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US Threatens To Walk-Away From Afghanistan Leaving Afghan Government To Taliban

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While the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic, Afghanistan and the US are deeply engaged in negotiations to bring peace back to the war-torn nation.

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The Afghanistan government received a major jolt when Washington decided to analyse its association with the country due to internal bickering between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah. The development came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to break a deadlock between Ghani and Abdullah.

Ashraf Ghani, who is Afghan president since 2014, was named the winner in recently held elections by a thin margin. His rival Abdullah Abdullah, who was part of the unity government earlier, declared himself victorious, laying claims to Presidency.

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In order to bridge the rift between Ghani and Abdullah, Pompeo travelled to Kabul and held extensive meetings with both the leaders but couldn’t broker an agreement. On his return to Washington, Pompeo announced a sharp statement, threatening to walk away from Afghanistan.

“The United States deeply regrets that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah have informed Secretary Pompeo that they have been unable to agree on an inclusive government that can meet the challenges of governance, peace, and security, and provide for the health and welfare of Afghan citizens,” said a State Department statement.

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It said the US “is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests”. “Their failure has crippled the US-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonours those Afghan, Americans, and Coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country.”

As this leadership failure poses a direct threat to US interests, effective immediately, Washington will initiate a review of the scope of our cooperation with Afghanistan, the statement noted. “Among other steps, we are today announcing a responsible adjustment to our spending in Afghanistan and immediately reducing assistance by $1 billion this year. We are prepared to reduce by another $1 billion in 2021,” Pompeo said.

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“We will also initiate a review of all of our programs and projects to identify additional reductions, and reconsider our pledges to future donor conferences for Afghanistan,” he added. “We have made clear to the leadership that we will not back security operations that are politically motivated, nor support political leaders who order such operations or those who advocate for or support the parallel government,” he said.

The Afghan government, post the US-Taliban deal and before the intra-Afghan dialogue were to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while insurgents were also set to free 1,000 Afghan security personnel. President Ghani, however, agreed to free only 1,500 Taliban prisoners in the initial phase while linking the release of the remaining inmates with the start of intra-Afghan talks as well as reduction of violence by the Taliban.

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Pompeo said the United States remains convinced that a political settlement is the only solution to the conflict. “We note that Afghan leaders are acting inconsistently with their commitments under the Joint Declaration, chiefly failing to establish an inclusive national team to participate in intra-Afghan negotiations or take practical steps to facilitate prisoner releases by both sides as a confidence-building measure to reach a political settlement and achieve a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”

“We are proceeding with the conditions-based withdrawal of our forces in accordance with the US-Taliban agreement,” the statement said in a clear warning that the Trump administration is ready to walk away from the war-torn country even if the Afghan government and other players are not ready to abide by the deal.

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However, the US left the room open for reviewing its strategy.

“Should Afghan leaders choose to form an inclusive government that can provide security and participate in the peace process, the United States is prepared to support these efforts and revisit the reviews initiated today,” the statement further said.

Pompeo also made it clear that the United States is not abandoning “our partnership with Afghanistan, nor our commitment to support the Afghan security forces, but reviewing the scope of our cooperation given the irresponsible actions of Afghan leaders”.

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Americas

India Bets Big On Nikki Haley To Emerge As Vice Presidential Candidate Under Trump

Nikki Haley has echoed some of the same arguments Donald Trump has made on national topics such as cancel culture, defunding police forces and statue removal, although the tone and frequency between Trump and Haley differ dramatically.  

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India has pinned hopes on Nikki Haley to become the US Vice President (VP) should Donald Trump get re-elected this November. Haley, a first-generation Indian American, is expected to strengthen Indo-American relation and also attract a lot of voters including women and minorities.

According to the reports, there is speculation that Trump might switch out Vice-President Mike Pence for Nikki Haley as his running mate in the hopes of boosting his lagging approval numbers among the broader electorate.

Despite resigning as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Haley has been active in politics. She has been fundraising for Republican congressional candidates as well as in the Senate and gubernatorial arena.

She has set up a non-profit organization to boost her policy priorities and has continued to pen editorials on foreign policy. And Hailey has retained a small, tightly knit orbit of advisers.

The former governor of South Carolina, Haley is one of the people who left the Trump Administration on good terms. She has even promised to campaign for the President for his re-election bid.

Haley has echoed some of the same arguments Donald Trump has made on national topics such as cancel culture, defunding police forces and statue removal, although the tone and frequency between Trump and Haley differ dramatically.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, Haley’s recent moves can be seen as a carefully executed plan to stay involved in key Republican policy circles and the national discourse. Haley has fundraised for almost a dozen Republican Senate candidates, many of them in tough re-election races, and has been a special guest at Republican Governors Association (RGA) events.

While Haley has dismissed reports about her running for VP, her being an influential person of colour could help Trump win constituencies he is currently losing.

India pinning hopes on Nikki Haley

The US Presidential elections are a spectacle observed globally and India would be hoping Trump wins and Haley gets elected as the VP. Haley enjoys nationwide popularity amongst Indian-Americans and her election as VP could lead to stronger ties between Washington and New Delhi.

She has natural links to India with her parents having emigrated to the US in the 1960s from Punjab. Haley has often pointed out that India is an example of a free government and recently even applauded New Delhi’s decision to ban 59 Chinese applications and for standing up to China.

With an Indian-American at the helm of affairs, New Delhi would see it as an opportunity to get closer to Washington. It could lead to India benefitting in the areas of trade, defence and investment and would be a huge blow to neighbours China and Pakistan.

US Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in November and will be contested between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. While Biden’s re-election does not mean that India and the United States will have weak relations, having Trump in the White House and Haley as VP would definitely lead to stronger Indo-American ties.

Armaan Srivastava. Views Personal

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Americas

China Fighting India With ‘Sticks & Stones’ Cheaper, But Confronting The US Can Bankrupt China: Experts

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The news of relentless India-China border tensions and all other dispute that China has with its neighbours like Taiwan, Japan, ASEAN nations has got the world standing against Beijing, including the US.

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In the east, across the pacific is the raging US-China confrontation. Tensions are running high close to home in Taiwan as the Chinese are stepping up the military action around the region. Muscle flexing in the South China Sea has been ongoing for a while now and tensions are high in Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous region, over the new national security law, confronting Japan over disputed islands and the frequent border skirmishes with India – all of it while fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

According to experts, China’s superpower dreams might not become a reality especially with its ongoing conflict with a global superpower, the US.

“Fighting India with sticks and stones on the high plateau of Ladakh comes cheap, but preparing to confront the United States in the Western Pacific is a very expensive proposition indeed,” wrote Salvatore Babones, an adjunct scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.

“It is likely to prove a luxury that a slow-growth, post-coronavirus China will not be able to afford. China makes a great show of its wealth and its willingness to spend it. In reality, Beijing’s bank balance doesn’t match its bling,” he added.

China’s economic growth had slowed down even before the coronavirus outbreak. China reported the weakest numbers for 2019, in the last 30 years in the wake of the US-China trade war. China’s growth slowed to 6.1% last year, from 6.6% in 2018, according to the official data.

However, Brooking institution suggests that China overestimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth by an average of 1.7 percent per year.

“The United States famously spends more on defence than the next 10 countries combined, yet the notion persists that its military is still underfunded and underequipped for its global superpower role,” stated Babones.

He further explained that if the experts are to be believed, the United States will lose its competitive edge without more investment in university research, advanced technologies, foreign aid, diplomacy, the United Nations, clean energy, and, of course, pandemic preparedness.

“The US—with an economy roughly 50 per cent larger than China’s and a GDP per capita more than six times as great—can’t afford to remain a global superpower, how can China possibly afford to become one?” he asked.

Analyses from the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggest that Chinese defence spending may actually fall in real terms in 2020. Given China’s elevated pace of military operations on several borders, spending constraints must be putting pressure on acquisitions budgets.

“China is believed to have built only 50 or so J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighters. The J-20 program now seems to be experiencing serious development problems, limiting production for the foreseeable future. This compares to America’s stock of 195 F-22 and 134 F-35 fifth-generation fighters, with continuing annual production of more than 100 F-35s, even after coronavirus delays,” explained the author.

The author concluded by saying that China’s leaders can at least save face by abandoning their GDP targets and blaming the virus for the inevitable austerity to follow. He predicted that when the coronavirus crisis is over, the US will still be a global superpower while China’s dreams might still remain far fetched.

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Americas

Russian T-14 Armata Tanks Now On Sale; Hopes To Challenge US’ M1 Abrams

The T-14 is part of the Armata’s heavily tracked standardized platform, which serves as the basis to develop the main battle tank, an infantry fighting vehicle, an armoured personnel carrier and other armoured vehicles.

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Russia’s T-14 Armata tank will be up for sale from 2021. This was announced by Denis Manturov – Industry and Trade Minister of Russia. He said that they are already receiving requests for the deadly T-14 Armata tanks from several foreign customers.

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The T-14 is part of the Armata’s heavily tracked standardized platform, which serves as the basis to develop the main battle tank, an infantry fighting vehicle, an armoured personnel carrier and other armoured vehicles. It has fully digitized equipment, an unmanned turret and an isolated armoured capsule for the crew.

“Russian producers are ready to offer potential buyers both air defence systems, such as the S-300 and the S-400 and advanced aircraft and helicopters,” explained Dmitry Shugayev, Head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation.

“We are preparing the MiG-35 light fighter for sale and are promoting the latest T-14 ‘Armata’ tank,” he added.

The Armata T-14 was first demonstrated during the Victory Day Parade in May 2015 in Moscow. The actual production of the tanks was delayed. The first nine T-14 Armatas were originally planned to be handed over to the Russian Ground Forces (RGF) in 2018. This date then got pushed to 2019 and then to 2020.

Russia hopes that the T-14 Armata tank will give a tough competition to America’s M1 Abrams that destroyed thirty-seven of the Soviet-designed T-72s during the 1991 Gulf War.

T-72s remain Russia’s primary battle tank, supplemented by turbine-engine T-80s and four hundred more advanced T-90s. According to Sébastien Roblin, an expert on security and militarywhile Russia may finally have a 125-millimetre sabot round that can threaten Western main battle tanks at the range, only its handful of new T-14s tank are capable of actually using it.

Experts claim that the 2A82 gun could be retrofitted to numerous older T-90s and T-72s so far appear not to have materialized.

Despite Russia’s defence spending, the Russian military has continued with the production of the new tank. The production is overseen by Rostec Corporation, the Moscow conglomerate that specializes in consolidating strategically important companies in Russia’s defence sector.

It has undergone field testing in Syria. Although the extent of testing and the results are still unclear, a Russian media outlet suggested that “one Armata was completely destroyed.” There’s no confirmation on that but it might not look good to its buyers.

“It [the T-14 Armata tank] is expensive because it is still undergoing extra trials and modernization after the defence ministry requested additional technical solutions in order to begin serial supplies starting from the next year under the existing contract,” said Manturov in April this year.

He further said that next year, when serial supplies of these tanks to the defence ministry are launched and an export certificate is obtained, they will begin to work with foreign clients. “Preliminarily, bearing in mind that we cannot provide all the documentation to our foreign clients. We do have preliminary orders,” he added.

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