The Making of the Doha Deal with Taliban and the Future Prospects

Afghanistan Between Negotiations: How the Doha Agreement Will Affect Intra-Afghan Peace
By Andrew Quilty Sunday, July 5, 2020, LAWFARE Blog


Trump entered office promising to end the war in Afghanistan, but former military generals serving on his national security team convinced him to change course. In his August 2017 South Asia Strategy, he vowed to throw the full weight of U.S. military, economic and diplomatic power into bringing an end to the war. The rate of U.S. airstrikes spiked immediately, and in both 2018 and 2019, the U.S. Air Force conducted more airstrikes than in any other year since 2001. The Taliban suffered severe personnel losses countrywide.

The pressure may have prompted a February 2018 open letter from the Taliban calling on the United States to reassess its policies toward Afghanistan. Although by no means a surrender, the letter offered renewed hope for diplomacy.
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Also See: Despite Bloody Week In Afghanistan, U.S. Pushes Taliba…

Governance, Counter-terrorism and Policing in Pakistan


Welcome to the first installment of NESA’s South Asia Interview series with NESA Distinguished Professor Hassan Abbas. We will interview practitioners, politicians, diplomats and scholars from South Asia. These engagements will include NESA alumni from the region as well as US South Asia experts.

Hassan Abbas: What are the three biggest governance challenges faced by Pakistan today?

Azhar Nadeem: The authoritarian mindset in conjunction with the patronage system which has led to the emergence of extractive institutions in Pakistan is the root of all problems. The second plague Pakistan suffers from is the larger than life presence of the garrison and theocracy in the corridors of power and influence.

A direct consequence of these ills is the chaos in the educ…

Roundtable on Advocacy for Police Reforms - National Initiative against Organized Crime Pakistan


Need for a Global Police Reforms Agenda: A Center for Global Policy Event - July 25, 2020


How to Reform Policing in America ?

When police officers are told they’re in a war, they act like it
A CIA officer turned cop speaks out.
By Ezra Klein@ezraklein Jun 2, 2020, Vox

Patrick Skinner spent a decade running counterterrorism operations overseas for the CIA. He worked in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Jordan; met with kings and presidents; rose through the ranks. But he came to believe he was part of the problem, that the very premise of the work was flawed. So he came home, and joined the police force in Savannah, Georgia, where he grew up.

I first learned about Skinner in a New Yorker profile. Then a friend mentioned his Twitter feed to me: There, Skinner reflects, in a thoughtful, continual stream, on the work of policing, the importance of treating your neighbors like neighbors, the daily work of deescalation, and the behavior of his menagerie of pets.

Skinner has been particularly outspoken in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. “We have to change our profession,” he wrote. “We aren’t warriors. We aren’t at war wi…

Protests and Policing in America Today: Five Critical Lessons

Protests and Policing in America Today: Five Critical Lessons By Hassan Abbas Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University Washington DC June 5, 2020
The widespread protests across the United States in the aftermath of the tragic killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, at the hands of a police officer raises important questions about police professionalism and rule of law. Police organizations across the world and in the US are already under severe stress due to the Covid – 19 challenge. The ongoing protests bring to the limelight how ordinary Americans are registering their anger and frustration at poor policing practices that are being seen as a regular law enforcement feature in certain areas. It is a sensitive issue with implications for racial harmony.

It is important to learn lessons from this unfortunate development and ponder over effective responses. In principle, protests are a sign of a healthy democratic order. Protests are…

Updates: What are Taliban up to?

Afghan Taliban leader says committed to deal with the US In Eid message Haibatullah Akhunzada asks US 'not to waste' the opportunity offered by the deal to end 19-year-old war.
May 20, 2020, Aljazeera

The leader of the Taliban said on Wednesday that his group was committed to a landmark deal with the US, despite being accused of carrying out hundreds of attacks in Afghanistan since it was signed in February.

Haibatullah Akhunzada urged Washington "not to waste" the opportunity offered by the deal to end the US's longest war in a message released ahead of next week's Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

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Operation Freedom Sentinel DOD Lead Inspector General quarterly report January 1, 2020, through March 31, 2020 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
U.S.-Taliban Agreement Signed Amid Fluctuating Violence 
On February 29, U.S. and Taliban representatives signed an agreement in which the Taliban agreed to prevent terroris…

Politics and Security in Iraq: 5 Dominating Themes


Iraq Update: Can the new Prime Minister deliver ?


Hassan Abbas, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies,  May 12, 2020
After a prolonged political deadlock, Iraq finally has a new prime minister: former Iraqi intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi, an independent candidate. The task before him is gigantic, with challenges ranging from economic crisis due to coronavirus and collapsing oil revenues, to deteriorating relations with the U.S. and a worsening domestic security situation. ISIS attacks in areas bordering Syria have witnessed an uptick in recent weeks.

The 53-year-old Mustafa al-Kadhimi has an interesting background. He began his career as a journalist known for his scathing criticism of President Saddam Hussein, forcing him to move to exile in Iran, Germany, and then the UK. He returned to Iraq after Saddam’s brutal regime collapsed. He is the author of many books, including Humanitarian Concerns, which in 2000 was selected by the EU as the best book written by a politica…

India's Tackling of Pandemic And a Worsening Image Problem

Modi’s Coronavirus Test
The Pandemic Offers a Struggling India the Chance to Reset
By Anubhav Gupta and Puneet Talwar
Foreign Affairs, May 04, 2020

The novel coronavirus is an enormous test for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Not only must his government contain the spread of the virus in one of the densest, most populous countries in the world but it must prevent social-distancing measures from pushing India’s flagging economy over the cliff into free fall. Even before the pandemic, the country was struggling with slow growth, high unemployment, and widening social divisions. Now, the coronavirus is exacerbating all three problems—risking a perfect storm of health, economic, and social crises.

But the pandemic also gives Modi a chance to hit the reset button. So far, he deserves credit for acting with urgency. India evacuated its citizens from China, Iran, and other epicenters of the virus in February and March. It shut its borders to almost all foreigners and initiated a contact-t…

Afghanistan: Next Round - By Hamid Hussain

Afghanistan – Next Round Afghan Style
Hamid Hussain, May 1, 2020
“However tall the mountain is, there is a road to the top of it”.   Afghan Proverb 

United States and Taliban signed an agreement in February 2020.  The agreement was to pave the way for withdrawal of US troops and integration of Taliban in Afghan political system. The next step was exchange of 5000 Taliban and 1000 Afghan government prisoners.  This also proved to be the first hurdle.  Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insisted on linking prisoner release with cease fire.  Taliban rejected it and under US pressure, Ghani released few hundred Taliban prisoners. 
In the deal with US, Taliban agreed not to threaten “security of US and its allies’.  Taliban defined only Europeans as ‘US allies.  Off course they don’t consider Afghan government as US ally therefore they continued to attack government forces. On the start of the Muslim holy months of Ramazan, Ghani asked again for a ceasefire.  Taliban representative in his response …

Pakistan and the Future of the Taliban

Pakistan and the Future of the Taliban: 10 Things to Consider by  Hassan Abbas
March 30, 2020, Center for Global Policy, Washington DC. 

Developing an intra-Afghan understanding is a necessary step for peacebuilding in Afghanistan, but it cannot happen with Afghanistan’s neighbors pulling the various groups in different directions. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, had a clear mandate to cut a deal with the Taliban and, to give him his due, he pursued it with vigor. The much awaited next step entails a difficult negotiation process between the jihadist group and the Afghan state. However, a regional settlement, while complicated, is absolutely required if Afghanistan is to ever fully taste security and stability. An intra-Afghan settlement will be contingent on this regional component. Pakistan will have to play a crucial role in the shaping of such a multilateral agreement.

Iran, Russia, China, and India will also have to be a part of such a…

Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sistani - Is he Irreplaceable?

The Day After Al-Sistani

Hassan Abbas,  Center for Global Policy, February 18, 2020
The world’s most prominent Shiite religious leader, Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, commands a great deal of influence and respect – not just in Iraq, but around the world. Questions about who will succeed the cleric and how the reportedly complicated selection process will unfold are being raised frequently, given his age – and perhaps because of the political instability and rising distress in Iraq and the broader region, especially since the U.S. move to effect regime change in Baghdad in 2003. The principal question is whether he is irreplaceable or if his successor can be expected to fulfill a similar moderating role in Iraqi politics and offer balance in the geopolitics between the United States and Iran. Should U.S. policy makers and strategists be concerned about the transition and succession of religious leadership?

Al-Sistani’s Appeal

Meeting al-Sistani in Najaf a few years ago was as …

Protecting Houses of Worship and Holy Sites - Hearing at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing at the U.S. Congress on Protecting Houses of Worship and Holy Sites 

October 23, 2019 - Testimony by Dr. Hassan Abbas


A house of worship is a sanctuary for reflection, spirituality and peace. It is a sacred space. A consistent pattern of attacks targeting these revered spaces across the globe is a highly condemnable and worrisome development. We have seen glimpses of this evil recently from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, and New Zealand to the United States, with attacks on innocent and peaceful Christians, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims whose only crime was that they were praying to God as per their own traditions. But the attackers were not known as anti-religion per se. The question then, is what caused them to act in such a brutal and heartless manner? Simply put, the various attackers had different goals ranging from political and economic to ideology and identity, but despite such diversity of purposes they were boun…

What are the progressive roots within Islam, and can they be strengthened?

Islam And Liberalism

What are the progressive roots within Islam, and can they be strengthened? A roundtable discussion. BY HASSAN ABBASKEITH ELLISONASRA Q. NOMANIANI ZONNEVELD
Democracy - A Journal of Ideas, SUMMER 2016, NO. 4
Democracy brought together four prominent Muslim Americans who represent a range of progressive political viewpoints to ask them about the progressive roots of Islam, how the religion might revive those more liberal traditions, the extent to which Muslims and non-Muslims should criticize Islam, and more. The discussion took place on April 19, in Representative Keith Ellison’s Capitol Hill office. It was co-moderated by Democracy editor Michael Tomasky and Nation contributor Ali Gharib.

As we went to press, we asked the participants for their reactions to the Orlando tragedy, which are appended at the bottom of this article.

Michael Tomasky: First question. You’re all here because you are, to one degree or another, liberal and Muslim, and a lot of people—and I don’t …

Pakistan's Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence and Deviance (2018) - Book Reviews and Events

Pakistan's Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence and Deviance
Published by Hurst Publishers UK, Oxford University Press, USA and Penguin, India (2018)

Book Launch at the National Defense University, Washington DC with Peter Bergen as Discussant - March 6, 2018

Book Endorsements and Reviews:

"This is the most comprehensive study to date of why and how Pakistan got the bomb and proliferated. Beyond state actors--including China, Iran, North Korea and Libya--Abbas scrutinizes the role of individuals, including A. Q. Khan, in the making of Pakistan's nuclear program and its 'dissemination'."-- Christophe Jaffrelot, Visiting Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King's India Institute and author of The Pakistan Paradox

Abbas’ diligent scrutiny of public sources and his intimate knowledge of Pakistani politics make this the most authoritative study yet written of Khan’s complicated story – By Andrew Nathan, Foreign Affairs (For complete review…

The Myth and Reality of Iraq’s al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces): A Way Forward

The Myth and Reality of Iraq’s al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces): A Way Forward
By Hassan Abbas
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Amman Office September 2017 Amman, Jordan

The contrast was unforgettably awe-invoking: the spontaneous, unpredictable, revolutionary move, entrenched within the gentle, soulful aura of the city’s holiness. The glaring desert sun of Iraq was blazing with full energy, mirroring the people’s voices that took to the streets. It was the mid of June 2014, and the gradual transformation of al-Qaeda in Iraq into the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) was no secret as Mosul had fallen a few days ago, casting a dark shadow upon the lives of millions of Iraqis. But just as heavy as that shadow was, there was an even greater cloud of resistance, pride, and defiance. All before my eyes. I stood on the sandy streets of Najaf as a mere visitor to pursue my study of the “new” Iraq, insignificant in the overwhelming spiritual essence that the atmosphere po…

Women Fighting for Peace: Lessons for Today's Conflicts

Before the United States House of Representatives, March 22, 2016
Hearing: Women Fighting for Peace: Lessons for Today’s Conflicts

Testimony by Hassan Abbas, Professor National Defense University, Washington DC

Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, and Members of the Committee: Thank you for inviting me to testify about the role of women in resolving conflict and securing peace. It is truly an honor and a privilege for me to contribute to this process. Let me begin with my principle belief: Expanding the role of women in civilian law enforcement as well as the broader criminal justice system is not a matter of inclusivity or gender equality alone. My research and experience - both as an academic and a police practitioner - in the United States and Southwest Asia convinces me that it is the key necessary element to open the doors of peace and harmony around the globe. It is especially so in conflict zones and regions facing socioeconomic turbulence and instability. Simply put…

The Future of Iraq: Findings of the Atlantic Council's Task Force Report 2017

Report of the Task Force on the Future of Iraq: Achieving Long-Term Stability to Ensure the Defeat of ISIS
May 31, 2017

Chair: Ambassador Ryan Crocker
Executive Director: Dr. Nussaibah Younis

Excerpts from the Report: The Iraqi government, backed by the United States and its coalition partners, are on the brink of retaking all the territories once occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq. In this report, we offer a strategy for how the United States can build on this success to bring about a lasting defeat of ISIS and secure US national security interests in Iraq over the long term. Over the course of 2016, the Task Force on the Future of Iraq brought together the world’s leading Iraq scholars, experts, and former policy practitioners to conduct a rigorous inquiry into how the United States could best protect its national security interests and promote Iraqi interests through targeted and effective engagement in Iraq.

Recommendations for US Iraq Policy

Publicly Co…

Taliban Targeting of Islamic Scholars - A Vicious Campaign to Control Religious Narrative

Taliban Target: Scholars of Islam
New York Times, MAY 28, 2017

TOGH-BAIRDI, Afghanistan — A lone grave, its dirt mound shaded under the drooping branches of a mulberry tree and kept adorned with flowers, has become a daily stop for seminary students and staff members near Togh-Bairdi, in northern Afghanistan.

It is the burial site of Mawlawi Shah Agha Hanafi, a revered religious scholar who founded the seminary about two decades ago and helped it grow into a thriving school for 1,300 students, including 160 girls. This month, the Taliban planted a bomb that killed him as he conducted a discussion about the Prophet Muhammad’s traditions, and his grave, at a corner of the seminary grounds, has become a gathering place for prayer and grief.
“When I come to work, the first thing I do is recite a verse of the Quran at his grave,” said Jan Agha, the headmaster of the seminary, in Parwan Province. “Then I weep, and then I go to my office.”
The scholars hav…