The situation in Afghanistan – a personal perspective

This article expresses the views of Paramount Chief and senior member of the NCF, Ajmal Khan. The Next Century Foundation’s Summer Conference includes a session on Afghanistan. Should you wish to attend click here for full details and the chance to register. The Taliban say that “with the exception of the Presidency or high ranking positions in the judiciary, there will be no restrictions on a woman’s career prospects” in the new Afghanistan.  But when asked to differentiate between themselves and ISIS, the Taliban say that the main difference is that they are Afghan and ISIS are not. Can this really be the way to go? To surrender control of Afghanistan to one of the most feared and dangerous groups on the planet? After years of losses in blood and treasure is there no better outcome for much mauled over Afghanistan? To listen to the personal views of the Next Century Foundation’s Secretary General on the subject click here. The views of Paramount Chief Ajmal Zazai Khan are as follows in his words. Neither his words nor those of the NCF Secretary General represent the views of the trustees of the Next Century Foundation:

ISIS

The so-called ISIS of Afghanistan has no connection with the one in Iraq or Syria. The Afghan ISIS, which declare itself as the ISIS wing of Khorasan, has two parts. One part is based mainly in the eastern parts of Afghanistan, consists of the Pashtun tribes of Waziristan and Khyber agency, and is fully run by the Pakistani ISI. Only recently did the US carry out thorough operations against them, which wiped out much of the group. The other part of ISIS is based in the north and north-eastern parts of Afghanistan, and mainly consists of Chechens, Daghistanis and Chinese Muslims. This part of the Khorasan ISIS was created by the FSB and, according to some reliable sources, anywhere between 25,000 to 35,000 fighters are based inside Afghanistan. They are living among the villagers in the most remote parts of the country. This deadly group was created to take the insurgency to a second phase, which would be far deadlier than what we witness right now.

Al-Qaeda

After spending nine years in Iran, Hamza Bin Laden (the son of Al-Qaeda’s late leader, Osama Bin Ladin) returned to Afghanistan, and this shaped Al-Qaeda strategically. The US claimed that they had killed Hamza bin Ladin in a drone strike in Waziristan some four years ago, but it is confirmed that the US missed.
Hamza Bin Laden is now the leader of most elite terrorist organization that stretches across many countries. Hamza bin Laden is working closely with Sarajuddin Haqani in the southern and south-eastern parts of Afghanistan. All fighters of Al-Qaeda are North African Arabs, from Libya, Mali, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

The insurgency against the US & NATO

The forces are divided into three groups:

  1. The Pakistani ISI is running the Taliban & Haqani Network.
  2.  The Russian FSB is running ISIS.
  3.  Irani Al Quds is running Hamza bin Ladin Al Qaida.

The US Intel are aware that a peace deal with the Taliban will not guarantee total peace or an end to the war in Afghanistan. The US military believe that they would have to maintain their presence in Afghanistan to fight Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Hezb-i- Wallayat (Taliban), but the regional powers believe these are just excuses made by the US in order to prolong its military presence in Afghanistan.
Regional powers believe the US’ prolonged military presence in Afghanistan has something to do with regional powers (Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan & Turkey) and not with ISIS or Al-Qaeda, as claimed by the US & NATO.

The concerns of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan

Russia: Kremlin believes that the US is driven to curb the vast influence of Russia on Central Asia by bringing western-style democracies to the region, and empowering westernized leaders to free them of Moscow.

China: Beijing treats Afghanistan as it’s backyard and they are certain that the US’ prolonged presence in Afghanistan seeks to stop China’s huge economical “One Belt, One Road” project, which connects 118 countries and costs $3 trillion. China believes that from their positions in Afghanistan, the US and U.K. have tried to create an uprising inside China using the Chinese Muslims to create a civil war which could eventually weaken China from within.

Iran: The Iranian regime openly accuses the US and U.K. for interfering in their country by creating unrest within Iran. The Iranian regime fears that the US might send Iranian armed militants through the Afghan border in order to topple its regime in Tehran.

Pakistan: Although Pakistan was considered a friend and an ally by the US for a long time, it has been over 25 years since Pakistan tightened its ties with China and no longer trusts the US. Pakistan is a nuclear state and they feel threatened by deepened US-India relations and, of course, by Kashmir. The Taliban and other Islamic militant groups (Jaish Mohammad, Lashkar Tayba) are the core of ISI. Maybe at a later stage these groups will fight Pakistan’s holy war in Kashmir. The US’ prolonged military presence in Afghanistan might have some severe consequences for Pakistan as well, as Pakistan think that the US and NATO might begin supporting the separatists of Pashtunistan and Baluchistan. The separation won’t stop there, however, as Sindh also wants freedom and this could mean the end of Pakistan’s existence.

The above-mentioned countries, plus Turkey, are also part of the inner circle of the Shanghai summit. They make up one block and are all tied into a strategical alliance, doing anything in their power to turn Afghanistan into a second Vietnam for the US forces.

Qatar’s Peace Deal

The main objective of Qatar’s Peace Deal was to minimize insurgency by shutting down the Taliban, but this has not worked because the Taliban insist on the complete withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan. The Taliban leadership is well aware that the US is not going to fully withdraw its forces, as they are making excuses of Al-Qaeda and ISIS being active in Afghanistan. The Taliban have categorically assured the US that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are their problem and that they will deal with them, but the US will not listen and instead blames the Taliban for having ties with Al-Qaeda. The UN Security Council’s report that the Taliban has deep ties with Al-Qaeda and other militant groups made  the US’ claim even stronger.

Ever since this peace deal was signed in Qatar back in February, the insurgence has escalated by more than 300% throughout Afghanistan, and Afghans continue to be killed. It does not appear that the Taliban will adopt a ceasefire in the near future.

About a month ago, Sarjuddin Haqani (the military commander of  the Haqani Networka, deputy of Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Hibatullah, and the son of late Mullah Mohammad Omar) openly expressed their determination for carrying JIHAD against the US invaders in a propaganda video. They conveyed a message to their fighters to carry on fighting and discredited the Qatar peace deal.

Right after the Qatar peace deal was signed between the US and Taliban, a large number of Taliban formed another group called Hezb-i- Wallayat, and it is believed that many who oppose the Qatar peace deal will join this new Taliban resistance.

Conclusion of the Qatar deal

It seems that Trump’s administration will somehow bring the (approximate) 500 Taliban leaders to Kabul to make them part of the current Kabul regime, or perhaps form a new interim government where these Taliban leaders will be part of it. Then Trump will show to the American public that he has ended America’s longest war in Afghanistan and brought soldiers home. According to some reliable information from within the US government, the US will always maintain around 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, regardless of any treaty they have signed with Taliban. That is why regional powers are skeptical of the US and have planned for a prolonged war with the US on Afghan soil.

Afghan partners

Although the US is juggling the insurgency in Afghanistan and larger regional issues, the US and NATO are currently backing the most corrupt regime in Kabul. Ashraf Ghani has lost control of Afghanistan’s government. He is incompetent and weak, and he is driven by individuals within his regime who carry other agendas (those of the FSB, Al Quds, ISI & RAW). Sadly, the US and NATO are fully aware of his incompetence but continue supporting his disastrous regime, which Afghans dislike at large.

At least if the US and NATO could bring about cleaner Afghan government that works for the welfare of the Afghans, more Afghans may resist from joining the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or ISIS.

 

So What’s the Story on Iran?

Issues of the Week

Iran has many decisions to make about the way forward in view of this year’s Presidential election in the USA. One of which is who are likely to be the mainstream candidates for Iran’s own Presidential elections next year. Some names are being touted. And there is not an extremist among them – but then nor is there a liberal. They are all pragmatists belonging to what Iran calls the “Principalist” party. For William’s podcast on this and other matters regarding Iran click here.

 

If Black Lives Matter – where do you stand?

Issues of the Week

We all have something to answer for – from God in his Heaven to you as you sit there in lockdown. What do you care when it comes down to it? To listen to William’s podcast click here.

HOWEVER MORE IMPORTANTLY: Everyone seems to be busy campaigning to tear down statues and blue plaques – alienating some in the process as well as obliterating part of our history. Instead why don’t they campaign to celebrate the greatest British warriors to end slavery?

William Wilberforce for instance. Where is his statue? Well there is one in his home city of Hull and there is a smaller one tucked away in Westminster Abbey. But there should be a proper one out of doors in Central London don’t you think?

You could argue that John Newton, the ex-slaver that became an abolitionist (and incidentally wrote the hymn Amazing Grace after he shifted over to the side of the great and the good) deserves a statue. After all he was the one that mentored William Wilberforce. But all he has is a large bronze bust somewhere in Ireland.

However this Cornish warrior against slavery nobody celebrates. Stick him on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square I reckon. He at least deserves a statue somewhere. Barrington Reynolds, the Cornishman who helped put an end to international slavery. Now there’s an unsung hero.  Looks a little strange but – What a guy. In fact forget the statue, they should make a movie about him:

BArrington-Reynolds

Thinking again about Israel and Palestine

Annexation does what?

Next Century Foundation Secretary General William Morris writes:

I was not so happy with my last podcast on Israel and Palestine. It was not respectful enough of the Mid East Peace Process issue – and though it covers all the bases in detail – it misses the point when it comes to the heart of the matter. This is perhaps more honest to the actual situation these two great nations living cheek by jowl now find themselves in:

To listen to William’s thoughts on the subject click here.

Quarantined Music – by Quarantined Musicians

This comes in from the Syrian poet and broadcaster, Malak Mustafa. She liked it and we like it. It comes from Barcelona, one of the places worst affected by this plague:

And this from Stafford Clarry, our senior NCF member in Iraq: There are some things even a pandemic can’t stop. Perhaps something beautiful is rising up out of this pandemic. It is very much needed.
All the music on the list below was produced by quarantined musicians. The collection is a meadow of music to wander through and roam in.
Take care of each other.

El “Nessun Dorma” de l’òpera ‘Turandot’ de Puccini
1 May 2020
We Are the World – COVID-19 Tribute (Cover)
17 April 2020
ORFEOI TXIKIA koarentenan: ‘Lore dantza
14 April 2020
College Church Hallelujah chorus
12 April 2020
L’ONLyon vous réveille en musique pendant le confinement
11 April 2020
Havana – par les musiciens confinés de l’Orchestre d’Harmonie Saint Jean le Vieux / Ambronay (OHSJA)
11 April 2020
We are the World (2020) | Together At Home Edition by Channel Aid, KHS & YouTube Artists
10 April 2020
NHS Staff Choir sing ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers
10 April 2020
ROYAL CHORAL SOCIETY: Hallelujah Chorus in Isolation
10 April 2020
Here Comes The Sun – Camden Voices (self-isolation/virtual choir cover)
10 April 2020
A Hope or the Future
9 April 2020
2020: An Isolation Odyssey | 40 musicians play epic intro from Kubrick classic during UK lockdown
9 April 2020
Les musiciens de l’Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg en télétravail
9 April 2020
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND performed by the worldwide cast of BEAUTIFUL (in quarantine) for The Actors Fund
7 April 2020
From Our Homes to Yours: Milwaukee Symphony (Virtual) Orchestra performs Elgar’s “Nimrod”
7 April 2020
Les musiciens de l’ONCT se réinventent !
7 April 2020
Go Big & Stay Home – Socially Distant Orchestra Plays Wagner
6 April 2020
Thank You for the Music – Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
5 April 2020
Europa InCanto – 700 bambini cantano Nessun Dorma – Turandot
5 April 2020
Carmen
5 April 2020
Bella Ciao/La Casa de papel – Musicians in Covid19 Quarantine – Delirium Musicum
4 April 2020
ORFEÓN DONOSTIARRA – DONOSTIAKO ORFEOIA: Hallelujah
4 April 2020
The Lahti Symphony Orchestra: Sibelius: Finlandia op 26
3 April 2020
A Boléro from New York: NY Philharmonic Musicians Send Musical Tribute to Healthcare Workers
3 April 2020
Un obsequio para el mundo | Edward Elgar, Enigma Variations, IX Nimrod – OSNC
31 March 2020
Philip Glass by Cello Octet Amsterdam feat. Maki Namekawa
1 April 2020
Lockdown Sessions – Set You Free (N-Trance)
31 March 2020
Remerciements – Le Boléro De Ravel interprété en confinement par l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice
30 March 2020
Aussie Pops Orchestra Phones It In – What a Wonderful World
30 March 2020
Rise UP | Boston’s Children’s Chorus and other children’s choirs
30 March 2020
 “Stayin’ Inside” – Corona Virus Bee Gees Parody
27 March 2020
Roedean School (South Africa) – Hallelujah (Virtual Choir)
27 March 2020
 “Stayin’ Home” – Socially Distant Orchestra Plays Dvořák’s “New World”
27 March 2020
A Virtual Choir in quarantine sing Florence + The Machine
26 March 2020
Kaleidoscope Orchestra Lockdown Sessions – Don’t You Worry Child (Swedish House Mafia)
24 March 2020
 GRIEG – Holberg Suite – Preludium “á la Quarantine”
24 March 2020
Tonkünstler-Orchester / Tonkunstler Orchestra – Boléro
 Helplessly Hoping – il coro che non c’è
23 March 2020
 What the World Needs Now – for Virtual Orchestra
22 March 2020
StrongerTogether – SocialSymphony (Ode to Joy, Bamberger Orchestra)
22 March 2020
Socially Distant Orchestra Plays Ode to Joy
22 March 2020
True Colors – Camden Voices (self-isolation/virtual choir cover)
22 March 2020
Hallelujah – from a balcony in Italia
21 March 2020
CORO VIRTUALE – VIRTUAL CHOIR – Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
20 March 2020
Good Times, Ghali – Gaga Symphony Orchestra
18 March 2020
 Chino Valley USD Students Spread Hope During School Closures Due to COVID-19
17 March 2020
Daddy Daughter Duet – The Prayer

Rethinking Syria

Syria – Hell on Earth?

5.6m refugees have fled Syria; 3.8m of these are in Turkey. Some of the Syrian refugees are moving on to Europe and according to the charity Syria Relief, the Turkish-Greek border is ‘Hell on Earth’. The collapse in the oil price and inflation in Syria ensure living standards will continue to plummet which will drive more toward militancy.

But what is going on behind the scenes? To hear the latest podcast on the subject from Next Century Foundation Secretary General William Morris click here.

Six in the Afternoon

Some of you may remember Joelle Manih and Ethan Jahan as the Producer and Director respectively of The English Hour broadcasts formerly hosted by NCF Secretary General, William Morris. They are both in lockdown as are most of us these days. This is an interesting short film, made by Ethan and starring Joelle, as their response to Covid-19.

Iran Changes Tack

The Next Century Foundation’s Secretary General, William Morris, expresses concern that international sanctions are preventing Iranian access to medical supplies in a post coronavirus world. And points out a major strategic change in Iran’s defense policy. To listen to the podcast click on this link.