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Looking to 2021 in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Looking to 2021 in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Looking to 2021 in Afghanistan and Pakistan


Dear reader,

Welcome to Gandhara’s weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting on Afghanistan and Pakistan. This week, we look back on a tumultuous year for both countries and what to expect in 2021.

If you are new to the newsletter or have not yet subscribed, you can do so here.

Afghan peace remains elusive

The year started with high hopes, as an intense U.S. diplomatic effort culminated in an initial peace deal with the Taliban in February. But many observers I’ve spoken to wonder if the Taliban really wants peace as the violence continues unabated.

Looking ahead to 2021, my colleague Frud Bezhan asked the experts what they saw as possible implications of the withdrawal of US forces. They expect more hostilities, more bloodshed and tough political choices for the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden.

“It is imperative for the Taliban to prevent any sort of lull in attacks to keep Qatar looking like they have the initiative on the battlefield,” security expert Ted Callahan told him.

Pakistan braces for February showdown

The arrest of Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a top leader of the Pakistani Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), will prolong the power struggle between the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the administration of Prime Minister Imran Khan which has warmed the country. political debate.

PDM leaders openly challenge the Khan administration and military generals, whom they accuse of undermining democratic processes. The PDM is counting on gaining popular support as Khan’s populist campaign’s broken promises of institutional reform, prosperity and greater accountability have fallen flat. The pandemic and its impact on the economy have only increased public discontent.

The grand finale of this political soap opera is expected in February, when the PDM plans another march on Islamabad. The critical test of the group’s momentum will then be whether the protests result in massive resignations from parliament.

The “ most dangerous ” countries for journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Afghanistan and Pakistan were the most dangerous countries for journalists in a year that saw some 50 people killed because of their efforts to speak the truth to power.

In particular, the watchdog noted an alarming increase in targeted attacks on media workers in Afghanistan. One of the targets was our colleague Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, who was killed by a bomb attached to his car in November.

New US sanctions against alleged Iranian recruiting operation

After the United States imposed sanctions on Jamiat al-Mostafa earlier this month, we looked at accusations that the Iranian university, which controls training institutions in Pakistan and Afghanistan, had recruited fighters for them. Iran’s proxy war efforts in Syria.

An analyst who has followed victims of the Syrian war said his records suggest that “Jamiat al-Mostafa never served as a primary recruiting ground.”

Instead, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) recruited thousands of Afghan migrants and refugees within its borders and secretly recruited hundreds of Shiites inside Afghanistan. The IRGC used the same strategy to recruit Pakistanis.

In memory of Ahmed Ali Kohzad, an iconic Afghan historian

In a moving tribute, Nilly Kohzad describes the Afghan heritage of her late grandfather: Ahmed Ali Kohzad was a pioneering historian and archaeologist.

He discovered Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic past and helped define the historical identity of Afghans. His more than 70 books – still referenced today – detail a rich history in which Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Hinduism flourished in Afghanistan.

“Archeology has undergone a change after Kohzad’s era and research,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a cultural anthropologist by training, once said. “We must be careful to preserve this national culture.”

I hope you enjoyed this week’s newsletter and encourage you to share it with colleagues who may find it useful. We will be back to our regular weekly schedule on Friday January 8, 2021.

Again, if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here. I also encourage you to visit our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

You can also reach us directly at [email protected].


Abubakar Siddique


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