Tag Archives: Afghanistan

How the Taliban Outlasted a Superpower: Tenacity and Carnage

Under the shade of a mulberry tree, near grave sites dotted with Taliban flags, a top insurgent military leader in eastern Afghanistan acknowledged that the group had suffered devastating losses from American strikes and government operations over the past decade.

But those losses have changed little on the ground: The Taliban keep replacing their dead and wounded and delivering brutal violence.

“We see this fight as worship,” said Mawlawi Mohammed Qais, the head of the Taliban’s military commission in Laghman Province, as dozens of his fighters waited nearby on a hillside. “So if a brother is killed, the second brother won’t disappoint God’s wish — he’ll step into the brother’s shoes.”

It was March, and the Taliban had just signed a peace deal with the United States that now puts the movement on the brink of realizing its most fervent desire — the complete exit of American troops from Afghanistan.

The Taliban have outlasted a superpower through nearly 19 years of grinding war. And dozens of interviews with Taliban officials and fighters in three countries, as well as with Afghan and Western officials, illuminated the melding of old and new approaches and generations that helped them do it.

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Posted by on June 24, 2020 in Asia, Reportages


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Donald Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan represents a huge failure

In October 2001 I was standing on a hilltop 40 miles north of Kabul watching US aircraft bomb the Taliban front line. The night sky was lit up with the flash of explosions and the sparkle of ineffectual anti-aircraft fire. It was fairly obvious who was going to come out the winner.

A few weeks later the US-backed anti-Taliban forces advanced south and captured Kabul without the Taliban putting up any resistance. It looked as if they had suffered a decisive military defeat which had ended forever their rule over Afghanistan. As their armies broke up, I drove to the southern city of Kandahar past ragged groups of Taliban fighters on their way home.

Except that they had not really been defeated and, 19 years later, the Taliban are closer than ever to regaining power in Afghanistan as the US withdraws the last of its troops. Under an agreement between the Taliban and the US signed on 29 February this year, the number of US soldiers in the country, which once exceeded 100,000, dropped to 8,600 this week and the remainder should be out of the country before the middle of next year.

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Posted by on June 10, 2020 in Asia, North America


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What the Afghan peace deal means

On Saturday, February 29, an agreement was signed between the United States (US) and the Taliban in Doha. Widely welcomed as a “peace deal”, it will be claimed by US President Donald Trump as further proof of his uncanny deal-making prowess. But while the deal may well mark the end of the US war in Afghanistan, whether it actually ends conflict in Afghanistan remains an open question.

Negotiations began in September 2018 with the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to initiate direct talks with the Taliban. It marked a reversal of Trump’s 2017 policy, which was based on breaking the military stalemate in Afghanistan by authorising an additional 5,000 soldiers, giving US forces a freer hand to go after the Taliban, putting Pakistan on notice, and strengthening Afghan capabilities. Since it was soon clear that the policy was not working, and the Taliban insurgency could not be defeated as long as it enjoyed safe havens and secure sanctuaries, the US changed track and sought Pakistan’s help to get the Taliban to the negotiating table.

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Posted by on March 11, 2020 in Asia, North America


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On Afghanistan, Three Words I Never Thought I’d Write: Bravo, Donald Trump

Bravo, Donald Trump.

I never imagined I would ever write these three words. It pains me, in fact, to see them on the page.

But credit where credit is due. Over the weekend, at the Sheraton hotel in Doha, Qatar, the Trump administration was able to achieve in its first term what the Bush and Obama administrations were either unable or unwilling to do over two terms each: Sign a peace deal with the Taliban.

Officially entitled “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,” this three-part, four-page document guarantees a timeline of 14 months for the “complete withdrawal” of all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan; a Taliban pledge that “Afghan soil will not be used against the security of the United States and its allies”; the launch of intra-Afghan negotiations by March 10; and a “permanent and comprehensive” ceasefire.

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Posted by on March 4, 2020 in Asia



The tangled US-Taliban-Afghan web

The United States this month concluded a so-called truce with the Taliban. Unfortunately, if one bothers to view the actual amorphous details of this “truce,” then it is fairly obvious that the only political consequences it is meant to ensure is to give President Donald Trump the opportunity to keep his pledge to remove American troops from Afghanistan.

The fact that he wants to do this in 2020, a presidential election year, regardless of whether or not Afghanistan is capable of civilly mending all internal strife and disagreements, shows just how much this instance of international negotiation is more about voters in Ohio, Michigan and Florida than people in Kabul or Kandahar.

But before the various obstacles to real peace are discussed, a few comments that might allow for a small beacon of potentiality are appropriate. The presence of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the core founders of the Taliban, is important in the talks and could help the Taliban make important decisions in negotiations.

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Posted by on March 4, 2020 in Asia



The Afghanistan ‘peace deal’ riddle

Nearly two decades after the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan post-9/11, and after an interminable war costing over $ 2 trillion, there’s hardly anything “historic” about a possible peace deal that may be signed in Doha this coming Saturday between Washington and the Taliban.

We should start by stressing three points.

1- The Taliban wanted all US troops out. Washington refused.

2- The possible deal only reduces US troops from 13,000 to 8,600. That’s the same number already deployed before the Trump administration.

3- The reduction will only happen a year and a half from now – assuming what’s being described as a truce holds.

So there would be no misunderstanding, Taliban Deputy Leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, in an op-ed certainly read by everyone inside the Beltway, detailed their straightforward red line: total US withdrawal.

And Haqqani is adamant: there’s no peace deal if US troops stay.

Still, a deal looms. How come? Simple: enter a series of secret “annexes.”

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Posted by on February 27, 2020 in Asia



Fear, Fatigue Could Undermine Afghan Presidential Vote

Afghanistan’s twice-delayed September 28 election could be only the second-ever democratic transition of power in the war-wracked country.

But many Afghans remain wary of the landmark presidential vote, fearing Taliban violence aimed at disrupting the vote and disillusioned at the widespread fraud and corruption that has tainted other elections since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Analysts say voter fatigue and safety concerns could depress turnout to undermine the legitimacy of the vote and give any winner only a weak mandate to rule a country reeling from economic turmoil, an escalating war, and political infighting.

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Posted by on September 30, 2019 in Asia



Trump Was Foolish to Invite the Taliban to Camp David but the War in Afghanistan Must End

The hashtag #TalibanTrump began trending over the weekend, after Donald Trump made a bizarre and very public admission on Twitter:

The president of the United States had planned to host the Taliban on U.S. soil, three days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Can you even begin to imagine the reaction from the right if Barack Obama had made a similar announcement?

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Posted by on September 13, 2019 in Asia, North America


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ISIS aims for Afghanistan expansion as US and Taliban work towards peace

ISIS has increased its violence in Afghanistan as the US and the Taliban this week neared a deal to end America’s longest war.

The country has been hit by a wave of bombings in recent days with ISIS killing 63 people and injuring almost 200 at a wedding reception on Saturday.

Two days later, as the country marked 100 years of independence, explosions hit restaurants and public places in the city of Jalalabad, leaving dozens wounded. The attack has not yet been claimed.

Experts believe ISIS’s latest offensive in Afghanistan is an attempt to derail peace talks between the US, the Taliban and the Afghan government.

“ISKP [IS Khorasan Province, the group’s branch in Afghanistan] is scared of a peace deal between the US and the Taliban, because they are getting hammered on the battlefield from two sides: by the pro-government forces and by the Taliban,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for the International Crisis Group.

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Posted by on August 27, 2019 in Asia



Il grande ritorno dei signori della guerra in Afghanistan

Il cliché del signore della guerra barbuto e chiuso da solo nel suo quartier generale in un posto isolato non è più attuale in Afghanistan. Vent’anni dopo la caduta dei taliban, questi moderni signori feudali cercano di prendere il controllo di una o l’altra provincia, puntando sul clientelismo anziché sulla violenza, e occasionalmente coltivando la loro immagine internazionale.

Indipendentemente dalla loro appartenenza etnica, questi signori della guerra sono tutti ugualmente preoccupati della campagna per le elezioni presidenziali del 28 settembre, ma soprattutto dei negoziati tra gli Stati Uniti e i taliban.

La prospettiva di un ritiro delle forze statunitensi nel 2020 ha effettivamente indebolito in modo significativo il potere centrale, che è stato escluso, su espressa richiesta dei taliban, dai colloqui in Qatar tra gli Stati Uniti e l’insurrezione afgana. Donald Trump vuole a tutti i costi ritirare il suo contingente dall’Afghanistan, in modo da monetizzare tale ritiro durante la sua campagna per le presidenziali del 2020.

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Posted by on August 23, 2019 in Asia