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The South Asia Channel

Taliban Advances Pull U.S. Back into Afghan War; FBI Facilitated Weinstein Ransom; Japanese Firms Invest $3 Billion in India

Wonk Watch: “Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom” (USCIRF). Event Notice: “Reporting Under Fear” with CNN’s Peter Bergen, April 30, 4:30pm-6:30pm (SAIS Observer Inaugural at Johns Hopkins SAIS) Afghanistan Taliban advances pull U.S. back into Afghan war American forces are being pulled back into engagements with low-level insurgents in Afghanistan despite the ...

US General John Campbell (4L) lowers the flag of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) during a ceremony marking the end of ISAF's combat mission in Afghanistan at ISAF headquarters in Kabul on December 28, 2014. NATO formally ended its war in Afghanistan on December 28, holding a low-key ceremony in Kabul after 13 years of conflict that have left the country in the grip of worsening insurgent violence.The event was arranged in secret due to the threat of Taliban strikes in the Afghan capital, which has been hit by repeated suicide bombings and gun attacks over recent years. "Together... we have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future," NATO commander US General John Campbell told assembled soldiers. "You've made Afghanistan stronger and our countries safer." On January 1, the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat mission, which has suffered 3,485 military deaths since 2001, will be replaced by a NATO "training and support" mission. AFP PHOTO / SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Wonk Watch: “Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom” (USCIRF).

Event Notice: “Reporting Under Fear” with CNN’s Peter Bergen, April 30, 4:30pm-6:30pm (SAIS Observer Inaugural at Johns Hopkins SAIS)


Taliban advances pull U.S. back into Afghan war

American forces are being pulled back into engagements with low-level insurgents in Afghanistan despite the mission of training and advising according to a report in the New York Times on Wednesday (NYT). According to the report, American forces are engaged in an “aggressive range of military operations against the Taliban in recent months” and special forces raids and drone strikes have stretched or broken the parameters publicly set by the White House. American and NATO forces have conducted 52 airstrikes in March — months after the declaration of the end of the combat mission. One official told the Times: “They are putting guys on the ground in places to justify the airstrikes,” continuing: “It’s not force protection when they are going on the offensive.” The American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, denied the accusation. In November, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated: “The U.S. military will not be engaged in specific operations targeting members of the Taliban just because they’re members of the Taliban,” saying they would only engage to protect American forces or for counterterrorism operations, yet on Sunday the National Security Council released a statement reading: “in limited circumstances to prevent detrimental strategic effects to these Afghan security forces.”

Red Cross calls for continued aid, expresses concern at civilian casualties

On Thursday, The International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern regarding civilian casualties in Afghanistan and called for continued aid to the country (Pajhwok). Dominik Stillhart, the organization’s director of operations, during a visit to the country stated: “We are deeply worried by the increased number of attacks in the past few weeks and the heavy toll they have taken on the Afghan population.” He specifically noted the deadly bombing in Jalalabad. Stillhart also called for the continuation of aid, stating: “Humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are not diminishing. They are growing. We see the fighting is increasing in intensity,” and continuing: “It is simply vital, at this time, that donors maintain their commitment to the most vulnerable in Afghanistan.”


FBI facilitated Weinstein ransom

According to senior U.S. officials, the FBI helped facilitate an unsuccessful ransom payment of $250,000 to al Qaeda to seek the release of Warren Weinstein, an American aid worker held hostage by al Qaeda until his death in a January drone strike (WSJ, CNN, Reuters, ET). The FBI reportedly vetted the Pakistani middleman and provided intelligence to the Weinstein family. U.S. officials say that the FBI did not directly approve or provide for the payment. Last week White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest criticized the payment of ransom stating: “Unfortunately, this is a policy that’s in place because … paying ransom or offering a concession to a terrorist organization may result in the saving of one innocent life, but could put countless other innocent lives at greater risk.” American policy regarding hostages is currently undergoing a review. Bonus Watch: “Abducted Abroad” (New America).

Ten sentenced in Malala attack case

On Thursday, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Swat sentenced ten people to 25 years in prison for participation in the 2012 attack on Malala Yousafzai (BBC, ET, Dawn). The Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Asim Bajwa confirmed that the sentenced individuals had admitted that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s commander Mullah Fazlullah had plotted the attack. Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban militants in October 2012 when she was 15; she survived the attack and became a globally recognized activist for women’s education.

Pakistan seeking extradition of Baloch insurgents

Pakistan is seeking the extradition of Baloch insurgents according to a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper on Thursday (ET). A top security official told the Express Tribune: “We are taking up the issue of Baloch insurgents with five countries [India, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Iran and Afghanistan].” Among those being sought for extradition is Hyrbyair Marri, the head of the Baloch Liberation Army; Pakistani authorities are in conversation with authorities in the United Kingdom where Marri lives in self-exile. Pakistan is also in contact with Swiss authorities regarding Brahumdagh Bugti, the founder of the Baloch Republican Army, who is seeking political asylum in Switzerland.

— David Sterman


Japanese firms set to invest $3 billion in India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Yoichi Miyazawa, the Japanese minister of economy, trade, and industry, in New Delhi on Wednesday (Livemint, Economic Times). Miyazawa is in India with a Japanese delegation of business leaders that plan to invest $3 billion in the near future in India. Miyazawa and Modi also discussed forming a new joint working group to discuss civil nuclear cooperation. Nirmala Sitharaman, the Indian minister of commerce and industry, and Miyazawa signed an action agenda, which includes developing Japanese industrial townships in India, deepening cooperation in strategic sectors, increasing Asia-Pacific economic integration, promoting investment and infrastructure development, and cooperating in information technology.

Government claims marital rape is not applicable in India

Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, a minister in India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, said in Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) that marital rape is not applicable in India as marriage is treated as sacred in the Indian society, according to news reports on Wednesday (WSJ, Indian Express, Economic Times, The Hindu). In response to a written question posed by a member of the Parliament asking whether the government was planning to amend the law to make marital rape a crime, Chaudhary said: “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat marriage as a sacrament” (NDTV). Other countries that do not criminalize marital rape, include Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

India launches logo for International Day of Yoga

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Shripad Naik, minister of AYUSH — the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy — released the logo for International Day of Yoga in New Delhi on Wednesday (IBNLive). In December 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an India-led resolution declaring June 21 as the “International Day of Yoga.” Swaraj said: “There are three noteworthy points I want to mention here. Firstly, this declaration was made on the back of India’s initiative. Secondly, the resolution was passed within a record time of 75 days and thirdly, this is first resolution in which 177 countries had become co-sponsors for World Yoga Day, which was a ‘world record’” (Economic Times). Swaraj further said that India plans to celebrate International Day of Yoga in all the 193 United Nations member states.

— Neeli Shah

Edited by Peter Bergen


 Twitter: @Dsterms
Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Twitter: @neelishah

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