Category Archives: Education

Mattis Tells Pakistan to ‘Redouble’ Efforts to Confront Militants, Terrorists

KUWAIT CITY, ISLAMABAD U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis urged Pakistan on Monday to redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country, emphasizing “the vital role” Islamabad can play to work with Washington to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan.

Mattis arrived in Pakistan on a day trip and went into meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Top Cabinet members and the country’s spy chief, as well as national security adviser, also attended.

Mattis came away from the visit “confident and optimistic,” according to a senior U.S. defense official who characterized the meetings as “straightforward” and “focused on rebuilding trust.”

“Rather than present a list of charges,” Mattis focused on finding common ground, the official said. “The secretary has too much respect for Pakistan’s military to believe they can’t or won’t” address U.S. concerns about militants, he added.

A U.S. statement issued after the talks said Mattis recognized Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism and called for increased efforts toward regional stability and security.

“The Secretary emphasized the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region,” it said.

U.S. and Afghan officials allege the Taliban and the Haqqani Network are using sanctuaries on Pakistani soil for orchestrating attacks on the Afghan side of the border.

‘Committed to its resolve’

Abbasi’s office also issued its own statement that quoted the prime minister as telling Mattis that counterterrorism operations have improved national security and Pakistan would continue the campaign to consolidate the gains it has achieved over the past four years.

“The Prime Minister reiterated that there are no safe heavens in Pakistan and the entire nation was committed to its resolve on eradicating terrorism once and for all in all its forms and manifestations,” it said.

Earlier, Abbasi, while opening the meeting with Mattis, said “nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan.” He added that the United States and Pakistan “share the same common objectives.”

Before his visit to Islamabad, Mattis said he did not plan to “prod” Pakistan, but expected it to adhere to its promises to combat terrorism. He also expressed hope for a collaborative approach.

“I believe that we [can] work hard on finding common ground and then we work together,” Mattis said.

In October, Mattis warned the United States is willing to work “one more time” with Pakistan before taking “whatever steps are necessary” to address its alleged support for militants.

Islamabad denies supporting militants, saying Washington is scapegoating Pakistan for its own failures in Afghanistan, where the United States remains in a stalemate after 16 years of war.

Tougher stance

Before Mattis’ visit, other Trump administration officials took a harder public stance on Pakistan.

Speaking at a defense forum Saturday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said, “We are going to do everything we can to ensure that safe havens no longer exist,” if Pakistan does not heed the U.S. message on militants.

Since 2004, the CIA has conducted drone strikes � mostly against al-Qaida and Pakistani Taliban targets � in northwest Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

The United States is considering expanding those strikes, along with several other measures, according to media reports.

Other options include downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally or sanctioning individual Pakistani leaders suspected having ties with the Taliban.

But any kind of punitive action wouldn’t take place for at least a few weeks at minimum, predicts Michael Kugelman, a South Asia analyst with the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“I think [the administration] wants to give the Pakistanis a bit more time to see if they’re responding to the various demands the United States made of them when it comes to cracking down on terrorists,” said Kugelman.

One of the likelier U.S. responses, according to Kugelman, is expanding not only the geographic scope of the drone war, but also widening the type of targets the United States goes after.

“I think we could start seeing the U.S. trying to target more Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban targets,” especially in the sparsely populated Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, he said.

The Trump administration has also threatened cut off aid to Pakistan. Since 2002, the United States has given over $33 billion in assistance to Pakistan. But the aid has already been cut sharply in recent years.

Pakistani leverage?

If ties were to deteriorate, the United States also has much to lose. Pakistan controls U.S. military supply routes to landlocked Afghanistan, and could close them down, as they did in 2011. The United States would also like Pakistan to scale back its nuclear modernization, improve ties with India, and stay engaged in the broader fight against Islamic militants.

But despite the risks, Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, warns Washington appears to be running out of patience.

“For many years we were trying to hold out hope that the Pakistanis would change their mind about Afghanistan and our role there,” he said. “But those kinds of hopes aren’t as prevalent anymore. And on balance, therefore, I think we are closer to using some of those tougher methods.”

Mattis, who is on a regional tour that also took him to Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait, wouldn’t elaborate on timing for any possible U.S. action.

However, following the meetings, a U.S. defense official warned: “Our patience is not unlimited.”

Source: Voice of America

Suicide Bomber Kills Six Afghan Civilians

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN A suicide blast killed at least six civilians in eastern Afghanistan Sunday and wounded 13 others.

The bomber was on a motorcycle and apparently wanted to reach the venue of a massive pro-government rally in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province. But Afghan security forces intercepted him far away from the event, prompting him to donate explosives strapped to his body.

A provincial government spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, while confirming the casualties, told VOA one woman and a child were among the dead. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the violence.

The attack occurred a day after a suicide bomber killed two members of Afghan security forces in Jalalabad and wounded 10 more. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that violence.

The Middle East-based terrorist group calls its Afghan operations IS-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) and has lately increased attacks in the country, killing scores of people. The group is mainly active in several districts of Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan.

On Saturday, President Ashraf Ghani said Islamic State is on the run in Afghanistan in the face of stepped up air and ground military offensives against the terrorist group.

Afghan forces have until now conducted around 300 airstrikes and more 1500 military operations against Daesh, eliminating hundreds of its militants, Ghani told a security meeting in Kabul while defending his counterterrorism efforts. He used the local acronym for IS and said security forces have also cleared nine districts of Daesh militants.

The rise in IS-led violence and the emergence of the group’s loyalists in new Afghan areas, particularly in northern provinces, however, have prompted lawmakers and political opponents to criticize and question the effectiveness of the ongoing military offensives against the group.

IS militants have also been engaged in fierce fighting with the Taliban, the main insurgent group waging attacks on Afghan forces and their U.S.-led international partners.

IS has made territorial advances in recent battles with the Taliban in Khogyani district of Nangarhar, according to residents and local Afghan officials.

The terrorist group’s global propaganda media claimed on Saturday IS fighters captured 18 villages in the district that were previously held by the Taliban.

Source: Voice of America

US General: $50 Million Worth of Taliban Narcotics Destroyed in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD The top U.S. general in Afghanistan said Saturday recently launched joint strikes against Taliban sources of revenue have destroyed more than $50 million worth of narcotics in southern Helmand province.

Afghanistan produces about 85 percent of the world’s opium. Income generated from drugs is providing 60 percent of the Taliban’s funding, according to U.S. military estimates.

Together in the last few weeks alone, we have destroyed over 50 million dollars worth of narcotics in Helmand. This is the Taliban’s financial engine and the Taliban drug cartels are now on notice that they are in our sights and we are coming after them, said General John Nicholson.

The general commands American troops and NATO’s Resolute Support mission in the country.

The counternarcotics combined air and ground strikes began on November 19 and have since destroyed a number of factories and heroin processing labs. Nicholson said at the time authorities granted by President Donald Trump in August prompted the crackdown to curb terrorists and their revenue streams.

Helmand is the largest Afghan province and opium-poppy producing region, bordering Pakistan. Many of the districts in the volatile province are either controlled or influenced by the Taliban.

The Islamist insurgency, however, has denied any links to the illicit narcotics trade. The Taliban points to the historic reduction in poppy cultivation due to official eradication efforts when the Islamic group was ruling Afghanistan.

The U.S. has spent about $8.6 billion on narcotics eradication in Afghanistan since 2002, but the production has risen to historic levels.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes revealed in a new survey last month that narcotics production almost doubled in 2017 in Afghanistan to a record 9,000 tons, with a 63 percent increase in cultivation areas compared with 2016.

Narcotics trade fuels official corruption and undermines governance as well as rule of law in Afghanistan

U.S. officials say drugs lords provide weapons and funding to the Taliban in return for the protection of drug trade routes, cultivation fields, laboratories and trafficking organization. The Taliban, which controls or influences more than 40 percent of Afghan territory, generates revenue by taxing drugs trafficked through areas they control.

Critics say without eradicating opium production, U.S.-led efforts to eliminate terrorism and establish peace in Afghanistan will remain a daunting task. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has stated that the heroin is a very important driver of the war in his country.

Source: Voice of America

Trump: Reports of Tillerson’s Firing ‘Fake News’

On Thursday, news outlets quoted senior administration officials as saying the president could name Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson within the next several weeks. Both the White House and the State Department denied the reports.

‘Laughable’

Earlier Friday, as Tillerson stood before reporters alongside Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, he was asked about reports that the White House wanted him to resign.

Tillerson responded curtly, saying, “It’s laughable. It’s laughable.”

Questions about the possible Cabinet shake-up dominated Thursday’s State Department briefing, with spokeswoman Heather Nauert saying Tillerson was “unflappable” and going about his business, which includes a planned trip to Europe next week to meet with NATO leaders. But she did repeat several times that the “secretary serves at the pleasure of the president.”

On Friday, Tillerson met with Libya’s al-Sarraj at the State Department before having lunch with Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the White House later in the day.

Despite Trump’s denial on Friday that he wanted to fire Tillerson, the Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller said reports of a replacement pick might be a not-so-subtle attempt to send the secretary of state a message that his services are no longer needed, since the president has demonstrated his dislike of firing people.

“So it is possible that he [Trump] is laying the groundwork for what they would like to achieve, which is a kind of ‘immaculate resignation,’ ” said Miller, a senior adviser to several Republican and Democratic secretaries of state.

Diplomatic impact?

Miller said foreign leaders are likely more concerned about Tillerson’s perceived “fraught” relationship with Trump than reports that his days as chief U.S. diplomat are numbered.

“I think our allies and adversaries understand that Tillerson does not necessarily speak for the president,” Miller told VOA. “And that is the worst possible position for a secretary of state to be in, because it takes our allies and adversaries five seconds to figure that out. And if that is in fact the case, then the credibility, the relevance, the resonance of the secretary of state is profoundly undermined.”

Ronald Neumann, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Bahrain and Algeria, said rumors that Tillerson’s job was not secure would affect the secretary slightly as he carried out his diplomatic duty, but he noted Trump had already left some foreign officials with questions about U.S. foreign policy.

“The greatest effect on his ability to do his job is whether people are confident that he speaks for the president, and it is the president who makes that uncertain from time to time with tweets and position changes,” Neumann said.

The former ambassador said Tillerson had not had an easy tenure.

“Secretary Tillerson has been under more public attack in the American press than I have ever seen a secretary under for such a long period. And that is bound to be known by his NATO colleagues,” said Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy in Washington.

He also noted that Tillerson’s management of the State Department had triggered more criticism than his policy positions.

“It is important to note that most of the attack has been about his internal management of the department, not about the foreign policy positions he has been taking, where there is a back and forth with the White House,” Neumann said. “But I think, by and large, NATO members are reasonably comfortable with what he has been doing with diplomacy.”

Tillerson will travel to Belgium, Austria and France December 4-8 and attend a NATO foreign ministers meeting. The State Department said his last stop would be in Paris, where he will meet with senior French leaders to discuss cooperation on Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, North Korea and the Sahel.

Source: Voice of America

US, Britain, France Accused of Snubbing Anti-nuclear Nobel Prize

OSLO � The anti-nuclear group which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize accused the United States, Britain and France on Wednesday of snubbing its disarmament work by

planning to send only second-rank diplomats to the award ceremony next month.

“It’s some kind of protest against the Nobel Peace Prize,” Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), told Reuters of a plan by the three nations to send only deputy chiefs of mission.

“They like their nuclear weapons very much and don’t like it when we try to ban them,” she said, accusing the three of wrongly opposing ICAN’s work “when North Korea and the United States are exchanging threats to use nuclear weapons”.

The annual December 10 Nobel prize ceremony in Oslo, attended by King Harald and Queen Sonja, is the highlight of the diplomatic calendar in Norway. The prize comprises a diploma, a gold medal and a check for $1.1 million.

Olav Njoelstad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, confirmed the three nations would send only deputies. He said the awards committee always preferred to see chiefs of mission.

“That being said, we are neither surprised nor offended by the fact that sometime foreign governments prefer to stay away from the ceremony in protest or, as in this case, because they prefer to be represented by their deputy chiefs of mission,” he told Reuters.

“The Nobel Peace Prize is, after all, a political prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee takes notice of the joint decision of the British, French and U.S. embassies,” he said.

The British embassy confirmed it was sending a deputy ambassador and said in a statement “the U.K. is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons. We share this goal with our partners across the international community including U.S. and France.”

The U.S. and French embassies were not immediately available for comment. Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump nominated Kenneth Braithwaite to the post of ambassador in Oslo, currently held by an acting ambassador.

ICAN, a coalition of grassroots non-government organizations in more than 100 nations, campaigned successfully for a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 nations in July this year.

But the agreement is not signed by – and would not apply to – any of the states that already have nuclear arms, which include the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, as well as India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Israel neither confirms nor denies the widespread assumption that it controls the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.

It was not clear whether other nuclear powers would send Oslo ambassadors to the Nobel ceremony.

The absence of ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France “is disappointing but at the same time we are focused on getting a majority of states in the world to join this treaty,” Fihn said.

She said the three nuclear states were exerting pressure on other nations “not to engage in this treaty.”

Source: Voice of America

Pakistan Railways to launch three new trains

Pakistan Railways is planning to launch three new train services between Kohat-Rawalpindi, Karachi-Mirpurkhas and Sibbi-Khost during the current financial year.

According to APP, at present 104 passengers and 60 freight trains are operative on the system per day.

Pakistan Railways has also started a project for up-gradation of Main Line-1 from Peshawar to Karachi and establishment of new dry port near Havelian, under China-Pak Economic Corridor.

Source: Radio Pakistan