General Campbell Calls for More Action Against the Taliban; Central Bank Chief Quits After $100 million Cybertheft; Parliament Elects Htin Kyaw as President; Taliban Rebuffs Pakistani Government’s Calls to Join Afghan Peace Talks; JNU Sedition Student May Be Expelled
Afghanistan General Campbell calls for more action against the Taliban General John F. Campbell, whose command of U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan recently ended and is in the final weeks of his military career, made proposals in the days leading up to March 2 – his final day on the job – that requested greater U.S. ...
General Campbell calls for more action against the Taliban
General John F. Campbell, whose command of U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan recently ended and is in the final weeks of his military career, made proposals in the days leading up to March 2 – his final day on the job – that requested greater U.S. air support for Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, carrying out strikes against Taliban leaders, and embedding U.S. advisers with Afghan personnel on the front lines (Post). Today, U.S. forces can only attack the Taliban when the group poses a direct threat to U.S. forces or Afghan troops are faced with being overtaken.
There is controversy over the channels through which Gen. Campbell submitted his recommendations, possibly circumventing Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and going straight to the White House. Gen. Campbell denied this claim. In an interview with The Washington Post, Gen. Campbell said, “We aren’t going to get more people — politically there’s no appetite because we are downsizing. So the only thing I can affect is my authority to strike different groups and my authority to provide different enablers to the Afghans.” Campbell’s recommendations are contrary to the White House’s current strategy in Afghanistan, which, in light of the official end of combat operations in 2014, holds that the United States is not fighting a war against the Taliban. As Gen. John W. Nicholson is now the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, another strategic review will come shortly. U.S. forces are scheduled to draw down from 9,800 to 5,500 in 2017.
Hezb-e-Islami leader to join peace talks
In a statement released on Sunday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami, said he and his group would join peace talks with the Afghan government “to show Afghans we want peace” (Post, VOA). Hekmatyar, designated a “global terrorist” by the U.S. Department of State and blacklisted by the UN, and Hezb-e-Islami have aligned with the Taliban in the past and have previously attacked government targets. Hekmatyar is a 68 year-old former prime minister – serving briefly during the 1990s civil war – and it is unclear what influence he’ll have on the Taliban’s stance on joining the peace talks. However, Javad Faisal, a government spokesman, welcomed the announcement, saying, “It is an important and good news because Hezb-e-Islami has for years been fighting the Afghan government.” The insurgent group maintains its opposition to the United States’ role in the country, a view it shares with the Taliban.
Pentagon: Expect lull in fight against Taliban during poppy harvest
Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, a spokesman for U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan, believes the looming poppy harvest season – usually beginning around the end of March – will bring with it a pause in the fighting between Afghan forces, U.S.-NATO forces, and the Taliban enemy combatants (Military). Shoffner, in a Pentagon brief conducted from Kabul last week, said, “We anticipate that spike in activity [by the Taliban] will continue until about the latter part of March and then there should be a lull as the harvest gets under way.” Opiates, sourced from Afghanistan’s bountiful poppy supply (especially in Helmand province), account for roughly 13 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and account for nearly half the Taliban’s revenue stream.
Central Bank chief quits after $100 million cyber theft
The Governor of the Central Bank of Bangladesh, Atiur Rahman, resigned on Tuesday, days after it was revealed that the bank did not inform the government of a cybertheft from the bank’s account in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FT, Reuters, BBC). Finance Minister Abdul Muhith said that he learnt of the incident from media reports. Hackers are believed to have breached the computer network of the Bangladeshi central bank and transferred more than $100 million to casinos in the Philippines between Feb. 4 and Feb. 5. The New York Fed confirmed that its systems were not compromised and is working with the Bangladeshi central bank since the incident occurred.
Parliament elects Htin Kyaw as president
Myanmar’s parliament elected Htin Kyaw as president on Tuesday, making Kyaw the first civilian head of state for the country after more than 50 years of military rule (BBC, Reuters). Kyaw is considered to be a close ally of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to a historic election win in November.
Taliban rebuffs Pakistani government’s calls to join Afghan peace talks
Two weeks ago, Pakistani government officials and Taliban militants secretly met in Islamabad in an effort by Pakistani officials to pressure the Taliban to join the Afghan peace talks (Reuters). Pakistan’s threat to expel the Afghan Taliban from their traditional safe havens in Pakistan was not enough to compel the group to commit to the peace talks. A retired military officer in Islamabad who is close to the peace process said, “They (the Taliban) no longer need their Pakistan bases in the same way, so if Pakistan threatens to expel them, it does not have the same effect.” Officials and spokesmen from both sides deny the meeting took place. The Taliban continues to publicly state their disinterest in participating in the peace process. A member of the Taliban’s leadership council recently said, “They (Pakistani officials) have asked our representatives to bring more decision-making people to the next meeting … to the meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials. This is their dream, but they will not be able to see our senior commanders.”
Google deletes app used by Pakistani intelligence officials to spy on India
Google deleted from its PlayStore an application called SmeshApp, a spyware tool capable of infecting smartphones and personal computers (TOI). According to CNN-IBN, the app was being used by Pakistani intelligence officials to snoop on Indian soldiers and gain access to troop locations and counterterrorism operations. The information was stored on a server based in Germany but was collected by a man based in Karachi. The CNN-IBN report also posits that there are 10 fake Facebook accounts used by Pakistani intelligence officials to communicate with unknowing Indian troops. After learning of the app’s use, Google deleted it.
JNU sedition student may be expelled
An investigative committee from Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi is reported to have recommended on Monday that Kanhaiya Kumar, the student leader arrested on sedition charges last month should be expelled from the university (BBC). Kumar was arrested on February 12 for his role in organizing a rally held at JNU campus, which condemned the execution of Kashmiri man Afzal Guru convicted for his involvement in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. He was later released on bail.
The committee also recommended that five other students including Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, both of whom are in police custody under similar charges, should be expelled. The final decision over the committee’s recommendations will be taken by the vice chancellor of the university. Critics condemn these charges as an assault on freedom of expression in India, but the government has refused to “tolerate anti-national elements.”
Child workers declined 60 percent last decade
The Labor Minister Bandaru Dattatreya told the lower house of the parliament on Monday that the number of child labourers in India dropped to 4.5 million in 2011 from 12.6 million a decade earlier, a decline of more than 60 percent (Reuters). Child laborers in Indian law are defined as workers under the age of 14. Dattatreya also announced that the government will introduce an amendment to the child labour prohibition law, which will ban children under 14 years of age from working in any industry. The current law bans children from working in only 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes, such as mining, gem cutting and cement manufacturing. The amendment will also double the penalties for hiring child laborers.
Edited by Peter Bergen
NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images
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