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Trump’s card a challenging Shift from Counterterrorism to Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

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Since November 2015, America has been dealing with a noteworthy rise in terror attacks in Afghanistan, which brought about by Taliban, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State affiliates. Improving the security situation in Afghanistan requires Washington to overcome the challenges in shifting from its current counterterrorism (CT) efforts to a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign that will be focused on the local population in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration should take its first steps in this direction on the military, economic, social, and political levels. America must formulate a full-fledged, integrated, and effective COIN strategy. The international community, for its part, should have an interest in assisting Washington to successfully transition to this strategy by providing military aid in weapons and methods of warfare as well as targeted economic aid.

The precarious security situation in Afghanistan is likely to become an even greater threat as Afghanistan remains relevant following ISIS losses in Iraq and Syria.  President Donald Trump during his historic speech on 21 August 2017 while announcing his strategy for war-torn country (Afghanistan) made it clear that his administration will do whatever it takes to eliminate terrorism. However, in order to triumph over terror, America will need to overcome challenges and transition from its current counterterrorism (CT) efforts to a full-fledged counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign.

 CT and COIN in Afghanistan: From Theory to Practice

In many reports on the terror, the terms counterterrorism and counterinsurgency are used interchangeably and their meanings are blurred. Although both are used to fight terrorism and insurgency, they require different resources and draw on distinct theories.

CT strategies are used to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat organizations that employ terrorism by military and security means. These strategies include drone strikes, special-forces operations, and increased policing and intelligence operations.

Adopting COIN strategies is necessary when a state realizes that a military response alone will not constitute a workable solution to a violent conflict. COIN is an all-encompassing political, military, and civilian solution to challenge irregular insurgent warfare. CT strategies are not abandoned but are implemented within a COIN approach where the counterinsurgent (the government) also pursues support and legitimacy from the local population by promoting good governance and providing continued security after government forces have expelled the insurgent group. This population-centric strategy involves denying the insurgency its civilian-support networks, external support, and outside sanctuary, while simultaneously improving political participation and economic opportunities for civilians.

America’s current CT approach mostly resembles traditional CT doctrines. America should be prepared for offensive military measures by declaring a state of emergency in specific areas of Afghanistan.

The CT measures used so far have been only semi-effective, and have fallen short of destroying the terrorist organizations or acquiring the Afghan population’s support for the government. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire during operations, straining state relations with the tribes, and offensive tactics alone have not deterred local youth from joining jihadist groups that offer better economic opportunities. Militant interpretations of Islam sometimes won “the battle for hearts and minds” and tempted the young local population to join jihadist groups. According to unofficial estimates, America has lost around 3000 security personnel since 2001 till this stage of the conflict, with many civilian casualties that are under-reported. These losses are unsustainable and hasten the transition towards a COIN campaign.

America should set the groundwork to move towards a COIN campaign on military, economic, and political fronts.  US should begin involving local tribes in fighting terrorism, by gathering intelligence and other military activities. In the non-military fronts, first, America should promote a moderate form of Islam among the youth of Afghanistan by using the Afghan state religious apparatuses and international Islamic tools. America should take additional measures to stifle extremism by establishing American-Afghan Council to Confront Terrorism and Extremism. The council would help build a COIN policy through strategizing, mobilizing resources, amending existing legislation, and increasing economic opportunities in areas with high levels of extremism.

America should detail long-term plans for development of Afghanistan with goals of increasing investments and focusing on population-centric projects. A first step would be to provide compensation for damages from military operations. The military should also aim to win greater support and legitimacy by sending reconstruction missions to the conflict-ridden areas.

Consequently, Counter Narco-terrorism Alliance Germany, advocates that America should head in the right direction towards a COIN campaign, by overcoming various challenges to solidify its strategies. Washington must better formulate a COIN doctrine that will enable a transition from CT to a full-fledged, integrated, and effective COIN operation.  America should lead a determined and powerful fight against terrorist strongholds; while at the same time avoid harming uninvolved civilians. If the latter is not prioritized, the military may alienate the local population and damage Trump’s administration image in the international arena. To this end, the adoption of appropriate methods of combat that minimize collateral damages—including the use of accurate weapons that will target only the terrorists—is required. In addition, while integrating local tribes in fighting terrorists, America must pay close attention not to hurt the Afghan sovereignty and governance.

On the economic level, America should carefully plan its investments to ensure that improving the welfare of the Afghan population. Additionally, America must balance its efforts between addressing short-term economic distress and the promotion of long-term economic goals.

On the political level, America should adopt a “carrots and sticks” policy towards the civil-population of Afghanistan. The use of authoritarian practices, such as emergency laws, must be well measured in order to avoid alienating local tribes from the Kabul regime.

Finally, the international community should have a vital interest in supporting the Trump administration in shifting from CT to COIN, by providing military assistance and targeted economic aid, while encouraging good governance and political participation of the Afghan population. The eradication of the insurgency in Afghanistan will be a desirable achievement not only for the 33 million inhabitants of Afghanistan but also for the global war on terror.

Ajmal Sohail is a graduate in terrorism and extremism studies from both Leiden University in the Netherlands and Maryland University in the United States; he works in the meantime as an intelligence analyst and Counter-terrorism expert. He does remain well connected with the political players in his country, both those physically in Afghanistan and those working from outside, allowing him to gain insights into the extremely complex geopolitical situation in Afghanistan and in the South Asia region. He is the co-founder and co-president of the Counter Narco-Terrorism Alliance Germany, directing its intelligence and counter-terrorism portfolios. His analysis is regularly featured in various international news outlets, print and television and he even runs his own sources to get the most classified Intel. His analysis and other content can be accessed at his personal website: http://www.ajmalsohail.com

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A Hybrid Political System for Pakistan: A Proposal

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The political system of Pakistan is an amalgamation of Islamic, British, and Indian influences, shaped by a multifaceted array of religious, ethnic, and regional factors, making it a culturally rich and ever-changing landscape. Pakistan is renowned for its powerful military establishment, which has traditionally wielded significant influence in determining its political direction. The nation’s political history is characterized by cycles of military rule, punctuated by several coups, followed by phases of democratic rule, though the military has continued to exert a significant degree of influence in the country’s politics. Furthermore, Pakistan has had to contend with the pernicious threat of extremism, with various militant groups operating within its borders and perpetrating terrorist attacks, which have destabilized the nation’s political, social, and economic stability.

This article aims to shed light on the challenges faced by the political system in Pakistan, specifically concerning the current political turmoil the country is experiencing. It also suggests a potential solution to stabilize the system and bring about a revolution in the way politics is conducted in Pakistan

The challenges faced by Pakistan’s democracy are compounded by the elite classes’ actions. The country is currently facing significant upheaval, which can be attributed to several factors. The lack of solid democratic institutions, frequent military takeovers, and the involvement of powerful military and civilian elites are among the underlying causes of the country’s political instability. Additionally, ethnic and regional conflicts, poverty, and economic growth issues further exacerbated political instability. The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, as well as political unrest in neighboring countries, have also had an impact on the country. Furthermore, Pakistan’s history of military control, political corruption, and a lack of a deeply ingrained democratic culture have all contributed to the volatility in its political system.

The current political quagmire that plagues Pakistan is multifaceted, primarily stemming from a dearth of political acumen and a paucity of commitment on the part of leaders to prioritize the exigencies of the populace over their own personal and factional interests. This has led to a diminution of public confidence in the political system and government officials. Furthermore, the military’s prolonged political intervention and sway history has exacerbated a lack of democratic stability and accountability. Another critical conundrum that has impeded the country’s political evolution is the preponderance of corruption and nepotism in every government agency, rendering it difficult for citizens to repose trust in government officials. As a result, there is a burgeoning loss of faith in institutions of all varieties, with people losing trust in the government, corporations, and political leaders.

Furthermore, the failure of successive governments to address the issue of corruption has further undermined public trust in the political system. The permeation of corrupt practices in every government institution has made it difficult for citizens to have faith in government officials, leading to a general disillusionment with the political system. Additionally, the lack of transparency and accountability in government operations has enabled corrupt officials to operate with impunity, further eroding the public’s trust in the political system. The aforementioned issues have resulted in a political climate marked by a lack of stability and continuity, hindering the country’s economic and social development. It is imperative that the political class and other stakeholders work towards addressing these issues to ensure that the political system can effectively serve the people’s needs and promote the country’s long-term stability and prosperity.

Proposing A New Way to get stability in Political System?

A hybrid political system combines characteristics of many political systems, such as democracy and autocracy. Two examples are a semi-presidential system, which combines a prime minister and a president, and a federal system, which combines a central government with regional administrations. Hybrid systems can also include components of other kinds of democracy, such as a parliamentary system combined with a robust presidential system. These systems are frequently viewed as a compromise between competing political ideologies or as a means of balancing the strengths and shortcomings of various systems

If the official replaces the current political system with a hybrid one, it could be very beneficial. One of the main advantages of a hybrid system is that it allows for a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government. In a presidential system, the executive branch is separate from the legislative branch, with the president having a lot of power. In a parliamentary system, however, the executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch. In a hybrid system, the executive branch has some independence from the legislative branch but is still responsible for it. This helps to prevent too much power from being concentrated in one person or group and also helps to protect citizens’ rights and to avoid abuse of power.

An additional benefit of implementing a hybrid system is that it may facilitate more efficient decision-making by leveraging the strengths of both presidential and parliamentary systems. In a presidential system, the separation of powers can result in stalemates and prolonged indecision, while in a parliamentary system, the government can swiftly collapse if it loses the legislature’s support. A hybrid system, on the other hand, can offer a balance of stability and agility, allowing for more prompt decision-making while maintaining the accountability of the executive branch. Furthermore, considering Pakistan’s history of military involvement in politics, a hybrid system can provide a mechanism to hold the military accountable to the civilian administration and reduce the likelihood of military intervention.

It is imperative to acknowledge that a hybrid system may not be the ultimate remedy for all of Pakistan’s issues, and its successful operation would require meticulous planning and execution. Nevertheless, this system could potentially provide a glimpse of sustained stability in Pakistan’s political landscape, and it is incumbent upon the authorities to consider this system as a viable option to circumvent further obstacles.

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Regional Implications of Strategic Triangle of China-India & Pakistan

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Strategic Triangle is defined as three states binding in a triangle’s strategic relationship. It is focused on three factors. 1) A state must be sovereign and rational in its foreign policy. 2) Action of one state in a triangle must affect the other two states. 3) Two states must have the potential to be united against other.

The Strategic Triangle has four models: unit veto, stable marriage, a romantic triangle, and ménage à trois. 1) Unit-veto means that all three states must have a different nature. 2) Stable marriage means that the relationship between two states is better than both with the other. 3) Romantic triangle means that good relations exist between one pivot and two states. In contrast, good relations don’t exist between two states when the relation between two states and one pivot is compared. 4) Ménage à trois means where all three states enjoy good relations.

The roots of contention between India and Pakistan can be traced since independence, while the rivalry between China and India has existed since the Sino-India war in 1962. However, due to this rivalry, India is considered a threat to both (Pakistan and China). India underwent three times for a full-scale war against Pakistan and once to a full-scale military conflict, while India and China went to war in 1962. India struggles to influence the South-Asian Region, which has increased the foundation of a Geostrategic triangle (Pakistan-China and India). The triangle evolved in Asia after the Sino-India war in 1962 when Pakistan and China signed an agreement on the border delimitation in 1963. Pakistan handed over the Trans-Karakoram tract to China, a territory claimed by India in Kashmir. The bilateral dispute between (India and Pakistan) turned into a trilateral (China-India & Pakistan).

This triangle has a crucial role in the international arena, changing the dynamics of power. The triangular relationship between China, India, and Pakistan is one of the key drivers for Asian security. Indo-US relations strategically have been getting deeper for the last two decades, and their ties with China are under high strain. There is a massive growth in Pak-China strategic relations that is essential for peace and balance in the region. It is due to an Indian hegemony dream after Sino-India, and Indo-Pak wars. Pakistan, China, and India have nuclear capabilities. This triangular nuclear chain increasingly connects geopolitical competition with the nuclear issue. China, India, and Pakistan must be cautious in their nuclear trilemma.

Nuclear weapons are a strategic tool that creates deterrence and restricts the concerned state from full-scale war. China believes in cooperation and the concept of mutual security. Geopolitical muddles will have impacts on the regional nuclear situation. China has adopted “no first use” nuclear weapons under any condition or circumstances since declaring itself a nuclear state. It will not threaten any non-nuclear state or zone that does not hold nuclear weapons. China is stable, responsible, and committed to its nuclear policy.

Pakistan is a responsible state in this region. Pakistan successfully conducted its first nuclear test in May 1998, aiming to respond to the Indian nuclear test, and declared itself a nuclear power. Pakistan has adopted a “full spectrum deterrence” policy rather than “no first use,” which deters India from conventional war or nuclear war since 1998. The conventional war between Pakistan and India cannot be ruled out; however, under nuclear weapons, the conflict between Pakistan and India may escalate to a full-scale war.

India adopted a “no first use” policy but will retaliate with nuclear weapons if any major incident that counters India with chemical or biological weapons. India considers Pakistan one of its immediate rivals, while China is a long-term target for its nuclear weapons and the most significant military potential threat. India has security concerns over civil nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and China. India argues that Pak-China strategic alliance is a rivalry and perceives this growing threat to its security.

Both countries (China and India) became neighbours after China declared Tibet as an integral part in 1951. The border tension is arising and sharpening the geopolitical rivalry between China and India. An incident occurred recently between China and India in Galwan valley in June 2020 that triggered a conflict between China and India, resulting in military casualties. After this incident, the bilateral relations between China and India went to the lowest. On the Line of Actual Control (LAC), concerned states (China and India) deployed much equipment and troops. They were on the brink of limited military conflict. Major sources of contention between China and India are border infrastructure and the issue of terrain gaining in Ladakh and Dokhlam.

An incident occurred in Pulwama in Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Indian authorities blamed Pakistani Security Agencies without solid evidence; however, former Prime Minister Imran Khan demanded to share evidence-based reports against Pakistan, if any, but the Indian authorities failed to share any factual evidence. The armed forces of Pakistan and India were on high alert, and a series of armed clashes occurred on the Line of Control (LOC). India violated Pakistan’s air space on 26 February 2019, which was very concerning to Pakistan, but on 27 February 2019, Pakistan shot down the Indian fighter jet Mig-21 and arrested Indian Fighter Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. It occurred for the first time since 1971 when Indian fighter jets crossed the Line of Control, and both nuclear-armed states were at the brink of nuclear war; however, the former premier of Pakistan endured to stop both states from nuclear escalation. India launched either intentionally or unintentionally unarmed missiles toward Pakistan in March 2022, which crashed in Mian Channu (a city in Punjab). India Defence Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh claimed that there was a technical malfunction in the routine maintenance of missiles that carried accidental firing of missiles in Pakistan. Pakistan immediately summoned an Indian envoy, protested, and showed deep concerns over the firing of an Indian missile. However, Indian negligence or aggressive attitude can be harmful to regional peace. These kinds of incidents may lead to a nuclear war. 

China is emerging as a superpower. India is rising as a regional power and is offensive in its approach towards other states like China, Pakistan, etc. Late Indian Chief of Army Staff (COAS), and Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat said the Indian Army is on two fronts. We have brought many changes in our capabilities. The Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy are fully prepared for any eventuality from any side. India wants its hegemony in the South Asia region and maintains the balance of power with China. The US is a strategic partner of India that supplies arms to India and shares civil nuclear technology, which disturbs the balance of power in South Asia and concerning for Pakistan’s security. Pakistan is defensive in its approach toward Indian hostility. China is a strategic partner of Pakistan that addresses Pakistan’s security concerns and maintains the balance of power in the South-Asia region. The attitude of China, Pakistan, India, and the U.S. will affect the South Asia region. Nuclear capability characterizes the geographical proximity of the strategic triangle, where any military confrontation may lead to a nuclear war.

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Indian Republic Day: A Black Day for Kashmiris

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India celebrates ‘Republic Day’ on January 26th every year to commemorate the day when the Constitution of India came into effect, replacing the Government of India Act 1935, and making India a republic. However, it is observed as a ‘black day’ in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) because it marks the day when the Indian government stripped the region of its autonomous status and imposed direct rule from New Delhi. Kashmir has been a contentious issue between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence in 1947. The people of Jammu and Kashmir were promised a high degree of autonomy under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which was in effect until August 2019, when the Indian government revoked it. This autonomy included the right to a separate constitution, a separate flag, and laws that were distinct from the rest of India. However, in practice, the Indian government has been involved in suppressing the political and basic rights of the people of Jammu & Kashmir and denying them their right to self-determination.

The special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which was revoked by the Indian government in 2019, had given the region a high degree of autonomy and protected its distinct identity. The revocation of this special status has led to widespread protests and resentment among the people of the region, who see it as an infringement on their rights and an attempt by the Indian government to suppress their political and cultural identity and right of self-determination.

The Indian government’s handling of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has also been criticized by international human rights organizations, who in their recent reports have highlighted how the Indian government has been involved in human rights violations of the people of Kashmir, through the use of excessive force, arbitrary arrests, and censorship of the media. International Human Rights Law forbids the unjustified deprivation of life. The right to life is embodied in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is being flagrantly violated in Kashmiri. India has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well (ICCPR). Which hasn’t prevented it from abusing the law, though.

When the Indian government removed Indian Occupied Kashmir’s special status and sent thousands more troops to the area, the situation for the locals of Kashmir became much tougher. Additionally, India reverted to age-old slavery techniques by enforcing a curfew on the helpless population, cutting off the internet and telecommunications, and detaining political figures, leaving 1.47 billion people cut off from the outside world, devoid of fundamental human rights, and living in dread. Since the repeal of Article 370 and the ensuing curfew, there have been reports of nighttime raids in which youngsters have been kidnapped and tortured, as well as of women being harassed. Intentionally violating both international humanitarian law and human rights law, the Indian military has intentionally dismembered, injured, and several times murdered people during this forceful conquest. The Kashmiri diaspora in the UK and Europe observe “Black Day” on January 26th each year to protest the Indian government’s illegal actions in Jammu& Kashmir. This day marks the anniversary of the Indian Constitution coming into effect in 1950, which provides a pretext for the formalization of Indian control over Kashmir, a region that has been the subject of ongoing conflict and human rights abuses. The diaspora uses this day to raise awareness about human rights abuses and the ongoing conflict in the region, and to call for self-determination for the people of Kashmir. They also call on the international community to break the status quo imposed by the fascist Indian government. For instance, the president of Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK president claimed that “the people of Kashmir have challenged India to take out the forces (one million) from the valley and then celebrate the republic day”. Jammu & Kashmir salvation movement president Altaf Ahmed also call the UN for intervention to protect the rights of Kashmiris.

India has long claimed to be the world’s largest democracy and a champion of human rights. However, it has a long history of human rights abuses and political suppression in the region of Kashmir. Despite India’s claims of being the world’s largest democratic state, it has been involved use of excessive force against peaceful protesters, the imposition of strict curfews and internet shutdowns, and the detention of political leaders and activists in the Kashmir region. The Indian government has also been criticized for its heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the insurgency in the region, which has resulted in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. The Indian government has also failed to provide the people of Kashmir with basic democratic rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to self-determination.

It is certainly true that the Indian government’s actions in the region of Kashmir have been widely criticized for human rights abuses and the suppression of political dissent. The deployment of a large number of security forces in the region, along with heavy-handed tactics, have resulted in widespread human rights abuses and a lack of protection for the people of Kashmir. This is in contrast to the protection of basic human and democratic rights, which are supposed to be guaranteed to all citizens of India by the Constitution. How a democratic state can be the largest human rights violator? A self-proclaimed secular state which does not give the rights of minorities cannot be a democratic republic state.

The situation in Kashmir raises questions about the Indian government’s commitment to protecting the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. A democratic state should ensure that all citizens are protected and treated fairly under the law, but the actions of the Indian government in Kashmir suggest that this is not always the case. Similarly, a self-proclaimed secular state like India should ensure that all religious groups are treated fairly, but the Indian government has been criticized for its treatment of minority groups in the country, particularly the Muslim population of Kashmir.

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