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Thirteen Years After the Mumbai Terror Attacks, Perpetrators Yet to Face Justice

Washington, DC – Thirteen years after the Mumbai terrorist attack, the families of 166 victims – which included six American citizens – still await justice, while the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba masterminds of the attacks are safely under the protection of Pakistan’s army and intelligence agencies.

In response to Global Strat View’s (GSV) question about what steps the US is taking to bring the Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders to justice, a State Department spokesperson responded, “The United States remains committed to bringing those who planned and supported the 2008 Mumbai attack to justice. We continue to encourage the Government of Pakistan to take action against all militant and terrorist groups without distinction, including those responsible for Mumbai.”

In a phone interview with GSV, former Canadian diplomat and politician Chris Alexander said that this reflects the reality that the Biden administration, as with most US administrations in recent decades, has chosen to engage with Pakistan without proactive efforts or coercive diplomacy such as sanctions to change longstanding Pakistani behavior — this in spite of evidence that Pakistan remains a prolific state sponsor of terrorism.

Alexander, who served as the first resident Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003-05, commented, “It is a policy paradox for a nation that has worked to counter terrorism around the world. This is a source of weakness for US policy, speaking to a pattern of inconsistency, especially with regard to Pakistan, that has harmed US national interests and the collective interests of US allies.”

In a joint statement issued by President Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Quad Summit in Washington DC in September 2021, both leaders “reaffirmed that the United States and India stand together in a shared fight against global terrorism” and “called for the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to be brought to justice.”

Pakistan’s support of terrorism continues unabated, while the US continues to say that Pakistan is an important partner in the war against terror. Earlier this year, a three-member bench of Pakistan’s supreme court headed by Justice Mushir Alam, acquitted Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, who is accused of beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has referred to Osama bin Laden as a martyr, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi refused to condemn bin Laden. Pakistan continues to remain under increased monitoring (grey list) by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), but has so far remained off the black list.

As Dr. Christine Fair, Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, commented, “If one were to apply the criteria with reference only to the facts, of course, it would have to be blacklisted. The US and the UK consistently argue that it should remain on the grey list as a black listing would preclude Pakistan from access to IMF funding, which the UK and the US believe is critical to Pakistan.”

“Ordinary citizens worldwide understand that Pakistan has been duplicitous, that it has been the driving force behind the invasion of Afghanistan, and that it is the state sponsor responsible for the existence of these terror groups,” commented Alexander. “But the current US approach seems to be based on a form of policy Stockholm Syndrome, which can be traced back to the US relationship with China, and the Kissinger doctrine which holds that strategic partnership with China or Pakistan is so important that any conflicts or disagreements must be tolerated for the larger cause of US and Chinese or Pakistani comity.”

“This doctrine is totally indefensible today,” added Alexander, “yet the US and most of its closest allies have still not moved beyond it. The so-called ‘pivot to Asia’ that started under the Obama administration has so far done very little to change the reality of this outdated doctrine.”

The consequences of letting Pakistan off the hook for its actions has led to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in recent times. “They invaded an entire country that was the focus of a NATO mission, but no government is proposing any form of accountability,” continued Alexander. “Everyone has to ask themselves what their role is in this. India should be advocating for this, and working with the international community to hold Pakistan accountable. If there are no consequences, the entire international system is made vulnerable.”

Following a classified briefing on Afghanistan last month, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) issued a statement saying that the briefing “confirmed yet again what we’ve known all along: the United States is now less safe than before President Biden’s disastrous decision to unconditionally and entirely withdraw from Afghanistan.” US media reported that the Biden administration informed US lawmakers that they were close to an agreement with Pakistan about using their airspace to conduct military and surveillance operations in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied the reports.

Last week Pakistan hosted representatives from the US, Russia, and China to discuss the unfolding humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan that is forcing Afghans to migrate to neighboring countries. In a joint statement, they appealed for international humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and called on the Taliban to cut ties with terrorist groups.

India also held a regional security dialogue on Afghanistan last week attended by Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan and China declined to attend.

It is high time for the world to move beyond rhetoric and take action against state sponsors of terrorism like Pakistan to ensure a rules-based international order. Justice needs to be delivered, and delivered in a timely fashion. Otherwise, the victims of Pakistan’s actions, like the families of those who perished in the Mumbai attacks, are simply denied justice.

Hundreds March to White House in Support of Afghan Women

Washington, DC – Hundreds of people marched to the White House to appeal to the Biden Administration to act immediately to protect and support Afghan women. They called for action to ensure the safety of women and promote their vision of the future of Afghanistan.

DC resident Sohaila came in solidarity with Afghan women back home. “We have raised our voices several times, and [it] looks like there is no action coming out of anything that we do. Right now I am disappointed, hurt, and feeling helpless that everybody is turning a blind to Afghanistan and its people,” she said. “All these females are going to stay home, and won’t get education and [they] are going to be forced into marriages. Afghanistan is going to go back to the stone age. And I would like for the international community, human rights activists, to hear Afghan women, to hear children, to hear our people, to raise our voices, to help us. ”

Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, and one of the organizers of the march expressed deep concern for the women in Afghanistan, saying that she was “so angry that we are betraying them and abandoning them without any protection of their rights. And we are here to shout together and we say we will not forget them. We will not stop until they are safe, until they are protected.”

Afghan activist Nabila spoke up for Afghan women’s rights, “right where they can hear our voice, and not forget about those poor women who are in Afghanistan.” Adding that the world needs to pay attention and take action to prevent Afghan women from becoming slaves in a male dominated culture, she said, “This is my wish and that’s why I’m here. I want to give my time, and my energy, anything that I have to have those womens’ voices heard through me to the world.”

The key demands of the marchers included prioritizing the evacuation of Afghan women leaders, ensuring the protection of women’s rights inside of Afghanistan, and amplifying the voices of Afghan women who were able to get out.

In a message to Global Strat View, Afghan American Shakella Mujaddidi said that the “efforts displayed by the courageous women of Afghanistan should be joined globally. Thank you to Angelina Jolie and other people who have voiced their opinion. Going forward, the demand for freedom, right to education and equality should be shared by all women throughout the world. It is the hope of the courageous women of Afghanistan that all iconic and influential people join our great cause.”

Pramila Patten, Executive Director a.i of UN Women, called on the Taliban leadership to include women in the upcoming governance entity. In a statement, she noted the public commitments made by the Taliban’s spokesperson to uphold women’s rights “within the framework of Islam”, including women’s right to work, to pursue higher education and to have an active role in society, as well as the right of girls to attend school. “The immediate inclusion of women in the governance structure of the new leadership in Afghanistan will be the ultimate litmus test for the Taliban,” stated Ms. Patten.

She added that Afghan women’s rights activists had fought for their rights and made considerable progress. “These hard-won gains cannot be reversed or rolled back. The inclusion of women in the governance architecture will be the litmus test for the new political leadership of Afghanistan. Urgent action is needed now to ensure the full participation of women in the public and political life of Afghanistan.”

This march was organized by Vital Voices, in partnership with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security; Women for Women International; CODEPINK; 1 Billion Rising; Mina’s List; Alliance in Support of the Afghan People; and Equality Now.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw: Afghan Withdrawal Has Serious Global Consequences for Our Allies

Washington, DC – Over the past two decades, the US has spent over $80 billion in providing training and sophisticated weaponry, equipment, and aircraft to the Afghan military. With the collapse of the Afghan forces, some of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Afghan pilots are also reported to have used US military provided aircraft to flee the country. At the Pentagon Press briefing on August 18, Defense Secretary Austin confirmed reports of aircraft that were flown into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. On the issue of weapons given by the US to Afghanistan, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan admitted at a press briefing at the White House on August 17 that, “certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and obviously we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”

In an off-camera press briefing earlier on August 18, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that with the reduction of troops to 2,500 by the previous administration, retrograde operations had already commenced. As part of the retrograde process this year, some equipment had been brought back to the US, some was deployed into the Central Command area of responsibility (AOR), some were destroyed, and some transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Kirby added, “We don’t obviously want to see our equipment in the hands of those who would act against our interest or the interest of the Afghan people, and increase violence and insecurity inside Afghanistan.”

For equipment still in Afghanistan not in the hands of ANSF, Kirby said, “There are numerous policy choices that can be made, to including — you know, up to and including destruction, and what I would tell you at this point is those decisions about disposition of that level of equipment in Afghanistan haven’t been made yet.”

In the Pentagon press briefing with Secretary of Defense Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley said regarding destruction of equipment, “we obviously have capabilities, but I’d prefer not to discuss any Operations other than what we’re doing right now in order to get our evacuation out and get that complete. And then there’ll be another time when we can discuss future Operations.”

While the Taliban lacks the training to fly Black Hawk helicopters and A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft – and cannot maintain and operate them due to unavailability of spare parts – the light arms, armored vehicles, and other gear could enhance their ability to inflict terror. There have been recent reports of arms, ammunition, and military equipment moving from Afghanistan across the border into Pakistan. There is a real concern about sophisticated US weaponry making its way into the hands of terror groups based there such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

In a comment to Global Strat View, Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) – a combat veteran and former Navy Seal – didn’t mince any words about the current situation and its impact on the region. “Joe Biden’s botched withdrawal has serious global consequences for our allies. We’ve abandoned vast amounts of advanced weaponry not just to the Taliban – but to their sponsor, Pakistan. It emboldens and can serve to arm terrorists worldwide, including in Kashmir. This makes critical American allies like India less safe and we need a full accounting of how Joe Biden allowed American weapons to fall into the hands of our adversaries. Both our adversaries and our allies learned this week just how feckless and incompetent the Biden Administration is, and the sacrificing of our weaponry to the Taliban and likely Pakistan is just one of the many failures of this withdrawal.”

Washington Update: US and the International Community Must Keep Their Eyes Open

Washington, DC – The events in Afghanistan must not distract the world from the catastrophe that is occurring in Ethiopia. The crumbling of the Afghan government, and the horrors that are already being imposed on its people, should serve as a reminder that U.S. policies must be rooted in accurate and unbiased information. Lies, fantasies and selective reporting led to disastrous failures in Afghanistan. The same is happening in Ethiopia.

U.S. Ethiopian policy has been distorted by a failure to understand the corrosive effects of a constitution that exacerbates ethnic divisions, by a willingness ignore human rights abuses, and a desire to simplify complex conflicts into fights between forces of good and evil.

In attempting to mediate the conflicts in Ethiopia, special envoy Jeffrey Feltman must not repeat mistakes the U.S. has made in the past when it excluded pro-democracy Ethiopian parties from negotiations over the nation’s future. The U.S. should not forget recent history, including the corruption, violence and human rights abuses of the EPRDF and TPLF.

OLF/Shenne terrorist group has struck a military alliance with the Tigray forces now pressing toward the country’s capital, as the conflict that erupted in the Tigray region last year spreads into other parts of Africa’s second-most populous country.  The TPLF and OLF/Shenne terrorist group activities might be a breeding ground for Al Qaeda and Al Shebab in Ethiopia.

In a recent statement regarding the looting and killings of innocent civilians in the Lalibela, Woldeya and Afar regions, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister said: “The action of the irresponsible group is testing the Federal Government’s patience and pushing it to change its defensive mood which has been taken for the sake of the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire.”

The statement added that the Ethiopian government is “being pushed to mobilize and deploy the entire defensive capability of the state if its humanitarian overtures for a peaceful resolution of the conflict remain unreciprocated,” and accused Tigrayan fighters of launching “new attacks in the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, which left more than 300,000 people displaced and thousands dead.”

The U.S. must also avoid sanctions that will merely annoy powerful individuals in Ethiopia while imposing additional misery on ordinary people. In developing policies toward the escalating civil war, the U.S. and the international community must keep their eyes open.

A recent statement by Rep. Gregory Meeks on the escalating violence in Ethiopia’s civil war is a step in the right direction. “The recent ejection of international humanitarian actors, the armed incursion into Lalibela – a holy site and home of renowned UNESCO World Heritage sites – and the grim discovery of bound and possibly tortured corpses in the Tekeze River indicate parties to this conflict remain callously indifferent to the suffering of the Ethiopian people. All parties must accede to an immediate cessation of hostilities and avoid taking Ethiopia down the path toward civil war and state collapse. I call on the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front to withdraw from Amhara and Afar regions, as well as on Eritrean troops and Amhara forces to leave Tigray. African and other international partners have an important role in bringing the Government of Ethiopia and other parties to the conflict closer to the negotiating table and to an inclusive national dialogue without further delay.”

State Department Announces New Resettlement Program for Afghans

Washington, DC – In remarks to the press today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new resettlement program for Afghans who assisted the United States but who do not qualify for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) under Operation Allies Refuge. The Priority-2, or P-2, designation, grants access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for many of these Afghans and their family members.

“We take our responsibility to our Afghan partners deeply seriously, and we know the American people do as well. We have a long history in the United States of welcoming refugees into our country. And helping them resettle into new homes and new communities is the work of a huge network of state and local governments, NGOs, faith-based groups, advocacy groups, tens of thousands of volunteers,” said Blinken.

Outlining the process earlier today, a senior state department official said that individuals cannot apply directly, but have to be referred by their employer through WRAPSNET.org. Unlike the SIV process, applicants have to get themselves out of Afghanistan at their own expense before processing of their caseload can even begin, and the processing can take from 12-14 months.

Those eligible for the P-2 program include:

-Afghans who do not meet the minimum time-in-service for a SIV but who work or worked as employees of contractors,[1] locally-employed staff, interpreters/translators for the U.S. Government, United States Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or Resolute Support;

-Afghans who work or worked for a U.S. government-funded program or project in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement;

-Afghans who are or were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization.

Meanwhile, two groups of special immigrant visa applicants relocated under Operation Allies Refuge – around 400 people – have arrived at Fort Lee, Virginia.

With the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the situation continues to deteriorate. Clashes between the Afghan government forces and the Pakistan-backed Taliban outside Herat city on Friday, forced residents to flee, and the UN’s main compound in Herat was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. Kandahar airport also came under Taliban rocket attack.

The deteriorating security situation post the US announcement of withdrawal of most of its contingent has forced India, which is the largest regional donor to Afghanistan, to evacuate 50 diplomats and staff members from its consulate in Kandahar. While the US may evacuate some of the Afghans who supported its mission, the situation is expected to be grim for those remaining, especially women and minorities.

Secretary of State Blinken Travels to India

Washington, DC – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarked on his first visit to India on Monday July 26. He will be meeting with Prime Minister Modi, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, and National Security Advisor Doval.

In a briefing on Secretary Blinken’s travel to India, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson said, “we expect the discussions to focus on ways to further deepen our bilateral partnership, which is very broad in scope, as well as increased convergence on regional and global issues.” Issues to be discussed during this visit include cooperation on COVID-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis. This visit also will discuss a potential Quad Summit at the Head of State level toward September/October 2021. Although some media reports have tried to divert the focus only on human rights issues, this visit goes deeper than that and has substantive issues of great importance for both countries and the world.

Afghanistan
On July 16, the US had announced a US-Afghanistan-Uzebekistan-Pakistan’ Quad diplomatic platform “focused on enhancing regional connectivity”. Commenting on “efforts to support a just and durable peace in Afghanistan,” in the briefing, Thompson said, “ All of Afghanistan’s neighbors and countries in the region have an interest in a peaceful, secure, and stable Afghanistan, which can only be accomplished through a negotiated political settlement that brings an end to 40 years of conflict. India, of course, is a critical partner in the region, and we welcome India’s shared commitment to peace and supporting economic development in Afghanistan.”

COVID-19
India has been hit hard with the second wave of the pandemic. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 31,411,262 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India with 420,967 deaths, reported to WHO. As of 19 July 2021, a total of 406,481,493 vaccine doses have been administered.

On working with India to overcome the pandemic, Thompson said, “We’re confident that through our combined efforts, including through the Quad vaccine partnership and the G7-plus vaccine commitment, we will be able to share vaccines – safe and effective vaccines – to the Indo-Pacific region and the world. We will continue to seek ways in which we can work together to save lives around the world, and bring an end to the global pandemic.”

Climate Crisis
The bilateral meetings will focus on climate change, however the US has been silent on the International Solar Alliance (ISA) promoted by India to increase the use of solar energy to fight climate change. Speaking on the “complementary strengths” of India and the US in tackling the climate crisis, Thompson mentioned the US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership which was launched in April this year. He added that, “The partnership will reinforce our collective efforts to achieve both the goals of the Paris Agreement and our own ambitious 2030 targets for climate action and clean energy.”

“We look forward to further strengthening our ties with India to ensure a safer and more secure world,” added Thompson. “To that end, the Secretary and Defense Secretary Austin look forward to hosting their Indian counterparts for the annual U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year.”

Secretary Blinken will have a full day of meetings in New Delhi on Wednesday July 28, before he leaves for Kuwait to meet with senior Kuwaiti leadership.

Pakistan Remains on FATF’s Grey List: Two Action Plans Need to Be Completed Before its Status Is Reassessed

Washington, DC: The global terrorist hub of Pakistan continues to remain on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list with one item yet to be addressed on the original action plan from June 2018. Pakistan also has to address an additional six items on an action plan assigned by FATF’s regional partner, the Asia Pacific Group (APG). Although Islamabad avoided getting blacklisted, it cannot be delisted unless both action plans are completed.

FATF President Dr. Marcus Pleyer, in a virtual press conference on June 25, noted that Pakistan had yet to address an item on the original action plan on financial terrorism relating to the “investigations and prosecutions of senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups”.

In its 2019 Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) on Pakistan, APG had identified additional deficiencies related to money laundering. This action plan requires Pakistan to continue to work to address its strategically important AML/CFT deficiencies, by:
(1) enhancing international cooperation by amending the MLA law;
(2) demonstrating that assistance is being sought from foreign countries in implementing UNSCR 1373 designations;
(3) demonstrating that supervisors are conducting both on-site and off-site supervision commensurate with specific risks associated with DNFBPs, including applying appropriate sanctions where necessary;
(4) demonstrating that proportionate and dissuasive sanctions are applied consistently to all legal persons and legal arrangements for non-compliance with beneficial ownership requirements;
(5) demonstrating an increase in ML investigations and prosecutions and that proceeds of crime continue to be restrained and confiscated in line with Pakistan’s risk profile, including working with foreign counterparts to trace, freeze, and confiscate assets; and
(6) demonstrating that DNFBPs are being monitored for compliance with proliferation financing requirements and that sanctions are being imposed for non-compliance.

Dr. Pleyer added, “So the delisting will not occur before both action plans are completed and two onsite [assessments] have been granted and successfully completed and have shown that the improvements are sustainable before the FATF members decide on delisting.”

Recent events in Pakistan, however, point to Islamabad’s continued support of terrorism. A three-member bench of Pakistan’s supreme court headed by Justice Mushir Alam, had acquitted Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, who is accused of beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has referred to Osama bin Laden as a martyr, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi refused to condemn bin Laden.

The next FATF plenary is scheduled for October 2021.