Anwar Iqbal

Dec 232017
Pakistan launches factsheet on counterterrorism

WASHINGTON: Pakistan released a new factsheet on its efforts to counter terrorism here on Friday night as an American scholar warned that US Vice President Mike Pence’s rhetoric against the country would not help the fight against militancy.The factsheet re-emphasises Pakistan’s stance that the death of 122 children at a Peshawar school on Dec 16, 2014 has galvanised the entire nation against terrorism and the operations launched since then have targeted all terrorists without exception.Marvin G. Weinbaum, a leading scholar of South Asian affairs in Washington, said at the launching ceremony that the factsheet “makes a strong case” about Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism. Pakistan, he said, arrived at this commitment not due to American pressure but because the Peshawar school attack “touched the national conscience”.Urging the United States to understand this change in Pakistan’s approach, Mr Weinbaum said that Mr Pence’s statement about putting Pakistan on notice “does not help the fight against terrorism”. In a speech in Kabul on Friday, Mr Pence claimed that Pakistan had provided safe haven to terrorists for too long but those days are over now, as President Donald Trump had “put Pakistan on notice”.Pakistan reacted strongly to the statement, reminding Washington that “allies do not put each other on notice”.Mr Weinbaum, while rejecting Mr Pence’s remarks as inappropriate and unhelpful, also emphasised the need for Pakistan to show the same commitment in fighting other terrorist groups that it displayed against the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).He said that recent activities of individuals like Hafiz [Read More…]

Dec 032017
US will act if Pakistan does not destroy safe havens: CIA

WASHINGTON: CIA Director Mike Pompeo has warned Pakistan that if it does not eliminate the alleged safe havens inside its territory, the United States will do “everything we can” to destroy them. As Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrives in Islamabad on Monday to persuade Pakistan to support the new US strategy for Afghanistan, the Trump administration is sending mixed signals to its estranged ally. The new strategy seeks Pakistan’s support to defeat the Taliban in the battlefield as Washington believes that only a defeat will force them to reconcile with the Afghan government. Talking to journalists aboard his plane on Sunday, Secretary Mattis said he did not plan to “prod” Pakistan into action because he expected Islamabad to adhere to its promises to combat terrorism. Jim Mattis hopes Islamabad will fulfil its promises to combat terrorism He disagreed with a journalist who suggested that Mr Mattis might end up “butting heads” with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa when he meets them in Islamabad on Monday on his first visit as the Pentagon chief. The VOA radio quoted Mr Mattis as telling the journalist that this was not his style. “That’s not the way I deal with issues. I believe that we [can] work hard on finding common ground and then we work together.” But the CIA director sent a harsher message when asked at the Reagan National Defence Forum in Simi, California, on Saturday how would the Trump administration persuade Pakistan to adhere to [Read More…]

Oct 202017
US promises to stay neutral in India’s conflict with other states

WASHINGTON: The US State Department has said that America’s close relationship with India does not mean that if Indians had an armed conflict with another country, Washington is automatically going to side with New Delhi.“Wow. Okay, I don’t think I’d go that far,” said US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert when asked at a news briefing in Washington on Thursday afternoon that the next time India had a conflict Pakistan, New Delhi will get Washington’s full support.US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a Washington think tank on Wednesday that the US was going to have dramatically deepened relationships with India, adding that the “security issues that concern India are concerns of the US too”. Mr Tillerson is scheduled to visit Islamabad and New Delhi this week for talks on the new US strategy in South Asia.Responding to a question about the secretary’s remarks at the State Department news briefing, Ms Nauert said Mr Tiller was talking about “shared-interests”, as the two countries already cooperate in many key areas — from military exercises to intelligence gathering and counterterrorism.The United States, she said, also appreciated how India was helping develop an infrastructure in Afghanistan and how it was playing a key role in strengthening the Afghan economy for which “we are very grateful to India”.“So, I think, the Secretary was really trying to underscore the importance of that relationship with India and recognising that we have a lot of areas where we can have mutual cooperation,” said the US official [Read More…]

Aug 122017
US spends over $76bn on arming Afghan forces

WASHINGTON: The United States has spent more than $76 billions in the last 16 years on arming the Afghan security forces, says a new report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).The report, however, noted that despite spending so much money, the United States has not yet achieved its main objective: enabling the Afghan security forces to operate independently.But the United States is likely to maintain its support to Afghanistan because the country’s “stability and security continue to face threats from the Taliban-led insurgency, criminal networks, and terrorist organisations, including the militant Islamic State group–Khorasan,” the report adds.The United States began providing weapons, communication devices, and other security equipment to the Afghan security forces in 2002, months after it invaded Afghanistan following the Sept11, 2001 terrorist attacks.The data that the US Department of Defence shared with GAO shows that about 86 per cent of the funds — $66 billion of the $76 billion — were provided through the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF), which was established in 2005.As of April 2017, about $61 billions of the $66 billions of allocations made since 2005 have been disbursed. The largest expenditure of the $61 billions was for sustainment, totalling 44 per cent (over $26 billions) of all ASFF disbursements over this time period. Equipment and transportation represented the second-largest expenditure of the $61 billion, accounting for almost $18 billion, or 29 per cent.Nearly 81 per cent of weapons provided to the Afghan security forces were rifles and pistols. The firepower funding also [Read More…]

Aug 052017
Trump wants Pakistan’s ‘paradoxical’ policies to change: NSA

Gen H. R. McMaster defends the American president’s strategy on winning the war in Afghanistan by giving unrestricted powers to the US military based in the war-torn country. WASHINGTON: US National Security Adviser Gen H.R. McMaster said on Saturday that President Donald Trump wants Pakistan to change its ‘paradoxical’ policy of supporting the militants who are causing the country great losses. In an interview to a conservative radio host, Hugh Hewitt, Mr McMaster also defended President Trump’s strategy on winning the war in Afghanistan by giving unrestricted powers to the US military based in the war-torn country. US officials have often accused Pakistan of helping the militants, a charge Islamabad vehemently denies, but this marks the first time that the allegation has been attributed to President Trump. “The president has also made clear that we need to see a change in behaviour of those in the region, which includes those who are providing safe haven and support bases for the Taliban, Haqqani Network and others,” Mr McMaster said. “This is Pakistan in particular that we want to really see a change in and a reduction of their support for these groups. I mean, this is of course, you know, a very paradoxical situation where Pakistan is taking great losses. They have fought very hard against these groups, but they’ve done so really only selectively,” he added. Commenting on Mr Trump’s decision to win the Afghan war, Gen McMaster said: The president has said that, “He does not want to place [Read More…]

Jul 082017
US senators struggle to define victory in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: Key US senators, who visited Pakistan and Afghanistan this week, appear divided on how to win the Afghan war: some prefer a military victory before negotiations, others seek a political solution.There is, however, one common thread in their statements published in the US media on Saturday: Pakistan needs to do more to force the Taliban to accept a political solution.Senator John McCain, who headed this five-member US Senate delegation, said the visit convinced him that the Unites States needs to have a new strategy to win in Afghanistan and that “the strongest nation on Earth should be able to win this conflict.”But Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the two Democrats in the team, stressed the need for focusing on a political solution and accused the Trump administration of neglecting diplomatic efforts to win this war. She also urged Pakistan to do more. “While they have taken positive steps, we told Pakistani leaders they must do more to eliminate safe havens and terrorist groups in the region,” she tweeted.The Senate delegation, which met senior Pakistani and Afghan officials as well as commanders of the US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan, is expected to share its observations with the Trump administration. The delegation also visited South Waziristan.Senator Warren, a rising Democratic star who is considered a serious candidate for the next presidential election, said she also discussed Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism when with the army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, when she met him in the Pakistani capital last [Read More…]

Jul 052017
McCain’s warning reflects changing mood in Washington towards Pakistan

WASHINGTON: US Senator John McCain’s warning that if Pakistan does not stop supporting the Haqqani network, the United States should change its ‘behaviour’ towards the Pakistani nation reflects the changing mood in Washington towards a country once considered a close ally. Senator McCain, who was in Islamabad recently before flying over to Kabul, said he had conveyed this message to Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders as well. “We have made it very clear that we expect they [Pakistan] will cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and against terrorist organisations,” he said at a news briefing on Tuesday in Kabul. “If they don’t change their behaviour, maybe we should change our behaviour towards Pakistan as a nation.” According to some Pakistani sources, the terse statement came even though during a briefing by top military officials Mr McCain and his team were repeatedly informed that Pakistan had severed its links with members of the Haqqani network. They added that if any militants were found inside Pakistan they would be arrested and prosecuted. Meanwhile, it is not just the United States which talks about forcing Pakistan to change its Afghan policy. In a recent statement, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a sterner warning. “It is absolutely unacceptable that a country provides sanctuary to terrorist groups which are responsible for terrorist attacks inside another country.” A recent Pentagon report — which describes Pakistan as “the most influential external actor” in Afghanistan — explains that this new emphasis on Pakistan stems from [Read More…]

May 242017
India may launch aggressive actions in Pakistan: US spies

WASHINGTON: US intelligence chiefs have warned Congress that India may launch aggressive actions inside Pakistan on the pretext of stopping “cross-border attacks” and that the ongoing exchange of artillery shells across the Line of Control (LoC) may lead to a direct conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours. The warning given at a US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon followed alarming statements from New Delhi and Islamabad, threatening attacks and counterattacks. “India has sought and continues to move to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and is considering punitive options to raise the cost to Islamabad for its alleged support to cross-border terrorism,” Lt Gen Vincent Stewart, the head of US Defence Intelligence Agency, told the committee. “Increasing numbers of firefights along the Line of Control, including the use of artillery and mortars, might exacerbate the risk of unintended escalation between these nuclear-armed neighbours,” warned the director for National Intelligence, Daniel R. Coats. The two officials were briefing senators on the US intelligence community’s threat assessment for 2017-18, during which they see terrorist groups attacking American interests across the globe. On Tuesday, the Pakistan Army denied the Indian Army’s claim that it had carried out an ‘operation’ against Pakistani posts along the LoC. Indian Army’s Maj Gen Ashok Narula claimed the action was aimed to “bring down the number of terrorists in Kashmir so that local youths are not encouraged to take up arms”. Pakistan says that it never allows terrorists to use its soil for launching attacks into another country. Gen [Read More…]

Dec 022016
US bill pledges $900m to Pakistan, links half of amount to certification

WASHINGTON: A consensus US defence bill, set to be approved by the House, recognises Pakistan as a key strategic partner and pledges more than $900 million in economic and other assistance to the country. But the bill also conditions $450m from this assistance to a certification from the US defence secretary that Pakistan is committed to fighting all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani network. This year the amount was $300m, which was not released after Secretary Ash Carter refused to certify in Pakistan’s favour. The US National Defence Authori­sation Act for fiscal year 2017 was tentatively scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Friday evening, and in the Senate next week. Since it is a consensus bill, it is unlikely to face any opposition. The bill notes that “the United States and Pakistan continue to have many critical shared interests, both economic- and security-related, which could be the foundation for a positive and mutually beneficial partnership.” In a conference report, which combines the House and Senate versions of a legislation, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain also underlined the importance of a continued relationship between the United States and Pakistan. He noted that the bill “refocuses security assistance to Pakistan on activities that directly support US national security interests”. But Senator McCain also noted that the bill “conditions a significant portion of funding on a certification from the defence secretary that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani network in Pakistani territory”. After [Read More…]

Dec 012016
Trump team takes issue with Pakistani version of phone talk

WASHINGTON: The Trump transition team has issued its own version of the Sharif-Trump telephone call, saying that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US president-elect Donald Trump did have a ‘productive conversation’ on Wednesday, but it lacked the “flowery language” included in the Pakistani version of this talk.“President-elect Trump and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke … had a productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future,” said the Trump transition team in a rare readout of his conversation with a foreign leader.“President-elect Trump also noted that he is looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship with Prime Minister Sharif,” the statement added.An unidentified adviser to the Trump team said the Pakistani readout of the talk had “committed the president-elect to more than what he meant”.Other members of the Trump team, quoted in media, pointed out that the Pakistanis overplayed Mr Trump’s offer to play “a role” in resolving Pakistan’s disputes with India.See: Will President Trump be good or bad for Pakistan?The most critical comment on the Pakistani readout, however, came from a former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer: “It’s entirely inappropriate for the Pakistani government to release what an American president-elect says in the course of a phone call.”Mr Fleischer, who was a member of former Republican president George Bush’s White House team and is close to the Trump transition team as well, noted that no government releases such readouts.“We would never release what a foreign leader said [Read More…]

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