AntiWar.com & The News International & Reuters – 2018-02-01 00:08:19
Pentagon Backtracks Under Pressure,
Releases Afghan Data
SIGAR: Pentagon Still Hasn’t Told Us We Can Include It in Reports
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 30, 2018) — After this morning’s revelation that the Pentagon had prohibited the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) from including Afghan district data in his quarterly report to Congress, despite that data being unclassified, media pressure has led to a surprising reversal.
The Pentagon has now released the data themselves, claiming it proves the Afghan government is getting stronger, despite the percentage of the Afghan population under control dropping even further.
This data was never classified in the first place, and the Pentagon claimed it was a “mistake” that they told SIGAR not to put it in their report. SIGAR said they were happy the data is released, even if it took media pressure to make it happen.
On the other hand, SIGAR noted that the Pentagon still hasn’t gotten in touch with them about the matter, and still hasn’t given them permission to include the data in the report, despite claiming to the media that the restriction was in error.
That’s potentially significant, even though the data got out this time, because if the limit on SIGAR isn’t lifted formally, this will come up again next quarter, and there’s no guarantee that media pressure will be big enough to force a reversal.
Pakistan: No Military Solution
To Afghanistan, Diplomacy Needed
US Diplomats Downplay Trump’s Rejection of Talks
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 30, 2018) — Pakistan’s Foreign Office has issued a statement Tuesday, saying that they support all efforts to resolve the problems in Afghanistan, but that history has shown there is no military solution that will bring a lasting peace.
The comments appear firmly aimed at President Trump, who on Monday spurned the idea of negotiations with the Taliban aimed at securing a peace deal, saying it would be a long time before the US was prepared to talk.
The US and Pakistan have been at odds lately over Afghanistan, and this appears to be a very real issue split, as Pakistan has long worked hard to try to get the Taliban to the negotiating table, only for the US to now insist they don’t want to talk at all.
US officials don’t appear to have been totally informed of this dramatic policy change, and diplomats downplayed it in comments to reporters, saying that the US still aims to push the Taliban into peace talks at some point in the future, even if the US is unwilling to engage in such talks any time soon.
No Military Solution to Afghan Issue, Reiterates Pakistan
The News International
ISLAMABAD (January 30, 2018) — Pakistan has reiterated that Islamabad supports all peace initiatives to resolve Afghan problem as there is no military solution to Afghan conflict.
Foreign Office spokesperson Dr. Muhammad Faisal, in an interview with Radio Pakistan said “all sorts of weapons and ammunition were used in Afghanistan during the last 70 years but no substantial achievement was made in achieving peace . . . . Afghan and other issues can only be addressed through dialogue as military solution has totally failed.”
The spokesman said Quadrilateral Consultative Group involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States is the most appropriate forum to help take the Afghan owned and Afghan peace process forward. “Pakistan’s concern about Afghan issue should also be addressed,” the spokesman asserted.
About the possible outcome of the Kabul process next month, Dr. Muhammad Faisal said it depends on the attitude of the Afghan government.
He said there are issues like repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour, exponential rise in drugs and poppy cultivation and use of the drug money to fuel the war economy and attacks on Pakistan side from Afghan soil.
Foreign Office spokesman statement comes a day after US President Donald Trump on Monday ruled out quick talks with the Taliban, following a wave of bloody large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul.
“I don’t think we are prepared to talk right now,” Trump said, throwing into question Washington’s strategy of pushing the group toward the negotiating table. “We don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” Trump said. “They are killing people left and right, innocent people.” He added: “There may be a time but it’s going to be a long time.”
Following Trump statement, Afghanistan said on Tuesday the Taliban would have to be defeated on the battlefield.
US Still Aims to Push Taliban
into Afghan Peace Talks: Official
Robert Birsel and Jibran Ahmad / Reuters
KABUL/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (January 30, 2018) — The United States aims to press the Taliban on the battlefield to convince them that they will have to negotiate peace, a senior US diplomat said on Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump rejected talks following a series of attacks.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump condemned the Taliban for recent carnage in the Afghan capital Kabul, and said the United States was not prepared to talk now. He pledged to “finish what we have to finish”.
Trump’s comments suggested he sees a military victory over the Taliban, an outcome that US military and diplomatic officials say cannot be achieved with the resources and manpower he has authorized. But US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told a news conference in Kabul there was no change in the US policy of forcing the Taliban through military pressure into talks.
Trump’s comments were a reflection of the violence over recent days which indicated “at least some members of the Taliban are not interested in having a discussion about a peaceful future”, Sullivan said.
“That doesn’t change the long-range strategy of our policy which it to be firm militarily to convince the Taliban, or significant elements of the Taliban, that there isn’t a military solution to the security situation here, that ultimately peace and security of Afghanistan will be determined by peace talks.”
Trump last year ordered an increase in US troops, air strikes and other assistance to Afghan forces.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said this month the strategy was working and pushing the insurgents closer to talks. That was before a suicide bomber penetrated the highly guarded center of Kabul on Saturday and detonated an ambulance laden with explosives, killing more than 100 people and wounding at least 235.
That attack followed a brazen Taliban assault on the city’s Intercontinental Hotel on Jan. 20, in which more than 20 people, including four Americans, were killed. The Taliban said the attacks were a message to Trump that his policy of aggression would not work.
Earlier, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban had crossed a “red line” with attacks in Kabul and lost the chance for peace, and had to be defeated. “We have to look for peace on the battlefield,” said the spokesman, Shah Hussain Murtazawi.
The surge of violence has also raised new questions about US relations with Pakistan, weeks after Trump denounced it for what he said was its failure to crack down on Taliban safe havens on its soil, and ordered big cuts in security aid.
Pakistan denies accusations that it fosters the Afghan war, and has condemned the recent attacks in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the Taliban, fighting to oust foreign forces and defeat the US-backed government, said earlier they never wanted to talk to the United States anyway.
“Their main strategy is to continue war and occupation,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. “Donald Trump and his war-mongering supporters must understand that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If you insist upon war, our mujahideen will not welcome you with roses,” he said.
The United States believes the Haqqani network, a faction within the Taliban, was behind Saturday’s bomb blast in Kabul. It and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, and the Haqqani network in particular, as assets to be used in its bid to limit the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment on Trump’s rejection of peace talks but its embassy in Kabul cited Pakistani clerics as declaring suicide attacks unIslamic.
Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni.
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