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a

Chairman

Abdullah S. Kamel

akamel@okaz.com.sa

Director General

Waleed J. Kattan

wjkattan@okaz.com.sa

Deputy Director General

Abdulaziz Alsehli

asehli@okaz.com.sa

Editor-in-Chief

Somayya Jabarti

sjabarti@saudigazette.com.sa

Executive Editor

L. Ramnarayan Iyer

riyer@saudigazette.com.sa

Managing Editor (National)

Mahmoud Ahmad

mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa

Managing Editor (International)

Shams Ahsan

sahsan@saudigazette.com.sa

OPINION

TUESDAY 25 APRIL 2017,

SAUDI GAZETTE

11

Josh Smith&

Hamid Shalizi

Taliban’s brazen attack eclipses Trump’s ‘MOAB’

E

IGHT days after the

US military dropped

its largest ever con-

ventional bomb on

suspected Daesh (the

so-called IS) fighters in eastern

Afghanistan, Taliban militants

breached an army base in the

north of the country and killed

scores of local soldiers.

To Afghan and other critics

of President Donald Trump’s

apparent indecision over how

to win a seemingly intractable

war, Friday’s assault — the

worse of its kind since the

Taliban were ousted in 2001 —

was evidence he was getting it

wrong.

“The biggest threat to the

security and stability of this

country is the Taliban insur-

gents, not Daesh forces,” said

Mirwais Yasini, an influential

Afghan member of parliament

from Nangarhar province.

“You drop your biggest

bomb on Daesh, but what about

the Taliban who kill dozens of

our people every day?“

Nearly 9,000 US troops

remain in Afghanistan, some

7,000 of them to train and as-

sist local forces that Washing-

ton has spent billions of dollars

to build virtually from scratch

in the hope of one day handing

over control completely.

While the advisers are sel-

dom involved in direct combat

with the Taliban or other mili-

tants, a smaller counterterror-

ism unit of about 1,500 soldiers

does engage insurgents, but its

main targets are pockets of Al-

Qaeda and Daesh fighters.

They are estimated to num-

ber in their hundreds, while

the Taliban number thousands

or tens of thousands and have

gained swathes of territory in

the last few years.

Daesh has claimed several

deadly bombings in Afghanistan

and neighboring Pakistan, but

many experts believe the Tali-

ban are the fundamental threat

to the US-backed government of

President Ashraf Ghani.

Leaders in Washington and

Kabul often had “almost dia-

metrically” opposed views of

the threat, said Christopher Ko-

lenda, a former US Army officer

who served in Afghanistan and

worked on American strategies

for the conflict.

US officials tended to focus on

international groups like Daesh

and Al-Qaeda, while Afghan offi-

cials see Pakistan, and the Taliban

as an extension of that, as the ma-

jor threat, he added.

“With those differences, you

can’t possibly have a coherent

strategy.”

In the final years of former

US President Barack Obama’s

administration,

American

troops in Afghanistan were dis-

couraged from directly target-

ing the Taliban, amid hopes the

group could be brought to the

negotiating table for peace talks.

Despite a surge of tens of

thousands of US soldiers that

ended in 2012, some Afghan of-

ficials became impatient with

what they saw as an American

fixation on withdrawal, and

since then, a lack of focus on

ending the war.

They say the lack of atten-

tion has continued in the first

months of the new Trump ad-

ministration, which has yet to

appoint an ambassador to Kabul

and some of the supporting of-

ficials at the State Department.

“It’s very hard to have a co-

ordinated policy and strategy

when you don’t have positions

filled,” Kolenda said. “From the

Trump administration stand-

point, Afghanistan is pretty far

down the list of priorities.”

In Kabul, some Afghan lead-

ers are angry at what they see as

a failure by the Americans to act

as strongly as possible against

the Taliban, as well as Pakistan,

which they accuse of harboring

and supporting insurgents as a

hedge against Indian influence

in the region.

Pakistan denies this and in-

stead says it is itself a victim

of terrorism, including from

groups operating from within

Afghanistan.

“The Taliban are the single

biggest challenge in the coun-

try, but unfortunately since the

regime’s collapse, the US and

the Afghan government have

not had a clear strategy to elimi-

nate them or push them to nego-

tiation,” said Mohammad Farhad

Sediqi, a member of parliament

from Kabul.

“As you dropped the ‘Mother

of All Bombs’ (MOAB)on Daesh,

there should be one dropped

on the Taliban sanctuaries and

training grounds on the other

side of the border in Pakistan.”

Some statements by incom-

ing US officials have hinted they

may take a harder line on Paki-

stan, but the Trump administra-

tion has yet to outline clearly

new strategies for the region.

Analysts say the recent US-

endorsed strategy of focusing on

protecting major cities and oth-

er population centers in Afghan-

istan while consolidating forces

will not be enough to bring the

Taliban to the negotiating table.

With Afghan army units

pulling back, and in some cases

forced to abandon more scat-

tered and rural bases, the gov-

ernment could only claim to

control or influence 57 percent

of the country, according to US

military estimates late last year.

Resurgent Taliban forces,

meanwhile, control or contest

43 percent of the country, a 15

percent increase over the year

before.

Reuters

Spat on expat

With regard to the article “Responding to ‘spat on ex-

pat’” (April 24) by Mahmoud Ahmad, it’s a well written

article answering the criticism the author was subjected

to for writing about the difficulties the expatriate com-

munity in the Kingdom faces. In fact those who are criti-

cizing someone, who is defending the oppressed people,

seem to be lacking the sense of responsibility. The cam-

paign which was launched against the expatriates lacks

logic, morality and ungratefulness as the expatriates

have participated in building our country. We should

thank them and be kind to them.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi, Online response

May Allah bless the writer for speaking truth! The only

side that I’ve read you on was the side of truth and logic.

“The only way for nationals to establish themselves is to

compete and excel in every field such that the need to

employ an expat would not arise.” I’ve made this state-

ment or similar many times when I come across articles

written against the guest workers. “The language of rac-

ism is not our language. It is against Islam and against

humanity…” I would like to know what was the objec-

tor’s response to this. “They do not want you (the expat)

to invest in the country and they do not want you (the

expat) to transfer the money. Can these persons tell me

what they would do if they were in this situation?” A

better question would’ve been, simply, why? Why don’t

you want the guess workers to invest in the country to

which they work so hard for? Why don’t they want the

guess worker to remit their earning to their families,

which are back home? You stopped short of answering

these questions. I wish you hadn’t. The simply, but pain-

ful truth is, Saudis like your objectors want slaves. Not

only that, they want to oppress their slaves. Let’s call a

spade a spade and not continue to beat around the bush.

The mentality of some of your objectors is that of one

thinking himself superior to another and seeking to gain

mastery and power over him.

UmmAbdullaah, Online response

Racism and nationalism are the garbage of the West

that we, Muslims, have internalized wholeheartedly. Our

religion denounces all kinds of discriminatory ideas and

practices. The writer deserves congratulations for writ-

ing boldly. Moreover the wealth of the Saudi Arabia is

providing sustenance to millions of people abroad.

Kamran, Online response

The article is precise and logical! Middle East countries

could have done extremely well, if they were open to

giving nationality to expats!

Junaid Ashraf, Online response

I would like to thank the author for highlighting the is-

sues which expatriates are facing on a regular basis.

Mohammad Nasir Khan, Online response

Macron must win big to fulfill pledges

E

MMANUEL

Ma-

cron’s camp should

perhaps wait a little

longer.

The young inde-

pendent centrist’s qualifica-

tion on Sunday for the runoff of

France’s presidential election

in two weeks’ time will cer-

tainly bring a sigh of relief in

European capitals and financial

markets; opinion polls suggest

he will beat his far-right rival

Marine Le Pen with ease.

But to have a real chance

of implementing the reform of

France’s economy and politics

that he wants, he needs a victo-

ry big enough to enlist popular

figures from established par-

ties in the parliamentary elec-

tion that follows in June.

According to an almost-

complete count, Macron beat

Le Pen by around 24 percent to

22 percent.

It may have been a huge tri-

umph for a 39-year-old never

elected to public office who was

virtually unknown in France be-

fore becoming economy minister

three years ago, and only founded

his political movement last year.

But it was also, in a packed

field, the lowest score of any

first-round winner since 2002.

Then, it was Jacques Chirac

who scored only 20 percent —

but benefited from a joint effort

by all mainstream parties to

block his National Front chal-

lenger, Le Pen’s father Jean-Ma-

rie, to secure a crushing win in

the runoff by 82 percent to 18.

This time, the mainstream

conservatives and Socialists also

quickly urged their supporters

to vote to block Marine Le Pen.

“He’s going to adopt a ral-

lying posture just like (former

President Jacques) Chirac did

in 2002,” said Francois Kraus of

pollsters Ifop.

But in 2017, the endorse-

ments of conservatives and

Socialists combined accounted

for only 26 percent of votes.

Analysts say that if Macron

fails to win more than 60 per-

cent in the second round, he

may find it hard to reassure a

divided country that he has

what it takes to reform the euro

zone’s second-largest economy,

which is only starting to pick

up speed after five years of

anemic growth.

Then, in turn, he might

struggle to turn his promise to

transcend traditional party di-

vides into a working majority

for his En Marche! (Onwards!)

movement in June’s parliamen-

tary election, six weeks later.

Macron addressed that head-

on in his victory speech, saying

that “the power of the momen-

tum behind me will be the key to

my ability to lead and govern.”

Two surveys conducted on

Sunday put him on 64 and 62

percent respectively for the

Michel

Rose

second round.

But in Le Pen, the former

Rothschild investment banker

faces a formidable rival.

“It’s more complicated than it

looks — a new campaign is start-

ing,” said Francois Miquet-Marty

of pollster Viavoice.

“Marine Le Pen is going to

frame this as a face-off between

Emmanuel Macron, the candi-

date of the globalized elite, and

herself as the people’s candi-

date,” he said. “She has a line of

attack that can hit the bullseye.”

And endorsements from main-

stream parties could also work

against Macron in a country where

the divide between ‘haves’ and

‘have nots’ has been pushing up

support year after year for Le Pen’s

message that only she can defend

French workers’ jobs and rights.

On Sunday night, Le Pen and

her allies dismissed Macron as

the candidate of a dying estab-

lishment: “Change is obviously

not going to come from the heir

of (outgoing president) Fran-

cois Hollande and his disastrous

mandate of failures,” she told

supporters.

Miquet-Marty said Macron

would “need a more offensive

approach, and to distill the mes-

sage that a Macron presidency

would be more peaceful than a

Le Pen one.”

Again, Macron hinted at this

when he told supporters: “The

challenge from tonight is not to

go and vote against whoever it

might be; the challenge is to de-

cide to break completely with a

system that has been incapable of

dealing with our country’s prob-

lems for more than 30 years.”

In his favor, analysts say, is

the fact that 35 percent of vot-

ers thought Macron was the

best candidate to put the French

economy on the right track,

against only 20 percent for

Le Pen, according to a recent

Odoxa poll.

Meanwhile Le Pen’s anti-euro

stance, which is rejected by many

of her own supporters, as well as

a majority of voters, offers him a

promising line of attack.

Many analysts are now turn-

ing their attention beyond his

expected victory in the second

round to ask whether he can

gather the political muscle to

enact his program.

Macron says his party will field

candidates in all 577 constituen-

cies, but he has also made clear

that he will welcome those from

other parties who share his views.

Some 50 Socialist legisla-

tors have already signed up to

his movement, including some

heavyweights, but the bigger his

second-round score, the more at-

tractive it will be for others to fol-

low suit. He might have to make

do with a coalition government.

To many analysts and inves-

tors, the question is whether Ma-

cron’s government, of whatever

shape, can push through policies

— such as relaxing some labor

laws — that are likely to run into

public resistance and have de-

feated previous, seemingly stron-

ger admirations.

“His parliamentary majority

could be extremely fragmented.

We could find ourselves in a situ-

ation similar to what happened

under the Fourth Republic, with

an unstable majority,” said politi-

cal analysts Philippe Cossalter of

Sarre University.

Raphael Brun-Aguerre of

JPMorgan Chase Bank said it

would be very difficult for Ma-

cron to secure a majority in the

lower house, adding: “We thus

expect him to try to form a cross-

party coalition around a narrow

set of reforms.”

Macron’s answer is that he

has spent the last year proving

the pundits wrong, and will do so

again.

“They’re taking the French

for idiots,” he said at a recent

rally. “The French are consistent.

That’s why, six weeks later, they

will give us a majority to govern

and legislate.”

Reuters