Ahmed Rashid

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A delegation from the Taliban attending a Moscow meeting with Afghan politicians, February 6, 2019

Last year, when President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for negotiations to start between the US and the Taliban, nobody expected his patience to last very long. He could sabotage the American negotiating team at any time, many observers feared, by ordering an arbitrary pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan government vulnerable to a Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Nor was there much hope that, having decimated the State Department, Trump would ever play by normal diplomatic rules and depend on institutions like the intelligence community that does the leg-work in such negotiations, rather than his own Fox News-driven instincts.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Kashmiri being comforted after his house was destroyed in a battle in Tral, south of Srinagar, on Tuesday. Credit Dar Yasin / Associated Press

India and Pakistan don’t have to be on the brink of war. Negotiators painstakingly put together a way out of the crisis and a road map for resolution of the Kashmir dispute in the mid-2000s, and we need to get back to it.

Kashmir has been disputed since 1947, with India holding around two-thirds and Pakistan one-third of its territory and both claiming all of it. The unresolved future of the largely Muslim region has led to three wars between the two countries, while frustration with Indian misrule in Indian-controlled Kashmir led to an insurgency supported by Pakistan in 1990.

India and Pakistan have alternated between phases of intense hostility and moments of calm since 1947.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan soldiers being trained by Americans in 2016. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

On Thursday, the Taliban appointed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who founded the movement with Mullah Mohammad Omar in 1993, as the chief negotiator in the peace talks with the United States, being held in Qatar.

Mr. Baradar, who was also appointed as deputy to the Taliban chief Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, is expected to travel soon to Doha to join the peace talks with the American peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Mr. Baradar is revered among the Taliban as a charismatic military leader and a deeply religious figure who still reflects the origins of the Taliban movement, when it was founded to end the Afghan civil war and warlordism in the mid-1990s.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zakeria Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images An Afghan policeman with coffins containing corpses following clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters, Ghazni, Afghanistan, August 14, 2018

It was one more sign of the times that, on the day before the start of the Muslim religious holiday Eid al-Adha, when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was delivering a speech in what must be one of the most heavily-fortified city centers in the world, multiple mortar rounds struck Kabul’s diplomatic quarter. Ghani was offering the Taliban a ceasefire over the holidays. On this occasion, two attackers were eventually found and killed.

The wars in Afghanistan that have endured for nearly thirty-nine years, during which time US troops have been involved in fighting for close to seventeen of them, would be surreal if the resulting bloodshed were not so very real. …  Seguir leyendo »

Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AP Images President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, 2017

After spending decades as a pariah state, feared or at best ignored by even its near neighbors because of its reputation as one of the most repressive and closed nations in the world, Uzbekistan is slowly emerging from the shadows. Along with other Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan is worried about the expansion of the Taliban and ISIS into Afghanistan—and, under a new president, is for the first time taking the lead on making peace in the region.

Tashkent’s self-imposed international isolation ended this week when it hosted a major peace conference on Afghanistan at the end of March. The meeting, which takes place today, brings together the foreign ministers of India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Afghanistan, all four Central Asian Republics, and the UN, as well as representatives from the US and EU.…  Seguir leyendo »

Caren Firouz/Reuters. A man looking at a police bus that was destroyed during clashes between Islamist protesters and police around Islamabad’s main highway, Pakistan, November 26, 2017

Pakistan has largely escaped the ghastly destruction of the civil wars in the Middle East—despite its continuing struggle with homegrown Islamist extremism and terrorism. Since September 11, 2001, Pakistani governments have tried to fly under the radar, attracting minimal international pressure even though its territory has been used as a sanctuary by the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda, Kashmiri militants, and other extremists from the region. But the US and NATO have now begun to express their concerns.

The international community is worried because there is a growing domestic political crisis in this nuclear-armed nation that is fueled by extremists at home and by a foreign policy that involves harboring insurgent groups, which has become unacceptable to the world as well as to Pakistan’s neighbors in South Asia. …  Seguir leyendo »

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and US President Donald Trump during the United Nations General Assembly, New York City, September 21, 2017

For Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Afghanistan was “the just war,” but for President Donald Trump it is just a war he didn’t want to deal with. Reluctant from the start of his term to send more US troops to Afghanistan, after taking eight months to decide what to do, Trump has finally been persuaded to send 3,900 more troops by a military high command that is getting anxious about the possibility of failure. There is no timeline for American troops to come home.

The war has gone on for sixteen years, and as recent meetings at the United Nations General Assembly demonstrated, it has become even more complicated than the one fought by Bush or Obama.…  Seguir leyendo »

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images. Afghan police during a protest against a suicide bomb attack in Kabul, June 2, 2017

When Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, James Mattis, was called before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week to testify about the conflict in Afghanistan, he was unusually blunt: “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” he said. The Taliban have been on a dramatic offensive, he acknowledged, the security situation continues to deteriorate, and the Afghan government holds considerably less territory than it did a year ago. In other words, prospects for any sort of positive outcome are as remote as they have been in this sixteen-year war—the longest war in American history.

Yet Trump—and Mattis’s—solution to this unwinnable war seems to be once again to send more troops.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke from a battle between Taliban and Afghan forces, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 1, 2017

Since assuming office President Donald Trump has barely mentioned Afghanistan, a country where US forces have been engaged in the longest war in American history. Perhaps this is because, after more than fifteen years and $700 billion, the US has little to show for it other than an incredibly weak and corrupt civilian government in Kabul and a never-ending Taliban insurgency. Now Afghanistan faces a new horror—as a testing ground for what can only be called a US weapon of mass destruction.

Trump’s silence on Afghanistan was finally broken on the evening of April 13—not with the announcement of a new political strategy but with the dropping of a monster bomb, the GBU-43, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” on an ISIS base in a rural area of the country near the Pakistan border.…  Seguir leyendo »

The rubble of a home destroyed by reported coalition air strikes in al-Jadida, Mosul, Iraq, March 24, 2017. Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

In the opening months of the Donald Trump administration, there has been little sign of a coherent foreign policy taking shape. What is happening, however, is a dramatic militarization of US policy in the Middle East—one that is occurring largely without the consultation of American allies, and with hardly any public scrutiny. In the case of the war in Yemen and the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, these developments could have extraordinary consequences for US security and even the stability of the Middle East itself.

The disastrous January raid on an al-Qaeda target in central Yemen, just days after Trump took office, resulting in the death of a Navy SEAL and two dozen civilians, has been widely discussed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of the Syrian regime carrying a poster of Bashar al-Assad and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran-backed Hezbollah, Ansar village, Lebanon, March 2, 2016. Ali Hashisho/Reuters

Over the past few days, Syrian government forces, along with their Russian and Iranian allies, have been pounding rebel-held areas of Aleppo with the kind of destructive air power rarely seen since the bombing of Dresden. A third of the city has been held by a variety of Syrian opposition group since 2012, but they are rapidly losing ground under the onslaught, and now facing a humanitarian disaster that is shocking even by Syrian standards. On Wednesday, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting to deal with what French Ambassador François Delattre called “one of the biggest massacres of a civilian population since World War II.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Just when Muslims around the world thought that ISIS was in retreat and that it was safe to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the group has struck back with a devastating series of bombings in four Muslim countries. Claiming more than three hundred lives, most of them Muslim, during the final days of the month-long fast, the attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia have created pandemonium.

But they also raise new questions about the ability of the jihadist group to execute lethal terrorist attacks, even as its power appears to be waning in Iraq and Syria. Since the early months of this year, ISIS has suffered a series of defeats, from the Assad regime’s recapture of Palmyra at the end of March to the Kurdish PYD’s reconquest of the Manbij area of northern Syria in early June and Iraqi forces’ retaking of Fallujah on June 22.…  Seguir leyendo »

The suicide bomber who killed seventy-two people on Easter Sunday in a park in Lahore, Pakistan has drawn condemnation from around the world. Among the killed were twenty-nine children, and another 370 people were wounded, many of them members of the country’s Christian minority. Far less noted, however, has been the attack’s equally devastating effect on relations between Pakistan’s army and civilian government, which threatens to bring further instability to the country’s Punjab heartland.

At the heart of the crisis are two men, General Raheel Sharif, commander in chief of the Pakistan army, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, head of the civilian government.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Taliban and al-Qaeda have killed more than fifty journalists in Afghanistan since 2001. But until this year, nobody had tried to massacre an entire busload of journalists in the center of Kabul, all working for the country’s largest and most successful broadcaster. That changed on January 20, when a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into a minibus taking forty journalists and staff of Tolo TV home after a day at the office.

At least seven people were killed including several women in their early twenties; some of the victims were burnt and scarred beyond recognition. Another twenty-six were injured, some so seriously that the death toll is expected to rise.…  Seguir leyendo »

La matanza de inocentes en París ha traído al primer plano e ilustrado con mucha más claridad que nunca las cambiantes tácticas y metas militares del IS y una reorientación de su estrategia ideológica y ofensiva.

Se había instalado desde hace algún tiempo la creencia de que el IS estaba centrado en conquistar territorios y en establecer un califato en Oriente Próximo antes que en bombardear Occidente o derribar las Torres Gemelas de Nueva York. Atacar al «enemigo lejano» e intentar derrocar el orden capitalista era misión y convicción de Al Qaeda, no del mucho más reciente IS.

Recientemente, el IS o sus filiales han realizado atentados que contradicen tal punto de vista.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una silla de plástico se yergue en medio de edificios destruidos en Kobane (frontera entre Siria y Turquía), tras meses de guerra contra Estado Islámico. O. ORSAL / REUTERS

Los estados árabes están comprobando cada vez más que el peor grupo terrorista del mundo se está transformando poco a poco en la mejor opción para la paz en Oriente Próximo.

En Washington y otras capitales occidentales parece haber una confusión generalizada sobre la condición actual y el futuro de Al Qaeda. Algunos representantes gubernamentales occidentales insisten en que Al Qaeda ya no es una amenaza terrorista importante y que ya ha sido derrotada por el más popular y brutal Estado Islámico (IS). Otros sostienen que se está expandiendo por Siria y Yemen, que sigue fuerte en Pakistán y Afganistán, y que aún constituye la más importante amenaza terrorista para Occidente.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghanistan’s Failed Transformation

On Sunday, after months of bitter wrangling, the two leading candidates in Afghanistan’s presidential election agreed to form a national unity government. Ashraf Ghani, a Pashtun technocrat, is to be president, and Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister of mixed Tajik and Pashtun descent, is to be chief executive, a newly created post akin to prime minister. The power-sharing agreement came after an audit of the ballots cast in April, in an election widely believed to have been partially rigged. It has no basis in Afghanistan’s election law. And given the rancor that has come before, it may not hold very long.…  Seguir leyendo »

Matar al mensajero

Matar al mensajero era una vieja manera que tenían los reyes de librarse de su frustración por una derrota o un fracaso político. ¿Pero qué ocurre si el mensajero ya no hace falta y la prensa en su sentido tradicional es una reliquia del pasado? Ésa es ahora mismo la situación que se da con el IS. Cuando Osama bin Laden quería enviar un mensaje convocaba a un periodista occidental o a una televisión, y antes del 11 de septiembre incluso daba conferencias de prensa. Su disponibilidad para los medios era una presencia física. La gente creía lo que decía porque lo decía delante de periodistas con credibilidad.…  Seguir leyendo »

IN the spring of 1992, as the Communist government in Afghanistan started imploding after the collapse of the Soviet Union, seven Afghan mujahedeen leaders, pumped full of C.I.A. money, gathered in Peshawar, Pakistan, to discuss how to take over Afghanistan and share power peacefully.

The man who brought them together and patiently sat with them was Nawaz Sharif, then only 43 and in his first term as Pakistan’s prime minister. A simple man, by no means an intellectual, but with enormous patience and a wily street-smart grasp of politics, Mr. Sharif wanted to be a peacemaker. He nearly succeeded.

Now, 21 years later, he has returned to power at a time when a new round of negotiations on Afghanistan have fallen apart.…  Seguir leyendo »

En la conmoción que siguió al 11 de septiembre del 2001, la pregunta que más se hacían los norteamericanos, que acababan de toparse por primera vez con el extremismo islámico, era «¿Por qué nos odian tanto?». La respuesta simple que a muchos norteamericanos les resultaba tranquilizadora era que «los otros» estaban celosos de la riqueza de Estados Unidos, de sus oportunidades, de su democracia y de lo que ustedes tienen (intente defender esta misma idea ahora, con la recesión económica norteamericana). Sin embargo, Norteamérica y sus instintos civilizadores estaban siendo sometidos a una dura prueba en todo el mundo.

Ahora que Estados Unidos entra en el undécimo año de la guerra más larga que jamás ha librado -la de Afganistán- sin que todavía se le vea un final, mientras el vecino Pakistán se encuentra al borde del cataclismo, la cuestión se está planteando a la inversa: ¿por qué los norteamericanos nos odian tanto?…  Seguir leyendo »