MORNING NEWS BRIEF: 16 APRIL
PICTURE OF THE DAY
Migrant people and workers leave the city in speedboats before the countrywide lockdown is imposed, amid the increase in coronavirus disease cases, at Mawa ferry port in Munshiganj, Bangladesh, on April 13, 2021.
Why America couldn’t win its war in Afghanistan
The United States (US) and its allies’ nearly two-decade-long war in Afghanistan is finally drawing to a close after US President Biden announced that American troops will initiate their full withdrawal by May 1st and symbolically complete it before the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some residual forces will remain to protect diplomatic facilities and it can’t be discounted that some private military contracts might stay as well, but this announcement marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new future for the region. It’s therefore worthwhile to reflect on why the US failed to accomplish any of its goals apart from eliminating Al Qaeda’s reported capability to plan international attacks from Afghan territory and the superficial creation of a so-called “democratic” government in Kabul (even if the latter is only upheld by foreign forces and might soon fall).
Indian and Pakistani intelligence officers held secret talks to break Kashmir stand-off
Top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Ties between the nuclear-armed rivals have been on ice since a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir in 2019 traced to Pakistan-based militants that led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan. Later that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew Indian-ruled Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten his grip over the territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade. But the two governments have reopened a back channel of diplomacy aimed at a modest roadmap to normalising ties over the next several months, the people said. Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, both of which claim all of the region but rule only in part. Officials from India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the external spy agency, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence travelled to Dubai for a meeting facilitated by the United Arab Emirates government, two people said.
Top US envoy Blinken in Afghanistan for troop withdrawal talks
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has begun an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to brief officials on President Joe Biden’s plan to withdraw all American troops by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks this year. Blinken on Thursday met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as senior US officials in Kabul and briefed them on Biden’s Wednesday’s announcement that he was ending “the forever war”, which began in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Biden announced that the remaining 2,500 US soldiers in Afghanistan would be withdrawn from Afghanistan starting on May 1 to end its longest war, rejecting calls for them to stay to ensure a peaceful resolution to that nation’s grinding internal conflict.
US not criticizing India over human rights exposes hypocrisy
On Tuesday, CNN published an opinion piece entitled "Why Biden should be careful about courting India's Modi government." It warned the Biden administration to avoid an "all carrots" courtship with India because, "it's not in America's interest to become close partners with countries moving away from shared values." It underlined India's alarming "negative rights trend," but criticized the Biden administration for only making "mild" critiques against the regressive actions of the Modi government.
Facebook planned to remove fake accounts in India – until it realized a BJP politician was involved
Facebook allowed a network of fake accounts to artificially inflate the popularity of an MP from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), for months after being alerted to the problem. The company was preparing to remove the fake accounts but paused when it found evidence that the politician was probably directly involved in the network, internal documents seen by the Guardian show. The company’s decision not to take timely action against the network, which it had already determined violated its policies, is just the latest example of Facebook holding the powerful to lower standards than it does regular users.
Nepal: Verdict ahead of parliamentary hearing raises multiple questions
A recent Supreme Court decision has put a spotlight, once again, on how the principle of checks and balances is facing a threat in Nepal. The Supreme Court said on Monday that a nominee is “qualified” to become a justice at the top court, days before his appearance at the parliamentary hearing committee, which constitutionally is the rightful authority to endorse or reject the nomination made by the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council on March 12 recommended Nahakul Subedi, along with Kumar Chudal, both High Court chief judges, for appointment as justices of the Supreme Court. As per the constitutional provisions that require such nominees to face parliamentary hearings, they are scheduled to appear before the committee on Friday (today).
White House meeting with PM Suga sends signal of tight US-Japan Alliance
That Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will on Friday (April 16) be the first foreign leader to visit the White House in person and meet President Joe Biden, is not in itself unusual; Japan is the United States' most important ally in Asia. But this time around the question of China, and specifically tension over Taiwan, and so-called "grey zone" operations, looms large. Not to be forgotten either is the fact that Japan and the US comprise half of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes India and Australia. The group of nations had its first summit on March 12, which significantly amplified its scope. In recent weeks, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Defence spokesman warned Japan over the uninhabited Senkaku islands (known as Diaoyu in China), calling them "China's inherent territory". Earlier in January, tension between the People's Liberation Army and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force ratcheted up after Beijing passed a new law allowing its coastguard to fire on foreign ships, which it said was normal international practice but was seen as a warning to Japan. The US wants Taiwan to be included in the joint statement from Friday's meeting.