The Afghan Government Is Unified in Name Alone

Forecast

  • The Afghan national unity government between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah will fail to implement electoral reforms, thereby delaying parliamentary elections scheduled for October.
  • Disagreements over Pakistan’s plans to build a fence along the Durand Line will weaken ties between Islamabad and Kabul in the near term.
  • NATO will pledge to invest $5 billion annually through 2020 to support the Afghan National Army.

Analysis

For much of Afghanistan’s history, its combination of competing ethnic groups, illogical boundaries and impotent central government have weakened its status as both a nation and a state. Today, these problems persist, and Afghanistan finds itself burdened with four interrelated challenges: a political system unable to advance reform, a military unable to monopolize the use of force, an anemic economy overreliant on foreign aid, and a perennially strained relationship with neighboring Pakistan.
Without a concerted effort to address these issues, Afghanistan will be unable to quash the Taliban insurgency and achieve political and economic stability. Consequently, the current government, led by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, will not fulfill one of the key requirements of its assumption of power — implementing the electoral reforms necessary to hold parliamentary and district council elections.
Of course, the Afghan government will still have help from abroad: NATO will renew its annual commitment to support the Afghan National Army through 2020. But ultimately, Afghanistan’s challenges have roots in its geopolitical fault lines, and the security alliance can, at best, help only to manage the country’s problems instead of solving them.

Afghan Ethnic Politics

Afghanistan is home to several ethnic groups that have historically been hostile toward one another, and their people are not always bounded by borders. For instance, Afghanistan’s largest and most dominant ethnic group, the Pashtun, constitutes 42 percent of its population, with many of them living in neighboring areas of Pakistan. The 2,200-kilometer (1,370-mile) Durand Line, drawn in 1893 to demarcate the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, was meant to divide the fiercely autonomous Pashtun and define the western edge of the British Empire.

Predictably, the Durand Line has been contentious. After the creation of Pakistan, Afghanistan rejected the line, claiming that it should be pushed southeast to absorb Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, both dominated by the Pashtun. In the 1970s, Afghan President Mohammad Daud Khan challenged the legitimacy of the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan boundary by resurrecting the idea of uniting the Pashtun nation into a single territory, preferably in Afghanistan. More recently, Pakistan has pushed to build a fence along the Durand Line to cut off militant attackers crossing from Afghanistan. The plan met resistance from Afghans who think a fence would legitimize a border they still contest. Pakistan’s new plan to build checkpoints will likely further strain ties between the countries in the near future, compounding the difficulties of negotiating an end to the 14-year war in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s rulers have long practiced a policy of internal colonialism, whereby the majority-Pashtun rulers suppress members of other minority ethnic groups to sustain power. Even the Taliban, though they are waging an ideological war, are also in some sense promoting a parallel Pashtun nationalist movement, as almost all of their fighters hail from that ethnic group. This has exacerbated mistrust between the Pashtun and the country’s other major ethnic groups. These include the Tajiks, who make up a quarter of the Afghan population and whose ethnic grouping straddles the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border; the Hazaras, who make up 10 percent of the population; and the Uzbeks, who also constitute about 10 percent of the population and whose ancestry can be traced to neighboring Uzbekistan. In one instance of pent-up ethnic tensions coming to a head, tens of thousands of Hazaras took to the the streets in Kabul on May 16 after the government altered the proposed route of a major electricity transmission corridor away from Bamiyan province, a Hazara stronghold.

The State, Violence and Politics

In Afghanistan, the country’s tenuous boundaries and diverse, divided population have made the central government weak. Outside powers drew all the nation’s borders, which do not correspond with geographic or ethnic boundaries. Moreover, the various tribes and ethnic groups living in its mountainous terrain have a deeply ingrained sense of autonomy. As a result, the Afghan government struggles to project its authority and faces challenges — most prominently from the Taliban — in its attempts to enforce laws and ward off internal and external threats.

Afghanistan’s disunity is embodied in the current political arrangement between Ghani, a Pashtun, and Abdullah, an ethnic Tajik. The two competed in the April 2014 election and a June 2014 runoff, but widespread allegations of fraud prompted the Afghan Independent Election Commission to conduct an audit of the 8 million votes cast. When the commission declared Ghani the winner in September 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry helped broker a national unity government with an agreement giving Abdullah a role in governance. By presidential decree, Ghani created the post of chief executive for Abdullah, granting him shared powers in selecting Cabinet members and chairing ministerial meetings.

Now, Abdullah is set to step into an even more prominent position. Under the unity agreement, the country will convene a grand assembly of elders in September to propose a constitutional amendment creating the post of prime minister, formalizing Abdullah’s role and expanding his power. Of course, ethnic politics are at play: The Tajik, recognizing that the more numerous Pashtun will always dominate presidential elections, want to create a check on the president’s powers by creating the post of prime minister, to be elected by parliament. As for Ghani, he is willing to accept the amendment — though it will inevitably curb his power — so long as it keeps his administration alive.

A number of political developments are making Ghani feel vulnerable. During a visit to Afghanistan on April 9, Kerry announced that the unity government’s tenure should extend to five years instead of two, as originally envisioned. Apparently, Washington’s confidence in the electoral reform process is waning, and those elections will likely be delayed. Adding to Ghani’s woes, the lower house of parliament during the week of June 13 unanimously rejected his proposal to hold the parliamentary and district council elections scheduled for Oct. 15.

Reforms required to hold those elections — including redrawing the boundaries of the country’s 407 districts — are necessary to avoid repeating the pitfalls of the 2014 elections. But there has been considerable resistance to reforms in parliament because redistricting would likely divide ethnic groups. Meanwhile, political rivals are pointing to the lack of reforms and questioning the legitimacy of the unity government. The term of the Afghan lower parliament had expired in June 2015, but the lack of electoral reforms prompted Ghani to extend its tenure by presidential decree.

The Perils of Foreign Dependence

According to a report released by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, the United States since 2001 has invested $113 billion in development funding in Afghanistan. Although the country has made gains in expanding education and health care, endemic corruption sustained through entrenched patronage networks has meant that much of the aid has been squandered. Yet an even deeper problem exists. A consistent pipeline of foreign aid means that Kabul does not have a strong incentive to expand its tax base, which in a democracy helps form the social contract between the rulers and the ruled. Taxpayers can demand that the government meet their needs and vote their leaders out of office if the government is unresponsive. Since only 37 percent of Afghan government expenditures is covered by tax revenue, the country will continue to rely on foreign aid to bridge the gap for years to come.

Moreover, security is a prerequisite to development. If Afghanistan is to avoid slipping into the same violently fractious political landscape that gave rise to the Taliban, it will need money to bolster the Afghan National Army, which continues to struggle with defections and poor leadership. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product growth will slow this year to 1.9 percent. Adding to the country’s insecurity is the illicit opium trade. Despite a concerted effort to eradicate opium growing, in 2014 the Afghan black market sold $2.7 billion worth of the crop, making it the country’s largest export.

The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan pushed 180,000 Afghans to migrate to Europe in 2015 — only Syria had more migrants flee to Europe. The demographic pressure on Europe from the Afghan migration adds another incentive for NATO to continue its mission to train and advise the Afghan National Army. To fulfill that aim, NATO, which announced June 15 that it will maintain its six bases in the country through at least next year, is likely to renew a $5 billion annual investment in Afghanistan through 2020 during its Warsaw Summit in July.

The problems facing Afghanistan are deep and varied: a divided ethnic landscape, weak political institutions and a faltering economy requiring a constant stream of foreign aid. So long as the Afghan polity does not work to address these challenges in a sustained and meaningful way, the plight of Afghanistan will long overshadow its promise.

Advertisements

David Cameron resigns after UK shocks the world by voting for Brexit

David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

It followed a turbulent night with Remain campaigners quietly confident until the early hours when results from Newcastle and Sunderland showed better than expected returns for the Brexit camp.

A surprise victory for a Brexit in Swansea, which was expected to vote to Remain, did little to dampen concerns despite Scotland overwhelmingly backing staying in the Union.

Other votes in Wales began to show a trend towards a surprise Leave vote, particularly in deprived communities.

Cameron’s voice breaks during emotional resignation speech Play! 04:42

Big wins for David Cameron’s campaign in London and Oxford did little to allay fears that early predictions had been wrong, as the pound began to tank – down by 6% by around 1pm.

Leave passed the finishing post just after 6am, as it became clear that nothing could swing the vote back in favour of the Remain campaign.

With the Leave campaign securing 52 per cent of the vote, Mr Cameron addressed the nation in an emotional speech outside 10 Downing Street to announce that he would be stepping down.

Statements are expected to be made by Sinn Fein and the SNP later today calling for a breakaway from the Union. London backed Remain but the turnout was lower than expected because of bad weather.

Meanwhile on the market, the FTSE 250 index has plunged a whopping 11.7pc. The index of so-called mid-cap companies had dropped an astonishing 2,017 points to 15,309 in the first few minutes of trading.

If the World Really “Abandoned Pakistan,” Is the Taliban Pakistan’s Revenge?

[Do we measure Pakistan’s “contributions” to the war on terror by its continuing sponsorship of the Afghan Taliban, or by its flushing-out of the TTP from its Tribal Region into Afghanistan?]

World abandoned Pakistan to face the terrorists alone: army

daily times pak

ISPR chief says ‘do more’ demand from Pakistan on terrorism was unjustifiable and discriminatory * If India is awarded NSG membership, so should Pakistan be
World abandoned Pakistan to  face the terrorists alone: army

 

BERLIN: Asim Bajwa, director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said on Wednesday the narrative that Pakistan had not done enough to fight terrorism was “unfair” because it did not recognise Pakistan’s contribution to the war against terror.

In an interview with DW Urdu’s Kishwar Mustafa, Bajwa said, “The world had abandoned Pakistan to handle and face terrorists in the region alone, and Pakistan has completed the task.”

About the narrative in the West that Pakistan has not done enough in the war on error, Bajwa said, “I take it [the narrative] as quite an injustice to Pakistan. I take it as discrimination against Pakistan. Pakistan has done a lot in the war against terrorism and for peace in the world. Pakistan has played an unparalleled role against the Al Qaeda and other terrorists that morphed over time, be it after Russian aggression in Afghanistan or the post-9/11 scenario. I would like to say that it is injustice against Pakistan by the global community and that they did not do enough for Pakistan. They presented a flawed narrative, and they should recognise Pakistan’s perspective and morally support Pakistan.”

About the view that 62 per cent of the banned terrorist organisations were flourishing in southern Punjab, but the Pakistan Army was operating in other areas, Bajwa said when Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched, the immediate problem was in the FATA, particularly in North Waziristan. So an operation was started there.

In response to a question about the tension between Pakistan and India, Bajwa said, “There is only one major cause of tension between the two countries, and that is the long-standing issue of Kashmir. As you know, developments are being made on diplomatic and political forums to engage India, but as a military spokesperson, I would like to say that India poses a threat to Pakistan and so our entire defence mechanism is India-specific. I would like to add that it would be a cause of disturbance of the strategic stability in the region, besides being a step towards discrimination if only India is inducted in the NSG.”

The Pentagon’s Demented View of the World

Phantom dangers, imperial networks: How Pentagon sees the world

Russia-Today

U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter © Jonathan Brady
The world is threatened by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea – and oh yes, Islamic State – and its only hope is America, backed by loyal allies all over the globe. That is the vision the Pentagon chief has painted, with President Hillary Clinton in mind.

US Defense Secretary Ashton “Ash” Carter outlined his view of America’s strategic challenges at a conference hosted by the Center for New American Security (CNAS) on Monday in Washington, DC. While the Pentagon chief said he would be “extremely careful not to comment on the election,” the content of his presentation very clearly favored the establishment line that has been embraced by Clinton and threatened by Donald Trump’s calls to put “America first.”

While Trump has been critical of US involvement around the globe, Carter argued that America is the “underwriter of global security” thanks to its “long-time network of allies and partners in every corner of the world.”

That is no exaggeration. As of Monday, the US had 187,000 troops deployed in 140 countries, according to Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley. Note, also, that the US Department of Defense has carved up the world into six “combat commands.” So busy is the Pentagon occupying the world, the US government had to set up a separate Department of Homeland Security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

© Wikipedia

The “network” part is the buzzword around which the entire presentation was built, from the headline to the punchline. The words “network” or “networking” appear no less than 60 times in Carter’s speech.

As the “quintessential example of nations working together, and networking together, to respond to security challenges,” Carter named NATO, the US-dominated military alliance established in 1948. Not only did the US not dissolve this alliance at the end of the Cold War, it is currently trying to establish something like it in East Asia, judging by Carter’s presentation.

NATO and other “networks” of US allies around the globe are based on principles, standards and ideals, the Pentagon chief argued, citing as examples “resolving disputes peacefully” and “ensuring countries can make their own security and economic choices free from coercion and intimidation.” One ought to ask the people of Serbia or Libya, or Turkey’s Kurdish subjects about NATO’s proclivity for peaceful resolution of disputes.

As for the security and economic choices, look what happens to countries that choose differently from Washington’s desires – from Yugoslavia (now former), Libya (now chaos), and Syria (now a ruin) to Ukraine, where the government that chose good relations with Russia was overthrown in a coup and replaced by Nazis who sent tanks to crush dissent. But no, those are democratic reformers, and the resistance to their “anti-terrorist operation” is really “Russian aggression,” as Carter keeps repeating in hopes of precluding rational thought.

You see, when NATO masses an armada off the Russian coast or along the Russian border, that’s “deterrence” and defense and “underwriting security,” but when Russian planes fly over those ships or hover a hundred miles off the coast of California, that’s “unprofessional behavior” and “aggression.”

NATO has spent the past 25 years marching East, gobbling up “states” carved out of the corpses of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union so that it is now literally sitting on Russia’s doorstep – yet in Carter’s upside-down universe, NATO is the one being threatened by “Russian aggression.”

Welcome to Pentagon logic, folks, the looking-glass world in which NATO destroying countries on a whim whenever US “non-governmental organizations” fail to overthrow their governments in color coups is considered upholding the “principled international order” while any resistance to such schemes is “aggression” or “malignant behavior.”

Lest you think I’m projecting the way Carter does, Russia was actually the first of the five “challenges” listed by the Pentagon boss in the CNAS address, followed by China, North Korea, Iran – and only then, as an afterthought, the so-called Islamic State (IS formerly ISIS/ISIL). Even when he got around to talking about the Middle East, Carter brought up Iran first. To him, IS is a cancer, with a “parent tumor” to be defeated in Iraq and Syria and “metastases” elsewhere, meaning that Washington sees the struggle against the faux-caliphate as never-ending. That’s bad news for victims of IS, but great news for the US “defense contractors” and their place at the taxpayer trough.

In September 2015, after a year of bombing by the US-led coalition – another one of Carter’s “networks” – IS was showing no sign of being even mildly inconvenienced. Russia’s modest expeditionary force was deployed to Syria in October, and had the head-choppers on the run within a month. But to hear Washington say it, Russia was actually ‘helping’ jihadists and bombing the ‘good democrats’ of the US-backed “opposition.”

Though many Americans – including Trump – said they were happy to see Russia decimated the terrorists, but US officials insisted on their fantasy that Russian strikes were either counterproductive, targeting civilians, or nonexistent. That’s because, according to the Pentagon, each regional network (there’s that word again) needs “a nation and a military to enable it” – meaning, obviously, the United States and definitely not Russia, China, or anyone else, ever.

It is no accident that Carter gave this particular speech at CNAS. The think-tank created in 2007 has been the go-to source of foreign policy and security advice for the Obama administration – all of it in service of US global hegemony. Most recently, in March this year, CNAS published a pamphlet titled “Extending American Power: Strategies to Expand US Engagement in a Competitive World Order,” advocating pretty much what it says on the tin. One of its lead authors is Robert Kagan, co-author of the notorious 1996 “benevolent global hegemony” doctrine – and husband of Victoria Nuland, of Kiev cookies fame.

Nebojsa Malic for RT

China Warns The US That It Is “The Wrong Opponent To Play Games With”

China Warns The US That It Is “The Wrong Opponent To Play Games With”

zero hedge

Two US aircraft carriers, the John C. Stennis and Ronald Reagan, began joint operations in the seas just east of the Philippines over the weekend the US Navy announced on Monday. The operations come during a tense time in the region, as China recently announced that it would not adhere to any unfavorable ruling that may come from The Hague regarding the Philippines formal challenge of territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China has been very clear in its position that the US should stay out of the maritime disputes in the region, however the US has already made it clear that it intends to be the policeman in the region for decades to come, so the move comes as no surprise. Admiral John Richardson, the chief of US Naval Operations said that it was not often the US had two carrier strike groups in the same waters and it was a sign of US commitment to regional security.

According to Reuters, Richardson made a correlation between the Asian deployment and the deployment the US recently sent to the Mediterranean Sea in order to send a message to Russia.

“Both here and in the Mediterranean, it’s a signal to everyone in the region that we’re committed, we’re going to be there for our allies, to reassure them and for anyone who wants to destabilize that region. And we hope there’s a deterrent message there as well.”

A US Pacific Command (PACOM) statement quoted Rear Admiral John D. Alexander, commander of the Ronald Reagan carrier group, as saying it was an opportunity to practice techniques needed to prevail in modern naval operations.

The US Navy has flown, sailed and operated throughout the Western Pacific in accordance with international law for decades, and will continue to do so.

One additional piece to this story is that as Reuters points out, the People’s Daily (the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, which is often used to express foreign policy views), had the following to say about the US decision to send carriers in.

Via Google Translate

Conveying a so-called message about security through the exhibition of military might, and furthermore describing the events as an act of deterrence is something that the U.S. has done far too many times. Regardless of how many times it may have gone smoothly in other parts of the world the U.S. has chosen the wrong opponent by selecting China for this type of game. Behind all of this is lack of patience and brassy moves and it also reveals a nature of hegemony beneath the surface.

* * *

It is obvious that China is getting tired of the games that the US is playing in the region, and no matter how many times China has warned that the US should stay out of its affairs, the US remains steadfast in its effort to police the region. It is only a matter of time before a confrontation takes place, intentional or otherwise, and then the world will be undoubtedly pushed to the brink of war – which would be bullish for stocks of course.

NATO Says It Might Now Have Grounds to Attack Russia

NATO Says It Might Now Have Grounds to Attack Russia

russia insider

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

On Tuesday, June 14th, NATO announced that if a NATO member country becomes the victim of a cyber attack by persons in a non-NATO country such as Russia or China, then NATO’s Article V “collective defense” provision requires each NATO member country to join that NATO member country if it decides to strike back against the attacking country. The preliminary decision for this was made two years ago after Crimea abandoned Ukraine and rejoined Russia, of which it had been a part until involuntarily transferred to Ukraine by the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. That NATO decision was made in anticipation of Ukraine’s ultimately becoming a NATO member country, which still hasn’t happened. However, only now is NATO declaring cyber war itself to be included as real “war” under the NATO Treaty’s “collective defense” provision.

NATO is now alleging that because Russian hackers had copied the emails on Hillary Clinton’s home computer, this action of someone in Russia taking advantage of her having privatized her U.S. State Department communications to her unsecured home computer and of such a Russian’s then snooping into the U.S. State Department business that was stored on it, might constitute a Russian attack against the United States of America, and would, if the U.S. President declares it to be a Russian invasion of the U.S., trigger NATO’s mutual-defense clause and so require all NATO nations to join with the U.S. government in going to war against Russia, if the U.S. government so decides.

NATO had produced in 2013 (prior to the take-over of Ukraine) an informational propaganda video alleging that “cyberattacks” by people in Russia or in China that can compromise U.S. national security, could spark an invasion by NATO, if the U.S. President decides that the cyberattack was a hostile act by the Russian or Chinese government. In the video, a British national-security expert notes that this would be an “eminently political decison” for the U.S. President to make, which can be made only by the U.S. President, and which only that person possesses the legal authority to make. NATO, by producing this video, made clear that any NATO-member nation’s leader who can claim that his or her nation has been ‘attacked’ by Russia, possesses the power to initiate a NATO war against Russia. In the current instance, it would be U.S. President Barack Obama. However, this video also said that NATO could not automatically accept such a head-of-state’s allegation calling the cyber-attack an invasion, but instead the country that’s being alleged to have perpetrated the attack would have to have claimed, or else been proven, to have carried it out. With the new NATO policy, which was announced on June 14th, in which a cyber-attack qualifies automatically as constituting “war” just like any traditional attack, such a claim or proof of the target-nation’s guilt might no longer be necessary. But this has been left vague in the published news reports about it.

In the context of the June 14th NATO announcement that cyberwar is on the same status as physical war, Obama might declare the U.S. to have been invaded by Russia when former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails were copied by someone in Russia.

It’s a hot issue now between Russia and the United States, and so, for example, on the same day, June 14th, Reuters headlined “Moscow denies Russian involvement in U.S. DNC hacking”, and reported that, “Russia on Tuesday denied involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee database that U.S. sources said gained access to all opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.”

In previous times, espionage was treated as being part of warfare, and, after revelations became public that the U.S. was listening in on the phone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, espionage has become recognized as being simply a part of routine diplomacy (at least for the United States); but, now, under the new NATO policy, it might be treated as being equivalent to a physical invasion by an enemy nation.

At the upcoming July 8th-9th NATO Summit meeting, which will be happening in the context of NATO’s biggest-ever military exercises on and near the borders of Russia, called “Atlantic Resolve”, prospective NATO plans to invade Russia might be discussed in order to arrive at a consensus plan for the entire alliance. However, even if that happens, it wouldn’t be made public, because war-plans never are.

The origin of this stand-off between the U.S. and Russia goes back to promises that the West had made in 1990 to the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, not to expand NATO up to the borders of Russia, and the West’s subsequent violations of those repeatedly made promises. Gorbachev disbanded the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact, on the basis of those false assurances from Western leaders. Thus, Russia is surrounded now by enemies, including former Warsaw Pact nations and even some former regions of the Soviet Union itself, such as Ukraine and the Baltic republics, which now host NATO forces. NATO is interpreting Russia’s acceptance of the Crimeans’ desire to abandon Ukraine and rejoin Russia following the 2014 Ukrainian coup, as constituting a showing of an intent by Russia to invade NATO nations that had formerly been part of the Soviet Union and of the Warsaw Pact, such as Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia; and this is the alleged reason for America’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, and the steep increase in U.S. troops and weapons in those nations that border on Russia.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.