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Category — PAK-US ties

Chest-thumping and jingoism: By Syed Ali Zia Jaffery in The News, Oct 25, 2017

The writer is a research analyst and sub-editor at the Global Village Space.
Moments after penning-down a piece on US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson’s upcoming visit to Pakistan, I scanned through my Twitter timeline. Unsurprisingly, my optimism about betterment in the ‘transactional’ nature of ties between Islamabad and Washington soon died down when I read a tweet which said: “Tillerson is not welcome in Pakistan.”

The tweet was retweeted, quoted and liked by a good number of people. While many may subscribe to such emotional enunciations, there is little room for these quirks in high-level diplomacy. Unfortunately, not only ordinary citizens like the author of the tweet but the too is afflicted with the tendency of conducting diplomacy through instincts and emotions.

Days after ticking all the right boxes in his maiden campaign at the UNGA, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi boisterously asserted that Pakistan is not dependent on the US for meeting its defence requirements, something that is not within the purview of this piece. Abbasi’s assertion fit well with Pakistan’s defiant response to Trump’s strategy address in which he berated Pakistan for its support to inimical elements which are challenging US war-efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s unified response given mainly through the National Security Committee has, thus far been based on two factors. First, Pakistan and other observers believe that the US is losing its leverage over Islamabad. Second, Pakistan firmly believes that its Chinese allies will help it amid mounting US pressure.

While there is a strong case for policymakers to ‘borrow courage’ from allies, especially China, there is a need to understand the nuances of international relations. States pander to their national interests in an anarchical world order. China is doing – and will do – the same. But this was lost on most Pakistanis who felt betrayed when the Xiamen Declaration was passed last month in which China, much to the delight of Delhi included the names of Kashmiri militant outfits in the list of those which have plagued the region of terrorism. Though, there was nothing outrageous in the Brics statement, China made one thing absolutely clear: it doesn’t want any hurdles in its OBOR initiative of which CPEC is an important project.

Those who were talking about pulling the plug on ties with the US by eliciting Chinese support were shocked as to how and why China, despite being recently embroiled in a tiff at Doklam, could agree to include an Indian version on terrorism in the Xiamen Declaration. However, the despondency was soon supplanted with a renewed wave of chest-thumping when China lauded Pakistan’s for its efforts against terrorism while agreeing to its idea of a political settlement of the Afghan imbroglio.

The problem that Pakistan faces in conducting inter-state ties is due to its constricted appreciation of the nuances of international politics. Stuck at zero-sum diplomacy, Islamabad fails to engage states at multiple levels. The détente that looked possible after Abbasi’s deft diplomacy with the US during the 72nd session UNGA seemed untenable after General Mattis said that CPEC passes through the ‘disputed’ northern areas of Pakistan. Seen as blatant support for the Indian narrative, the statement forced Pakistan to call upon the US to stop looking at the multi-billion dollar project through the prism of India.

Mattis’ statement again drew a great deal of ire from all quarters in Pakistan; social media was filled with anti-US diatribes. The wrist-slitting ended when Pakistani forces acted swiftly upon actionable intelligence provided by the US and rescued the Coleman-Boyle family. The ensuing bonhomie is positive but again it is being wrongly perceived as a precursor to the establishment of strategic ties with the US.

However, let’s make no mistake about one important thing: Pakistan and the US are not strategic partners; in fact, they never were. Stints of friendliness were followed by those of open disregard. In the cold-war era, both countries gained a lot from the partnership – the details of which merit another essay. Beyond the world of social media activism and chest-thumping, there is a great room for deft and assiduous diplomacy.

Writing for another publication, I stressed:” Tweets and video messages are by no means tantamount to the resolution of thorny issues. Whether we like it or not, our arch-nemesis in India has positioned itself in a way that it fits in the US’ strategy for the region. The US can continue to praise and court Pakistan while pandering to Indian strategic interests; this is perfectly in line with the cruelty of international politics. It is upon Pakistan to broaden its worldview and get out of its long-held belief about zero-sum diplomacy.”

Jingoism is inimical to the very concept of patriotism, especially when embedded in state policies. Indeed, the US is not in a position to browbeat Pakistan. However, Pakistan must not entertain thoughts on riding on a high horse on the behest of allies. Diplomacy thrives on creating chances to pushing forward interests. Let’s use this ‘week of goodwill’ to impress upon the US to address Pakistan’s legitimate and veritable concerns in the region.http://thenews.com.pk/print/239490-Chest-thumping-and-jingoism

October 25, 2017   No Comments

Partnership linked to new strategy, US tells Pakistan

by SHAFQAT ALI in The Nation, Oct 25, 2017
ISLAMABAD – The United States on Tuesday pressed Pakistan to accept President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan policy – with a greater role for India – if it desired partnership with Washington, The Nation has learnt.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited Islamabad, made it clear to Pakistan’s civil and military leadership that his country would not change its Afghan policy on Islamabad’s demand, officials privy to the meeting told The Nation.

“Tillerson was straightforward in telling us that the only way out for Pakistan [if it wanted to continue partnership with Washington] is to accept new policies of the US . Tillerson emphasised the US wanted India’s engagement on the Afghan issue,” said one official, adding the US asked Pakistan to go for the kill against all terror outfits.

Tillerson, who was not accorded a rousing welcome when he landed in Islamabad ostensibly for his aggressive statements before flying to Pakistan , was firm that Pakistan needed to “do more” to improve the Pak-US trust level.

The top US envoy faced Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Naveed Mukhtar, secretary to PM Mussadiq Malik, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and other officials on one table as he led his own delegation including Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale.

A US embassy statement issued after the meeting said, during his inaugural trip to Pakistan as secretary of state, Tillerson “reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country.”

The US statement said to address those concerns, “the secretary outlined the United States’ new South Asia Strategy and the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others [in all probability India] to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region.”

The secretary, the statement said, noted that “Pakistan and the United States shared common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States.”

It added: “The secretary discussed our continued bilateral cooperation and partnership , expanding economic ties between the United States and Pakistan , and Pakistan’s critical role in the region.”

It was not all sticks as in the end, Tillerson “expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.”

The secretary, the US embassy said, also “expressed his gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani army for their cooperation in securing the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity.”

Sources said initially separate meetings between Tillerson, Abbasi, Khawaja Asif and General Bajwa were planned but PM Abbasi wanted the meeting to take place on one table so that the civil and the military leadership could listen to what US secretary had to say, together.

The US embassy said Prime Minister Abbasi chaired the “interagency meeting”.

A close aide of the prime minister told The Nation that the ministers and the military leadership were called to discuss the issues on one table to “keep everything transparent”.

“The idea was to listen to Tillerson and give a joint reply through the PM. We [Pakistani civil and military leaders] did have consultations before Tillerson’s visit to finalise our response [to the US],” he said.

The official said Pakistan’s concerns over India’s proposed role on the Afghanistan issue and India’s state-sponsored terrorism in Held Kashmir were shared with Tillerson.

“Tillerson did not give any desired reply on India’s role in Afghanistan but vowed to support [Pak-India] bilateral efforts for resolution of the Kashmir issue,” he added.

Interestingly, PM Abbasi flew to Lahore almost simultaneously with Tillerson who left for New Delhi after the “important talks”.

Officials said Prime Minister Abbasi told Tillerson that Pakistan was committed to the “war on terror” and was not playing any double-game with the US or the world.

He also referred to the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the war on terror and added that Pakistan had “produced results” in the fight.

The PM, an official said, shared Pakistan’s fears that US proposal for India’s greater role to resolve the Afghanistan issue would only aggravate the situation.

“Pakistan is already a victim of Indian-sponsored terrorism emanating from the Afghan soil,” he quoted the premier as saying.

An identical statement released separately by the PM’s office and the foreign ministry said Tillerson’s visit was a follow-up to the meeting between Prime Minister Abbasi and the US Vice President, Mike Pence, in New York in September 2017 in which the “two sides agreed to resume full scale engagements between the two governments.”

The prime minister, it said, underlined the importance of high-level engagements between the two countries and expressed satisfaction on the progress made during those interactions in recent months.

Abbasi informed the visiting delegation of the significant strides Pakistan had made in improving the overall security and economic environment of the country resulting in significantly improved business and investment opportunities available to foreign businesses and investors, said the statement.

“The talks covered in detail all aspects of bilateral relations, the regional situation, as well as the evolving international environment,” it said.

Pakistan delegation, the statement said, outlined the government’s policy of a peaceful neighbourhood and steps taken to promote cooperation and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

“The US delegation was informed that progress in promoting peace and stability in the region was linked to the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The ongoing grave violations of human rights by Indian occupation forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir were highlighted,” the statement added.

The US delegation was apprised of the tremendous sacrifices made by the Pakistan nation including security forces and the law enforcement agencies in the war against terror, it said.

“The fact that Pakistani security forces have successfully carried out the largest counterterrorism operation was detailed along with Pakistan’s sustained commitment and interest in supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan as well as the broader region. The delegation was also informed of the ongoing efforts on securing the Pak-Afghan border out of national resources,” said the statement.

It added: “The two sides agreed to build upon the understandings reached in the dialogue process and to continue the pace and scope of high-level engagements in future.”

October 25, 2017   No Comments

Tillerson asks Islamabad to step up fight against terrorists

by Baqir Sajjad Syed in Dawn, October 25th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Pakistani leadership on Tuesday to step up their fight against terrorist groups on their soil and facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process.

“The secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country,” a US Embassy statement on Mr Tillerson’s visit said.

Mr Tillerson’s message appeared significantly toned down as compared to the usual American rhetoric on alleged terrorist sanctuaries on Pakistani soil, although in essence there was little difference in the messaging.

The secretary had just a day earlier told reporters at Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase that Islamabad needed to have “a clear-eyed view” of terror safe havens on its territory and cautioned that bilateral ties would be conditions-based in terms of whether or not its leaders take the “specific” actions that were being required of them.

In an attempt to allay Pakistan’s concerns, the secretary on multiple occasions during his few hours in Islamabad stressed Pakistan’s importance for America’s policy in this region and attainment of the goals set under President Trump’s South Asia strategy.

“Pakistan is important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for greater economic relationship as well,” Mr Tillerson said before the start of the talks.

Mr Tillerson held delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at the PM House. The Pakistani delegation, which was led by the prime minister, included Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.

It was one of the rare occasions when the often squabbling civilian and military leaders met the visiting US leader together to underscore their consensus on foreign policy issues.

Outlining US expectations from Islamabad, the secretary told his interlocutors that Pakistan should “facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan”, and contribute to shared interests of “establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating (the militant) Islamic State in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States”.

Frayed Pak-US ties came under fresh strains after President Trump, while announcing his South Asia strategy, accused Pakistan of insincerity in fighting terrorism, while taking billions of dollars from the US. But leaders of the two countries later worked together to avert a breakdown in relationship.

The effort for preventing such an eventuality was so well executed that at times it gave an impression of bonhomie. Reco­very of a kidnapped Candanian-American family from Taliban captivity and Washington’s profuse praise for the operation that led to their freedom came to epitomise the improvement in relations.

However, insiders had all along insisted, and something confirmed by Mr Tillerson’s visit, that notwithstanding the improved atmospherics, both sides were firmly holding on to their positions.

Talking to the US Embassy staff at the chancery, the secretary of state said that he was visiting Islamabad to continue the discussions on the recently announced President Trump’s South Asia policy. He told them that he expected “very open, very frank” discussions on the challenges in the bilateral relationship and things Pakistani leadership was expected to undertake to address those issues, besides making them realise that Washington wanted “to work together as partners”.
PM’s assurance

Prime Minister Abbasi, meanwhile, assured Secretary Tillerson that Pakistan remained committed to the war on terror and looked forward to continue working with the US.

Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, participating in a TV talk show after attending the meeting, said the Pakistani side flagged its concerns about US plans for giving India a greater regional role.

“The two sides agreed to build upon the understanding reached in the dialogue process and to continue the pace and scope of high-level engagements in future,” a PMO statement said.

October 25, 2017   No Comments

Tillerson talks tough to ‘incredibly important’ Pakistan

By Kamran Yousaf in The Express Tribune, Oct 25, 2017
ISLAMABAD: The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday pressed Pakistan to speed up its efforts against terrorism but described Islamabad as ‘incredibly important’ player to deal with some of the pressing challenges facing the region.

On his maiden visit to Islamabad, Secretary Tillerson – while renewing the US demand seeking action against Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network – said many of the solutions to the regional challenges have to be found in Pakistan in a statement that underlines the importance of Islamabad in the Trump administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.

“Pakistan has an incredibly important role in that South Asia strategy. The country is very important to us. The security, the stability of the country is very important to us,” the secretary of state remarked while interacting with the US Embassy staff before talks with Pakistani authorities.

“And many of the solutions to the regional challenges are – have to be found here as well in dealing with the leadership in Pakistan, and so we’re here to have further discussions about that,” he added.

Tillerson, who flew to New Delhi after four-hour stay in Islamabad, held talks with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Foreign Minister Khawja Asif, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG ISI Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar and other officials also attended the meeting held at the PM office.

During the talks, the US official demanded Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country, a telling message he delivered to the country’s civil and military leadership.

The agenda was wide ranging covering bilateral issues, war on terror, Afghanistan and wider regional matters. Unlike the past, Tillerson did not interact with the media in a move that suggests that he did not want to face tough questions.

In a 30-second video, released by the PM office, Tillerson could be heard telling the prime minister that Pakistan is “so important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for greater economic relationship.”

In return Abbasi said Pakistan is committed in the war against terror.

“We have produced results and we are looking forward to moving ahead with the US and building a tremendous relationship,” the premier said.

“The US can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror. We appreciate the understandings that we agreed and we appreciate the engagement,” Abbasi added.

But tough discussions took place behind the cameras where the two sides expressed their views in a candid and frank manner, officials familiar with the closed door huddle told The Express Tribune.

Pakistan, according to those officials, presented its own grievances ranging from undermining its anti-terror efforts to giving India a greater role in Afghanistan. The secretary of state was informed in categorical terms that India could only play the role of a spoiler in Afghanistan.

The statement issued by the US Embassy gave some hint about what exactly transpired in Tillerson’s talks with the Pakistani civil and military authorities.

The statement said the secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country.

“To address those concerns, the Secretary outlined the United States’ new South Asia Strategy and the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region,” the statement added.

In his policy speech on August 21, Trump accused Pakistan of supporting agents of ‘chaos and violence.’ He also alleged that Pakistan was supporting Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. But Trump warned that Pakistan had to change this approach immediately.

Islamabad always denies the charge and insists that it cannot be made scapegoat for the failures in Afghanistan. It is also not happy with the Trump administration for undermining the country’s enormous sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

While Tillerson reiterated the demand from Pakistan to do more, he attempted to placate Islamabad by suggesting that “the US share common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the US.”

In all meetings with Pakistan’s leaders, the secretary expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terror. He also expressed gratitude to the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation in securing release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity.

The separate statement issued by the PM office gave a positive spin to talks between Secretary Tillerson and civil and military leadership as it did not talk about the US demand, seeking specific action against certain militant groups.

It said Tillerson’s visit was a follow-up to the meeting between the prime minister and the US Vice President Mike Pence in New York in September in which the two sides agreed to resume full scale engagements between the two Governments.

The PM underlined the importance of high level engagements between the two countries and expressed satisfaction on the progress made during these interactions in recent months.

The US delegation was informed that progress in promoting peace and stability in the region was linked to the resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. The ongoing grave violations of human rights by Indian occupation forces in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir were highlighted.

The delegation was also informed of the ongoing efforts on securing the Pak-Afghan border out of national resources. The two sides agreed to build upon the understandings reached in the dialogue process and to continue the pace and scope of high level engagements in future.https://tribune.com.pk/story/1540159/1-tillerson-arrives-islamabad-high-level-talks/

October 25, 2017   No Comments

Secretary Tillerson Urges Pakistan Crackdown on Militant Havens

By Saeed Shah in The Wall St Journal, Oct 25, 2017
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The U.S. pressed Pakistan for the elimination of havens for militants within its territory, according to American and Pakistani officials, in a meeting Tuesday between Pakistani leadership and the visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

However, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi insisted to Mr. Tillerson that there are no terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, according to Pakistani officials, and Mr. Abbasi pledged to cooperate with the U.S. to stabilize Afghanistan.

The secretary of state is the most senior U.S. official to make a trip to Pakistan since President Donald Trump outlined a new Afghanistan policy in August. That policy depends on ending havens for Afghan militants in Pakistan, the U.S. said.

“The Secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country,” according to a statement from the U.S. embassy.

“We are committed in the war against terror. We have produced results,” Mr. Abbasi told Mr. Tillerson during a televised photo opportunity ahead of their meeting. “The U.S. can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror.”

The meeting was positive, not confrontational, according to Pakistani officials, with the U.S. seeking Islamabad’s assistance in bringing to an end its longest-running war, in neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S. believes the Taliban has a haven in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan while the allied Haqqani network is present in northwest Pakistan. Both areas are close to the Afghan border.

The meeting followed the recovery by Pakistani forces this month of an American-Canadian family that had been held captive by the Haqqani network for five years. That rescue won praise from Mr. Trump for Pakistan. U.S. officials say that the family was kept in Pakistan for much of that time, while Pakistan says that they were brought across the border from Afghanistan just before the rescue.

In an interview with The Toronto Star on Monday, Caitlan Coleman, the American wife, said that they had been moved between Pakistan and Afghanistan several times, and they were kept in Pakistan for a year before being freed—pointing to a continued haven for Haqqani network fighters in Pakistan.

On Monday, in Kabul, Mr. Tillerson had said: “Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan.”

Washington wants Pakistan to eliminate militant sanctuaries and help bring the Taliban into peace negotiations. U.S. officials have indicated that the talks can’t happen until the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan breaks what they call a stalemate on the battlefield, showing the Taliban that they can’t win. Islamabad believes the talks should happen now.

Islamabad says that it is already stretched fighting militants that target Pakistan and it can’t start a war on any Afghan insurgents on its soil, but it is prepared to push them across the border into Afghanistan. Islamabad says, however, that with some 40% of Afghan territory in Taliban control, the insurgents don’t need havens in Pakistan. Islamabad also thinks the U.S. is blaming Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has carried out extensive counterterrorism operations over the last three years, including in the North Waziristan tribal area, previously the headquarters of the Haqqani network, which Islamabad says has ended militant infrastructure in the country.

However, the U.S. believes that many Haqqani network fighters relocated to other parts of Pakistan, including the Kurram tribal area. Last week, Kurram was subject to drone strikes against Haqqani operatives, according to local residents. Pakistan denied the strikes took place. The American-Canadian couple were recovered in or around Kurram.

Mr. Tillerson’s multistop trip will next take him to India.https://www.wsj.com/articles/secretary-tillerson-urges-pakistan-crackdown-on-militant-havens-1508869399

October 25, 2017   No Comments

U.S. Warning to Pakistan: Stop Backing Terrorism

By GARDINER HARRIS in The NY Times online, Oct 24, 2017
ISLAMABAD — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson stopped in Islamabad on his way to New Delhi on Tuesday to deliver what he hoped would be a sobering message to Pakistan: Stop funding or providing shelter to terrorist groups. Now.

It is a message the United States has been giving the Pakistanis in various forms since the Sept. 11 attacks, and it is one the Pakistanis have by turns harkened to, bristled at and shrugged off — sometimes in the same meeting — for years.

In tackling the deeply dysfunctional relationship between the United States and Pakistan, the Trump administration is finding that it is not unlike some difficult marriages: all but impossible to fix, but also impossible to end.

There were few signs on Tuesday that this 16-year-old dynamic had changed.

Mr. Tillerson met with three of Pakistan’s top leaders at the elegant prime minister’s residence in Islamabad: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi; the foreign minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif; and, most important, the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.

At a formal greeting before a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who is considered the father of Pakistan, Mr. Tillerson began with reassurances. “Pakistan is important, as you know, regionally to the U.S. security relationships and so important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for a greater economic relationship as well,” he said.

Mr. Abbasi, wearing a traditional white kurta next to Mr. Tillerson’s dark suit, responded cheerfully but pointedly. “The U.S. can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror,” he said.

The United States believes that Pakistan has for years supported terrorist groups, like the Haqqani network, that attack American troops in Afghanistan, undermining the 16-year effort to defeat the Taliban. But for just as long, the United States has relied on Pakistani air and land routes to supply both American and Afghan forces.

Without Pakistan, the United States would not be able to keep troops in Afghanistan — but it also might not need to, some American observers suggest.

“What do you do when your allies are part of the problem?” asked Daniel L. Byman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University. “The desire to turn our backs on these people is there, but then you worry that terrorists will have more operational freedom and it will cost you more in the long run.”

In public, the Pakistanis say they have killed more terrorists at greater cost in lives lost than any other nation. In private, they say they must hedge their bets against the inevitable day when American troops leave Afghanistan.

In the days leading up to Mr. Tillerson’s visit, the United States conducted a flurry of airstrikes along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, fulfilling President Trump’s promise in August to intensify attacks against the Taliban and Haqqani network, which has run a virtual factory in Pakistan since 2005 to supply suicide bombers in Afghanistan.

Local news media outlets reported more than a dozen missile strikes that killed scores of Haqqani fighters. The strikes, many of them in Pakistani territory, are deeply irritating to Pakistan, which considers them a threat to its sovereignty.

Along with the attacks, the Trump administration has toughened its rhetoric. In a speech last week that offered effusive praise for India, Mr. Tillerson warned, “We expect Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups based there that threaten its own people and the broader region.”

Senior Pakistani army and intelligence officials expressed confidence in background interviews in recent days that the Trump administration cannot sustain a hostile stance for too long. The Pakistanis are keenly aware that the United States relies on them not only for supplies of material, but also for intelligence.

The Obama administration worked to reduce its reliance on Pakistan in part by reaching a reconciliation with Iran, the only other viable option for supplying troops in Afghanistan. India is building a port in the Iranian city of Chabahar, where supplies could be landed and shipped to Afghanistan.

C. Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University, argues that Pakistan represents a far greater threat to American interests than Iran does. It was Pakistan that provided nuclear technology to North Korea and Libya, and Pakistan’s proxies have killed more American troops than Iran’s, she said.

But the Trump administration’s hostility toward Iran — Mr. Trump has threatened to tear up the Iran nuclear accord — has closed off such a strategy, so the United States must rely on Pakistan.

“It’s like a woman trying to leave an abusive marriage when she has no money,” Ms. Fair said. “How do you do that?”

Will tougher rhetoric change Pakistani behavior? Experts are skeptical. “Getting tough on Pakistan, which we’ve tried before, never works,” said Ryan C. Crocker, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. “In fact, it has the opposite effect. They just dig in deeper.”https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/world/asia/tillerson-pakistan.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fasia&_r=0

October 25, 2017   No Comments

USAID funding not properly used in Pakistan

by Mehtab Haider in The News, Oct 22, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Office of Inspector General (OIG) for USAID has found in its audit report that Washington reduced its committed amount from $75 million to $45 million for Strengthening Citizen Voice and Public Accountability Programme in Pakistan but it was not implemented properly for achieving the desired objective.

“We found USAID/Pakistan was not implementing the programme in a way that would encourage effective interaction between citizens and government or comply fully with USAID directives for programme design and implementation. The USAID mission did not ensure that the contract awarded to the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (the Trust) matched the programme’s original design” the OIG stated in its prepared report.

According to the audit report prepared by OIG for USAID funded projects stated that the USAID mission shortened and reduced funding for the programme without adjusting its expected results.

In the programme design approval phase, the mission reduced the programme’s funding and length without making any other changes. According to the activity approval document, the mission envisioned a $75 million, 5-year project to further civil society objectives in Pakistan. In the activity description, the mission anticipated up to 1,000 programme grants.

After the mission director approved the programme in June 2010, USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs (OAPA) reduced it by 40 percent to a $45 million, 3-year programme. Nonetheless, the mission awarded the contract with the same expected results and similar grant targets—between 800 and 1,000 grants to award, most of them under $100,000—as the original programme.

The mission changed the funding and length of the programme based on OAPA’s interpretation of guidance from the State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan that projects should be shorter. However, the mission made the changes without assessing their impact on the programme’s expected results. According to mission staff, this was an oversight. They told us they recognized the discrepancy during programme implementation but could not find a way to justify making programmatic changes more than a year into the programme.

Moreover, the USAID mission was not adequately monitoring the Trust’s performance in achieving programme goals or providing timely funding for all grant cycles. These deficiencies have limited the programme’s ability to make long-term improvements in governance and public accountability in Pakistan.

The Trust has awarded hundreds of grants to civil society organisations throughout Pakistan and had some success with short-term grant activities for component 1. However, two components—organisational development (component 2) and public accountability (component 3)—were unfulfilled because of a lack of mission monitoring and underperformance by the Trust.

Regarding organisational development, a significant amount of training provided by the Trust focused on showing organisations how to comply with USAID regulations, rather than how to be effective civil society groups.

In addition, although public accountability was a significant part of the Trust’s proposal and the largest component of the award, efforts to develop public-private partnerships were largely limited to getting two universities to offer courses on nonprofit organisational management, and the courses had low enrollment. Throughout the programme’s implementation, the mission has not adequately monitored the Trust’s performance in achieving programme goals. For example, while security conditions in Pakistan make it difficult for USAID employees to visit activity sites, the USAID mission has not used the alternative mechanisms at its disposal, including the mission’s monitoring contractor.

While this programme is to end in May 2018, the OIG recommend that USAID/Pakistan take the following actions to help maximize the programme’s potential to achieve results including conduct an assessment of progress made on achieving the Strengthening Citizen Voice and Accountability Programme’s goals; determine if adjustments to programme activities, work plans, or the contract are necessary; and if so implement any actions that can be done before the programme ends. They also recommended implement a final review process by technical offices before awards are made to verify that they agree with the programme’s design, it concluded.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/238623-USAID-funding-not-properly-used-in-Pakistan-report

October 22, 2017   No Comments

Easing of Pak-India tensions part of US strategy: Tillerson

Report in The Nation, Oct 20,2017
Washington – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that the new American strategy on Afghanistan also involves seeking a resolution to tensions between Pakistan and India.

Tillerson, who will be travelling to India and Pakistan next week, said both countries are “important elements” in the US policy for stabilising South Asia. He was speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on ‘US-India Partnership of the next 100 years.’

Tillerson said the new “regional approach” on Afghanistan also involved seeking a resolution to tensions between India and Pakistan. “We intent to work closely with India and Pakistan and we hope to ease tensions along their borders as well… Pakistan has two very troubled borders. We would like to help take the tensions down on both of those,” he said.

“We see it as a regional issue. We solve Afghanistan by addressing the regional challenges. Pakistan is important element in that, India is important element in that,” he said.

Repeatedly referring to India’s democratic politics, Tillerson also referred to India’s Muslim minorities. “India’s diverse population includes more than 170 million Muslims — the third-largest Muslim population in the world. Yet we do not encounter significant numbers of Indian Muslims among foreign fighters in the ranks of IS or other terror groups, which speaks to the strengths of Indian society,” he said. According to a senior State Department official, Secretary Rex Tillerson will visit Pakistan next week during an Asian trip that will also take him to the country’s rival India.

Tillerson’s inaugural visit to South Asia will reaffirm the Donald Trump administration’s comprehensive strategy toward the region, the State Department said on Thursday.

“In Islamabad, the secretary will meet with senior Pakistani leaders to discuss our continued strong bilateral cooperation, Pakistan’s critical role in the success of our South Asia strategy, and the expanding economic ties between our two countries,” a statement by the Department said. The secretary will build on the “positive conversations” he and Vice-President Mike Pence had with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, last month in New York, the statement said.

Tillerson will be travelling to Riyadh, Doha, Islamabad, New Delhi, and Geneva from October 20 to 27, but the department has not announced a detailed itinerary.

Meanwhile, the head of the CIA said on Thursday a US-Canadian couple kidnapped by militants in Afghanistan were held inside neighbouring Pakistan for five years before being freed.

“We had a great outcome last week when we were able to get back four US citizens who had been held for five years inside of Pakistan,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Foundation for Defence of Democracies think tank in Washington.

Pompeo’s remarks appeared to be the first time a US official has publicly stated that the couple and their children spent their captivity in Pakistan, contrary to accounts from Pakistani officials.

Pakistan’s military and government have indicated US citizen Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their children were rescued shortly after entering Pakistan from Afghanistan. The couple were kidnapped in 2012 while backpacking in Afghanistan and their children were born in captivity.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have previously said there was no indication the hostages had been in Afghanistan in the days before they were freed. The officials said the United States believed the hostages were probably held by the Haqqani militant group.

After the release of the family, Pakistani officials emphasized the importance of cooperation and intelligence sharing by Washington, which has threatened to cut military aid and take other punitive measures against Pakistan.

However, two Taliban sources with knowledge of the family’s captivity said they had been kept in Pakistan in recent years.

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday the United States considers the family’s rescue a “template for more cooperation” by Pakistan. “We see this as a first step and we hope that we can build on it,” said the official, adding that Washington is “very frustrated that Taliban and Haqqani militants continue to find sanctuary in Pakistan.”

Pompeo said the US would do everything it could to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan, but added it could not be achieved if the militants had safe havens.

October 20, 2017   No Comments

US drone strike kills 20 in Kurram Agency: report in The News, Oct 17, 2017

PESHAWAR: At least 20 people were killed in latest US drone strike on a compound in Kurram Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata) near the border with Afghanistan on Monday.

As per details, four missiles were fired on a compound during the strike in the Kurram tribal district close to the Afghan border, in which a suspected hardcore terrorist among 20 were killed. The target was aimed for a suspected commander of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, sources said.

It is the second such strike since US President Donald Trump announced new Afghan policy in August, accusing Pakistan of offering “safe havens to agents of chaos”.

Last month, drone strike killed at least three people in an attack in the same region, making Pakistan-US relations further tense.

The use of US drones has dwindled dramatically in recent years in Pakistan, where the strikes have proven extremely controversial with the public and rights groups.

October 17, 2017   No Comments

NYC attack plot: Pakistani-American’s extradition hearing delayed

Reuters in The Express Tribune, Oct 14, 2017
ISLAMABAD: A court on Friday delayed an extradition hearing for a Pakistani-American man who is accused of plotting attacks in New York City for Da’esh (Islamic State) without fixing a new date, the man’s lawyer said.

Authorities had arrested 19-year-old Talha Haroon in Islamabad in 2016 after US authorities identified him as one of three men, along with a Canadian citizen and a man from the Philippines, who were planning attacks on Manhattan’s Times Square and the city’s subway system.

His lawyer and family deny the charges. Haroon’s lawyer termed the investigation a ‘sting operation’ carried out by an investigating officer motivated by career advancement.

“The FBI projected this as a high-level story, but these people don’t have the qualifications to kill a monkey,” said the lawyer, Idrees Ashraf.

Ashraf said his client was only in contact with the investigating officer but never directly spoke with any of the co-accused, raising serious doubts about the nature of the investigation.

“According to the criminal complaint, the FBI agent communicated with Talha online, and has said he was active in da’esh, but no proof of militant links has been provided,” Ashraf contended.

One of the accused men, 19-year-old Canadian citizen Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, has been in US custody since May 2016.

He pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in October 2016, prosecutors said.

The third accused, 37-year old Russel Salic, was arrested in the Philippines in April, according to the office of Acting US Attorney Joon Kim.

Prosecutors say Salic maintained a pro-da’esh social media presence and had allegedly told the undercover officer he had been communicating with El Bahnasawy, and sent the officer about $423 from the Philippines to help pay for the attacks.

Haroon, however, has been in custody for over a year. A district magistrate had recommended that he should be extradited. However, his family had moved the Islamabad High Court against the extradition orders, contending that Haroon — a US citizen — had been falsely accused of being a fugitive.

“He was one of the best students in his school,” Haroon’s father said, adding that the teenager had moved to Pakistan in 2014 after finishing high school.

“He is naive and speaks from his heart,” Ashraf added. “He is not the sort of boy who can commit such brutal acts.”

US prosecutors, however, said they expect Haroon and Salic to be extradited to face charges, which include conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and to support a terrorist organisation.

If convicted of the most serious charges, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison.https://tribune.com.pk/story/1530819/nyc-attack-plot-pakistani-americans-extradition-hearing-delayed/

October 15, 2017   No Comments