Showing posts tagged as "South Asia"

Showing posts tagged South Asia

21 Mar
Kabul Taliban Hotel Attack Will Hurt Democratic Process in Afghanistan: Analyst | Sasha Nagy
The brazen attack by Taliban fighters at a Kabul hotel Thursday that killed two Canadian aid workers could have a detrimental effect on the coming general elections, a prominent Canadian security analyst said Friday.
Roshan Thomas, a Vancouver woman who started a school in Kabul, has been identified as one of the Canadians killed in the attack.

Graeme Smith, an award-winning former journalist with the Globe and Mail who is in Kabul working with the International Crisis Group, said the attacks will make it difficult for international election observers to stay in Kabul and conduct first-hand inspections of polling sites. One of the of the victims, he said, worked as an election observer from the National Democratic Institute.
FULL ARTICLE (The Huffington Post Canada)
Photo: US Army/Flickr

Kabul Taliban Hotel Attack Will Hurt Democratic Process in Afghanistan: Analyst | Sasha Nagy

The brazen attack by Taliban fighters at a Kabul hotel Thursday that killed two Canadian aid workers could have a detrimental effect on the coming general elections, a prominent Canadian security analyst said Friday.

Roshan Thomas, a Vancouver woman who started a school in Kabul, has been identified as one of the Canadians killed in the attack.

Graeme Smith, an award-winning former journalist with the Globe and Mail who is in Kabul working with the International Crisis Group, said the attacks will make it difficult for international election observers to stay in Kabul and conduct first-hand inspections of polling sites. One of the of the victims, he said, worked as an election observer from the National Democratic Institute.

FULL ARTICLE (The Huffington Post Canada)

Photo: US Army/Flickr

10 Mar
Voices on Afghanistan: How will the Nato troop withdrawal impact security? | Graeme Smith
I spent about half a year travelling to some of the areas where the insurgency has been really active in Afghanistan in different corners of the country and looking at the effect of troops withdrawals.
I wanted a peek into what happens when you pull out foreign troops.
It’s quite a seismic shift that’s underway. At the peak we had a 130,000 International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) personnel on the ground. And that number is shrinking rapidly.
About 40,000 today. It could get down to 20,000 later this year. And, depending on how the negotiations go for a bilateral security agreement, we could get down to zero by the end of the year. Or some modest number could stay behind.
Either way it’s a dramatic change in the military landscape. I wanted to peek over the parapets and see what the effect is.
And sadly the answer is that the ground held by the Afghan government is shrinking modestly and violence is up. Not only is violence up but the military balance between the Taliban and the Afghan government is precarious.
It’s a hard-fought battle. I worry that if we don’t give enough support to the Afghan government it could tip in favour of the Taliban.
Today, there are roughly almost as many causalities on the Afghan government side as on the Taliban side. Now, as a component of that number, the Taliban are dying a lot more. They have trouble evacuating their causalities from the battlefield versus a lot more injuries on the Afghan government side.
The fact that those numbers are so close gives you an illustration of how tough it is out there.
The Afghan government needs helicopters. The US Congress in November decided to cut off the supply of helicopters that they were buying. And I think that’s silly, to be honest. You can’t just cut off the supply of helicopters to the fledgling Afghan air force and say, ‘Good luck.’
I went to Faryab province in the north-west, which is hundreds of kilometres away from the Taliban heartlands of the south and east and yet still has a growing problem with the insurgency.
There are Taliban there. All foreign troops have been out since September 2012. So it’s an interesting case study. It’s a look at what happens when you have absolutely zero foreign intervention.
And the short answer is violence is up significantly and the government is losing ground.
I also looked at Kunar in the east. Kunar was one of the most famous battlegrounds for US forces. At point, one valley of one district of the province, the Korengal Valley, accounted for about one-fifth of all air strikes in the whole country. And today the Korengal is quiet. Today, that district, Pech, is quiet. Violence is down considerably in those areas. Because the foreigners have departed and the Taliban have quietly taken over or other insurgent groups have quietly taken over areas that Afghan forces just decided not to patrol.
But unfortunately, in the province as a whole, violence remains exceptionally high. There’s been no quieting down of the whole province because the violence has just moved to different areas.
I also went to Kandahar. Kandahar is an interesting metaphor for the country as a whole because the centre is holding. Violence is actually down for the first time in ages in urban areas, in the downtown parts of Kandahar city, where it’s safer to walk around.
There’s been a huge influx of Afghan forces and they’ve done a good job of simply locking the place down. You walk around Kandahar city and you see Afghan forces sitting on the street corners, every single street corner.
But if you go out into the districts, it’s a different story.
They are more violent than they were. Violence continues to rise in Kandahar as a whole.
The last place I went to was Paktia, in the south-east. Paktia was a bright spot on the map. It was the only good news story that I found.
And it’s hard to understand why it’s emerged as a good news story actually. As the foreigners left the violence decreased dramatically. Violence today is a third of what it was a couple of years ago. Lots of people in Paktia simply say when the foreigners left the Taliban didn’t have a reason to fight any more. Because there were no more invading infidels and so the justification for war evaporated.
I would say to them that’s the case in all these other places I visited, where things are worse.
So what is it about this area?
The usual explanation is that the tribal structure is very clear and strong in Paktia.
Different tribes control different districts.
They have support from the Afghan government but the centre of gravity is with the tribes. And they have a long tradition of guarding their own territory. There’s that sense of independence there that maybe isn’t there in some of the other places.
In some ways what we are dealing with is hundreds of little different insurgencies across the country. All being fought simultaneously. But I think it’s important to realise that most of the people who are fighting, whether they are for the government or against the government, most of them have a vision for Afghanistan.
There are nationalists on both sides.
The threat that many people saw of Afghan forces simply giving up or giving up their weapons and going home or cutting quiet deals with the Taliban, happened in only a few places. If you look at the country as a whole the Afghan security forces are still fighting. The number of young men who are willing to sign up to protect the Afghan government and die fighting the Taliban is still really high. It’s going to be a fight.
The Taliban cannot just walk back into Kabul.
COMMENTARY (The National)
Photo: US Army/Flickr

Voices on Afghanistan: How will the Nato troop withdrawal impact security? | Graeme Smith

I spent about half a year travelling to some of the areas where the insurgency has been really active in Afghanistan in different corners of the country and looking at the effect of troops withdrawals.

I wanted a peek into what happens when you pull out foreign troops.

It’s quite a seismic shift that’s underway. At the peak we had a 130,000 International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) personnel on the ground. And that number is shrinking rapidly.

About 40,000 today. It could get down to 20,000 later this year. And, depending on how the negotiations go for a bilateral security agreement, we could get down to zero by the end of the year. Or some modest number could stay behind.

Either way it’s a dramatic change in the military landscape. I wanted to peek over the parapets and see what the effect is.

And sadly the answer is that the ground held by the Afghan government is shrinking modestly and violence is up. Not only is violence up but the military balance between the Taliban and the Afghan government is precarious.

It’s a hard-fought battle. I worry that if we don’t give enough support to the Afghan government it could tip in favour of the Taliban.

Today, there are roughly almost as many causalities on the Afghan government side as on the Taliban side. Now, as a component of that number, the Taliban are dying a lot more. They have trouble evacuating their causalities from the battlefield versus a lot more injuries on the Afghan government side.

The fact that those numbers are so close gives you an illustration of how tough it is out there.

The Afghan government needs helicopters. The US Congress in November decided to cut off the supply of helicopters that they were buying. And I think that’s silly, to be honest. You can’t just cut off the supply of helicopters to the fledgling Afghan air force and say, ‘Good luck.’

I went to Faryab province in the north-west, which is hundreds of kilometres away from the Taliban heartlands of the south and east and yet still has a growing problem with the insurgency.

There are Taliban there. All foreign troops have been out since September 2012. So it’s an interesting case study. It’s a look at what happens when you have absolutely zero foreign intervention.

And the short answer is violence is up significantly and the government is losing ground.

I also looked at Kunar in the east. Kunar was one of the most famous battlegrounds for US forces. At point, one valley of one district of the province, the Korengal Valley, accounted for about one-fifth of all air strikes in the whole country. And today the Korengal is quiet. Today, that district, Pech, is quiet. Violence is down considerably in those areas. Because the foreigners have departed and the Taliban have quietly taken over or other insurgent groups have quietly taken over areas that Afghan forces just decided not to patrol.

But unfortunately, in the province as a whole, violence remains exceptionally high. There’s been no quieting down of the whole province because the violence has just moved to different areas.

I also went to Kandahar. Kandahar is an interesting metaphor for the country as a whole because the centre is holding. Violence is actually down for the first time in ages in urban areas, in the downtown parts of Kandahar city, where it’s safer to walk around.

There’s been a huge influx of Afghan forces and they’ve done a good job of simply locking the place down. You walk around Kandahar city and you see Afghan forces sitting on the street corners, every single street corner.

But if you go out into the districts, it’s a different story.

They are more violent than they were. Violence continues to rise in Kandahar as a whole.

The last place I went to was Paktia, in the south-east. Paktia was a bright spot on the map. It was the only good news story that I found.

And it’s hard to understand why it’s emerged as a good news story actually. As the foreigners left the violence decreased dramatically. Violence today is a third of what it was a couple of years ago. Lots of people in Paktia simply say when the foreigners left the Taliban didn’t have a reason to fight any more. Because there were no more invading infidels and so the justification for war evaporated.

I would say to them that’s the case in all these other places I visited, where things are worse.

So what is it about this area?

The usual explanation is that the tribal structure is very clear and strong in Paktia.

Different tribes control different districts.

They have support from the Afghan government but the centre of gravity is with the tribes. And they have a long tradition of guarding their own territory. There’s that sense of independence there that maybe isn’t there in some of the other places.

In some ways what we are dealing with is hundreds of little different insurgencies across the country. All being fought simultaneously. But I think it’s important to realise that most of the people who are fighting, whether they are for the government or against the government, most of them have a vision for Afghanistan.

There are nationalists on both sides.

The threat that many people saw of Afghan forces simply giving up or giving up their weapons and going home or cutting quiet deals with the Taliban, happened in only a few places. If you look at the country as a whole the Afghan security forces are still fighting. The number of young men who are willing to sign up to protect the Afghan government and die fighting the Taliban is still really high. It’s going to be a fight.

The Taliban cannot just walk back into Kabul.

COMMENTARY (The National)

Photo: US Army/Flickr

16 Jan
Grabbing the Wolf’s Tail | Graeme Smith
“The Taliban are still here,” a pharmacist who sells medicine to remote villages in the southeast told me last month in this shabby frontier town. “People are anxious about 2014 because the troops are leaving.”
After his customers started to understand recently that the United States and its allies will pull out most of their forces this year, he said, his sales of medication for anxiety, depression and insomnia increased 30-fold. Fear of a Taliban resurgence is so widespread that it is hurting property prices and the value of Afghanistan’s currency, scaring investors away and impelling Afghans to seek foreign asylum. Worries about the year ahead are a kind of pathology here.
FULL COMMENTARY (New York Times)
Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr

Grabbing the Wolf’s Tail | Graeme Smith

“The Taliban are still here,” a pharmacist who sells medicine to remote villages in the southeast told me last month in this shabby frontier town. “People are anxious about 2014 because the troops are leaving.”

After his customers started to understand recently that the United States and its allies will pull out most of their forces this year, he said, his sales of medication for anxiety, depression and insomnia increased 30-fold. Fear of a Taliban resurgence is so widespread that it is hurting property prices and the value of Afghanistan’s currency, scaring investors away and impelling Afghans to seek foreign asylum. Worries about the year ahead are a kind of pathology here.

FULL COMMENTARY (New York Times)

Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr

15 Nov
Sri Lanka risks violence if crackdown continues, says ICG | Nita Bhalla
Sri Lanka faces the threat of violence if it continues to ignore international concerns over attacks on the rule of law, human rights abuses and a lack of post-war reconciliation, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report on Thursday.
Despite recent moves to show progress, the London-based think tank said the government in Colombo had not altered the “authoritarian direction” of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remained under threat.
FULL ARTICLE (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Photo: Rajith Vidanaarachchi/Wikimedia Commons

Sri Lanka risks violence if crackdown continues, says ICG | Nita Bhalla

Sri Lanka faces the threat of violence if it continues to ignore international concerns over attacks on the rule of law, human rights abuses and a lack of post-war reconciliation, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report on Thursday.

Despite recent moves to show progress, the London-based think tank said the government in Colombo had not altered the “authoritarian direction” of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remained under threat.

FULL ARTICLE (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Photo: Rajith Vidanaarachchi/Wikimedia Commons

13 Nov
Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire
Colombo/Brussels | 13 Nov 2013
Despite recent moves meant to show progress towards post-war reconciliation and respect for human rights, Sri Lanka’s government has not altered the authoritarian direction of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remain under threat.
In its latest report, Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire, the International Crisis Group examines challenges facing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) following its landslide victory in Sri Lanka’s north, the central government’s hostility to devolution, and the ever-shrinking democratic space nationwide. The Colombo government’s attempts to mask its growing authoritarianism as it hosts this month’s Commonwealth summit appear increasingly flimsy.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
The long-awaited northern province elections were a success, but to go forward the TNA-controlled council needs both Colombo’s cooperation and financial, technical and political support from the international community. Influential governments, including India and other Commonwealth members as well as the U.S., should make clear to Colombo that diplomatic pressure will intensify if it pushes through constitutional changes that weaken or eliminate provincial councils.
Militant Buddhist attacks on mosques and Muslim businesses have continued with tacit government support, while violence against Christian churches and worshippers appears to be on the rise. There have been no serious government efforts to prevent or punish attacks.
Participants in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this week in Colombo should press the government to address human rights abuses, prevent attacks on religious minorities and restore judicial independence.
Legal and administrative moves responding to the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the UN Human Rights Council’s March resolution have not restored judicial or police independence, curbed militarisation or ensured accountability for war crimes in the conflict that ended in 2009.
If the government cannot show progress by March 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council next meets, members should design an international mechanism to investigate the many allegations of violations of international law by both sides in the civil war and to monitor continuing human rights violations and attacks on the rule of law.
“The government’s policies badly damage rule of law and democracy, undermine the rights of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese alike and render all citizens insecure”, says Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka Project Director. “If it continues to close avenues of peaceful change, the risks of violent reaction will grow”.
“The small window of opportunity that exists in the northern province shows that sustained and focused international pressure can work”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Asia Program Director. “With opposition parties and civil society weakened by years of government intimidation, international pressure on Sri Lankan leaders is essential to preserve the remaining space for democratic dissent, prevent regression on ethnic issues and restrain growing authoritarianism”.
crisisgroup.org

Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire

Colombo/Brussels | 13 Nov 2013

Despite recent moves meant to show progress towards post-war reconciliation and respect for human rights, Sri Lanka’s government has not altered the authoritarian direction of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remain under threat.

In its latest report, Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire, the International Crisis Group examines challenges facing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) following its landslide victory in Sri Lanka’s north, the central government’s hostility to devolution, and the ever-shrinking democratic space nationwide. The Colombo government’s attempts to mask its growing authoritarianism as it hosts this month’s Commonwealth summit appear increasingly flimsy.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

The long-awaited northern province elections were a success, but to go forward the TNA-controlled council needs both Colombo’s cooperation and financial, technical and political support from the international community. Influential governments, including India and other Commonwealth members as well as the U.S., should make clear to Colombo that diplomatic pressure will intensify if it pushes through constitutional changes that weaken or eliminate provincial councils.

Militant Buddhist attacks on mosques and Muslim businesses have continued with tacit government support, while violence against Christian churches and worshippers appears to be on the rise. There have been no serious government efforts to prevent or punish attacks.

Participants in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this week in Colombo should press the government to address human rights abuses, prevent attacks on religious minorities and restore judicial independence.

Legal and administrative moves responding to the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the UN Human Rights Council’s March resolution have not restored judicial or police independence, curbed militarisation or ensured accountability for war crimes in the conflict that ended in 2009.

If the government cannot show progress by March 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council next meets, members should design an international mechanism to investigate the many allegations of violations of international law by both sides in the civil war and to monitor continuing human rights violations and attacks on the rule of law.

“The government’s policies badly damage rule of law and democracy, undermine the rights of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese alike and render all citizens insecure”, says Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka Project Director. “If it continues to close avenues of peaceful change, the risks of violent reaction will grow”.

“The small window of opportunity that exists in the northern province shows that sustained and focused international pressure can work”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Asia Program Director. “With opposition parties and civil society weakened by years of government intimidation, international pressure on Sri Lankan leaders is essential to preserve the remaining space for democratic dissent, prevent regression on ethnic issues and restrain growing authoritarianism”.

crisisgroup.org

13 Sep
Pillay incurs Sri Lanka’s wrath | Alan Keenan
Concluding her recent fact-finding trip to Sri Lanka, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government was “heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction… despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state”.
Pillay’s statement cited a long and growing list of serious human rights problems, including “persistent impunity and the failure of rule of law”.
FULL ARTICLE (IOL News)
Photo: United Nations - Geneva

Pillay incurs Sri Lanka’s wrath | Alan Keenan

Concluding her recent fact-finding trip to Sri Lanka, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government was “heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction… despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state”.

Pillay’s statement cited a long and growing list of serious human rights problems, including “persistent impunity and the failure of rule of law”.

FULL ARTICLE (IOL News)

Photo: United Nations - Geneva

3 May
Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir?
Islamabad/Brussels | 3 May 2012
Their recent dialogue process provides the best chance yet for bilateral peace and regional stability, but Pakistan and India must still overcome serious mistrust among hardliners in their security elites.
Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir? , the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, analyses how the deeper economic ties they are building could help repair the breach between the two nuclear-armed powers who have fought multiple wars with each other.
For over six decades, bilateral relations have been overshadowed by the Kashmir dispute. With political will on both sides to normalise relations, however, the dialogue process has resulted in some promising achievements. Broader economic ties would provide a more conducive environment to address longstanding disputes like Kashmir.
“Pakistan and India need to build on what they have achieved to reach sustainable peace”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “Deeper economic ties have been formed. But an effective integration of the two economies requires measures that enable greater movement across the border”.
Numerous challenges still threaten the chance for peace and stability. Pakistan’s fragile democratic transition, pivotal to the success of the dialogue, is endangered by a powerful military that is deeply hostile toward India and supports anti-India-oriented extremist groups. Another Mumbai-style attack by Pakistan-based jihadists would make the dialogue untenable and could even spark a new war.
Liberalised trade, stronger commercial links and deeper bilateral economic investment would strengthen moderate forces in Pakistan’s government, political parties, business community and civil society. But New Delhi’s heavy-handed suppression of dissent and large military footprint in the portion of Kashmir it controls alienate Kashmiris, undermine Pakistani constituencies for peace and embolden jihadi groups and hardliners in the military and civil bureaucracies.
There are other impediments. With India constructing several dams in the Indus River Basin, the Pakistani military and jihadi groups now identify water disputes as a core issue, along with Kashmir, that must be resolved if relations are to be normalised. Averse to talks that do not prioritise the terror threat, Indian hardliners could also impede normalisation.
India’s concerns about jihadi groups are legitimate but should not define and encumber dialogue with Pakistan. Given its neighbour’s fragile democratic transition, New Delhi should be more flexible and patient. Such an approach, if sustained, would enable the Pakistani civilian political leadership to take the initiative on security-related and territorial disputes, including Kashmir.  
“Pakistan’s ability to broaden engagement with India depends on a sustained democratic transition, with elected leaders gaining control over foreign and security policy from the military”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “This would result in new prospects to move beyond a rigid, Kashmir-centric approach to India”.
CRISIS GROUP

Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir?

Islamabad/Brussels | 3 May 2012

Their recent dialogue process provides the best chance yet for bilateral peace and regional stability, but Pakistan and India must still overcome serious mistrust among hardliners in their security elites.

Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir? , the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, analyses how the deeper economic ties they are building could help repair the breach between the two nuclear-armed powers who have fought multiple wars with each other.

For over six decades, bilateral relations have been overshadowed by the Kashmir dispute. With political will on both sides to normalise relations, however, the dialogue process has resulted in some promising achievements. Broader economic ties would provide a more conducive environment to address longstanding disputes like Kashmir.

“Pakistan and India need to build on what they have achieved to reach sustainable peace”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “Deeper economic ties have been formed. But an effective integration of the two economies requires measures that enable greater movement across the border”.

Numerous challenges still threaten the chance for peace and stability. Pakistan’s fragile democratic transition, pivotal to the success of the dialogue, is endangered by a powerful military that is deeply hostile toward India and supports anti-India-oriented extremist groups. Another Mumbai-style attack by Pakistan-based jihadists would make the dialogue untenable and could even spark a new war.

Liberalised trade, stronger commercial links and deeper bilateral economic investment would strengthen moderate forces in Pakistan’s government, political parties, business community and civil society. But New Delhi’s heavy-handed suppression of dissent and large military footprint in the portion of Kashmir it controls alienate Kashmiris, undermine Pakistani constituencies for peace and embolden jihadi groups and hardliners in the military and civil bureaucracies.

There are other impediments. With India constructing several dams in the Indus River Basin, the Pakistani military and jihadi groups now identify water disputes as a core issue, along with Kashmir, that must be resolved if relations are to be normalised. Averse to talks that do not prioritise the terror threat, Indian hardliners could also impede normalisation.

India’s concerns about jihadi groups are legitimate but should not define and encumber dialogue with Pakistan. Given its neighbour’s fragile democratic transition, New Delhi should be more flexible and patient. Such an approach, if sustained, would enable the Pakistani civilian political leadership to take the initiative on security-related and territorial disputes, including Kashmir.  

“Pakistan’s ability to broaden engagement with India depends on a sustained democratic transition, with elected leaders gaining control over foreign and security policy from the military”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “This would result in new prospects to move beyond a rigid, Kashmir-centric approach to India”.

CRISIS GROUP