition, helicopters and more.

The Taliban captured an array of modern military equipment when they overran Afghan forces who failed to defend its territory. Bigger gains followed, including combat aircraft, when the Taliban rolled up provincial capitals and military bases with stunning speed.

Taliban’s accumulation of U.S.-supplied Afghan equipment was enormous. The reversal is an embarrassing consequence of misjudging the viability of Afghan government forces — by the U.S. military as well as intelligence agencies — which in some cases chose to surrender their vehicles and weapons rather than fight.

The U.S. failure to produce a sustainable Afghan army and police force, and the reasons for their collapse, will be studied for years by military analysts. The basic dimensions, however, are clear and are not unlike what happened in Iraq. The forces turned out to be hollow, equipped with superior arms but largely missing the crucial ingredient of combat motivation.

The principle of war stands — moral factors dominate material factors. Morale, discipline, leadership, unit cohesion are more decisive than numbers of forces and equipment. This was shown by the war in Kosovo, where the Serbian army, even if technologically incomparably weaker than NATO, led NATO to give up the original plan.

In Afganistan , Americans provided materiel, but only Afghans could provide the intangible moral factors.

Taliban insurgents, with smaller numbers, less sophisticated weaponry and no air power, proved a superior force. U.S. intelligence agencies largely underestimated the scope of that superiority, and even after President Joe Biden announced in April he was withdrawing all U.S. troops, the intelligence agencies did not foresee a Taliban final offensive that would succeed so spectacularly.

Some elements of the Afghan army did fight hard, including commandos whose heroic efforts are yet to be fully documented. But as a whole the security forces created by the United States and its NATO allies amounted to a “house of cards” whose collapse was driven as much by failures of U.S. civilian leaders as their military partners.

The Afghan force-building exercise was so completely dependent on American largesse that the Pentagon even paid the Afghan troops’ salaries. Too often that money, and untold amounts of fuel, were siphoned off by corrupt officers and government overseers who cooked the books, creating “ghost soldiers” to keep the misspent dollars coming.

Of the approximately $145 billion the U.S. government spent trying to rebuild Afghanistan, about $83 billion went to developing and sustaining its army and police forces, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a congressionally created watchdog that has tracked the war since 2008. The $145 billion is in addition to $837 billion the United States spent fighting the war, which began with an invasion in October 2001.

The $83 billion invested in Afghan forces over 20 years is nearly double last year’s budget for the entire U.S. Marine Corps and is slightly more than what Washington budgeted last year for food stamp assistance for about 40 million Americans.

And despite all these catastrophic mistakes, Americans are repeating the same story in Europe. The United States pumped Ukraine with weapons and pushed it into war with Russia. In addition, the Kyiv regime, in the throes of its defeat, distributed more than 240,000 small arms into the hands of prison-released gangsters and fanatical mentally ill nationalists. In the near future, Russian troops will defeat the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and at the same time they will squeeze out armed radicals from Ukraine, who will end up in Europe and significantly change the crime situation there, plunge calm European cities into chaos. As always, only Washington, which does not need a calm and well-fed Europe, will win.

Biden’s failures in Afghanistan further exposed in leaked document

2.2.2020

Source: Axios

By Al Mayadeen Net

In Afghanistan, before the fall of Kabul and the evacuation of US troops, where did the US President Biden go wrong?

US troops withdrew from an unwinnable war

The Biden administration was unprepared to evacuate Afghan nationals who had assisted the US in its 20-year struggle against the Taliban, according to leaked minutes from a White House Situation Room meeting the day before Kabul fell.

Senior Biden administration officials were still debating and assigning fundamental actions involved in a major civilian evacuation just hours before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital on Aug. 15, 2021.

Outsiders were frustrated and suspicious that the administration held numerous meetings but lacked urgency until the last minute due to bureaucratic lethargy.

Despite the use of the word “immediately” throughout the paper, it’s evident that officials were still scrambling to finish their preparations on August 14th afternoon, so there was nothing “immediate” about their actions then.

They’d just decided, for example, that local Afghan workers needed to be notified “to begin to register their interest in transfer to the United States,” according to the document. They were still deciding which countries may function as evacuee transit locations and the Afghan capital was falling. 

The bigger picture

President Biden was adamant about ending the country’s longest war, and he declared in April that all US troops would be out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. President Trump had previously agreed to remove the United States by May 2021.

The horrific sights of those final minutes, with Afghans falling to their deaths from military transports and a suicide bomber killing 13 US service members and scores of Afghans at the gates of Hamid Karzai airport, haven’t helped Biden’s support ratings.

Thousands of vulnerable Afghans remain trapped in bureaucratic hell, fearful that the Taliban, whom they have fought for years, would hunt them down, according to a piece published this week in The Atlantic.

Later this month, Congress will appoint members to a 12-member bipartisan body to investigate the war and publish a report akin to that of the 9/11 Commission.

What’s the deal?

The NSC’s “report of conclusions” for a meeting of the so-called Deputies Small Group was obtained by Axios.

It brings together top aides to various Cabinet members and frequently prepares the framework for Deputies’ or Principals’ meetings or works out practical details for carrying out decisions already taken by their employers.

The conference was held between 3:30-4:30 pm on the afternoon of August 14, Washington time, to discuss “relocations out of Afghanistan.”

Taliban fighters were approaching Kabul at the time. Senior officials from numerous agencies, including Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the meeting, which was led by National Security Council staffer Liz Sherwood-Randall.

What does that mean?

The meeting records show how many critical decisions were made at the last minute by the Biden administration, just hours before Kabul fell and former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled his palace in a helicopter.

“While we’re not going to comment on leaked internal documents, cherry-picked notes from one meeting do not reflect the months of work that were already underway,” NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne told Axios.

“Earlier that summer, we launched Operation Allies Refuge and had worked with Congress to pass legislation that gave us greater flexibility to quickly relocate Afghan partners,” Horne said.

“It was because of this type of planning and other efforts that we were able to facilitate the evacuation of more than 120,000 Americans, legal permanent residents, vulnerable Afghans, and other partners.”

Senior Biden officials from throughout the government had been meeting around the clock to deal with Afghanistan’s rapid disintegration by the time the Saturday afternoon meeting took place.

The administration helped evacuate over 120,000 people from Kabul airport by Aug. 31, the President’s amended withdrawal deadline.

Before US withdrawal 

Troops were stationed in the area in advance of the evacuation to ensure timely arrival at Kabul airport. The administration had sped up the approval of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). Biden officials had also studied the possibility of other countries functioning as evacuee transit locations, which eventually led to a network that housed tens of thousands of Afghans awaiting processing.

Despite this, many crucial decisions had yet to be made on the eve of Kabul’s fall. The president — and his intelligence community – underestimated the Afghan military’s ability to “defend their homeland from the Taliban.”

Moreover, Ghani had personally urged Biden earlier this year not to conduct mass evacuations of Afghans. He was afraid that it would indicate a lack of trust in his government.

Many outside advisors were sounding the alarm as the Taliban swept through provincial capitals heading into August.

“I kept being told by people in the [White House] the thing they were most concerned about was the optics of a chaotic evacuation,” said Matt Zeller, a former CIA officer.

“They treated us like we were Chicken Little. They didn’t believe the sky was falling”, said Zeller. 

“On the 13th of July, we offered to work with them to help evacuate our partners,” Zeller added. “We all saw this disaster coming before the inevitable occurred. They didn’t get back to us until Aug 15, the day Kabul fell.”

Mark Jacobson, deputy NATO representative in Afghanistan during the Obama administration, told Axios, “That so much planning, prioritizing and addressing of key questions had not been completed, even as Kabul was about to fall, underscores the absence of adequate interagency planning.”

Read more: 2021 Roundup: The failed US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Afghanistan reacts to US sanctions with more cooperation with Iran

1 Jan 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen Net

The catastrophic humanitarian reality in Afghanistan is pushing the Taliban government to deal with Iran in order to secure the needs of its citizens. In light of US sanctions, this has become the best option.

Iran and Afghanistan share a border nearly 600 miles long

The withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan a few months ago is nothing more than a military withdrawal from the country, as the United States still maintains its grip on the country, controlling it as it pleases through the harsh sanctions it imposes.

98% of Afghans do not consume enough food

After the Taliban movement came to power following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, international financial institutions stopped aid to the country, as Washington froze about $9.5 billion in assets of the Afghan Central Bank, which prevented millions of people across Afghanistan from accessing basic commodities they need in order to survive, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

According to the latest survey conducted by the World Food Program, 98% of Afghans do not consume enough food, which is an alarming increase of 17% since August. Furthermore, the United Nations indicates in this context that about 23 million people, or about 55% of the population, face extreme levels of hunger and that about 9 million are at risk of starvation as the winter gets colder. 

The organization also explained that “families are resorting to desperate measures as the bitter winter sets in; 9 in every 10 households are now buying less expensive food, 8 in 10 are eating less, and seven in ten are borrowing food to get by.” The WFP stress that they need $220 million per month in 2022 to ramp up its operations and provide food and cash assistance to more than 23 million Afghans facing extreme hunger.

Afghan-Iranian cooperation in confronting the catastrophic humanitarian reality in Afghanistan

This catastrophic humanitarian reality seems to have prompted the Taliban government to deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to secure the needs of its citizens. In light of the US and European sanctions on the two countries, there is no better option than rapprochement and resorting to each other. 

The Wall Street Journal reported in this regard that the two countries, which share a border of nearly 600 miles, seek “to put longstanding ideological and political differences aside as they seek to fill the vacuum left behind by American troops.”

The newspaper added that the nature of the relationship between Afghanistan and Iran is manifested in Nimroz province, where “goods from potatoes to fertilizer and fuel [transport] through the desert from Iran to Afghanistan, their pickup trucks whipping up a trail of dust clouds.”

In turn, WSJ noted that from August to December, “Iran imported $45 million in goods through western Afghanistan, a 20% increase from the same period last year,” adding that “The Afghan economy has shrunk by an estimated 40%, according to the United Nations.”

WSJ continues, “On the streets of Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz, street vendors hawk Iranian spices and fruit covered in dust, and accept Iranian rials as payment.” It added that street lamps that light up Zaranj, which resembles a spot of light in the middle of the dark desert, are powered by electricity flowing from the Iranian grid.

The newspaper also quoted a sales manager in one of the shops in the Afghan city of Herat as saying that he had replaced 60% to 65% of the brands that were Turkish or European with Iranian products, stressing that “we will 100% become more dependent on Iran if this situation continues.”

A market in Herat in Afghanistan carries products imported from Iran (WSJ)

Last November, Iran resumed oil and gas exports to Afghanistan, revealing at the same time that trade exchange between Iran on one side and Afghanistan and Pakistan on the other will witness a rise to $5 billion.

Contrary to most countries, Iran has remained in constant contact with the Taliban government in order to activate diplomatic efforts, as well as to strengthen economic and commercial relations, according to the newspaper.

America’s ‘Suez moment’: Another strategic mistake would be its last

27 December 2021

“The chance of a global conflict involving real armies and real arms has never been higher. Biden should bear this in mind” (Illustration by MEE)
David HearstDavid Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He is a commentator and speaker on the region and analyst on Saudi Arabia. He was The Guardian’s foreign leader writer, and was correspondent in Russia, Europe, and Belfast. He joined the Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

David Hearst

In 2021, President Joe Biden truly reaped a bitter harvest from the strategic foreign policy errors of four of his predecessors. But Washington would do well to think before it makes its next move

“America has just had its Suez Crisis,” commented a member of the Iranian delegation at the nuclear talks in Vienna about the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, “but it has yet to see it.”

It’s not just the fall of Kabul.

In 2021, President Joe Biden truly reaped a bitter harvest from the strategic foreign policy errors of four of his predecessors. As he was the vice president for one of them, Barack Obama, he has trouble seeing this as well. The seeds of each of the major global conflict zones post – Afghanistan, Ukraine, Taiwan, and Iran were planted long ago. 

It’s not just the fall of Kabul. What unravelled this year was no less than three decades of bungled US global governance

What unravelled this year was no less than three decades of bungled US global governance.

Each US president in the post-Soviet period shared the belief that he had the file to himself. It was not something to be shared at the UN Security Council. He was the commander-in-chief of the largest, best-equipped and most mobile armed force in the world, one that could stage over the horizon attacks with devastating accuracy. The US president controls 750 military bases in 80 different countries. He also had the biggest pocket, the world’s reserve currency, so, ergo, he could now set the rules.

What could possibly go wrong?

With that belief came two assumptions that proved to be fatally flawed: that the US monopoly on the use of force would last forever – it ended with Russia’s intervention in Syria – and that the US could continue to enforce a “rules-based” world order – so long as it continued to make the rules. Biden has quietly buried both assumptions by admitting that great powers will be forced to “manage” their competition to avoid conflict that no one can win. 

But hang on a moment. There is something not quite right here.

The cause and effect theory

Major conflicts, which have the potential to produce tank battles not seen since World War II, like Ukraine, do not just happen.

There is cause and effect. The cause was the unilateral but at the time uncontroversial decision to expand Nato eastwards in the 1990s, abandoning the model of a largely demilitarised and missile-free Eastern Europe that had been discussed with president Mikhail Gorbachev a decade earlier.Why global conflict is no longer unthinkableJoe Gill Read More »

This was done to give new meaning to Nato, a military pact whose purpose died when its enemy did. Complete rubbish was talked about Nato “cementing” democracy in Eastern Europe by guaranteeing its independence from Moscow. But remember the mood at the time. It was triumphalist. Not only was capitalism the only economic system left, but its neo-liberal brand was the only brand worth promoting. 

For a brief moment, Moscow became an eastern gold rush, a Klondike for venture capitalists, Ikea, Carrefour, Irish pubs, and bible bashers. The Russians, meanwhile, were obsessed with designer labels, not politics.  

The Americans in Moscow – at the time – did not bother much about what their hosts thought or did. Russia became irrelevant on the international stage. US advisers boasted about writing the decrees the Russian president Boris Yeltsin issued. And Yeltsin returned the favour by handing over the designs of the latest Russian tank and the wiring diagram of bugs placed by the KGB in the concrete foundation of an extension being built in the US embassy. 

Then US President George Bush and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev after a two-day US-Soviet Summit dedicated to the disarmament on 31 July, 1991 (AFP)
Then-US president George Bush and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev after a two-day US-Soviet summit dedicated to disarmament, on 31 July 1991 (AFP)

For Russian nationalists, this was nothing less than an act of treason. But doors were open so wide to the West that literally everything that was not nailed down flew through them – nuclear scientists, missile engineers, the cream of the KGB, and suitcases full of cash. Where do you think the Russians who settled in Highgate in North London, or the Hamptons on Long Island, or Cyprus, or Israel got their money from?

For a time, even the word “West” dropped out of Russian political vocabulary because the new Russians thought they had just joined it.

Ukraine, the West’s victim

The first US ambassador to the newly created Russian Federation, Robert Strauss, spent more time defending what happened in the Kremlin than the White House. Western embassies became spokesmen for a Russia they thought they now owned. 

It is now in the US’ strategic interest to staunch any more bloodletting in the battlefields it created this century

Strauss downplayed the first reports of the rise of the Russian mafia state, as a mere bagatelle. “This is what Chicago was like in the 20s,” he told me. This was followed by inanities about the green shoots of democracy and the time it took to mow an English lawn. As if he knew.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were similarly blasé about what they did in Russia.

The Russian army was “a joke”. When the Russians sent their armoured columns into Grozny in December 1994, the West thought it could be stopped by small bands of determined Chechens; their pilots had only three hours flying time each month: their frigates sailed in pairs – one to patrol, the second to tow back the first one when it broke down; their submarines sunk.

And so Nato pushed eastwards.

No one at the time bought the argument that all Nato would do was to push the line of confrontation eastwards. Russia’s pleas to negotiate a security architecture for Eastern Europe fell on deaf ears. They are not falling on deaf ears now, with 90,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders. 

The victim of this gross act of western stupidity was Ukraine, which for at least the first decade after the fall of the Soviets had survived intact and largely in peace. Civil wars raged all around it, but Ukraine itself maintained its political and social unity despite being comprised of very different communities. With the exception of Western Ukraine, which never forgot that it had been captured by the Bolsheviks from the crumbling Austro-Hungarian empire, Russian and Ukrainian speakers lived in peace.

Now it is divided forever, scared by a civil war from which it will never recover. Ukraine will never regain its lost unity, and for that, Brussels is as much to thank as the bully boys from Moscow.

Ukrainian servicemen take part in the joint Rapid Trident military exercises with the US and other Nato countries not far from Lviv on 24 September 2021 (AFP)
Ukrainian servicemen take part in the joint Rapid Trident military exercises with the US and other Nato countries not far from Lviv, on 24 September 2021 (AFP)

The new cold war

Then there is China. Pivoting eastwards surely did not mean ending one Cold War and starting a new one with China, but that too is inexorably happening. Biden cannot decide whether to calm President Xi down or confront him, but doing each in sequence will not work. 

To get a measure of what mainland China feels when British warships sail through the Taiwan Strait, how would Britain react if Chinese warships appeared in the Irish Sea and sailed between Scotland and Northern Ireland?How to avert a global conflict between China, Russia and the WestMarco Carnelos

Read More »

The game of “managing” competition has human consequences as devastating as the superpower triumphalism of the 1990s, and those can be observed in Afghanistan today. The Afghanistan of the ousted Afghani president Ashraf Ghani truly was a Potemkin village, a facade of independent statehood. 

An astonishing 300,000 troops and soldiers on its government’s books did not exist. “Ghost soldiers” were added to official lists so that generals would pocket their wages, Afghanistan’s former finance minister Khalid Payenda told the BBC. The black hole of the former corrupt regime’s finances was an open secret long before Biden set a date for withdrawal. 

A report for the US special inspector general for Afghanistan (SIGAR) warned in 2016: “Neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist, how many are in fact available for duty, or, by extension, the true nature of their operational capabilities.”

Now that the tap of US income has been turned off, Afghanistan is on the verge of a nationwide famine. But, incredibly, the US is blaming this situation on the Taliban. It withholds money on the grounds of human rights, the night-time revenge killings on former state employees, or the suppression of education for women.

Much of the Afghan central bank’s $10bn in assets is parked overseas, including $1.3bn in gold reserves in New York. The US Treasury is using this money as a lever to pressure the Taliban on women’s rights and the rule of law. It has granted a licence to the US government and its partners to facilitate humanitarian aid and it gave Western Union permission to resume processing personal remittances from migrants overseas.

But the US does not hold itself to account for having nurtured a state that cannot function without the money that it is now withholding. The US has direct responsibility for the famine that is now taking place in Afghanistan. To withhold money from the Taliban because they took power militarily, rather than negotiate their re-entry with other Afghan warlords, also wears somewhat thin. 

Same story

The Taliban walked into Kabul with barely a shot fired because everything crumbled before them. The speed of the collapse of Afghan forces blindsided everybody – even Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who are accused by India and western governments of running the Haqqani network of the Taliban. The only country that really knew what was happening was Iran, because officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were with the Taliban as they walked in, according to Iranian sources close to the IRGC.

US President Joe Biden looks at Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) prior to their meeting at the 'Villa la Grange' in Geneva on 16 June, 2021 (AFP)
A child cries on a sidewalk in Kabul, on 27 December 2021 (AFP)

Even the ISI were blindsided by the speed of this collapse. An informed source told me in Islamabad: “We had expected the NDS [National Directorate of Security] to put up a fight in Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Kunduz. That would have produced a stalemate and the possibility for negotiation a more inclusive government.”

But we are where we are. “There were some improvements in the last 20 years. There was a middle class in Kabul, women’s education. But if you want to lose everything, this is the way to do it. The Taliban will go hardline if the place runs out of money. If you want to protect the liberal elements, you have to make Afghanistan stable.”

Pivoting eastwards surely did not mean ending one Cold War and starting a new one with China, but that too is inexorably happening

The Pakistani source listed 10 jihadi groups, as opposed to the one jihadi group, al-Qaeda, that was around in 2001. And the ISI do not know what happened to the arms the Americans left behind.

“We simply don’t know in whose hands they have ended up,” he said. When they pressed the Taliban on forming an inclusive government, the Taliban shot back at them: “Do you have an inclusive government? Do you have a government that includes the PML-N? What do you think it would be like in Pakistan if you had to reconcile groups of fighters who had killed each other’s sons and cousins?”

Starved of funds, there is only one way for the breakaway groups to go – into the hands of the jihadists. He ended his analysis with the following thought: is it really in the US interest to stabilise Afghanistan? If they let the money through, it would mean supporting the very axis of China, Russia and Pakistan that they were now determined to push back. The faltering talks in Vienna, the crisis on Ukraine’s border, renewed tension and military posturing in Taiwan, are all part of the same story.

Strategic mistakes

Washington would do well to look at the map of the world and think before it makes its next move. A long period of reflection is needed. Thus far it has obtained the dubious distinction of getting every conflict it has engaged with in this century wrong. 

The US has entered a new era where it can no longer change regimes by force of arms or sanctions

The chance of a global conflict involving real armies and real arms has never been higher and the tripwire to using weapons of mass destruction has never been strung tighter. Nor have all the world’s military powers been better armed, able and willing to start their own inventions.

Biden should bear this in mind.

It is now in the US’ strategic interest to staunch any more bloodletting in the battlefields it created this century. That means the US should come to a deal with Iran by lifting the sanctions it imposed on Tehran since the 2015 JCPOA. If it wants to balance the growing Chinese and Russian influence in the Middle East, that is the surest way to do it.

Iran is not going to give up its missiles any more than Israel is going to ground its air force. But a deal in Vienna could be a precursor to regional Gulf security negotiations. The Emiratis, Qataris, Omanis and Kuwaitis are all ready for it. If Washington wants to apply rules, let it do so first with its allies, who have extraordinary impunity for their brutal actions.

If Washington is the champion of human rights it claims to be, start with Saudi Arabia or Egypt. If it is the enforcer of international law, let’s see Washington make Israel pay a price for its continued settlement policy, which makes a mockery of UN Security Council resolutions, and the US’ own policy for a resolution to the Palestinian conflict. 

The Abraham Accords were devised to establish Israel as America’s declared and open regional surrogate. Had Donald Trump secured a second term, such a policy would have been a disaster for US strategic interests in the Middle East. Already Israel thinks it has a veto on US decision making in the region. With this policy fully in place, it would have been in charge of it, which would have meant permanent conflict created by a military power that always strikes first.

Israel acts with ruthless logic. It will use any opportunity to expand its borders until a Palestinian state becomes an impossibility. It probably has already succeeded in that aim. However, this is not US policy. But this expansion continues, almost week in, week out, because no one in Washington will lift a finger to stop it. Doing nothing about armed lynch mobs of settlers attacking unarmed Palestinian villagers in the West Bank is the same as agreeing to them. 

If you want to be a champion of rules, apply those rules to yourself first.

This is the only way to regain lost global authority. The US has entered a new era where it can no longer change regimes by force of arms or sanctions. It has discovered the uselessness of force. It should drop the stick and start handing out bucket loads of carrots. It should get on with the urgent task of deconfliction.

After the damage done this century by conflicts ordered, created and backed by US presidents – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya – that is not only a responsibility but a duty. 

Another US strategic mistake would be its, and Western Europe’s, last. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Will the Islamic world save Afghanistan?

Between the complex internal dynamics of the Taliban and the western trick of conditional aid, it is the Muslim world that must act to save Afghanistan

December 21 2021

An earlier meeting between Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood QureishiPhoto Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

Afghanistan was at the heart of the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers representing 57 nations at the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

It was up to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to deliver the keynote address to the session, held on 19 December at the Parliament House in Islamabad.

And he rose to the occasion: “If the world doesn’t act, this will be the biggest man-made crisis which is unfolding in front of us.”

Imran Khan was addressing not only representatives of the lands of Islam, but also UN officials, the proverbial “global financial institutions,” scores of NGOs, a smattering of US, EU and Japanese bureaucrats and, crucially, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

No nation or organization has yet formally recognized the Taliban as the new, legitimate Afghan government. And quite a few are frankly more interested in engaging in an elaborate kabuki, pretending to deliver some sort of aid to the devastated Afghan economy after 20 years of US/NATO occupation instead of actually coordinating aid packages with Kabul.

The numbers are dire, and barely tell the full extent of the drama.

According to the UNDP, 22.8 million Afghan citizens – over half of Afghanistan – are facing food shortages, and soon, acute hunger; while no less than 97 percent of Afghans could soon fall under the poverty line. In addition, the World Food Programme stresses that 3.2 million Afghan children risk acute malnutrition.

Imran Khan emphasized that the OIC had a “religious duty” to help Afghanistan. As for the ‘hyperpower’ that stunned the world with its humiliating withdrawal show after 20 years of occupation, he was adamant: Washington must “delink” whatever grudges it may hold against the Taliban government from the destiny of 40 million Afghan citizens.

Imran Khan did ruffle a few Afghan feathers – starting with former President Hamid Karzai, when he observed that “the idea of human rights is different in every society,” referring to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan.

“The city culture is completely different from the culture in rural areas …,” he said. “We give stipends to the parents of the girls so that they send them to school. But in districts bordering Afghanistan, if we are not sensitive to the cultural norms, then they won’t send them to school despite receiving double the amount. We have to be sensitive about human rights and women rights.”

This was interpreted in a few quarters as Pakistani interference – part of a secret, devious strategic narrative. Not really. The prime minister was stating a fact, as anyone familiar with the tribal areas knows. Even Afghan Foreign Minister Muttaqi said the prime minister’s words were not “insulting”.

Imran Khan also observed that there are already over three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Moreover, Islamabad is sheltering more than 200,000 refugees who overstayed their visas. “They can’t go back. We are already suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are not in a position to deal with an influx of refugees.”

Would you ever trust NATO?

Then there’s the ultimate nut to crack: internal Taliban dynamics.

Diplomatic sources confirm off the record that it’s a non-stop struggle to convince different layers of the Taliban leadership to allow for some concessions.

Discussions with the NATO block are for, all practical purposes, dead: bluntly, there will be no help without visible concessions on girls’ education, women’s rights and the heart of the matter – on which everyone agrees, including the Russians, the Chinese and the Central Asians – a more inclusive government in Kabul.

So far, Taliban pragmatists – led by the Doha political office – have been on the losing end.

The OIC meeting at least came up with practical suggestions involving Islamic development banks. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was keen to emphasize the necessity of getting Kabul to access banking services.

This is the heart of the problem: there are no solid banking channels after NATO departed. So it’s technically impossible to transfer financial aid into the system and then distribute it across hard-hit provinces. Yet, once again, this is ultimately linked to those lofty western humanitarian aid pledges crammed with conditionalities.

In the end, Qureshi, together with the OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha, announced that a ‘humanitarian trust fund’ will be established as soon as possible, under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank. The fund should be able to incorporate international partners, non-politicized westerners included.

Qureshi put out his bravest face, emphasizing that “the need is felt to forge a partnership between the OIC and the UN.”

Taha, for his part, was quite realistic. No funds whatsoever have been pledged so far for this new OIC humanitarian operation.

As Qureshi mentioned, there is one thing which Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and other actors may decisively help with: investment “in the people of Afghanistan, bilaterally or through the OIC, in areas such as education, health and technical and vocational skills to the Afghan youth.”

So now it comes to the crunch – and fast. It’s up to the OIC to play the leading role in terms of alleviating Afghanistan’s dire humanitarian drama.

The official declaration calling on all OIC member states, Islamic financial institutions, donors, and unnamed ‘international partners’ to announce pledges to the humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan will have to go way beyond rhetorical flourish.

At least, it’s all but certain that from now on, it will be up to the lands of Islam to decisively help Afghanistan. A bitter, defeated, vengeful, internally corroded NATO simply cannot be trusted.

Nobody today remembers that the Empire had concocted its own version of the New Silk Road over 10 years ago, announced by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Chennai in July 2001.

That was no ‘community of shared future for mankind,’ but a very narrow obsession on capturing energy resources – in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan; ‘stabilizing’ Afghanistan, as in perpetuating the occupation; giving a boost to India; and ‘isolating’ Iran.

The energy supply routes to the west should have gone through the Caspian Sea, and then across Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey – the three actors of the BTC pipeline – thus bypassing Russia, which was already then being depicted in the west as a ‘threat’.

All this is dead and buried – as post-occupation Afghanistan alongside the five Central Asian ‘stans’ are now back as one of the key foci of interest of the Russia–China strategic partnership: the heart of a Greater Eurasia spanning from Shanghai in the east to St. Petersburg in the west.

Yet to make it happen, it’s imperative that the OIC helps Afghanistan as much as the Taliban must help themselves.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Did French President Macron’s Gulf Tour Complicate US Regional Policy?

9 DECEMBER 2021

These three outcomes could complicate the US’ regional policy and possibly even be interpreted as an asymmetrical form of revenge for stealing France’s historically unprecedented nuclear sub deal with Australia.

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Saudi Arabia last weekend during a two-day trip. His regional tour resulted in several significant outcomes. The first is that Paris and Abu Dhabi clinched a €16 billion deal for 80 upgraded Rafale warplanes and 12 Airbus combat helicopters, which is France’s largest arms agreement to date. It comes a few months after the US and UK poached France’s €31 billion nuclear sub deal with Australia.

Second, Macron announced while in Doha that some EU countries were considering opening up a joint diplomatic mission in Kabul to liaise with the de facto Taliban-ruled government there. He noted, however, that this wouldn’t imply formal recognition of their authority. It should be remembered that the Qatari capital was the scene of peace talks between the US and the Taliban. It’s also where many foreign diplomats informally interact with the Taliban since the group has a political office there.

And finally, the French President held a joint phone call while in Riyadh between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati aimed at soothing over their recent differences. Another crisis between the two unexpectedly exploded after the Lebanese Information Minister (who resigned on Friday) earlier criticized the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Macron therefore showed that France is still crucial to managing disputes in its former Levantine colony.

These three outcomes could complicate the US’ regional policy and possibly even be interpreted as an asymmetrical form of revenge for stealing France’s historically unprecedented nuclear sub deal with Australia. To explain, despite a recent improvement in Emirati-Iranian relations, the former still remains suspicious of the latter’s alleged nuclear intentions and is skeptical of the US-led efforts to renegotiate the nuclear deal. France’s arming of the UAE is meant to maintain a regional military-strategic balance.

Regarding the second outcome, the US has pressured his partners to keep their distance from the Taliban until it capitulates to America’s pressure to unilaterally make far-reaching socio-political reforms. Macron’s pragmatic defiance of this demand is aimed at managing that war-torn country’s impending humanitarian crisis. It shows that France is behaving in an increasingly independent way, almost intentionally doing the opposite of what the US says in order to show its anger at AUKUS.

As for the last of Macron’s achievements, he’s signaling that France will compete to fill the diplomatic-strategic void left in the Levantine-Gulf regions following the US’ gradual disengagement from there as it pivots towards attempting to “contain” China in the Asia-Pacific. The US’ traditional partners like Saudi Arabia increasingly distrust it for that reason as well as its ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. France therefore cleverly realized that it might be able to replace the US’ dwindling influence.

All of this complicates US policy. The declining unipolar hegemon no longer dominates the West Asian region in which it had previously exerted its dominance. Its flip-flopping policy there across the last three administrations (Obama-Trump-Biden) has concerned its traditional allies. America is no longer regarded as a reliable partner, but as a self-interested actor aiming solely to advance its short-term strategic interests. France is furious after AUKUS and actively competing to replace US influence there.

Its arming of the UAE is especially significant given the US’ prior claims of war crimes being committed by all sides of the Yemen War in which Abu Dhabi used to play a leading role. Washington has also recently criticized Riyadh for its alleged human rights violations, which would have been unthinkable under the prior administration. France, having recently been on the receiving end of the US’ selfish policies, is likely viewed as a sympathetic balancing force by the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

As French influence in West Asia rises in parallel with American influence’s decline there, Washington will have to learn to appreciate Paris and its traditional regional partners instead of taking them for granted. Its crazed quest to “contain” China at all costs has dealt enormous self-inflicted damage to US strategy in Europe (France) and West Asia (UAE, Saudi Arabia). The voids that it’s leaving in those parts of Eurasia are being filled by France and others, with unclear long-term strategic implications.

All that can be known for sure at this time is that American policy in those strategic spaces is being complicated by a combination of the self-inflicted damage that its “Pivot to Asia” has dealt and the geopolitical opportunism of France and others. New regional orders have a credible chance of emerging, with the end result being that multipolar processes there will accelerate. This will further erode America’s declining influence in Europe and West Asia, possibly opening up new opportunities for all.

The US Is Taking Note Of Russia’s Pragmatic Stance Towards The Taliban

18 NOVEMBER 2021

The US Is Taking Note Of Russia’s Pragmatic Stance Towards The Taliban

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Newsweek’s interview with Russian Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov was significant because it was the first time that Russia’s pragmatic stance towards the Taliban was given publicity and treated fairly by a major Western media outlet.

Russian Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov was recently interviewed by Newsweek about his country’s pragmatic stance towards the Taliban. This high-profile and fairly conducted media appearance speaks to the fact that the US is taking note of Russia’s evolving position. It also signals the incipient progress that’s been achieved in improving bilateral relations since this summer’s Biden-Putin Summit because it shows that Russia and the US are interested in working more closely together on this issue of mutual concern. Prior to summarizing the insight that the envoy shared, the piece will point readers in the direction of the author’s prior analyses on this topic that were published at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in case they’re interested in some background briefings:

* 3 June 2020: “Pakistan’s Role In Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership

* 24 June 2021: “The Geostrategic Challenges Of Russia’s ‘Ummah Pivot’

* 14 July 2021: “Russia’s ‘Ummah Pivot’: Opportunities & Narrative Engagement

* 25 August 2021: “Russia & The Taliban: From Narrative Challenges To Opportunities

* 27 September 2021: “Comparing The Contours Of Russia’s Ummah Pivot In Syria & Afghanistan

To sum it up for those readers with limited time, Afghanistan forms a crucial component of Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) because it functions as the irreplaceable transit state for facilitating its overland connectivity with South Asia. Pakistan helped Russia enter into contact with the Taliban due to all sides’ shared anti-ISIS concerns, after which Moscow began to independently cultivate its own relations with the group that it still formally designates as terrorists. That political issue hasn’t hampered their cooperation though since they’re now coordinating on humanitarian, security, and socio-economic issues. Russia’s surprising successes in this respect are entirely attributable to its pragmatic grand strategy of attempting to become Eurasia’s supreme “balancing” force in the 21st century.

———-

Kabulov began the interview by stating Russia’s top two policy goals in Afghanistan: seeing it become a normal state at peace with itself and its neighbors; and containing international terrorist and drug trafficking threats. He then proceeded to explain that the Taliban has evolved from what he claims was its prior “global jihadist agenda” to becoming a “military political opposition” movement in Afghanistan. They beat NATO because they had better morale, he said. Although their post-war vision differs from the socio-political models that Russia and other countries adhere to within their own borders, Moscow nevertheless respects it. Even so, Kabulov insisted that his country wants the Taliban to abide by “basic human rights and international relations rules”.

These include an ethno-politically inclusive government and equal socio-economic opportunities for women. The envoy praised the progress that’s been achieved thus far, especially in terms of retaining a diversity of media outlets in the country and establishing law and order, but he of course also noted that a lot of work still remains to be done. Kabulov lauded the Taliban’s anti-terrorist struggle against ISIS (which is also banned in Russia) and said that they “are actually doing this much better than your and previous administration forces”. Since “they are serving both regional and international interests” in this respect, Russia is against all efforts to weaken its relevant capacities. The envoy also hopes that the US releases Afghanistan’s frozen funds so that the Taliban doesn’t need to rely on the drug trade.

As for the state of cooperation with the US on this issue, Kabulov sounded upbeat but noted that a lot of their discussions concerned dealing with the same financial and security messes that America itself is responsible for creating in Afghanistan. The Troika Plus framework between those two, China, and Pakistan was also presented as an example of their fruitful cooperation thus far. These four countries’ top priority right now is to avert Afghanistan’s impending humanitarian crisis and brainstorming multilateral solutions for sustainably improving its socio-economic situation. Broader cooperation with the Central Asian Republics (CAR), Iran, France, and Germany is possible too.

Kabulov expressed relief that the US hasn’t succeeded in setting up any regional bases, which he said would have provoked attacks against those host states by the Taliban and other terrorist groups. He also revealed how displeased Russia was with the US’ initial attempts to have it and the region shoulder the Afghan burden. A balance must be struck, he implied, between the US and its allies responsibly cleaning up the mess that they made there and other stakeholders assisting these efforts in a fair way that doesn’t ask too much of them or anything else that might be unrealistic. In the worst-case scenario that the situation deteriorates, Kabulov said this country’s CAR allies can count on Russia to defend their national security.  

Russia will not, however, render any anti-terrorist military assistance to the Taliban, nor has such been requested of it from the group. Kabulov then commented on the emerging regional consensus surrounding the need to help stabilize Afghanistan and contain the various threats that might emanate from it. The Moscow and Islamabad Format talks, as well comparatively minor supplementary ones like the latest virtual event in Tehran, are proof of this in practice. The envoy cautioned, however, against needlessly multiplying meetings just for the sake of it without focusing on achieving tangible dividends from each process, the most urgent of which concern humanitarian issues followed by anti-terrorist and drug-related ones.

Russia’s goal is to prevent Afghanistan from ever being exploited by foreign terrorist organizations to carry out another 9/11. About that world-changing event, Kabulov said that it was unfair to punish the Afghan people when none of their compatriots participated in it and only Osama Bin Laden operated from there. Arming Afghans with political and economic instruments can help them prevent this from ever happening again, the envoy advised. Going forward, Russia will continue working with its Troika Plus partners to convince other donors like those in Europe to contribute to averting Afghanistan’s impending humanitarian crisis. In conclusion, Kabulov hopes that the Taliban will continue to make comprehensive progress by having their comparatively moderate elements keep radical ones in check.

———-

This interview was significant because it was the first time that Russia’s pragmatic stance towards the Taliban was given publicity and treated fairly by a major Western media outlet. Kabulov’s interviewer wasn’t aggressive or provocative like Western ones usually are. Rather, they seemed sincerely interested in better understanding his country’s position so that their own and others could potentially learn from it. This further reinforces the earlier mentioned observation that relations between those two countries are improving when it comes to areas of mutual concern. Evidently, both sides have made progress on responsibly regulating their rivalry since their leaders met this summer. Afghanistan can therefore serve as a perfect example of Russian-American cooperation and help build more trust.

Of course, that best-case scenario is still a far way’s off as seen by the US’ reluctance to release Afghanistan’s frozen assets, but there’s still no denying that the present state of affairs could obviously be a lot worse than it is. Russia hopes to lead the international community’s efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan or at the very least avert its impending humanitarian crisis. China and Pakistan are playing major roles in this respect too, but the former is considered by the US to be its top global rival while the latter has limited influence on the global stage. That’s why it falls onto Russia to rally the international community around this shared cause. The US can greatly assist if it encourages its Western allies to follow suit. Until that happens, progress will remain limited and uncertainty will prevail.

الأميركي للسعودي: افعلوا ما فعلناه في أفغانستان: «لستم أقوى منا وليسوا أضعف من طالبان»

نوفمبر 18 2021

 ناصر قنديل

تخصص ورشات عمل العديد من مراكز الدراسات الأميركية أبحاثها للوضع في اليمن، في ضوء المستجدات التي لم يعد ممكناً إخفاؤها، والتي تتلخص بالتقارير المجمع عليها حول اعتبار سقوط مدينة مأرب بيد أنصار الله مسألة وقت، والتي اختصرها معاون وزير الخارجية الأميركي السابق ديفيد شنكر بقوله في إحدى ورشات العمل البحثية، إن استحواذ الأنصار على مأرب بات محسوماً، واصفاً ذلك بالسيناريو الأسوأ لواشنطن والرياض، وبخسارة الحرب على اليمن خسارة كاملة، والإجماع على مكانة مأرب يطال الجميع أميركيين وسعوديين ويمنيين، وعلى ضفاف ما يجري في مأرب برز المؤشر الثاني وهو تضعضع التحالف المناوئ للأنصار، وما ظهر على جبهة الحديدة كاف لإثبات ذلك، فإن كان ما جرى نتيجة صفقة فهو كارثة تشي بانهيار التحالف، وإن كان نتيجة سوء تنسيق بخلفية الخوف من تداعيات انهيار جبهة مأرب على القوات المنتشرة في الساحل بلا عمق يحميها، فتلك مصيبة، وفي الحالتين ستتواصل التداعيات، خصوصاً إذا أضيف للمشهد التمايز الإماراتي عن السعودية بخطوات يمنية يظهرها تمايز وضع الجنوب اليمني، وإقليمية كان آخرها التواصل العالي المستوى بين الإمارات وإيران وما نشر عن زيارة شخصية إماراتية كبيرة لطهران قريباً، فيما تبقى الإمارات بخلاف السعودية بمنأى عن استهداف الأنصار لمدنها وسفنها بصورة تثير شكوك السعودية بتفاهمات تحت الطاولة.

أغلب الباحثين الأميركيين يشبه الوضع في اليمن بالوضع في أفغانستان عشية اتخاذ قرار الانسحاب الأميركي، فوضع قوات منصور هادي ليست أفضل حالاً من قوات أشرف غني، وعزم وعناد واقتدار أنصار الله ليس أقل مما أظهرته حركة طالبان، وحجم الحصار المفروض على أفغانستان لم يكن دون مستوى الحصار على اليمن، والأميركيون يقولون إنهم وهم يختلفون على ظروف الانسحاب يتفقون على أنه كان خياراً مراً لكن لا بد منه، فالوضع بدا ميؤوساً منه، والبقاء لعشرين سنة أخرى لن يغير المشهد، إلا باستنزاف المزيد من الأموال وإزهاق المزيد من الأرواح، ويقول بعض هؤلاء الباحثين، ربما يكون وزير الإعلام اللبناني جورج قرداحي آخر من استخدم توصيف الحرب العبثية، بما يتضمنه التوصيف لحرب لا نصر فيها، لكن لا هزيمة، بينما صارت اليوم حرباً مضمونة الخسارة، ولم يعد لدى السعوديين ترف الوقت لاتخاذ القرار بالانسحاب، وتجاوز الأمر حدود الحديث عن كارثة إنسانية محققة، فقد أنتجت الحرب تحولاً استراتيجياً كبيراً.

السعوديون عبر وسائل إعلامهم يغيبون عن النقاش، لكن فلتات مواقف وردت على قناة العربية الحدث، كانت تدعو واشنطن للتساؤل عما يعنيه نشوء أفغانستان ثانية على البحر الأحمر تمسك بمضيق باب المندب، بدت رداً أو مناقشة للنصيحة الأميركية، من خلال المقارنة بين الموقع الاستراتيجي لكل من أفغانستان واليمن، حيث اليمن بقوته الصاعدة شريك مقبل في أمن الطاقة والملاحة الدولية، وباب المندب أحد أهم المضائق العالمية، الذي يزيد أهمية عن مضيق هرمز ومضيق جبل طارق، فهو وحده يربط أربعة بحار ومحيطات، هي البحر الأحمر والمحيط الهادئ والخليج والبحر الأبيض المتوسط، ويطرح السعوديون أسئلة ينتظرون أن يتلقفها الإسرائيليون حول الخلل الاستراتيجي في موازين القوى التي تترتب على التسليم بخسارة اليمن، الذي لا تخفي قيادته اصطفافها في محور المقاومة، وما أظهرته من مقدرات يجب أن يحسب له الحساب في كل ما يطال أمن «إسرائيل»، فيما يرد الأميركيون أنهم خسروا مع الخروج من أفغانستان التواجد من مسافة صفر مع كل من إيران والصين وروسيا، وتركوا الفرص مفتوحة لاحتوائها من التحالف الإيراني الصيني الروسي، بالإضافة لفرص تواصل أطراف هذا التحالف عبر اليابسة للمرة الأولى عبر الجغرافيا الأفغانية، لكن كل هذا كان لا بد من تقبله لاستحالة البقاء.

كيف سيتصرف الأميركيون والإسرائيليون، وكيف سيتفاعل السعوديون، يقول الأنصار إنهم جاهزون لكل احتمال، وأن بديل النصر هو النصر فقط، والخيار بين نصر لليمن لا يشعل المنطقة ونصر يأتي بعد اشتعالها، لكنه لن يكون محصوراً باليمن عندها.

فيديوات متعلقة

تدرييات ‘قاسية’ إستعدادا للحرب.. الوحدة السعودية الخاصة تسيطر على باص إيراني

مقالات متعلقة

Afghanistan: Between Pipelines and ISIS-K, the Americans Are Still in Play

US trained and armed Afghan security forces are joining ISIS-K, which makes the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan look more like an American ‘repositioning’ to keep chaos humming

By Pepe Escobar

Afghanistan: between pipelines and ISIS-K, the Americans are still in play

Global Research,

November 11, 2021

The Cradle 10 November 2021

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***

Something quite extraordinary happened in early November in Kabul.

Taliban interim-Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov got together to discuss a range of political and economic issues. Most importantly, they resurrected the legendary soap opera which in the early 2000s I dubbed Pipelineistan: the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.

Call it yet another remarkable, historical twist in the post-jihad Afghan saga, going back as far as the mid-1990s when the Taliban first took power in Kabul.

In 1997, the Taliban even visited Houston to discuss the pipeline, then known as TAP, as reported in Part 1 of my e-book Forever Wars.

During the second Clinton administration, a consortium led by Unocal – now part of Chevron – was about to embark on what would have been an extremely costly proposition (nearly $8 billion) to undercut Russia in the intersection of Central and South Asia; as well as to smash the competition: the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline.

The Taliban were duly courted – in Houston and in Kabul. A key go-between was the ubiquitous Zalmay Khalilzad, aka ‘Bush’s Afghan,’ in one of his earlier incarnations as Unocal lobbyist-cum-Taliban interlocutor. But then, low oil prices and non-stop haggling over transit fees stalled the project. That was the situation in the run-up to 9/11.

In early 2002, shortly after the Taliban were expelled from power by the American “bombing to democracy” ethos, an agreement to build what was then still billed as TAP (without India), was signed by Ashgabat, Kabul and Islamabad.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline route

As years went by, it was clear that TAPI, which runs for roughly 800 km across Afghan lands and could yield as much as $400 million annually in transit revenue for Kabul’s coffers, would never be built while hostage to a guerrilla environment.

Still, five years ago, Kabul decided to revive TAPI and work started in 2018 – under massive security in Herat, Farah, Nimruz and Helmand provinces, already largely under Taliban control.

At the time, the Taliban said they would not attack TAPI and would even provide their own security. The gas pipeline was to be paired with fiber optic cables – as with the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan – and a railway line from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.

History never stops playing tricks in the graveyard of empires. Believe it or not, we’re now back to the same situation on the ground as in 1996.

The spanner in the works

If we pay attention to the plot twists in this never-ending Pipelineistan saga, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that TAPI will finally be built. It’s certainly a quadruple win for all involved – including India – and a massive step towards Eurasia’s integration in its Central-South Asian node.Afghanistan Takes Center Stage in the New Great Game

Enter the spanner in the works: ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K), the subsidiary of Daesh in Afghanistan.

Russian intel has known for over a year that the usual suspects have been providing help to ISIS-K, at least indirectly.

Yet now there’s a new element, confirmed by Taliban sources, that quite a few US-trained soldiers of the previous Afghan National Army are incorporating themselves into ISIS-K to fight against the Taliban.

ISIS-K, which sports a global jihadi mindset, has typically viewed the Taliban as a group of dirty nationalists. Earlier jihadi members used to be recruited from the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Yet now, apart from former soldiers, they are mostly young, disaffected urban Afghans, westernized by trashy pop culture.

It’s been hard for ISIS-K to establish the narrative that the Taliban are western collaborators – considering that the NATO galaxy continues to antagonize and/or dismiss the new rulers of Kabul.

So the new ISIS-K spin is monomaniac: basically, a strategy of chaos to discredit the Taliban, with an emphasis on the latter being unable to provide security for average Afghans. That is what underlies the recent horrific attacks on Shia mosques and government infrastructure, including hospitals.

In parallel, US President Joe Biden’s “over the horizon” spin, meant to define the alleged American strategy to fight ISIS-K, has not convinced anyone, apart from NATO vassals.

Since its creation in 2015, ISIS-K continues to be financed by the same dodgy sources that fueled chaos in Syria and Iraq. The moniker itself is an attempt to misdirect, a divisive ploy straight out of the CIA’s playbook.

Historic ‘Khorasan’ comes from successive Persian empires, a vast area ranging from Persia and the Caspian all the way to northwest Afghanistan – and has nothing whatsoever to do with Salafi-jihadism and the Wahhabi lunatics who make up the terrorist group’s ranks. Furthermore, these ISIS-K jihadis are based in south-eastern Afghanistan, away from Iran’s borders, so the ‘Khorasan’ label makes zero sense.

Russian, Chinese and Iranian intel operate on the basis that the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan, as in Syria and Iraq, was not a withdrawal but a repositioning. What’s left is the trademark, undiluted American strategy of chaos executed via both direct (troops stealing Syrian oil) and indirect (ISIS-K) actors.

The scenario is self-evident when one considers that Afghanistan was the precious missing link of China’s New Silk Roads. After the US exit, Afghanistan is not only primed to fully engage with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but also to become a key node of Eurasia integration as a future full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

To hedge against these positive developments, the routine practices of the Pentagon and its NATO subsidiary remain in wait in Afghanistan, ready to disrupt political, diplomatic, economic and security progress in the country. We may be now entering a new chapter in the US Hegemony playbook: Closet Forever Wars.

The closely connected SCO

Fifth columnists are tasked with carrying the new imperial message to the West. That’s the case of Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), “the Afghan intelligence service with close ties to the CIA,” as described by Foreign Policy magazine..

In an interview presented with a series of trademark imperial lies – “law and order is disintegrating,” “Afghanistan has no friends in the international community,” “the Taliban have no diplomatic partners” – Nabil, at least, does not make a complete fool of himself.

He confirms that ISIS-K keeps recruiting, and adds that former Afghan defense/security ops are joining ISIS-K because “they see the Islamic State as a better platform for themselves.”

He’s also correct that the Taliban leadership in Kabul is “afraid the extreme and young generation of their fighters” may join ISIS-K, “which has a regional agenda.”

Russia “playing a double game” is just silly. In presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov, Moscow maintains a first-class interlocutor in constant touch with the Taliban, and would never allow the “resistance,” as in CIA assets, to be based in Tajikistan with an Afghan destabilization agenda.

On Pakistan, it’s correct that Islamabad is “trying to convince the Taliban to include pro-Pakistan technocrats in their system.” But that’s not “in return for lobbying for international recognition.” It’s a matter of responding to the Taliban’s own management needs.

The SCO is very closely connected on what they collectively expect from the Taliban. That includes an inclusive government and no influx of refugees. Uzbekistan, for instance, as the main gateway to Central Asia for Afghanistan, has committed to participating in the reconstruction business.

For its part, Tajikistan announced that China will build a $10 million military base in the geologically spectacular Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. Countering western hysteria, Dushanbe made sure that the base will essentially host a special rapid reaction unit of the Regional Department for Organized Crime Control, subordinated to Tajikistan’s Minister of Internal Affairs.

That will include around 500 servicemen, several light armored vehicles, and drones. The base is part of a deal between Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry and China’s Ministry of State Security.

The base is a necessary compromise. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has a serious problem with the Taliban: he refuses to recognize them, and insists on better Tajik representation in a new government in Kabul.

Beijing, for its part, never deviates from its number one priority: preventing Uighurs from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) by all means from crossing Tajik borders to wreak havoc in Xinjiang.

So all the major SCO players are acting in tandem towards a stable Afghanistan. As for US Think Tankland, predictably, they don’t have much of a strategy, apart from praying for chaos.

*

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil, is a correspondent and editor-at-large at Asia Times and columnist for Consortium News and Strategic Culture in Moscow. Since the mid-1980s he’s lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore, Bangkok. He has extensively covered Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia to China, Iran, Iraq and the wider Middle East. Pepe is the author of Globalistan – How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War; Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad during the Surge. He was contributing editor to The Empire and The Crescent and Tutto in Vendita in Italy. His last two books are Empire of Chaos and 2030. Pepe is also associated with the Paris-based European Academy of Geopolitics. When not on the road he lives between Paris and Bangkok.

He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: American-trained Afghan forces are defecting to join ISIS-K, in what increasingly looks like a US plan to subvert the war-torn country’s recovery. (Source: The Cradle)The original source of this article is The CradleCopyright © Pepe EscobarThe Cradle, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya 24, Moscow

November 05, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya 24, Moscow

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya 24, Moscow, November 1, 2021

Question: Not so long ago, you said that Russia would not use ideology-based rules in its international diplomatic practices. What examples can you give to explain this to a layman in matters of politics?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s simple. Ideally, any society should obey generally accepted rules that have proved their efficacy and sensibility.  Speaking about international life, the United Nations Charter is a book of collectively and universally coordinated rules. Later, when new members joined the UN, they accepted these rules in their entirety, without any exemptions, because UN membership requires that the Charter be ratified without any reservations. These rules are universal and mandatory for all.

With the age of multipolarity now dawning – and its emergence is an objective fact – new centres of economic growth, financial power and political influence have come into being. The multitude of voices is louder at the UN. A consensus or a vote are required in a situation where new solutions or rules have to be developed based on the UN Charter. In both cases, this work involves conflicting opinions and the need to defend one’s position and prove it is correct. Truth springs from argument and this is what this collective work is all about.

Conscious of the fact that its arguments are increasingly vulnerable because its policy is aimed at slowing down the objective formation of a polycentric world fully in keeping with the UN Charter, the collective West thinks it more beneficial for itself to discuss current issues outside of universal organisations and make arrangements within its inner circle, where there is no one to argue with it. I am referring to the collective West itself and some “docile” countries it invites from time to time. The latter are needed as extras and create a semblance of a process that is wider than a purely Western affair. There are quite a few such examples.

Specifically, they are pushing the idea of a “summit for democracy.” This summit will take place in December at the invitation of US President Joe Biden. To be sure, we will not be invited. Neither are the Chinese on the list of invitees. The list itself is missing as well. Some of our partners are “whispering in our ear” that they have been told to get ready: supposedly an invitation is in the pipeline. Asked, what they would do there, they reply that theirs will be an online address, after which a final statement will be circulated. Can we see it? They promise to show it later. So we have here the “sovereign” and his “vassals.”

The Summit for Democracy seeks to divide people and countries into “democracies” and “non-democracies.”  Furthermore, my colleagues from a respected country have told me that they could infer from the invitation they had received that the democratic countries that were invited to attend were also divided into “fully” and “conditionally” democratic. I think the Americans want to have the biggest possible crowd to show that the Washington-led movement has so many followers. Watching who specifically gets invited and in what capacity will be quite amusing. I am certain that there will be attempts to reach out to some of our strategic partners and allies, but I do hope that they will remain faithful to the obligations they have in other frameworks instead of taking part in artificially concocted, one-off unofficial summits.

The same applies to the initiative Germany and France proposed two or three years ago. I am referring to the idea of an Alliance of Multilateralists. Asked, why should it be formed – after all, the United Nations, where all sovereign states are represented, stands at the pinnacle of multilateralism – they gave rather an interesting answer.   According to them, there are many conservatives at the United Nations, who hinder the genuine multilateral processes, while they are the “forerunners,”   they want to lead the van and show others with their example how to promote multilateralism. But this prompts the question: Where is the “ideal” of multilateralism? Allegedly, it is personified by the European Union, a paragon of “effective multilateralism.” Once again, they understand multilateralism as the need for the rest to accept the Western world’s leadership along with  the superiority of Western “values” and other things western. At the same time, multilateralism, as described on the US dollar  (E pluribus unum) and as embodied in the United Nations, seems  inconvenient, because there is too much diversity for those who want to impose their uniform values everywhere.

Question: Is this a constructive approach?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, not! Let me reiterate that this is how they understand the serious processes that are unfolding across the world against the backdrop of the emerging multilateralism and multipolarity. The latter, by the way, were conceived by God, for He created all men equal. And this is what the US Constitution says, but they tend to forget its formulas, when it comes to geopolitics.

There are other examples. The Dutch and the British are pushing the idea of a Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence. Why not do this at UNESCO? Why discuss this outside the organisation that was specifically created for dealing with new scientific achievements and making them available to mankind? There is no reply.

There are several competing partnerships, and the Media Freedom Coalition formed by Canada and Britain is one of them. The French, together with Reporters without Borders, promote the Information and Democracy Partnership. Once again, not everyone is invited to join it. Several years ago, Britain held the Global Conference for Media Freedom.

Question: Russia was not invited to attend, was it?

Sergey Lavrov: At first, there was no invitation, but then we reminded them that if this was a “global forum,” it was right to hear opposing points of views. But they did not invite us all the same.

Examples of this kind are not in short supply. Talking about these matters, there are mechanisms within UNESCO, which is fully legitimate and competent to deal with these issues. However, it gives a voice to others who may have a different view on media freedom compared to that of our Western colleagues. I think that this sets the international community on a path that is quite destructive, just like the attempts to “privatise” the secretariats of international organisations.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is a case in point, since people from Western and NATO countries are fully in control of its Technical Secretariat. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) states that everything must be done by consensus. However, the Technical Secretariat obediently tolerates gross violations of the Convention. The Western countries vote for their decisions, which is completely at odds with the CWC, and claim that executing these  is the Secretariat’s duty. By arrogating the right to pinpoint who is to blame for using chemical weapons, the Technical Secretariat takes over the functions of the UN Security Council.

The West has now instructed the Technical Secretariat to crack down on Syria, where many shady things and outright provocations took place over the past years. We exposed them and held news conferences in The Hague, where the OPCW has its headquarters, as well as in New York. We showed that the Technical Secretariat was being manipulated with the help of destructive and extremist NGOs like the White Helmets. I would like to note that we are starting to hear statements along these lines from heads of certain respected organisations. For example, some senior executives of the UNESCO Secretariat have come forward with the initiative to promote “values-based multilateralism.”

Question: And they are the ones who define these values, aren’t they?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. The UNESCO leadership also represents a Western country and NATO. There is no doubt about this.

We do know that at the end of the day, behind all this talk on building consensus and having regard for the opinion of all countries, the collective West will set the tone. This has already happened more than once. The way the West views “values-based multilateralism” will shape its negotiating position.

At the same time, there is an effort to promote a “human rights-based” approach. If we look at the challenges the world is currently facing, there is security, including food security, as well as ensuring livelihoods and healthcare. This is also related to human rights. The right to life is central to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is being trampled upon in the most blatant manner, just like the socioeconomic rights. The United States has yet to join the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and has only signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the West is seeking to emphasise. Lately they have been focusing on the ugliest ways to interpret these rights, including on transgender issues and other abnormal ideas that go against human nature itself.

Question: You mentioned the humanitarian aspect, which is very important. The border crisis in Belarus. Refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries trying to enter the EU are being deported peremptorily. It is a serious crisis, and the problem has grown in scale. It concerns the border with the EU, which claims to respect human rights and the humanitarian rules. Can Russia mediate the settlement of this conflict? Can we influence the situation at all? And would there be any point?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t think that mediation is needed here. I do not see any violations of international law or obligations by Belarus. I have access to information about these developments, just as all the other stakeholders. According to this information, those who do not want to live in Belarus are trying to enter the EU from the territory of Belarus. Demanding that President Alexander Lukashenko and the Belarusian law enforcement agencies stop this would be contrary to international law, especially humanitarian law. The hysterical claims made in some EU countries that Belarus, supported by Russia, is deliberately encouraging these flows of refugees are unseemly for serious politicians. This means that they are aware of their helplessness, including in terms of international law, which is why they are growing hysterical.

Here is a simple example. You have said that the EU does not want refugees to enter its territory. I believe that it is not the EU but individual countries that do not want this. The situation is different across the EU in terms of the positions of individual countries and regions. There is no unity on this matter. Poland and Lithuania are pushing the refugees eager to enter their territory back to Belarus. I wonder how this is different from the recent developments in Italy. Former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to allow refugees to disembark in Italy. He argued that there were several other EU countries along their route where they could request asylum. Salvini is likely to face trial for endangering the lives of those refugees, who had fled from the dire, catastrophic conditions in their home countries. What is the difference between the behaviour of the Baltic states and Poland and the decision for which the former minister is about to  stand trial?

There are many other examples of double standards here, but just take a look at the identity of those refugees fleeing to Europe. They are Syrians, Iraqis and, recently, Afghans. People from the Sahel-Sahara region in Africa are trying to enter Europe via Libya.  As we list the countries from which illegal migrants are exporting instability, we should not forget the reason behind the collapse of their home countries. This collapse has been brought about by Western adventurism. A  case in point is the US adventure in Iraq, where tens of thousands of NATO troops and  contingents of other countries eager to please Washington were later stationed in a cover-up ploy . Look at the aggression against Libya, and the failure of the 20-year-long war trumpeted as a mission to restore peace in Afghanistan. They attempted to do the same in Syria. As a result, several million people have been uprooted and are now trying to enter Europe from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. This is our Western partners’ style. They regard any situation from a historical and chronological angle that suits them best. They launched devastating bombing attacks on Libya and Iraq. But after both countries were reduced to ruins, they urged everyone to assume a shared responsibility for the fate of refugees. We asked, why this should be a “shared responsibility?”After all, it was them who created the problem in the first place. They replied: “Let bygones be bygones.” There is no point looking back, they have awakened to the problem, and now it rests with us. Ukraine is another remarkable example of the logic of forgetting historical embarrassments.

QuestionI would be remiss not to ask you about Ukraine. The situation there is escalating. Not so long ago, an officer, a Russian citizen,from the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) on Ceasefire and Stabilisation in Southeastern Ukraine was detained (in fact, kidnapped) on the demarcation line. The Ukrainian military have become increasingly active in the grey zone. With that in mind, how much longer can the Normandy format dialogue continue? Is a ministerial meeting being planned? How productive will this dialogue be?

Sergey Lavrov: I would like to revisit the diplomatic tactics of cutting off inconvenient historical eras and periods. How did it all begin? In our exchanges with our German or French colleagues who co-founded the Normandy format and the February 2015 Minsk agreements, they unfailingly maintain a “constructive ambiguity” with regard to who must comply with the Minsk agreements. We keep telling them: What ambiguity is there? Here, it is clearly written: Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk must enter into consultations and agree on a special status, an amnesty and elections under the auspices of the OSCE. This is clearly stated there. They say they know who plays the decisive role there. We reply that we do not know who else plays the decisive role there except the parties whom the UN Security Council has obliged to act upon what they signed. To their claims that we “annexed” Crimea, we say that, first, we did not annex Crimea, but rather responded to the request of the Crimean people, who had come under a direct threat of destruction. I remember very well the Right Sector leaders saying that Russians should be expelled from Crimea, because they would never speak, think, or write in Ukrainian. Everyone back then was telling me that it was a figure of speech. It was not. Recently, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky confirmed this when he said: If you think you are Russian, go to Russia. This is exactly the ideology proclaimed by the Right Sector immediately after the EU-guaranteed settlement document had been trampled upon in the morning by the same people who had signed it on behalf of the opposition with President Viktor Yanukovych. When you remind them of Russophobia, which instantly manifested itself among the putschists who seized power as a result of the coup, they say no, it is a thing of the past. They propose starting the discussion with the fact that the sanctions were imposed on us. This is an unsavoury approach.

I am disappointed to see such a decline in the Western negotiating and diplomatic culture. Take any hot item on the international agenda and you will see that the West is either helpless or is cheating. Take, for example, the alleged poisoning of blogger Alexey Navalny. This is a separate matter.

Returning to Ukraine and the Normandy format, indeed, the situation has escalated. There are attempts to create a provocative situation, to provoke the militia into responding and to drag Russia into military actions.

The Bayraktar drone incident is nothing short of a mystery. The Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that this weapon was indeed used, while the Defence Minister claimed that nothing of the kind had happened. I think they are now pondering options to see which one will work better for them: either to show how tough they are having started bombing in direct and gross violation of the Minsk agreements, or to say that they are complying with the Minsk agreements and to propose to get together in the Normandy format. We do not need a meeting for the sake of holding a meeting. They are sending mixed messages through characters like Alexey Arestovich (he is some kind of a semi-official adviser), or head of the presidential executive office Andrey Yermak, or Denis Shmygal, or President Zelensky himself. But they follow the same logic: the Minsk agreements should not and must not be fulfilled, because this will destroy Ukraine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Minsk agreements were created as a result of 17-hour-long talks precisely in order to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Initially, having proclaimed their independence, the new republics were even unhappy with us for encouraging them to find common ground with Kiev. Whatever the new authorities may be, Ukraine is our neighbour and a fraternal nation. After signing the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements in Minsk, the Russian Federation convinced representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk to sign this document as well.

Accusing us of destroying Ukraine’s territorial integrity is unseemly and dishonest. It is being destroyed by those who are trying to make it a super-unitary state while reducing the languages ​​of ethnic minorities, primarily Russian, to the status of token tools of communication, and making education in Russian and other languages nonexistent​. This is a neo-Nazi approach to society building.

As you may be aware, in April 2014, immediately after the Crimea referendum, former US Secretary of State John Kerry, former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Acting Foreign Minister of the new regime in Ukraine Andrey Deshchitsa and I met in Vienna. We agreed on one page of a “dense” text to the effect that the United States, the EU and Russia welcomed the Kiev authorities’ plan to hold a nationwide dialogue on federalisation with the participation of all regions of Ukraine. It was approved. Truth be told, this document did not go anywhere, but it remains open information. It was made available to the media. That is, back then, neither the United States nor the EU wanted to make a “monster” out of Ukraine. They wanted it to be a truly democratic state with all regions and, most importantly, all ethnic minorities feeling involved in common work. Up until now, the Ukrainian Constitution has the linguistic and educational rights of ethnic minorities, including the separately stated rights of Russian speakers, enshrined in it. Just look at the outrageous things they are doing with the laws on education, languages ​​and the state language. There is a law recently submitted by the government titled On State Policy during the Transition Period. It does more than just cross out the Minsk agreements. It explicitly makes it illegal for Ukrainian political, diplomatic and other officials to fulfil them. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe recently came up with a positive opinion about this law, which did not surprise us. This decision does not say a word about the fact that this law undermines Ukraine’s commitments under the Minsk agreements and, accordingly, Kiev’s obligations to comply with the UN Security Council resolution.

Question: If I understood you correctly, a ministerial meeting cannot even be prepared in this atmosphere.

Sergey Lavrov: Our German and French colleagues have been saying all the time: let’s preserve “constructive ambivalence” as regards who must observe the Minsk agreements. An EU-Ukraine summit took place literally two days after the telephone conversation of the President of Russia, the Chancellor of Germany and the President of France, when Vladimir Putin said such law-making was unacceptable, including the destructive draft law on a transitional period. Following the summit, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky signed a statement a good quarter of which is devoted to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine. The top-ranking EU officials and the Ukrainian President officially stated that Russia bears special responsibility for this crisis because it is a party to the conflict. We immediately asked Berlin and Paris: so which is it: constructive ambivalence or this position? We were told that we shouldn’t be surprised because from the very beginning of the crisis in 2014 they proceeded from the premise that we ought to do all this. If that is the case, what was the point of signing the Minsk agreements?

Now they are trying to draw us in, citing President Vladimir Putin, who promised to organise the Normandy format at least at the ministerial level. We are not avoiding meetings. But promising to instruct Russian officials to work on this process, President Putin said that first we must fulfil on what we agreed in Paris in December 2019. The Kiev authorities were supposed to do everything the sides agreed upon then. They did not move a finger to implement the Steinmeier formula, determine a special status for Donbass, fix it permanently in the Ukrainian legislation and settle security issues.

A draft of this document was prepared when the parties gathered for this summit in Paris in December 2019. Its first item was an appeal by the Normandy format leaders for the disengagement of troops and withdrawal of heavy artillery along the entire contact line. President Zelensky said he could not agree to do this along the entire contact line and suggested doing it in three points only. Even the German and French participants were a bit perplexed because the aides of the presidents and the Chancellor coordinated the text ahead of the summit. Eventually, they shook their heads and agreed to disengagement in three points. Ukraine has not carried out this provision so far. Its conduct was indicative: it did not want to adopt a radical measure that would considerably reduce the risks of armed clashes and threats to civilians.

With great difficulty, the parties agreed on special measures in the summer of 2020. They signed a Contact Group document stating that any fire must not immediately trigger reciprocal fire. Otherwise, there will be an escalation. After each shelling, a commander of a unit that was attacked was supposed to report to the supreme commander. Only after his approval, the commander of the unit could open reciprocal fire. The republics included this provision in their orders but Ukraine flatly refused to fulfil it. Then, several months ago, it was persuaded to accept it and went along with this, implementing what was agreed upon a year ago. However, recently the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that none of this was required: if you hear a shot, even into the air, you can go ahead and bomb the civilian population.

Question: Let’s move on to Central Asia, if you don’t mind. The Taliban coming to power is a daunting challenge to Russia and the post-Soviet Central Asian countries, which are our former fraternal republics. Are we ready to take up this challenge and how can we help our neighbours in Central Asia?

Sergey Lavrov: We saw it coming one way or another all these years while the Americans were trying to “stimulate” agreements between the Afghans. This was done, I would say, not too skilfully. I’m not hiding my assessment. The agreement that was concluded with the Taliban in Doha without the involvement of then President Ashraf Ghani was the last “diplomatic victory” as it was portrayed by the previous US administration. On the one hand, it gave rise to a hope that the Taliban would now be amenable to talks. On the other hand, there were many skeptical assessments, because the Taliban agreed to create some kind of common government bodies in exchange for a complete withdrawal of all foreign troops by May 1, 2021. Former President Ghani was outright unhappy with this since he realised that if this agreement was fulfilled, he would have to share power. Under all scenarios, he was unlikely to remain the number one person in the new Afghan government. So, he did his best to slow down the process. As a result, the Americans stayed longer. According to a number of US political analysts, this happened because Washington failed to withdraw its troops by the agreed deadline. The Taliban then decided they were free from any commitment to form a government of national accord.

However, this is a thing of the past, and we believe that the United States and those who stayed there for 20 years promising to make a model country out of Afghanistan must now get directly involved, primarily financially, to avert a humanitarian disaster. In this sense, we want to preserve historical continuity with its causal relationship.

An event that we held recently in Moscow with the participation of Afghanistan’s neighbours and other leading countries of the region and the SCO and CSTO-sponsored events that took place not so long ago in Dushanbe were aimed at urging the Taliban to deliver on their promises and the obligations that they made and assumed when they came to power. First of all, this is to prevent the destabilisation of neighbouring countries and the spread of the terrorist and drug threat from Afghanistan and the need to suppress these threats in Afghanistan itself, to ensure the inclusive nature of government in terms of ethnopolitical diversity and to be sure to guarantee, as they said, Islam-based human rights. This can be interpreted fairly broadly, but, nevertheless, it provides at least some benchmarks in order to get the Taliban to make good on its promises.

Humanitarian aid must be provided now. I see the Western countries making their first contributions. The issue is about distributing this aid. Many are opposed to making it available directly to the government and prefer to act through international organisations. We see the point and are helping to reach an agreement with the current authorities in Kabul to allow international organisations, primarily humanitarian organisations, to carry out the relevant activities. Of course, we will do our fair share. We are supplying medicines and food there. The Central Asian countries are doing the same. Their stability is important to us, because we have no borders with our Central Asian allies, and we have visa-free travel arrangements with almost all of them. In this regard, President Putin told President Biden in Geneva in June that we are strongly opposed to the attempts to negotiate with the Central Asian countries on the deployment of the US military infrastructure on their territory in order to deliver over-the-horizon strikes on targets in Afghanistan, if necessary. They came up with similar proposals to Pakistan as well, but Pakistan said no. Uzbekistan has publicly stated that its Constitution does not provide for deployment of military bases on its territory. Kyrgyzstan has also publicly, through the mouth of the President, announced that they do not want this.

Knowing the pushy nature of the Americans, I do not rule out the possibility of them continuing to come up with the same proposal from different angles. I heard they are allegedly trying to persuade India to provide the Pentagon with certain capabilities on Indian territory.

Refugees are issue number two, which is now being seriously considered. Many of them simply came to Central Asia on their own. These countries have different policies towards them and try in every possible way to protect themselves against these incoming flows. In Uzbekistan, special premises for the refugees have been allocated right outside the airport, from where they are flown to other countries and they are not allowed to enter other parts of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Our Tajik neighbours are doing the same. They are also being pressured to accept refugees. They want to set up holding centres under strong guarantee that after some time the refugees will be relocated. The West rushed to beg the neighbouring countries to accept tens of thousands of refugees, each claiming that it was a temporary solution until the West gives them documents for immigration to Western countries.

Question: But it turned out it was for the long haul …

Sergey Lavrov: Thankfully, no one has agreed to that, at least not to the numbers the West was talking about. Of course, some refugees relocated there, and proper arrangements must be made with regard to them. The West said they needed “two to three months” to issue documents for these people and it was necessary to save them, since they collaborated with the coalition forces. But if you collaborated with these Afghans on the ground for a long time and employed them as translators and informants, you surely ran background checks on them. If, after they had worked for you for so long you were still unable to decide whether you could trust them or not, why are you then “dumping” them onto the Central Asian countries, which are our allies? This issue remains open.

As you may be aware, we have come up with a proposal for the UN to convene a conference to address the Afghan people’s pressing humanitarian needs. I think the message was taken, so we expect a more specific response will come.

Wall Street Journal: Former Afghan Officials Join ISIS After Being Abandoned by the US

2 Nov, 2021

Source: The Wall Street Journa

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Al Mayadeen

Wall Street Journal details how some former members of Afghan intelligence services and special military units have joined the ranks of ISIS.

The journal details that the number of members remains minimal; however, they are rising.

The publication highlights that the danger in the joining members is that their expertise encompasses enhanced capabilities of intelligence and war tactics, enabling ISIS to compete with the Taliban.

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Wall Street Journal: Hundreds of thousands of intelligence officers and soldiers in Afghanistan are unemployed. 

ISIS reportedly provides large sums of money for their new recruits – an enticing offer to many hundred thousands of unemployed former Afghans after US withdrawal.

A senior Western official expressed, regarding what is happening in Afghanistan that “It’s exactly how it started in Iraq — with disenchanted Saddam Hussein generals.” 

The Wall Street Journal formerly quoted a senior official in the Pentagon, telling US lawmakers that the ISIS-K in Afghanistan may be able to launch attacks on the West and its allies within six months and that al-Qaeda can do the same within two years.

According to United Nations estimates, there are about 2,000 ISIS fighters operating in Afghanistan and an estimated 70,000 Taliban fighters.

Taliban spokesman on rising ISIS threat, & relations with US, China & Iran

October 28, 2021

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Description:

In a recent extended interview with RT Arabic, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem commented on the adequacy of the Taliban’s internal security measures following concerns of a rising ISIS threat; relations with neighboring states and the international community (including the US, China and Iran); the makeup of the new Afghani government; and the possibility of international recognition for the Taliban-led government in Kabul following a major conference in Moscow.

The third meeting of the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan took place in the Russian capital on October the 20th, 2021. It brought together representatives from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as well as a high-level Taliban delegation.

The following is a transcript of major translated segments from that interview.

Source: RT Arabic (YouTube)

Date: October 21, 2021

(Note: Please help us keep producing independent translations by contributing a small monthly amount here )

Transcript:

Host:

Let’s ask about the (current) reality (as you’re suggesting): with the withdrawal of foreign forces (from Afghanistan), (and) Taliban’s control and even the establishment of a government in Kabul, Dr Mohammad, there are warnings (being issued) – Russian information says there are 2,000 members of ISIS deployed in Afghanistan, and we’ve seen in the past days (suicide) bombings targeting mosques in several areas and unfortunately most of (these mosques) seem to have a specific sectarian identity. Perhaps the concerns of neighbouring states and world state stem from here; how will the Taliban, and you (as officials) in the government, deal with this threat that you do not deny is present in Afghanistan today?

Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office:

I wish I would get a chance to answer (your questions) –

Host:

– Yes please –

Naeem:

– You ask questions, and there must be a (chance to answer clearly) so as not to confuse the viewers and to (let them) understand what we’re saying and what’s being asked.

Well, if there’s a certain problem in a certain country taking place, does this mean that there are many problems? If it is so, (why don’t we look at what) happened a few days ago in a certain Arab country (Lebanon), where someone killed 6 or 7 (people); so, (can we say) that this country has turned into total chaos, or that it (is suffering from) many problems? Problems can happen anywhere, in any country, (even) in advanced states that might – (despite) having great (security) capacity, capabilities, expertise, and security experts – they (might) have everything (that allows them to secure a stable security situation), yet still (security issues) take place. If we want to judge (the Taliban’s security capabilities) based on reality, we must at least see what Afghanistan was like six months ago, how the situation was in Afghanistan a year ago, and how it has become today –

Host:

– Yes –

Naeem:

– This is (how) we must judge, based on reality, that’s what reason requires, and this is (how we make a) judgement based on logic; we (must) observe (the change that has been occurring) from six months till now, how the situation in Afghanistan was three months ago and how it has become now. This is well known to all!

Host:

Would you allow me, Dr Mohammad, to ask: perhaps we do not deny (the fact) of the ISIS presence in Afghanistan, (in light of this,) are you open to – and I wish to mention again, it’s a concern for neighbouring states and world state, are you open to cooperating with neighbouring states and other states to fight ISIS? Perhaps in the form of exchanging (intelligence) information? For example, the Russian side is talking about 2,000 (ISIS) fighters (present in Afghanistan), does this information intersect with the information you have?

Naeem:

Here I must go back to a point you referred (to) in the previous question, you said there is a problem (in Afghanistan). About two weeks ago, in a certain European country, a voice was raised in support of what you’re worrying about now (i.e. the ISIS threat emerging from Afghanistan). Why are all of (these states) silent now? We haven’t even heard a voice denouncing the (stance) of that advanced state (which was) supporting those (ISIS) members! Why? Who would answer this question? If we want to be realistic, we should look at the reality…Why would having a problem in a certain part of the country, (suicide) bombings or other problems, be an issue (of international concern), while the support of a certain state for these (suicide) bombings and those (ISIS members isn’t denounced) and nobody says a word (against it)? Why is that?

Host:

So, Dr Mohammad, what you’re saying is that the (threat posted to neighbouring states by the) presence of ISIS (in Afghanistan) is being exaggerated. Have you explained this issue during your meeting with the states participating in the Moscow Format (meeting)?

Naeem:

Is the (truth) hidden from anyone? (The truth) that media is exaggerating a problem, (because) it’s a directed media that receives orders (and publicises information accordingly), they tell them this (should be portrayed as) a serious issue, so they exaggerate (the situation). On the other side, a country supports those (ISIS terrorists) but nobody denounces it, neither you, nor any other media outlet (denounces it) or at least explores this issue. Why? You should at least hold a session to discuss such matters! –

Host:

– Can we ask in this regard –

Naeem:

–  That’s (regarding) the (first) point. As for the issue of (international) cooperation (to fight ISIS), we are capable of controlling the situation (ourselves) –

Host:

– Yes –

Naeem:

– and (capable) of controlling the problems in the country and eliminating those problems (ourselves). We don’t need the help of others in the security and military fields; we have proven this and the whole world has seen (our capabilities). We were fighting in Afghanistan on three fronts; one against the occupation (forces), another against the puppet administration created by the occupation, and the (third) against those (ISIS members). You know (very) well that those (ISIS) members had specifically chosen a certain geography (to deploy in, which is) in Nangarhar and Kunar in the eastern part of the country, and in Jawzjan and Faryab in the northern part of the country. But today, is it reasonable for anyone to come and tell us that this geography, no matter how small it is, is under the control of those (ISIS members which threaten our security)? That’s (not acceptable) at all! We’re capable of (controlling the situation ourselves) –

Host:

–  So, you’re giving assurances now (to neighbouring countries and the international community) –

Naeem:

– if we were able to defeat the occupation (forces) –

Host:

– Yes –

Naeem:

– and get the occupation (forces) out of our country, and defeat that (puppet) administration that enjoyed great capacities, capabilities, and expertise, why wouldn’t we be able to defeat these groups of extremists?

……….

Host:

Let’s ask in this regard; in Afghanistan, we’re speaking about a transitional stage, (about) a caretaker government – a transitional government, after the occupation of this country that lasted for 20 years. In the coming period – and this also raises concerns and demands for states all over the world, do you intend to hold elections or form a broader government that includes more segments (of Afghan society)? Perhaps all segments of Afghan society?

Naeem:

In terms of inclusiveness, the (current system) is a comprehensive system in which the various segments of people are represented, and this is clear to all, as there are (members representing) the Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Baloch and other ethnicities. Therefore, there is no problem in terms of (comprehensive representation of different ethnicities). However, if someone has a problem (with the current government’s composition because) they want to (include) some corrupt names or figures, whose (performance) was experienced over the past 20 years, and they wish to bring them (back) and include them in this system in order to corrupt it as they corrupted the previous one, this is out of the question. We do not allow anyone to interfere in our internal affairs, as we do not wish to interfere in the affairs of other (states), and fortunately, there were voices in the Moscow (Format) meeting today supporting this idea, that internal affairs are a matter that concerns each (specific) country and (its) people (alone) –

Host:

– So, you’ve seen this at the Moscow meeting by the participating states; the issue of respect for Afghan sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan?

Naeem:

Of course, there was support for this issue (i.e., respect for Afghan sovereignty), and it’s an indispensable matter…every state suffers from internal issues, however, it’s out of the question (for any state) to dictate to other (states) that their system should be according to its (own) opinion. That’s unrealistic and unacceptable; no state accepts the interference of any other state in its (internal) affairs, so why would any state (allow itself) to interfere in another state’s (internal) affairs?

Host:

Yes. How do you describe security coordination with neighbouring states? Are the lines of communication with the US still open?

Naeem:

We have relations with neighbouring and regional states, and the international community in general, and they have been good (relations) for a long time, not only today. As for the Americans, there were meetings (held) for two days in past weeks, (we) exchanged ideas and views and (we had) discussed (certain) topics, and there is ongoing communication (between us and the Americans). In the end, we want to resolve issues through dialogue and understanding. Fortunately, everyone is convinced with this idea (i.e., resolving issues through dialogue), even those who used the language of war have understood and realised (what) reality (requires) – they realised that problems cannot be solved through guns, tanks, and (military) aircrafts, but by sitting at the (negotiation) table and discussing matters and reaching the (realisation) that what is reached by understanding is the best (solution), and this is a positive step, and we support this perception.

Host:

Is there a possibility to have communication (on) security (matters), or even security coordination with the US side?

Naeem:

I have previously said, we do not need assistance in the military or security fields, we can eliminate problems ourselves –

Host:

– (I’m speaking in terms) of coordination Dr Mohammad, all states coordinate with each other, and as it’s known, Moscow coordinates with Washington in the exchange of information (for example, to inform each other) about a certain issue (or to) call attention (to the need for addressing a certain matter), such issues are in the context of normal relations between states, (so,) why doesn’t Kabul coordinate with Washington in the context of information exchange (between the two states)?

Naeem:

If a certain side or state coordinates with another state regarding security matters or information, this is a matter that depends on each state’s (preferred approach), however, as for us – I represent the side I speak for – we do not need (any external assistance). (Let’s speak about) our goal, we want to know what’s (our) goal (and work accordingly to achieve it), the goal is to not (allow) anyone to use Afghan territory against the security of any (other) state, and we pledged to (work towards) that and we’re committed to that pledge, as we are capable of eliminating problems if there were any, and if (we’re speaking about) some existing issues, (those) are minor problems that we can put an end to. Therefore, we do not feel the need (to coordinate with anyone) as we’re capable of resolving our internal issues ourselves.

Host:

How do you describe (Afghanistan’s) relation with Iran, Dr Mohammad, especially that it views the targeting of Shia minorities – (i.e.,) Shia mosques in Afghanistan – with suspicion, how do you describe (your) relations with Tehran?

Naeem:

Iran is a neighbouring state just like other neighbouring states, and we have relations (with Iran that have been existing) for years, (and they’re) good relations, and we wish for these relations to develop in light of – we have two basic fundamentals; the fundamental provisions of the Islamic Shariah, and the higher interests of our people and country. So our relations with all neighbouring and regional states and states worldwide are moving forward in light of these two basic fundamentals. Therefore, we don’t have any problem (with any state in terms of relations), and we have normal relations (with states worldwide) which are developing forward with time.

Host:

So, what about (Afghanistan’s relations with) Tajikistan?

Naeem:

We have no problems with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, or –

Host:

– lately, there were tensions that led to a military build-up across the (common) borders (between Afghanistan and Tajikistan).

Naeem:

No (it’s not like that), (but) of course (it’s seen that way because) unfortunately, some media outlets spread negative thoughts in societies instead of performing their mission, which is to spread positive thoughts in societies and among individuals.

……..

Host:

Do you see China, Dr Mohammad, as the country that will play an economic role – the most important economic role in the coming period in Afghanistan?

Naeem:

China is also a neighbouring country of ours, and everyone knows well that China is a major state in the world that has influence on international issues, and is a member of the UN Security Council (as well). So, we deal with China as a neighbouring state, and as it’s known, China is a major economic state, and if it has investment (plans in Afghanistan), we’d support (China’s) contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, (and we also wish) to have improved economic relations (with China) in the future.

Host:

Briefly, Dr Mohammad, I’ll go back to the Moscow Format (meeting) – the Moscow platform, in your opinion and according to your readings, information, and position of responsibility, will this platform be the starting point of international recognition for the Afghan government?

Naeem:

You know there were meetings (held) previously in Doha as well, meetings with the US and European states, (in which) we met with about 15 states, (and those) meetings were positive to some extent. We also travelled to Turkey, Uzbekistan, and other countries (to hold international meetings). Therefore, the Moscow (Format) meeting was undoubtedly a positive step, a good one (too), and we consider it a step towards solving the problems (of Afghanistan) for the future – God willing –

Host:

Thank you very much, spokesman of the Taliban political office, Dr Mohammad Naeem.


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