The South Asia Channel

CENTCOM Nominee Sees Potential Need for Different U.S. Forces Posture in Afghanistan; Top Environmental Court Allows for “World Cultural Festival”; 14 Afghan Taliban Fighters Reportedly Arrested in Quetta

Event Notice: Future of War Conference, Thursday, March 10 (Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C.) Afghanistan CENTCOM nominee sees potential need for different U.S. forces posture in Afghanistan On Wednesday, current head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) General Joseph L. Votel said the impending 2017 depletion of U.S. forces to 5,500 personnel – down from 2016’s ...

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, nominee to be the next commander of the U.S. Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony from the two military leaders on their nominations. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Event Notice: Future of War Conference, Thursday, March 10 (Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C.)

Afghanistan

CENTCOM nominee sees potential need for different U.S. forces posture in Afghanistan

On Wednesday, current head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) General Joseph L. Votel said the impending 2017 depletion of U.S. forces to 5,500 personnel – down from 2016’s 9,800 – may make it difficult to effectively continue to support Afghan forces (Post, SASC). Gen. Votel is President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed retiring General Lloyd J. Austin III as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). Testifying during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Votel implied that his preference is to let conditions on the ground dictate the size of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, saying, “I absolutely support the conditions-based approach as we look through our force levels in Afghanistan.” In his submitted testimony, Gen. Votel wrote, “If [Afghan forces] demonstrate uneven performance similar to the 2015 fighting season, and continue to struggle with their sustainment systems, it will be difficult to address those challenges” with a reduced force that will limit the capacity of U.S. troops’ training, advising, and assisting capabilities with different branches of the Afghan security forces.

AREU report: ANA in precarious state in post-ISAF Afghanistan

A report from the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) released on Wednesday noted a variety of issues facing the Afghan National Army (ANA) including weak recruitment numbers, ineffectual leadership, and low morale due in part to the departure of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition (TOLO News, AREU). The reported stated, in part, “The withdrawal of the (ISAF) mentors/advisers from the ANA tactical units in 2014 exposed a range of weaknesses in logistical capabilities, planning, procurement, equipment maintenance, and administration.” The report was particularly critical of ANA leadership, positing, “One advantage of the past unsuccessful fighting season is that many incompetent officers have been exposed. Will the NUG summon the strength to remove them, despite the political protection that they enjoy?”

–Albert Ford

India

Top environmental court allows for “World Cultural Festival”

On Thursday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s top environmental court said that a controversial cultural festival can be held on the flood plains of of Delhi’s main river Yamna River, if the organizers paid a fine of 50 million rupees (BBC, Guardian). The “World Cultural Festival” is being organized by well known spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and is scheduled to start on Friday. 3.5 million visitors are expected to attend this event that will be spread on 1,000 acres of the banks of the Yamna River. Environmental groups had petitioned the NGT over concerns that the festival will severely damage the biodiversity of the area, raising questions about inadequate waste management facilities for the millions of visitors.

Rajya Subha passes real estate regulation law

The upper house of the Indian parliament on Thursday passed a law to regulate real estate transactions in an effort to protect developers and home buyers (Reuters). The current laws incur huge transactional costs on both buyers and sellers in India due to delays. The law also aims to curb “black money” investments in property markets that costs the government billions of dollars in lost taxable income.

–Shuja Malik

Pakistan

Bonus Read: “Pakistan’s Internal Security Environment,” by C. Christine Fair (NBR)

14 Afghan Taliban fighters reportedly arrested in Quetta

On Thursday, Pakistani law enforcement agencies reportedly arrested 14 Afghan Taliban militants in the Pashtoonabad area of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province (Dawn). According to Dawn, there have been prior arrests of Afghan Taliban members in the Pashtoonabad area. The arrests come at a time when the Afghan peace process is highly dependant on the Pakistani government’s supposed ability to sway Afghan Taliban members – due to their longstanding existence in Pakistan – to negotiate with the Kabul government. But as of yet the Taliban have expressed no desire to participate in the peace negotiations.

Pakistan to investigate release of Shahbaz Taseer

On Thursday, Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered an investigation into the circumstances of Shahbaz Taseer’s release from 5-year captivity (AP). Taseer, the son of the deceased former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was kidnapped in Lahore in August 2011 and was recovered this week. Since his rescue, reports over a $10 million ransom paid to secure Taseer’s freedom have surfaced. According to an interview on the day of Taseer’s release with a restaurant owner in Kuchlak, the town in which Taseer was found, a bearded, disheveled man ate in his restaurant and made a phone call. An hour later, a Pakistani military convoy arrived and blindfolded the same man and put him in one of the vehicles. The restaurant proprietor, Mohammad Saleem, later recognized the man as Shahbaz Taseer.

–Albert Ford

Edited by Peter Bergen

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Albert Ford is a research assistant with the International Security Program at New America.

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