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Hasina’s Visit to Delhi: A Prelude

After almost three years, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is going to Delhi again on a state visit on September 5. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit is very significant in India-Bangladesh bilateral relations. The Modi government also wants to give

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Time to Deescalate Myanmar-Bangladesh Border Tension

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Myanmar’s persistent use of mortars to invade Bangladeshi land amounts to a declaration of war on Myanmar’s part and a diplomatic blunder on the part of the government of Bangladesh. In the most recent incident, Myanmar fired three mortar bombs on September 16 into Bangladeshi territory near the Tambru border in Bandarban, killing one man and injuring six others, who were taken to the hospital that night. On September 3, Myanmar fired at least two deadly shells 120 meters into Bangladesh at the Tambru border. On August 28, it launched two additional mortar shells across the same border into Bangladesh, but they did not explode. On August 20, a comparable occurrence occurred at the same border.

Following each incident, Bangladeshi authorities called the ambassador of Myanmar to Dhaka and gave him protest letters. What started with mortar rounds that hadn’t detonated has so far come to a close with the deaths and injuries caused by shell explosions. Bangladesh has reportedly handled the situation professionally on a bilateral basis up to this point, but all that seems to be happening is escalating tensions, which, according to Myanmar, is a provocation for war. Bangladesh is correct to resist giving up.
All of this suggests, however, that despite their repeated claims to be the best of friends, India, China, and Russia have not been persuaded to help prevent Myanmar from inciting a war with Bangladesh. These countries include India, which has cordial bilateral relations with Myanmar, China, which exerts significant influence over Myanmar, and Russia.

According to media reports, Bangladeshi authorities consider bringing the matter before the UN for resolution if diplomatic attempts to date have been unsuccessful.

In December 2018 China and Russia abstained from UN negotiations, and in December 2017 they opposed a UN resolution on the Rohingya problem. It is understandable that the military-run Myanmar, which has a population one-third that of Bangladesh’s and suffers from low credibility throughout the world, would appear to be breaking international law by shelling Bangladesh, given Bangladesh’s weak strategic and political position on the world stage.

In response to recent casualties at Bangladesh’s Bandarban border, the foreign ministry of Bangladesh summoned Myanmar’s ambassador in Dhaka, Aung Kyaw Moe, and delivered a stern protest letter. Since mid-August, the ministry has summoned the Myanmar ambassador four times for violations of land and airspace by Myanmar along the border in Bandarban’sNaikhongchhari, as well as many incidences in which mortar shells from the neighbouring nation landed on Bangladeshi soil.

To counteract any effects of the unrest in the Rakhine state, the Coastguard and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) are still on high alert in the border region. The Myanmar Armed Forces have fired mortar shells into Bangladesh territory on numerous occasions, leaving the population living near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border areas feeling uneasy. In the most recent incident, which happened on Friday night, five mortar rounds fired from Myanmar detonated at a Rohingya camp in a no-land man’s close to Tumbru bazar in Bandarban’s Naikhongchhariupazila, killing a 28-year-old man named Mohammad Iqbal and injuring eight others. An earlier land mine explosion in Bandarban’sNaikhongchhari border area injured a young Bangladeshi man.

The ambassador for Myanmar confirmed that many mortar bombs had been fired into Bangladeshi territory, but he asserted that their insurgent groups had also fired heavy artillery and mortars, some of which had landed on Bangladeshi soil. In this regard, the foreign ministry reaffirmed the government of Bangladesh’s policy of “zero tolerance” toward terrorism and its refusal to harbour any forces threatening the security of its neighbours.

The current crisis is instilling terror among the defenseless citizens residing in Myanmar’s border regions, it has been warned Myanmar.

Bangladesh requested Myanmar to stop engaging in actions that endanger local residents’ lives and means of subsistence. Bangladesh also urged that Myanmar stop its careless military actions close to the border and make sure that no Myanmar-made ammunition enters Bangladeshi territory.

Bangladesh has already said clearly that it wishes to resolve its differences with Myanmar amicably. Therefore, the nation hopes that Myanmar will learn from their error and stop taking actions in the future that would harm bilateral relations.

The Myanmar Armed Forces kept firing many mortar shells into Bangladeshi territory on purpose in an effort to stir up trouble near the border. Bangladesh is working to find a diplomatic resolution with Myanmar because it doesn’t want a war. And the nation will make every effort, taking the matter to the UN if necessary (UN).

The government of Bangladesh, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, never supports armed conflict and always favours peaceful resolution. Bangladesh is attempting to resolve the issue on a bilateral and multilateral level. We are hopeful that the international community and the UN will step up and take the necessary actions to put an end to this disturbance.

Although a battle with a neighbour is not desirable, a diplomatic solution to the problem should still be sought. If necessary, Bangladeshi authorities should raise this with the UN. To find a solution, it must intensify its diplomatic efforts on a regional and global scale.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh should maintain a standing national army to defend its borders, fend against Myanmar, and avert any dangerous situations.

Views expressed are personal

How Russians Read the Conflict in the Caucasus

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In the early morning hours of Tuesday, September 13, Azerbaijan launched an aggressive military assault along the borders of the Armenian Republic. Observers of politics in the post-Soviet space may be forgiven for thinking that the center of fighting was the disputed, Armenian-inhabited region of Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh by Armenians). In fact, however, the attack targeted several towns and villages within Armenia proper, notably Vardenis near Lake Sevan, Jermuk in the rocky Vayots Dzor province, and the leafy town of Goris in Syunik.

The attack was only the latest in a series of provocations initiated by Baku, with Ankara’s backing, since the conclusion of the 2020 Karabakh war, and especially since the commencement of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022. One might expect there to be renewed hostilities in a face-off involving only Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, these attacks are even more significant, given the fact that Russian forces and peacekeepers have been present in the conflict zone since 2020. Moscow’s reaction to Baku’s brazen bellicosity has so far been restrained, reflecting not only its difficult balancing act between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also concerns about potentially upsetting political ties with Turkey amid the conflict in Ukraine. However, while restrained for now, Moscow’s patience with Baku and Ankara is wearing thin and will not last forever, especially in the context of the current international situation.

Complicated Roots

Russia’s historical association with Transcaucasia and its peoples dates back centuries, although its first major political foray into the area was Peter the Great’s Persian Campaign of the 1720s, an intervention involving an alliance with local Georgian and Armenian leaders. The roots of the Karabakh quandary itself are at least just as old. For some, the conflict can be dated back to the late 18th century, with the onset of competing interests between local Armenian princes and Tatar khans. For others, it can be dated to 1917-20, when the upheavals of the Russian Civil War led to ethnic violence in Transcaucasia. A 1919 decision by British interventionist forces left the Mountainous Armenian Karabakh under the control of the newly established Azerbaijan Republic. The British, who entered the fray in opposition to the Reds, were less concerned with ethnic peacebuilding and more interested in seizing the strategic oilfields of Baku. By the time the Bolsheviks managed to Sovietize Transcaucasia in 1920, they encountered a Karabakh that, although majority Armenian, was under the control of Azerbaijani forces. Therefore, as scholar Arsène Saparov reminds us, the eventual Soviet decision to officialize the status of the region as part of Soviet Azerbaijan was intended to be a “quick fix” for a new ruling elite eager to begin work on building a new socialist state. Yet, this “fix” ultimately left both Armenians and Azeris unsatisfied.

The immediate origins of the Karabakh problem date back to the late 1980s, when Karabakh Armenian demands to unify with Soviet Armenia found expression under the banner of Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika. Peaceful protests in the Armenian capital Yerevan and the Karabakh capital of Stepanakert were soon met with anti-Armenian pogroms in the Azerbaijani industrial town of Sumgait. From there, a vicious cycle of violence ensued, pitting Armenians against Azeris, and Azeris against Armenians. A forceful population exchange traumatized the two communities. By the time of the Soviet dissolution in 1991, the conflict had erupted into a full-scale between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It ended only with a Russian-brokered ceasefire in 1994, leaving Armenian forces in control of most of Mountainous Karabakh, plus seven adjoining districts.

For the next three decades, the situation remained essentially “frozen.” Peace talks between the sides saw limited results and effectively hit a dead end after the failure of the 2001 Key West peace talks. The death of longtime Azerbaijani leader Heydar Aliyev and the ascendancy of his more nationalistic son, Ilham, to the presidency further dimmed the prospects for peace, fueled by massive Azerbaijani arms purchases made with its new oil revenues. Baku’s newfound belligerence found willing allies among the American war party in Washington, which hoped to use the former Soviet republic as a NATO-backed “bridgehead” across the Caspian, and to undermine Russian influence in energy-rich post-Soviet Central Asia.

Russian Interests and Realities

However, aside from periodic ceasefire violations, the situation in Karabakh remained relatively stable. Only the 2016 “four-day” war seemed to allude to the challenges that were to come. Russia’s position toward the region during this period was to preserve its influence and maintain regional stability for the sake of its state security. To that end, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov advanced the so-called “Lavrov Plan,” advocating the return of certain districts to Azerbaijan (excluding Kelbajar and Lachin) as well as the introduction of Russian peacekeeping forces in the region. However, neither Yerevan nor Baku ultimately accepted it.

Turkey’s intervention in the Caucasus in the 2020 Karabakh War changed the entire dynamic. Ankara tested the waters for such an intervention with its staunch support of Baku in 2016. However, it was the 2020 Karabakh war that increased Turkey’s influence in the Caucasus considerably, with an eye to enhancing its influence in post-Soviet Central Asia, at the expense of Moscow. Although Russia managed to secure entry of its peacekeepers into the Karabakh conflict zone at the end of the war, the new presence of Turkey now meant that it had to balance its traditional interests with actively combating the expansion of Turkish influence in the region. At the same time, it sought to avoid a direct entanglement with Ankara.

In practice, the Russian peacekeeping presence in Mountainous Karabakh should have acted as a guarantor for regional stability, deterring the prospect of renewed hostilities. Indeed, the idea behind the peacekeeping mission reflected the logic of the earlier Lavrov Plan, i.e., that Russian troops would be able to stabilize the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontlines in a way that the Armenian forces never fully could. Although the presence of Russian troops initially acted as a strong deterrent to renewed clashes, the peacekeeping mission ultimately failed to provide the lasting stabilization that was envisaged by policymakers in Moscow. The reasons stemmed partially from the greatly diminished territorial size of the self-proclaimed Artsakh-Karabakh Republic as a result of the 2020 war, combined with the limited number of Russian peacekeepers. The loss of the strategic districts of Kelbajar and Lachin (which were envisioned as remaining under Karabakh Armenian control in the original Lavrov Plan) also meant that the peacekeeping mission’s physical connection to the Russian forces in Armenia was severely curtailed and limited to a single road, the Lachin corridor, which itself has recently become an object of dispute.

In addition, the outcome of the war destroyed any remaining balance that existed between the two sides, hindering Moscow’s ability to navigate the diplomatic waters between Baku and Yerevan. Armenia was catapulted into a state of political crisis, centered on its combative Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his opponents. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, with Ankara’s blessing, went on a “victory high,” and rather than content itself with its gains and pursue peace, sought to press its advantage by snatching up small strategic border territories in clashes with Yerevan. The Russian leadership foresaw the potential for even more provocations and flare-ups from Baku after the start of the 2022 conflict in Ukraine. Therefore, on the eve of the conflict, Putin met with Aliyev to bolster state-to-state relations. However, these steps failed to incentivize Baku from ceasing its attacks. Indeed, the attacks on Armenia and Mountainous Karabakh only increased soon after the conflict commenced, despite the Russian presence.

Meanwhile, some Azerbaijani analysts, channeling classic Caucasian bravado, began boasting that Baku had become the “leading great power” of the region and that it could easily defeat Russia in a war. Although it is highly doubtful that Azeri troops will ever march on Moscow, the fact that Azeri public intellectuals started speaking in this manner did not go unnoticed in the Kremlin, reflecting the fact that Baku’s hubris was reaching unacceptable levels. Some Russian observers even perceived Baku’s latest attacks as part of another Western-led effort to provoke a “second front” of the Ukraine conflict in Transcaucasia, something that neighbouring Georgia has strongly refused to do in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Limited in scope and territorial control and faced with constant provocations from an Ankara-allied Azerbaijan, the Russian peacekeeping mission has been hamstrung in its ability to perform its basic mandate—to provide security for the civilian population, as well as greater stability in the region. Politically for now, Moscow has focused on quick and quiet diplomatic resolutions to put out the fires that periodically erupt between Baku and Yerevan, an approach that is informed largely by its effort to avoid antagonizing Turkey. However, the reality remains that Ankara’s growing influence in the Caucasus and Azerbaijan’s unrestrained bellicosity fundamentally contradict Russia’s long-term strategic interests in the region. For now, the Kremlin has opted to tiptoe around Turkey, but as in Ukraine, the time will come when its patience becomes exhausted, and it will have to turn to tougher and more decisive measures against provocations in Karabakh.

Already, the more conservative focus on quiet diplomacy is beginning to appear incongruent with the challenges facing both Russian peacekeepers and Armenian civilians on the ground. It is also starting to undermine Moscow’s soft power in the region. The more aggressive the Azerbaijani attacks and the more reserved the Russian reactions, the more that Armenian civilians will begin to see Russia as being an unreliable ally, thus lending credence to pro-Western Armenians who wish to see the back of the Russians. Eroding public perceptions of Russia in Armenia, along with the perceived inaction of the Russian peacekeepers, were especially highlighted by the recent visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Yerevan. Indeed, although Pelosi’s move will not realistically provide the Armenian people with any tangible security benefits, it was politically calculated to antagonize Moscow, just as her visit to Taiwan was politically calculated to antagonize Beijing.

Overall, the current situation surrounding Mountainous Karabakh has profound security implications for Moscow that are arguably just as serious as those in Ukraine. From the Kremlin’s perspective, if NATO-allied Turkey comes to dominate the Caucasus, they will also dominate Central Asia, and suddenly NATO’s influence will be felt as far as the Altai mountains. Such a scenario is naturally intolerable for Russia, and the fears over security along its southern parameter undoubtedly informed its swift reaction to the events in Kazakhstan in January, dealing a blow to Ankara’s post-Soviet ambitions. These same concerns continue to fuel anxiety in the Kremlin over the border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the past week. Indeed, in Eurasia, Russia seems left with few easy decisions, but at some point, it will be forced to get tough in the Caucasus. Like a bear defending its territory, Moscow will not hesitate to defend its vital national security interests. The Russians are a patient people, but their patience is not infinite.

This article was produced by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord.

Samarkand Spirit

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In mid-September 2022, the nine-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for its 22nd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State. Because China, India, and Pakistan are members of the SCO, the organization represents about 40 percent of the world’s population; with the addition of Russia, the SCO countries make up 60 percent of the Eurasian territory (the other member states of the organization are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and now Iran). In its Samarkand Declaration, the final declaration of this meeting, the SCO represented itself as a “regional” organization, although the sheer scale of the SCO would allow it to claim to be a global organization with as much legitimacy as the G-7 (whose seven countries comprise only 10 percent of the world’s population, although the group accounts for 50 percent of the global net wealth).

The keyword in the Samarkand Declaration seemed to be “mutual”: mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual consultation, and mutual benefit. There is an echo in these words of the final communiqué of the Asian-African Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, which led to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. The Samarkand Spirit mirrors, for a different period, the Bandung Spirit with an emphasis on sovereignty and equality. Words like “mutual” are appealing only if they provide tangible benefits for the people who live in these countries.

As if on cue, eyes rolled in the Western press, which either did not give much weight to the meeting in their media coverage or emphasized the divisions between the countries that attended the meeting. Remarks by China’s President Xi Jinping and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi about their views on the Russian war in Ukraine shaped the headlines of the Western media. Certainly, the countries that attended the Samarkand meeting do not see eye to eye on each of the issues discussed, but they have built trust with each other and are interested in increasing their diplomatic and economic ties, particularly related to trade.

The SCO states contribute 24 percent to the world’s gross domestic product and accounted for 17.5 percent of world trade in 2020, a volume of activity that is enticing for poorer states in Eurasia. The locomotive of this economic activity continues to be China, which is the largest trading partner of IranKyrgyzstanPakistanRussiaIndia, and Uzbekistan. The advantages of trade among the countries—including energy purchases from Russia—anchor the SCO, which has become one of the key institutions for the integration of Eurasia.

Iran became a full-fledged member of the SCO at the Samarkand meeting. Over the course of the past decade, U.S. sanctions on Iran and Russia as well as the U.S.-driven trade war against China have drawn these three countries closer together. In April 2021, China and Iran signed a 25-year agreement on trade, which Iran’s ambassador to China Mohammad Keshavarz-Zadeh said “is not against any third country,” meaning the United States. Similar sentiments, but with a stronger anti-Western tone, could be heard at the seventh Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok, Russia, in September 2022, where Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said, “the West is failing, the future is in Asia.”

The SCO is not merely the consolidation of Asian countries heavily sanctioned by the United States and the European Union. India, an SCO member, is a non-sanctioned state, and Türkiye, another non-sanctioned country, is seeking to join the SCO, belying such an easy dismissal about the reason for the existence of the organization. India is a full-fledged member of the SCO and has taken over the presidency of the organization till it hosts the next meeting in 2023. India’s Modi played an active role at the Samarkand meeting, and, according to an op-ed written by India’s former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, he suggested that India’s membership to the SCO is part of “our commitment to a multipolar world.”

Türkiye, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), is a dialogue partner of the SCO and is now seeking to upgrade its status to become a member of the organization. In 1987, Türkiye applied to join the European Union and “was declared eligible to join the EU” in 1999. Told that the process is necessarily slow, Türkiye’s senior officials watched with dismay as Ukraine applied to join the European Union in February 2022 and then was accepted as an EU candidate in June, jumping far ahead of Türkiye, whose candidacy has not moved forward and the accession negotiations have “effectively frozen.” The Samarkand meeting was the first SCO meeting that was attended by Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who spoke about the SCO region being the “ancestral homeland” of the Turkish people and a natural fit for his country. India’s leadership in the SCO and the possibility of Türkiye’s entry into the organization show that the SCO is increasingly becoming an instrument for Eurasian integration.

“The situation in the world is dangerously degrading,” noted the Samarkand Declaration. “[E]xisting local conflicts and crises are intensifying, and new ones are emerging.” As the SCO met, Azerbaijan attacked Armenia—replaying the conflict of 2020—opening further tension between Russia (which is in the Collective Security Treaty Organization with Armenia) and Türkiye (which is a close ally of Azerbaijan). Adding to the confusion, clashes broke out at the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with Putin hastily calling the presidents of both countries to settle their differences. Modi and Xi met at the Samarkand meeting for the first time since the May 2020 clash between Chinese and Indian troops in the high mountain region of Ladakh. No real progress has been made on the decades-long border dispute between these two large Asian powers. Such existing local conflicts not only threaten the security of the people who live in those countries but also pose a challenge to the SCO becoming more than a regional organization.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Bangladesh: Military Diplomacy

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As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centrepiece of all geo-strategic play. So, Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year’s 46th Seminar, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest conference for land forces in the region and one of the preeminent army engagements that provide a platform for the senior military leadership of Indo-Pacific regional ground forces to exchange views and opinions on peace and stability.

This year’s conference brought together senior officers of the military forces of 24 countries. Under the theme of “Possibilities and Challenges for Maintaining Peace and Security in the Indo-Pacific Region,” the main focus of the event was “robust peacekeeping,” “women empowerment,” and “land power in regional cooperation.” Apart from these, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, leadership development, countering transnational crime, and empowering women were being discussed.
Significance of Military diplomacy

Bangladesh has historically been part of ancient Indo-Pacific connectivity. It is indeed in Bangladesh’s interest to advocate and work for an open, resilient and interconnected Indo-Pacific. In a broader sense, its own continuing sustainability as an independent, sovereign, prosperous nation-state depends on this idea. With close to 40 nations comprising its make-up, the Indo-Pacific region covers more than half of the earth’s surface, home to 60% of the world’s population producing 60% of global GDP, contributing two-thirds of current global growth. By 2030, the overwhelming majority (90%) of the 2.4 billion new members of the middle class entering the global economy will live in the Indo-Pacific. 7 of the world’s 10 largest armies are in the region where border disputes and sovereignty concerns are headline events. Therefore, maintaining peace and security across the region is central to global progress.

However, the conference brings army senior leaders together to discuss differences, establish trust, mitigate miscalculations, resolve challenges, and find commonality among multinational-professional soldiers.There are issues that cannot be solved in isolation by just one or two countries. This platform allows military leaders in the region to get together, share their ideas, and find a collective solution to a pressing and immediate problems. The relationships developed throughout the seminar and through Army-to-Army engagements would help to identify issues of common interest for arriving at pragmatic multi-lateral solutions, and dealing with the escalating threats.

It is imperative to build trust at the strategic level. So, the armies need to work together with the public sector in policy-making and lay out a development foundation that links economic and social development with the protection of the environment and natural resources. The IPAMS promotes network building among military chiefs at all levels to join forces in coping with the world’s various changes and challenges for sustainable advancement of the region. The forums provide a unique opportunity to advance understanding of key issues while showing respect for each other’s role in promoting security and stability. It would build interpersonal relations, mutual trust, and confidence among the ground forces in the region, which would reduce tensions. “The IPAMS can create a sense of friendship and warmth so that peace and stability prevail in the region,” PM Sheikh Hasina said while addressing the opening ceremony of the seminar.

The meetings are yet another symbol of the close cooperation between Bangladesh and the United States. It also paved the way for stronger cooperation between the armies of the two countries. Charles A. Flynn, commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, assured that the United States will cooperate with Bangladesh and other Indo-pacific countries to ensure the security of this important region. Again, the Bangladesh Army Chief expressed hope that working together will give the Bangladesh army a lot of scopes to learn as the US Army is one of the best in the world and very developed.

While the militaries of the participating countries discussed disaster management, transnational crime, security issues, and women’s empowerment, the issue of Rohingya refugees who have fled from violence in Myanmar is not overlooked. It is undeniable that since the Rohingya crisis erupted in the Indo-Pacific region’s heartland, it has all the potential to directly threaten the peace and stability in the region.

Because of the prolonged stay of more than 1 million Rohingya refugees in crowded camps, the economy, environment, security, and socio-political stability in the region will be seriously affected. A delegation of top military officials from 24 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, and Vietnam, visited the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, where Rohingyas expressed their desire to go back to their home country of Myanmar’s Rakhine State and not to any third country. The members of the group witnessed the plight of the Rohingyas firsthand and developed a “clear perception” of the gravity of the refugee crisis and the need for their repatriation to Myanmar.
Organizing such an international military conference is a great achievement for Bangladesh Army.

Noteworthy, The Bangladesh military’s positive and active role has earned the nation an international reputation with political and diplomatic mileage. The Armed Forces of Bangladesh have glorified the country on the global stage through their brilliant participation in UN peacekeeping missions. As the UN peacekeeping operations have been evolving continuously, Bangladesh has regularly been carrying out the performance appraisal of its peacekeepers and taking measures to cope with future challenges.

Despite being a late entrant (in 1988) as a troop contributor, Bangladesh has emerged as a credible UN partner over the last three decades. Since 1988, Bangladesh has participated in 54 peacekeeping missions in 40 different countries across 5 continents with more than 175,000 uniformed personnel, including over 1,800 female peacekeepers. Currently, there are over 7,000 troops and police deployed in 10 missions (as per data from the Armed Forces Division). Praising the Bangladesh Army, US Army General Charles A. Flynn said: “The Bangladesh Army is known for its leadership globally because of its contributions to UN peacekeeping operations. Its peacekeeping campus and training center are not just known within the region, they are known internationally. There are many, many things that the US Army and so many other armies can learn from the experiences of the Bangladeshi Army in their international and global commitment to humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations. “This acknowledgement has once again proved that our armed forces are a vital factor in upholding global peace and are able to keep our country safe from the subversive activities of internal and external enemies.

Last but not least, this conference is a critical opportunity to connect with the world’s military leaders to foster alliance partnerships and cooperative relationships. It is expected that dialogues like these will further strengthen ties between the Indo-Pacific countries and the Bangladesh Army and increase possibilities for mutual cooperation to cope with recent challenges in order for the region to move forward in a secure and sustainable manner.

Playing With Matches is Dangerous

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2 mins read

Truth is always the first casualty of war – and no less so than the current conflict in Ukraine. Russia insists it’s a localized police action to uproot a new Nazi uprising. Ukraine, which has become a US protectorate, insists it’s fighting to halt Russian aggression against a freedom-seeking nation. No mention that Ukrainians used to be called Russians.

For interesting contrast, go back to the first Chechen War from 1994 to 1996 and the second one from 1999 to 2009. The 1.4 million Chechen, a fierce Muslim people of the Caucasus Mountains, who had been battling Russian imperial expansion for 300 years, rose up and waged two David v. Goliath wars to regain their freedom from Russia.

In the first war, Chechen fighters routed Russian forces. Moscow agreed to independence for the Chechen Islamic Republic. But then hardliners, led by security chief Vladimir Putin, resumed the war after a staged fake bombing of Moscow apartments by the renamed KGB, the SVR that killed 200-300 people.

At that time, the US was actively supporting the Yeltsin regime in Moscow, particularly so with massive financial aid. Yeltsin had long-established links to CIA and Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6.

The US refused to help the Chechen resistance or recognize its fight for independence. I know this because I was closely following this tragic story and trying to raise some support for free Chechnya.

As fighting raged in Chechnya, the US called on the then Chechen leader, Gen, Dzhokhar Dudayev, to negotiate with Boris Yeltsin. Dudayev was given a special mobile phone supposedly connected to one held by Yeltsin for the ’peace talks.’

As so as Dudayev and Yeltsin were connected, a covert US aircraft launched a missile that homed in on Dudayev’s phone receiver. The Chechen leader was blown to bits. With further help from US intelligence, the Chechen resistance was relentlessly ground down and eliminated. Chechens were arrested and tortured en masse in so-called Russian ‘filtration camps.’ A Chechen warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, was named ‘gauleiter’ of Chechnya. Chechen leaders were hunted down and assassinated by KGB or Kadyrov’s agents.

Chechnya was literally thrown to the wolves by the US. What a contrast this is to the current situation in Ukraine which has been flooded by $15-20 billion of modern US weapons in recent months and aided by a massive propaganda campaign directed by the US and Britain.

Unlike 1991, the US sees the war in Ukraine as a rare chance to tear a big chunk of Russia away or even go on to crush the Russian Federation into fragments. Many Ukrainians would be happy to see this outcome. The memory of how Stalin’s USSR starved or shot some six million Ukrainians in the 1920’s and 1930’s lingers among the older generation.

But younger Ukrainians must question what will happen if their war with Russia continues. Will Ukraine invade Russia and try to regain Crimea? Will the US or some European powers support an attack on Crimea? Poland and Britain are already deeply involved in the war. Who will be next?

The right wing of the US Democratic Party, now in power, is far more warlike and anti-Russian than most Americans realize. In fact, it’s the real `war party.’

If this half-baked war continues, the risks of a nuclear or chemical confrontation grow daily. So does an accidental clash in the Black Sea between Russia and the US. Off on the sidelines the Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Azeris, Egyptians. Iranians and Israelis may be spoiling for a fight.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2022

Our Military Plan will Not Adjust – Putin

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5 mins read

In conclusion of his visit to Uzbekistan, Vladimir Putin answered journalists’ questions. Following excerpts adapted from the press release published by Kremlin

Question: Now that the SCO summit is over, summing it up, can you tell us how you regard the SCO’s development prospects and what the most important thing is for Russia in the SCO?

Vladimir Putin: The most important thing always and everywhere is economic development. And the SCO, cooperation with the SCO countries, creates conditions for the development of the Russian economy, and thus for the social sphere and for resolving the tasks related to improving the living standards of our citizens.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation includes countries whose population, as has been said many times, comprises almost or even slightly more than half of humanity. It is 25 percent of world GDP. And, most importantly, the national economies in the region, those of the SCO member states, are developing much faster than others in the world.

Now we had a separate meeting. I sat next to the Prime Minister of India at the working dinner. India’s GDP grew by 7 percent, China’s by more than 5 percent. China was in the lead for quite a time and its potential is tremendous. Our trade with these countries is growing fast. If these rates are preserved, and they are bound to be for many objective reasons, we will be one of these countries, next to them, ensuring our interests. This is what we are doing and this is the main point.

Question: This question is certainly worrying very many people in our country. People have already developed certain concerns over the course of the special military operation in Ukraine. We are increasingly seeing strikes, raids and acts of terror even on Russian territory. We are hearing all the time very aggressive statements that the final goal of Kiev and the West is Russia’s disintegration. Meanwhile, many think that Russia’s response to all of this is very restrained. Why is that?

Vladimir Putin: There is nothing new about this. Frankly, I find it even a bit strange to hear your question because Western countries have cultivated the idea of the collapse of the Soviet Union and historical Russia and Russia as such, its nucleus.

I have already cited these statements and studies by some figures in Great Britain during World War I and after it. I cited excerpts from Mr Brzezinski’s writings in which he divided the entire territory of our country into specific parts. True, later he changed his position a bit in the belief that it was better to keep Russia in opposition to China and use it as a tool to combat China. It will never happen. Let them address their own challenges as they see fit. But we are seeing how they are handling them and, most likely, they are doing harm to themselves in the process. Their tools are no good.

But they have always been seeking the dissolution of our country – this is very true. It is unfortunate that at some point they decided to use Ukraine for these purposes. In effect – I am answering your question now and the conclusion suggests itself – we launched our special military operation to prevent events from taking this turn. This is what some US-led Western countries have always been seeking – to create an anti-Russia enclave and rock the boat, threaten Russia from this direction. In essence, our main goal is to prevent such developments.

With regard to our restrained response, I would not say it was restrained, even though, after all, a special military operation is not just another warning, but a military operation. In the course of this, we are seeing attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks and damage our civilian infrastructure.

Indeed, we were quite restrained in our response, but that will not last forever. Recently, Russian Armed Forces delivered a couple of sensitive blows to that area. Let’s call them warning shots. If the situation continues like that, our response will be more impactful

Terrorist attacks are a serious matter. In fact, it is about using terrorist methods. We see this in the killing of officials in the liberated territories, we even see attempts at perpetrating terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation, including – I am not sure if this was made public – attempts to carry out terrorist attacks near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants in the Russian Federation. I am not even talking about the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant.

We are monitoring the situation and will do our best to prevent a negative scenario from unfolding. We will respond if they fail to realise that these approaches are unacceptable. They are, in fact, no different than terrorist attacks.

Question: Kiev recently published draft security guarantees for Ukraine. What can you tell us about this, and what is your assessment of this project?

Vladimir Putin: Frankly, I am not familiar with what they have come up with this time. We, in fact, started with this when we were negotiating with the incumbent Kiev authorities and, in fact, completed this negotiating process in Istanbul with the well-known Istanbul agreement, after which we withdrew our troops from Kiev in order to create the proper conditions for concluding this agreement. Instead of concluding an agreement, Kiev immediately turned down all agreements, shoved them into a box and said they would not seek any agreement with Russia, but instead would pursue victory on the battlefield. Let them try. They are just now trying to do this with the counteroffensive. Let’s see how it ends.

As for security guarantees, and these were fairly tough security guarantees, they were required from our side, from the main NATO countries and regional states, including Turkiye. Overall, we agreed with this – to a large extent. There were some things that required minor adjustments but overall we agreed and these were quite serious requirements. However, the Kiev authorities shelved them.

What have they come up with? I don’t know because they change their position on every issue almost every day. I must have a look.

I would like to recall in this connection that before the start of the special military operation, we talked about security principles and measures on ensuring the security of Russia itself but nobody deemed it necessary to respond to this. Unfortunately.

Q: Could you please share your opinion on the course of the special military operation? Is it necessary to adjust the plan?

Vladimir Putin: No, the plan will not be adjusted. The General Staff takes real-time decisions in the course of the operation and some are considered a key, the main goal. The main goal is to liberate the entire territory of Donbass.

This work continues despite the attempts of the Ukrainian army to launch a counter-offensive. We are not stopping our offensive operations in Donbass itself. They continue. They continue at a slow pace but consistently and gradually, the Russian army is taking more and more new territory.

I must emphasise that we are fighting not with a full army but only with part, with contracted forces. But, of course, this is linked with certain personnel parameters and so on. This is why we are not in a rush in this respect. But essentially, there have been no changes. The General Staff considers some objectives important and others secondary but the main task remains the same and it is being carried out.

Question: Did President of Turkiye Erdogan make proposals on your meeting with Zelensky at this meeting?

Vladimir Putin: He always suggests meeting with Zelensky. He has been doing this for a long time and there is nothing bad about it. The President of Turkiye is making a substantial contribution to normalising the situation, including resolution of the food problem. The export of Ukrainian grain via Odessa is largely the result of his work. So, he is really making a tangible contribution to resolving a number of serious issues that are arising in connection with this crisis. And, of course, it is only natural that he also suggests meeting with President Zelensky, thinking that it may produce some positive result. He did not raise it at this meeting.

Question: On what conditions could there be dialogue with Ukraine now, if it is possible at all?

Vladimir Putin: But they refuse. The first condition is that they agree to it. But they do not want it. Mr Zelensky has publicly announced – I do not know where exactly, but he said it publicly – that he is not ready and does not want to talk to Russia. Well, if he is not ready, fine.

Click here to read the rest of this press interaction

Tamil Nadu: Time to Tame Hate Campaign

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507 views
3 mins read

For the last several decades, there have been hate campaigns against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not-so-subtle manner.

Initially, it was a hate campaign against Brahmins and the Brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked.  Fearing such conditions, many Brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad.  Now, the Brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against Brahmins were responsible.

 Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared Brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. 

For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view.

However, in the last eighteen months in Tamil Nadu after the new government has taken over, the hate campaign against Hindu religion has resumed with full vigour and now it appears to be at the peak.

Even during one of the earlier regimes, when Tamil Nadu was ruled by the same party as at present, the then chief minister called Hindus as thieves and questioned the claim of   Hindu God Ram constructing the Sethu bridge and derisively asked as to in which engineering college Hindu God Ram studied.  In spite of such obnoxious remarks, Hindus really did not react in any significant way then.

Now, the worst has happened with a member of parliament who belongs to the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, publicly stating that Hindus are children of prostitutes.

What is particularly shocking is that the Tamil Nadu government has not taken any action against this man. By remaining silent, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and his colleagues appear to give an impression that they agree with the statement of this man.  This is unfortunate.

We know that in the case of Christians or Muslims if anyone were to make an objectionable remark against their region and practices, Muslims and Christians will rise as one man and protest. Of course, the Tamil Nadu government would have immediately taken action against the persons who criticize Islam or Christianity. This is as it should be.

The disturbing question is as to why in the case of Hindu religion, the Tamil Nadu government allows the anti-Hindu hate campaigners to go scot-free.

Though the present Tamil Nadu government claims that it is secular in outlook, several recent actions of Tamil Nadu government against Hindu religious practices appear to give a contrary impression,  that it may not really be secular, in letter and spirit as far as the Hindus are concerned.

In the last eighteen months, after the present government has taken over in Tamil Nadu, one of the focus points of the government is Hindu temples.   With the claim of protecting the interests of Hindu temples and with the claim of “reforming” the Hindu religious practices, there has been gross interference in the affairs of the Hindu temples.  For the first time, archakas (priests) in Hindu temples are being appointed by the government of Tamil Nadu after providing some sort of “training” for a short period. These appointed priests do not know several procedures in Hindu temples and in the process, several well trained Hindu archakas serving for long years have lost their jobs.

The government is taking over the gold, silver and other assets of the temples and is melting them, though these silver and gold have been donated to temples by devotees in the last several decades. Tamil Nadu government behaves as if it is the owner of the Hindu temples and seem to assume that it can do anything  as far as Hindu temples are concerned.   So many other acts of Tamil Nadu government against Hindu religious practices can be readily cited. 

One striking practice that cannot be ignored by anyone is that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and his ministers would not greet Hindus during their festivals but would inevitably greet Christians and Muslims on the occasion of their festivals. Why is this?

The situation has now reached an alarming level that any Hindu hate campaigner can write or say anything against Hinduism and can get away with it without being hauled by the authorities. Dangerous and chaotic conditions are now developing in Tamil Nadu,  where Hindu religion, with more than 80% of the Tamil Nadu population being Hindus,  is targeted,  criticized, abused day in and day out, with the  Tamil Nadu government watching the scenario as if it has not heard them. 

Hindus in Tamil Nadu are known to be very tolerant and peace loving and perhaps, this is why such anti Hindu campaign are being conducted, taking the reactions from Hindus for granted. However, with the hate campaigner going to the extent of calling Hindus as children of prostitutes, the breaking point has been now reached. This situation should not be allowed to continue.

Whatever may be the personal view of the Chief Minister and ministers in Tamil Nadu government and the leaders of some of the alliance parties with ruling party, Tamil Nadu government should stop this hate Hindu campaign forthwith and put down the hate campaigners with an iron hand.

 If Tamil Nadu government were to fail to do this, the consequence would be too severe to imagine.

Certainly, Tamil Nadu deserves better.

Dictator Biden’s Double Standard

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4 mins read

As blood-red lighting stained the backdrop, the dark black sky rendered an eerie aura of despotism. Members of the military stood guard clutching their weapons in a show of power. Like a tyrannical allocution, US President Joe Biden lifted his hands clenched tightly into a fist and condemned his political opposition as being extremists and a threat to democracy. He propagated words of division to an already heavily-polarised population split along lines of party, politics and ideology.

Joe Biden took to the stage in downtown Philadelphia to issue a speech of mere opprobrium pointed bluntly toward the rivals of his political camp. His clenched fists thrown into the air complemented by his bared teeth and glare of hostility reminded the world of Hitler’s speeches at the Nazi conventions in WWII Europe.

By declaring that former President Donald Trump and his supporters are a threat to American democracy, Joe Biden essentially promulgated that over 77 million of his own people are extremists. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic”, Joe Biden raged.

The timing of his schismatic speech is politically felicitous as it comes a few weeks before the 2022 mid-term elections – an event that could witness a return of the Republican party to control the House or Senate. The botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the immigrant crisis on the Southern border and the devastated economy are some of the principal talking points of the Republican camp.

White House officials termed Biden’s address as the ‘battle for the soul of the nation’ and Biden claimed that he speaks to America on ‘sacred’ ground. This sort of language reminds any political reader of the authoritative attributes of the famous Big Brother, in George Orwell’s classic; 1984. This is of course complemented by the widespread censorship of opposing political views on mainstream media and big tech platforms as well as the rampant cancel culture that seems to have infiltrated social life across the globe.

As the Biden-Harris administration plummets to become the second least popular duo in office, White House officials work hard to put on a dazzling show before the mid-terms. However, being flanked by Marines complemented by Nazi-like lighting behind the president is probably the worst backdrop that the strategists could come up with.

Biden’s comments on his political opponents come as a result of the forced entry of Trump supporters into the US Capitol on 06 January 2021 – for which court cases and trials are open to date. The US judiciary, politicians and legal system have arrested, are trying and will sentence scores of Trump supporters for storming their government buildings.

Yet the very sanctimonious posturing lies in the hypocritical statements of Western representatives with regard to the Sri Lankan Aragalaya regime change operation. While Biden condemned insurrectionists as ‘extremists’ threatening American democracy, his ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, hailed the Sri Lankan insurrectionists as ‘peaceful protesters’. Why is it that the insurrectionists of Sri Lanka were defended as peaceful yet when America is threatened in the same way, their insurrectionists are castigated as a threat? Perhaps post-colonial neo-imperialism is the underlying impetus.

The Aragalaya movement in Sri Lanka was the propulsion of mob violence driven by behind-the-scenes political strategists. Kumar Gunaratnam’s Peratugami and the Anthare played pivotal roles in the planning, organising and executing of the protest-riot compilation. The raging mob violence left millions of rupees in damages in Galle Face alone. The same mobs burned down over sixty homes of lawmakers, destroyed over fifty public and private vehicles and waged incendiarism in the current President’s residence – but yes, according to Ambassador Chung, they are ‘peaceful protesters’.

When Sri Lanka attempted to protect her national assets by making the insurrectionists leave the invaded government buildings, including the Presidential Secretariat, Presidential Residence and Prime Minister’s Residence, the US and Western officials released tweets and reports against President Wickremesinghe’s actions. Yet when their own Capitol building was invaded by insurrectionists, the US government deployed over 26,000 National Guard troops to quell the demonstrations. The double standard in handling crises is not just appalling, but rather vituperative in the larger sense of geopolitical regard.
Of course, this sort of hypocrisy is not new to the table as the same Western governments that unfoundedly accuse Sri Lanka of unsubstantiated war crimes and manipulated ‘genocides’, enjoy immunity from condemnation for their crimes in wars across the world, especially during the Invasion of Iraq and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria.

Biden’s antagonist-like monologue lambasted the Trump-aligned population of America as being “a clear and present danger” who placed “a dagger at the throat of [American] democracy”. Does the US diplomatic community suggest that Sri Lanka is not in ‘clear and present danger’ from the politically charged regime change operation that transpired here?

The American state and people have been a friend of Sri Lanka for decades. The political bond that was enjoyed during the JR-Reagan period is one of diplomatic brilliance and political prosperity. Likewise, the US military has always had a cordial relationship with its Sri Lankan counterparts. Amongst several instances, the US Navy Pacific Command provided intelligence to the Sri Lankan government of LTTE terrorist activity to hunt down terrorist ships and crew during the war. Alternatively, the Sri Lankan military provided Jungle Warfare training to foreign troops. The potential inconvenience to this politico-militaristic relationship stems from mishandled diplomacy on both sides of the spectrum; including the double standard view of the US government as well as the failure of the Sri Lankan diplomatic corps in building a stronger relationship with its Western counterparts.

The LTTE international network carries out its compelling strategy of lobbying, litigation and lawmaking in the global arena. By lobbying foreign politicians with funds and votes, the LTTE international body attempts to achieve the vision of separatism through international geopolitics after having failed to achieve it through sheer brutal terrorism on the island. At the same time, the ongoing shift in US foreign policy away from the political ecosystem of the Middle East and towards the Indo-Pacific region signals a potentially intense power play in the region.

The Sri Lankan government and diplomatic corps must immediately understand the severity of this impending materialisation and prepare themselves at the earliest. The economic condition of the country and the failing political stability have rendered the nation a regional punching bag, as rightly commented by President Wickremesinghe. A punching bag will not survive the storm – only a ship with a sturdy sail and adept steering can make it through. It is time Sri Lanka builds her sail and firmly lays her hands on the helm. The storm is coming.

War on Terror: 9/11 in Retrospect

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6 mins read

As the hands of the great chronograph of time strike to symbolise twenty-one years since that day of sheer terror in downtown New York, the world reflects upon the new type of war that has enkindled the world for all these years. As the haunting wails of victims pulsated across the globe, the extremist Islamist brand of terror took the centre stage of destruction.

9/11 marks a tragic memory of loss for the American people. People gathered at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan to observe an annual ritual of remembering the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost in the terror attacks. The crowd raised the popular slogan, “Never Forget” to pay tribute to the precious lives lost and to the resolve of the American nation against terrorism. Army General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remembered it as “an attack on the American nation as a whole” and the failure of terrorists in destroying the freedom of the nation. The attacks on 9/11 reflected a growing threat to the peaceful community of the world.

Bin Laden’s model of terror resembled an idiosyncratic fusion of politico-religious fundamentalism as well as anti-Americanist sentiment. The newspapers on 9th September 2001 reported, “America is under attack”. People watched in disbelief as the most powerful country in the world seemed vulnerable and helpless in the face of such blatant provocation. The unipolar world power of the 90s was struck in the heart by an ideological fiend of terror. The very magnitude of severity with which the mighty Global Power was assaulted shocked the ends of the earth. 9/11 is still regarded as the single deadliest attack on US soil.

As al-Qaeda openly and brazenly provoked the US, the latter vindictively declared a counterattack against al-Qaeda and their organisational haven in Kabul – the Taliban. Then-President George W. Bush announced that the US will “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them”. This announcement materialised through the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 07 of the same year, when US Army Special Forces, colloquially known as the ‘Green Berets’ were deployed into Afghanistan to decimate the al-Qaeda operational infrastructure and network. The operation also aimed to oust the Taliban government from Afghanistan due to the very national security threat that the country posed to the US. This operation which was launched with a clear aim in mind, soon turned into an ambiguous and controversial war – famously dubbed the War on Terror.

The War on Terror became the longest war ever fought by the US spanning over twenty years. The Taliban regime collapsed a month after the attack and Bin Laden fled Afghanistan and remained in hiding for close to a decade. When the war completed its first ten years, Bin Laden was finally struck down by Seal Team Six (DEVGRU) in 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. With that, the primary goal of the US was accomplished which was to rout both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. At this stage in 2011, the US had planted the pro-US government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.

The remainder of their operations in Afghanistan was fought without any particular goals to accomplish – something that had been up for debate for several years with multiple high-profile figures advocating for withdrawal. The US claimed that its goal was to create a strong democratic government in Afghanistan so that the Taliban can never roll back into power. Fast forward to 2021, the Taliban rolled back to power stronger than before and with the mighty brunt of the US arsenal courtesy of the Biden-Harris administration.

The War on Terror was jointly supported by many countries. Although combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other affiliated regions have greatly ceased, other aspects of the war like the prevention of financing terrorism persist. The successes of this war are plentiful on the operational dimension; however, it has also garnered multitudes of criticism on accusations of aggravating the threat. Various proxy campaigns, especially under the Obama administration have led to Made in USA weaponry getting into the hands of insurgents, terrorists and radicals. In the Syrian theatre, US funding and weapons strengthened rebel groups against President Bashar al-Assad, yet it irresponsibly led to the arming of the Islamic State in the region.

Due to the War in Afghanistan, the US not only faced external condemnation but internal criticism as well. As the war prolonged, the cost of the war increased over time, in the form of both human and financial losses. The US spent over USD 2.31 trillion with over 243,000 deaths in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, neologistically referred to as AfPak within US foreign policy circles. This made the American public ‘war-weary’ and the war goals were seen as unworthy in the face of human and financial costs. On the other hand, the international community started calling out the US as this war had no end in sight. One of the most criticised aspects of war was the use of drones by the US. UN experts expressed this concern by calling drone strikes ‘counter-productive’ as they do more harm than good owing to heavy civilian casualties. Obama’s warfare strategy incorporated the launching of thousands of drone and air strikes in war zones in the Middle East and Central Asia, killing scores of civilians in the process. In addition, the countries whose territories were used in waging this war became the frontline against terrorists. For instance, a report by Nobel prize-winner concluded that around 80,000 people were killed, both directly and indirectly, in Pakistan alone as a result of the war on terror.

On the positive side, 9/11 and the War on Terror rapidly mobilised the Western security community to realise dormant terror cells within their borders. This enabled the dismantling of various foreign terrorist networks including Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the mid-2000s, the Western security apparatus dismantled multiple funding links between the LTTE international network and the LTTE terrorists in Sri Lanka’s North and East. Numerous LTTE front organisations that disguised as cultural and charity institutions were raided, investigated and proscribed for terrorist financing, arms procurement and war taxes. Among these, the World Tamil Movement (Canada) and World Tamil Coordinating Committee (US) received much of the limelight.

The underlying impetus that al-Qaeda used to garner support from Muslim countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia was the prevalence of anti-Americanist sentiments. The Muslim world sees the US as a foreign force that attempts to enforce its rule over smaller nations. The unilateral invasion of Iraq, wars in Afghanistan, and the non-resolution of the Palestine issue are some of the major reasons for such sentiments. When the propagation of the thesis of ‘Clash of Civilisations’ was carried out by Western intellectuals and disseminated across Western media, a natural aura of insecurity engulfed the Muslim world, which was vaguely isolated in the world.

The US fighting wars in Islamic regions of the world was perceived as evidence of ‘US vs Muslim’ sentiments – something that was and is capitalised on by extremists across the world. Osama bin Laden exploited these sentiments to achieve his ulterior ambitions, just as Zahran Hasheem did in order to launch the 2019 Easter Sunday Attacks. Although the violent activities of terrorists should be unquestionably condemned, distorted strategies by the Western security community – especially the invasion of Iraq – should be condemned as well.

Even after fighting the beasts of terror for twenty long years, the US failed in its attempt to militarily stop the Taliban from gaining power in Afghanistan. The Doha Peace Deal between the US and the Taliban in 2020 was seen as the acceptance of this failure. By sitting at the same table with the Taliban and accepting them as major stakeholders in Afghanistan, the US fundamentally declared that the two decades spent on the war were a lost cause. After all this time, the Biden-Harris administration handed over the reins of power back to the Taliban – the very group that was denied rule in 2001. The relations between the US and the Taliban have seen many surprising changes; from being the supporters during the Soviet War in Afghanistan from 1979-1989 to being the cut-throat enemies after 9/11, the relationship evolved. Finally resulting in the most current development where both parties showcase a feigned acceptance of the co-existence of each other.

The Doha Peace Deal led to the total withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. After this withdrawal, Kabul fell on 15th August 2021 without any resistance from the US-trained Afghan army. US-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul before the Taliban terrorists entered the capital. This raised many eyebrows across the world as the CIA had predicted otherwise. Reports suggested that the United States has spent almost $83 billion on the training of the Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). Thus, the Marshall plan by the US to develop and equip the Afghanistan government’s resilience against terrorist organisations fell headfirst into the ground. Despite thorough attacks that often resulted in civilian casualties, the top militaries of the world were unable to dismantle a terrorist network that primarily operated from Afghanistan cave systems. Alternatively, the Sri Lankan military was able to decimate the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world (FBI statement 2008) and that too after conducting the world’s largest hostage rescue mission by rescuing approximately 200,000 civilians from the trappings of the LTTE’s human shields.

Although 9/11 raised an outcry for action from every section of American society, the retrospective view of the decisions taken by the Bush administration reveals the very inefficiency and miscalculations of some of those actions. A very prominent example is the Patriot Act, which was passed 45 days after the attacks. It was passed under the cloak of combating terrorism but is accused of jeopardising the civil rights of people in America and proved that the ambitious US government even used 9/11 as an opportunity to achieve its goals.

9/11 is rightly described by analysts as the most striking event of the century that reverberated across space and time. Afghanistan became a war-torn country; Pakistan faced the spillover effect of terrorism in the neighbourhood and multiple affiliated regions were stuck in the vicious cycle of terrorism. On one side, 9/11 reinvigorated an exceptional sense of unity among the people of the US. On the other hand, it created havoc in Afghanistan that lost any semblance of stability and prosperity.

Time to Unveil Trump’s Basement Documents

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771 views
8 mins read

Whatever your feelings about former President Trump, there are reasons to be skeptical when government officials say it was necessary to raid his Florida home to recover classified documents that threatened national security.

Like the former president, I was once accused by the government of mishandling classified information connected to my representation of a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. There was nothing in my client’s file that posed any danger to national security. My client was an innocent shopkeeper who was sold to the Americans back in 2003 when the U.S. was paying bounties to corrupt Afghan warlords to turn in Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, and then shipping those men 8,000 miles to our newly built prison camp in Cuba. The government decided to classify every document in the detainee files as “secret,” not to protect national security, but so it could lie with impunity and tell the American people that the prisoners at Gitmo were the “worst of the worst,” and “terrorists” captured on the battlefield.

I never revealed any classified information. I got into trouble after writing an article criticizing the government’s practice of classifying certain evidence above the security clearance level of the detainee’s lawyer, making it impossible to challenge. Following a hearing at the Department of Justice, I was allowed to keep my security clearance long enough to see my client released back to his home and his family after 12 years of unjust imprisonment.

I was never in serious legal jeopardy. But the experience opened my eyes to the ways that our government abuses its power to classify information as “secret” to protect its own officials from embarrassment or criminal exposure. Since 9/11, the people most aggressively pursued for mishandling classified materials are whistleblowers, not traitors.

Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange revealed official crimes such as the murder of unarmed Iraqi civilians and journalists. Daniel Hale revealed that our drone assassination program regularly slaughters innocent civilians, contrary to public statements about surgical strikes. John Kiriakou revealed inconvenient facts about our torture program. Edward Snowden revealed an illegal mass surveillance program. All these truth-tellers were aggressively pursued under the Espionage Act. Assange may die in prison for telling the truth about the crimes of our leaders.

While Trump may not fit the mold of a selfless whistleblower, there is still cause for concern. First, the official justifications for the raid on Mar-a-Lago are highly suspect. Initially we were told that Trump possessed “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons” that he might sell to a foreign government like Saudi Arabia. This shocking accusation has been quietly dropped. Now we are told that the government has “grave concern” that Trump might blow the cover on “clandestine human sources” described in the mainstream media as the “lifeblood” of our intelligence community. “Disclosure could jeopardize the life of the human source,” a former legal adviser to the National Security Council told the New York Times.

This second justification—to protect sources—is also dubious. The DOJ has been in negotiation with Trump’s lawyers since he left the oval office with his boxes of documents. If the government was just concerned about protecting its informants, a deal could have easily been struck wherein government lawyers would go to Mar-a-Lago and redact the lines in the documents that identify informants without the need for a full-blown raid.

The sudden concern in the mainstream media about protecting informants in order to take down Trump is short-sighted. The U.S. has a long and sordid history of using corrupt, lying informants to launch disastrous policies like the Iraq War. In 2002-03, we were told by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell that the government had “solid intelligence” that the Iraqi regime possessed mobile production facilities for biological and chemical weapons. Had ordinary Americans then had access to the intelligence reports—leaked years later, after the disastrous war was in full flight—we would have learned that the “solid intelligence” about mobile weapons labs came from a single informant named “Curveball,” who had been described by his handlers as “crazy” and “probably a fabricator” and his intelligence as “highly suspect.” Had some brave patriot leaked these reports in real time, millions more Americans would have taken to the streets in 2002 to stop the planned invasion of Iraq.

The media should be demanding more information from our government, especially about its use of informants, and not more secrecy. It is a basic rule of journalism that governments lie, and they often bribe (and sometimes torture) informants to support those lies.

Many innocent men, including my client, were sent to Guantanamo Bay on the word of informants who were bribed with large cash rewards. If these informants are the lifeblood of our intelligence service, then that service should be defunded.

A more plausible explanation for the Mar-a-Lago raid was provided by two high-level U.S. intelligence officials who told Newsweek’s William M. Arkin that the true target of the raid was a personal “stash” of hidden documents that Justice Department officials feared Donald Trump might weaponize. This stash reportedly included material that Trump thought would exonerate him of any claims of Russian collusion in 2016 or any other election-related charges. “Trump was particularly interested in matters related to the Russia hoax and the wrong-doings of the deep state,” one former Trump official told Newsweek.

This explanation is corroborated by former senior director for counterterrorism Kash Patel, who prepared a key House report that revealed “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” in connection with the Intelligence Community’s Assessment on Russian interference. But the CIA has blocked the release of Patel’s report by classifying it as “secret.”

Kash Patel, who is a current board member of Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG), began his career in government under President Obama as a national security prosecutor and later held several positions in the Trump administration. In April 2017, he was picked to lead a team of investigators for the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republican Devin Nunes (now CEO of TMTG), and tasked with evaluating the “Intelligence Community Assessment” (ICA) on Russian interference. Although the media touted the ICA as the consensus view of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, it was in fact a rushed job completed in the final days of the Obama administration by a small group of CIA analysts led by then-CIA Director John Brennan.

Patel’s team obtained and reviewed the key documents underlying the ICA’s conclusions, and interviewed around 70 witnesses under oath. His demands that intelligence agencies produce relevant documents caused a stir among deep state officials unaccustomed to being called to account for their actions. As the Washington Post reported, “Democrats criticized the unusual direct requests to the agencies” by Patel’s team of investigators. Patel, a former public defender, apparently believed that even the intelligence community should be subject to the rule of law.

In March 2018, Patel’s team produced a report that found serious flaws in the CIA’s Russia investigation and called into question the intelligence community’s key claims that Russia ordered a cyber-hacking and interference campaign to help Trump. The CIA’s response to Patel’s report was to classify it as secret and block its release.

During the next three years, Patel and others, including then-President Trump and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, pushed for declassification of Patel’s report on the ICA. But the heads of the intelligence agencies continued to obstruct, claiming that releasing the report “would compromise intelligence sources and methods” and cause “harm… to national security, including specific harm to the military.” Trump eventually backed down.

Then in December 2020, according to the Post, Trump tried to fire Gina Haspel as CIA director for “resisting efforts by Trump and Patel to declassify” Patel’s report. But once again, Trump backed down and the document still remains under lock and key. Not surprisingly, in its article about Patel’s battle with the intelligence community, the Washington Post sides with the CIA, describing CIA Director Haspel and her colleagues, who demanded that Patel’s report criticizing their work be kept secret, as “courageous officialswho sought to protect the government.”

Patel has publicly voiced his frustration with the CIA for blocking release of his report on the ICA. “I think there were people within the IC [Intelligence Community], at the heads of certain intelligence agencies, who did not want their tradecraft called out, even though it was during a former administration, because it doesn’t look good on the agency itself,” Patel said in an interview. Patel also said he has been threatened with criminal prosecution just for talking to the media about his classified report. The power of government officials to say, ‘we have classified your report and if you even talk about it to the media we might put you in jail,’ is the power of a despot.

In an interview with the Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, Patel disputed the claim that releasing his report harms national security, noting that his committee released similar reports of its other investigations and “we didn’t lose a single source, we didn’t lose a single relationship, and no one died by the public disclosures we made, because we did it in a systematic and professional fashion.”

For example, in January 2018, Patel authored a report that showed serious abuses by the FBI in the Carter Page investigation, which caused a former FBI lawyer to plead guilty to falsifying information that was used to apply for warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This report criticizing the FBI was released to the public, suggesting that it is still permissible to criticize the FBI, but not the CIA.

Patel’s public statements suggest his agreement with Newsweek’s report that the true motivation for the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago was seizing documents relating to the Russia investigation that Trump took with him when he left the White House. In a recent interview with Real Clear Politics, Patel noted that “the same corrupt FBI government gangsters, the same agents that were involved in Russiagate, the same counterintelligence agents that were involved in making the bad false call on Hunter Biden’s laptop,” are also involved in the raid on President Trump’s home, with the intent to make sure the American public never gets the full story on Russiagate.

The saga of the Mar-a-Lago raid sheds some light on the important question of who really controls what we are permitted to see about the inner workings of our own government. While the sitting president may in theory have unilateral authority to declassify and release information to the American people, the deep state bureaucracy still holds the power to obstruct the president. As one former bureaucrat told CNN, the process for declassification must include signoff from the agency that classified the information in the first place “in order to protect the intelligence-gathering process, its sources and methods.”

Whatever one thinks of Trump, is it really in the public interest to have a deep state controlling what information gets out to the public? In 1953, the CIA directed a military coup that overthrew democratically elected Iranian leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, and in 1973, the CIA helped overthrow democratically elected Chilean leader Salvador Allende. These leaders were targeted not because they were unfriendly to the American people but because they were unfriendly to international oil and copper interests that wanted to exploit those countries’ resources. And while the people of Iran and Chile knew in real time who was responsible, the American people were kept in the dark for decades until key historical documents were finally declassified.

Many scholars believe the CIA was complicit in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Yet 60 years later, thousands of key documents remain redacted or under seal. President Trump came to office promising to release those records, as required by the JFK Records Act. But deep state bureaucrats opposed the release, claiming it would cause “potentially irreversible harm to our Nation’s security.” Trump backed down, quite possibly recalling the fate of the last president to go to war with the CIA.

It’s not necessary to side with Trump to oppose excessive secrecy. It’s our government. We have a right to see whatever secrets Trump had hidden in his basement. And if government bureaucrats are truly concerned that one of their informants might be outed, they can redact those few lines from the reports. But show us the rest.

This article is distributed in partnership with Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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