U.S., AFGHANISTAN: State Urges Taliban yet Again to 'Run for Office'
By Bill Roggio, FDD's Long War Journal: “Just hours after the Taliban announced the launch of this year’s spring offensive, named the “Al Khandaq Jihadi operations,” the U.S. Department of State issued a statement urging the Taliban to lay down its arms, conduct negotiations, and join Afghanistan’s election process.”
No ISIS targets is no longer a problem for Central Command
(C4ISRNET) Central Command is piloting a new approach for processing the ocean of data collected by the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in theater.
State urges Taliban yet again to ‘run for office
US officials should stop debasing themselves by issuing facile calls for peace. The Taliban has no intention of joining a political process and as it has stated numerous times, its goals are the expulsion of US and foreign forces, the overthrow of the Afghan government, the re-establishment of the of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the imposition of its harsh brand of Sharia.
TRUMP'S SAUDI POLICY GAMBLE
Trump’s Saudi policy gamble
Michael Barone | Washington Examiner
HAS PAKISTAN TAMED ITS TRIBAL FRONTIERS & TRUMP EVALUATES U.S. SOUTH ASIAN POLICY
The United States And Pakistan: Frenemies On The Brink
by Peter R. Mansoor via Strategika
For much of its short seventy-year history, Pakistan has managed to thoroughly mismanage its strategic relationships with great power patrons, regional competitors, and non-state clients. It has waged and lost four wars with a larger and more powerful India, supported terrorist organizations that have destabilized Afghanistan and conducted deadly attacks in neighboring India, and alienated its long-time American ally.
Maligned as a bastion of extremism and a top terrorist safe haven, Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), along the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan, have endured a significant transformation in the last few years.
Between June 2014 and May 2016, the Pakistani army launched operation Zarb-e-Azb, literally translated as “swift and conclusive strike,” which focused on clearing terrorist organizations—including Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani network—from the region.
Today, Pakistani government and military officials contend that the entire FATA has been secured under army control and that the priority has shifted to rebuilding and developing the FATA region…despite claims from Washington that Pakistan continues to harbor terrorist groups.
Below are two perspectives on this offered to The Cipher Brief – from top Pakistani officials, and a former CIA officer, with comments adapted for print from their conversations.
PARANOID STYLE OF MIDEAST POLITICS
Listen: Abbas Milani - Will The Recent Syrian Attacks Mean Increased Hostilities Between Iran And Israel?
interview with Abbas Milani via KXL-FM
Hoover Institution fellow Abbas Milani discusses the recent Syrian chemical attacks and whether these attacks will lead to an escalation in tensions between Iran and Israel, and if so what does that mean for the US and the rest of the world?
A ‘Post-ISIS insurgency’ is gaining steam in northern Iraq, analysts say
(Task & Purpose) ISIS may have lost most of its self-declared caliphate, but a new jihadist group is trying to rise from ISIS’ ashes in northern Iraq. The group, whose name is translated from Arabic as “the White Banner” or “the White Flags,” is an ISIS-offshoot that is located primarily around Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu, said Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The dueling ayatollahs
Al-Monitor decrypts the struggle for the soul of Shiite Islam between Iran and Iraq and its global ramifications in the third installment of our long-form journalism.
Why Israel needs new regional alliances
Facing US intention to withdraw from Syria, Israel must establish new regional alliances.
Israeli defense chief visits US amid growing tension with Iran in Syria
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is scheduled to meet top US officials in Washington today, huddling with US national security adviser John Bolton at the White House before heading to the Pentagon for talks with Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Liberman arrived in the United States on Wednesday and met members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Ahead of his meetings with US officials, Liberman told London-based Saudi newspaper Elaph, “If Iran strikes Tel Aviv, Israel will hit Tehran and destroy any Iranian military site in Syria that threatens Israel.” Liberman said Israel is not interested in any wars, but will pay any price to prevent an Iranian presence in Syria.
Mattis, Receiving Liberman, Warns of ‘likely’ Conflict Between Israel and Iran
By Michael Wilner, The Jerusalem Post: “Preparing for the possible imminent collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, Boeing Co. has been signing contracts with other buyers, including Iran's adversaries across the Persian Gulf, to cushion the loss of $17 billion in sales to Iran.”
Libyan strongman Khalifa Hifter heads home to quell death rumors
Libyan military commander Khalifa Hifter is headed home to deliver a speech after completing treatment at a Paris hospital, Libyan lawmakers and officials said Wednesday. The news comes amid rumors that Hifter, the head of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) and a rival to the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, had died or fallen into a coma. LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said Hifter will arrive in Benghazi today to deliver a speech marking the three-year anniversary of his campaign against Islamist militants. Reuters reports that Hifter first flew to Cairo from Paris to hold talks with Egyptian officials. Read More
PAKISTAN HIT WITH U.S. SANCTIONS
TALIBAN OVERRUN HELMAND PROVINCE
Islamic State Spokesman Says 'New Phase' of Jihad Has Begun
By Thomas Joscelyn, FDD's Long War Journal: “Al-Muhajir points to the organization’s global network and praises the jihadists who continue to fight in its name everywhere from West Africa to South Asia. He notes that some are “celebrating” the so-called caliphate’s losses in Mosul, Sirte, and Raqqa – the three most important cities in Baghdadi’s nascent empire at the height of its power.”
The UAE’s Divisive Strategy in Yemen
By Kelly F. Thornberry, Terrorism Monitor: “Yemen has become a major battleground for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE provides the second largest force in the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in the country. While the coalition came about to halt the advances of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, however, the UAE has since focused on its own agenda.”
IRANIAN PROTESTS BEGIN AGAIN
China’s “One Belt, One Road” economic strategy has expanded into Pakistan, where Chinese companies have launched numerous projects to build up Pakistan’s infrastructure and energy sector as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Hanin Ghaddar writes: Since the 2005 Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, Hezbollah has lost every parliamentary election it has entered. Yet changes to the electoral law and a shift in political alliances have put the organization and its allies in position to secure an unprecedented parliamentary majority in next month's vote, without any significant opposition. - The Washington Institute
Egypt seeks Israel’s help in water dispute with Ethiopia
Egypt has asked Israel to help broker a dispute over a dam in Ethiopia that Cairo says affects its share of water from the Nile River, diplomatic sources said Thursday. "Egypt's move toward Israel has come after decision-makers have found themselves in an unfortunate position, with Addis Ababa refusing to attend talks in Cairo after the last meeting collapsed," the sources said. A March meeting between foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in Khartoum ended without a deal on the Grand Renaissance Dam. Egypt, which relies on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, called for another meeting in Cairo. Read More
IRAQI SOVEREIGNITY RETURNS
WINEP’s James Jeffrey & Michael Knights: How Iraqi sovereignty supports U.S. national interests
"State Sponsors of Terrorism: An Examination of Iran's Global Terrorism Network," Emanuele Ottolenghi, Congressional testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee
Yoav Zitun writes: The world’s attention in Syria is directed to the US-led attack on Bashar Assad's chemical weapon bases early Saturday, but Iran still has a major score to settle with Israel over the alleged IAF strike on an Iranian drone base last Monday—and the IDF is getting ready. - Ynet
As Missiles Fly, a Look at Israel's Iron Dome Interceptor
By Michael J. Armstrong, The Conversation: “Newly-published research investigates the effectiveness of Israel’s Iron Dome rocket interceptor systems.”
Iranian drone launched from Syria was on attack mission, Israel says
(Defense News) An Iranian drone that penetrated Israel’s airspace in February was armed with explosives and en route to carry out an attack within Israel before it was shot down, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement Friday.
Martin Kramer on the Middle EastContents:
THE SAUDI'S ARE SINKING FAST
A war laps at Saudi Arabia’s borders, in Yemen, less than 500 miles south of this capital city. Yet the menace feels distant, the carnage reduced to abstraction by the time it reaches Riyadh, a city riveted by its own dramas — social changes and crackdowns, economic shifts and palace intrigues. - Washington Post
Saudi Belligerence on Iran Threatens U.S.
By Bruce Riedel, Al-Monitor: “King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and his son are pursuing the most virulent anti-Iran and anti-Shiite policy in modern Saudi history. This approach has deep roots in Wahhabi history. Mixed with Iran’s expansive regional meddling, the combination is dangerous and explosive.”
LIBYA'S WAR ECONOMY: CHATHAM HOUSE REVIEW, GADHAFI'S SON WANTS TO RUN & KAGAN, ESTELLE OF AEI'S CRITICAL THREATS EXAMINES U.S. LIBYAN POLICY
The incapacitation or death of a key power player in Libya will upend the country’s political order and risks derailing fragile progress toward reconciliation. Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar may have died in a Paris hospital following a stroke, according to unconfirmed reports. Whether or not he survives his current illness, Haftar’s incapacitation or absence from Libya has serious implications for the stability of North Africa and the global fight against the Salafi-jihadi movement. The removal of Haftar from the political scene will likely ignite a power struggle in eastern Libya and could disrupt U.S. efforts to prevent ISIS and al Qaeda from staging comebacks in the country, as Critical Threats Project Senior Analyst Emily Estelle writes.
Visit criticalthreats.org for more work on Libya, including:
Libya’s War Economy: Predation, Profiteering and State Weakness
As Libya's war economy persists, prospects for the restoration of functioning central governance become more distant, says Tim Eaton.d watch the video >
Libyans divided over presidential bid by Gadhafi's son
With the backing of the tribes and communities who supported his father, Saif al-Islam could be bringing back the old regime with his run for president.
DIMINISHING RETURNS FOR U.S. IN KABUL & EMERGING CIVIL MILITARY STRIVE FOR ISLAMABAD
Like Vietnam, it is Time to Cut Our Loses in Afghanistan
By Chad M. Pillai, Small Wars Journal: “While the Vietnam War was a near-term strategic defeat, in retrospect, it may yet prove to have been a geo-strategic win. The same may prove true for Afghanistan after a U.S. withdrawal.
The United States’ diminishing leverage in Afghanistan
Since the military transition from NATO to Afghan forces in 2014, Afghanistan has been in a downward spiral. Deteriorating security, a severe economic crisis, political fragmentation among the elite, and ethnic polarization have contributed to growing pessimism inside and outside the country. Furthermore, regional consensus on Afghanistan, which was considered an important achievement during the past 16 years, is on the verge of collapse, because key players such as Russia, Iran and Pakistan have adopted...
Taliban overruns Afghan district, kills governor
The district of Khwaja Omari was previously considered to be one of the more secure areas in Ghazni, which is a hotbed for the Taliban and other foreign jihadist groups such as al Qaeda.
Pakistan’s national cauldron: civil-military conflict
In the modern nation-state system, the concept of governance primarily focuses on two basics: civilian and military agencies. The civilian agency refers to people, free and fair elections, the political system, policymaking, and establishing ties with regional and global powers,. The second agency follows the orders of the first one; it secures the state's sovereignty, provides security, and upholds law and order. Unfortunately, in the context of Pakistan, things work differently; the military has always...
Trump Has Rare Meeting of Full National Security Team to Discuss Afghanistan
From The Cipher Brief: ““No nation can succeed by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants,” and dictators, he said. “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path” or join with “civilized nations.””
Will US negotiate an exit strategy with the Taliban?
Eight months after the announcement of US President Donald Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan, and the tough rhetoric used by the US military against the Taliban, pessimism and uncertainty about security and political stability in the country have become dominant sentiments among a majority of Afghans. The experience of four years of a dysfunctional National Unity Government (NUG) in Kabul has been very costly in blood and in treasure for us Afghans and for our international...
THE PORT OF CHABAHAR: INDIA, CHINA & IRAN SHARE A PORT; BEIJING BUILDS IN PAKISTAN
A remote Iranian port could be the next trigger for geopolitical tensions between rivals China and India. India has pledged more than $500 million to develop the strategically located port of Chabahar [...] yet repeated delays have prompted Iran to turn to China in the hope of speeding up construction. - Bloomberg
China on building spree of airports, ports in Pakistan
BY ASIA TIMES STAFF
Beijing has partially funded the new Islamabad airport built by a Chinese SOE, and a bigger airport is planned for port city of Gwadar
Politics in Pakistan: manipulation of the masses
It is a season of inventing doctrines and spreading propaganda in Pakistan. Old wine is presented in new bottles and termed "new doctrines" and the "new change." The judiciary is busy with judicial activism; the military establishment is inventing new doctrines, while the political parties are busy undermining one another to get a share of the cake. In the capital Islamabad, the traditional opportunist politicians, retired and serving government officers, are all busy proving their loyalty...
Tunisia’s reluctant partnership with NATO
Tunisia's mixed signals over NATO cooperation reflect domestic pressures and regional tensions. Umberto Profazio, consulting researcher for the IISS Armed Conflict Database, argues that France may see an opportunity to build influence in its former colony. Read the article