KABUL (Reuters) – Pakistan has restored liaison officers at coordination centers on the Afghanistan border, NATO said on Monday, in a slight easing of tensions, after NATO air strikes last month killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers and provoked fury across the country.
But the U.S.-led coalition’s supply lines that run through Pakistan remain closed since the November 26 incident and it is both in the interests of foreign forces as well as Pakistan that the routes be opened sooner rather than later, the alliance said.
It’s rarely a nice thing for a foreign country to figure high in a U.S. presidential election campaign. If it is China, it is more likely to be about currency and trade disputes with Beijing, and how each of the candidates was going to tackle it than any bouquets. Or if it is Iran, you can be sure there would be some shooting from the hip as each candidate seeks to outbid the other in trying to convince voters he or she means business with the perceived threat from that country’s nuclear programme.
And so if you were a Pakistani, last weekend’s Republican presidential debate would be just as worrisome even though you know this is election season and candidates are given to competitive sabre rattling. The country was mentioned 55 times in the debate in South Carolina, notes Sadanand Dhume in a piece on The Enterprise blog. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the leading candidate, said Pakistan was nearly a failed state with multiple centres of power including a weak civilian leadership and a powerful military.
A strategic partnership agreement between India and Afghanistan would ordinarily have evoked howls of protest from Pakistan which has long regarded its western neighbour as part of its sphere of influence. Islamabad has, in the past, made no secret of its displeasure at India’s role in Afghanistan including a$2 billion aid effort that has won it goodwill among the Afghan people, but which Pakistan sees as New Delhi’s way to expand influence.
Instead the reaction to the pact signed last month during President Hamid Karzai’s visit to New Delhi, the first Kabul had done with any country, was decidedly muted. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said India and Afghanistan were “both sovereign countries and they have the right to do whatever they want to.” The Pakistani foreign office echoed Gilani’s comments, adding only that regional stability should be preserved. It cried off further comment, saying it was studying the pact.
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – India plans to train Afghan army combat units at top counter-insurgency schools, officials say, deepening its commitment to Afghanistan as Western forces prepare to withdraw, a move that will fan Pakistani fears of encirclement.
India may also provide light weapons to the Afghan army and train pilots and ground staff for Afghanistan’s small air force under a strategic partnership agreement signed last month.
SINGAPORE, Nov 9 (Reuters) – India plans to train Afghan
army combat units at top counter-insurgency schools, officials
say, deepening its commitment to Afghanistan as Western forces
prepare to withdraw, a move that will fan Pakistani fears of
India may also provide light weapons to the Afghan army and
train pilots and ground staff for Afghanistan’s small air force
under a strategic partnership agreement signed last month.
Last month driving up Afghanistan’s magnificent Panjshir valley, you couldn’t help thinking if the resurgent Taliban would ever be able to break its defences, both natural and from the Tajik-dominated populace. With its jagged cliffs and plunging valleys, Panjshir has been largely out of bounds for the Taliban, whether during the civil war or in the past 10 years when it has expanded a deadly insurgency against western and Afghan forces across the country. But on Saturday, the insurgents struck, carrying out a suicide bombing at a provincial reconstruction team base housing U.S. and Afghan troops and officials.
They were halted outside the base, but according to the provincial deputy governor they succeeded in killing two civilians and wounding two guards when they detonated their explosives. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the first suicide bombing in a decade was a message to Western forces that they were not secure anywhere in the country. They said the bombers came from within Panjshir, which if true would worry people even more because that would suggest the penetration was deeper and there could be more attacks.
With a series of spectacular attacks over the past few months, first in the provinces and then in the Afghan capital Kabul, the Talban have captured attention and even prompted comparisons with the Viet Cong’s Tet offensive. But they are not the only ones attacking Afghanistan, according to The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). It lists a series of attacks from early this year to build the case that Pakistan has joined the Taliban in what it called a “military invasion of Afghanistan”, driving another nail in the faltering U.S. effort in the country.
Beginning from the February bombardment of Afghan border police posts in Nangarhar and Khost provinces in eastern Afghanistan by Pakistani planes to the firing of hundreds of rockets last month in Kunar and Nuristan, Pakistani forces have stepped up cross border action, MEMRI said in a report. It quoted Afghan officials as saying the artillery and missile strikes backed by air intrusions were an “act of intrusion.”
Pakistan and the United States are in the middle of such a public and bruising fight that Islamabad’s other pet hate, India, has receded into the background. A Pakistani banker friend, only half in jest, said his country had bigger fish to fry than to worry about India, now that it had locked horns with the superpower.
But more seriously, India itself has kept a low profile, resisting the temptation to twist the knife deeper into its neighbour when it faces the risk of isolation. Much of what Pakistan stands accused of, including the main charge of using violent extremism as an instrument of foreign policy, is an echo of what New Delhi has been blaming Pakistan for, for two decades now. Even the language that America’s military officials led by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and diplomats have employed such as “proxy wars” , “cross border raids” or terrorism central to describe Pakistan is a throwback to the 1990s and later when India and Pakistan were dueling over Kashmir.
KABUL (Reuters) – While everyone else is worrying about Afghanistan’s future, a dedicated band of men and women is gathering up its past, hoping that a growing museum collection will show the world Afghan culture is more sophisticated than the tide of news reports suggest.
Kabul’s rebuilt National Museum, near the haunting remains the bombed-out royal palace, is running out of secure rooms to house centuries-old Buddhas, gold and silver coins from antiquity and other rare artifacts.
KABUL (Reuters) – Foreign forces fighting in Afghanistan have become more accurate in night-time raids on homes, but they have stepped up the number and scope of the controversial operations so they affect more Afghan civilians, a report said on Monday.
NATO-led troops improved the way they select targets, and say they now get their objective in four out of five mission, but also widened the pool of people they pursue, the report by the Open Society Foundations and The Liaison Office said.