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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #600 on: January 16, 2010, 11:51:51 AM »

By Asif Ali Zardari
Friday, January 15, 2010
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/14/AR2010011403921.html
When I was elected president more than a year ago, Pakistan was in grave condition, strained by terrorism and a ravaged economy. Countering the effects of a decade of dictatorship requires bold actions, some of which are unpopular. I am working with Parliament to run a country, not a political campaign. The goal of our democratic government is to implement policies that will dramatically improve the lives of Pakistanis. In time, good policies will become good politics.

This Story
A Pakistan on the verge of greatness
Special Report: Combating Extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Our economic crisis demanded unprecedented response. On taxes, education, agriculture and energy, we have shown that we must adapt, reform and become self-sufficient. Terrorists do not want Pakistan to succeed. They want to distract us from preparing for a stable and prosperous future. After a suicide bomber killed 75 people in northwestern Pakistan this month, U.S. media reports noted that "the militants' objective is to sow terror among the general population in hopes of putting more political pressure on President Asif Ali Zardari's government to back down." But militants underestimate us. Just as our people refuse to be terrorized, our government refuses to be derailed from its course of fiscal responsibility, social accountability and financial transparency.


Restoring economic health has required raising fuel prices and taxes. These moves are understandably unpopular. Stringent terms had to be accepted to partner with the International Monetary Fund, but we understood the condition of our economy and the global economy and acted decisively.

The war against terrorism has cost Pakistan not just in lives but also in economic terms, freezing international investment and diverting priorities from social and other sectors. Despite constant challenges on multiple fronts, we took the political hits and stuck with reform. The IMF has even praised "the efforts being made by the authorities to further stabilize the economy, to advance structural reform and lay the foundations for high and sustainable growth. The early signs of recovery, declining inflation, and the improved external position are encouraging." Pakistan met IMF criteria last month to receive the "fourth tranche," or $1.2 billion, of its loan funding -- no easy feat during a global recession. Corrupt governments don't reach this level of IMF partnership. The World Bank, European Union and United States have all applauded our accomplishments. This praise may be little reported, but it's far more important than the chimera of polls.

Pakistan's economic resurrection has been the product, primarily, of our own sweat and blood. The return of democracy was negotiated and carried out by the intercession of the West. Pakistanis know that expediency has at times caused the world's extended democracies to support dictatorships, as happened after Sept. 11, 2001. The West has a moral responsibility to ensure that our democratic transition continues. Long-term moral values must prevail. If the community of developed democratic nations had, after our last democratic election, crafted an innovative development plan with the scope and vision of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II, much greater economic, political and military stability would already have been achieved. Some in my country disapprove of efforts to increase the power and fiscal responsibility of our provinces and the integrity of our institutions. Those who found comfort with dictators have resisted change. Pakistan tried it their way -- and endured catastrophe. We intend to build a new Pakistan using long-term solutions based on sound fiscal management.

Now, some Western reports suggest the Pakistani military does not support the policies of our democratic government. This is not true. Not only is our military courageously battling extremists in Swat and Waziristan, and succeeding, but our troops also are supporting the country's democratic transition and adherence to our Constitution. Some in Pakistan question our international alliances because they disapprove of our allies' actions, such as Thursday's unilateral U.S. drone attack against militants in Waziristan. We should all understand that concern. But we are fighting for our lives, and Pakistan's policies cannot be based solely on what is popular. When Franklin Roosevelt threw a lifeline to Britain with the Lend-Lease program, few Americans supported challenging the Nazis. Harry Truman had less than 15 percent support among Americans to rebuild Europe. They did what was right, not what was popular, and so will we.

History has shown the difference between expedient policies and the long-term goals of true statesmen. When the history of our time is written, Pakistan's decisions will be seen as a turning point in containing international terrorism. We are building a functioning society and economy. In the end, these sometime unpopular steps will create a Pakistan that sucks the oxygen from the fire of terrorism. Those who are counting on Pakistan to back off the fight -- militarily and economically -- underestimate my country and me.

The writer is president of Pakistan.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #601 on: January 17, 2010, 03:05:07 PM »

Jim Gant, the Green Beret who could win the war in Afghanistan
Washington Post

By Ann Scott Tyson
Sunday, January 17, 2010; B01




It was the spring of 2003, and Capt. Jim Gant and his Special Forces team had just fought their way out of an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan's Konar province when they heard there was trouble in the nearby village of Mangwel. There, Gant had a conversation with a tribal chief -- a chance encounter that would redefine his mission in Afghanistan and that, more than six years later, could help salvage the faltering U.S. war effort.

Malik Noorafzhal, an 80-year-old tribal leader, told Gant that he had never spoken to an American before and asked why U.S. troops were in his country. Gant, whose only orders upon arriving in Afghanistan days earlier had been to "kill and capture anti-coalition members," responded by pulling out his laptop and showing Noorafzhal a video of the World Trade Center towers crumbling.

That sparked hours of conversation between the intense 35-year-old Green Beret and the elder in a tribe of 10,000. "I spent a lot of time just listening," Gant said. "I spoke only when I thought I understood what had been said."

In an unusual and unauthorized pact, Gant and his men were soon fighting alongside tribesmen in local disputes and against insurgents, at the same time learning ancient tribal codes of honor, loyalty and revenge -- codes that often conflicted with the sharia law that the insurgents sought to impose. But the U.S. military had no plans to leverage the Pashtun tribal networks against the insurgents, so Gant kept his alliances quiet.

No longer. In recent months, Gant, now a major, has won praise at the highest levels for his effort to radically deepen the U.S. military's involvement with Afghan tribes -- and is being sent back to Afghanistan to do just that. His 45-page paper, "One Tribe at a Time," published online last fall and circulating widely within the U.S. military, the Pentagon and Congress, lays out a strategy focused on empowering Afghanistan's ancient tribal system. Gant believes that with the central government still weak and corrupt, the tribes are the only enduring source of local authority and security in the country.

"We will be totally unable to protect the 'civilians' in the rural areas of Afghanistan until we partner with the tribes for the long haul," Gant wrote.

A decorated war veteran and Pashto speaker with multiple tours in Afghanistan, Gant had been assigned by the Army to deploy to Iraq in November. But with senior military and civilian leaders -- including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command -- expressing support for Gant's views, he was ordered instead to return to Afghanistan later this year to work on tribal issues.

"Maj. Jim Gant's paper is very impressive -- so impressive, in fact, that I shared it widely," Petraeus said, while McChrystal distributed it to all commanders in Afghanistan. One senior military official went so far as to call Gant "Lawrence of Afghanistan."

The abrupt about-face surprised the blunt-spoken major. "I couldn't believe it," Gant said in a recent interview, recalling how his orders were canceled just days before he was set to deploy to Iraq. "How do I know they are serious? They contacted me. I am not a very nice guy. I lead men in combat. I am not a Harvard guy. You don't want me on your think tank."

Gant, who sports tattoos on his right arm featuring Achilles and the Chinese characters for "fear no man," is clearly comfortable with the raw violence that is part of his job. An aggressive officer, he is known to carry triple the ammunition required for his missions. (One fellow soldier referred to this habit as a "Gantism.") But he is equally at ease playing for hours with Afghan children or walking hand-in-hand with tribesmen, as is their custom.

As a teenager in Las Cruces, N.M., Gant was headed to college on a basketball scholarship and had no plans to join the military until he read Robin Moore's 1965 fictionalized account of Special Forces actions in Vietnam. Captivated by the unique type of soldier who waged war with indigenous fighters, Gant decided to become a Green Beret and scheduled an appointment with his father, a middle school principal, to break the news.

Enlisting in the Army soon after his high school graduation, Gant became a Special Forces communications sergeant and fought in the Persian Gulf War. Later, as a captain, he served combat tours in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and one in Iraq during the height of the violence there in 2006 and 2007.

Intellectually, Gant is driven by a belief that Special Forces soldiers should immerse themselves in the culture of foreign fighters, as British officer T.E. Lawrence did during the 1916-1918 Arab revolt. In Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, Gant relied on his Special Forces training to build close bonds with local fighters, often trusting them with his life.

In Iraq in December 2006, a roadside bomb flipped over Gant's Humvee twice and left it engulfed in flames, with him pinned inside. Members of the Iraqi National Police battalion that Gant was advising pulled him out. Soon afterward, Gant led those same police in fighting their way out of a complex insurgent ambush near the city of Balad, saving the lives of two policemen and an Iraqi girl while under heavy fire, and deliberately driving his Humvee over two roadside bombs to protect the police riding in unarmored trucks behind him.

Gant earned a Silver Star for his bravery, but he remembers most the goat sacrifice the police held for him that day. "We had just won a great battle. We had several [police] commandos there, with several goats, and they were putting their hands in the blood, and putting their handprints all over us and on the vehicles," Gant recalled in a 2007 interview. He felt both strange and honored. "It's something I will never forget," he said.

Under Gant's plan, small "tribal engagement teams," each made up of six culturally astute and battle-tested Special Forces soldiers, would essentially go native, moving into villages with rifles, ammunition and money to empower tribal leaders to improve security in their area and fight insurgents. The teams would always operate with the tribes, reducing the risk of roadside bombs and civilian casualties from airstrikes.

The U.S. military would have to grant the teams the leeway to grow beards and wear local garb, and enough autonomy in the chain of command to make rapid decisions. Most important, to build relationships, the military would have to commit one or two teams to working with the same tribe for three to five years, Gant said.

Such a strategy, he argues, would bolster McChrystal's counterinsurgency campaign by tapping thousands of tribal fighters to secure rural populations, allowing international troops and official Afghan forces to focus on large towns and cities. Building strong partnerships with the tribes, whose domains straddle Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, could also prove critical to defeating insurgents entrenched in Pakistan's western tribal areas, he contends.

Adm. Eric Olson, who leads the 57,000-strong Special Operations Command, said in the latest issue of Joint Force Quarterly that Gant's proposal is "innovative and bold" and likely to have "strategic effects." And in recent congressional testimony, Gates agreed that the U.S. military should step up cooperation with Afghan tribes, saying many security responsibilities are likely to fall on them rather than the Afghan army or police force.

Thorough intelligence analysis should drive the selection of the tribes, Gant said, noting that the U.S. military has already gathered much of the intelligence. "There are 500-page documents breaking these tribes down. You would be shocked how much we know about who is who," he said.

Gant's proposals go well beyond the more cautious tribal-outreach efforts underway in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military is experimenting with neighborhood-watch-type programs such as the Community Defense Initiative, in which Special Forces teams partner with tribes selected by an Afghan minister. With time running out, Gant believes tribal engagement must be bolder. "We are trying not to lose, not trying to win," he said. (Gant's experiences helped shape the CDI effort, and he is currently preparing to return to Afghanistan to implement his vision, according to a senior military official.)

Still, Gant acknowledges that his strategy has risks. The teams would depend on the tribes for their safety. "American soldiers would die. Some of them alone, with no support. Some may simply disappear," he wrote in his paper on the strategy. Another possibility is that intertribal conflict would break out between two or more U.S.-backed tribes. "Could it happen? Yes. Could it cause mission failure? Yes. Could we have to pick sides for our own safety? Yes," Gant said. But he believes that if American advisers forge strong ties with the tribes, the chances of such conflicts can be minimized.

Gant's greatest fear is that the United States will lack the fortitude to back the tribes for the long haul, eventually abandoning them. He, for one, plans to stick with his tribe in Afghanistan, at least to fulfill a personal promise to return to Konar province to see elder Malik Noorafzhal, now 86.

"I am not here to imply that I think I could win the war in Afghanistan if put in charge," Gant wrote in his paper. ". . . I just know what I have done and what I could do again, if given the chance."

Ann Scott Tyson, a staff writer for The Washington Post, has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #602 on: January 18, 2010, 10:11:39 AM »

And here is the URL to Gant's piece itself:

http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/wp-..._at_a_time.pdf
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #603 on: January 18, 2010, 10:31:16 AM »

second post of the AM

Red Alert Update: Taliban Assault on Kabul
January 18, 2010 | 0827 GMT
The Taliban attack in Kabul is reportedly winding down. The assault began around 9:35 a.m. local time Jan. 18 (the day the new cabinet was being sworn in) when reports of rocket fire and explosions were heard in the Afghan capital near several government buildings.

Just 23 minutes later, reports emerged that the Taliban had claimed the attack in a message to the Afghan Islamic Press. In the claim, Taliban spokesman Zabihollah Mojahed said 20 suicide assailants were attacking the Presidential Palace, the Central Bank and the Ministries of Finance, Justice and Mines and Industries. The Serena Hotel, the Defense Ministry and the Afghan Telecom had also reportedly come under attack.

A little after noon local time, militants began to lay siege on two major shopping centers, including a mall called the Grand Afghan Shopping Center near the Justice Ministry. Eyewitness reported militants carrying rocket-propelled grenades entered the second and third floors of the mall. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) reportedly detonated outside one of the shopping centers killing several security forces.

Around the same time, reports emerged that militants who had earlier breached the southern gate of the presidential palace had entered the building where a swearing-in ceremony for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet was scheduled to take place. The Afghan government denied any breach of the palace had taken place. Several minutes later, another blast was heard outside the Cinema Pamir in an area far from the other attacks, about 1 kilometer away from the Serena hotel.

The size of this attack (if it involved 20 assailants as the Taliban have claimed) is more than twice as large as the Feb. 11, 2009, attack in Kabul, which involved a team of eight attackers. While a complete and concise assessment of what has been struck is still being compiled, it does appear that the justice ministry (the main target of the February 2009 attack) was again hit hard and there are reports of a substantial fire burning inside the building. It is unclear if the fire was started by a rocket attack or assailants who had succeeded in penetrating the building’s security.

STRATFOR sources are reporting that the Taliban may have used suicide vehicle bombs and artillery rockets in addition to the suicide bombers on foot and armed gunmen. If so, this is a new wrinkle. We have seen VBIEDS and artillery rockets employed by the Taliban in Kabul, but not in coordination with an armed assault.
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Rarick
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« Reply #604 on: January 19, 2010, 07:54:28 AM »

Gant is actually following the original Green Beret mandate, the fact that some folks consider it "unique and innovative" shows a serious lack of home work.  A lot of it looks like the ink blot tactic some of the Vietnam Vetran's I have talked to mentioned.  A unit adopts a tribe or villiage and they work hand in hand on dealing with insurgency/ bandits.  Individuals in the unit may rotate, but the mission and relationship is maintained.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #605 on: January 22, 2010, 11:51:30 PM »

What Europe and Pakistan's Self-Preservation Means for Afghanistan
DIRE ECONOMIC NEWS continues streaming from Europe, with the latest figures released on Thursday showing a slowdown in the expansion of Europe’s service and manufacturing industries. The composite index based on a purchasing managers’ survey conducted by Merkit Economics, fell to 53.6 points in January from 54.2 points in December 2009.

Europe’s problems are far more serious than those of the United States. The recession actually began about six months earlier in parts of Europe than in the United States. Furthermore, Europe has yet to seriously address the problems triggered by the U.S. recession — namely, several European banks are still worried about write-downs due to toxic assets on their balance sheets. Banks are wary of lending while governments are using any means necessary, including threats of regulation, to persuade them to lend.

“The Europeans’ concern about the growing economic crisis at home will have geopolitical implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.”
The problem would be less serious if it were limited to the economies on Europe’s periphery, but it is the main economic powerhouses that are hurting. The euro’s strength against the U.S. dollar is hurting Europe’s competitiveness. Under particular strain is Europe’s economic engine, Germany, whose exports account for 47 percent of its gross domestic product. Unemployment is also inching above 10 percent, with only government stimulus programs — which are expiring or largely expired — holding it back.

Finally, the peripheral economies — starting with Greece, Portugal and Ireland, but also including Spain — are not looking good. Greece in particular has been rocked by investor uncertainty over Athens’ ability to cut its budget deficit. As investors become more spooked by the Greek macroeconomic outlook, the demand for the country’s debt decreases, raising the costs Athens needs to pay to service its already enormous debt.

The question for Europe is what happens if Greece can no longer pay for its budget deficit or debt servicing. At that point, the story would no longer be about Greece, but about Germany and the eurozone as a whole. If Greece and some other Mediterranean countries were the extent of the problem, Germany probably could intervene and save the day. But how can Germany have the economic and — much more importantly — the political capability to bail out peripheral economies when it is facing a potential double dip recession? In such economic uncertainty — with the potential for rising unemployment and more dire banking news in store for 2010 — it would be political suicide for Berlin to try to rescue Athens or Lisbon.

Therefore, it seems that peripheral Europe and core Europe are growing further apart as Europe devolves into an “every man for himself” situation. The Europeans’ concern about the growing economic crisis at home will have geopolitical implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Namely, it places significant limitations on the commitment Washington’s NATO allies can offer to Afghanistan.

This means the U.S. military surge — already fraught with limitations — is unlikely to produce the kind of results Washington wants in terms of undermining the momentum of the Afghan Taliban insurgency. This is where the battle in Afghanistan becomes even more of an intelligence war. Pakistan is the one reservoir of intelligence that could help the United States, but Washington and Islamabad are having numerous serious problems, as evidenced by U.S. Secretary Robert Gates’ trip to the country on Thursday.

For starters, Gates — leading a 125-member delegation — flew into Islamabad from Pakistan’s arch rival India, where he made statements that fueled Pakistan’s fears. Gates said India is unlikely to use restraint if Pakistan-based militants should stage another attack like those seen in Mumbai in November 2008. Then, in a rare move, the top U.S. defense official authored an opinion piece in a leading Pakistani daily (published before his arrival in Islamabad) saying there is no difference between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. Gates also said he would ask Islamabad to expand its counterjihadist military offensive to North Waziristan, an area in the tribal belt that contains the largest concentration of Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda elements and is not being targeted by the Pakistanis.

The Pakistanis quickly responded by saying they had no plans for any operations beyond their current engagements in the next six to 12 months. The country’s military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said it would take that much time to stabilize South Waziristan before Pakistani forces moved on to new fronts. There is no doubt that Pakistan cannot fight all types of Islamist militants in different areas at the same time. The Pentagon’s press secretary, Geoff Morrell, acknowledged that much when he told reporters that Pakistan’s military is “operating at a higher operational tempo than it has in recent memory and they are being stretched very thin, as our military is for that matter.”

But the issue is not just one of capability. It is also about intent and Islamabad’s strategic imperatives. The Pakistanis realize that the United States and its Western allies aren’t looking at a long-term military commitment to Afghanistan. Therefore, from Islamabad’s point of view, it makes no sense to go after those militants fighting in Afghanistan. Doing so would not only exacerbate the insurgency within its own borders in the short term, it would also create a much larger cross-border mess for Islamabad to deal with long after Western forces leave the region. Furthermore, Taliban fighting in Afghanistan are tools Pakistan can use to roll back Indian influence in Afghanistan, which has increased significantly in the last eight years. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will undertake the kind of action that the United States wants, because it would be tantamount to national suicide.

Essentially, strategic interests are preventing full support from the two key allies — Europe and Pakistan — that the Obama administration has been counting on to fight the war in Afghanistan.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #606 on: January 24, 2010, 11:43:40 AM »

With the US announced to begin leaving this "essential war of self-defense" to the Afghan Army in 16 months or so, is it really surprising that Pakistan plans for what happens after we leave?

Here's POTH's spin:
==================

Gates Sees Fallout From Troubled Ties With Pakistan

 
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: January 23, 2010
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Nobody else in the Obama administration has been mired in Pakistan for as long as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. So on a trip here this past week to try to soothe the country’s growing rancor toward the United States, he served as a punching bag tested over a quarter-century.


“Are you with us or against us?” a senior military officer demanded of Mr. Gates at Pakistan’s National Defense University, according to a Pentagon official who recounted the remark made during a closed-door session after Mr. Gates gave a speech at the school on Friday. Mr. Gates, who could hardly miss that the officer was mimicking former President George W. Bush’s warning to nations harboring militants, simply replied, “Of course we’re with you.”

That was the essence of Mr. Gates’s message over two days to the Pakistanis, who are angry about the Central Intelligence Agency’s surge in missile strikes from drone aircraft on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, among other grievances, and showed no signs of feeling any love.

The trip, Mr. Gates’s first to Pakistan in three years, proved that dysfunctional relationships span multiple administrations and that the history of American foreign policy is full of unintended consequences.

As the No. 2 official at the C.I.A. in the 1980s, Mr. Gates helped channel Reagan-era covert aid and weapons through Pakistan’s spy agency to the American allies at the time: Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Many of those fundamentalists regrouped as the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now threaten Pakistan.

In meetings on Thursday, Pakistani leaders repeatedly asked Mr. Gates to give them their own armed drones to go after the militants, not just a dozen smaller, unarmed ones that Mr. Gates announced as gifts meant to placate Pakistan and induce its cooperation.

Pakistani journalists asked Mr. Gates if the United States had plans to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (Mr. Gates said no) and whether the United States would expand the drone strikes farther south into Baluchistan, as is under discussion. Mr. Gates did not answer.

At the same time, the Pakistani Army’s chief spokesman told American reporters at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday that the military had no immediate plans to launch an offensive against extremists in the tribal region of North Waziristan, as American officials have repeatedly urged.

And the spokesman, Maj. Gen Athar Abbas, rejected Mr. Gates’s assertion that Al Qaeda had links to militant groups on Pakistan’s border. Asked why the United States would have such a view, the spokesman, General Abbas, curtly replied, “Ask the United States.”

General Abbas’s comments, made only hours after Mr. Gates arrived in Islamabad, were an affront to an American ally that gave Pakistan $3 billion in military aid last year. But American officials, trying to put a positive face on the general’s remarks and laying out what they described as military reality, said that the Pakistani Army was stretched thin from offensives against militants in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and probably did not have the troops.

“They don’t have the ability to go into North Waziristan at the moment,” an American military official in Pakistan told reporters. “Now, they may be able to generate the ability. They could certainly accept risk in certain places and relocate some of their forces, but obviously that then creates a potential hole elsewhere that could suffer from Taliban re-encroachment.”

Mr. Gates’s advisers cast him as a good cop on a mission to encourage the Pakistanis rather than berate them. And he was characteristically low-key during most his visit here, including during a session with Pakistani journalists on Friday morning at the home of the American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson.

But Mr. Gates perked up when he was brought some coffee, and he soon began to push back against General Abbas. American officials say that the real reason Pakistanis distinguish between the groups is that they are reluctant to go after those that they see as a future proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan when the Americans leave. India is Pakistan’s archrival in the region.

“Dividing these individual extremist groups into individual pockets if you will is in my view a mistaken way to look at the challenge we all face,” Mr. Gates said, then ticked off the collection on the border.

“Al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tariki Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network — this is a syndicate of terrorists that work together,” he said. “And when one succeeds they all benefit, and they share ideas, they share planning. They don’t operationally coordinate their activities, as best I can tell. But they are in very close contact. They take inspiration from one another, they take ideas from one another.”

Mr. Gates, who repeatedly told the Pakistanis that he regretted their country’s “trust deficit” with the United States and that Americans had made a grave mistake in abandoning Pakistan after the Russians left Afghanistan, promised the military officers that the United States would do better.

His final message delivered, he relaxed on the 14-hour trip home by watching “Seven Days in May,” the cold war-era film about an attempted military coup in the United States.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #607 on: January 26, 2010, 12:12:49 AM »

Bill Moyers?  I know, I know shocked rolleyes

OTOH Greg Mortenson has been places and done things in Afpakia that merit deep respect and give his words weight.

I haven't viewed this yet, having read GM's first book "Three Cups of Tea" I do not hesitate to post it here:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01152010/profile2.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #608 on: January 26, 2010, 08:40:20 AM »

Second post of the morning:

http://documents.nytimes.com/eikenberry-s-memos-on-the-strategy-in-afghanistan?hp#p=1
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« Reply #609 on: February 01, 2010, 07:19:21 PM »

Woof,

Just something I think is quite relevant to the Afghanistan situation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The following is a guest column, written by a reserve NCO with Special Forces, Mark Sexton.  It is based on his personal observations in Afghanistan.  It represents his analysis only, not any position taken by DOD, the U.S. Army, or any other agency of the U.S. government.  In my opinion, it represents exactly the sort of intelligence analysis we need but seldom get.

How the Taliban Take a Village
By SFC Mark Sexton
________________________________________
A current method used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to gain control of an area deemed of strategic interest to the Taliban leadership, which operates from safe havens in Pakistan or within Afghanistan, is to identify and target villages to subvert. The Taliban have recognized the necessity to operate with the cooperation of the local population, with their modus operandi being to gain villagers’ cooperation through indoctrination (preferred) or coercion (when necessary).

VILLAGE NODES OF INFLUENCE
For a non-Afghan or foreigner to understand how the Taliban can subvert a village, we can use a simple social structure model to identify the key nodes of influence within a typical Afghan village. A village can be divided into three areas that most affect how daily life is lived. These key nodes are political and administrative, religious, and security aspects of village life. Of the three nodes, the one that is the most visible to outsiders is that of the malik (tribal leader or chieftain) and village elders. The malik and village elders represent the political aspects of the village. A second key node of influence is the imam (religious leader). The imam represents the religious node of influence within a village. A third local node of influence is the individuals and system of security found within a village. Security is traditionally conducted by the men of each individual village. If either the Taliban or the Afghan government controls one of the parts or nodes of influence in a village, then that entity also heavily influences or controls the village and perhaps other villages in the area.
 
TALIBAN CONTROL OF VILLAGE NODES
The Taliban look for villages and areas within which they can operate and use as a base against US and Afghan forces. Areas with little US or Afghan police or army presence are prime areas the Taliban will initially seek to subvert and hold. The Taliban build networks by getting a fighter, religious leader, or village elder to support them. Whichever one or more are initially used will be exploited for tribal and familial ties. The village politics administered by the elders and represented by an appointed malik are the most identifiable node of influence of any particular village. The Taliban will attempt to sway those maliks who are not supportive by discussion and, if necessary, threats, violence, or death. In villages where the locals say there is no malik, it is usually described as a convenience to the village as “no one wants the position,” or sometimes “the elders cannot agree on a malik so it is better there is none.” In these cases it is most likely the Taliban have neutralized the desired representative of that village. When locals are pressed for a representative they will give you a name of a person who has come to represent the village. This individual will also most likely be in support of and supported by the Taliban. The Taliban will try to install a malik or “representative of the village” by coercion or force.
 
A sub-commander will be established in the village to keep those in line who would resist the Taliban or their malik, who will be supported by limited funding. The sub-commander will generally have 2–5 fighters under his control. The fighters will often be armed only with small arms and shoulder-fired antitank rocket launchers (RPGs). They may or may not have an improvised explosive device (IED) capability, and if not will coordinate IED activities for the defense and when possible offense against US and Afghan forces. These fighters may stay in the village, but preferably are not from the village. Locals can sometimes be pressed into service to fight when needed, but the Taliban tend to use fighters from different villages so that when threats or physical violence is utilized, it won’t be kinsman against kinsman. The Taliban often visit the village imam and local mosques. Villagers do not generally oppose this, as it is expected that even the Taliban must be allowed to perform and express their Islamic duties. These mosque visits afford the Taliban opportunities to gage village sentiment and to build and establish contacts within localities. Village religious leaders also serve to educate children in villages where the Taliban have either closed or destroyed the local school. The mosque and imam serve as an education center for the Taliban while still presenting an opportunity for village children to be “educated.” This presents a solution to the unpopular notion of schools being closed. A constant and recognized complaint from the Afghan people is the lack of opportunity because of poor education. The Taliban will supplant the local imam if needed by supplying their own to a village. A village with no imam will receive one and the Taliban will establish a mosque. This mosque will serve as a Taliban meeting place, storage facility, and indoctrination center.

Sympathetic locals are used as auxiliaries to provide food and shelter. One way to do this is for known supporters to place food and blankets outside their living quarters or in guest quarters to be used by Taliban in transit or operating within a village. This gives the resident supporter some plausible deniability. When US or Afghan forces arrive, all that is found are the blanket, possibly clothing, footprints and other signs of visitors. The Taliban have blended into the surrounding village.

TALIBAN CAN CONTROL WITH FEW FIGHTERS
The Taliban method requires relatively few of their own personnel. Its strength is in the local subversion of the most basic levels of village organization and life. It is also a decentralized approach. Guidance is given and then carried out, with commanders applying their own interpretation of how to proceed. The goal is to control the village, and at the local level the only effective method, which must be used by all commanders, is to control what we have termed the nodes of influence. Form fits function; an Afghan village can only work one way to allow its members to survive a subsistence agrarian lifestyle, and the Taliban know it well.
 
To control an area the Taliban will identify villages that can be most easily subverted. They will then spread to other villages in the area one at a time, focusing their efforts on whichever node of influence seems most likely to support their effort first. Using this model the Taliban could influence and dominate or control a valley or area with a population of 1000–2500—ten villages with 100–250 people (100–250 compounds)—with only between 20–50 active fighters and ten fighting leaders. The actual numbers may encompass greater population and fewer fighters.

The Taliban will have an elaborate network to support their fighters in areas they control or dominate. They will have safe houses, medical clinics, supply sites, weapons caches, transportation agents, and early warning networks (the British Army calls them “dickers”) to observe and report. The US and Afghan forces, heavily laden with excessive body armor and equipment, are reluctant to leave their vehicles. They are blown up on the same roads and paths they entered the area on. The Taliban will use feints and lures to draw our forces away from caches and leaders in an attempt to buy them time to relocate, or into a lethal ambush. After the attack the Taliban will disperse and blend into the village. The village will frequently sustain civilian casualties and the information or propaganda will be spread of US and Afghan soldiers using excessive force. The US and Afghan forces will leave or set up an outpost nearby, but the attacks will continue because the forces are not in the village, do not truly know “who’s who in the zoo,” and aren’t able to effectively engage Taliban personnel or effectively interface with the village nodes of influence to their benefit.

We say one thing but our actions are different. Locals are reluctant to help because to be seen talking with the Americans and Afghan security forces will result in a visit from a Taliban member to determine what they talked about and to whom. The local villagers know the government has no effective plan that can counter the Taliban in their village, and will typically only give information on Taliban or criminal elements to settle a blood feud. The Pashtu people are patient to obtain justice and will use what they have to pay back “blood for blood,” even against the Taliban.

COUNTERING THE TALIBAN IN THE VILLAGE
Countering Taliban subversion of the populace is not done effectively with just more troops located at outposts. The troops must coordinate their activities with the local population and establish security through and within the village. When US and Afghan forces do this, the fight will typically take on a particularly violent aspect, and involve the population as the Taliban attempt to maintain or reassert control.
The US and Afghan forces and government will need to identify individuals in order to employ lethal and non-lethal targeting. This requires in-depth knowledge of tribal structure, alliances, and feuds. Viable alternatives or choices need to be available to village leaders and villagers. Just placing US and Afghan soldiers at an outpost, conducting token presence patrols, occasionally bantering with locals, and organizing a shura once a month are not going to work.

Afghan identity is not primarily national, i.e., belonging within a geographic boundary with a centralized national government. Afghan identity is tribal in nature. Americans view identity as a national government; Afghans in the villages do not. The tribe is most important. The country “Afghanistan” running things from Kabul does not mean very much to the Afghan people in the villages under duress from the Taliban.
US and Afghan forces must be able to infiltrate and shape the village nodes of influence and then target individuals. Right now our military embraces a centralized, top-driven approach that prevents our military and US-trained Afghan counterparts from doing so. Current US procedures and tactics attempt to identify the Taliban without regard to their influence or social role at the village level. Instead we attempt to link individuals to attacks and incomplete network structures through often questionable intelligence. The individuals in nodes of influence must be identified as neutral, pro, or anti-Afghan government and then dealt with. To target any other way is haphazard at best and does not gain us the initiative.

US and Afghan forces must also devise and utilize tactics to fight outside and inside the village. This requires true light infantry and real counterinsurgency tactics employed by troops on the ground, not read from a “new” COIN manual by leadership in a support base. The tactics must entail lightly equipped and fast-moving COIN forces that go into villages and know how to properly interact with locals and identify Taliban insurgents. They must have the ability to take their time and stay in areas they have identified at the local level as worth trying to take back. Being moved from place to place and using armored vehicles while scarcely engaging local leadership will not work. Targeting identified high value targets will only result in the “whack-a-mole” syndrome. It’s demoralizing for US and Afghan troops, the American public, and the Afghans who just want to live in peace. A light infantry force conducting specialized reconnaissance in villages, and using proven tactics like trained visual trackers to follow insurgents into and out of villages, proper ambush techniques on foot outside the village, and knowledge of the local village situation is the key. Infantry tactics should also include vertical envelopment of Taliban fighters by helicopter and parachute to cut off avenues of escape. Troop units should have a secure local patrol base from which to operate, send foot patrol into villages at night, and talk with and document compounds and inhabitants for later analysis. Mega bases or forward operating bases (FOBS) are only for support; units and tactics should be decentralized.

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Any thoughts?
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Rarick
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« Reply #610 on: February 02, 2010, 06:53:12 AM »

Ink blot strategy and tactics is what you are describing.  It is slow and sustained grind type of work, political realities like elections get in the way of that.........
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« Reply #611 on: February 02, 2010, 06:14:47 PM »

believe me brother, i know exactly what you mean...
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« Reply #612 on: February 02, 2010, 11:38:38 PM »

Woof Jkrenz:

Welcome home!

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Rarick
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« Reply #613 on: February 03, 2010, 03:41:56 AM »

 huh In that case welcome back to the land of the big PX and TV commercials you can understand, too!
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« Reply #614 on: February 03, 2010, 09:08:58 AM »

Restating matters:  The President says that our war with man-made disasters in Afg is a vital and necessary war of self-defense which we must win.  Therefore we will leave it up to the Afghan Army and the Afghan Police in 16 months.

This just in from the NY branch of Pravda.

==========================================

With Raw Recruits, Afghan Police Buildup Falters
By ROD NORDLAND
Published: February 2, 2010
NYT
KABUL, Afghanistan — The NATO general in charge of training the Afghan police has some tongue-in-cheek career advice for the country’s recruits.

Italian paramilitary Carabinieri officers train Afghan police recruits. On average, 5 percent of recruits cannot pass firearms tests.

“It’s better to join the Taliban; they pay more money,” said Brig. Gen. Carmelo Burgio, from Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri force.

That sardonic view reflects a sobering reality. The attempts to build a credible Afghan police force are faltering badly even as officials acknowledge that the force will be a crucial piece of the effort to have Afghans manage their own security so American forces can begin leaving next year.

Though they have revamped the program recently and put it under new leadership, Afghan, NATO and American officials involved in the training effort list a daunting array of challenges, as familiar as they are intractable.

One in five recruits tests positive for drugs, while fewer than one in 10 can read and write — a rate even lower than the Afghan norm of 15 percent literacy. Many cannot even read a license plate number. Taliban infiltration is a constant worry; incompetence an even bigger one.

After eight weeks of training, an average of 5 percent of recruits cannot pass firearms tests — but are given a gun and sent out to duty. Unsurprisingly, the Afghan National Police have the highest casualty rates of all the security forces fighting the Taliban; 646 died last year, compared with 282 Afghan Army soldiers and 388 NATO troops, according to NATO figures.

The death rate, poor pay and lack of equipment are among the reasons that a fourth of the officers quit every year, making the Afghan government’s lofty goals of substantially building up the police force even harder to achieve.

“They say the numbers prove ‘the Afghan National Police are in the fight,’ ” said General Burgio, quoting a frequently heard mantra from NATO officials. “This is not true. Usually the police are killed in ambushes, not because they were sent out to fight, but because they have no armored vehicles, for instance.”

The list of reasons for the failures is almost as lengthy as the list of problems officials cite with the police force.

General Burgio said the countries that were supposed to be building up Afghanistan’s security had not followed through on their promises to send enough qualified instructors. But even when the instructors arrive, he said, the countries involved seem unable to agree on a uniform training protocol.

The United States has recognized the problems and has begun making significant changes.

Under orders from the American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, control of police training is being shifted from the State Department to the military.

DynCorp, the American company that provided retired police officers to do much of the training, has been told its contract will not be renewed. But it has appealed that decision, holding up the changeover until the appeal is decided, by March 24.

That has left NATO struggling to augment the police trainers with active-duty police officers from European countries.

“As of Jan. 12, we require 4,245 trainers to meet our goal of training 134,000 police by 2011,” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, during a visit here on Jan. 13. “I think it’s inexcusable.”

General Burgio declined to say which countries had yet to contribute. He contended that one of the biggest failings of the training program was the State Department’s overreliance on private contractors, whom he described as often over age and undermotivated, and expensive.

“For the cost of 10 DynCorp, I can put 30 Carabinieri trainers in and save money,” he said. He warned that if DynCorp won its challenge, it would “set us back six to nine months.

A spokesman for DynCorp, Douglas Ebner, said, “DynCorp is proud of its work in Afghanistan training and mentoring the Afghan National Police.”

The international nature of the NATO-led training program has resulted in a welter of 20 different programs run by half a dozen countries and agencies with widely varying methodologies and standards. Officials are now trying to write a nationwide instruction program that will be more standardized.

“We’ve lost so much time,” General Burgio said.

There have been some positive changes recently. Police pay is increasing to $165 a month, and police officers assigned to hostile areas can make as much as $240 a month, according to Brig. Gen. Anne F. Macdonald, the American in charge of police training and program development at the ministerial level.

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That is better than the pay for Taliban insurgents, who typically make $200 a month. But even the new pay is lower than the cost of living for a typical Afghan family, encouraging corruption among many officers, NATO officials say.

In the new program of mandatory drug screening, General Macdonald said, 15 percent of police recruits test positive — a figure that may be low because recruits know in advance about the testing.
Divided loyalties are another problem. Most of the recruits are first hired locally, and then sent to regional or national training centers for their eight-week course.

“I don’t agree with the word ‘national’ in Afghan National Police,” the head of the Central Training Center, Brig. Gen. Khudadad Agah, said. “They’re all local police, and the problem with that is, one has a brother who is with the Taliban, another has an uncle. We go on an operation and one brother calls another and they know we’re coming.”

By comparison, army troops are recruited nationally. Their units are mixed ethnically and geographically so soldiers are not posted in their own communities.

Taliban infiltration of the Afghan National Police has had tragic consequences even for NATO soldiers: five British soldiers who were training a police unit in Helmand Province were killed by one of their trainees last November. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack. It was one of at least two instances in which police officers or recruits turned on their trainers or other NATO soldiers.

That explains why when recruits from the last class of 560 at the Central Training Center go to the firing range, as they did last month, they are allowed to put only 10 rounds at a time in the magazines of their automatic rifles, Hungarian-made variants of the AK-47. A team of Gurkha private security guards are on duty, too, watching the recruits carefully, as well as their own backs.

The recruits’ visit to the range comes during the seventh week of their eight-week course, and they have three days to qualify by managing to hit a man-size target 42 times out of 60 shots, a bit more than two-thirds of the time. If they cannot, they still graduate — with a certificate that says they are not competent to shoot — but are issued a weapon anyway.

“They’ll be out there on a checkpoint with an automatic weapon in a couple weeks,” said one of the trainers, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press. “I wouldn’t want to be an innocent civilian downrange of them.”

A few of the recruits were crack shots, hitting their targets 60 times out of 60. One scored 62 out of 60, apparently thanks to a neighbor’s errant fire. Because so few of the recruits can read, the target numbers are written on their hands by the instructors, so the recruits can compare them and figure out which targets to shoot at.

Their Afghan firearms instructor, Lt. Ahmed Zay Mirweis, was contemptuous. “These guys wear the uniform of a policeman,” he said, “but that is all that is police about them.”

Saudi Terms for Role in Talks

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabian officials said Tuesday during a visit by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan that they would not get involved in peacemaking in his country unless the Taliban severed all ties with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Mr. Karzai is hoping that the Saudis will agree to play an active role in his plan to persuade Taliban militants to switch sides. He is to meet with Saudi officials on Wednesday after performing the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

The Saudi conditions for participating in talks with the Taliban are not new, but Saudi leaders are making them clear amid a new international push to work with the Afghan militants.
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« Reply #615 on: February 04, 2010, 10:42:08 AM »

Summary
U.S. Marines, British troops and Afghanistan’s national army are making preparations for assaulting the town of Marjah in Helmand province. The town is a key Taliban stronghold and logistical hub; and because it lies at the center of a provincial breadbasket, it also is populated and surrounded by open terrain. Indeed, there is probably no better ground in Helmand on which to fight a defensive battle than the Marjah area.

The U.S. Marine-led effort in Afghanistan’s Helmand province is about to get more kinetic. Marines, along with British troops and units of the Afghan national army, are preparing to begin a major assault on the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, which is touted as the “last holdout” of the Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura Council in the province and is known to be a major logistical hub that the Taliban have controlled for years.

With British, Canadian and Dutch forces seeing some of the toughest fighting in Afghanistan in Regional Command South, which encompasses the southwestern quadrant of the country, the United States began surging troops into the region in 2008 with the deployment of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. More Marines have poured in (the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force is now in place), and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is now trying to hold key population centers in the Helmand River valley.

Most recently, U.S. Marines assaulted the town of Now Zad as part of Operation Cobra’s Anger, an ongoing attempt to disrupt Taliban logistics. Perhaps even more central to breaking the group’s hold on the province is Marjah, but the impending assault is no secret — and Taliban fighters have been preparing.

The town is at the center of a large irrigation project built by the United States in the 1950s, leaving large swaths of open terrain and clear fields of fire that assaulting elements will have to traverse. The irrigation canals also will be difficult to maneuver across and may channelize assaulting forces, though some breaching efforts can be expected. The town is at the center of a key breadbasket for the province, so the area is also populated, which could compound the challenges of the assault. In short, there is probably no better ground in Helmand on which to fight a defensive battle than the Marjah area.

And though the Taliban have begun to shy away from large, direct-fire engagements like the one against a small outpost in Wanat in Nuristan province in 2008, their use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has increased dramatically in recent years; and there is little doubt that the approaches to the town and the town itself are laced with mines and IEDs. Resistance is expected to be considerably heavier than it was in Now Zad, but the forces the Taliban are dedicating to the town’s defense remain to be seen. Estimates have varied from 400 fighters to 1,000 or more — perhaps as much as two battalions.



The U.S. Marine Corps’ Assault Breacher VehicleWhile Marjah offers good defensive ground, the assault is likely to include cordoning off of the area, so many of the fighters dedicated to its defense will probably be forced to fight to the death or surrender. If they choose to stay and fight in numbers, the Taliban could try and exact a heavy cost on the assaulting force, but they likely would lose those fighters in the process. And lately, the Taliban have shown a proclivity for attacks that are low-risk and likely to preserve the forces committed.

The Marines already have brought in new, heavy Assault Breaching Vehicles for use in Now Zad, and they have no illusions about the Taliban’s heavy preparations in Marjah. With assaults on Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq under their belts, the Marines are experienced with this sort of urban assault. The extent to which IEDs can be managed and the number of Taliban forces dedicated to the town’s defense will be pivotal to the battle’s outcome.
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« Reply #616 on: February 08, 2010, 09:01:24 AM »

Special Forces Assassins Infiltrate Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan

Sunday , February 07, 2010

American and British forces poised to assault the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, have begun targeting insurgent leaders for assassination, The Sunday Times reported.

Special forces have been infiltrating the town on "kinetic" missions — jargon for armed attacks.

"Special forces guys have been going in on assassination missions with the aim of decapitating the Taliban force," a military source told the Sunday Times.

At U.S. Marine base Camp Leatherneck and the adjoining British base of Camp Bastion, troops and munitions have been airlifted in by night to avoid enemy rockets. In a break from traditional military secrecy, American, British and Afghan commanders have revealed that Marjah, the last town in Helmand under Taliban control, will in fact be the site of fighting in the near future.

Though Operation Moshtarak —Operation Together — has been widely publicized by top military leaders, the timeline for the offensive has not been revealed.

The success of the planned campaign depends on how quickly troops and civilian development workers can get public services up and running once the Taliban have been driven away, the top U.S. and NATO commander said Sunday.

The military has widely publicized the upcoming offensive in Marjah — the biggest Taliban-held community in the south — although the precise date for the attack in Helmand province remains classified.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the element of surprise is not as important as letting Marjah's estimated 80,000 residents know that an Afghan government is on its way to replace Taliban overlords and drug traffickers.

"We're trying to create a situation where we communicate to them that when the government re-establishes security, they'll have choices," McChrystal said.

Establishing functioning government has been messy even in the relatively safe parts of Afghanistan. NATO forces and international diplomats have to balance the need to increase security with the desire to build up Afghan institutions that have too-often been corrupt or ineffective.

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« Reply #617 on: February 11, 2010, 09:24:17 PM »

http://www.military.com/news/article/marine-deaths-underscore-us-struggle.html?ESRC=marine.nl
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« Reply #618 on: February 15, 2010, 10:47:14 AM »

The Afghanistan Campaign, Part 1: The U.S. Strategy
Stratfor Today » February 15, 2010 | 1450 GMT



Summary
The United States is in the process of sending some 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, and once they have all arrived the American contingent will total nearly 100,000. This will be in addition to some 40,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel. The counterinsurgency to which these troops are committed involves three principal players: the United States, the Taliban and Pakistan. In the first of a three-part series, STRATFOR examines the objectives and the military/political strategy that will guide the U.S./ISAF effort in the coming years.

Editor’s Note: This is part one in a three-part series on the three key players in the Afghanistan campaign.

Analysis
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States entered Afghanistan to conduct a limited war with a limited objective: defeat al Qaeda and prevent Afghanistan from ever again serving as a sanctuary for any transnational terrorist group bent on attacking the United States. STRATFOR has long held that the former goal has been achieved, in effect, and what remains of al Qaeda prime — the group’s core leadership — is not in Afghanistan but across the border in Pakistan. While pressure must be kept on that leadership to prevent the group from regaining its former operational capability, this is an objective very different from the one the United States and ISAF are currently pursuing.

The current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to use military force, as the United States did in Iraq, to reshape the political landscape. Everyone from President Barack Obama to Gen. Stanley McChrystal has made it clear that the United States has no interest in making the investment of American treasure necessary to carry out a decade-long (or longer) counterinsurgency and nation-building campaign. Instead, the United States has found itself in a place in which it has found itself many times before: involved in a conflict for which its original intention for entering no longer holds and without a clear strategy for extricating itself from that conflict.

This is not about “winning” or “losing.” The primary strategic goal of the United States in Afghanistan has little to do with the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. That may be an important means but it is not a strategic end. With a resurgent Russia winning back Ukraine, a perpetually defiant Iran and an ongoing global financial crisis — not to mention profound domestic pressures at home — the grand strategic objective of the United States in Afghanistan must ultimately be withdrawal. This does not mean total withdrawal. Advisers and counterterrorism forces are indeed likely to remain in Afghanistan for some time. But the European commitment to the war is waning fast, and the United States has felt the strain of having its ground combat forces almost completely absorbed far too long.

To facilitate that withdrawal, the United States is trying to establish sustainable conditions — to the extent possible — that are conducive to longer-term U.S. interests in the region. Still paramount among these interests is sanctuary denial, and the United States has no intention of leaving Afghanistan only to watch it again become a haven for transnational terrorists. Hence, it is working now to shape conditions on the ground before leaving.

Immediate and total withdrawal would surrender the country to the Taliban at a time when the Taliban’s power is already on the rise. Not only would this give the movement that was driven from power in Kabul in 2001 an opportunity to wage a civil war and attempt to regain power (the Taliban realizes that returning to its status in the 1990s is unlikely), it would also leave a government in Kabul with little real control over much of the country, relieving the pressure on al Qaeda in the Afghan-Pakistani border region and emboldening parallel insurgencies in Pakistan.

The United States is patently unwilling to commit the forces necessary to impose a military reality on Afghanistan (likely half a million troops or more, though no one really knows how many it would take, since it has never been done). Instead, military force is being applied in order to break cycles of violence, rebalance the security dynamic in key areas, shift perceptions and carve out space in which a political accommodation can take place.



(click here to enlarge image)

In terms of military strategy, this means clearing, holding and building (though there is precious little time for building) in key population centers and Taliban strongholds like Helmand province. The idea is to secure the population from Taliban intimidation while denying the Taliban key bases of popular support (from which it draws not only safe haven but also recruits and financial resources). The ultimate goal is to create reasonably secure conditions under which popular support of provincial and district governments can be encouraged without the threat of reprisal and from which effective local security forces can deploy to establish long-term control.

The key aspect of this strategy is “Vietnamization” — working in conjunction with and expanding Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) forces to establish security and increasingly take the lead in day-to-day security operations. (The term was coined in the early 1970s, when U.S. President Richard Nixon drew down the American involvement in Vietnam by transitioning the ground combat role to Vietnamese forces.) In any counterinsurgency, effective indigenous forces are more valuable, in many ways, than foreign troops, which are less sensitive to cultural norms and local nuances and are seen by the population as outsiders.

But the real objective of the military strategy in Afghanistan is political. Gen. McChrystal has even said explicitly that he believes “that a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome.” Though the objective of the use of military force almost always comes down to political goals, the kind of campaign being conducted in Afghanistan is particularly challenging. The goal is not the complete destruction of the enemy’s will and ability to resist (as it was, for example, in World War II). In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, the objective is far more subtle than that: It is to use military force to reshape the political landscape. The key challenge in Afghanistan is that the insurgents — the Taliban — are not a small group of discrete individuals like the remnants of al Qaeda prime. The movement is diffuse and varied, itself part of the political landscape that must be reshaped, and the entire movement cannot be removed from the equation.

At this point in the campaign, there is wide recognition that some manner of accommodation with at least portions of the Taliban is necessary to stabilize the situation. The overall intent would be to degrade popular support for the Taliban and hive off reconcilable elements in order to further break apart the movement and make the ongoing security challenges more manageable. Ultimately, it is hoped, enough Taliban militants will be forced to the negotiating table to reduce the threat to the point where indigenous Afghan forces can keep a lid on the problem with minimal support.

Meanwhile, attempts at reaching out to the Taliban are now taking place on multiple tracks. In addition to efforts by the Karzai government, Washington has begun to support Saudi, Turkish and Pakistani efforts. At the moment, however, few Taliban groups seem to be in the mood to talk. At the very least they are playing hard to get, hinting at talks but maintaining the firm stance that full withdrawal of U.S. and ISAF forces is a precondition for negotiations.

The current U.S./NATO strategy faces several key challenges:

For one thing, the Taliban are working on a completely different timeline than the United States, which — even separating itself from many of its anxious-to-withdraw NATO allies — is poised to begin drawing down forces in less than 18 months. While this is less of a fixed timetable than it appears (beginning to draw down from nearly 100,000 U.S. and nearly 40,000 ISAF troops in mid-2011 could still leave more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan well into 2012), the Taliban are all too aware of Washington’s limited commitment.

Then there are the intelligence issues:

One of the inherent problems with the Vietnamization of a conflict is operational security and the reality that it is easy for insurgent groups to penetrate and compromise foreign efforts to build effective indigenous forces. In short, U.S./ ISAF efforts with Afghan forces are relatively easy for the Taliban to compromise, while U.S./ISAF efforts to penetrate the Taliban are exceedingly difficult.
U.S. Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the top intelligence officer in Afghanistan who is responsible for both ISAF and separate U.S. efforts, published a damning indictment of intelligence activity in the country last month and has moved to reorganize and refocus those efforts more on understanding the cultural terrain in which the United States and ISAF are operating. But while this shift will improve intelligence operations in the long run, the shake-up is taking place amid a surge of combat troops and ongoing offensive operations. Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. McChrystal have both made it clear that the United States lacks the sophisticated understanding of the various elements of the Taliban necessary to identify the potentially reconcilable elements. This is a key weakness in a strategy that ultimately requires such reconciliation (though it is unlikely to disrupt counterterrorism and the hunting of high-value targets).
The United States and ISAF are also struggling with information operations (IO), failing to effectively convey messages to and shape the perceptions of the Afghan people. Currently, the Taliban have the upper hand in terms of IO and have relatively little problem disseminating messages about U.S./ISAF activities and its own goals. The implication of this is that, in the contest over the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, the Taliban are winning the battle of perception.

The training of the ANA and ANP is also at issue. Due to attrition, tens of thousands of new recruits are necessary each year simply to maintain minimum numbers, much less add to the force. Goals for the size of the ANA and ANP are aggressive, but how quickly these goals can be achieved and the degree to which problems of infiltration can be managed — as well as the level of infiltration that can be tolerated while retaining reasonable effectiveness — all remain to be seen. In addition, loyalty to a central government has no cultural precedent in Afghanistan. The lack of a coherent national identity means that, while there are good reasons for young Afghan men to join up (a livelihood, tribal loyalty), there is no commitment to a national Afghan campaign. There are concerns that the Afghan security forces, left to their own devices, would simply devolve into militias along ethnic, tribal, political and ideological lines. Thus the sustainability of gains in the size and effectiveness of the ANA and ANP remains questionable.

This strategy also depends a great deal on the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, over which U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry has expressed deep concern. The Karzai government is widely accused of rampant corruption and of having every intention of maintaining a heavy dependency on the United States. Doubts are often expressed about Karzai’s intent and ability to be an effective partner in the military-political efforts now under way in his country.

While the United States has already made significant inroads against the Taliban in Helmand province, insurgents there are declining to fight and disappearing into the population. It is natural for an insurgency to fall back in the face of concentrated force and rise again when that force is removed, and the durability of these American gains could prove illusory. As Maj. Gen. Flynn’s criticism demonstrates, the Pentagon is acutely aware of challenges it faces in Afghanistan. It is fair to say that the United States is pursuing the surge with its eyes open to inherent weaknesses and challenges. The question is: Can those challenges be overcome in a war-torn country with a long and proven history of insurgency?

Next: The Taliban strategy
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« Reply #619 on: February 15, 2010, 08:50:48 PM »

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Mon, February 15, 2010 -- 9:15 PM ET
-----

Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban's Top Commander

The Taliban's top military commander was captured several
days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by
Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to
American government officials.

The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan
described by American officials as the most significant
Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in
Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks
second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the
Taliban's founder, and was a close associate of Osama bin
Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several
days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both
taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/world/asia/16intel.html?emc=na
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« Reply #620 on: February 18, 2010, 08:06:38 AM »


==============
Two More Senior Taliban Leaders Are Arrested

Two senior Taliban leaders have been arrested in recent days
inside Pakistan, officials said Thursday, as American and
Pakistani intelligence agents continued to press their
offensive against the group's leadership after the capture of
the insurgency's military commander last month.

Afghan officials said the Taliban's "shadow governors" for
two provinces in northern Afghanistan had been detained in
recent days hiding inside Pakistan. Mullah Abdul Salam, the
Taliban's leader in Kunduz, was detained in the Pakistani
city of Faisalabad, and Mullah Mohammed of Baghlan Province
was also captured in an undisclosed Pakistani city, they
said.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/world/asia/19taliban.html?emc=na
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« Reply #621 on: February 18, 2010, 08:35:17 AM »

Yep, we take them down any time we want, like when we first went into Afganistan.  Can we get a change in the conditions/ environment that allowed them to regrow? THAT is the trick.  Either that or settle for doing a little pruning of their organization, which will eventually backfire.   
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« Reply #622 on: February 25, 2010, 04:52:53 PM »

Yep, we take them down any time we want, like when we first went into Afganistan.  Can we get a change in the conditions/ environment that allowed them to regrow? THAT is the trick. Either that or settle for doing a little pruning of their organization, which will eventually backfire.   

That is the trick now isn't it?  Too many for too long have been worried about "getting the bad guys".  We can take out TB commanders and key players all we want, but that's like trying to cut the heads off of the fabled Hydra.  Cut one off and two more are there to take its place.  What about the "good guys"?  The common, average, run of the mill Afghan.  The people that don't want anything to do with either side (US/CF or TB).  What measures are we, as the "good guys", implementing to change these peoples lives and possibly motivate them to take ownership of the situation in their territory/country?  Our current approach is hardly working...
-------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.eisf.eu/alerts/item.asp?n=698 

Civil-military relations in Afghanistan and Pakistan

09 Feb 2010 | 10:56

In Afghanistan, following US President Obama's decision to "surge" military forces and endorse the strategy earlier laid out by General Stanley McChrystal, military "aid", designed to provide quality-of-life improvements to populations and thus win their "hearts and minds", has become an increasingly emphasized component of NATO operations.  The Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), a fund military commanders can draw upon to support projects in their areas of operation, will be worth up to $1.2 billion in 2010, for instance.  This indicates the growing trend of militaries involved in counterinsurgency operations adopting humanitarian activities and language in order to support political agendas.  This was highlighted further by the deaths of three US soldiers in Pakistan on 2 February 2010; in the country to train the Frontier Corps, they were killed on their way to attending the opening ceremony of a girls school, whilst dressed in civilian clothes.  These articles analyse the issue of civil-military interaction in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the military's use of "aid" to build support for the governments their operations are designed to support:

3 US soldiers among 9 killed in bombing in northwest Pakistan
 
from the Long War Journal, 3 Feb 2010
 
This article demonstrates the conflation between "aid" and counterinsurgency in Pakistan.  The Pakistani Frontier Corps is playing a major role in reasserting government influence and control over previously Taliban-held parts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  As noted above, three US soldiers, in Pakistan to train the Frontier Corps in counterinsurgency techniques, were killed whilst dressed as civilians as they convoyed towards the opening ceremony of a girls' school.  That the soldiers were attending such an event illustrates the importance of the underlying counterinsurgency principles of "clear, hold and build", with the latter phase judged central to cementing populations' support.  It also highlights military encroachment upon activities traditionally undertaken by international aid agencies, and hints at the danger that actors will not be able to, or will not want to, distinguish between humanitarian and political motives where the outputs appear comparable.

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/02/three_us_soldiers_am.php
 
"Humanitarian aid" not something the military can do - experts
 
from IRIN, 26 Jan 2010
 
Military forces in Afghanistan are not simply seeking to harness humanitarian activities to serve political ends, but also are adopting the language of humanitarian aid, even when contradicting its central principles.  Thus, this article provides an example of a NATO/Afghan army operation labelled "humanitarian" by military spokesmen, but which clearly served a political motive.  It argues that such activities could cause a perceptual conflation of military and humanitarian actors in the eyes of Afghan communities and armed actors; insecurity for both humanitarians and their beneficiaries could thus be increased.
 
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/2c9f5559304d2c5f416282e2aecb909a.htm
 
Money can't buy America love
 
from Foreign Policy, 1 Dec 2009
 
This article provides a case against militarised "aid", though it also reflects some scepticism toward the effectiveness of aid agencies' activities in Afghanistan.  As noted, counterinsurgency's "build" component is judged increasingly central to fostering support for the Afghan government.  And yet this research, conducted by the Feinstein International Centre at Tufts University, argues that this use of aid as a "weapons system" is actually ineffective, and perhaps even counterproductive.  It contends that politicised aid tends to feed the dynamics Afghans despair of - most notably government corruption - whilst failing to ensure the provision of sufficient needs-meeting programmes.  It further contends that this has lead Afghan perceptions of those delivering aid, including aid agencies, to grow "overwhelmingly negative".  This article thus provides a scathing critique of politicised aid, but it does not provide an unreserved endorsement of humanitarian aid activities either.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/12/01/money_cant_buy_america_love?page=0,0

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Humanitarian assistance and the like SHOULD IN NO WAY be something with a US/CF military face on it at this point with the situation Afghanistan.  The first couple of years, yes.  But 9 years later we should barely be a shadow.  As with any complicated situation, there are a lot more factors involved that need to be taken into consideration.  We still have a lot to offer but there is a different approach.  So as Rarick said, "THAT is the trick".   

-John   
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« Reply #623 on: February 26, 2010, 05:51:12 AM »

Their outlook is tribal, the next valley over is another tribe.  "They see themselves as cherokees, mowhawks, apaches and crow not Americans."  In otherwords their tribe is their country and identity.   LONG row to hoe to get them untited to any great extent.
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« Reply #624 on: February 26, 2010, 06:33:05 AM »

John:

Very glad to have you with us on this discussion and very interesting points about the militarization of the of humanitarian work.

The challenges here are daunting and it seems to me that our mission and the strategy to realize it are often unclear, inconsistent, and often inchoate.

As I understand it (and I am not sure that I have this correctly) our current strategy under CiC Obama is to win this war of essential national self-defense by enabling the ANP and the ANA in the next 16 months to be sufficiently far on a path to a self-sustaining winning trajectory towards establishing an Afg from which the Taliban will not enable attacks to be launched against the United States that we can begin reducing our troops there.

Do I have this right?

If so, IMHO we are delusional , , ,or we are simply going through a pretense by our CiC so he can say that he kept his campaign promise to fight in Afpakia.  Then after our 18 month efforts do not succeed he gets to say "Well, we tried with our best but the central government is too weak, incoherent, and corrupt, and so, just like Iraq, we are going to leave.  Anyway, Iran will soon have the nuclear bomb, so our position in the region is incoherent and untenable anyway."

I am in a mood. 

Certainly we are led by fine, outstanding generals in Patraeus and McCrystal, and it appears that the Pak govt/ISI may be waking up to the fact that a Taliban Pashtunistan is an existential threat to their regime.  Too bad that our Cic gave McC only 50% of the 40-60,000 troops he asked for and too bad he let everyone, including our enemies now, that we would begin leaving in 18 months.



QUESTION:
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« Reply #625 on: February 26, 2010, 11:26:38 AM »

Stratfor

Reports have come out in recent days that more than half of the Afghan Taliban’s leadership has been arrested. However, most of these reports have come from unverifiable sources in the Pakistani government, making these claims dubious. Islamabad has every reason to want to appear supportive of the United States’ goals in Afghanistan while simultaneously positioning itself for control over the country when U.S. forces withdraw.

Analysis

Seven of the 15 members of the so-called Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban’s shadowy apex leadership council based in the Pashtun corridor of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, have been arrested according to a Feb. 24 report in the Christian Science Monitor, a U.S. newspaper, citing unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. According to this report, in addition to the previously reported arrests of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Maulavi Abdul Kabir and Mullah Muhammad Younis, Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir, who oversees the movement’s military affairs, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada and Mullah Abdul Raouf were also arrested.

Only about half of these arrests have thus far been confirmed in any way. But more importantly, the composition of the Quetta Shura is itself a closely guarded secret. Only Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has the sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the Afghan Taliban to even have a good grasp of the council’s members, so reports from unnamed officials are extremely difficult to verify. No one has a master list of the Afghan Taliban leadership with which to check off individuals.

Even if all these men have indeed been arrested, it is difficult to say whether the Quetta Shura has really been reduced significantly, or — in many cases — if the individuals arrested are actually those they are thought to be. Almost all reports on the details of the arrests cite Pakistani security officials, and there is no way to independently verify them. Islamabad has incentive to show that it is cooperating with the United States, while at the same time reshaping the Afghan Taliban leadership landscape to suit its own long-term purposes.

This most recent leak comes as Pakistan has publicized a string of intelligence coups ranging from the arrest of shadow Taliban governors from northern Afghanistan, to the death of the leader of Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ), Qari Zafar and a supporting role in the Iranian arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of Jundallah. Many aspects of these reports cannot be verified at this time, and given the lack of corroboration and Pakistan’s interests in manipulating perceptions, there is much to suggest that at least some element of Islamabad is feeding the media for its own purposes.

There is little doubt that there are at least partial truths to this series of reports, and that there have been some significant achievements. Baradar, for example, absolutely appears to be in Pakistani custody and may soon be transferred to a detention facility at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

But there are a number of moving parts in the attempts to negotiate with the Taliban — or degrade its capabilities. Pakistan is playing a complex game, and one important question is the extent to which Pakistan is indeed cooperating and coordinating with the United States in a meaningful way, rather than simply making temporary or symbolic gestures. The Pakistanis are deeply skeptical of U.S. support in the long run, and they already are thinking about managing Afghanistan when the United States begins to draw down there in coming years.

However, there is an entire chapter of history to be written before that happens, and Pakistan has every intention of being at the center of any negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, including the talks, the reconciliation process and the implementation of a settlement. A spate of arrests like those of the Quetta Shura members — regardless of whether they actually have been taken out of commission — may indicate that some sort of power play is taking place. But such a development cannot be confirmed presently, and Islamabad has no shortage of reasons to manipulate perceptions.
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« Reply #626 on: February 27, 2010, 05:57:38 AM »

There is a movie "we were soldiers once" that sums up the situation pretty well.  A paraphrase from the old man in the mountain "This is a sad battle, they won it, but the only thing that will change in the end is the number of people that will die before they too go home".

In the DVD deleted scence section there is a scene out take where the American commander is being debriefed.  The point made at the end of the scene is that the people who are being fought are already home, and it is only a matter of time before we got tired and went home too............

This is a fact we are facing in both Iraq and Afganistan.  One country or the other is probably going to be seeing us for a long time, I am thinking Iraq due to there oil.  Afganistan will be seeing us only long enough to get the Taliban Neutralized, but eventually we will end up going back there because it is a good training ground for any guerilla group due to the inter tribal rivalries.  I suspect we will also be back in Somalia for much the same reasons.
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« Reply #627 on: March 01, 2010, 09:24:00 PM »

Great post Rarick,

It really is is too bad that we have such short attention spans as Americans.  Everything is "instant" it seems and if the public doesn't see overnight results then it's not worth the effort to the.  it's sad really.  Never mind the fact that the enemy had the audacity to fly our own planes carrying or own fellow citizens into our own buildings.  Lets just quit...

"Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon and he made his web gear. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is;' he knows either he wins or dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00, he is home.
He knows only The Cause.

Still want to quit?" -Attributed to an anonymous SF Commander
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« Reply #628 on: March 01, 2010, 09:36:31 PM »

And now from NPR News...

I didn't see where much of the "values" came in...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124211413

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Marjah Effort Shows Values, Flaws Of Afghan Forces

by Tom Bowman

March 2, 2010

When the U.S. military began its counterinsurgency offensive in Afghanistan's Helmand River valley last summer, some 4,000 Marines took part in the operation aside about 300 Afghan forces.

By autumn, the number of Afghan troops participating more than doubled, according to Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the Marine commander in southern Afghanistan. Nicholson told NPR that a major challenge in building local relationships was the lack of Afghan soldiers and police.

"We are vetting our police. And my assessment is that probably 3 to 4 out of every 10 we have probably need to really go home," Nicholson says.

More Afghan Troops In Marjah Operation

But senior U.S. officers say the current operation against the Taliban-stronghold of Marjah in Helmand province is far different.

Several thousand Afghan soldiers and police are participating alongside U.S. Marines in the operation that began in mid-February. Afghan national police were brought in from elsewhere in the country to replace corrupt local cops, U.S. officers say.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, points out that there are about 4,500 Afghans with U.S. and coalition troops in Marjah. "It's well planned," Mullen says. "Afghans are in the lead."

You don't forge armies out of nothing. It takes a long time for units to become cohesive and to learn their tasks properly.

- James Danly, retired U.S. Army officer

But a senior military official tells NPR that the U.S. definition of "in the lead" means Afghans are planning the operation, and sitting down with Afghan elders in mosques or in meetings known as shuras.

The Afghans are not leading in combat, says the senior official.

The combat performance of Afghan soldiers is spotty, according to numerous reports from the field. Reporters on the ground report Afghan soldiers in the rear, sometimes smoking hashish or looting, as U.S. Marines move forward to secure Marjah.

American and British troops provide the artillery, the airpower and the logistics. They are also suffering the bulk of the casualties — at least 10 times that of Afghans.

An Uneasy Partnership

James Danly, a retired Army officer who trained Iraqi forces, says the problem in Afghanistan is that for years Afghan units were kept on the periphery of U.S.-led operations. They were never real partners, although that is now beginning to change.

"You don't forge armies out of nothing. It takes a long time for units to become cohesive and to learn their tasks properly," says Danly. "It could take a long time."

Just how long that will take is central question of President Obama's Afghanistan strategy. Obama wants to start removing some U.S. troops by the summer of 2011, turning over responsibility to Afghan forces.

But the Afghans may not be ready.

In a secret memo last fall — later leaked to the press — the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, wrote: "We overestimate the ability of the Afghan security forces to take over."

Eikenberry, who served as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan until 2007, expressed doubt in the memo that Afghan forces could assume full security even by the target date of 2013.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno thinks that may be too pessimistic. Like Eikenberry, Barno once commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Barno says success in the Marjah operation could turn things around in southern Afghanistan, much like the "surge" of American forces in Iraq in 2007 changed the security calculus there.

Afghanistan "could look a lot different in the next six months or a year from now," Barno says. But that will depend on better governance — as well as security, he says.

"I think the Afghan army is going to provide a key part of that," says Barno says. "In some ways maybe this is the first time that the people actually see their army in action. And I know during my experience there that was an eye-opening experience."

An Effort To Recruit In The South

Just getting the Afghan army into the field has been a struggle. The Afghan government has increased pay in an effort to lure and retain recruits. But illicit drug use and illiteracy are common in the ranks.

Senior U.S. trainers, including Maj. Gen. David Hogg, are having a hard time recruiting, especially among the country's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns.

"Now we do have an issue as far as getting Afghans from the south, Pashtuns mainly, and so that's one of the things that will be a challenge as far as maintaining an ethnic balance," Hogg says.

Hogg says part of the problem in increasing the army's ranks in the south in that the region is the heartland of the Taliban movement.

Officials estimate that three-quarters of insurgents in the southern Afghanistan were born and raised there, and did not come from neighboring Pakistan — which is the case for many insurgents in eastern Afghanistan.

But for the Afghan army to be seen as legitimate in the south, more soldiers have to come from there. Most military-age males in the south are already fighting — for the Taliban.

Hogg also says that large numbers of Afghan soldiers are going absent without leave or not reenlisting.

"What that means is we've got retain more and we've got to recruit more to make up for the attrition," Hogg says.

But recruiting is going better outside the south. Hogg says nationwide in December there were nearly 9,000 recruits for the army, double the number from just a few months earlier.

Hogg says his command is hopeful it can meet its target of 134,000 Afghan soldiers by this fall.

But that recruiting success has revealed still another problem: Finding instructors from NATO countries to turn the Afghan recruits into soldiers.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has pressed NATO countries to send more trainers. But Hogg says the allied training effort is still short about 1,900 trainers.

If NATO doesn't send more, the U.S. may have to fill that void, even as the already expanding U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan is expected to reach about 100,000 this fall.
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« Reply #629 on: March 01, 2010, 11:41:28 PM »

Krenz:

Correct me if I am wrong--and unlike me, you are not armchair-- but this piece completely dances around stating openly that the ANA is utterly riddled by Taliban-AQ agents and that we really have no way around this. 

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« Reply #630 on: March 02, 2010, 10:06:00 AM »

OTOH this sounds encouraging:

Special Forces Assassins Infiltrate Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan

Sunday , February 07, 2010

American and British forces poised to assault the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, have begun targeting insurgent leaders for assassination, The Sunday Times reported.

Special forces have been infiltrating the town on "kinetic" missions — jargon for armed attacks.

"Special forces guys have been going in on assassination missions with the aim of decapitating the Taliban force," a military source told the Sunday Times.

At U.S. Marine base Camp Leatherneck and the adjoining British base of Camp Bastion, troops and munitions have been airlifted in by night to avoid enemy rockets. In a break from traditional military secrecy, American, British and Afghan commanders have revealed that Marjah, the last town in Helmand under Taliban control, will in fact be the site of fighting in the near future.

Though Operation Moshtarak —Operation Together — has been widely publicized by top military leaders, the timeline for the offensive has not been revealed.

The success of the planned campaign depends on how quickly troops and civilian development workers can get public services up and running once the Taliban have been driven away, the top U.S. and NATO commander said Sunday.

The military has widely publicized the upcoming offensive in Marjah — the biggest Taliban-held community in the south — although the precise date for the attack in Helmand province remains classified.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the element of surprise is not as important as letting Marjah's estimated 80,000 residents know that an Afghan government is on its way to replace Taliban overlords and drug traffickers.

"We're trying to create a situation where we communicate to them that when the government re-establishes security, they'll have choices," McChrystal said.

Establishing functioning government has been messy even in the relatively safe parts of Afghanistan. NATO forces and international diplomats have to balance the need to increase security with the desire to build up Afghan institutions that have too-often been corrupt or ineffective.

Click here for more from the Sunday Times.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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« Reply #631 on: March 03, 2010, 07:27:20 PM »

Krenz:

Correct me if I am wrong--and unlike me, you are not armchair-- but this piece completely dances around stating openly that the ANA is utterly riddled by Taliban-AQ agents and that we really have no way around this. 



There are bound to be bad guys infiltrating the ranks of the ANA and ANP.  There really is no "black & white" in Afghanistan.  Just a whole lot of gray.  The vetting process for these guys is minimal at best.  In my personal opinion, it's not the TB/AQ that are the major underlying cause for the apparent incompetence and inability of Afghan forces to perform independently and without help from outsiders.  The real problem is actual incompetence at every level throughout the ANA an ANP.  The vast majority have next to no education and a lot of them don't care as long as they get a paycheck however little the pay may be.  And it is very little compared to what the bad guys pay their Holy Soldiers.  Lack of discipline is another major consideration.  Discipline can be thought of as the lube that keeps the gears of the military machine turning smoothly.  Without it the machine breaks.  Lack of pride in the true sense.  Somebody needs to instill in these men a true, deeply rooted sense of worth in these guys.  It seems to me that the majority of them place no real value or importance on what their mission is, Afghanistan as a nation, and themselves as soldiers.  When an American  recruit makes it through basic training or boot camp, they're pissing red, white and blue.  Afghans on the other hand aren't exactly pissing their national colors (red, black & green) though.   Considering all this, the TB/AQ that do exist within the ranks have an easy job and there really is no way around it.  We just have to wait until someone from an opposing tribe rats them out...
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« Reply #632 on: March 03, 2010, 07:31:23 PM »

"Special Forces Assassins Infiltrate Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan"

non-kinetic operations at it finest...  grin
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« Reply #633 on: March 03, 2010, 08:05:53 PM »

"There are bound to be bad guys infiltrating the ranks of the ANA and ANP.  There really is no "black & white" in Afghanistan.  Just a whole lot of gray.  The vetting process for these guys is minimal at best.  In my personal opinion, it's not the TB/AQ that are the major underlying cause for the apparent incompetence and inability of Afghan forces to perform independently and without help from outsiders.  The real problem is actual incompetence at every level throughout the ANA an ANP.  The vast majority have next to no education and a lot of them don't care as long as they get a paycheck however little the pay may be.  And it is very little compared to what the bad guys pay their Holy Soldiers.  Lack of discipline is another major consideration.  Discipline can be thought of as the lube that keeps the gears of the military machine turning smoothly.  Without it the machine breaks.  Lack of pride in the true sense.  Somebody needs to instill in these men a true, deeply rooted sense of worth in these guys.  It seems to me that the majority of them place no real value or importance on what their mission is, Afghanistan as a nation, and themselves as soldiers.  When an American  recruit makes it through basic training or boot camp, they're pissing red, white and blue.  Afghans on the other hand aren't exactly pissing their national colors (red, black & green) though.   Considering all this, the TB/AQ that do exist within the ranks have an easy job and there really is no way around it.  We just have to wait until someone from an opposing tribe rats them out..."

I am truly delighted to have this conversation with you, so I communicate effectively that I am not arguing with you/your experience but rather testing my ideas with you precisely out of respect.

That said, given what you say-- does President Obama's strategy make any sense at all? 

As best as I can tell it is to build a coherent army out of what you just describe (fully consistent with my armchair readings btw) an army that will allow us to begin to leave by , , , when? , , , spring/summer 2011? 

 Do I have this right and if so, does it make any sense?

 
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« Reply #634 on: March 04, 2010, 04:25:10 PM »

Woof Guro Crafty,

"I am truly delighted to have this conversation with you, so I communicate effectively that I am not arguing with you/your experience but rather testing my ideas with you precisely out of respect."


Thank you very much

"That said, given what you say-- does President Obama's strategy make any sense at all?"

Let's see here...

"As best as I can tell it is to build a coherent army out of what you just describe (fully consistent with my armchair readings btw) an army that will allow us to begin to leave by , , , when? , , , spring/summer 2011?"

What's going to happen !?!?!?  shocked

"Do I have this right..."


That appears to be What the CIC has in mind.  cheesy

"...and if so, does it make any sense?"

NONE.  Not one bit.
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« Reply #635 on: March 06, 2010, 07:36:53 PM »

The Info Ops are crucial but seriously?

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In August 2009, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard C. Holbrooke  told the New York Times that "concurrent with the insurgency is an information war," as he discussed the new U.S. effort of up to $150 million a year (to be led by him) to counter the Taliban's well-oiled propaganda machine. "We are losing that war," he confessed.

Now, seven months following the Times interview, Ambassador Holbrooke sings the same tune, even if slightly out of pitch. In accepting the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award last week at Tufts University for his distinguished career in public service, Holbrooke again touted the lack of strategy in countering the Taliban's consistent and effective use of the airwaves to undermine the U.S. engagements in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Citing the initiative mentioned late last summer, Holbrooke stated that efforts to that end are "just rolling in." In fact, the initial figure of $150 million seems to have not been adequate. According to a State Department document from January, the budget this year for Afghanistan and Pakistan communications projects is about $250 million, with pots of money in the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies, too.

Given how complex it is for us living here in the United States to measure the effectiveness thus far of the U.S. strategy to counter the Taliban communications team on the ground -- though by most accounts, progress has been pegged between abject and abysmal, for such information campaigns are inherently viewed as U.S. propaganda themselves -- let's focus on an initiative we can take a closer look at, such as the military's use of Twitter.

"There's an entire audience segment that seeks its news from alternative means outside traditional news sources, and we want to make sure we're engaging them as well," Col. Greg Julian told the Associated Press in June 2009. At the time, Julian was the top U.S. spokesman in Afghanistan and twittered away as part of the strategy, though his last tweet was "Obama Afghan strategy decision 'within days'" in November of last year. Succeeding Julian -- now spokesman for NATO -- as the chief public affairs officer of coalition forces is Col. Wayne Shanks. He does not have a Twitter account, or if he does, it probably has less than Col. Julian's 591 followers. Perhaps Shanks is of the position that the new U.S. forces in Afghanistan Twitter account (USforA) will suffice as an effective counter-Taliban information source. With nearly 6300 followers and a collection of positive tweets and hard facts about the reality on the ground, it would seem the strategy is on point and the initiative well directed.

But wait; let's take a closer look. On March 4th, USforA tweeted, "VIDEO: NATO's Joint Forces Command Photo Contest," which links to a YouTube video of a photo-montage that you simply have to see for yourself:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCVxXrIwCoo
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« Reply #636 on: March 09, 2010, 10:36:28 AM »

Gates sees momentum in Afghanistan but plays down prospects for reconciliation
 
By Greg Jaffe
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

KABUL -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that recent military offensives against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan had gained momentum but that a reconciliation effort proposed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai was unlikely in the near term to cause senior Taliban leaders to lay down their arms. Such defections will not happen until senior insurgent leaders begin to "realize that the odds of success are no longer in their favor," Gates said in a joint news conference with the Afghan president.

Karzai has proposed a major conference this spring to begin the process of reconciliation with dissident ethnic and political leaders, including the Taliban. Gates arrived in Kabul to discuss Karzai's plans for his conference and to get a better sense of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's plans for a large offensive in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, which will probably take place this summer. His visit comes about three weeks after McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, launched an assault on the southern town of Marja, the first major U.S. military operation in the country since President Obama announced his revised war strategy late last year. The Obama administration's approach is built around the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops and an increased focus on building Afghan governance at the district and provincial level.

Although Gates seemed less sanguine than Karzai about the immediate prospects for reconciliation, he said that as U.S., Afghan and NATO forces pushed the Taliban out of havens in the south and east, it was likely that some Taliban leaders would feel pressure to switch allegiances and support the Afghan government.

About 6,000 of the 30,000 additional troops approved by Obama in December have arrived in Afghanistan. "I would say it is very early yet and people still need to understand there is some very hard fighting and very hard days ahead," Gates said. McChrystal said the coming offensive in Kandahar would look significantly different from the recent effort in Marja. U.S. Marines and Afghan forces mounted a large assault on the town, which was dominated by Taliban forces. There was essentially no Afghan government presence in Marja before the assault.

By contrast, there is already a government presence in Kandahar. Instead of U.S. and Afghan forces pushing directly into the city, U.S. officials plan to focus on the region around Kandahar, where the Taliban has been able to exact significant casualties on U.S., Afghan and NATO troops. "Kandahar has not been under Taliban control, [but] it has been under a menacing Taliban presence, particularly in the districts around it," McChrystal said.

The campaign to take back the city is likely to proceed far more gradually than the recent move into Marja. "There won't be a D-Day that is climactic," McChrystal said. "It will be a rising tide of security." In the weeks before the summer offensive, the United States will significantly bolster its presence in the province with Army troops. Afghan and U.S. leaders will begin reaching out to tribal elders in the area in an effort to win their support for military action and an enduring Afghan government presence.

If U.S. and Afghan forces can drive the Taliban from the region and reestablish an Afghan government presence, senior U.S. and NATO officials said it could swing the momentum of the war in favor of the struggling Karzai government. "If we are able to succeed in Kandahar and really ensure Kandahar is stable and sustainable, in my view the historians will look back on it as one of the decisive moments of this campaign," said Mark Sedwill, NATO's senior civilian representative to Afghanistan.
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« Reply #637 on: March 10, 2010, 11:35:32 AM »

Its WaPo (a.k.a. Pravda on the Potomac) so caveat lector.  That said, we search for the Truth, inconvenient and otherwise, so here it is:



http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/08/AR2010030804916.html
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« Reply #638 on: March 11, 2010, 04:34:33 AM »

Pakistan's ISI Chief: When Personalities Matter
TUESDAY WAS ONE OF THOSE DAYS when a key development with global implications got very little attention around the world. On March 9, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani extended the term of service of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of the country’s premier intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate. Pasha, who has been serving as Director-General of the ISI since his appointment by Kayani in September 2008, was due to retire on March 18. Many of the army’s top brass —including Kayani and Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen. Tariq Majid — are due to retire by autumn.

Normally, personalities and factions do not matter insofar as geopolitics is concerned, certainly not in the long run. In this case, however, we are dealing with the short term, given the narrow window of opportunity that U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has to turn things around in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region –- the epicenter of global jihadist activity. This is why Pasha’s extension is an extremely significant development. Given the domestic and regional jihadist insurgency situation, the development is obviously based on Pakistan’s need for continuity of policy. But it is equally important for the American strategy for Afghanistan.

Pasha heads the ISI, which plays the single most important role in the U.S.-led international effort to bring about an end to the regional jihadist morass. In general, Washington relies heavily on Pakistan’s army-led security establishment to help bring a close to the now nine-year-old jihadist war. But without the ISI, the United States simply could not realize its objectives in the region.

There are two reasons for this. The first has to do with the historical role of the ISI in cultivating and managing Islamist militants, particularly in the case of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement. The second reason is that the ISI is in the process of a major shift; it is transitioning from being the cultivator of jihadists to being an entity that fights them.

“The ISI plays the single most important role in the U.S.-led international effort to bring about an end to the regional jihadist morass.”
Both of these attributes are absolutely essential for the success of the American strategy. Washington needs the ISI to help with intelligence to eliminate irreconcilable Taliban and their allies among the al Qaeda-led transnational jihadist nexus. More importantly though, Washington needs the ISI to eventually help negotiate a settlement with the reconcilable elements among the Afghan Taliban.

After years of tense relations, U.S.-Pakistani cooperation has recently seen considerable progress. The gains made thus far are nascent and have largely taken place under the current military-intelligence leadership. In the nearly 18 months that Pasha has been leading the ISI, Pakistan has taken a variety of unprecedented steps against Islamist militants. These include a crackdown against key Lashkar-e-Taiba figures due to their involvement in the Mumbai attacks in November 2008; the retaking of the Swat region from Taliban rebels; the ongoing offensive in the tribal belt, especially South Waziristan; growing intelligence-sharing to facilitate the U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in the tribal areas; and the recent actions against the Afghan Taliban.

These accomplishments are not possible without the cooperation of institutions, not just particular individuals. But when we talk about paradigmatic shifts in state behavior, specific individuals become important because they are the ones spearheading the radical changes. In the case of the ISI, this is even more important because the organization is in the process of transforming its decades-old policy of working with Islamist militants, and is now combating them.

The United States has acknowledged that the jihadist war in southwest Asia is primarily an intelligence war, and that it needs the ISI to move in a certain direction. This, in turn, requires specific personalities at the helm. Therefore, not only does Pakistan need continuity in its current intelligence leadership, the United States is dependent upon it as well. In other words, this war is as political as it is geopolitical.

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« Reply #639 on: March 20, 2010, 07:52:17 AM »

KABUL, Afghanistan — The tribal elders had traveled many hours to reach a windswept Afghan military base on the capital’s outskirts to sign their names to a piece of paper allowing them to bring their countrymen home from American detention.

As an Afghan general read the document aloud, Cmdr. Dawood Zazai, a towering Pashtun tribal leader from Paktia Province who fought the Soviets, thumped his crutch for attention. Along with other elders, he did not like a clause in the document that said the detainees had been reasonably held based on intelligence.

“I cannot sign this,” Commander Zazai said, thumping his crutch again. “I don’t know what that intelligence said; we did not see that intelligence. It is right that we are illiterate, but we are not blind.

“Who proved that these men were guilty?”

No one answered because Commander Zazai had just touched on the crux of the legal debate that has raged for nearly a decade in the United States: Does the United States have the legal right to hold, indefinitely without charge or trial, people captured on the battlefield? His question also exposed a fundamental disagreement between the Afghans and the American military about whether people had been fairly detained.

This is the latest chapter in America’s tortuous effort to repair the damage done over the last nine years by a troubled, overcrowded detention system that often produced more insurgents rather than reforming them. The problems were similar in the huge sweeps of suspected insurgents in Iraq.

Now, in Afghanistan, detainees who are deemed not to be a threat are handed over to local elders on the understanding that it is the community’s responsibility to ensure that they stay on the right side of the law.

The releases that took place at a recent ceremony at the 201st Afghan Army Corps headquarters, as well as the release or assignment to Afghan detention of 70 to 80 detainees earlier this year, are part of a new effort to free detainees who are no longer thought to be an imminent threat to the government of Afghanistan or the international forces.

Under the program, recently overhauled by Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward and Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, a Harvard-trained lawyer with the army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, there is now an automatic administrative review devised to speed the release process, and for the first time it allows detainees to make a case for their release.

Once the review board has approved a release, the Afghan military, in conjunction with the Americans, asks the detainee to sign a pledge to stay away from the insurgency, from the Taliban and from Al Qaeda. The elders are asked to sign a similar pledge that they will help them. Similar programs have been used with considerable success in Iraq, and the new one in Afghanistan builds on that experience.

There are now about 800 detainees at the American-run Detention Facility in Parwan, the new detention center that opened at the end of 2009 to replace the notorious holding facility at Bagram Air Base, which is associated with abuses that resulted in the deaths of at least two detainees. The vast majority of detainees are Afghans, but about 32 are foreigners, according to a senior American officer.

The American plan is to hand control of the detention center to the Afghan Ministry of Defense by January 2011, but Americans will still be deeply involved in the detention operations. In the coming months, the Americans hope to use the review process to release as many detainees as possible if they are deemed no longer a threat and to transfer to Afghan custody those who can be tried for crimes under Afghan law.

But as the recent ceremony showed, beyond the cake and fruit and formal speeches lies a reservoir of resentment about how the United States has handled detentions since 2001.

In interviews, former detainees and their families said the Americans were routinely misled by informants who either had personal grudges against them or were paid by others to give information to the Americans that would put the person in jail.

In addition, many Afghans have experienced the detentions as humiliating, and found almost unbearable the depths of poverty borne by their families during their internment.

“The information you had about these men was wrong in the first place,” said Hajji Azizullah, 54, a leader of the Andar tribe in Ghazni, who had come to sign for two detainees. “We are confident they were not involved with insurgents. If they were, we wouldn’t be here to sign for them.”

One detainee, Pacha Khan, 29, an illiterate bread baker from Kunar Province, said he was still puzzled about why he had been detained in the first place, let alone held for three years. “I was innocent,” he insisted. “Spies took money and sold me to the Americans. The Americans treated us very well, but as you know, jail is a big thing — to be away from your family, your relatives.”

His brother, Gul Ahmed Dindar, was less forgiving. He had to support his brother’s family of eight children and a wife on the meager salary of a local police officer. “They were about to sell their children,” he said. “They had very little to live on. They sold their one goat, their one sheep and their cow. Then they sold the furniture — it was not much. They have had a very tough life.”

Admiral Harward insisted that the American intelligence was good and that these were insurgents, but on hearing the elders’ protests about signing a document that made it sound as if the tribal leaders agreed with the American view, he offered to change the language to say that in the eyes of American forces these detainees were insurgents. The elders nodded their assent. The new language will be used on future sponsor forms. “We learn something every time we do this,” Admiral Harward said.

The Afghan military made its own effort to solve the problem when it heard the elders’ protests, by simply writing in the word “no” in front of the phrase saying the detainee had a “link to the insurgency.” The version the elders signed said the detainee had “no link.”

In the shifting shadows of this often invisible war, where no one is sure who is lying and who is telling the truth, it seemed a reasonable way to resolve the day’s discord.
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« Reply #640 on: March 25, 2010, 10:41:16 AM »


Yon's track record in this is quite strong.
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Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
25 March 2010

Dogs have been trained to carry bombs to attack enemies for decades.  The Soviets and others have used dogs as low-tech smart bombs.  Yet canine platoons likely would rebel if they caught scent they were being duped to die.

Today, more sophisticated people employ men (mostly) to deliver bombs in Afghanistan.  Gullible souls are selected, conditioned, trained and deployed.  Malleable minds are identified then loaded with psychic software that uses their minds to create a vision.  Evil persons of superior intellect identify the raw material—that raw material might be an engineer from a stable family—and trains them to fetch myths.

Suicide attackers have murdered countless thousands of people around the world.  They go by various names, such as Kamikaze, Black Tiger, and Martyr.

The attackers are not all men.  Some are Tigresses.  My friend Alex Perry met a wannabe Black Tigress in Sri Lanka.  She was 18.  Alex described the girl in Time Magazine:

“But asked when she hoped to achieve her dream of being a suicide bomber, she grinned, squirmed and buried her face in her arms. "She's already written her application," said her commander, Lt. Col. Dewarsara Banu, smiling at her charge's shyness. "But there's still no reply." "Why hasn't there been a reply?" whined Samandi, looking up with the one eye, her left, that survived a shot to the head and fiddling with the capsule of cyanide powder around her neck. "I want this. I want to be a Black Tiger. I want to blast myself for freedom."

How Sri Lanka's Rebels Build a Suicide Bomber.

Many people are persuaded by cult artifices into any sort of behavior, including ritual suicide and murder.  It’s crucial to understand that many suicide-murders are part of a religious ceremony.  The attack is the climax of the ceremony.  This is neither complicated, nor subtle.

Suicide murders are merely a small fraction of cult behaviors.  Cults often do not revolve around religions.  Communist cadres once fanned across the globe, teaching that capitalism must die on a global scale for communism to reach its imagined grandeur.  Yet even as communist countries have failed across the world, true believers intoned the conviction that “real communism” had never been tried, and if it were, it would fulfill its promises.  This “willing suspension of disbelief” demonstrates an important aspect often organic to cults: when cult prophecies are proven wrong, we might expect the cult to disintegrate in face of the evidence.  Yet instead of disintegrating, powerful cults often refortify, strengthen, and redouble recruitment.  Failure can cause them to grow.

Some cult leaders are true believers while others are true deceivers.  From the outside, cults often can be easy to spot, though the hardest cult to see is the one you are in.

We face an increasing number of suicide murders here in the “Muslim world”—in places where suicide attacks were previously unheard of.  Some people are coerced into suicide, such as the unfortunate women who were raped and defiled in Iraq, then shamed and coerced into suicide for the sake of  “honor.”  Or the case of a young Libyan, captured by soldiers from a unit I was with in Iraq.  The Libyan was thankful for his capture: Iraqis were trying to force him to wear a suicide bomb.

Others are “brainwashed” and reloaded with brainware whose program creates suicide murderers.

A few weeks ago, on the morning of March 1st, just close by Kandahar Airfield, a suicide murderer waited in ambush.  An American convoy from the 82nd Airborne was crossing the Tarnak River Bridge when the man detonated his car bomb, sending a heavily armored American MRAP off the bridge.  At 0735, the boom thundered across Kandahar Airfield.  I felt the explosion and turned around to look for a mushroom.  The sound was vigorous enough that I thought we may have been hit on base.  There it was: the orange mushroom cloud of dust gathered and could be seen floating away.  It was off base in the direction of Highway 4 to Kandahar.

American Soldier Ian Gelig and several Afghans were killed.  It’s difficult to know how many locals are killed and wounded in attacks; often they die later or are never taken to hospitals.

Soldiers from 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat team were planning to conduct a mission that morning that required crossing the now badly damaged bridge.  Our mission was cancelled, as were many other missions for the next couple days.  In addition to killing Ian Gelig, the single attacker impacted the flow of the war in this crucial battle space.

Nearly two weeks later, on Saturday 13 March, I was preparing to go on another mission with 5/2 SBCT soldiers.  Shortly before our departure, just up the road in Kandahar City, a serious attack unfolded at night, including three or four suicide attackers.  About 35 people were killed and roughly another 50 wounded.  Again, our mission was cancelled because the roads were closed, though by morning we took helicopters and bypassed the incident.  Turns out, the enemy was disappointed with their attack.  About half the attacks apparently did not go off, while American and Afghan forces responded more quickly than the enemy had expected and limited the damage.  According to intelligence, the Taliban are extremely paranoid.  Taliban leadership suspected there had been an inside informant.  They planned to conduct a purge.  Meanwhile, I got one report from the ground that Afghans believed most of the casualties were caused by Afghan police who are said to have fired wildly during the attack.  One man told me that an Afghan position randomly fired his 12.7mm DsHK machine gun across the city.  (These guns are so large they can rip a man in two.)  Whether the allegation is true or false is not known by me, though it stands alone as a bullet in the information war.

Ground Sign

On 8 April 2006, I was driving with a friend from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion when shortly after we left the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at Lash, a suicide attacker struck.  We escaped entirely, hearing about the attack later.  Some days later, we drove back to Lash.  On 13 April, a second suicide attack happened at the same place, shaking the building while I was writing a dispatch about how the war was going sour.

These were the first two suicide attacks in Lashkar Gah.

(A couple more suicide attackers were killed in that same close area in Lash while I was writing this dispatch in neighboring Kandahar.)

Lone Wolf suicide murders occur, but the context of these first two bombings in Lashkar Gah indicated that a system was in place, and the suicide bombers were not terribly expensive to buy.  If those suicide bombers were expensive or hard to come by, the commander likely would have saved them for special missions of high specific significance.  Yet the targets of the two attacks were small and tactical, of little specific significance.  Why would a commander waste “smart ammo” on tactical targets?   Perhaps the “price” of the ammo—whether through coercion or bribery—must be reasonable, and he can buy more.

One intelligence report indicates that a certain Mullah paid cash and wheat seed to the father of Shafiqullah Rahman and Mohammed Hashim who detonated suicide car bombs on 11 November and 19 November 2009.

Suicide attackers come in different “grades.”  Some are illiterate, unsophisticated people, unsuited for complex targeting.  A plotter could not expect to select an illiterate village boy from the hinterlands of Zabul Province to move to Florida, obtain a place to live and begin flight training to crash airplanes into buildings.

Just days before 9/11, in Afghanistan, attackers passed themselves off as international journalists and managed to kill Ahmad Shah Massoud.  A couple days later, on 9/11, hijackers attacked the United States.  The killers were polyglots who combined savvy with international experience to wage complex attacks, such as was seen in Mumbai, India.  Another sophisticated international suicide attack occurred in Afghanistan in December 2009, killing seven CIA agents.

More locally, within a short distance of this keyboard, suicide attackers who are spent on random convoys or “common targets” probably tend to be simple folk.  Many suicide attackers in Afghanistan are believed to be street children or young people from dirt-poor villages, for instance from Zabul Province.  Most are thought to be young, uneducated and impoverished.  These unfortunates are believed to be conditioned in madrassas in Pakistan, and in fact our intelligence people believe that there might be three madrassas in one particular town, where suicide bombers are conditioned and shipped straight into Kandahar Province.

IEDs are by far our biggest threat here, yet suicide attacks are also deadly while generating more press.  Also, IEDs generally only affect people who go where the IEDs are, while suicide murderers are known to hijack “random” airplanes far away from the perceived battlefield.  Most victims of the suicide murderers we face are other Muslims.  This was also true in Iraq where murderers would attack mosques or funeral processions, as an example.


In both Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian casualties cause the people to turn against the side perpetrating the casualties.  This photo was taken after a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq, in May 2005.  The neighborhood had been pro-insurgent.  After this bomb in the midst of children, the neighborhood turned against the terrorists.  The little girl’s name was Farah.  She died shortly after this moment.

There was a time when Americans seemed to view suicide attacks as a sign of the complete conviction of the enemy, an immutable dedication to their cause that many people found terrifying and cause for soul-searching.  “What could we have done to provoke such anger?” Yet with time, American views of suicide attacks have matured and become more grounded.  Firstly, Americans in particular are far less afraid of suicide attackers and extremely unlikely to capitulate with anyone who attacks on American soil.  Suicide attackers hit American soil.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, they have become commonplace.  Secondly, most importantly, wild use of suicide attackers is seen not as evidence that we are attacking the “wrong people” whose dedication to their cause is unstoppable, but as concrete evidence that we are attacking the right people and that they should be destroyed.  Japanese Kamikaze attacks are ingrained in the psyche of generations of Americans born post-World War II.  Despite enemy demonstrations of absolute conviction, our military is today stationed peacefully in Japan.

Overuse of suicide attackers does not appear to cause Americans to cower, but to evoke Americans to want to kill the perpetrator.

Al Qaeda in Iraq was partially but significantly undone by overuse of suicide attackers.  The Taliban is marching down the same path, but top-tier Taliban are smarter than al Qaeda and are trying to avert backlash.

Savage behavior continues to turn people against the Taliban.  Realizing this, Mullah Omar and his Taliban issued a code of conduct in 2009: “Rules and Regulations for Mujahidin.”

Item 41:

Make sure you meet these 4 conditions in conducting suicide attacks:

A-Before he goes for the mission, he should be very educated in his mission.
B-Suicide attacks should be done always against high ranking people.
C-Try your best to avoid killing local people.
D-Unless they have special permission from higher authority, every suicide attack must be approved by higher authority.

In 2009, one report indicated there were 148 suicide bombings or attempts in Afghanistan.  Suicide murders continue to occur a short drive from here that are not meeting the above requirements.  Taliban continue to hit all manner of targets, and regularly slaughter non-combatant men, women and children.

Within a week subsequent to the publication of this dispatch, suicide murderers will likely kill innocent people here.  The Taliban’s efforts at repackaging themselves as kinder, gentler mass-murderers is failing.  Their suicide bombing campaign is backfiring.  The Taliban are losing their cool.  Something is in the air.  The enemy remains very deadly, yet the scent of their weakness is growing stronger while our people close the in.
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« Reply #641 on: March 26, 2010, 06:02:33 AM »

M. Yon has been on the ground and in the area pretty much for the duration, and has had the perspective of the war documented at all levels.  This I would accept over the curent MSM pelosi propoganda.   I think this guy should be up for a Pulitzer if that award means anything anymore.
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« Reply #642 on: March 26, 2010, 12:00:18 PM »

Yon is reader supported.  Best thing is to set up a monthly payment so that he can budget accordingly.
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« Reply #643 on: March 30, 2010, 08:01:27 AM »

Summary
As the U.S. drawdown from Iraq continues, the renewed focus on stabilizing Afghanistan includes a new counterinsurgency strategy. Along with more restrictive rules of engagement comes a less urgent insistence on opium-poppy eradication — this in a country that produces more than 90 percent of the world’s opium supply. The transition to other cash crops is still part of the long-term solution, but it will take time to determine the best approach. Meanwhile, opium production will remain a primary livelihood for thousands of rural Afghans. And there are plenty of other players — from the Taliban and certain members of the Afghan government to the Iranian military and the Moscow Mob — who have a vested interest in the enterprise.

Analysis
At a NATO conference in Brussels March 24, NATO spokesman James Appathurai rejected suggestions from Russian counternarcotics director Victor Ivanov that an opium crop eradication program be implemented in Afghanistan. Over the past 20 years, Russia has gone from being a trans-shipment route for heroin to a major consumer of heroin, the second largest market in the world behind Europe. Such a development has dramatic effects on public health and social stability in a country already facing dire demographic challenges, so it makes sense that Russia would take an interest in eliminating the source of the drugs.

However, opium cultivation has become a main source of income for thousands of rural Afghans, and as we recently saw in the NATO-led push into southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, making peace with the locals by not interfering with their livelihood is a higher priority than eradicating their opium poppies. Right now, as a new counterinsurgency strategy takes shape in Afghanistan, Russian counternarcotics officials are unlikely to get much cooperation from NATO when it comes to the destruction of crops. That will likely come in time. The Russians may find more immediate cooperation in interdicting opiate trafficking in Afghanistan, which is largely managed by militant factions opposing NATO forces.

Afghanistan is at the center of the global trade in illicit opiates, with more than 90 percent of the world’s opium supply originating there. (The country also is a huge cultivator of marijuana, which is a significant cash crop but not as significant as opium.) Despite the fact that opium poppies can be grown in a variety of climates and soil conditions, its production is so concentrated in Afghanistan and countries like it because the cultivation of opium poppies can thrive only in regions with limited government control. Within Afghanistan, the cultivation of poppies is concentrated in the south and west of the country, with Helmand province alone accounting for more than half of Afghanistan’s total production. These are also the regions of the country where Afghan government control is the weakest and Taliban control is the strongest.

Besides Afghanistan, the other big opium producers are Myanmar, Pakistan, Laos and Mexico, but these countries make up only a fraction of overall production. Southeast Asia previously dominated opium production during the 1970s and most of the 1980s, while Afghanistan’s opium was consumed regionally. It was not until the mid-1990s that Afghanistan went from being one of several large opium-growing countries to producing more than 50 percent of the world’s supply. As Afghanistan’s importance in the global opiate trade has grown, so has the value of trafficking routes out of the country. When Southeast Asian opium dominated the world market, Thailand and China were the main routes through which the product reached the consumer. Now, with Afghanistan producing most of the world’s opium, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia are the most important transit countries.

The trafficking of opiates out of Afghanistan to outside consumer markets is a highly lucrative business. The annual global market for illicit opiates is estimated to be about $65 billion, which, to put it in context, is roughly equal to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Croatia. In 2009, according to U.N. estimates, the opiate trade accounted for $2.3 billion of the Afghan economy, or about 19 percent of the country’s GDP. The flow of drugs in one direction and money in the other is of strategic significance because it provides financial support for regional players, some of whom are militant groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban. Because production is centralized in Afghanistan, actors immediately surrounding Afghanistan control routes to and profits from the primary consumer markets in Iran, Russia and Europe.


Production

Opiates are the family of refined narcotics to which heroin, morphine, codeine and other often-abused substances belong. Opiates such as morphine were developed in the 19th century for medicinal purposes and are still widely used (although much more restricted) today. Heroin is processed in a way that allows faster absorption into the system, making it a more potent form of morphine. Both, along with other related drugs, are refined from opium, a naturally occurring product of the opium poppy plant.

Opium is produced by slitting the seed pod of opium poppies to extract the sap. The sap oozes out as a thick brown-black gum which is then formed into bricks that are sold to traffickers and distributors. The poppy growing season in Afghanistan runs from planting in December to harvest in April. But the growing season does not greatly affect the times of the year that the drugs are trafficked, since Afghan farmers and traffickers have built up an opium stockpile of approximately 12,000 tons, which is enough to supply about two years worth of global demand. Only 10 percent of this stockpile is in the hands of Afghan farmers, with the rest under the control of traffickers and militants both in Afghanistan and along the trafficking routes. This stockpile buffers against extreme market fluctuations by providing a steady stream of product that evens out the spike in supply during harvesting season, and it also serves a safety net in case of seizures or crop destruction. This suggests a fairly high level of planning and organization among those trafficking opiates.





After the opium is collected by farmers it is usually sold to traffickers, who will often refine the opium further before moving it out of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, this system is well organized, with farmers and traffickers often having agreements that run for several years. About 60 percent of the opium produced in Afghanistan is processed into heroin and, to a lesser extent, morphine, before being moved out of the country. Refining also takes place all along the transit route from Afghanistan, especially in Iran and Russia, but it makes sense to refine the opium as close to the production site as possible. Refining opium into heroin and morphine gives traffickers a number of advantages over trafficking unrefined opium as a commodity. Heroin and morphine are more compact (10 kilograms of opium produce one kilogram of heroin), which makes it more efficient to transport. And one kilogram of heroin can fetch upward of 100 times more than a kilogram of opium, making it more cost effective to transport.

The technology required to convert opium to heroin is very basic, requiring little more than a container to heat the opium in and some chemicals. However, some of the chemicals needed are difficult to acquire, acetic anhydride being the most important, and these have to be smuggled into Afghanistan. Anti-drug authorities have made a concerted effort to target the precursor trade, and this has made acquiring these chemicals in the necessary quantities (more than 13,000 tons a year) in Afghanistan difficult. However, refining in Afghanistan is still very common, and one sign of this has been the recent anthrax deaths of heroin users in Europe. The infected users were likely consuming heroin cut with ground-up goat bones, which is more prevalent in Afghanistan than the more commonly used sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and is known to host anthrax spores.


Trafficking Routes

Illicit opiates are moved out of Afghanistan through three main routes. About 40 percent of Afghanistan’s opiates travel through Iran to reach their end markets, while 30 percent goes through Pakistan and 25 percent through central Asia, with the last 5 percent having an indeterminate route. Afghan opiates are trafficked all over the world, but the most important end markets are Russia, Europe and Iran.


Iran

Iran’s land bridge connecting south Asia to the Middle East and Anatolian Peninsula has long been a trafficking route for all sorts of products, both licit and illicit. In 2007, more than 80 percent of the world’s opium seizures and 28 percent of its heroin seizures were made in Iran. Since 1979 more than 3,600 police officers and soldiers have been killed in violence between the Iranian government and drug traffickers. Before Afghanistan became the world’s leading opium-producing country, Iran was primarily a consumer of illicit opiates; trafficking through the country was very limited. This began to change as Afghanistan’s importance in opium cultivation rose in the 1990s and Iran became the main route through which Afghan opiates reach the wealthy consumer markets in Europe (Iran is still a substantial consumer of opiates, particularly unrefined opium). Those opiates that are trafficked through Iran continue onward to Turkey and Azerbaijan, with the Turkish route being the most important, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the opiates consumed in Europe.





Afghan opiates enter Iran via three main routes: by land from Afghanistan, by land from Pakistan and by sea from Pakistan, with small amounts coming over the border to Turkmenistan. Within Iran the product is moved toward the northwestern regions of the country and on to Europe and Russia along two main routes. Drugs that come directly from Afghanistan are moved north of the Dasht-e-Kavir desert toward Tehran, and then on to Turkey or Azerbaijan. Most of what is smuggled in from Pakistan is moved south of the Kavir-e-Lut desert and then on toward Esfahan and Tehran. What is brought in by sea goes mainly to the ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar, before moving northwest with the rest of the flow. While opiates trafficked through Iran do go in other directions — mainly toward the Arabian Peninsula and into Iraq — most are bound for consumer markets in Europe or are consumed domestically. Once in Iran, the drugs are moved mainly by car and truck. Drug seizures are fairly common throughout Iran, but especially on the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, along the northern and central corridors, and in Tehran.

Cross-border ethnic links are important to the smuggling of Afghan drugs in all of the countries of the region. This is particularly true in southeastern Iran, where the Baloch ethnic group is heavily involved in the drug trade. There are significant populations of Balochis in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they move with relative ease between these countries. Government control over this border region is weak and traffickers move around in heavily armed groups with little fear of the authorities. Most of the drugs that cross the border in this region are transported by large, well-armed and motorized convoys. This is in contrast to the northern route, where drugs are more often brought over on foot or by camel or donkey — and frequently in the stomachs of these animals — before being loading into vehicles for transit across Iran.

One reason that we know of Balochi involvement in drug trafficking between southwest Pakistan and Iran is that the Iranian government is anxious to associate militant separatist groups in the region with drug trafficking, and the Balochs in southern Iran are among the most active separatists in the country. News reports of raids and seizures along Iran’s border with Pakistan tend to play up this aspect of the trade.

Little is known about the groups that are moving Afghan drugs through Iran, but given the substantial value of the drugs and the logistical management needed to ensure a steady flow of product, these groups seem to know what they are doing. The system must be organized at a higher level, and with the absence of official blame being placed on a nationwide organized-crime network, it is very likely that the Iranian government is involved. STRATFOR sources in Iran indicate that individual Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and military commanders oversee the flow of drugs through their regions, receiving a lucrative income in a country beset by multiple economic problems due to sanctions and the threat of more to come.

Given the value of opiates passing through Iran, estimated to be worth about $20 billion once they reach the street (approximately 5 percent of Iran’s GDP), it is hard to believe that a state whose geography predisposes it to land trade would fight so hard to keep the financial boon linked to opiates out of the system. Seizures are still made across the country, but these are more likely triggered by traffickers who refuse to cooperate with the authorities managing the trade. In recent months Iranians have also been arrested for drug smuggling in a number of Southeast Asian countries, suggesting an expanded geographical scope for Iranian drug traffickers.

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« Reply #644 on: March 30, 2010, 08:02:16 AM »




Pakistan

While Iran is the main trafficking route for Afghan-produced opiates, Pakistan is the most common first stop for drugs out of Afghanistan. The long border between the two countries is virtually impossible to control, and smuggling across the border is very common, especially for the Taliban. Indeed, opiate production and smuggling through Pakistan has provided essential support to the Afghan Taliban, which raised an estimated $450 million to $600 million between 2005 and 2008, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Drugs enter the country along the northwest Afghan-Pakistani border and then take several paths across Pakistan. One is from southern Afghanistan across the border to the city of Quetta, which is an important transit point for Afghan opiates and a center of Afghan Taliban activity. About a quarter of the opiates that enter Pakistan are then taken into Iran through Balochistan province. Another important route is south through the Indus valley toward Karachi, a port city on the Arabian Sea and a key hub for organized crime in Pakistan. Once they leave the port of Karachi, the largest port in the region, drugs can be moved all over the world. Shipments of drugs are usually hidden in cargo containers, or they can be smuggled aboard commercial airliners. Afghan opiates moving through Pakistan also make their way to India and China, although Myanmar supplies most of the opiates to these markets.


Central Asia

Opiates moving north out of Afghanistan into Central Asia follow numerous routes. According to the United Nations, Tajikistan reported the most seizures in 2008, but tracking drug seizures does not necessarily indicate where most of the drugs are going. It does show where drug trafficking is the most volatile, where competing actors (including the government) are battling for turf and stealing each other’s shipments. Afghan opiates are certainly trafficked north from Afghanistan through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but most of the northbound product goes through Turkmenistan along the northern route to Russia.





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In many ways, this route is the most efficient one out of Afghanistan. Turkmenistan borders western Afghanistan, where some of the major opium-producing provinces are, so it is the shortest route north, linked to Afghanistan’s northern trafficking route out of Herat. Also, the terrain between western Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, consisting for the most part of hilly desert that is very difficult to monitor, is relatively easy to traverse undetected. Uzbekistan’s border with Afghanistan is relatively flat, but it is disconnected from Afghanistan’s poppy-cultivating areas and defined in part by a river that is difficult to cross. Tajikistan also serves as a border crossing, since its western border with Afghanistan provides access (albeit through routes that are far from ideal) into Central Asia. Eastern Tajikistan, however, is covered in rugged mountains and very lightly populated, making the efficient trafficking of anything very difficult. Finally, traffickers in southern Turkmenistan have the benefit of working under the protection of the Mary clan, the largest of five major clans that dominate Turkmenistan’s political landscape. Occupying Turkmenistan’s Mary region, the clan is largely blocked from having any kind of real power in the government, but it has been given control of the lucrative drug trade in Turkmenistan in order to ensure its loyalty.





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Crossing the border from Afghanistan to Turkmenistan is the trickiest part of the Central Asian journey. Avoiding government checkpoints is relatively easy, since the border is an uninhabited desert and traffickers can simply drive across in most places. However, they do face the threat of roaming bandits in search of profitable targets to rob — such as heroin smugglers. For this reason, traffickers are constantly changing their routes, taking advantage of a roughly 90-mile-wide and 130-mile-long desert corridor in southwestern Turkmenistan between the Iranian border and the Murghab River that is crisscrossed by a network of jeep paths created to evade bandits. Once traffickers get through this desert, they enter the protection of the Mary clan, which provides secure trafficking north to the Kazakh border.

From there, drugs pass through Kazakhstan and farther north to Russian consumer markets, hitting regional distribution hubs along the way to Moscow. Russian organized-crime groups (primarily the Moscow Mob) and elements within the Federal Security Service provide cover to traffickers along this route (for a price, of course).


Markets

The majority of Afghan opiates go to three main markets: Iran, Russia and Europe. Together they account for the consumption of about 66 percent of Afghan opiates. Iran is the main consumer of the unrefined opium, accounting for 42 percent of the world’s total, while heroin is more common in Russia and Europe, accounting for 21 percent and 26 percent of the world’s total, respectively. In the 1990s Russia was more of a transit market than a consumption market for opiates. This began to change in the late 1990s, when the rate of heroin use in Russia rose rapidly. Between 1998 and 1999, the number of Russian users increased 400 percent, absorbing much of the product that used to go on to other markets. As wealth in Russia (i.e., Moscow and St. Petersburg) rose over the past decade, the Russian consumer market helped absorb even more of the product flow. Recently, Afghan opiates also have begun to supply Chinese consumers and may now account for as much as 25 percent of that market. The United States, a huge market for illicit opiates, is low on the list because most of the heroin consumed there is produced in Colombia and Mexico.


Russia has largely become a consumer market for Afghan opiates, with southern land routes through Iran and Turkey and maritime routes taking over most of the supply to Europe. The significance of this is that countries along the southern trafficking routes, such as Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, are benefiting more from the financial gains of opiate trafficking while Russia is suffering more from the social strains of opiate use. Russia is estimated to have as many as 2.5 million consumers of illicit opiates, and the Russian government recently estimated that Russians spend $17 billion annually on Afghan opiates.

So it does make sense that post-Soviet Russia is starting to lobby for opium-crop eradication in Afghanistan. But it will not happen overnight. Winning hearts and minds is a painstaking process, and weaning farmers from a lucrative cash crop will take time. Popular support for the U.S./NATO mission has become a valuable currency in Afghanistan, as valuable as opium profits are to the growers and traffickers, and some kind of balance must be struck between the two. In the coming years, with the U.S. and NATO on watch, interdiction of traffickers may well take precedence over destroying the poppy fields of struggling Afghan farmers.
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« Reply #645 on: April 05, 2010, 11:15:25 AM »

RED ALERT UPDATE: U.S. Consulate Attack
Stratfor Today » April 5, 2010 | 1120 GMT



A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
Smoke billows following a large bomb blast in Peshawar on April 5 Summary
The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was the target of a well-coordinated attack carried out by Pakistani militants shortly after 1 p.m. local time April 5. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is reporting that at least three employees at the compound were killed in the attack. Reports are still sketchy and many details are unconfirmed, but this is a rare direct attack against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Pakistan. The attack comes as the Pakistani military opened up offensives against militants in North Waziristan and Orakzai agencies in the tribal belt of northwest Pakistan beginning April 1.

Analysis
The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar appears to have been the target of a well-coordinated attack carried out by Pakistani militants during early afternoon local time April 5. Militants dressed in military uniforms (a common tactic used to confuse response teams) reportedly attacked a security checkpoint on a road leading to the consulate, with eyewitnesses reporting that they saw at least two vehicles carrying gunmen enter into the heavily guarded area. Shortly after, three large explosions — likely vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) — were detonated near the consulate at 1:19, 1:30, and 1:33 p.m. local time. Militants on foot fired at least two rocket-propelled grenades at the consulate and engaged security personnel in gunfire. According to Aaj TV, one suicide bomber was able to get into the consulate compound and detonate his vest inside the wall. Video footage from Pakistan’s Geo TV network show large mushroom clouds rising over one of the blasts. Gunfire was also heard in the area as local security forces engaged armed militants attempting a siege against the consulate building. The area is now reportedly clear, but Pakistani helicopter gunships can still be seen patrolling the area.

The attack employed suicide bombers (both using suicide vests and vehicles) and gunmen (armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades) on foot to overwhelm security forces in order to get closer to the consulate building. This attempt is similar to the attack on the Army General Headquarters by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Oct. 10, 2009, but it is the largest in recent memory given that it involved at least three VBIEDs. The TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack.





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According to local press, two of the large explosions (likely VBIEDs) hit the outer perimeter wall, while the third was able to hit the exterior perimeter of the consulate. Three U.S. Consulate employees are reported dead and a helicopter could be seen airlifting casualties out of the consular compound. Given the number of explosions, the death toll is likely to increase. Most casualties, however, will likely be outside the compound, as many U.S. diplomatic missions (including the consulate in Peshawar) have high-level security features (including concentric rings of security) built in to prevent attacks such as these from reaching the building itself. It is likely that the perimeter wall sustained heavy damage and that any perimeter security checkpoints were also destroyed. Attacking the primary consular building would be extremely difficult, however. Many attempts have been made to penetrate the security at well-defended U.S. diplomatic facilities in recent years such as in Sanaa, Yemen; Istanbul, Turkey; and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but none have been able to penetrate the perimeter security and successfully attack the main diplomatic building.

Regardless of how much damage this attack was able to inflict upon the U.S. Consulate, the fact that militants attacked the compound in the first place marks an unusual, direct attack against U.S. targets in Pakistan. Western hotels known to have housed U.S. citizens such as the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad or the Pearl Continental in Peshawar have been attacked in recent years and personnel at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi were targeted in 2006, but none of the attacks were as complex as today’s appears to have been. Also, three U.S. military officials were killed in a VBIED attack in Lower Dir district of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province on Feb. 3; it is not clear that the militants involved in that attack specifically targeted the U.S. officials, however.

The April 5 attack comes as the Pakistani military opened up another offensive against militants in Orakzai agency (which is just southwest of Peshawar agency) in an ongoing effort to eliminate militant sanctuary in the Pakistani tribal belt. The United States has been working closely with Pakistan to isolate the foreign militant presence (groups such as al Qaeda) from the local militant groups to gain a better negotiating position against Pakistani militants. While today’s attack bore the signature of the TTP and occurred in an area where the group is active, that the target set was so different could be an indicator that local al Qaeda forces were also involved. Al Qaeda frequently has been responsible for attacks like these against U.S. diplomatic missions — including the three most recent attacks named above.

STRATFOR is monitoring the situation for more details.
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« Reply #646 on: April 28, 2010, 06:51:59 AM »

Three Points of View: The United States, Pakistan and India
April 28, 2010




By Peter Zeihan

In recent weeks, STRATFOR has explored how the U.S. government has been seeing its interests in the Middle East and South Asia shift. When it comes down to it, the United States is interested in stability at the highest level — a sort of cold equilibrium among the region’s major players that prevents any one of them, or a coalition of them — from overpowering the others and projecting power outward.

One of al Qaeda’s goals when it attacked the United States in 2001 was bringing about exactly what the United States most wants to avoid. The group hoped to provoke Washington into blundering into the region, enraging populations living under what al Qaeda saw as Western puppet regimes to the extent that they would rise up and unite into a single, continent-spanning Islamic power. The United States so blundered, but the people did not so rise. A transcontinental Islamic caliphate simply was never realistic, no matter how bad the U.S. provocation.

Subsequent military campaigns have since gutted al Qaeda’s ability to plot extraregional attacks. Al Qaeda’s franchises remain dangerous, but the core group is not particularly threatening beyond its hideouts in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.

As for the region, nine years of war have left it much disrupted. When the United States launched its military at the region, there were three balances of power that kept the place stable (or at least self-contained) from the American point of view. All these balances are now faltering. We have already addressed the Iran-Iraq balance of power, which was completely destroyed following the American invasion in 2003. We will address the Israeli-Arab balance of power in the future. This week, we shall dive into the region’s third balance, one that closely borders what will soon be the single largest contingent of U.S. military forces overseas: the Indo-Pakistani balance of power.

Pakistan and the Evolution of U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan
U.S. strategy in Afghanistan has changed dramatically since 2001. The war began in the early morning hours — Pakistan time — after the Sept. 11 attacks. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called up then-Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to inform him that he would be assisting the United States against al Qaeda, and if necessary, the Taliban. The key word there is “inform.” The White House had already spoken with — and obtained buy-in from — the leaders of Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel and, most notably, India. Musharraf was not given a choice in the matter. It was made clear that if he refused assistance, the Americans would consider Pakistan part of the problem rather than part of the solution — all with the blessings of the international community.





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Islamabad was terrified — and with good reason; comply or refuse, the demise of Pakistan was an all-too-real potential outcome. The geography of Pakistan is extremely hostile. It is a desert country. What rain the country benefits from falls in the northern Indo-Pakistani border region, where the Himalayas wring moisture out of the monsoons. Those rains form the five rivers of the Greater Indus Valley, and irrigation works from those rivers turn dry areas green.

Accordingly, Pakistan is geographically and geopolitically doomed to perpetual struggle with poverty, instability and authoritarianism. This is because irrigated agriculture is far more expensive and labor-intensive than rain-fed agriculture. Irrigation drains the Indus’ tributaries such that the river is not navigable above Hyderabad, near the coast — drastically raising transport costs and inhibiting economic development. Reasonably well-watered mountains in the northwest guarantee an ethnically distinct population in those regions (the Pashtun), a resilient people prone to resisting the political power of the Punjabis in the Indus Basin. This, combined with the overpowering Indian military, results in a country with remarkably few options for generating capital even as it has remarkably high capital demands.

Islamabad’s one means of acquiring breathing room has involved co-opting the Pashtun population living in the mountainous northwestern periphery of the country. Governments before Musharraf had used Islamism to forge a common identity for these people, which not only included them as part of the Pakistani state (and so reduced their likelihood of rebellion) but also employed many of them as tools of foreign and military policy. Indeed, managing relationships with these disparate and peripheral ethnic populations allowed Pakistan to stabilize its own peripheral territory and to become the dominant outside power in Afghanistan as the Taliban (trained and equipped by Pakistan) took power after the Soviet withdrawal.

Thus, the Americans were ordering the Pakistanis on Sept. 12, 2001, to throw out the one strategy that allowed Pakistan to function. Pakistan complied not just out of fears of the Americans, but also out of fears of a potentially devastating U.S.-Indian alignment against Pakistan over the issue of Islamist terrorism in the wake of the Kashmiri militant attacks on the Indian parliament that almost led India and Pakistan to war in mid-2002. The Musharraf government hence complied, but only as much as it dared, given its own delicate position.

From the Pakistani point of view, things went downhill from there. Musharraf faced mounting opposition to his relationship with the Americans from the Pakistani public at large, from the army and intelligence staff who had forged relations with the militants and, of course, from the militants themselves. Pakistan’s halfhearted assistance to the Americans meant militants of all stripes — Afghan, Pakistani, Arab and others — were able to seek succor on the Pakistani side of the border, and then launch attacks against U.S. forces on the Afghan side of the border. The result was even more intense American political pressure on Pakistan to police its own militants and foreign militants seeking shelter there. Meanwhile, what assistance Pakistan did provide to the Americans led to the rise of a new batch of homegrown militants — the Pakistani Taliban — who sought to wreck the U.S.-Pakistani relationship by bringing down the government in Islamabad.

The Indian Perspective
The period between the Soviet collapse and the rise of the Taliban — the 1990s — saw India at a historical ebb in the power balance with Pakistan. The American reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed all that. The U.S. military had eliminated Pakistan’s proxy government in Afghanistan, and ongoing American pressure was buckling the support structures that allowed Pakistan to function. So long as matters continued on this trajectory, New Delhi saw itself on track for a historically unprecedented dominance of the subcontinent.

But the American commitment to Afghanistan is not without its limits, and American pressure was not sustainable. At its heart, Afghanistan is a landlocked knot of arid mountains without the sort of sheltered, arable geography that is likely to give rise to a stable — much less economically viable — state. Any military reality that the Americans imposed would last only so long as U.S. forces remained in the country.

The alternative now being pursued is the current effort at Vietnamization of the conflict as a means of facilitating a full U.S. withdrawal. In order to keep the country from returning to the sort of anarchy that gave rise to al Qaeda, the United States needed a local power to oversee matters in Afghanistan. The only viable alternative — though the Americans had been berating it for years — was Pakistan.

If U.S. and Pakistan interests could be aligned, matters could fall into place rather quickly — and so they did once Islamabad realized the breadth and dangerous implications of its domestic insurgency. The five-year, $7.5 billion U.S. aid package to Pakistan approved in 2009 not only helped secure the arrangement, it likely reflects it. An unprecedented counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaign conducted by the Pakistani military continues in the country’s tribal belt. While it has not focused on all the individuals and entities Washington might like, it has created real pressure on the Pakistani side of the border that has facilitated efforts on the Afghan side. For example, Islamabad has found a dramatic increase in American unmanned aerial vehicle strikes tolerable because at least some of those strikes are hitting Pakistani Taliban targets, as opposed to Afghan Taliban targets. The message is that certain rules cannot be broken without consequences.

Ultimately, with long experience bleeding the Soviets in Afghanistan, the United States was inherently wary of becoming involved in Afghanistan. In recent years, it has become all too clear how distant the prospect of a stable Afghanistan is. A tribal-ethnic balance of power overseen by Pakistan is another matter entirely, however. The great irony is that such a success could make the region look remarkably like it did on Sept. 10, 2001.

This would represent a reversal of India’s recent fortunes. In 10 years, India has gone from a historic low in the power balance with Pakistan to a historic high, watching U.S. support for Pakistan shift to pressure on Islamabad to do the kinds of things (if not the precise actions) India had long clamored for.

But now, U.S. and Pakistani interests not only appear aligned again, the two countries appear to be laying groundwork for the incorporation of elements of the Taliban into the Afghan state. The Indians are concerned that with American underwriting, the Pakistanis not only may be about to re-emerge as a major check on Indian ambitions, but in a form eerily familiar to the sort of state-militant partnership that so effectively limited Indian power in the past. They are right. The Indians also are concerned that Pakistani promises to the Americans about what sort of behavior militants in Afghanistan will be allowed to engage in will not sufficiently limit the militants’ activities — and in any event will do little to nothing to address the Kashmiri militant issue. Here, too, the Indians are probably right. The Americans want to leave — and if the price of departure is leaving behind an emboldened Pakistan supporting a militant structure that can target India, the Americans seem fine with making India pay that price.
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« Reply #647 on: May 05, 2010, 08:21:16 AM »

By SADANAND DHUME
Monday night's arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American accused of planting a car bomb in Times Square on Saturday, will undoubtedly stoke the usual debate about how best to keep America safe in the age of Islamic terrorism. But this should not deflect us from another, equally pressing, question. Why do Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora churn out such a high proportion of the world's terrorists?

Indonesia has more Muslims than Pakistan. Turkey is geographically closer to the troubles of the Middle East. The governments of Iran and Syria are immeasurably more hostile to America and the West. Yet it is Pakistan, or its diaspora, that produced the CIA shooter Mir Aimal Kasi; the 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents); 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's kidnapper, Omar Saeed Sheikh; and three of the four men behind the July 2005 train and bus bombings in London.

The list of jihadists not from Pakistan themselves—but whose passage to jihadism passes through that country—is even longer. Among them are Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Atta, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. Over the past decade, Pakistani fingerprints have shown up on terrorist plots in, among other places, Germany, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands. And this partial catalogue doesn't include India, which tends to bear the brunt of its western neighbor's love affair with violence.

In attempting to explain why so many attacks—abortive and successful—can be traced back to a single country, analysts tend to dwell on the 1980s, when Pakistan acted as a staging ground for the successful American and Saudi-funded jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But while the anti-Soviet campaign undoubtedly accelerated Pakistan's emergence as a jihadist haven, to truly understand the country it's important to go back further, to its creation.

Pakistan was carved out of the Muslim-majority areas of British India in 1947, the world's first modern nation based solely on Islam. The country's name means "Land of the Pure." The capital city is Islamabad. The national flag carries the Islamic crescent and star. The cricket team wears green.

From the start, the new country was touched by the messianic zeal of pan-Islamism. The Quranic scholar Muhammad Asad—an Austrian Jew born Leopold Weiss—became an early Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations. The Egyptian Said Ramadan, son-in-law of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, made Pakistan a second home of sorts and collaborated with Pakistan's leading Islamist ideologue, the Jamaat-e-Islami's Abul Ala Maududi. In 1949, Pakistan established the world's first transnational Islamic organization, the World Muslim Congress. Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the virulently anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem, was appointed president.

Through alternating periods of civilian and military rule, one thing about Pakistan has remained constant—the central place of Islam in national life. In the 1960s, Pakistan launched a war against India in an attempt to seize control of Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority province, one that most Pakistanis believe ought to be theirs by right.

In the 1970s the Pakistani army carried out what Bangladeshis call a genocide in Bangladesh; non-Muslims suffered disproportionately. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto boasted about creating an "Islamic bomb." (The father of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, would later export nuclear technology to the revolutionary regime in Iran.) In the 1980s Pakistan welcomed Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Palestinian theorist of global jihad Abdullah Azzam.

In the 1990s, armed with expertise and confidence gained fighting the Soviets, the army's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spawned the Taliban to take over Afghanistan, and a plethora of terrorist groups to challenge India in Kashmir. Even after 9/11, and despite about $18 billion of American aid, Pakistan has found it hard to reform its instincts.

Pakistan's history of pan-Islamism does not mean that all Pakistanis, much less everyone of Pakistani origin, hold extremist views. But it does explain why a larger percentage of Pakistanis than, say, Indonesians or Tunisians, are likely to see the world through the narrow prism of their faith. The ISI's reluctance to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism—training camps, a web of ultra-orthodox madrassas that preach violence, and terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba—ensure that Pakistan remains a magnet for any Muslim with a grudge against the world and the urge to do something violent about it.

If Pakistan is to be reformed, then the goal must be to replace its political and cultural DNA. Pan-Islamism has to give way to old-fashioned nationalism. An expansionist foreign policy needs to be canned in favor of development for the impoverished masses. The grip of the army, and by extension the ISI, over national life will have to be weakened. The encouragement of local languages and cultures such as Punjabi and Sindhi can help create a broader identity, one not in conflict with the West. School curricula ought to be overhauled to inculcate a respect for non-Muslims.

Needless to say, this will be a long haul. But it's the only way to ensure that the next time someone is accused of trying to blow up a car in a crowded place far away from home, the odds aren't that he'll somehow have a Pakistan connection.

Mr. Dhume, the author of "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a Radical Islamist" (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009), is a columnist for WSJ.com.
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« Reply #648 on: May 24, 2010, 12:23:28 PM »

Summary
It has been just over a year now since Pakistan began its military campaign against the Pakistani Taliban in Swat district. Since then, the military has set upon the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, launching operations from the north and south, converging on the militant stronghold of Orakzai agency. Military operations have been slowly progressing in Orakzai for the past two months. While Orakzai is key turf for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the showdown is still set for North Waziristan, a theater in which the Pakistanis are slowly building their forces for a final push.

Analysis
Pakistan has made significant headway against the Islamist militant insurgency that presented the country with an existential challenge in early 2009. Squaring off against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani military launched offensives against militant strongholds in Swat district in late April 2009 and has kept up the momentum ever since. During the summer of 2009, the military expanded operations into Dir, Malakand, Buner and Shangla districts and then began going after core TTP turf when it launched operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). First the military struck from the northern agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand, and in October 2009, after much anticipation, it began pushing from the south though South Waziristan.





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While all of these missions are ongoing, troops are not staying long in any of the districts before moving on to the next one in order to prevent the TTP or its militant associates from settling down and getting comfortable in any one spot. Pakistani troops are stretched thin across the country’s tribal region, largely because of the operational model that the military is using. Under the model, the military announces that operations are about to commence in a certain area, then civilians are allowed out and sent to camps to live until it is safe to return. Once the area is declared cleared of noncombatants, the military launches air and artillery strikes to “soften up” militant targets. After a few days of bombardment, ground troops go in and remove any remaining militants.

Days after an area is cleared of militants, the military moves on, leaving behind a small contingent of soldiers to provide security as the area residents return home, among whom, invariably, are militants who continue to carry out attacks against civilian and government targets — albeit at a slower and typically less damaging pace. In this environment, the military works to build up a civil government that can control the town on its own without the military providing security.

The result is that the primary population centers and transportation infrastructure are under the control of the government, while militants maintain a presence in the more rural areas, where they can regroup, gather their strength and push back once the military leaves. Thus it is the establishment of civil authority and long-term security that is essential in consolidating and sustaining what is initially achieved through military force.

It is important to the Pakistani government to establish security as quickly as possible because its military is needed elsewhere. After securing the edges of the FATA, the Pakistani military now has its sights set on the central FATA agencies of Kurram, Khyber and Orakzai. Of these three, Orakzai is proving to be the most difficult for the Pakistani military, as Kurram and Khyber have social networks that make it more difficult for militants to thrive there: Kurram agency is made up of mostly Shia — sectarian rivals to the Sunni TTP — and Khyber agency is home to many powerful allies of Islamabad who are being recruited to assist the Pakistani government.





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Orakzai, however, is the TTP’s second home. With the denial of South Waziristan to the TTP as their primary sanctuary, Orakzai agency is now the most permissive environment to the TTP leadership. Orakzai, after all, is where former TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud rose to power. TTP militant leaders evacuated agencies like South Waziristan following the military operation there and took up residence in Orakzai and North Waziristan. The TTP in Orakzai (led by Aslam Farooqi) had strongholds in Daburai, Stori Khel, Mamozai and numerous other, smaller towns. The TTP was able to regularly harass agency authorities in Kalaya, preventing them from enforcing the writ of the government in Orakzai. Other jihadist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad also had training and base camps in Orakzai. These groups carried out suicide attacks in Punjab province which terrorized the Pakistani population in late 2009 and early 2010, but these attacks have slowed in 2010, largely because of the offensive operations the Pakistani military has engaged in over the past year.

Unlike Kurram and Khyber agencies, Orakzai is home to tribes such as the Mamozai group, which is very loyal to the TTP and hence much more hostile to the Pakistani state. This hostility could be seen on May 19, when more than 200 unidentified militants believed to be tribesmen stormed a military outpost in northwest Orakzai agency, killing two Pakistani soldiers. The TTP typically does not mass fighters in such large numbers and send them against Pakistani military targets — their resources are simply far too limited. More common TTP tactics include suicide bombings and small-unit assaults. The May 19 assault was more likely the work of local tribesmen sympathetic to the TTP, and it was hardly the first time such an assault happened in Orakzai agency. On April 19, more than 100 tribesmen raided a checkpoint in Bizoti. This raid was beaten back by Pakistani forces, but such large raids against the Pakistani military are not as common elsewhere in the FATA, indicating that different fighting forces exist there.

This kind of local support only compounds the other problems that the Pakistani military is facing in Orakzai. For one thing, the Pakistani military is working with fewer resources. In Swat, the military deployed 15,000 troops and in South Waziristan it had more than 25,000 troops on the ground. But in Orakzai, the military has deployed only five battalions — approximately 5,000 troops. And this number becomes increasingly spread out as the operation unfolds.

The military also faces the challenge of geography in Orakzai, as it does in most other agencies in Pakistan’s tribal belt. The most inhabitable region of Orakzai, known as “lower Orakzai,” stretches from Stori Khel in the northeast to Mamozai in the southwest. This stretch of land is a lower-elevation valley (still above 5,000 feet), with Kalaya as its largest city. Stori Khel is at the mouth of the valley, which broadens out to the west. To the east the valley rises up to form mountains higher than 10,000 feet, an area known as “upper Orakzai.” Upper Orakzai agency is lightly inhabited in the narrow, mountainous section between Stori Khel and Darra Adam Khel. The only way out of upper Orakzai is through primitive roads south to Kohat. Population picks back up farther east in the frontier regions of Peshawar and Kohat, where Highway N-55 follows the Indus River, creating major population centers like Darra Adam Khel. This mountainous core between Stori Khel and Darra Adam Khel provides a natural fortress and plenty of hideouts for militants. Darra Adam Khel is also a hub for weapons manufacturing, and the black and gray markets there supply Taliban forces throughout the Pakistani tribal areas.

On March 24, to counter the militants in Orakzai, the Pakistani military launched operation Khwakh Ba De Sham northeast of the main valley in the area of Feroz Khel and Stori Khel. Ground operations were preceded and accompanied by air operations, with the air force striking known militant buildings and paving the way for ground forces to move in and kill or capture remaining militants. Residents largely fled to Khyber and Kohat, with militants occasionally attacking them as they were preparing to leave. The military moved generally from northeast to southwest, clearing the towns of Mishti, Bizoti, Daburai and finally Mamozai. Meanwhile, forces in Kurram and Kohat agencies (specifically along the roads to Kohat and Hangu) worked to seal the border to prevent militants from streaming south to avoid the military operation.

The focus of the Orakzai operation now is in the very northwest corner of agency (where tribal militants raided the military outpost on May 19), which means that the core valley of Orakzai has been cleared. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) began returning to Stori Khel in early May, but militant attacks at IDP repatriation checkpoints have slowed the process and indicated that the areas may not be cleared, contrary to what the Pakistani military has claimed.

The next phase of the Orakzai operation (which actually began last week) is targeting upper Orakzai, east of Stori Khel. The military has already begun artillery shelling and airstrikes against militant hideouts in the area, where operations will be complicated by the more mountainous terrain and conservative Muslim villages whose inhabitants are hardened against outside influence. The high ridges and narrow valleys of upper Orakzai typify the fractured Pakistani terrain which is not easily controlled by Islamabad. It is here where militants can more easily hold and influence small, isolated villages, find sanctuary and thrive as a militant movement.

The next step in Pakistan’s broader counterinsurgency, however, is shaping up to be North Waziristan. The United States has been pushing the Pakistanis to move into the region and the Pakistanis have signaled that they will — on their own timetable. Pakistani troops have engaged in minor operations along North Waziristan’s border over the past six months, but they have yet to go in full force as they did in South Waziristan and the other FATA agencies. Most of the militants who fled South Waziristan are believed to be in North Waziristan now, making it the new home of the TTP, especially after Orakzai is cleared. But this home will not be the same as South Waziristan or Orakzai, where the TTP enjoyed generous local support. North Waziristan is wild country, where a number of both local and transnational jihadists are hiding from the Pakistani government or whoever else may be looking for them.

However, the TTP and transnational jihadists do not control any territory outright in North Waziristan. The authority in this lawless region lies with warlord groups like the Hafiz Gul Bahadur organization and the Afghan Taliban-linked Haqqani network. Neither of these groups intends to attack the Pakistani state, and Islamabad goes to great lengths to maintain neutral relations with both. This means that the TTP and other jihadist elements that have been moving into North Waziristan over the past six months are guests there, and it is unclear how long they will be welcome. Conversely, Bahadur and Haqqani are not keen on the idea of Pakistani troops moving into the area, so we would expect to see a great deal of political bargaining and a negotiated settlement between Islamabad and Bahadur and Haqqani over what actions to take against militants in North Waziristan.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #649 on: June 12, 2010, 11:30:05 AM »



Granted this is the NYT, and as such is a Pravda, but it reads very plausibly to me.

I have posted here for a long time about incoherence of our strategy , , ,

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Karzai Is Said to Doubt West Can Defeat Taliban
By DEXTER FILKINS
Published: June 11, 2010

 
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two senior Afghan officials were showing President Hamid Karzai the evidence of the spectacular rocket attack on a nationwide peace conference earlier this month when Mr. Karzai told them that he believed the Taliban were not responsible.


In January, Hanif Atmar, then the interior minister of Afghanistan, gestured during a medal ceremony in Kabul. He and another top official have resigned from the Hamid Karzai government.



Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, in Kabul on Wednesday. He also resigned his position.

“The president did not show any interest in the evidence — none — he treated it like a piece of dirt,” said Amrullah Saleh, then the director of the Afghan intelligence service.

Mr. Saleh declined to discuss Mr. Karzai’s reasoning in more detail. But a prominent Afghan with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Karzai suggested in the meeting that it might have been the Americans who carried it out.

Minutes after the exchange, Mr. Saleh and the interior minister, Hanif Atmar, resigned — the most dramatic defection from Mr. Karzai’s government since he came to power nine years ago. Mr. Saleh and Mr. Atmar said they quit because Mr. Karzai made clear that he no longer considered them loyal.

But underlying the tensions, according to Mr. Saleh and Afghan and Western officials, was something more profound: That Mr. Karzai had lost faith in the Americans and NATO to prevail in Afghanistan.

For that reason, Mr. Saleh and other officials said, Mr. Karzai has been pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the country’s archrival, Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime supporter. According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials.

“The president has lost his confidence in the capability of either the coalition or his own government to protect this country,” Mr. Saleh said in an interview at his home. “President Karzai has never announced that NATO will lose, but the way that he does not proudly own the campaign shows that he doesn’t trust it is working.”

People close to the president say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011.

“Karzai told me that he can’t trust the Americans to fix the situation here,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.”

Mr. Karzai could not be reached for comment Friday.

If Mr. Karzai’s resolve to work closely with the United States and use his own army to fight the Taliban is weakening, that could present a problem for Mr. Obama. The American war strategy rests largely on clearing ground held by the Taliban so that Mr. Karzai’s army and government can move in, allowing the Americans to scale back their involvement in an increasingly unpopular and costly war.

Relations with Mr. Karzai have been rocky for some time, and international officials have expressed concern in the past that his decision making can be erratic. Last winter, Mr. Karzai accused NATO in a speech of ferrying Taliban fighters around northern Afghanistan in helicopters. Earlier this year, following criticism by the Obama administration, Mr. Karzai told a group of supporters that he might join the Taliban.

American officials tried to patch up their relationship with Mr. Karzai during his visit to the White House last month. Indeed, on many issues, like initiating contact with some Taliban leaders and persuading its fighters to change sides, Mr. Karzai and the Americans are on the same page.

But their motivations appear to differ starkly. The Americans and their NATO partners are pouring tens of thousands of additional troops into the country to weaken hard-core Taliban and force the group to the bargaining table. Mr. Karzai appears to believe that the American-led offensive cannot work.

At a news conference at the Presidential Palace this week, Mr. Karzai was asked about the Taliban’s role in the June 4 attack on the loya jirga and his faith in NATO. He declined to address either one.

“Who did it?” Mr. Karzai said of the attack. “It’s a question that our security organization can bring and prepare the answer.”

Asked if he had confidence in NATO, Mr. Karzai said he was grateful for the help and said the partnership was “working very, very well.” But he did not answer the question.

“We are continuing to work on improvements all around,” Mr. Karzai said, speaking in English and appearing next to David Cameron, the British prime minister.

A senior NATO official said the resignations of Mr. Atmar and Mr. Saleh, who had strong support from the NATO allies, were “extremely disruptive.”

The official said of Mr. Karzai, “My concern is, is he capable of being a wartime leader?”


Page 2 of 2)


The NATO official said that American commanders had given Mr. Karzai a dossier showing overwhelming evidence that the attack on the peace conference had been carried out by fighters loyal to Jalalhuddin Haqqani, one of the main leaders fighting under the Taliban’s umbrella.



“There was no doubt,” the official said.

The resignations of Mr. Saleh and Mr. Atmar revealed a deep fissure among Afghan leaders as to the best way to deal with the Taliban and with their patrons in Pakistan.

Mr. Saleh is a former aide to the late Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary commander who fought the Soviet Union and the Taliban. Many of Mr. Massoud’s former lieutenants, mostly ethnic Tajiks and now important leaders in northern Afghanistan, sat out the peace conference. Like Mr. Saleh, they favor a tough approach to negotiating with the Taliban and Pakistan.

Mr. Karzai, like the overwhelming majority of the Taliban, is an ethnic Pashtun. He appears now to favor a more conciliatory approach.

At the end of the loya jirga, Mr. Karzai announced the formation of a commission that would review the case of every Taliban fighter held in custody and release those who were not considered extremely dangerous. The commission, which would be led by several senior members of Mr. Karzai’s government, excluded the National Directorate of Security, the intelligence agency run by Mr. Saleh.

In the interview, Mr. Saleh said he took offense at the exclusion. His primary job is to understand the Taliban, he said; leaving his agency off the commission made him worry that Mr. Karzai might intend to release hardened Taliban fighters.

“His conclusion is — a lot of Taliban have been wrongly detained, they should be released,” Mr. Saleh said. “We are 10 years into the collapse of the Taliban — it means we don’t know who the enemy is. We wrongly detain people.”

Mr. Saleh also criticized the loya jirga. “Here is the meaning of the jirga,” Mr. Saleh said. “I don’t want to fight you. I even open the door to you. It was my mistake to push you into the mountains. The jirga was not a victory for the Afghan state, it was a victory for the Taliban.”

Mr. Karzai has been seeking to build bridges to the Taliban for months. Earlier this year, the president’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, held secret meetings with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy commander, according to a former senior Afghan official.

According to Gen. Hilaluddin Hilal, the deputy interior minister in an earlier Karzai government, Ahmed Wali Karzai and Mr. Baradar met twice in January near Spin Boldak, a town on the border with Pakistan. The meeting was brokered by Mullah Essa Khakrezwal, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kandahar Province, and Hafez Majid, a senior Taliban intelligence official, General Hilal said.

A Western analyst in Kabul confirmed General Hilal’s account. The senior NATO official said he was unaware of the meeting, as did Mr. Saleh. Ahmed Wali Karzai did not respond to e-mail queries on the meeting.

The resolution of that meeting was not clear, General Hilal said. Mr. Baradar was arrested in late January in a joint Pakistani-American raid in Karachi, Pakistan. But Mr. Karzai’s attempts to negotiate with the Taliban have continued, he said.

“He doesn’t think the Americans can afford to stay,” General Hilal said.

Mr. Saleh said that Mr. Karzai’s strategy also involved a more conciliatory line toward Pakistan. If true, this would amount to a sea change for Mr. Karzai, who has spent his nine years in office regularly accusing the Pakistanis of supporting the Taliban insurgency.

Mr. Saleh says he fears that Afghanistan will be forced into accepting what he called an “undignified deal” with Pakistan that will leave his country in a weakened state.

He said he considered Mr. Karzai a patriot. But he said the president was making a mistake if he planned to rely on Pakistani support. (Pakistani leaders have for years pressed Mr. Karzai to remove Mr. Saleh, whom they see as a hard-liner).

“They are weakening him under the disguise of respecting him. They will embrace a weak Afghan leader, but they will never respect him,” Mr. Saleh said.
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