The US Must Come Clean On Whether It Is For Taliban or against them

US duality in Afghanistan



Why the US pressure on Pakistan to blunt the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network may not yield the desired outcome?

US duality in Afghanistan

The US Defence Department has withheld $50 million as reimbursement to damages and losses incurred by Pakistan in the war against terrorism for fiscal year 2016. The rationale behind the move is that the US believes Pakistan has not been taking effective measures to blunt the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network. There are reasons why the US pressure may not help it achieve the desired outcome i.e. making Pakistan take effective steps against the Haqqani faction of Taliban.

First, the US has never treated Taliban as a direct threat to its security. The US only considered the Islamist militia as an indirect security threat because it had given refuge to international terrorists, bin Laden and his al Qaeda that Washington had accused of executing the 9/11 terrorists attacks on the American soil and its installations elsewhere. Pakistan has delivered on the count of handing over al Qaeda operatives.

By July 2004, the country, catching 689 alleged al Qaeda operatives, had handed over 369 members of the terrorist outfit to the US. “The Bush administration did not question Musharraf as long as the Pakistani army cooperated with the principal US objective to catch al Qaeda leaders,” wrote Ahmed Rashid in his book titled Descent into Chaos. On Taliban, in November 2001, with the fall of Kunduz in the offing, US President Bush entertained Gen. Musharraf’s request to airlift Pakistani officers and citizens trapped in the encircled city. There were reports that hundreds of Taliban were also flown to safety before November 25 when Kunduz finally fell to Northern Alliance, reported The New Yorker.

Secondly, the US policy towards Taliban is designed to thrive on crisis. Apparently, the two countries may appear on different wave lengths, the US and Pakistan are on the same page when it comes to sustaining Taliban in Afghanistan for different purposes though. The Taliban presence in rural Afghanistan gives the US carte blanche to justify its permanent presence in the country in order to contain rising China, check assertive Russia and monitor Iran’s nuclear ambition and Pakistan’s nuclear programme, at least this appears to be consensus in Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Islamabad. For Pakistan, Taliban are a lifeline to its national security interests at the court of Kabul.

Third, policy makers in Pakistan seem confident that owing to Pakistan’s strategic importance, Washington needs Islamabad more than vice versa. In the Cold War days, the main stimulus for alliance systems in the form of SEATO and CENTO was American, spawned by the US strategic calculation to contain the erstwhile Soviet Union. The same revisited back in the late 1970s, when the former USSR invaded Afghanistan, and 2001 when the US needed Pakistan to attack Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Currently, the US can’t defeat Taliban without Pakistan’s fullest possible cooperation. The route to peace at Kabul goes through Islamabad.

The US shouldn’t be passing the buck for instability in Afghanistan. It must come clear on whether it is for Taliban or against them. Similarly, the US needs to work with Pakistan, recognising its ‘legitimate’ concerns in Afghanistan.

Fourth, the US pressure tactics have not paid off in the past too. According to a report compiled by The Guardian, in the 1970s, the US under Jimmy Carter suspended all but food aid to Pakistan due to the latter’s decision to construct uranium enrichment facility. Likewise, the US Pressler Amendment of August 1985 stated that Pakistan would not receive any military or technological equipment until certified by the American president that Pakistan did not possess any nuclear device.

In 1990, the US president did not certify that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapon hence all economic and military aid to Pakistan was stopped. Nevertheless, this did not stop Pakistan from going nuclear in May 1998, triggering further sanctions on the country under the Arms Export Control Act.

Fifth, once ruling elites conceive something as part of national security paradigm, there is either no space or very little of it left for compromise. Making a nuclear bomb was such an enterprise where no amount of American pressure worked to prevent Pakistan from making nuclear devices. Similarly, Taliban appear to be part of national security paradigm whereby no amount of external pressure will work until the reasons that engender the need for Taliban are addressed. Pakistan wants a Pashtun-dominated Islamist government in Afghanistan so as to counter Indian influence at the court of Kabul.

The US shouldn’t be passing the buck for instability in Afghanistan. It must come clear on whether it is for Taliban or against them. Similarly, the US needs to work with Pakistan, recognising its ‘legitimate’ concerns in Afghanistan. The American duality has cost Afghanistan dearly.

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Researches at Facebook shut down an artificial intelligence (AI) program after it created its own language, Digital Journal reports.

The system developed code words to make communication more efficient and researchers took it offline when they realized it was no longer using English.

The incident, after it was revealed in early July, puts in perspective Elon Musk’s warnings about AI.

“AI is the rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive,” Musk said at the meet of U.S. National Governors Association. “Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’ll be too late.”

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Musk’s warnings are “pretty irresponsible,” Musk responded that Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”

Not the First Time

The researchers’ encounter with the mysterious AI behavior is similar to a number of cases documented elsewhere. In every case, the AI diverged from its training in English to develop a new language.

The phrases in the new language make no sense to people, but contain useful meaning when interpreted by AI bots.

Facebook’s advanced AI system was capable of negotiating with other AI systems so it can come to conclusions on how to proceed with its task. The phrases make no sense on the surface, but actually represent the intended task.

In one exchange revealed by Facebook to Fast Co. Design, two negotiating bots—Bob and Alice—started using their own language to complete a conversation.

“I can i i everything else,” Bob said.

“Balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to,” Alice responded.

The rest of the exchange formed variations of these sentences in the newly-forged dialect, even though the AIs were programmed to use English.

According the researchers, these nonsense phrases are a language the bots developed to communicate how many items each should get in the exchange.

When Bob later says “i i can i i i everything else,” it appears the artificially intelligent bot used its new language to make an offer to Alice.

The Facebook team believes the bot may have been saying something like: “I’ll have three and you have everything else.”

Although the English may seem quite efficient to humans, the AI may have seen the sentence as either redundant or less effective for reaching its assigned goal.

The Facebook AI apparently determined that the word-rich expressions in English were not required to complete its task. The AI operated on a “reward” principle and in this instance there was no reward for continuing to use the language. So it developed its own.

In a June blog post by Facebook’s AI team, it explained the reward system. “At the end of every dialog, the agent is given a reward based on the deal it agreed on.” That reward was then back-propagated through every word in the bot output so it could learn which actions lead to high rewards.

“Agents will drift off from understandable language and invent code-words for themselves,” Facebook AI researcher Dhruv Batra told Fast Co. Design.

“Like if I say ‘the’ five times, you interpret that to mean I want five copies of this item. This isn’t so different from the way communities of humans create shorthands.”

AI developers at other companies have also observed programs develop languages to simplify communication. At Elon Musk’s OpenAI lab, an experiment succeeded in having AI bots develop their own languages.

At Google, the team working on the Translate service discovered that the AI they programmed had silently written its own language to aid in translating sentences.

The Translate developers had added a neural network to the system, making it capable of translating between language pairs it had never been taught. The new language the AI silently wrote was a surprise.

There is not enough evidence to claim that these unforeseen AI divergences are a threat or that they could lead to machines taking over operators. They do make development more difficult, however, because people are unable to grasp the overwhelmingly logical nature of the new languages.

In Google’s case, for example, the AI had developed a language that no human could grasp, but was potentially the most efficient known solution to the problem.