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sohail20075925 5686UPDATE: In June 2018 Taliban & Afghan Army commanders met briefly. Taliban reps met US State Dept's Alice Wells in Qatar in late July 2018.

Over the last few months, the tectonic plates of the Afghanistan conflict have shown signs of movement, with the latest being an offer from President Ghani to recognize the Taliban as a political party if they join negotiations "to save the country," writes Dr Sohail Mahmood (pictured).


An October 2017 offer from US Secretary of State Tillerson was followed by a lengthy open letter in February 2018 offering talks. An international conference of 25 nations plus the EU, UN and NATO is currently under way in Kabul. The diplomatic overtures in both directions have not quite been drowned out by the noise of air and vehicle launched bombs.

The "Empty Fortress" is an ancient Chinese military strategy found in the Thirty-Six Stratagems "to feign strength to an adversary when one is in fact extremely weak". It is employed by Beijing today in an endeavor to preserve both the territorial integrity of the Chinese state and the unity of the "Han" ethnic group, writes Joseph E Fallon.

The Western Regions – specifically the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province, and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region -- and the Han identity are inseparable. Loss of the former would not only reduce the size of China by nearly 40 percent, it would likely shatter the "Han" ethnic group further fragmenting what remained of China.

nickwattsIMG 20170907 0924504Powers such as China and Russia are challenging the global predominance of the United States and its allies, according to data and analysis from the International Institute for Strategic Studies' (IISS) The Military Balance 2018, launched on 14th February. Nick Watts (pictured) was there for Defence Viewpoints. Dr John Chipman, IISS Director-General and Chief Executive, believes that while great-power war is not inevitable, these three leading military powers are systematically preparing for the possibility of conflict.

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