The Security Brief

Vol. 5-Issue No 43

27th December, 2020

Editorial

Spanner in the Afghan Peace Process

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani can be the biggest casualty of successful Afghan peace process. Albeit he might escape the fate Dr.Najibullah met at the hands of Mujahideen, he might have to flee from Afghanistan. President Ghani is well aware of this ominous development therefore employs delaying tactics in intra Afghan dialogue. Despite acute violence in Afghanistan, he wants to keep clinging to power for his own sake.  UN, USA, Pakistan and several other countries have been expressing their concern that the crescendo in violence in Afghanistan would jeopardize the prospects of peace.  US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo, Peace Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Mark Miller in their recent meetings with the Afghan government elite and the Taliban leadership urged the Afghan warring parties to reduce or swiftly end the violence and agree to a political settlement to end the conflict as soon as possible. 

 But nother hawk, operating on behalf of the Afghan President,  first Vice President Amarullah Saleh keeps igniting the situation by accusing Taliban and Pakistan for their alleged complicity. The result is more bad-blood and more bloodshed in Kabul. Recently, he became a super in-charge of Kabul’s security but ironically, the law-and-order situation further deteriorated instead of improvement. It appears that he spreads fabricated toxic rumours on behalf of President Ashraf Ghani to keep any arrangement power sharing at bay. President Ghani’s  administration and cohorts are fearful and resentful of Taliban’s  demand of major share in governmental power.           

Furthermore, Hizab e Islami leader Gulbadeen Hikmat Yar, another spoiler of intra-Afghan dialogue, again said that the “peace talks” would not be productive unless all the parties and groups of Afghanistan were involved into it. He has jumped into the fray to get his pie in the power. He kept silent for years and now when the peace process is making some head-way, he has also raised his head to bargain for his role in future government.

These elements are well aware that smooth intra Afghan talks are essential to ensure peace in the war torn country. Moreover, a complete ceasefire would be momentous to get through this second round of “Afghan peace process”  which is still under the cloud of uncertainty. They are bent upon exploiting the situation to protect their interests and power. They take one step forward and two steps backward. Therefore, the Afghan peace process is going nowhere. The only tangible step that has been taken in this regard so far is the US-Taliban Peace Agreement.

The other dangerous spoilers are the terrorist group Islamic State in Khurasan Province (ISKP), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), based in Kunar and Nouristan provinces of Afghanistan and militia commanders like Abdul Rasheed Dostum. Their survival is linked with turbulent Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s stability would result in their annihilation. While the two main parties are looking for some sort of arrangement for peace in Afghanistan, these terrorist and violent groups have no stake at all in peaceful Afghanistan.

The US Special Envoy to Afghanistan,  Zalmay Khalilzad, likes to live in optimism as he claimed that  both parties (Taliban and Afghan Government) have agreed on code of conduct and possible ceasefire for future political arrangement in Afghanistan.  If it is true, it can be a laudable breakthrough in the stalled peace process. But realistically it seems a far cry. The obstinate and self-centred parties to the conflict might not let it happen in near future. Besides, Afghanistan being a landlocked country, lacking participatory culture, afflicted with poor economic resources, resistant to cultural and social reforms in a multi ethnic or mostly tribal society, faces greater challenges of acquiring peace and stability. In order to overcome these irritants and draw backs, firstly, both sides should participate in intra Afghan dialogue with sincerity, patience and tolerance. Secondly, major international powers specifically US should play a constructive role there; should continue assistance even after the peaceful settlement of this prolonged internecine war. Some analysts are of the view that the hasty withdrawal of US troops, which is amongst the top priorities of Trump’s Administration, would be unwise.

Presently, the only solution to tumultuous Afghanistan is formulation of a National Government, joined by all main stake-holders, fully empowered to handle their respective portfolios. It can continue for two years with a mandate to restore peace in Afghanistan, agree on the Constitution and hold free and fair elections for future government. Meanwhile, Pakistan should just concentrate on constructing the fence along the Pak-Afghan border to secure it from the incursions of the terrorists and insurgents from Afghanistan.

NATIONAL

TERRORISM/SECTARIANISM- AT A GLANCE

Islamabad

Sr.NoIncidentKilledInjuredArrested
 The Islamabad police reportedly recovered seven hand grenades packed in a rusty box and dumped in a garbage in the Barakahu area (25th December).

Comments and Analysis: – Barakahu has a history of terrorist activities. Many a times terrorists were also arrested from here. There is a need to monitor this area continuously so that terrorists and their sleeper cells manage to live and operate in the proximity of Islamabad.

Sindh

Sr.NoIncidentKilledInjuredArrested
      1.CTD Sindh has reportedly arrested a suspect namely Adnan @ Marwari from Old Sabzi Mandi Karachi recently. He remained incharge of MQM squad in Layari; disclosed killing twenty-seven persons along with his accomplices including members of Sunni Tehrik. (16th December).       01
3.CTD Sindh arrested one Ahmed Ali @ Hammad from near the Fateh Family Park, Karachi for his involvement in terrorism and sectarian killings (21st December).01

Comments & Analysis: Sectarian terrorism is one of the curses of Karachi. Besides TTP and MQM, the extremist religious groups are also active to extract the piece of pie from this economic hub of Pakistan. In the process they resort to killing and maiming the opponents. These extremists have tarnished the image of the city and the country. Their record is available with the IB, Special Branch and other agencies. Stern action must be taken against them. Dedicated units of IB, Special Branch, CTD and Police should be formed to handle these hoodlums and their supporters.       

KPK

Sr.NoIncidentKilledInjuredArrested
  LEAs arrested four terrorists headed by one Zakir Afridi from Khyber tribal District and recovered three suicide jackets and six IEDs from their possession. Later on, their revelation, their 08 facilitators were also rounded up from Badaber area of Peshawar. It is learnt that the said arrested persons affiliated with the proscribed Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) were planning to carry out terrorist attacks on Christmas and Quaid e Azam’s Birth Anniversary on 25th December (18th December).—  04
 Police recovered two labourers dead bodies identified as Zainul Abideen and Abid lying on the roadside in Mamozai area of Orakzai tribal District while their third colleague was missing. It is learnt through police sources that a faction of outlaw TTP is suspected to be involved this incident (18th December). 02
 CTD KPK and police during a joint operation, arrested five terrorists of Afghan region from Mardan District. They recovered a suicide jacket, two bomb, five hand grenades, two AK 47 rifles, three pistols along with documents and videos containing multiple target locations for carrying out terrorism in the city, from their possession (18th December).   05
4.The security forces recovered a suicide jacket during a raid on the hideout of an unidentified terrorist in Baran tehsil of Bajaur tribal District (20th December).
5.A soldier of Pakistan army naik Yaseen was killed and seven others injured during an attack by the terrorist in Mir Ali tehsil of North Waziristan tribal District. During the exchange of fire, two terrorists were killed while ten got injured (23rd December).  0317 

Comments & Analysis: – The banned outfit Lashkar-e-Islam was founded in 2004 by Mufti Maneer Shakir (Deobandi) in Bara, Khyber tribal District in 2004 who also established a local Radio Station there. The Maliks (elders) of the area turned against him due to his destructive sectarian approach. He had developed enmity with a native Peer Saifullah (Deobandi-Bralevi). The Later one Mangal Bagh took control of the organisation in 2005. Within span of few years, the outfit gained considerable control over some areas in Khyber tribal District.  After the military operation, it shifted to adjoining Afghanistan Province Nangarhar and finally merged with TTP in 2015. The security forces are continuously conducting search operations on their possible hideouts in the difficult hilly areas for their arrest.   

Balochistan

Sr.NoIncidentKilledInjuredArrested
1.As a result of IED blasts, planted and detonated by the unidentified terrorists, a FC vehicle was severely damaged, near Essa Nagri Cross Brewery Road area, Quetta, one FC jawan was injured (18th December).01
2.Lance Naik Muhammad Iqbal was killed during exchange of firing in a raid on the hideout of terrorists in Jutt Bazar area near Awaran District (20th December).01
3.10 suspected terrorists were killed by the security forces during an intelligence-based operation on their hideout in Gwargo area of Awaran. These terrorists were also involved in firing on security forces, which had resulted in the killing of Lance Naik Mohammad Iqbal on December, 20th in the Awaran area. Heavy cache of arms and ammunition were also recovered from their hideout. In another IBO, a Hawaldar Shoaib and one terrorist were killed and another apprehended in Silak Kaur area of Awaran (22nd & 24th December).1101
4.Two people were killed and eight others injured in an IED blast in the parking area of Aftab Shaheed football ground, the Panjgur area of Makran (26th Dec)0208 

Comments & Analysis: – Balochistan suffered the highest number of casualties in terrorist incidents and counter terrorism operations across Pakistan during the last week. Efforts should be stepped up to smash the terrorist networks. Besides, fool-proof mechanism should be devised to block the surreptitious transportation of explosive material from Afghanistan into Balochistan. 

Army helicopter crashed in Minimarg, GB

Four army men including two majors, one naik and one sepoy embraced martyrdom in a Pakistan Army helicopter crash in Minimarg area of Astore district, GB (26th Dec).

Comments & Analysis: The team was on an evacuation operation in the area to move the body of a shaheed soldier, Abdul Qadeer, to the CMH, Sikardu. The helicopter crashed due to technical reasons. The names of the Shaheed officers are Maj.Hussain, Maj. Ayza, Naik Inzimam and Sepoy Farooq.

DEFENCE/NATIONAL SECURITY

PNS Tabuk inducted in Naval Fleet

PNS Tabuk, a state-of-the-art corvette was inducted in the Naval fleet in a ceremony held at Dockyard Karachi which was attended by the Naval Chief Admiral Muhammad Khan Niazi and other senior officers (17th December).

Comments and Analysis: – The PNS Tabuk is the second of two 2,300t corvettes that Dutch defence company Damen constructed under a contract signed by the Pakistan Ministry of Defence in June 2017. The first ship of this class “PNS Yarmook” has already been inducted the Pakistan Navy in July this year.  

Army, Air and CJCS witnessed Pak-China Air Exercises

Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa witnessed Pak-China joint air exercises Shaheen-lX at a PAF base (18th December). The next day Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Nadeem Raza also witnessed the exercises and lauded the professional skills of the two forces (19th December).

Comments and Analysis: – Shaheen-IX are being jointly carried out by Pakistan Air Force and Chinese Air Force on regular basis since 2011. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated that a month long joint air force exercises Shaheen-IX conducted by the all-weather friends/ strategic partner – Pakistani and China are not aimed against any third party (country) therefore, India should view the exercises positively (21st December).  

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Opening of new border crossing between Iran and Pakistan

A new border crossing point, Ramdhan-Gwadar, has been opened between Iran and Pakistan. It was done in an inaugural ceremony, held at the “gate” which was attended by the Federal Minister Zubaida Jalal, Governor of Sistan-Irani Balochistan Ali Muhammad Azad and senior officials of the both sides (19th December).

Comments & Analysis: Pakistan has 959 km long border with Iran. This border crossing point  is not only near Gwadar but also located 130 km from Iran’s strategic port. It is the second international border crossing point between Iran and Pakistan after Mirjava-Taftan which has been facing tremendous pressure for trade and general traffic for the last 70 years.

Pakistan’s New Visa Policy for Afghan nationals

The Pakistan Embassy in Kabul has announced details about the new visa policy with better system and facilitation both for the applicants and inhouse usage (22nd December).

Comments & Analysis: – It is learnt that Pakistan Embassy, Kabul issued 150,000 visas in October and November this year in a dignified manner as a part of the new policy. Visa is free, except business visas, for Afghan nationals. Before introduction of the new visa policy in October, this year, eleven people were killed and several injured in a stamped after thousands of  visa applicants  had gathered outside Pakistan’s Consulate in Jalalabad city, Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan.

Coronavirus test mandatory for crossing Torkham, Chaman borders

The Government of Pakistan has reportedly decided to impose Covid-19 test clearance certificate mandatory for travelers crossing border at customs & immigration check posts with the Afghanistan due to increasing Corona patients in the country. After issuance of official notification, no passenger is being allowed to cross the border without corona test results (19th December).

Comments & Analysis: – Pakistan closed all the border crossings with Afghanistan in March 2020 due to the fears of spread of coronavirus. The borders were gradually reopened after four-month closure after adopting some standard SOPs. Earlier, the Pakistan Embassy  Kabul also announced mandatory corona test clearance on travelling between the two countries. A number of passengers, traders, Pashtun nationalists and miscreants objected over imposition of such restrictions.

CRIME/LAW & ORDER

  1. Gabol town Karachi police foiled a bid to kidnap a woman banker by arresting two persons in five-star Chowrangi Nazimabad, Karachi (17th December).
  2. The bodies of two newly born babies dumped in bushes were found near the Basic Health Unit in Phull Town, Naushahro Feroze, Sindh. Investigations are under progress (18th December).
  3. The police arrested a suspect involved in kidnapping and raping of a minor boy in Surjani Town, Karachi (18th December).
  4. The Napier Road police arrested a suspect-Suleman @ Suleman shooter from Lyari, Karachi in connection with demanding Rs/- 05 million bhatta (protection money) from the management of Crown Builders in Bahadarabad, Karachi. Suleiman shooter is a member of the notorious gang led by Ahmad Ali Magsi (18th December).
  5. A police constable was arrested on the allegation of raping of a woman at her residence on pretext of giving her relief in connection with another case in Sadiqabad area of Rawalpindi (18th December).
  6. A school teacher Asghar Ali was shot dead by for not stopping his vehicle, when he was returning home after dropping his relative at Sialkot Airport (20th December).
  7. Police arrested a suspect for sadomising a minor boy in Jallah Arraeian village in Lodhran District (20th December).
  8. A Sessions Court in Islamabad awarded death sentence to accused Bait Ullah and life imprisonment to Gul Saddique for killing an army Major Muhammad Laraib on resistance by him during the robbery attempt, last year (19th December).
  9. A Model Court Karachi, awarded death sentence to an accused, Irshad, for abducting, raping and strangling of a minor girl in Gulshan-e-Johar, Karachi (21st December).
  10. A police constable Muhammad Rafique was shot dead by robbers who chased them after committing robbery on Mirpur Road, Larkana District (21st December).
  11. One Ashiq Ali allegedly killed his second wife Shameem Bibi and two children over a family dispute in Green Town Lahore (21st December).               
  12. A journalist Malik Nizam Tani was shot dead by unidentified gunman at Qasba Gujrat, Muzaffargarh District (22nd December).    
  13. Two brothers Sabir and Maskeen were shot dead due to personal enmity by their rival at Ghudian Ada, Kasur District (23rd December).  
  14. Seven persons including the bride groom, nikah khawan and five witnesses were arrested over manage to marriage of an eleven years old girl in Laspur area of Chitral District. Early marriages are common in Chitral and some other areas of KPK (23rd December).
  15. Police arrested a suspect who allegedly stabbed to death one Muhammad Hassan in a Mosque at Gulshan-e-Ali Housing Colony, Sahiwal (23rd December).
  16. Ten people were killed and several others injured when the huge explosion took place in a Ice factory near Saba Cinema in New Karachi. Police is investigating to determine the cause of said blast (23rd December).
  17. One Qudrat Ullah and his wife Soneela Bibi were killed by unidentified gunman in the jurisdiction of PS Gomal University Dera Ismail Khan (25th December).
  18. A prayer leader Maulana Allah Yar Khan was shot dead by one Muhammad Nawaz in Dhamkar Colony, Pindi Gheb, Haripur District (25th December). The investigations are under progress.
  19. A number of residents of Sar-e-Mughal village, District Kasur staged a protest demonstration against the police failure to arrest the rapist of minor girls. Six girls, five to fifteen years, have been allegedly raped or attempted to rape during the last one month in the area (26th December).

Crime Details 19/12/2020 to 26/12/2020

Provinces
PunjabKPKSindhBalochistanIslamabadAJ&K
Murders- Sheikhupura-2, Sheikhupura-1, Chiniot-1, Kasur-1, Taxila-1, Lahore-3, Rawalpindi-2, Taxila-1, Kasur-2, Lahore-2, Sheikhupura-3, Silakot-2, Gang Rape- Rawalpindi-1, Lodhran-1, Narowal-1, Sheikhupura-2, Muzaffargarh-1,     Robberies/Dacoits- Lahore-1, Toba Tek Singh-1,     Kidnapping- Muzaffargarh-1, Injured- Taxila-1, Sheikhupura-20, Police encounter- Gujrat-1,Murders- Kohat-2, Lakki Marwat-1, Swabi-8, Peshawar-2, Haripur-1, Kohat-2, Gang Rape-   Robberies/Dacoits-   Kidnapping- Kohat-1, Lakki Marwat-1,   Injured- Haripu-2, Swabi-3,Murders- Naushahro Feroze-2, Thatta-1, Karachi-1, Naushahro Feroze-1, Karachi-2, Naushahro Feroze-3, Larkana-1, dadu-1, Karachi-8, Karachi-1, Keamari-1, Karachi-1, Mirpur Khas-2, Badin-1,   Gang Rape- Karachi-1, Larkana-1,   Robberies/Dacoits-   Kidnapping-   Injured- Karachi-1, Karachi-2, Larkana-1, Karachi-30, Karachi-1, Keamari-3,  Murders- Balochistan-1, Quetta-1, Gang Rape-   Robberies/Dacoits-   Kidnapping-   Injured-  Murders- Islamabad-1, Islamabad-1, Islamabad-2, Islamabad-1, Islamabad-1, Islamabad-1,   Gang Rape-   Robberies/Dacoits- Islamabad-1, Kidnapping-   Injured- Islamabad-1, Islamabad-1,    Murders-   Gang Rape-   Robberies/Dacoits-   Kidnapping-   Injured-  
        Source: Media & National dailies

          

Comments & Analysis:- Kasur District is Ill-reputed in connection with rape and murders of minor girls and boys. In 2018 seven girls were raped, including the infamous Zainab rape murder case, and four minor boys were raped and killed in Chunia tehsil of the said District last year. Despite country wide uproar and protests, the government has not been able to grapple with this menace effectively.

REGIONAL

INDIA

India successfully test-fires medium range surface-to air missile off Odisha coast

India conducted a test-fire of a medium range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) from a ground mobile launching pad from its integrated Test Range on Odisha coast. It was jointly developed by the DRDO in collaboration with the Israel Aerospace Industries to strengthen the Indian defence capabilities (23rd December).

Comments & Analysis: – It is learnt that while conducting the missile test, the entire mission trajectory from the launch to plunging into the sea was monitored by various radars and electro-optico instruments. Indian Defence Minister and top military commanders besides seeking modern armament system from abroad are also advocating for rapidly increasing India’s indigenous capabilities in producing own advance weaponry systems with foreign technical cooperation and joint ventures.

LoC/IHK

Due to unprovoked ceasefire violation by the Indian troops, a fifty years old woman, Pak Army Sepoy Mukhtar were killed and three other citizens, including a child were injured in separate incidents in hot spring, Jandrot and Satwal sectors along LoC (22nd & 24th December). Earlier on 18th December two UN “Military Observers” escaped unhurt when their white-coloured official vehicle, hoisting UN flag, were fired upon near Polas village near Abbaspur AJ&K.

Comments & Analysis: – India’s ceasefire violations on LoC and killing of innocent Kashmiri youth is continuing in IHK for furtherance of RSS Agenda of Hindutva. The BJP seems satisfied by encroaching on Kashmirs’ political activity by securing sizeable representation in the recent DDC polls. It considers that its present representations in the recent poll will enable it to secure majority in the similar polls in the valley in future.         

LAC

Indian Army Chief Gen. MM Naravane visited the forward post on the southern bank of Pangong lake and reviewed the situation of the standoff with China in Ladakh along LAC. On reaching Ladakh he was received by 14 Corps Commander which is a part of the Udhampur-northern command of the Indian Army (23rd December).      

Comments & Analysis: – Despite holding a number of military and diplomatic level talks between India and China in Ladakh, LAC, no sign of an immediate breakthrough for disengagements of the troops is expected anytime soon. 

AFGHANISTAN

Terrorism/Violence

  1. Fifteen civilians including children were killed and twenty others wounded due to a motorbike planted IED blast in Agho Jan village, Gelan District of Ghazni Province (18th December).
  2. Police recovered three burnt dead bodies of a family from Karokh Highway, Injil District Herat Province (18th December).   
  3. A woman was allegedly killed by her husband for giving birth to a baby girl in Kabul. It was condemned by Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan (18th December).       
  4. Unidentified terrorists fired twelve rockets to target Bagram airbase but only managed to shoot-off five out of them. No militant group including Taliban claimed responsibility of the said attack (19th December).
  5. Police killed two robbers during an encounter in Kunduz city (19th December).
  6. During a clash with Taliban, six members of Public Protection Force were killed and four more wounded on the outpost in Qala-e-Naw of Badghis Province (19th December).
  7. Ten persons were killed and fifteen others wounded after a targeted a bomb attack against Haji Khan Muhammad Wardak, member Parliament in Kabul city (20th December). No militant group took responsibility of the said attack.
  8. Policeman was killed and two others injured due to a IED blast near Cricket Stadium in Jalalabad city of Nangarhar Province (20th December).
  9. Five Custom Department Officials including Naqeeb Ullah, Muhammad Ayub, Syed Zahir, Syed Farooq and Sakhi Dad by the authorities on charges of corruption in Nangarhar Province. Earlier twenty Custom Officials posted on the Afghan side of Torkham border crossing also on corruption charges (20th December).
  10. Rahmat-ul-lah Nikzad resident the Provincial journalist union was killed by unidentified person in front of his house in Ghazni Province. He is the fifth journalist killed in the last two months in the country (21st December). The Taliban’s spokesperson Zabi Ullah Mujahid condemned his death in the terrorist attack and loaded his services for the journalism.  
  11. Five peoples including four doctors working in the Pul-e-Charkhi prison were killed during IED attack on their vehicle in Duhbad area of Kabul (21st December). No group claim responsibility for the attack.
  12. Four persons including two children were killed after hitting their auto-rickshaw with a roadside IED in Baghpool area, Arghandab District of Kandahar Province (21st December).
  13. Chardara District Police Chief Ahmed Umer Saleh was killed during clash with Taliban in Kunduz Province (21st December).
  14. CEO of Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan Yousaf Rashid was shot dead by unidentified gunman in Kabul. In a separate incident earlier police officer was killed and two others wounded in an IED blast in Kabul also no group claim responsibility for either incidents (23rd December).
  15. A woman rights activist Farishta-e-Kohistani was assassinated and his brother injured after an attack by unidentified person in Hisa-e-Kohistan District of Kapisa Province (24th December).
  16. Afghan security forces claimed to have killed twenty-two Taliban and four Al-Qaida members during multi-airstrikes in the Momin Khan area, Nawa District of Helmand Province (25th December).
  17. Two security personnel were killed and six more injured in four IED blasts  in Kabul city within three hours (26th December).
  18. According to unconfirmed reports, the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) has reportedly detained ten Chinese Nationals for anti-state activity (26th December).
  19. As US Secretary Miller was in Kabul, a bomb attached to a vehicle killed five people, including four doctors, the latest attack in the capital.

Comments & Analysis: Violence remained high in Kabul and around the country. The above mention reports are mostly based on the claims of Afghan authorities. Taliban time and again made it clear that they are not involved in attacks against innocent citizens, big urban areas and Foreign troops except their clashes with Afghan security forces and police. According to a survey on security related incidents in Kabul, 131 people were killed, 280 wounded, 29 IED blasts, 03 missile attacks, 26 arm attacks and two car bombings took place in Kabul during the last two months. Just this month Kabul’s deputy governor, at least two journalists and many civilians have been killed, some in targeted attacks

INTRA AFGHAN DIALOGUE

The Chairman High Council of National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah said at Kabul that the meeting of the leadership committee of the council would be convened in the near future where it will clarify its main demands for the agenda of the peace negotiations for next round (23rd December).

Comments & Analysis: – Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the HCNR took decision as members of the peace negotiating team has an unclear agenda for the talks which will create challenges in the way forward in the talk process. A week has passed since the peace negotiating team representing the Afghanistan government began their consultations in Kabul but there are concerns about political divisions within the process in Kabul.

Pentagon Chief met Afghan President in Kabul

US Defence Secretary, Christopher C Miller

The acting US Defence Secretary, Christopher C Miller met the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, in Kabul during his impromptu visit to Afghanistan (22nd Dec). Secretary Miller and President Ghani discussed the historic opportunity for peace, the continued U.S. support for the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces, and the importance of achieving a reduction in violence to advance the peace process. Besides, Secretary Miller also met the head of US forces in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, to get the overview of the security situation regarding the current counter terrorism, the level of intensity of Taliban violence, and the ongoing drawdown of American troops.

Comments & Analysis: Secretary Miller not only met the Afghan President and the Head of US Forces in Afghanistan, but also met the troops to lift their morale on the Christmas eve. The US wants a somewhat stable Afghanistan before the US troops roll out of there.

INTERNATIONAL  

IRAN/MIDDLE EAST

US warns Iran if it seeks to avenge Soleimani killing

Gen. Kennith Mckenzi head of the US Central Command in Middle East talking to a group of media persons telephonically, said that USA is “prepared to react any attack by Iran directly or through its proxies on the US and its allies to mark the first anniversary of the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani on 03rd Jan, 2021. He further said that he had recently visited Baghdad, and a US base at Al-Tanif in Syria where he discussed the security situation with the head of the US Coalition Forces Gen. Paul Calvert and the Iraqi army chief of staff, General Abdul Amir Yarallah (20th December).

Comments and Analysis: – The statement and visits of the US military Commander indicate the concerns about the possible Iranian retaliation after Soleimani’s killing. His current tour was not disclosed earlier. Similarly, the last week’s visits by General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Afghanistan were also kept secret until he had left the region.

Coronavirus Crisis Update

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan rose to 471,335 on 27th December, 2020 (Sunday) after new infections were confirmed in the country.

The Province-wise breakup of the total number of cases as of 11:00 am, December 27th is as follows:

• Sindh: 19,737

• Punjab: 9,776

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 4,061

• Balochistan: 307

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 4,818

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 66

• AJK: 564

Deaths: 9,874

Comments & Analysis: Coronavirus is spreading at a fast pace in urban centres of Pakistan. On 22 Dec 2020, 111 corona patients died, which was one of the highest number of corona-related deaths in Pakistan. However the number of recovery of corona patients is quite encouraging.

Pakistan’s Security Barometer

Terrorism: Terrorist groups like TTP and its affiliates are continuously operating as per their twin strategy, i.e. target killing and IEDs. These groups are trying to carry out target killings in big cities. Low-intensity insurgency is continuing in ex-tribal areas.

Threat Level: High – The threat level is high due to national, international and regional security environment. The intelligence agencies must keep the guards up and take pro-active pre-emptive measures.

Level of Sectarianism & Religious Extremism: On the rise. There is an urgent need to bridle the situation through all means.

Border Situation: Tense – Indian shelling and firing continued at the LoC. The Western border (Pak-Afghan), remained relatively calm.

Health Security: A new surge of Coronavirus pandemic is still persisting in Pakistan. There is a considerable increase in the number of patients who tested positive during the last eight weeks.

Social Unrest: Rising; due to exorbitant price hike and political unrest.

Note: WSB is based on open-source information.

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