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Eric Garcetti: India Vital to Future of American Security and Prosperity

Washington, DC – Testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told US senators considering his nomination to be ambassador to India that “Few nations are more vital to the future of American security and prosperity than India.”

A Rhodes scholar who studied Hindi and Indian cultural and religious history in college, Garcetti recalls that when he graduated, US-India relations were under the shadow of the cold war, trade was limited, and there was no defense trade or military interoperability. Garcetti commended the bipartisan work of Congress in bringing about a strong US-India strategic partnership, and said if confirmed, he would work toward an ambitious economic partnership with India, reduce barriers to market access, bolster fair trade and create good jobs for the American middle class.

“India is situated in a tough neighborhood,” said Garcetti. “If confirmed, I intend to double-down on our efforts to strengthen India’s capacity to secure its borders, defend its sovereignty, and deter aggression – through information sharing, counterterrorism coordination, joint freedom of navigation patrols and military exercises (which I have participated in as a naval officer alongside my Indian counterparts), and sales of our best defense technologies in order to realize the full potential of our Major Defense Partnership.”

The question of India’s purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia was brought up in today’s hearing, with Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID) saying that “”We cannot ignore the reality of concerns over India’s defense relationship with Russia.” Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also commented that New Delhi would need to address concerns about its treatment of minorities and purchase of Russian hardware if it wants to strengthen its partnership with the US.

Garcetti spoke of how, as Mayor, he chaired C40 –– a global network of mayors from the world’s largest cities –– to combat climate change and to share the experience of Los Angeles, which is on track to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. He promised that if confirmed, he would work with India to promote green energy through the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and through the Agenda 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Partnership. ISA is an alliance of 124 countries initiated by India, and the US joined as a member last month.

Garcetti gave a shout out to his parents, Gil and Sukey Garcetti, who were present at the hearing today, and who first took him to India as a teenager.

Garcetti is a veteran who served 12 years in the US Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer. He is currently in his second term as Mayor of Los Angeles.

Blasphemy Allegations Claim Another Life in Pakistan

A Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot, Pakistan was brutally murdered and set on fire by a mob chanting slogans of Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The manager allegedly removed TLP posters. The mob falsely accused him of blasphemy to justify their actions.

In response to a question from Global Strat View, a State Department spokesperson commented, “We are deeply disturbed and saddened by the unspeakable tragic event at the Sialkot factory. We urge relevant authorities to investigate and bring those responsible for heinous and unlawful violence to justice.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the “horrific vigilante attack on factory in Sialkot and the burning alive of Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I am overseeing the investigations and let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law.”

Key findings from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) report Violating Rights: Enforcing the World’s Blasphemy Laws, show that nearly 80% of the incidents of mob activity, violence, or threats (with or without state enforcement) related to blasphemy allegations, took place in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Egypt. Among countries with state blasphemy laws, Pakistan has the most number of reported cases.

Blasphemy accusations have often sparked violence in Pakistan. Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, who was an outspoken critic of the blasphemy law, was murdered in 2011 by his bodyguard for speaking out against it. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s former Federal Minister of Minorities Affairs and the first Christian parliamentarian in Pakistan’s government was assassinated by Tehrik-i-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban. Both Taseer and Bhatti had advocated for the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who spent nearly a decade in prison after being sentenced to death for blasphemy. Bibi was freed after pressure from the international community.

Pakistani media has blamed the government for mainstreaming radical groups like TLP. Pakistani journalist Nadeem Farooq Paracha tweeted, “Stop calling what happened today as ‘madness’. It was normalized by the state and government decades ago. It became a new norm. If you want to call anyone mad, then call them mad. They did it through myopic politics, textbooks, mainstreaming, and by appeasing hatemongers.”

Pakistani policy analyst and journalist Raza Ahmad Rumi tweeted, “The videos of his lynching/burning are brutal reminders of state policies that have radicalized generations, normalizing murders and mainstreaming radical groups.”

Pakistan lifted its ban on the radical Islamist TLP last month after an agreement was reached with the government that TLP would call off its proposed march to the capital, Islamabad. The government defended its decision to lift the ban, saying it was in the larger national interest and would prevent future violence from TLP.

TLP was banned last year after violent protests in response to the republication of cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov: Terrorism Disrupts Our Life, But It Will Not Eliminate Our Spirit

Washington, DC – Commemorating the 13th Anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, the Embassy of India hosted a solemn event to pay tribute to its victims. Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Sudhakar Dalela presided over the event, which was attended by Jennifer Larson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State; Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad); and community members.

Thirteen years ago, on the night of November 26, 2008, 10 heavily armed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists entered Mumbai via sea route and went on a rampage killing 166 people, and injured over 300 in coordinated attacks on the Chatrapati Shivaji terminus railway station, Leopold cafe, Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi Trident hotel, and Nariman Point Chabad House that lasted for four days.

Deputy Chief of Mission, Sudhakar Dalela

In his remarks, DCM Dalela said, “These dastardly attacks were not just against India, but against the entire humanity. As we gather to mark the 13th anniversary of these heinous attacks, we mourn and pay tribute to the innocent lives lost, while also sharing the pain of those who were injured.” He recalled the honor and sacrifice of the valiant security personnel who laid down their lives. Expressing solidarity with the families of the victims, DCM Dalela spoke of the continuing threat that terrorism poses to humanity. “Terrorism continues to be the gravest threat to mankind, and it is critical for countries to be united against terrorism,” said DCM Dalela. He spoke of India’s initiative to pilot a draft of the convention on international terrorism with the objective of providing a comprehensive legal framework to combat terrorism. India is also a signatory to all the major conventions and protocols on terrorism adopted by the UN and is part of all global initiatives in that regard. Even after 13 years after this heinous terror attack the families of 166 victims from 15 countries across the globe still await closure, said DCM Dalela, reiterating the call upon the government of Pakistan to expeditiously bring the perpetrators of the horrific attack to justice. “This is not just the matter of Pakistan’s accountability to the families of the innocent victims, who fell to terrorists, but also international obligations. Both India and US have been victims of terrorism. Our two countries have a strong counter-terrorism partnership.”

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.”

Rabbi Levi Shemtov

Rabbi Levi Shemtov recalled when he heard there was a shooting near Chabad House in Mumbai, he was flying back from Miami at the time. When his flight landed he learned that the shooting was actually in the building. He called Rabbi Holtzberg at Chabad House, but the cellphone was answered by one of the terrorists. “We opened up a conference call line for several hours where I kept repeatedly calling this cellphone of the rabbi which we soon realized had been taken from him by one of the terrorists. And whenever we could get through we had certain instructions of what to ask and what to do from intelligence here and abroad,” said Rabbi Shemtov. He then called up Ronen Sen, the Indian Ambassador to the US at the time, to tell him what was going on, and he immediately put him in touch with people who were manning the situation. “They connected me to authorities in New Delhi who saw a very precious development because they could now listen in on this number, because this terrorist wasn’t talking to me the whole time he was actually talking to other people.” Rabbi Shemtov said that it was because they were monitoring that cellphone that they actually heard the commandant of LeT telling the terrorists to kill people with commands. He spoke of Rabbi and Rivka Holtzberg’s housekeeper Sandra who risked her life to save their son, baby Moshe. “I was thinking about what terrorism does,” said Rabbi Shemtov, “It jars our life, it disrupts our life, but it will not eliminate our spirit. The spirit of friendship between the Indian people and the American people, and between the Indian people and the Jewish people is strong and it’s unshakeable and determined.” Rabbi Shemtov concluded his remarks with the words that heard from Ambassador Ronen Sen who said, Rabbi, these terrorists didn’t attack Jews, they attacked Indians. They attacked all of us. Over a billion people are now in sorrow because of what these monsters did. “And then he said something I will never forget,” added Rabbi Shemtov, ” For 2000 years Jewish people have been living in India, never a problem with the Indian people. Able to practice their religion freely. And these people came and tried to shatter that. We will have to make it even stronger. And indeed we know the relationship between Indian and Israel, and the relationship between India and the Jewish people became stronger as a result. So sure the terrorists can disrupt our life, but they can never make us change our course of constantly pursuing decency until the entire world will know only peace and harmony like the Indian people and the Jewish people have known for thousands of years.”

Deputy Secretary of State, SCA, Jennifer Larson

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Jennifer Larson, spoke of the last four years in Mumbai where she was the Deputy Consul General. “I had the great privilege of visiting the sites we are talking about today and meeting some of the brave rescuers and survivors that 13 years ago were put to an extremely difficult test. I have spent many wonderful hours at Chabad house and I have heard this rabbi’s story a couple of times from the rabbi there, which is truly something to be thankful for. It is the spirit of thanksgiving here in the United States and I am grateful for the partnership and the opportunities that we have as the United States with India as a deep and cherished friend.”

The Mumbai Attacks transformed India’s perception towards national security, leading to enhanced maritime surveillance, inter-agency coordination, and information dissemination. Nine terrorists were killed by the security forces. Hemant Karkare (Former ATS Chief), Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Ashok Kamte (Addl Police Commissioner, Mumbai), senior Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar were among those killed in the attack. Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only terrorist to be captured alive, was hung 4 years later on November 21, 2012.

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.

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.

US Joins the International Solar Alliance

Glasgow, Scotland – US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry announced today that the US has joined the International Solar Alliance (ISA) as a member country.

“It has long been coming, and we are happy to join the International Solar Alliance, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the lead in making,” said Kerry. “We worked out the details and this is a process we are pleased to be a part of. This will be an important contribution to more rapid deployment of solar globally. It will be particularly important for developing countries.”

Welcoming the US as the 101st member of the ISA, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Mr. Bhupender Yadav said that this move will “strengthen the ISA and propel future action on providing a clean source of energy to the world.”

On November 2, the ISA, India Presidency of the ISA, and the UK COP Presidency launched the ‘Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid’ (GGI-OSOWOG), during the World Leaders Summit of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. The Steering Committee of GGI-OSOWOG is comprised of five members – the US, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and India. To help deliver the vision of One Sun One World One Grid, 80 countries have resolved to combine their efforts to create more inter-connected grids, endorsing the One Sun Declaration.

At a steering committee meeting of GGI-OSOWOG, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said that the, “United States is excited to be back in the climate conversation”. Citing the One Sun Declaration, Secretary Granholm said that, “all the energy humanity uses in a year is equal to the energy that reaches the earth from the sun in a single hour. The GGI-OSOWOG is focusing on the two most important pieces of the puzzle. We at the US Department of Energy are happy to be a partner with GGI-OSOWOG.”

Background
The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was launched in 2015 at the 21st session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-21) in Paris, France by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the former President of France Mr. Francois Hollande. The launch was attended by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as the heads of state of about 120 nations who affirmed their participation in the Alliance to dedicate efforts for promotion of solar energy.

Religious Minorities Continue to Suffer in Pakistan

The Pakistani government is content to spout platitudes and holiday greetings to religious minorities, but continues to turn a blind eye to forced conversions and atrocities against them. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted “Wishing all our Hindu community a happy Diwali,” but his government has a dismal record in safeguarding its minority communities, including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs.

 

Nearly 1,000 girls from religious minorities (most of them minors) are forced to convert to Islam in Pakistan each year, and forcibly married to much older men.

 

As recently reported in Dawn, a  parliamentary committee in Pakistan rejected an anti-forced conversion bill, with Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri saying the “environment is unfavorable” for formulating a law against forced conversions. 

 

Global Strat View reached out to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for comment on forced conversions in Pakistan. In an email response, they said,  “The issue of abduction, forced conversion to Islam, rape, and forced marriage remained an imminent threat for religious minority women and children, particularly from the Hindu and Christian faiths. During 2020, USCIRF documented incidents of forced marriages, more than half involving minors. The government did little to ensure minor girls’ safety and return to their families. Authorities often do not take any action, and in abduction cases that are brought to the courts, officials have claimed that victims willingly converted to Islam. The head of the Parliamentary Committee on Forced Religious Conversions, Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar, claimed that most cases of forced conversion “have some degree of willingness on the part of the girl.” 

 

USCIRF further said that “Pakistani courts systematically failed to protect and provide justice to victims, who are often forced to testify that they converted voluntarily to protect themselves and their families from further harm. In April, Myra Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Christian schoolgirl, was abducted at gunpoint. Despite Myra telling police she was drugged, raped, and forced to sign papers her abductor later used to allege that she was 19 and had voluntarily married and converted, the court ordered that she be returned to her abductor.”

 

USCIRF’s 2021 Annual Report chapter on Pakistan, addresses forced conversion in further detail. On the recommendation of USCIRF, the U.S State Department re-designated Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

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.