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Analysts: Taliban Letter to Trump Is Tactic to Counter Pressure

The Afghan Taliban’s “open letter” to President Donald Trump calling for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, is aimed at taking pressure off the group as Washington presses Pakistan to crack down on the allied Haqqani terror network, analysts say.

The letter, which was made public Tuesday, comes as Trump continues to cobble together his Afghan policy. There had been strong speculation the policy would be released at the NATO summit in late May, but it has yet to be finalized. U.S. commanders have said the military situation has ground to a “stalemate.”

The White House says Trump plans to meet Friday with his security team and Vice President Mike Pence at Camp David to examine the options, which range from a troop surge, as requested by General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to a complete pullout. Other options include turning over the mission to private contractors.

Forced out of power by the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban has remained a destabilizing force in the international effort to foster reconstruction in a country plagued by extremism. The group is an important player that can’t be overlooked, but it has failed to come to the negotiating table, instead pursuing attacks and intimidation, while increasing the territory that it holds over the past year.

“If you failed to win the Afghan war with disciplined U.S. and NATO troops, advanced technology, experienced military generals, consecutive strategies and mighty economy, you shall never be able to win it with mercenaries, notorious contractor firms and immoral stooges,” said the Taliban letter.

Aimal Faizi, spokesman of former president Hamid Karzai, questioned the Taliban’s authority and aims. He said the letter won’t make any impact on U.S. strategy.

“On Afghanistan, Washington certainly has long-term plans and strategies,” Faizi said.” All the president does is choose from the available options to him. Trump is not going to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. So the letter… will not change anything in the White House.”

Trump has taken a tougher stance toward terrorism, and his administration has continued pressure on Pakistan to eliminate the Haqqanis. This seems to have pressured the Taliban, and the letter might be a tactic to ease the heat, said Khadim Hussain, a political analyst based in Peshawar.

“It certainly is a tactic to counter the pressure being built on the security establishment of Pakistan,” Hussein said.

Sami Yousufzai, a journalist with The Daily Beast, agrees. “In fact, the U.S. nowadays is pumping Pakistan to take solid action against the Haqqnai network,” he said.”To ease growing pressure, the Taliban have sent a letter to Trump, just to show they are not insane killers, but in reality, the Taliban are preparing for killing and bloodshed in Afghanistan in coming months.”

In the seven months since Trump took office, the policy that terrorism must be eradicated, wherever it is, has remained firm.

Sediq Sediqqi, director of the Media and Information Center Afghanistan, tweeted the Taliban and their supporters are trying to sound reasonable because they dread Trump’s focus coming fully on them.

“The Taliban and their backers are afraid of him; they know he will be serious and will go after them and their backers,” he wrote.

Trump also has shown frustration over the length of the Afghan war, and the country’s endemic corruption has caused other frustrations.

According to a report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, territory under the Afghan government’s control diminished significantly in 2016 as the Taliban made large gains.

About 8,400 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, training, advising and assisting local forces under a NATO-led military coalition, in addition to conducting counterterrorism operations.

Source: Voice of America

Records funds distributed to provinces under PML-N Govt: PM

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on

Tuesday said that record funds had been disbursed to the federating units under the PML-N government.

Chairing a meeting of the Cabinet here, the Prime Minister said

that all the development and energy security initiatives had either been

completed or in completion phase which speaks volumes of the development and

energy security endeavors bearing fruit during the PML-N government since 2013.

The Prime Minister informed the cabinet that these initiative of

national importance started by the PML-N government were unmatched if compared with those planned from 1999 to 2008.

The Prime Minister apprised the cabinet about his recent visit to

Karachi on last Saturday. The Prime Minister said during the visit he announced Rs. 25 billion for Karachi and Rs. 5 billion for Hyderabad under a comprehensive package to be implemented by the federal government under the policy and administrative supervision of Governor Sindh with fixed time lines and fixed costs.

He said under the package, one hospital and medical college for

Karachi would be set up, extension of green line metro to other areas while additional resources would be provided for new water projects.

The Prime Minister said 50 fire tenders would be provided for KMC

while series of underpasses and bridges would be constructed to reduce the traffic mess in the port city.

About Hyderabad package, he said one university and medical college

would be established in Hyderabad while additional grant to be provided for Hyderabad Municipal Corporation besides upgradation of infrastructure of all industrial states. These projects will be executed with in fixed time and cost and transparently, he added.

The Prime Minister also informed about the meeting he chaired during

Karachi visit on law and order in the wake of recent surge in street crimes in the port city.

He said that provincial government had been asked to play it’s due

role in the development work in the province in general and Karachi in particular.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed all out support from the federal

government to the provincial government in the development and ensuring peace and security in Sindh.

The Cabinet lauded the announcements from the Prime Minister in his

Karachi visit.

The Prime Minister also informed the cabinet about the recent

presentations given to him on WAPDA and NHA which lasted for several hours but remained incomplete due to paucity of time.

Prime Minister Abbasi said that so much development work and energy

initiatives had been taken under the PML-N government that were difficult to

summarize in detailed presentations.

Secretary Interior briefs the Cabinet on laws relating to weapons’

licensing. Cabinet members discussed the proposal in detail.

In this regard, the Prime Minister constituted a Committee chaired by

himself with Interior Minister, Minister for CADD, Minister of State for

Information & Broadcasting and National Security Advisor as members to

collate proposals of Cabinet members put forward today and bring the agenda

item again.

The Prime Minister directed Interior Ministry to revalidate data

regarding licenses issued, adding that 90 days grace period to be given to

all license holders of Prohibited Weapons for registration with NADRA.

The Prime Minister also directed to hold Cabinet meeting every

Tuesday.

The cabinet also approved initiation of Negotiation on

Inter-Government Agreement between Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources, Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and National Development & Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China for Supply of POL Products and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Petroleum Division.

Approval was given to Ratification of Agreement between the Government

of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China for Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect of Taxes on Income, Revenue Division.

Source: Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage

Ousted Pakistani PM Sharif Seeks Review of Court Ruling

ISLAMABAD Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday sought a review of a Supreme Court decision that disqualified him from office over undeclared assets, an official from his ruling party said on Tuesday.

Sharif, 67, resigned during his third stint as prime minister shortly after the Supreme Court ruled on July 28 that he should be disqualified and ordered a criminal probe into his family’s wealth.

Jan Achakzai, a PML-N official, told Reuters Sharif had filed three separate appeals in the Supreme Court.

“It is our right to seek a review,” he said. “People of Pakistan haven’t accepted the decision.”

Achakzai said the same five-judge panel that decided on the disqualification would likely hear the review petitions.

Sharif’s disqualification stems from the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 which appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office – by a split 2-3 verdict – over the Panama revelations but it ordered further investigations into his family’s wealth.

The judges in July alleged Sharif did not declare a small source of income that the veteran leader disputes receiving.

Achakzai said the appeals sought a review of the disqualification on the basis that two of the five judges, who had already given a dissenting note in April’s verdict, were not supposed to sit on the panel that gave the final ruling.

Sharif has kept a grip on the ruling PML-N party, which has a solid majority in parliament, and elected one of his loyalists, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as his replacement within days of the court decision.

Critics say Sharif remains in control of the country through Abbasi and is trying to undermine the judiciary.

Sharif’s aides say he shows no signs of leaving politics and he recently called the Supreme Court ruling against him “an insult to the mandate of 200 million voters”.

Last week he started a so-called homecoming “caravan” procession across the Punjab region where he derives his voter base, from the capital Islamabad to the eastern city of Lahore, drawing large crowds along the way.

Source: Voice of America

Ousted Pakistani PM Sharif Seeks Review of Court Ruling

ISLAMABAD Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday sought a review of a Supreme Court decision that disqualified him from office over undeclared assets, an official from his ruling party said on Tuesday.

Sharif, 67, resigned during his third stint as prime minister shortly after the Supreme Court ruled on July 28 that he should be disqualified and ordered a criminal probe into his family’s wealth.

Jan Achakzai, a PML-N official, told Reuters Sharif had filed three separate appeals in the Supreme Court.

“It is our right to seek a review,” he said. “People of Pakistan haven’t accepted the decision.”

Achakzai said the same five-judge panel that decided on the disqualification would likely hear the review petitions.

Sharif’s disqualification stems from the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 which appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office – by a split 2-3 verdict – over the Panama revelations but it ordered further investigations into his family’s wealth.

The judges in July alleged Sharif did not declare a small source of income that the veteran leader disputes receiving.

Achakzai said the appeals sought a review of the disqualification on the basis that two of the five judges, who had already given a dissenting note in April’s verdict, were not supposed to sit on the panel that gave the final ruling.

Sharif has kept a grip on the ruling PML-N party, which has a solid majority in parliament, and elected one of his loyalists, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as his replacement within days of the court decision.

Critics say Sharif remains in control of the country through Abbasi and is trying to undermine the judiciary.

Sharif’s aides say he shows no signs of leaving politics and he recently called the Supreme Court ruling against him “an insult to the mandate of 200 million voters”.

Last week he started a so-called homecoming “caravan” procession across the Punjab region where he derives his voter base, from the capital Islamabad to the eastern city of Lahore, drawing large crowds along the way.

Source: Voice of America

ERADICATION OF CORRUPTION GOVT’S TOP PRIORITY: ZEHRI

Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Sanaullah khan Zehri says government is giving priority to good governance, restoration of peace and eradication of corruption.

He was addressing the flag hoisting ceremony at Balochistan Provincial Assembly in Quetta on Monday.

Chief Minister said political and military leaderships are on the same page to wipe out the menace of terrorism from the country.

The Chief Minister said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has opened new avenues of progress and vast opportunities of employment in Balochistan.

He further said that handful terrorist elements are attempting to create obstacles in the way of speedy progress of the country through carrying subversive activities on the behest of an enemy country.

He, however, vowed to continue the war on terror till elimination of last terrorist and make the province an abode of peace and prosperity.

Earlier, Nawab Zehri hoisted the National Flag on the Assembly Building. On this occasion, school children sang the National Anthem. The Chief Minister announced five lakh rupees cash reward for the school children.

Meanwhile, a flag hoisting was also held the Balochistan High Court Building. On this occasion, the Chief Justice Muhammad Noor Miskanzai hoisted the National Flag.

Source Radio Pakistan

US Strike Kills Islamic State’s Provincial Leader in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON � A provincial leader of the Islamic State militant group in Afghanistan has been killed in a U.S. air strike in eastern Kunar province, Afghan and U.S. military officials confirmed Sunday.

U.S. and Afghan Forces have confirmed the death of Kunar provincial Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan (ISIS-K) emir, Abdul Rahman, U.S. forces in Afghanistan said in a statement.

Rahman was killed along with three additional senior IS members on Thursday in Kunar’s Dara-e-Pech district, the statement added.

Abdul Rahman was a potential candidate to become the IS leader in Afghanistan following Abu Sayed’s death in a U.S airstrike last month.

The death of Abdul Rahman deals yet another blow to the senior leadership of ISIS-K, said General John Nicholson, Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He found out just like those before him that there are no safe havens in Afghanistan.

U.S. and Afghan forces have been engaged in joint- counterterrorism operations against IS in eastern Afghanistan. American and Afghan military forces have promised to eliminate IS in Afghanistan in 2017.

Hundreds of IS fighters, including several senior commanders, have been killed in recent months.

Abu Sayed, the group’s top leader in Afghanistan, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last month. Sayed was the second IS leader in the past four months, and third in the past year, to have been targeted and killed. Abdul Hasib, his predecessor, was targeted in a U.S.-Afghan security forces raid in Nangarhar’s Achin district in April.

We will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said following the death of Abdul Rahman.

Based in southern parts of eastern Nangarhar province, IS’s Khorasan Province branch (ISIS-K) emerged in early 2015 in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan to cover Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nearby territories.

IS in Afghanistan has primarily been active in several districts of eastern Nangarhar province. Since its emergence, the terror group has targeted villages in several districts in the province, killing and abducting hundreds of people and setting their homes on fire.

IS under increasing pressure

Facing large-scale joint-U.S. and Afghan forces operations in Nangarhar, IS militants are trying to expand to mountainous parts of the adjacent Kunar and Nuristan provinces which share a border with Pakistan.

Police authorities in Nangarhar last week arrested five minors – 10 to 15 years old, who were being transported by IS recruiters from Kunar to a Nangarhar’s remote district for training purposes.

Despite the battlefield successes of Afghan and American Special Forces against the Islamic State in Afghanistan, IS has carried out or claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks across the country, sparking fears that the group might be seeking to trigger sectarian conflict in Afghanistan and the greater central Asian region.

IS said its fighters stormed Iraq’s embassy in Kabul last month, and the terror group also claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a Shi’ite mosque in western Herat province in early August.

Amongst the dead was the father of Fatima Qaderyan, captain of the Afghan all-girls robotics team that made headlines last month after managing to get U.S visas to participate in the International Robot Olympics for High School Students in Washington D.C.

They were initially denied U.S visas, but following President Trump’s personal intervention, they were able to travel to the U.S.

Source: Voice of America