US set to unveil strategy for Afghanistan war

File photo shows a US Marine walking near Afghan National Army soldiers trainingin Helmand province. (Reuters)
Updated 12 August 2017
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US set to unveil strategy for Afghanistan war

KABUL: When US President Donald Trump assumed office, many expected that one of his top priorities would be charting a new strategy for the Afghan conflict, the longest war in America’s history and one which many, including some US officials, concede is on a path to failure.
Amid deep uncertainty about future US involvement in Afghanistan, rising division among Afghan government leaders and the expansion of activities by both the Taliban and Daesh affiliates, Trump is set to announce a belated strategy in the coming days, after long discussion with top military brass.
Given Trump’s unpredictability, some Afghans fear he may choose the option of total disengagement, after 16 years of war achieved little on the battlefield.
“Trump has had a vague policy on Afghanistan, so one cannot say for sure what he would do,” Taj Mohammad Ahmadzada, deputy director of Afghan journalists’ union, told Arab News.
“If for whatever reason, Trump announces total disengagement from Afghanistan, then that will mean the US is accepting its defeat in Afghanistan after so much loss of cash, blood and resources.”
Daesh, after its defeat in Iraq and Syria, will turn its attention to Afghanistan, Ahmadzada argues, adding that US prestige will suffer deeply internationally, as with the former Soviet Union following its withdrawal from Afghanistan in the 1990s.
Targeting militants’ sanctuaries in Pakistan and compelling Islamabad to drop its support for the insurgents needs to be part of Trump’s strategy, Ahmadzada suggested.
Dawlat Waziri, the Afghan Defense Ministry’s chief spokesman, told Arab News that Trump needed to pursue a three-pronged approach to turn Afghanistan into a success story.
“The proper way for a new strategy is strengthening of the Afghan security forces, targeting terrorists’ havens and beginning a peaceful approach with the armed opposition,” he said.
“Any strategy lacking these points will not be effective. This is not the war of Afghans, it is the US and NATO’s war. Abandoning the war means the region, West and America will (also) be affected by insecurity.”
Mohammed Umar Daudzai, a former Afghan interior minister has warned that US disengagement would pose a serious risk.
“The state is ... unable to hold itself without international sustenance. It is the fear the country could slip back into chaos in (the) case of abrupt absence of troops (and) foreign boots on the ground,” Daudzai argued in a discussion paper.
“Western capitals are getting increasingly frustrated with the prolonged crisis, yet abandoning Afghanistan is still not an option. The Soviet Union’s biggest mistake was moving into Afghanistan. The US’ biggest mistake will be to leave Afghanistan unattended and unguarded.”
The Taliban, which has made some gains in exploiting the rising division within the US-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani, said pulling foreign troops was the only option for ending the war.
“Our stand about (the) coming US strategy is that American authorities should not bow down to warmongering demands of evil circles, should give up Afghanistan’s occupation so that both America and Afghanistan become relieved,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, said in a message.
“This war is not in one’s benefit; the past 16 years showed that it is hazardous to stand in the way of a country’s independence. The future American strategy needs to focus (on solving) the issues through diplomatic ways and the policy of pressure and forces should be avoided.”
He said the Taliban wanted to have good relations with the world, including the US, but emphasized that war will end only when troops pull out.
Current and former US officials have come up with various suggestions in order to prevent the war from becoming a total fiasco.
Some push for privatization of the war by a private American security company that has already earned international notoriety with its past involvement in both the Afghan and Iraq wars.
A group of politicians demand the posting of more US troops in a bid to turn the tide, despite the presence of US and coalition soldiers — which peaked at around 140,000 — having failed to crush the backbone of the Taliban. Some others demand hitting training centers and bastions for the militants in neighboring Pakistan.
The costly and bloody war in Afghanistan has killed tens of thousands of Afghans, but only several thousand US and coalition troops.
Ronald E. Neumann, who served as Washington’s ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 until 2007, said in an opinion article in Washington that “much of the rush to failure has been Washington-driven.”


Britain would not block death penalty for Daesh suspects

Updated 2 min 38 sec ago
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Britain would not block death penalty for Daesh suspects

LONDON: Britain’s interior minister has indicated London would not object to Washington seeking the death penalty against two British Daesh militants if they are extradited to the United States, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.
According to a leaked letter published in the newspaper from British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Britain was prepared to waive its long-standing objection to executions in the case of captured fighters, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.
The two men are suspected of being two of four militants, dubbed the “Beatles” because of their English accents, who took part in the kidnap, torture and murder of Western hostages.
They were captured in Syria in January by a US-backed Syrian force, and Britain and the United States have been in discussions about how and where they should face justice.
According to the Telegraph, Javid wrote to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying Britain was not intending to request that the two men be sent to the United Kingdom, saying a successful prosecution in the United States was more likely.
Furthermore, he said Britain would not insist on guarantees the men would not be executed.
“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” the letter said.
“As you are aware, it is the long held position of the UK to seek death penalty assurances, and our decision in this case does not reflect a change in our policy on assistance in US death penalty cases generally, nor the UK Government’s stance on the global abolition of the death penalty.”
A Home Office spokesman said the government would not comment on leaked documents and Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said Britain wanted the militants to be tried in the most appropriate jurisdiction.
“It’s a long-standing position of the government to oppose the death penalty ... as a matter of principle,” the spokeswoman told reporters. “We are continuing to engage with the US government on this issue and our priority is to make sure that these men face criminal prosecution.”
Guantanamo
The opposition Labour Party accused Javid of “secretly and unilaterally” abandoning Britain’s opposition to the death penalty.
“By doing so he is not just playing with the lives of these particular terrorists but those of other Britons — including potentially innocent ones — all over the world,” said Labour’s Shami Chakrabarti.
The Telegraph also reported that other documents suggested that Britain would not oppose the men being sent to the US-run Guantanamo Bay military facility.
However, the Home Office spokesman appeared to reject this saying: “The UK government’s position on Guantanamo Bay is that the detention facility should close.”
The most notorious of the four so called “Beatles” was Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” who is believed to have been killed in a US-British missile strike in 2015.
He became the public face of Daesh and appeared in videos showing the murders of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and other hostages.
The mother of James Foley said she did not want the men to be executed if found guilty.
“I think that would just make them martyrs in their twisted ideology. I would like them held accountable by being sent to prison for the rest of their lives,” Diane Foley told BBC radio.