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Pakistan Press (11 Feb 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



From Moscow, With Love: New Age Islam's Selection, 11 February 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

11 February 2017

From Moscow, With Love

By Fahd Humayun

My Enemy’s Enemy

By Irfan Husain

Mind Control Gone Foul?

By Babar Sattar

The Myth of a Post-Racial America

By Rizwan Asghar

Global Power Struggle In Middle East

By Dr Muhammad Khan

More Troops Needed For Fight Against Taliban: US General

By W J Hennigan

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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From Moscow, With Love

By Fahd Humayun

February 11, 2017

As Islamabad grapples with the uncertainties of a new Trump administration, a recent timeline of Russian advances to Pakistan is not inconsequential.

In 2016, Pakistan and Russia reached a price accord on a $2 billion North-South LNG pipeline running from Karachi to Lahore. Russian and Pakistani Special Forces held their first joint tactical exercises last September. Later this month, Russia will host six-nation talks on the future of Afghanistan, without the US, as a follow-up to a December conference as an index of Moscow’s rising stakes in the regional endgame. And in December, Pakistan’s minister for defence production announced a Russian agreement for the delivery of four Mi-35M (Hind-E) attack helicopters to the Pakistan Army in 2017. The disclosure follows the lifting of a self-imposed Russian embargo on arms supplies to Pakistan back in 2014.

What best explains Russia’s newfound attentiveness towards Pakistan and the region? Beyond the obvious dismantling of cold war conventions, there is a tendency among policy implementers in Pakistan to play up Russia’s eagerness to cash in on Pakistan’s CPEC opportunity. While this is a convenient explanation – influenced no doubt by a canonical Soviet yearning for warm-water access – it undersells Russia’s broader geopolitical aspirations as well as the changes proffered by the confusion of Eurasia’s own post-unipolar moment.

Since 2011, Russia has come under pressure in two obvious areas of geostrategic latitude: Eastern Europe and the Middle East. With Nato batting down the hatches to the west, Russia’s relations with Europe are set in deep-freeze. Given Western lobbying to drive Moscow away from Europe’s energy markets, Russia has been looking to offset geopolitical setbacks with an eye closer to Asia.

Buoyed by a Russia-Turkey brokered (albeit fraying) ceasefire in Syria, there is growing political pressure in Moscow to reassert primacy closer to home and compensate for an encircling snare of Atlantic Alliance partnerships from the Far East all the way to New Delhi. This reassertion is expressing itself unilaterally (through intervention in Ukraine), bilaterally (through heightened diplomatic engagement with other members in the Asian hemisphere) and multilaterally (with Moscow’s amped-up leadership role in the SCO, BRICS and Afghan consultation forums).

The Kremlin’s appointment of Zamir Kabulov as presidential envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan and head of the Russian foreign ministry’s Asia and Middle East department also signals a strategic rethink about how Moscow views the Pakistan-Afghanistan beltway.  

Russia concurrently has two overriding strategic objectives vis-a-vis South Asia. The first relates to the investment of diplomatic capital in a way that builds vital strategic equity to check the US rebalance in Asia. The second is to address the dangers of Daesh emanating from the Khorasan region, which is now threatening to breach the Central Asia ridgeline and disturb Muslim-majority pockets in Russia’s southern tracts. Recent statements from Moscow on the need to cooperate with Islamabad in the building of an anti-Daesh firewall point towards Russia’s recognition of the need for strong counter-terror partners in South Asia. December’s trilateral summit held on regional security underscores this point further.

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, Moscow’s engagement with the Taliban remains driven by similar CT-security concerns. Russian diplomats and intelligence maintain private communication channels with the leadership of the Afghan Taliban, which – crucially for Kabul – may end up being an important conduit of influence when the fighting season gets underway later this spring.

At the same time, Russia will continue to keep Pakistan and India de-hyphenated because it suits its own regional interests and larger strategic ambitions. Moscow remains India’s largest weapons seller, having recently agreed to supply India with S-400 air defence systems and stealth frigates for the Indian navy. By extending the range of the BrahMos missiles to over 600 kilometres, Russia has also helped nurture India’s deep-strike capabilities.     

While engaging Moscow, Pakistan needs to be aware that Putin will be more likely to play the field rather than take sides in any future Indo-Pak conflict. At the Heart of Asia summit in Amritsar – as in the Brics summit in Goa – Moscow declined to raise its voice against India’s call for isolating Pakistan. Instead, Russia will look to quietly building relations with Pakistan while maintaining its investments in India. Russian engines currently power the JF-17 Pak-China combat aircraft rolling off the assembly lines in Pakistan, and Russo-Pak defence cooperation is growing.

A recent photograph of a Pakistan Air Force Ilyushin IL-78 re-fuelling tanker in the Russian city of Ryazan indicates that Russia may also be refurbishing the tanker. If correct, it will be the first transaction between Russia and Pakistan that supports the latter’s conventional military capabilities.

But keeping Russia engaged will require Islamabad to expand its horizons as it thinks about the next decade of its international relations. While the 2008 Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation declared Pakistan as a key regional power, the latter disappeared from the concept notes of 2013 and 2016. Furthermore, bilateral trade between the two countries decreased between 2014 and 2015.  

Even with the realisation that Pakistan is unlikely to become the torchbearer of Russian interests in South Asia, there are a few things Pakistani policymakers can do to keep Moscow interested. The first is to take advantage of a historically weak rouble and a Russian presidency looking to reassert itself regionally. Islamabad can do this by retrofitting its own outreach to the CARs to accommodate the potential for closer Pak-Russo cooperation.

The North-South gas pipeline is the first major instance of Russian investment in Pakistan after decades of estrangement. Russia is also assisting OGDC – Pakistan’s largest hydrocarbon explorer – in search for new energy sources.

After initially denying media reports that Russia was set to join CPEC, Russia’s Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Dedov has now clarified that Moscow and Islamabad have indeed held discussions to merge the corridor with the Russian-sponsored Eurasian Economic Union. Pakistan accession as a full member state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation later this year provides another platform for Islamabad to pivot itself in the increasingly competitive Pan-Asian arms and energy market.

And short of falling into another ill-advised client-patron trap, Islamabad could consider scaling up soft-power mobilisation and the all-important issue of skills transfer, to go hand-in-hand with the search for new policy-sphere partnerships with Russia. With the Russian Land Forces Command having confirmed that a second joint exercise will be held with Pakistan in 2017, there is certainly space to reengineer the diplomatic relationship.

Not a single Russian head of state has visited Pakistan to date. Moscow’s own economic situation is increasingly tenuous, owing to a combination of Western sanctions and falling oil prices. In an increasingly competitive world market, Russia is looking for new buyers, a new strategic role, and new friends. And while a hyper-engaged Russia may still be a few years away, a little perestroika wouldn’t hurt as Pakistan looks to configure its own strategic trend-lines in response to Moscow’s overtures.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/185436-From-Moscow-with-love

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My Enemy’s Enemy

By Irfan Husain

February 11th, 2017

THE distance between Pakistan’s three principal allies can be better measured by the gulfs between their ideologies than by miles alone.

Indeed, one wouldn’t be able to find three such disparate states as the United States, China and Saudi Arabia if one looked. The one common element in their policies seems to be a shared desire to somehow keep Pakis­tan afloat, despite its best efforts to go under.

From Islamabad’s perspective, each of these crucial relationships is transactional as there are no cultural, historical or ethnic ties that bind us. While Pakistan shares a religion with Saudi Arabia, there are no other common elements to underpin our so-called brotherly bonds.

What binds Pakistan and China is an old adage.

Alliances, while based on national interest, are seldom permanent unless layered in shared values. Thus, the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zea­land are referred to as the ‘five eyes’ in security circles. Sensitive intelligence that is not shared with other allies is exchanged among themselves because host­i­lities between them are inconceivable.

Although the US has given and lent more money to Pakistan than China and Saudi Arabia combined, and transferred billions of dollars worth of arms, it currently has less influence in Islamabad than our other two allies. The reason is that our military, despite being dependent on Washington for much of its modern weaponry, is suspicious of it for a number of reasons.

For one, Washington has always tried to curtail and limit our nuclear programme, imposing sanctions from time to time. Then, it has objected to our frequent bouts of martial law, as well as voicing concerns over our poor human rights record. Finally, its constant refrain that Pakistan should ‘do more’ against our snake pit of Jihadis jangles in the ears of the very people who unleashed these monsters to start with.

China and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, are no shining examples of democracy, and treat their citizens appallingly. So, neither objects to our violation of democratic norms. The strings to their assistance are not as embarrassingly public as are American conditions.

Pakistan harps constantly about its friendship with China being ‘stronger than steel and higher than the Himalayas’, or some such cringe-making rubbish. And yet China is an atheist state, and has cracked down on its own fractious Muslims. The Uyghurs of Western China are forbidden from many outward displays of faith.

What binds the two is the old adage ‘my enemy’s enemy is my best friend’. Thus, China finds a militarily strong Pakistan to its strategic advantage as it forces India to guard two borders, and Pakistan’s location allows it to access the Indian Ocean through Gwadar, a port it has largely financed.

Saudi Arabia’s interest in Pakistan is based largely on its military needs: lacking a fighting force that is fit for purpose despite the hundreds of billions it spends on brand new weapons, it looks on Pakistanis to train their soldiers. And it also counts on our army as a defence force of last resort for the time the Americans withdraw their protective umbrella. The Saudis also view our nuclear arsenal as a big plus.

Our geostrategic position has motivated the large economic and military programme Washington has financed with billions of dollars over the years. Unsurprisingly, Pakistani leaders have milked our geographic location for all it’s worth.

Many blame Pakistan’s early leadership for dragging us into America’s network of anti-communist alliances. They overlook the fact that, back then, we were hopelessly outgunned by the Indian military’s firepower. The Soviet Union was too weak in the aftermath of WWII to be a significant supplier of arms.

After the Korean War ended, we received many surplus arms from the US and, soon thereafter, we joined the Baghdad Pact (later renamed the Central Treaty Organisation, or Cento), and Seato, the Southeast Asian alliance. We continued receiving American arms until the 1965 war, when we used weapons against India that had been supplied specifically for deployment against communist aggression.

Since then, our relationship with the US has veered from bad to worse. It took the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for a resumption of aid that ended after the Red Army’s retreat, and we were back in the doghouse because of our nuclear programme. 9/11 provided the next chapter in Pak-US relations.

Now, with Trump in charge, how this touchy alliance will evolve is anybody’s guess. But with his stated intent of improving ties with India, and taking a tough stance against China, it is clear that a realignment of forces can be expected.

China’s deepening economic ties with Pakistan via CPEC increases its stakes. Hopefully, Beijing will use its growing clout to force our generals to rein in the extremists they supported for years. If it does, it will have been more successful than Washington has been.

Source: dawn.com/news/1313989/my-enemys-enemy

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Mind Control Gone Foul?

By Babar Sattar

February 11, 2017

Here is one version of how private media emerged in Pakistan under Musharraf. After Kargil, private TV channels in India (which started around 1995) spoke with one voice claiming that Pakistan was a terrorist state with a finger on the nuclear button. To respond all Pakistan had was PTV. So the state rationally concluded that state-owned media couldn’t effectively counter Indian propaganda.

To be credible, we needed our own privately owned TV channels countering, in times of hostility, the propaganda of Indian channels. The model works. Amidst a crisis, we see anchors blaring, frothing and fighting it out on TV screens in both countries.

In most countries there exists a conformist consensus on matters of national security without much dissent and India is no different. In Pakistan, while there is general consensus around India trying to hurt Pakistan when it can, there are more voices critical of national security policies in comparison to India.

Unlike India, Pakistan’s military is the most powerful state institution. And it isn’t just responsible for external security but now is also the frontline internal security agency. Consequently its actions and policies affect lives and rights of citizens more. It is in the context of civil-military imbalance and its effects on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights that those who seek the emergence of a welfare state critique policies that project Pakistan to be a national security state.

The emergence of private electronic media also provided some space to critical voices. Controlling print media was a lot easier than controlling diversely owned electronic media. The emergence of social media that critiques and informs narratives being shaped on electronic media has made state control even more challenging. And yet within the state’s mindset there exists the unshaken belief that in today’s age of fourth and fifth generation warfare, the ability to shape and control narratives is a national security imperative.

But the tool to shape narratives is coercion not persuasion. The focus is on dissuading dissent and encouraging self-censorship. We may never find out what the crime was of the now infamous returned bloggers. But it was a warning shot for all social media activists to practise self-censorship. The strategy to deal with electronic media has also been evolving. The state seems to have concluded that traditional control measures – advertising revenue, disruption through cable operators, secret funds, threats of physical harm etc – aren’t enough. Two flawed conclusions seem to have been drawn in the wake of the Hamid Mir affair. One, that the state can acquire greater control over shaping narratives and punishing critical voices if it introduces a few of its own agents within the Aegean stables dressed up as free media outlets attacking rivals. And two, use populist rhetoric laced with patriotism and bigotry as the attack tool to threaten and silence critics and condemn them to live with the risk of violence by state and vigilantes alike.

There are at least three problems with this approach. One, by introducing its own dog in the fight, the state weakens its ability to influence rival players it castigates as treacherous. When President Trump leashes out at CNN or New York Times, does it enhance the credibility of Fox or Breitbart News or Trump in the eyes of rational folks? Two, by cultivating an alliance between jingoism dressed as nationalism and religious hate, the state cedes space to vigilantes – space that is hard to recapture, as we have seen in our fight against terror.

And three, a state that treats policy criticism by its own citizens as a security threat reflects its own sense of acute insecurity. Do thinking minds running the state really believe that our bigoted brigades (DCPs etc) and their menagerie of haters (now on mainstream media too) ‘defending’ the state and its policies or labelling critics as traitors or blasphemers or heretics make the state look good? Can anything be worse than allowing irresponsible use of the charge of blasphemy (in a 96 percent Muslim country) to threaten and silence critics?

Why should the state be so thin-skinned that critical debate over whether allotment of state land to generals is good policy or not threatens it? Isn’t it a matter of public importance whether limited state resources are to be committed to building bombs, shiny infrastructure projects, perks of public servants or the health and education of citizens? If we have a national consensus over the need to extinguish terror and terror infrastructure in Pakistan, why shouldn’t there be a debate that dissects the strength of competing ideas on how best to do so?

In 1644, Milton sought “the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties”. The logic and concept of ‘marketplace of ideas’ is especially sound in this age of technology and social media: in a marketplace with limited barriers to entry, let all ideas be expressed and debated and let superior ideas drown out inferior ones. But the powerful seldom bear criticism willingly. Consequently the history of free speech has been more a history of censorship of speech.

The right to free speech is not without restraints. Mill defined the scope of restraint using the ‘harm principle’: “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”      As we don’t exist in isolation, our fundamental rights compete with those of others. The freedom to speak freely is a fundamental right. But it can’t be used such that it breaches the fundamental right of another to dignity, privacy, life or liberty.

John Finch explained it best when he said, “your freedom to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” Hence the consensus that some speech is so harmful or offensive that it is to be prohibited. In the US courts employ the “clear and present danger” and “imminent lawless action” tests – that speech that creates a clear and present danger for others (like falsely yelling fire in a crowded theatre) or incite violence doesn’t enjoy protection.

A subset of the prohibited speech category is ‘hate speech’. During the hearing of Hamid Mir vs Federation, upon prodding of our Supreme Court, the government and PBA agreed upon the Electronic Media Code of Conduct, 2015. This was formally promulgated as a subsidiary legislative instrument under the Pemra Act. Clause 23 defines hate speech as “any expression that may incite violence, hatred or discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity, color, race, gender, origin, caste, mental or physical disability.”

Sub-clauses (2) and (3) of Clause 23 state that, “the licensee shall not relay allegations that fall within the spectrum of hate speech, including calling someone anti-Pakistan, traitor or anti-Islam”, and “where hate speech is resorted to by any guest, the channel and its representative must stop the participant and remind him and the audience that no one has the authority to declare any other citizen as a Kafir or enemy of Pakistan, Islam or any other religion.” This is the law of our country and makes abundant sense. Why is it being violated with impunity?

What the right to free speech doesn’t grant is entitlement to make false allegations, impute vile motives and incite hatred against someone. We fail to protect the dignity and reputation of citizens because our defamation law is ineffectual. It is this law that must be brought to life and given a bite to inject responsibility and accountability into the media, penalise libel and slander while protecting speech merely critical of power elites and bad policies.

Instead of employing contempt laws or manufactured threats to national security to censor speech judges and generals find unpleasant, or slapping labels of treason and blasphemy to incite hatred against dissenters, can we please use the defamation law to strike the right balance between protected and prohibited speech as is done around the civilised world?

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/185435-Mind-control-gone-foul

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The Myth of a Post-Racial America

By Rizwan Asghar

February 11, 2017

Over the past few decades, scholars and political pundits have debated whether race and ethnicity matter to American politics.

During this period, we have witnessed the election of an African-American president, the nomination of a Latina Supreme Court justice, and the wider political representation of racial and ethnic minorities than ever before. This has led many to claim that the US is now a colour-blind political society. But the empirical evidence that is available on the matter suggests the opposite. Given the fact that ethnicity and racism remain strong social forces in American society, there are no grounds for such optimism.

According to a 2015 CNN survey, 49 percent of Americans believe that racism is “a big problem” in today’s America. Bernie Sanders was right when he said that the US was founded on racist grounds. However, what is more troubling is that the systemic racism of America’s past is still alive and kicking.

Race and other social cleavages continue to play a critical role in every aspect of US politics and society. The view that the US is a post-racial society has been challenged on many fronts since Trump’s election. Nearly 60 million US citizens voted for a candidate who looks at the world through ethnic and racial stereotypes. Trump wants to ban Muslims and other immigrants from entering the US and it is crystal clear that America’s white working class tacitly approves of his anti-Muslim agenda. Muslims are considered pariahs in the US and are therefore viewed with suspicion.

In the post-9/11 era, the cultural atmosphere of fear and paranoia has created a new generation of Americans who do not have a favourable opinion of Muslims. This trend is particularly evident on university campuses in the southern states of the US, where Muslim students are treated like ‘outsiders’. This loathsome behaviour is symptomatic of the deep-seated racism in the country.

In 2008, many experts heralded the historic election of Obama as the dawn of a post-racial era in American politics. However, the election results showed that only 43 percent of white people voted for Obama, giving a strong impression of a society polarised along racial lines.

Race relations in the US have evolved over time as a result of gradual changes in intergroup relations within society. There are instances when the role of race in politics appears minimal, whereas, in other circumstances, racial segregation seems to pervade every aspect of US politics.

Discussions over the extent to which race shape political behaviour at both the elite and mass levels remain central to the study of the US government. Despite the widespread scholarly consensus that such factors should not impact politics, race continues to play a crucial role in determining the electoral choices made by a large number of voters.

A critical number of studies recommend that race is a significant force at work with regard to the shifting partisan alliances since the mid-1960s. In the wake of the civil rights movement in the US, political parties had to take clear and distinctive positions on civil rights issues, leading to significant party alignments along both racial and social lines. Gradually, the Republican Party emerged as the white man’s party and Democrats gained more support from African-American and women voters. More than 80 percent of the black vote usually goes to the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

The existence of wide inter-regional differences of opinion on racial issues in marriage also yields strong evidence of ethnic cleavages among the American people. These regional differences have been nourished over time by the prevalence of racial stereotypes from generation to generation in the south. This is exactly why young, white, southern Americans are found to be more racially conservative than young people in other states. Similarly, lifelong southerners are always more racially conservative than immigrants to the southern states from other parts of the country.

Many political scientists have found empirical evidence to suggest that race is a decisive factor in the political choices made by American voters. Evidence collected over several decades suggests that black and white voters prefer voting for candidates of their own race when both black and white candidates are contesting elections. Despite repeated calls for racial equality, it is still rare for African-American candidates to be elected outside of majority-minority districts.

Racial attitudes among whites are an important explanatory factor for their lack of electoral support for black candidates. White voters are always more likely to support white candidates. Darker-skinned black candidates receive less support from white Americans than ‘lighter-skinned’ blacks.

The impact of racial attitudes on policy opinions becomes more critical during the presidential elections. And the racial differences on prominent policy issues are huge and difficult to ignore. In some elections, racial gaps of above 40 percent have been found when it comes to the support shown for race-targeted policies, such as equal opportunity in employment, spending on programmes to assist blacks, and affirmative action schemes in academic institutions.

Even in the 21st century, race remains the central dividing line in US politics. It is feared that race relations are likely to worsen under Trump’s watch. Group loyalties determine the behaviour of the political elite. And the portrait of the US as the world’s most egalitarian society is nothing but a simple and harmless farce.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/185437-The-myth-of-a-post-racial-America

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Global Power Struggle In Middle East

By Dr Muhammad Khan

February 11, 201706

THE local uprisings of Syria in 2011 could neither be brought dexterously under-control nor did the Syrian Government address the grievances of those protesting to their satisfaction. Resultantly, the writ of the Syrian Government diminished with each passing day. The domestic rift invited regional countries to exploit the worsening situation to their respective advantages on ideological and ethnic basis. The diverging regional interests not only further complicated the nature of conflict but also provided a battleground for the major powers for their power play against each other, away from their national boundaries.

With minor variations, the Iraqi conflict too have domestic, regional and global dimension. Other Middle Eastern countries, faced uprising from 2010 to 2015 were able to put those under control at least for the time being. Nevertheless, there is an element of dis-satisfaction among the masses in the entire Middle East. There is a remarkable difference in the thinking of Muslim elites and Muslim streets throughout the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle Eastern countries still under monarchy. Then the ideological rift among two key regional states has further cemented this gap, each side trying to enlarge its constituency.

For the Muslim community, this is the most damaging trend, dividing the Muslims on sectarian lines. The overt involvement of the cold war rivals; Russia and United States in the regional conflict has left less manoeuvring space for the Bashar al Asad as well as the regional actors like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Turkey, a member of NATO, seems more inclined towards Russia, rather US and Europe. Turkey strongly realizes that, United States and European powers are behind the Kurds, fighting for their separate homeland.

The element of Daesh (IS) is very critical in the regional politics. On one hand, US is fighting against IS and Al-Qaeda, but on the other hand these groups are fighting against Asad Regime alongside other rebels supported by Trans-Atlantic Alliance. This is a very tricky scenario of having double standards. Then, IS has killed only Muslims; no Israeli has been killed by this mysterious group, taking cover of Islam but acting in contradiction to this Great religion (Islam), which preaches peace and love for entire humanity. Indeed, the current scenario in Syria and Iraq in particular and larger Middle East in general is a true reflection of global power struggle with Syria emerged a real battle ground.

With new guards at Whitehouse, this power play is expected to be more vicious in nature and prolong in duration. President Trump has otherwise imposed a ban on seven Muslim countries with an indication of fighting against the Islamic militancy? Though he has been a man of contradictions, front line runner of promoting hate against Muslims and Islam, yet, such drastic steps were not expected from him as a President of a super power. The track-record of IS and Al-Qaeda shows that, they are promoting the US cause, by providing an excuse for US intervention or use of force.

Whereas, for the old rivals (US and Russia), it would be a conflict for defeating each other’s influence in the region, the sufferers would be the Middle Eastern region in general, Syria, Iraq and even Yemen in particular. Amid rising global power struggle and a conflicting situation in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, it is difficult to achieve peace in the region. Although the regional conflicts need a regional solution, however for the peace in this volatile region, the major powers need reconciliation and reorientation in advancing their agendas for international peace. The human sufferings in the form of casualties, loss of property, migrations and displacement call for immediate peace and rehabilitation efforts in affected region, particularly these countries.

The GCC countries have diversified their bilateral and multilateral relationship, thus a traditional fixation may not bring good results for Pakistani foreign policy. All GCC countries prefer their bilateral relationship with India, rather with Pakistan. On its part, India is maintaining an excellent relationship with Iran as well as with GCC and broader Middle Eastern states. These new developments and global alliances call for a serious rethinking at the level of Pakistan’s foreign policy. To have a diversified foreign policy, Pakistan need to have a dynamic and qualified foreign minister, who can re-assess and re-orientate the foreign policy of Pakistan according to the changing regional and international trends of power politics.

Source: pakobserver.net/global-power-struggle-in-middle-east/

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More Troops Needed For Fight against Taliban: US General

By W J Hennigan

February 11, 2017

THE top US commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that he needs several thousand more troops to help Afghan government forces break a stalemate with the Taliban less than a year after President Obama drew down American forces. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee that more troops are needed to help train Afghanistan’s military and police forces as they battle Taliban insurgents, IS militants and other militias. “We have a shortfall of a few thousand,” he said. He said the troops could come from US or other countries in the international coalition in Afghanistan.

President Trump said little about America’s longest war, now in its 16th year, during the campaign last year or since taking office. He has spoken far more often about US military efforts to defeat so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, where the militants have steadily lost ground over the last year. The Taliban, in contrast, controls more territory now than at any point since the US-led invasion in 2001, according to United Nations estimates. And the Pentagon has far more troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq and Syria.

In July, President Obama ordered a reduction of US troops to 8,400 from 9,800 by the end of 2016, backing off his 2008 campaign promise to extricate the US from the punishing war. Nicholson, commander of US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan, oversees about 6,300 NATO troops from 38 countries in addition to US troops. Nicholson wants more advisors to assist Afghan army commanders at the brigade level, rather than at the higher corps level, he said.

US special operations troops routinely accompany and advise Afghan forces on combat missions, while US fighter jets and drones provide air support and surveillance. The US also has a counter-terrorism mission, which Nicholson said was adequately staffed, to track and kill militant leaders. Nicholson described the war against the Taliban as “a stalemate.” He said Afghan forces had suffered twice as many casualties in the last two years as US forces did in 10 years.

The Afghan government controls about 57% of the country’s populated districts, down from about 72% in November 2015, according to a report released Jan. 30 by the US special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. “Our Afghan partners have been sustaining very significant losses,” Nicholson said. “And I’m not sure that’s sustainable.”

Nicholson also said Russia was “legitimising” the Taliban by creating a “false narrative” that the fundamentalist Sunni Muslims insurgents are fighting IS militants, who are also Sunni Muslims, in Afghanistan. He said Iran continues to arm and fund Shiite Muslim fighters in Afghanistan. “When we look at Russian and Iranian actions in Afghanistan, I believe that… they’re trying to undermine the United States and NATO and prevent this strong partnership that we have with the Afghans in the region,” he added.

Source: pakobserver.net/more-troops-needed-for-fight-against-taliban-us-general/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/from-moscow,-with-love--new-age-islam-s-selection,-11-february-2017/d/110036




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