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Author Topic: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan  (Read 185825 times)
jkrenz
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« Reply #350 on: February 22, 2009, 10:39:16 AM »

Sounds like they know how to fight drugs in Thailand too.   grin

From BBC

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7899748.stm

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

Secret of Thai success in opium war

The Thailand army have helped wipe out the drug trade
By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, northern Thailand

High up in the beautiful mountains where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet, the landscape has been transformed in the years since the "Golden Triangle" produced practically all the world's opium.

Afghanistan gradually took over the dubious mantle in the late 1990s and is now responsible for 90% of the world's heroin.

It is a figure which has gone up, rather than down since Britain and the rest of the international community took responsibility for reducing the illicit harvest.

Over the same timescale, the Golden Triangle has seen its opium crop plummet to just a fraction of world supply.

Opium field from the air
Opium growing plots in the jungle are easy to spot from the air
One of the men who shares responsibility for the success story is now urging Afghanistan's Western backers to listen to him.

"Our thinking is opium, the people involved in opium, that 99% of it is driven by poverty and lack of opportunity - this is the cause," says MR Disnadda Diskul, secretary-general of the Mah Fah Luang Foundation.

The "MR" preceding his name indicates he is a descendant of the revered Thai royal family and has devoted the last two decades to helping a royal project bring an end to Thailand's deadly harvest.

In one area at least, that has been done through a combination of textiles, paper, coffee beans and macadamia nuts as money-making alternatives.

Heavy-handed military

Just below the ridge that separates Thailand and Burma, the mountain slopes steeply down into the valley and clinging to its sides are row after row of coffee bushes.

You can hear the women giggling and gossiping as they pluck the red-ripe coffee beans from their stalks and drop them into small wicker baskets hanging round their necks, but the vegetation is so lush that you can't see them.

Life in a mountain village in the Golden Triangle

Surveying the scene from the path is Wattana Chuenwirasup, who now grows coffee where he once grew opium and trafficked it to dealers.

Sweeping his hand across the landscape he shows me where his poppies once flourished, circling 360 degrees from the edge of the hill tribe village.

"There were no choices then but opium and rice," he said. "It was dangerous when the government started to crack down on growing opium and there was a good opportunity."

His is the story of Thailand's success - a combination of sometimes heavy-handed military force and years of persuading people to grow something other than opium.

The Thai authorities say only 280 hectares of poppies were grown last year, and most of them were eradicated.

They may be remote, but fields in jungle clearings are relatively easy to spot from satellite images and aerial photographs, and heavily armed troops simply follow the maps and destroy the crops.

There is little resistance from local people. There is never any proof of who is growing the opium poppies, so although the fields are beaten down with sticks and irrigation pipes, there are no arrests.

Key to success

It is a lot more dangerous being part of an Afghan eradication force - they are regularly attacked and destroy just a fraction of the overall crop each year.

Members of the Thai eradication force
The eradication team beats down fields with sticks and irrigation pipes
Disnadda Diskul from the Mah Fah Luang Foundation is advising the Afghan government on the way forward, but says there is too much emphasis on getting rid of the poppies and that more should be done to give people other options.

"I look at the British approach and they do try hard, but I don't think they are doing it the right way because they spend so much money. The Americans also spend billions and billions of dollars and what do they get out of it? Nothing.

"At the moment they are pouring the money into Afghanistan but they are giving fish to the poor, but not giving them a fishing rod and teaching them how to fish, or to look after the ocean," he says.

"That's the difference between the Thai way and what they are doing in Afghanistan. The donor countries are using all their money for infrastructure - not into the mouths and stomachs of the people."

He points out establishing what people can produce and then identifying a market and joining them up is the key to the project's success.

Strong determination

The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who has been in Afghanistan this week, insists they are on the right track with more Afghan provinces becoming opium free and the overall harvest being reduced a little last year.

"I don't know which programme the Thai representative is talking about because we don't do grand infrastructure projects," he said.

"We build alternative livelihoods for farmers from the bottom up, through projects such as the wheat distribution programme in Helmand.

"We are not interested in great projects - we are interested in steps forward for ordinary people.

"I think when you see the numbers coming out this year about poppy cultivation you will see them going down because security is getting better and because alternatives for farmers in the legal economy are getting better too."

It has taken many years for the villagers in northern Thailand to be weaned off opium, both through the new opportunities given to them and the sometimes very heavy hand of a country with a strong military, and a determination to tackle the problem.

That is still a long way off in Afghanistan, especially with war still raging in the south.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #351 on: February 22, 2009, 12:04:34 PM »

That is a very interesting article.  I did not know about the end of the Golden Triangle and what brought it about.

How do you see these lessons being applied in Afg?
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G M
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« Reply #352 on: February 22, 2009, 12:23:25 PM »

I had no idea either. Interesting.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #353 on: February 22, 2009, 11:43:11 PM »

Secret U.S. Unit Trains Commandos in Pakistan

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

February 23, 2009

Secret U.S. Unit Trains Commandos in Pakistan

By ERIC SCHMITT and JANE PERLEZ
BARA, Pakistan

More than 70 United States military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to help its armed forces battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the country’s lawless tribal areas, American military officials said.

The Americans are mostly Army Special Forces soldiers who are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics, the officials said. They do not conduct combat operations, the officials added.

They make up a secret task force, overseen by the United States Central Command and Special Operations Command. It started last summer, with the support of Pakistan’s government and military, in an effort to root out Qaeda and Taliban operations that threaten American troops in Afghanistan and are increasingly destabilizing Pakistan. It is a much larger and more ambitious effort than either country has acknowledged.

Pakistani officials have vigorously protested American missile strikes in the tribal areas as a violation of sovereignty and have resisted efforts by Washington to put more troops on Pakistani soil. President Asif Ali Zardari, who leads a weak civilian government, is trying to cope with soaring anti-Americanism among Pakistanis and a belief that he is too close to Washington.

Despite the political hazards for Islamabad, the American effort is beginning to pay dividends.

A new Pakistani commando unit within the Frontier Corps paramilitary force has used information from the Central Intelligence Agency and other sources to kill or capture as many as 60 militants in the past seven months, including at least five high-ranking commanders, a senior Pakistani military official said.

Four weeks ago, the commandos captured a Saudi militant linked to Al Qaeda here in this town in the Khyber Agency, one of the tribal areas that run along the border with Afghanistan.

Yet the main commanders of the Pakistani Taliban, including its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, and its leader in the Swat region, Maulana Fazlullah, remain at large. And senior American military officials remain frustrated that they have been unable to persuade the chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to embrace serious counterinsurgency training for the army itself.

General Kayani, who is visiting Washington this week as a White House review on policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan gets under way, will almost certainly be asked how the Pakistani military can do more to eliminate Al Qaeda and the Taliban from the tribal areas.

The American officials acknowledge that at the very moment when Washington most needs Pakistan’s help, the greater tensions between Pakistan and India since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last November have made the Pakistani Army less willing to shift its attention to the Qaeda and Taliban threat.

Officials from both Pakistan and the United States agreed to disclose some details about the American military advisers and the enhanced intelligence sharing to help dispel impressions that the missile strikes were thwarting broader efforts to combat a common enemy. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the increasingly powerful anti-American segment of the Pakistani population.

The Pentagon had previously said about two dozen American trainers conducted training in Pakistan late last year. More than half the members of the new task force are Special Forces advisers; the rest are combat medics, communications experts and other specialists. Both sides are encouraged by the new collaboration between the American and Pakistani military and intelligence agencies against the militants.

“The intelligence sharing has really improved in the past few months,” said Talat Masood, a retired army general and a military analyst. “Both sides realize it’s in their common interest.”

Intelligence from Pakistani informants has been used to bolster the accuracy of missile strikes from remotely piloted Predator and Reaper aircraft against the militants in the tribal areas, officials from both countries say.

More than 30 attacks by the aircraft have been conducted since last August, most of them after President Zardari took office in September. A senior American military official said that 9 of 20 senior Qaeda and Taliban commanders in Pakistan had been killed by those strikes.

In addition, a small team of Pakistani air defense controllers working in the United States Embassy in Islamabad ensures that Pakistani F-16 fighter-bombers conducting missions against militants in the tribal areas do not mistakenly hit remotely piloted American aircraft flying in the same area or a small number of C.I.A. operatives on the ground, a second senior Pakistani officer said.

The newly minted 400-man Pakistani paramilitary commando unit is a good example of the new cooperation. As part of the Frontier Corps, which operates in the tribal areas, the new Pakistani commandos fall under a chain of command separate from the 500,000-member army, which is primarily trained to fight Pakistan’s archenemy, India.

The commandos are selected from the overall ranks of the Frontier Corps and receive seven months of intensive training from Pakistani and American Special Forces.

The C.I.A. helped the commandos track the Saudi militant linked to Al Qaeda, Zabi al-Taifi, for more than a week before the Pakistani forces surrounded his safe house in the Khyber Agency. The Pakistanis seized him, along with seven Pakistani and Afghan insurgents, in a dawn raid on Jan. 22, with a remotely piloted C.I.A. plane hovering overhead and personnel from the C.I.A. and Pakistan’s main spy service closely monitoring the mission, a senior Pakistani officer involved in the operation said.

Still, there are tensions between the sides. Pakistani F-16’s conduct about a half-dozen combat missions a day against militants, but Pakistani officers say they could do more if the Pentagon helped upgrade the jets to fight at night and provided satellite-guided bombs and updated satellite imagery.

General Kayani was expected to take a long shopping list for more transport and combat helicopters to Washington. The question of more F-16’s — which many in Congress assert are intended for the Indian front — will also come up, Pakistani officials said.

The United States missile strikes, which have resulted in civilian casualties, have stirred heated debate among senior Pakistani government and military officials, despite the government’s private support for the attacks.

One American official described General Kayani, who is known to be sensitive about the necessity of public support for the army, as very concerned that the American strikes had undermined the army’s authority.

“These strikes are counterproductive,” Owais Ahmed Ghani, the governor of North-West Frontier Province, said in an interview in his office in Peshawar. “This is looking for a quick fix, when all it will do is attract more jihadis.”

Pakistani Army officers say the American strikes draw retaliation against Pakistani troops in the tribal areas, whose convoys and bases are bombed or attacked with rockets after each United States missile strike.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/23/wo...terror.html?hp
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #354 on: February 22, 2009, 11:54:47 PM »


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090222/...as/as_pakistan

Pakistan to arm village militias

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

ISLAMABAD – Authorities in a Pakistani border province plan to arm villagers with 30,000 rifles and set up an elite police unit to protect a region increasingly besieged by Taliban and al-Qaida militants, an official said Sunday.

Stiffer action in the North West Frontier Province could help offset American concern that a peace deal being negotiated in the Swat valley, a Taliban stronghold in the province, could create a haven for Islamist insurgents only 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Pakistani capital.

Village militias backed by the United States have been credited with reducing violence in Iraq. Washington is paying for a similar initiative in Afghanistan.
The United States is already spending millions of dollars to train and equip Pakistani forces in the rugged region near the Afghan border but there was no sign it was involved in the militia plan. A U.S. Embassy spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Saturday he will try to "remove the apprehensions of the world community" about the Swat deal when he meets U.S. officials in Washington next week, state-run media reported.

But it was unclear if Sunday's announcement had the backing of national leaders or the powerful army — or if handing out more guns in an already heavily armed society was wise.

Mahmood Shah, a former head of security for Pakistan's tribal regions, said arming civilians could trigger civil war in the northwest, where tribal and political tension is at fever pitch.

Shah said authorities should focus on bolstering existing security forces.

"This is Pakistan, not Iraq or Afghanistan. There is complete anarchy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that is not the case here," he said. "It is not going to help."

Haider Khan Hoti, chief minister of the provincial government, said authorities would distribute the guns only among "peaceful groups and individuals" so they could help police to guard their villages.

Officials would consult with local police chiefs before handing out the arms and would take them back if they were not used against "terrorists and troublemakers," Hoti's office said in a written statement.

Hoti said the guns were on hand, having been seized from "terrorists and anti-state elements." He said the province would meet the $40 million bill for the elite provincial police unit of 2,500 officers.

"The purpose of setting up this force is to combat terrorism and extremism effectively," he said.

The militia plan raises doubts about the coherence of Pakistani efforts to counter Taliban groups who have seized growing pockets of the northwest, forged links with al-Qaida and carried out a blur of suicide bombings.

Pakistani officials have encouraged residents to establish militias in the semiautonomous tribal areas sandwiched between North West Frontier Province and the Afghan border.

The pro-Western central government says it will come down hard on groups who refuse to renounce violence and stop supporting cross-border terrorism in return for reconciliation.  Federal officials insisted they have not handed out any weapons in the tribal areas, and appeared to be caught off guard by Sunday's announcement.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said it had not been consulted about giving weapons to village militias. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, supposedly in charge of national law and order issues, also was unaware of the plan. The provincial government did not say when the weapons would be handed out, or if villagers would be armed in the Swat valley, where security forces and Taliban militants are observing a week-old cease-fire while seeking a peace accord.

Earlier Sunday, Taliban gunmen abducted a senior government official and six of his security guards in Swat, demonstrating their unbroken hold in the valley, where they have defied an army offensive, beheaded political opponents and torched some 200 girls' schools. A Taliban spokesman said the official, Khushal Khan, would be freed "soon," but that his abduction was a warning to the provincial authorities, who he alleged had arrested two Taliban members in violation of the cease-fire.

"We wanted to show the government that we can also taken action against it," spokesman Muslim Khan said.

He declined to comment on the village militia plan.

The provincial government has sent a hard-line cleric to try to persuade the Swat Taliban to renounce violence in return for the introduction of elements of Islamic law.
Officials say the legal concessions meet long-standing demands for speedy justice in Swat and fall far short of the harsh version of Islamic law favored by Taliban militants.
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jkrenz
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« Reply #355 on: February 23, 2009, 10:10:03 AM »

The same anti drug stuff that Thailand has been doing for years with an apparently good deal of success has already been going on in Afghanistan for a while but is still in the beginning stages.  The Thai government also has a strong military to back it up.  Afghanistan doesn't, so it's going to take a while before "alternative" crops are the "normal" thing around here.  We can't change much of anything and hope to make an impact without security and we'll have to be in Afghanistan for a while  to provide that security so the Afghan people can get back on their feet and take care of themselves.  Too many American, Australian, British, Canadian, French, German, Danish and other Coalition Forces soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have made the ultimate sacrifice not for just for their respective countries, but for Afghanistan as well.  Many of them died right alongside the Afghan soldiers, police, and security forces personnel who also fell in the line of duty because they wanted to see Afghanistan become a better place. 

Any quick fix we try to is just going to be a short term fix.  We need to be patient in order to implement programs like the one that Thailand has as an answer to their drug problem.  The only way to win a war against America or any Western Nation is to stretch it out until the public gets tired and say "hell with it"  or bored with it, and the bad guys know it.     
   
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #356 on: February 23, 2009, 12:47:21 PM »

Jkrenz:

I see that our generals have asked for 34,000 or so additional troops and that President Barack Carter Obama is giving them 17,000 and today the NY Slimes reports that he will be looking to pay for the stimulus by cutting costs in Iraq and Afg.

What do you make of this?

==============================
WSJ

Last year, Pakistanis in the northern Malakand district voted overwhelmingly for the country's secular parties, including the Pakistan People's Party of President Asif Ali Zardari. Last week, Mr. Zardari repaid the favor by agreeing to the imposition of Shariah law in the area and suspending military operations against an encroaching Taliban.

We would call this terrifying, but that may understate matters for the people of the region. For several years, the Taliban and its allies have sought to gain control of the district, particularly its scenic Swat valley, once a popular tourist destination. Gaining control, Taliban-style, meant fighting the Pakistani military to a standstill. It also meant blowing up 180 girls schools and publicly beheading locals who offended them, including barbers who dared trim customer beards.


The deal was struck with longtime insurgent leader Sufi Mohammed, who has been fighting to impose Shariah law for 40 years. Sufi Mohammed is said to be at loggerheads with his even more radical son-in-law, the Taliban-connected Maulana Fazlullah, and the government hopes that the concession of Shariah law could marginalize Fazlullah while the Pakistan Army girds for more fighting in the spring. The Pakistan government portrays the deal as little more than a tactical concession and, according to Information Minister Sherry Rahman, is "in no way a sign of the state's weakness."

Yet no sooner was the deal signed than a Pakistani journalist was murdered while covering a "peace march" organized by Sufi Mohammed -- the 20th journalist killed around Swat in two years. Fazlullah has also refused to honor the government's cease-fire beyond a 10-day period that expires later this week. Local residents who had reluctantly acquiesced in hopes of gaining some kind of peace may soon find themselves living with Shariah, without peace.

This cease-fire smacks of a similar deal the previous government of Pervez Musharraf arranged in Pakistan's tribal areas in 2006. That deal created a Taliban sanctuary and led to sharp increases in terrorist attacks, both in Afghanistan and the Pakistan heartland. Sufi Mohammed has signed three previous pacts with various Pakistani governments extending the writ of Islamic law. None mollified the extremists; each invited the next round of violent demands.

"Now that the Taliban have pressured the Frontier's provincial government and Islamabad into acquiescence in one part of the country, what is to stop them from replicating their designs elsewhere?" asks Murtaza Razvi, an editor with the Dawn newspaper. Good question. It doesn't induce confidence that the government capitulated even when it was fielding 10,000 troops against a Taliban force estimated at 2,000. If Pakistan's military can't defeat a militia 100 miles from Islamabad, its reputation as the country's one competent institution and guarantor of security will fast evaporate.

Mr. Zardari's government has heretofore shown a willingness to fight the Taliban and has taken an openly pro-American line since gaining power last year. It has also allowed the CIA's Predator strikes, which have reportedly killed 11 top al Qaeda leaders. Pakistanis have also consistently repudiated Islamists at the ballot box.

This makes it all the more crucial that Mr. Zardari not squander this public support by backing down against Islamist terrorism. The longer the Swat cease-fire lasts, the more likely the region will become another safe haven for extremists inside Pakistan -- and an existential threat to Mr. Zardari's government and moderate Pakistani Muslims.
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ccp
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« Reply #357 on: February 23, 2009, 03:58:53 PM »

Lets see if Tom Hanks makes a movie based on "Bamas war".  Ayers (I wonder if he will picket the WH now):

Ayers to Alan Colmes: Obama Making 'Colossal Mistake' sending additional troops to Afghanistan
Mon Feb 23 2009 14:00:00 ET

In an exclusive interview airing tonight on Hannity at 9:00pm ET on FOX News Channel, Bill Ayers spoke with Alan Colmes on a wide range of issues including his past with the Weather Underground and President Obama.Ê

Ayers on President Obama sending 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan:

"It's a mistake. It's a colossal mistake. And, you know, we've seen this happen before, Alan. We've seen a hopeful presidency, Lyndon Johnson's presidency, burn up in the furnace of war."

"I fear that this brilliant young man, this hopeful new administration, could easily burn their prospect of a great presidency in the war in Afghanistan or elsewhere."

On setting bombs as part of the Weather Underground:

"I don't regret anything I did it to oppose the war. It was -- I did it to oppose the war. I don't regret it."

"I don't look back on those things and regret them, but I'm willing to rethink them. And there are many things which I'm going to rethink."
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jkrenz
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« Reply #358 on: February 24, 2009, 06:50:16 AM »

34,000 troops would be nice, but 17,000 is a good start.  I'm not too sure Guro Crafty, but it's going to be hard to make budget cuts with 17,000 additional pairs of boots on the ground.  I don't think that the men and women serving in the armed forces over here will be taking any pay cuts.  I think most of the cuts will come as we start slowly pulling out of Iraq and transfer more responsibility to the government of Iraq.  I think that the first thing that needs to be looked at is all of the civilian companies that are getting paid a lot of money to be over here.  Some employees of these companies are making $250k a year.  And the first $84k is tax free.  Another thing to look at is spending on equipment.  I have been issued a lot of crap that I will never use like crazy snow suits, a few camelbacks, and the ACUs,  rolleyes, which nearly all soldiers will agree was THE worst uniform choice ever made by any branch of any armed forces worldwide.  But hey, they're digital and modern and expensive.  Don't get me wrong though, soldiers deserve to have the best equipment possible and we have gotten a few things worthwhile.  Body armor being one that has saved more than a few lives as well as improvements to the protective capabilities of our vehicles.  Now that's taxpayer money well spent.           
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jkrenz
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« Reply #359 on: February 24, 2009, 09:13:01 PM »

You gotta love the Marines  grin


http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/We-will-not--take.5012425.jp

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

We will not take British orders, say US marines in Helmand


Published Date: 25 February 2009
By Jerome Starkey in Kandahar
US MARINES deploying to Afghanistan's violent Helmand province this summer have refused to take orders from the British headquarters in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
Instead they will report directly to a regional headquarters in Kandahar, a Nato general said yesterday, effectively sidelining Britain's Taskforce Helmand.

Senior Nato officials have confirmed US plans to double the number of troops in Helmand, where the Taleban-led insurgency is fiercest.

More than a quarter of the 17,000 extra US troops, pledged by Barack Obama, the US president, will be deployed in the poppy-rich province, where Britain is nominally in charge.

It means American troops will outnumber the British-led force in Helmand. But unlike the Danish troops fighting alongside UK forces, they will not be under British command.

The snub comes after months of discontent in Nato's Kabul headquarters, which culminated in generals questioning whether Britain had any long-term plan.

UK commanders have been accused of treading water as the insurgency gained ground.

Major-General Mart de Kruif, Nato's commander in southern Afghanistan, said: "The insurgents see Helmand as their heartland, and from a military point of view central Helmand is their top priority.

"From a security point of view you just need to have more boots on the ground to deliver security 24/7 to the people."

He said the Americans would probably take over huge parts of the province, slashing the remit of Britain's overstretched force.

Nato's top general in Afghanistan, David McKiernan, said in December that troops were locked in a stalemate.

Although Britain has more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, there are only around 4,500 in Helmand, where the Taleban are fighting hardest.

Only a small fraction of them are front-line fighting troops, the rest are in support.

"I think we'll see the number of troops at least double," Maj-Gen de Kruif added.

Violence has soared in Helmand since the UK troops took charge of "peacekeeping" there in 2006. The province produces almost half Afghanistan's illegal poppy crop, most of it beyond the lasting reach of UK forces.

Although UK troops win every battle, they are unable to hold ground once they win and the insurgents re-infiltrate as soon as they leave.

There is already a 2,000-man US task force based at Camp Bastion in Helmand, which reports directly to Kandahar. Most of their troops are stationed in neighbouring Farah province.

They also have a 30-man mentoring team in Musa Qala, alongside the British garrison, and a company in Now Zad, which the US marines call an "Alamo".

The town has been abandoned and the soldiers come under almost constant attack whenever they leave their base.

Maj-Gen de Kruif said Britain's lead role would be confined to reconstruction.

US troops have been wary of accepting UK command after Nato's International Security Assistance Force was led by General David Richards in 2006. He oversaw a botched deal which effectively handed the town of Musa Qala back to the Taleban, and his interpreter was arrested on charges of spying for Iran.

Most incoming US marines are expected to deploy in southern Helmand, around Garmsir, to control Taleban infiltration routes in and out of Pakistan.

Unlike mountainous eastern Afghanistan, southern Helmand is mostly desert. The marines in Farah are already protecting Helmand's north-western flank, while troops from the US army's 2nd Infantry have set up in Maiwand, west of Helmand, in Kandar province – controlling the main road in and out of the province.

"It looks as though the Americans are trying to hem in Helmand," an analyst in Kabul said. "Fighters will find ways around, but the bulk of the drugs have to go on the roads. If the Americans can control them they might hurt the insurgents' purse."

• Four US special forces soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed in Helmand yesterday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

It was the deadliest attack on international forces this year. The soldiers were believed to have been patrolling Garmsir, doing reconnaissance before more US marines arrive.
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« Reply #360 on: February 27, 2009, 10:44:47 AM »


February 27, 2009

PAKISTAN'S bloodied Northwest Frontier Province is getting a new name: Pakhtunkhwa, or "Land of the Pashtun" tribesmen. A key demand of Taliban radicals, the new title isn't an end, but a beginning.

Obsessed with the "integrity" of dysfunctional, artificial borders, US policy-makers struggle to come to grips with the Taliban, an overwhelmingly Pashtun organization. For its part, the Taliban functions as the shadow government of a ghost state sprawling across huge stretches of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakhtunkhwa already exists in fact, if not in the UN General Assembly. The writs of the governments in Islamabad and Kabul run up to the international border on our maps, but not in reality. We play along with the fantasy.

Census numbers are flimsy, but up to 42 million Pashtuns (or Pakhtuns or Pathans) live in the region, with perhaps 13 million in Afghanistan and double that number in Pakistan. That would make Greater Pakhtunkhwa a middle-weight nation, population-wise.

United by old blood and various dialects of Pashto, the Pashtuns are a collection of five-dozen major tribes that long have functioned as a primitive state, governed by tribal councils amid hundreds of sub-tribes. Although briefly united at a few junctures in history, their primary goal has been the defense of local territory against outsiders, not central administration.

Now the Pashtuns, as manifested by the Taliban, seek an authentic state governed by Sharia law. It isn't good news for us, for women, or for the feeble states of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But how much of our blood and treasure is it worth to keep those wretched states on life support, while denying the vigor of a ghost state fighting to become flesh?

A Pakhtunkhwa that includes all of the Pashtuns would be culturally abhorrent. But it may be inevitable. Are we fighting forces our measures can't defeat?

Nor is the ghost-state problem limited to our confused efforts in Afghanistan. The 6 million Kurds in northern Iraq are ethnically, linguistically and culturally different from the oppressive Arab majority to the south. Iraq's Kurds are also the most-advanced Middle Eastern population outside of Israel (and the most pro-American).

Well, the ghost nation of Kurdistan isn't just three Iraqi provinces, but a broader Kurdish state struggling to be born. Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and the southern Caucasus hold 30 million Kurds between them, nearly all subject to Jim Crow laws and worse.

The Kurds are struggling for freedom. We find them an inconvenience.

But "inconveniences" don't go away just because we ignore them. Consider yet another ghost state where US troops have engaged: Greater Albania.

Again, census numbers are sticky, but Albania itself has a population of 3 million to 4 million, with another 1½ million ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and a half-million more in Macedonia and Montenegro.

How much effort should we expend to prevent the natural emergence of Greater Albania? Doesn't self-determination count in the clinch? (As for a "Muslim menace," a third of Albania's inhabitants are Christians. In the Balkans, organized crime's a far greater threat than Islam.)

Of course, a ghost state of a different sort exists on our Southwest border and in northern Mexico. But, apart from a few rabid activists in La Raza, that's one ghost state that doesn't seek a real state. The difference? Individual rights and fair opportunities, guaranteed by the rule of law (on our side of the border).

Contrary to racist myths, few Latinos want to return our Southwest to the Mexico they fled. Nobody's going to vote for death squads, corruption, poverty and a narco-state. While we need to fully control our border and boot out convicted criminals immediately, self-interest and economics will handle the rest.

Yet, we do need to recognize that the age of European Imperialism, to which we were an adjunct, left a legacy of international borders that range from the awkward to the impossible - and no state wants to give up an inch of territory, even when its efforts to control separatists appear suicidal.

We don't need to play along, though, except when it's clearly in our national interest. The question before us is blunt: Should our soldiers die to preserve the disastrous borders Europeans left behind?

Should Free Kurdistan, or Greater Albania, or even a full-fledged Pakhtunkhwa be opposed simply because their emergence would mean shifting desks in the State Department? Can our policy-makers even tell the difference between the expedient and the inevitable?

The borders Europe left behind are prisons. How long will we be the guards up on the walls?
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« Reply #361 on: March 03, 2009, 01:23:21 AM »

March 2, 2009

Opposition figures and contenders for the Afghan presidency criticized Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday for his decision to hold an early presidential vote. A day earlier, the Afghan leader issued a decree ordering that elections be held in April as opposed to the already-set date of Aug. 20. Afghanistan’s election commission and the United States are both emphasizing the need for elections to be held in late summer as opposed to early spring.

Even in a “normal” country, elections require some preparation time. And in Afghanistan, even the routine preparations associated with organizing polls require a considerable effort. But most important is the need for enhanced security, given the country’s raging Taliban insurgency. An 8,000-strong U.S. Marine expeditionary brigade — the next major ground combat formation scheduled to deploy as part of the Obama administration’s announced plans to send 17,000 additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan — will not arrive until late spring. Whether they can be in position in time for the April election is unclear, but the full 17,000-strong force was intended to be in place ahead of the August elections.

Even with sufficient preparation time and additional Western forces to beef up security, holding an election in Afghanistan will be a herculean task. Much of the discussion and debate regarding this issue focuses on the reasons and the problems associated with Karzai’s move to hold early elections. But there is an even bigger problem brewing in Afghanistan, and the controversy over the election date is but a symptom of that. At a time when the Obama administration is trying to get a grasp of the ground realities in Afghanistan and the wider region in order to craft a strategy to deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda, the challenges Karzai faces are unraveling Afghanistan’s existing political structure.

The Karzai government, with all its shortcomings, has been the foundation of U.S.-led Western efforts to forge a post-Taliban republic. The events of the last seven years — particularly the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Talibanization of Pakistan — have demonstrated that those efforts have floundered. We are at a point where there are international efforts under way exploring the potential for some form of a political settlement with the Pashtun jihadists. The growing domestic and international opposition to Karzai pushes the United States and its allies further into a weak operating position.

Stratfor is of the view that, in the long run, personalities and groups matter very little, but in the short term, they play a pivotal role; this is the case with Karzai. Despite being a weak president, he has been Afghanistan’s only president since the U.S. invasion of the country in late 2001 (first as an interim president, then as an elected president after the vote in 2004). A compromise president, Karzai was able to maintain a delicate balance of sorts between the various factions within the country.

The hope has been that the existing system would hold while efforts are made to tweak it for the purposes of a future power-sharing agreement. But Karzai’s troubles indicate that the system needs to be salvaged, even before there are any moves toward dealing with the jihadist rebels. Any change to the status quo — such as another candidate replacing Karzai as president — could further destabilize the country, especially at such a crucial juncture.

As it is, Afghanistan represents a quagmire for Washington. The uncertainty surrounding Karzai’s future and the political storm gathering next door in Pakistan, where the federal government moved against the government of the country’s largest province, shows that the regional situation is deteriorating faster than the United States can work to contain matters.

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

NATO: Might Ask China For Support With Afghanistan
March 2, 2009 | 2017 GMT
NATO might ask China to give support for the war in Afghanistan, possibly by opening an alternate supply route to the country through western China, The Associated Press reported March 2, citing an unnamed senior U.S. official. The option is still being considered, and NATO has not decided whether to ask China for help, the official said. He made the statement ahead of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting set for March 5 in Brussels.


« Last Edit: March 03, 2009, 01:26:48 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
jkrenz
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« Reply #362 on: March 03, 2009, 11:49:15 PM »



"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." -Sun Tzu

We all watch or read the news but do we know what information the other side is putting out there?

Al Jazeera isn't bad at all compared to these sites.

http://www.jihadunspun.com/index.php

http://www.thabaat.net

...and my personal favorite...

http://www.theunjustmedia.com/Afghanistan/Mujahideen%20operations/march09/03-03-09.htm

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

This page is updated throughout the day as new operations are reported.

03-03-2009

Mujahideen operations against the enemies of Islam terrorists in Afghanistan are reported to Theunjustmedia.com by the official Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan spokesmen Qari Muhammad Yousuf and Zabihullah Mujahid by e-mails.

 

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

All Praise and thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of all that exists and may peace and prayers be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family, companions in entirety


In Heavy fighting enemy attack defeated 5 invader terrorists killed and 1 tank destroyed in Helmand Monday afternoon 02-03-2009, a battle took place between Mujahideen and the invader forces in Shorkey area in Grishk district of Helmand province, the fighting started when enemy forces entered an area which is controlled by the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mujahideen first detonated a remote controlled landmine, which killed five invader terrorists and destroyed a tank, soon after heavy fighting started which continued for two hours at the end the enemy was defeated, later the enemy bombardment the area in which three civilians were martyred and one was wounded. Reported by Qari Muhammad Yousuf

 

Mortars fired at British and Dutch invaders base in Helmand Monday afternoon 2-03-2009, Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan fired mortars shells at British invaders base in Shen area of Nadali district of Helmand province, where a large number of British and Dutch invaders terrorists live, in attack the base was damaged and the enemy received heavy casualties. Reported by Qari Muhammad Yousuf

25 Mortars fired at Sabri district headquarter and American compound in Khost Monday night 2-03-2009, Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan fired 25 mortars shells at an American invaders compound and Sabri district headquarter in center of same district of Khost province, in the attack the compound and district headquarter were damaged, however enemy casualties were not reported. Reported by Zabihullah Mujahid

Police headquarter blown up in Kabul Monday night 02-03-2009, Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with a remote controlled landmine blew up the headquarter of 7th police station in west of Kabul city, in the explosion few puppet terrorists were killed or wounded. Reported by Zabihullah Mujahid

O Allah, make them and their weaponry a booty for the Mujahideen

 

O Allah, you are our support and you are our only Victor; by your order we attack; by your order we retreat and by your order we fight

 

O Allah, the sky is yours; the earth is yours; the sea is yours, so whatever forces they have in the sky, drop them. Destroy all their forces in earth and sink all their forces in sea

 

O Allah, deal with them for verily they can never disable you

 

O Allah, retaliate upon them, afflict them like you did to Pharaoh and his nation

 

O Allah afflict their country with floods, make them in need of money and food and persons

 

O Allah defeat them, destroy them O the All-Strong, the All-Mighty

 

Allahu Akbar

 

"Honor, Power and Glory belong to Allah, His Messenger and the believers, but the hypocrites know not"

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

Gotta love the press...
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« Reply #363 on: March 04, 2009, 12:43:11 AM »


INTERVIEW-Ghani says Afghanistan must take its "second chance"
03 Mar 2009 09:14:07 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Simon Denyer

KABUL, March 3 (Reuters) - Afghanistan needs to clean up its act if it is to take its "second chance" after this year's election, but foreign aid also has to be much more effective and accountable, said presidential contender Ashraf Ghani.

"The current world financial crisis is going to put severe constraints on the availability of aid, and Afghanistan will have to compete and make its case," former finance minister, World Bank and U.N. official Ghani told Reuters in an interview.

"We failed at the first chance," he said, referring to efforts to build a stable and prosperous nation after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. "This time we need to get it right."

Ghani, a 59-year-old senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and author of a book on fixing failed states, said time was running out. "Two years from now, we need to be in a position to show the world positive momentum," he said.

"The politics of your countries is not going to support the current image of misgovernance, misrule and corruption in our country," he said. "Why would they support massive expansions here on infrastructure or education, when they themselves are going to be under severe constraints to cut services?"

Global attention has turned back to Afghanistan after U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to send in 17,000 more troops and make stabilisation of the country and the war on Islamist militants there a top foreign policy priority.

Many Afghans argue more U.S. troops, widely blamed for mounting civilian casualties, will only make matters worse.

Ghani said the troop deployment was "necessary but not sufficient" to combat a menacing Taliban insurgency, but questioned the balance between military and economic assistance.

He echoed U.S. General David Petraeus in Iraq, who said an effective counterinsurgency strategy had to be 20 percent military and 80 percent political and economic.

"NATO's monthly expenditure is $20 billion, and is estimated to rise to $22 billion," Ghani said. "$22 billion spent educating the Afghan people would change five generations."

FAILURE OF THE AID EFFORT

But it is not just about money. Ghani said the aid effort was "dysfunctional" and lacked accountability, with much of the money ending up in the hands of foreign experts and contractors.

In 2002, donors gave the U.N. $1.6 billion to rebuild Afghanistan from the ruins of war, Ghani said, accusing the U.N. of using much of the money raised to solve its own funding crisis and of never accounting to Afghanistan how it was spent.

The U.S. government's aid arm, USAID, did not have a single strategy paper for Afghanistan until 2006, he said, and ended up managing a "totally broken" system.

"Illustration: the head of USAID came and said you really need schools, the president really needs schools, 400 schools are going to be built before the presidential election (in 2004). They built eight, and the roof of four of them collapsed."

USAID's work was subcontrated out up to six times to tens of thousands of contractors, he said.

"This became a bonanza for contractors," Ghani said. "The poor Afghan contractor who is doing all the work is getting paid 10 percent or maximally 30 percent of the money. Everything else goes to people who are managers.

"To sum up: we have a dysfunctional international system faced and combined with a dysfunctional Afghan system where corruption became the norm. Now there are accusations of mutual corruption and mutual incompetence reinforcing each other."

Ghani says the election must not just be about changing an individual at the top, but a fundamental restructuring of the regime of President Hamid Karzai.

A formidable intellectual who was even been touted as a potential U.N. Secretary-General, Ghani is seen as an outside contender who lacks the support and clout to become president.

He admits his term as finance minister did not make him any more popular at home.


Ashraf Ghani

Ashraf Ghani, who holds a PhD degree in Anthropology from Colombia University in New York, is an Afghan-American intellectual who served briefly as Hamid Karzai's chief advisor in his interim administration and eventually was chosen as Afghanistan's finance minister from 2002 - 2004, during Hamid Karzai's transitional administration. Before joining the Afghan government, Ghani held positions with the United Nations and the World Bank, and helped prepare the Bonn Agreement.

Because of his success at carrying out a series of important reforms as finance minister, he was voted as the best finance minister of Asia in 2003 by Emerging Markets. Ghani is a strong advocate of foreign investment in Afghanistan, and even today works towards having Afghanistan be seen as a great opportunity for investment, not a charity.

When Afghanistan's new constitution was put it place, it required that the president's cabinet members must have only Afghan citizenship and so dual citizenships were not allowed. Not wanting to give up his American citizenship, Ghani declined to remain as finance minister and instead asked to be appointed as Chancellor of Kabul University. He later resigned from his position as Kabul University Chancellor and in 2005 co-founded and is currently chairman of the Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE). On their website, it states that the ISE "uses a citizen-centered perspective to rethink the fundamentals of the relationship between citizens, the state and the market in the context of globalization."

Ashraf Ghani wrote a book titled The Framework: Fixing Failed States, with Clare Lockhart (also from the the Institute for State Effectiveness), and was published in May 2008 by Oxford University Press.

Ghani was born in 1949 in the province of Logar.

by Abdullah Qazi / October 15, 2008
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« Reply #364 on: March 09, 2009, 11:32:32 AM »

ditor’s Note: This is the sixth piece in a series that explores how key countries in various regions have interacted with the United States in the past, and how their relationships with Washington will likely be defined during the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

South Asia is the initial foreign policy focal point of Barack Obama’s presidency. From an intractable and war-torn Afghanistan to a deeply conflicted Pakistan to a self-enclosed and mistrustful India, this is not a region in which the United States is comfortable operating. Nevertheless, South Asia in many ways will determine the success or failure of Obama’s foreign policy record.

An ‘Unwinnable’ War?
The most critical test will take place in Afghanistan, where an already-raging jihadist insurgency — consisting of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda and various other radical Islamist groups — is intensifying. These jihadist fighters have used the time that the United States has spent absorbed in the war in Iraq to hone their skills on the battlefield and develop a more centralized command structure that has enabled them to hold large swaths of territory and launch complex and coordinated attacks against primarily Afghan and coalition targets.

Senior U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan, who have been watching the security situation degrade by the day, have requested that Obama approve an initial counterinsurgency plan to pour more troops into Afghanistan. The idea would be to get more boots on the ground in and around Kabul, push back the Taliban and devote more resources to nation-building operations. But while this surge strategy seems to have worked in Iraq, it is fundamentally flawed when applied in a country as large, complex and insular as Afghanistan.





Click map to enlarge
Landlocked by Iran, Central Asia and Pakistan, Afghanistan is destined to be poor and insulated. As a largely arid, resource-deficient no-man’s-land, the country lacks strategic value in and of itself and historically has served as a thoroughfare for invaders descending from the Central Asian steppes in search of the Indian subcontinent. Afghanistan stands out among the world’s countries in that it has no core region that defines itself as the Indus River Valley does for Pakistan or as the Zagros Mountains do for Iran. The region’s central mountain knot keeps most of its various ethnicities perched on the edges of the knot where water is available, but there are no meaningful barriers that separate them from each other. The result is a hodgepodge of ethnic groups and tribes constantly competing for dominance, endlessly able to dislodge their neighbors and yet lacking the natural barriers that could give them real security in the long run. Any outsider, therefore, will find Afghanistan easy to conquer — as did the Russians in 1979 and the Americans in 2001 — but impossible to hold. Representing a battered mix of ethnicities, the Afghan people have been hardened by wars of their own making and those brought to them by outsiders. Territory changes hands often, and the people pledge their loyalties accordingly.

Afghanistan’s geographic features essentially deny the United States a successful military strategy. When the United States fights wars in Eurasia, it already expects to deal with critical disadvantages, such as having its forces far outnumbered and having to maintain long and vulnerable supply lines. From almost its very beginning, the United States has conducted expeditionary military operations overseas; since World War II, it has come to rely on its global maritime dominance and technological edge to impose its influence far beyond U.S. coastlines. In the present case of Afghanistan, however, all the strengths that the United States typically brings to a military operation are more or less nullified. With no real power base, the United States is fighting a stateless entity in a landlocked country with a scattered population. Such a dynamic prevents the United States from utilizing its naval prowess and complicates the use of advanced weapons systems, particularly when used against a guerrilla enemy dispersed throughout the countryside. The only way to fight in Afghanistan is to use brute force and significant numbers of boots on the ground in a war of occupation — precisely the sort of war that lies outside the U.S. comfort zone.





Click map to enlarge
In other words, Afghanistan’s geography in many ways denies the United States any good policy options. Afghanistan historically has been a country exceedingly difficult for an outside power to pacify. At the very best, the United States can hope for a loose and shifting confederation of Afghan tribes and ethnic groups to try and govern the country and prevent transnational jihadist forces from taking root again. But for that strategy to work, the United States would first need to devote an immense amount of time and resources to long-term counterinsurgency and nation-building in a region extremely resistant to the sort of stability required for nation-building. Without the 9/11 connection, Afghanistan would continue to sit very low on the totem pole of U.S. strategic interests.

The Neighborhood Powder Keg
Compounding matters is the situation next door in Pakistan. Pakistan has reached a point where it has become both a facilitator and a victim of the jihadist insurgency that has seeped across the Afghan border and broken Islamabad’s writ over the country’s northwestern region. The root of this contradiction is steeped in Pakistan’s geopolitical dilemma.

The Pakistani core lies along the Indus River Valley in Punjab and Sindh provinces, where the agricultural heartland, political epicenter and military corps commands are dominated by the country’s Punjabi majority. The relatively narrow width of the Indus River Valley core denies Pakistan any real strategic depth against external threats, making it a geopolitical imperative for Pakistan to incorporate the ethnically disparate borderlands to the Baloch-dominated west and Pashtun-dominated northwest as strategic buffers. The mountainous Pashtun corridor to the north is inhabited by conservative tribal peoples who have more in common with their Pashtun brethren across the Afghan border than with the Indic peoples of the Pakistani core. The only way for Pakistan to maintain territorial integrity is to maintain an overwhelmingly powerful military that can impose its writ on the Pakistani periphery.

The military has long used the Islamic religious identity of the majority of the country and the ideology of Islamism as a state tool to assimilate the northwest Pashtun and as a foreign policy tool to spread influence into Afghanistan (thereby extending the Pakistani buffer) and to contain India, its rival to the east, through the use of Islamist militant proxies. The strategy worked for decades until a jihadist movement took root among the Pashtuns and Islamabad’s militant proxies broke free of Islamabad’s grip.

The situation has now deteriorated to the point where even the Pakistanis are acknowledging their dilemma. They have little choice but to take action against rogue Islamists within both the military-intelligence apparatus and the insurgent camp in order to fend off external pressure and hold onto their northwestern buffer.

But Pakistan continues to search for a middle ground. Unwilling to see the domestic backlash that would result from cutting ties to its former militant proxies, Islamabad wants to reach an understanding with certain Islamist militants and sympathizers within the military and among the Pakistani Taliban and Kashmiri Islamists to halt attacks at least inside Pakistan. The Pakistanis are also pursuing a complex strategy to sow divisions within Pakistan’s northwest tribal network in an attempt to corner tribes that harbor al Qaeda and other foreign militants. The problem with these middle-ground strategies is that making deals with the Pakistani Taliban and the tribes that support them only emboldens the militants and usually entails a private understanding to redirect the insurgent focus across the border into Afghanistan, where it becomes Kabul’s and Washington’s problem.

This is where Pakistan becomes a royal headache for the United States. Pakistan is a supply chain not only for the jihadists, but also for U.S. and NATO troops fighting the war in Afghanistan. The United States is tied to Pakistan in two fundamental ways: While U.S. and NATO forces must rely on increasingly unreliable Pakistani supply routes to fight the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan — fearful that the United States and India will establish a long-term strategic partnership — has the incentive to keep the jihadist insurgency boiling (preferably in Afghanistan) in order to keep the Americans committed to an alliance with Islamabad, however complex that alliance might be.

Moving forward, U.S. strategy for Pakistan will be aimed toward cutting those links, beginning with the supply-route issue. The United States is trying to develop alternate routes through Central Asia (which would come at a high political and logistical price) to supply the war in Afghanistan from the north. Less reliance on Pakistan means less leverage for Islamabad over Washington when the United States applies more pressure on Pakistan to take risks and “do more” at home in battling the insurgency. That said, Washington will not be able to ignore the fact that Pakistan is currently in a very fragile state — politically, economically and militarily. This makes any U.S. action in Pakistan, including airstrikes against high-value targets, all the more precarious as Islamabad tries to hold the country together.

The more destabilized Pakistan becomes, the more nervous India will become; the November 2008 Mumbai attacks illustrated the extent to which Islamabad’s grip had loosened over its militant proxies. India took no retaliatory military action in response to the attacks for fear of destabilizing Pakistan further and giving the Islamist militant forces already operating in Pakistan an excuse to redirect their focus on India. But India also has to contend with the reality that a number of jihadist forces in Pakistan have a strong interest in forcing Pakistan and India into conflict, which would divert Pakistani military attention to the east and give the Taliban and al Qaeda more breathing room.

It follows, then, that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks would at least attempt follow-on attacks in India to push the South Asian rivals into conflict. If and when a large-scale attack occurs, Indian military restraint cannot be assured, especially in the event that a more hard-line Hindu nationalist government comes to power in upcoming Indian elections. In such a scenario, the United States will have to once again devote its efforts toward preventing India and Pakistan from coming to blows and from detracting even further from U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan.

A Lack of Good Policy Options
The enormous complexity surrounding the war in Afghanistan does not allow for many good U.S. policy options, but there are essentially four proposals, not all mutually exclusive and each with its pros and cons, sitting before the president.

First, do not attempt nation-building in Afghanistan, where there are little to no strategic resources or institutions to build from. Instead of bringing a large number of combat troops into the country, which would absorb much of the U.S. military’s capabilities, rely primarily on U.S. intelligence capabilities to narrow the warfighting focus just to al Qaeda, in an effort to prevent the country from redeveloping into a jihadist base of operations capable of launching transcontinental attacks against the West. In other words, return to the original objectives and methods of the war.

Narrowing the U.S. effort to fighting al Qaeda would free up the U.S. military for other pressing issues, particularly a resurgent Russia. On the other hand, eliminating the nation-building component would leave Afghanistan in the same hazardous condition that allowed the development of al Qaeda in the first place.

Second, instead of nation-building, focus on rebuilding the traditional, decentralized tribal structures that historically have ruled Afghanistan and have been strained by years of civil war. Put the onus on the Afghans to battle radicalization and to make the country inhospitable to foreign jihadist fighters.

Relying on local tribal structures to strengthen law and order in the country is far more attainable than attempting to implement an alien democratic structure at the center in a country like Afghanistan. However, this policy still has to contend with the fact that many tribal structures have broken down from years of civil war and rule by the Taliban, that Islamist radicalization has spread far and wide throughout the country and that, in some cases, the Taliban have done better in providing for the population than the largely corrupt Afghan government. Any “success” using this strategy would generate a “solution” as transitory as any Afghan “government” to date.

Third, do not attempt nation-building, but instead try to defang radical groups by reconciling with more moderate Taliban who can be integrated into the political process.

Politically co-opting segments of the Taliban could well divide the insurgency, much as the United States did with Sunni nationalists in Iraq, who turned their backs to al Qaeda after a major troop surge. However, the United States must first regain the upper hand in the fight and commit enough resources to the war to make it worthwhile for those who are reconcilable who can actually be identified to risk their safety in switching sides. The idea of reconciliation is critical in any counterinsurgency campaign but is often doomed to failure if approached too early in the process.

Fourth, subscribe to the belief that any policy that abandons some notion of nation-building will allow for the re-establishment of an al Qaeda base to threaten Western interests. Commit to Afghanistan for the medium to long term, and devote enough time and resources to build a strong enough state structure at the center that would be capable of providing for the Afghan people and of containing irreconcilable jihadist forces.

A long-term commitment to Afghanistan may have the best chance of making the country inhospitable to jihadist forces, but given the number of competing high-priority issues threatening U.S. security right now, the United States likely will not be able to devote the amount of resources needed to pull off such a strategy — especially in a country that has never been pacified by a foreign occupier.

The Power of Perception … and Exhaustion
While there are options on the table for Obama to consider in prosecuting the war in Afghanistan, he does not have a lot of time to mull over those options. This is a war where the power of perception will play a key role if the United States hopes to divide the insurgency in any meaningful way. Thus far, the United States has not demonstrated that it is willing or even able to devote enough resources to decisively win the war. Senior U.S. military commanders have requested up to 32,000 additional U.S. troops (which would bring total U.S. and NATO force strength to more than 100,000) to help beef up their force structure in Kabul and to push back into Taliban-held territory. But with competing interests in Iraq, where senior U.S. military commanders want to consolidate the security gains made there by avoiding too hasty a withdrawal, only 17,000 additional troops have been approved for deployment to Afghanistan thus far. That troop surge of 17,000 will be spread out over the next six months, allowing the Taliban to consolidate their power in the spring and summer — the traditional fighting season — while the United States tries to get a relatively small number of additional troops into theater.

In Iraq, where the ground realities are vastly different from those in Afghanistan, the United States was able to add more muscle to the counterinsurgency effort, lock down security and — just as importantly — deliver a psychological message to Iraqi Sunni insurgents that the United States would be their security guarantor against Iranian and Iraqi Shiite rivals and an al Qaeda force that had alienated the local population. In Afghanistan, a troop surge of 17,000 or even 32,000 troops will likely lack the psychological impact to convince the Taliban that the United States can still fight this war and win. The Taliban see a resumption of political power as a strategic goal, but they do not face a significant internal threat that would compel them to deal with the United States. STRATFOR sources have said that the Taliban leadership often tells its fighters that their job is not necessarily to win battles, but to make it as painful as possible for Western forces to stay any longer. The insurgent strategy is simple yet effective: Outlast the enemy through the power of exhaustion. This strategy has been successfully applied before in a war against the United States (witness Vietnam), and it can be successfully applied again, given the U.S. penchant for concerted military power and quick victories.

The United States can try to battle the Taliban for some time, but insurgencies have long lives and a military stalemate in Afghanistan is a far more likely outcome. When that realization is reached, the United States may have to settle on a strategy that focuses much less on troop strength than on special operations against al Qaeda. This was the strategy that the United States embarked upon in Afghanistan in October 2001, and it is likely the strategy to which it eventually will have to return.

A little more than a year ago, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee, “In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must.” That statement describes a clear gap in priorities for the United States in fighting these two wars. Now, with the spotlight on Afghanistan, the Obama administration will have to decide just how much it is willing to commit to a war in a country that has a historical record of outlasting foreign occupiers. Afghanistan may be a pressing issue for the United States, but it is also competing with a larger and arguably more strategic threat that will impact U.S. national security beyond the life of the U.S.-jihadist war — the Russian resurgence.
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« Reply #365 on: March 11, 2009, 12:11:31 PM »

Afghanistan: The Difficulties of the Wakhan Corridor
STRATFOR Today » March 10, 2009 | 2104 GMT

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Afghan children in a makeshift classroom in a village in the Wakhan CorridorSummary
The Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of land connecting Afghanistan directly to China, appears on a map to be an attractive alternative supply route for U.S. and NATO military efforts in Afghanistan. However, the corridor is problematic from both a geographic and an infrastructural standpoint, and China has qualms about getting involved in the Afghan conflict there.

Analysis
Related Links
The Geopolitics of China: A Great Power Enclosed
U.S., Afghanistan: Challenges to a Troop Surge
Afghanistan, Pakistan: The Battlespace of the Border
Afghanistan: Hurry Up and Wait
The United States and NATO reportedly have been discussing logistical alternatives for the Afghan campaign with China in yet another effort to secure alternative and supplemental supply routes because of the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. Washington and its NATO allies have been working on similar arrangements with the Russians and Central Asian states and are even discussing such a route with the Iranians. Though conceptually attractive, the Chinese proposition for an alternate route is particularly problematic.

The United States has been searching for alternative and supplemental supply routes to support the Afghan campaign since the true depth of Pakistan’s crisis began to become clear. This led Washington straight into Russian territory — an area where the White House already has enough problems. Thus, a supplemental Chinese route is attractive, as it theoretically could take away some of Moscow’s leverage at the negotiating table.





(click image to enlarge)
The Wakhan Corridor looks attractive on a map because it slips cleanly between the Pakistani problem and the Russian problem. Demarcated by the British at the end of the 19th century, the river valley that runs the length of the corridor supposedly was once a trade route for caravans carrying trade goods between East and Central Asia.

Shaped a bit like an arched finger, the Wakhan Corridor is an extension of Afghanistan’s Tajik-dominated Badakhshan province. The corridor’s main borders touch Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Northern Areas to the south. The corridor has a tiny frontier that runs along China’s Muslim province of Xinjiang to the east.

The Taliban — even in their heyday prior to 9/11 — did not get that far north because of the heavily Tajik-populated area that stood between their forces and the Wakhan Corridor. Furthermore, the Pakistani regions of Chitral and Gilgit serve as buffers between Wakhan and the Pakistani Talibanized areas in the tribal belt and the NWFP, which might help insulate the route from fighting in Pakistan to some degree. Though the terrain is well-suited to guerrilla fighting and the long route would be vulnerable to ambushes from the mountains, the ethnic Tajik makeup of the region significantly undercuts the likelihood of ambushes. In fact, the locals would be happy to have NATO sending supplies through their territory, because it would help contain their Taliban enemies.

But the mountains surrounding Wakhan are some of the highest and most rugged in the world; the territory makes the rest of Afghanistan look easily accessible by comparison. The route is closed nearly half the year due to weather, and the roads in the valley are rough, unimproved and usually single-lane dirt roads. Though a few bridges exist, it is not clear whether they can bear heavy loads, and the area is isolated from Afghanistan’s road network — as notoriously poor as it is — which is not accessible until Eshkashem. It is some 30 miles from the border to more established Chinese roads, and China’s rail and road infrastructure does not even connect directly with the narrow border. However, any other route through the corridor would require U.S. and NATO supplies to travel through Central Asian territory, which is heavily influenced by Moscow — thus negating the benefits of the Chinese alternative.

Basically, a massive and time-consuming infrastructure investment would be necessary on both sides of the border to make the Wakhan Corridor serve as a meaningful logistical link to Afghanistan for the shipment of supplies for the U.S. and NATO efforts there. Even if the Chinese could be convinced to acquiesce, the endeavor would take years to complete and have a high cost — exactly what logistics officers seek to avoid. And then there is the remainder of the long, tortuous route between China’s coastal seaports and its far west to consider.

But the Afghan campaign is popular with neither the Chinese public nor the central government. This sentiment has more to do with Beijing’s discomfort with a U.S. invasion of any other country and with China’s sensitivity about geographic security than with any detail of the Afghan campaign itself. Although Beijing is looking to get more actively involved in international efforts, the Afghan campaign is particularly problematic, as it could unnecessarily aggravate the Muslim minority population in northwestern China. Also, any infrastructural improvements might ease the transit of Islamist fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan into Chinese territory — and China already has its hands full with internal security concerns. Finally, given the recent rise in tensions on the high seas in East Asia, movement on the logistical issue is looking even more problematic.

Though discussions clearly are taking place, it is not surprising that China has politely rebuffed the logistical feelers so far. They hardly need to offer any other justification, but since they have been asked, the Chinese have brought broader and longer-term issues to the table — suggesting, for instance, that far more significant concessions (like on the current Western ban on arms sales to China) will be necessary for any meaningful movement on the issue. But while there are areas where China might be willing to cooperate, the bottom line on the logistical issue is geographic reality — a reality that only a significant investment in infrastructure and time can change.
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« Reply #366 on: March 12, 2009, 11:38:53 PM »

The Guardian (UK)
March 6, 2009
Pg. 17

Intelligence Failures Crippling Fight Against Insurgents In Afghanistan, Says Report

Leaked analysis condemns US for lack of co-operation

By Peter Beaumont

A highly critical analysis of the US-led coalition's counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan has raised serious questions about combat operations in both countries - and the intelligence underpinning them.

The confidential document presents a bleak picture of a counterinsurgency effort undermined by intelligence failures that at times border on the absurd.

Based on scores of interviews with British, US, Canadian and Dutch military, intelligence and diplomatic officials - and marked for "official use only" - the book-length report is damning of a US military often unwilling to share intelligence among its military allies. It depicts commanders in the field being overwhelmed by information on hundreds of contradictory databases, and sometimes resistant to intelligence generated by its own agents in the CIA.

Counterinsurgency efforts are also shown as being at the mercy of local contacts peddling identical "junk" tips around various intelligence officials, with the effectiveness of the intelligence effort being quantified by some senior officers solely in terms of the amount of "tip money" disbursed to sources.

The report describes a rigid reliance on economic, military and political progress indicators regarded by the authors and interviewees as too often lacking in real meaning.

Its sources complain of commanders who have slipped into relying on "the fallacy of body counts", discredited after the war in Vietnam as a measure of success.

The report, prepared by the RAND national defence research institute for US Joint Forces Command in November and leaked to the Wikileaks website, reveals the case of Dutch F-16 pilots in Afghanistan who were ordered by the US to bomb targets, only to be refused access to American "battle damage assessments" showing what they had hit, on the grounds that the Dutch were not "security cleared" to view them.

Another interviewee describes how coalition forces at Camp Holland near Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan maintained 13 different intelligence sections, including US, Dutch, UAE, and Australian, all operating with minimal co-operation.

"It would have been helpful (for us to have) combined them; then we would have known everything," complained Lt Neils Verhoef, one of those interviewed for the report. "One section knew the location of an IED (improvised explosive device) factory, and we drove by it for three months."

The unflattering document will make grim reading for President Barack Obama as he grapples with the worsening crisis in Afghanistan, confronted by an increasingly emboldened Taliban and its allies. With counterinsurgency tactics now placed at the centre of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the RAND report suggests that many of the national armed forces involved lack skills to operate effectively.

It calls for a substantial overhaul of how military intelligence is gathered, organised and acted on. Quoting senior officers, it questions many everyday operations - from weapons searches to the killing or arrest of wanted individuals - suggesting that they "alienate" the local population for little measurable gain.

Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, former the senior British military representative in Iraq, said: "There were some operations taking place in Iraq where the success of the operation . . . was judged solely against whether tactical success had been achieved; tactical success in terms of attrition of enemy forces, numbers killed or captured, numbers of weapons seized, amounts of explosives captured, extent of area controlled. By these criteria . . . a given operation would be judged a success, regardless of the fact that it had seriously alienated the local population, and the fact that, within a few months, other insurgents had re-infiltrated and regained control."

An anonymous source quoted in the report stated that "operational commanders" continued to "indulge in the fallacy of body counts, and a month in which more Taliban are killed than in the previous month" was seen as progress. He added: "This is actually more likely to reflect the fact that there are more enemy on the battlefield than there were before."

Despite the huge emphasis on counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last two years, the report's authors, Russell Glenn and Jamie Gayton, find it necessary to remind military readers of the importance of the civilian population in their efforts, not least in protecting civilians "against attack by both the enemy and your own forces".

"Those interviewed in support of this research," they wrote, "noted with no little frustration that coalition forces themselves too frequently neglect to treat local community members properly."

Perhaps most damning of all, however, is the suggestion from several of those interviewed that often they felt that an overall strategy for what they were supposed to be doing was entirely lacking.

One of those interviewed was Brigadier General Theo Vleugels, who described his 2006 command experience in southern Afghanistan in terms worthy of a passage from Joseph Heller's Catch 22. "We didn't have a campaign plan when we started, but we later got one from my higher headquarters that was close to ours, which is not surprising as they told us to do what we told them we would do."
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« Reply #367 on: March 16, 2009, 12:32:51 AM »

Can We Defeat the Taliban?
http://www.aina.org/news/20090312085918.htm

- David Kilcullen, National Review (Accidental Guerrilla book excerpt)

-David Kilcullen, senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, explains in this exclusive book excerpt from The Accidental Guerilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One.



On the basis of my field experience in 2005--08 in Iraq, Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, I assess the current generation of Taliban fighters, within the broader Taliban confederation (which loosely combines old Taliban cadres with Pashtun nationalists, tribal fighters, and religious extremists), as the most tactically competent enemy we currently face in any theater. This judgment draws on four factors: organizational structure, motivation, combat skills, and equipment.

Taliban organizational structure varies between districts, but most show some variation of the generic pattern of a local clandestine network structure, a main force of full-time guerrillas who travel from valley to valley, and a part-time network of villagers who cooperate with the main force when it is in their area. In districts close to the Pakistan border, young men graduating from Pakistani madrassas also swarm across the frontier to join the main force when it engages in major combat -- as happened during the September 2006 fighting in Kandahar Province, and again in the 2007 and 2008 fighting seasons.

These multifaceted motivations provide Taliban fighters with a strong but elastic discipline. Although opportunities may arise for us to "divide and conquer" elements of the enemy, in practice local ties tend to far outweigh government influence. Thus we need to induce local tribal and community leaders who have the respect and tribal loyalty of part-time elements to wean them away from loyalty to the main-force Taliban. Appealing to the self-interest of local clandestine cell leaders may also help isolate them from the influence of senior Taliban leaders who are currently safe in Pakistan.

Clearly, the weakest motivational links within the Taliban confederation are those that are based on the "accidental guerrilla" syndrome and that draw local part-time fighters to fight alongside the main force when it is in their area. Local security measures such as neighborhood-watch groups and auxiliary police units, creation of alternative organizations and life pathways (including jobs and social networks) for young men, protection from Taliban intimidation, and alternative economic activities are potential approaches to detaching these individuals from main-force influence. The main force itself is highly cohesive in most districts and relatively invulnerable to direct penetration or infiltration. But the habit of recruiting part-time local fighters to join the main force, including forced recruitment, might expose the main force to indirect infiltration.

TALIBAN STRENGTHS

In terms of combat skills, reporting from units in the field, as well as my participant observations, suggest extremely high competence in some areas but some equally significant lapses in others. Key areas of skill include ambushing, use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), sniping, field defenses, and reconnaissance. Weaknesses include a tendency to operate in a set routine, lack of communications security, poor indirect-fire skills, dispersed tactical movement, and sloppiness in the security of cross-border infiltration.

Insurgent groups have mounted ambushes incorporating up to several hundred fighters using coordinated mortar, rocket, and sniper fire to engage coalition troops in the killing area. Tactics include the use of L-shaped or T-shaped layouts to catch troops in crossfire. They have shown good fire discipline, marksmanship, and tactical control during these activities. Though in many cases they have suffered significant casualties, they have shown an aggressive spirit and a marked willingness to accept severe losses in order to press home an attack.

Careful mine placement, good camouflage, employment of unexploded or modified ordnance, use of decoy and secondary devices, baited attacks (to draw first responders or military and police columns into a trap), and use of covering observation, sniper posts, and ambushes are all features of insurgent IED technique, which has shown substantial improvement (especially in the south) over the past several years, including an extremely significant rise in the prevalence of Iraq-style suicide attacks using car bombs, bomb vests, or limpet mines. Although IED attacks are still less intensive than in Iraq before the surge, in most cases this is probably explained by lower population density and scarcity of military-grade ordnance rather than lack of skill. In any case, since the success of the surge in reducing violence in Iraq in 2007--08, Afghanistan has overtaken Iraq as the main source of coalition casualties from IEDs.

Proficient use of snipers, operating in pairs and coordinating their activities by radio (both among pairs and with maneuver forces) are a key feature of improved insurgent tactical proficiency since 2005. Camouflage, stalking, use of high-powered optics, and coordinated engagement are all signs of increasing professionalism by enemy snipers, who have graduated from the category of "marksmen" to become true sniper pairs in the professional military sense. This bespeaks at least some training by professionally qualified military snipers, or by foreign fighters (such as Chechens) with previous operational sniping experience. It also shows an emphasis on training and preparation that was absent from some of the ad hoc Taliban efforts of previous years.

The field defenses of Pashmul and Panjwai during Operation Medusa in 2006, in an area of fertile farmland, small fields, orchards, and hedgerows that the Soviets called the "green belt" and where they took many casualties, showed intensive preparation and skill. Equally professional field defenses have been encountered in several subsequent operations. Good use of terrain, pre-registration of killing areas and firing points (a technique by which mortar and heavy-weapons crews walk the ground before a battle and adjust their aim points for maximum effectiveness), and the use of bunkers, crawl trenches, tunnels, caches, and obstacle plans highlight this tactical proficiency. During the 2006 fighting, because a large number of fighters were inexperienced Pakistani madrassa graduates, dozens were killed every day by Coalition airpower on the approaches to the battle. But once dug into their defensive zones, these fighters proved extremely difficult to extract.

Finally, in terms of strengths, the insurgents have shown great skill in scouting and intelligence collection, using local villagers and clandestine cadres for close-target reconnaissance and conducting stand-off observation from dominating hills, and by means of night and day movement in mountainous and vegetated areas (particularly in the eastern hills and the "green belt" in the Helmand and Arghandab river valleys). Some insurgents have also been very effective in using local informants and illegal vehicle checkpoints to gain and exploit information about the population.

WEAK SPOTS

Insurgent tactical weaknesses include the tendency to follow set routines. Because some senior leaders have been operating in the same areas for many years, and because the terrain limits maneuver options (most valleys have only one route in and out, for example), some insurgent groups have begun to set patterns and operate in a routine and repetitive fashion. This creates exploitable vulnerabilities. For instance, local guerrillas typically wait for a Coalition convoy to enter a valley and then seek to ambush it on its way out at a series of "traditional" attack points. This tendency, also noted by observers of mujahidin operating against the Soviets in the 1980s, appears to be widespread and could be exploited by working with local partners ahead of an operation to identify the traditional ambush sites in a given valley and then sending a force into the valley, waiting until enemy fighters move into ambush sites, and engaging these positions with air and indirect fire. Similarly, despite some proficiency in the use of rockets and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) in a semi-indirect fire mode, insurgent skills in mortar work seem less developed than in other areas. In some districts (particularly those along the Pakistan border) their proficiency is better, but in general this is one area where they still have room to improve. Because mortar work is a fairly technical skill, future improvements in this area might signal a higher level of assistance from sponsors located in Pakistan.

There have been several recent instances of insurgents' massing in large numbers (up to 250 fighters) in the open, often at night, only to be engaged by indirect fire or airpower and suffer significant losses. Again, during the September 2006 fighting around Pashmul, the insurgents lost hundreds of fighters who were moving openly in pickup trucks toward the scene of the fighting, while in autumn 2008 there were several coordinated large-scale attacks on British bases and population centers in Helmand Province. Such engagements typically kill young, inexperienced guerrillas rather than older cadres who tend to hang back in the fighting, directing the fanatical young fighters while not exposing themselves to risk.

A final key weakness is in cross-border movement, where infiltrators have typically taken little trouble to disguise their movement or activity, in some cases infiltrating in broad daylight under the noses of Pakistan army checkpoints, or even with direct assistance from Pakistani Frontier Corps troops. If we could convince the Pakistani government to actually take action against infiltrators, we could exploit this lack of skill in cross-border movement so as to ambush infiltration parties or deny specific routes, channeling the enemy into locations where we could engage them using airpower and indirect fire without significant risk to the local civilian population.

Finally, insurgent equipment has improved substantially. By 2005 and 2006, small arms and RPGs being carried by the Taliban were generally of much better quality than Afghan National Army (ANA) or Afghan National Police (ANP) weapons, though government weapons have improved in quality since that time. Other insurgent weapons capabilities (especially rockets and IEDs) continue to improve in sophistication. Handheld radios, satellite phones, and cell phones have become common. Some infiltrators wear camouflage uniforms, and some even have rudimentary badges of rank. Vehicles are of better standard than most ANP or government vehicles, and the supplying of food, water, and ammunition is very effective. But the Taliban still tends to travel more lightly, with far less reliance on the road network or logistic resupply, than the ANA/ANP or the Coalition, giving the enemy greater tactical mobility in rural parts of the country, especially where a measure of popular support exists for their agenda.

By David Kilcullen
National Review Online

This message has been edited. Last edited by: xmikex, March 13, 2009 04:23 PM
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« Reply #368 on: March 16, 2009, 12:25:32 PM »

Sounds like a good read.  One things for sure though, "defeat" in this situation doesn't mean Mullah Omar and and his boys coming out with their hands up waving the flag of surrender.  And it's definitely not a war that can be won through force on force kinetic operations.  The Taliban is like a hydra.  You can cut off as many heads as you want but the heads always seems to grow back.   

Personal opinion, here's a great article from the British news...   

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

Only a surge in fudging will tame Afghanistan

From The Sunday Times
March 15, 2009

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5908526.ece

John Witherow

Twenty years ago I watched the Russians pull out of Afghanistan. They were a defeated, tetchy army whose soldiers were prone to shoot at journalists if they got too close. One Frenchman got a bullet in his backside for not backing off fast enough. The Russians believed the Americans had played a crucial part in their defeat by supplying the mujaheddin with weapons, especially surface-to-air missiles (think Charlie Wilson’s War). The Russian retreat, of course, soon got caught up in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now the Russians are watching American, British and Nato forces embroiled in the same country with many of the same problems and are wishing us no good at all. They believe the West is making the same mistakes and that Afghanistan is an ungovernable, godforsaken place best left to its own devices. After I made another visit there last week, I think they may have a point.

The complexity of what Nato is trying to achieve struck home in the British hospital in Bastion, the giant military camp plonked in the middle of the desert in Helmand province. There are only four intensive care beds because serious British casualties are flown immediately to Selly Oak in Birmingham.

In one bed was a small boy of maybe eight years old. He had been blown up that morning by a Taliban improvised explosive device, or IED. He was heavily sedated and barely alive. Seven people had died in the explosion, including members of his family and perhaps his parents. When he finally awoke he would in all probability be an orphan. The doctors thought he would wake up “because their kids are tougher than our kids”. Why the Taliban should kill fellow Afghans was unclear. Presumably it was a mistake and the roadside bomb had been intended to blow up yet more Brits. Of the 150 British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan since 2002, more than 50 were killed by IEDs.

The only other patient in the room was a plump, middle-aged man lying almost unconscious on his back. He had been shot through the stomach by a British soldier. Doctors said he had been riding his motorbike towards a checkpoint and had refused to stop, despite warnings. Was he a suicide bomber or just a gormless biker? His motorbike passenger had driven off, so there was no sign of explosives. Medical staff thought he was not an Afghan and a nurse was talking to him loudly in English to see if he understood. He just groaned. Last year they discovered they were treating a Mancunian who had been fighting alongside the Taliban, so perhaps this tubby little chap was from Luton or Beeston.

These two random casualties of a war being fought in the poppy fields and mud villages of Helmand show what the West is up against. The Taliban may be a ragtag militia of indeterminate leadership, but they are heir to the mujaheddin who had seen off the Russian army. This lot have already won one civil war and plan to defeat Nato and its makeshift alliance of 41 nations (hilariously, Austria has two military representatives in Afghanistan and is thus part of the alliance). However much the British and Americans may outgun them when it comes to a firefight, it would be a fool who bet against an Afghan fighter.

Also present in the hospital was Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff. A tough, no-nonsense air chief marshal, he has been visiting Afghanistan every couple of months for years. He is a glass-half-full man, but then he has to be an optimist. He acknowledges the huge hurdles faced by British troops but believes the alliance is slowly making progress.

We went with him to one of the Royal Marines’ forward bases, which a while ago was coming under daily attack. With sandbags on the roof and a rickety ladder, it has an exotic Beau Geste feel. The attacks are less frequent now, despite evidence that the Taliban are consolidating and bringing in more experienced fighters.

Stirrup was able to parade down the local bazaar, where a number of stalls were open. A few months ago it had been deserted. The Afghans stood around with blank expressions, showing neither hostility nor friendliness, although the children pointed and laughed at the few women soldiers who were present. The fact that Sir Jock could even appear there seemed like progress, although he had the kind of armed protection that would not have disgraced Barack Obama.

Britain is placing a lot of weight on the still narrow shoulders of the Afghan army. While its soldiers are undoubtedly brave men, when they lined up to be greeted by Stirrup they bore a striking resemblance to Dad’s Army. Much Whitehall effort and money is going into the army and also the police, schools, hospitals, irrigation, roads and what is known as “good governance”. Whatever happens, Afghanistan is going to be a lot better off thanks to western aid. Whether that is enough to make the Afghans spurn the Taliban is one of the great unknowns. The Talibs have a well deserved reputation for brutality and anyone seen to be collaborating is going to be dealt with summarily.

The British await the influx of 17,000 US troops, many of whom will be fighting in Helmand. America believes that as in Iraq, where the “surge” of troops helped to pacify Baghdad and other cities, the extra numbers will make all the difference. They may be right, at least for a while. Although Iraq is significantly different, success has been achieved there by protecting the locals from rival factions. US troops no longer appear like Star Wars storm-troopers leaping out of vehicles and kicking in doors. In Afghanistan the aim will be to convince the population that Nato will be around for a long time to protect them until the Afghan army and police can take over.

The size of the US commitment to Afghanistan is probably its best chance of success. Bastion is about to be transformed by the Americans at a cost of half a billion dollars to become a vast military citadel in the desert, home to perhaps 30,000 people. They are going to build a runway that will be large enough to fly in 747s. The fact that President Obama is turning his gaze on the country means the United States is committed and thus determined not to back down.

Yet no one thinks this war can be won in the conventional sense. It can be contained, curtailed and temporarily suppressed, but never won. The Taliban can always slip across the border to their havens in Pakistan, where they have rich recruiting grounds among exiles and in the madrasahs.

That means a political settlement, which means talking to the Taliban. The idea has been to lure rogue elements away and isolate the leadership in Quetta, but that has failed. Now it looks as if David Miliband, our foreign secretary, and perhaps the US administration are beginning to accept that reconciliation means talking to Mullah Omar, the one-eyed zealot, and other hardline Taliban leaders. The mullah is not one to compromise; it was his regime that banned kites, chess, cosmetics (women with painted nails had their fingers cut off), laughing in public, toothbrushes (too modern) and anything else that was fun or smacked of the post-medieval world.

Nothing can be ruled out in the arcane politics of Afghanistan, but it seems far-fetched for the Taliban to sit down with the government of President Karzai in Kabul. More to the point, would that amount to victory for the West? The Taliban gave succour to Osama Bin Laden. Who is to say they won’t do so again? That would make the past seven years of British and western involvement largely pointless. Realists believe there is no clear-cut end to this war. The best to hope for is a complex fudge. I fear there will be many more years of young British soldiers putting their lives at risk.

John Witherow is the editor of The Sunday Times

Dominic Lawson writes this week in News Review
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« Reply #369 on: March 17, 2009, 11:11:45 AM »

Jkrenz:

Well, that was cheery, , , ,  here's some more sunshine:

Geopolitical Diary: The Reinstatement of Pakistan's Judiciary
March 16, 2009
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, in a speech to the nation early Monday local time, announced that his government would reinstate ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry after Gilani met with army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and President Asif Ali Zardari. Chaudhry will resume his duties as the country’s top judge on March 21. The last-minute development came as massive processions, headed by opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and the legal community, were en route to Islamabad. There, a sit-in had been planned for March 16 to demand the restoration of the judiciary and the provincial government in the country’s largest province, Punjab.

Chaudhry’s reinstatement by no means signals the end of the political and legal crisis that began when then-President Pervez Musharraf sacked Chaudhry a little more than two years ago, as many detailed issues have yet to be resolved. But this concession highlights a much more significant development in terms of the civil-military balance in Pakistan, which has been ruled by its army for 31 of its nearly 62 years in existence. That the powerful military establishment has played a key role in pushing the government toward a compromise of sorts — without tampering with the existing setup — underscores the relative rise of civilian forces and decline in the army’s ability to impose order single-handedly.

This major shift is clear to the United States, as senior U.S. officials — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, special envoy Richard Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador Anne Peterson — have participated in discussions with the government and the opposition in efforts to defuse the situation. In fact, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on Friday told PBS that Kayani was unlikely to opt for a military coup to resolve the crisis because “he is committed to a civilian government.”

Normally, such a shift would be seen as a move toward stability — but not in Pakistan, which is in the midst of a complex civil war. On one hand is the struggle between secular and Islamist forces, manifesting as a growing jihadist insurgency; on the other is a vibrant civil society movement demanding the establishment of the “rule of law” and an end to authoritarian rule. Pakistan’s security establishment is unable to deal with both at the same time and in fact needs public support to be able to deal with the jihadist challenge.

But Islamabad’s latest move to placate public sentiment will further complicate efforts by the Pakistani army and the United States to deal with the jihadist problem in southwest Asia. This is because those assuming the vanguard of the “rule of law” movement are largely right-wing political forces — either conservative nationalist powers such as Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League or Islamists such as Jamaat-i-Islami. These forces are either openly opposed to using force against jihadists operating in Pakistan or have an ambiguous stance on the jihadist threat, and they definitely lack a coherent policy on how to deal with the security threat from the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.

Even the largely secular civil society movement, including the legal community, has viewed the conflict with the jihadists through nationalist lenses — as a U.S. war in which Pakistan was forced to participate. The disproportionate emphasis on the restoration of Pakistan’s ousted judges at a time when jihadists are slowly chipping away at the writ of the state underscores the low level of importance a significant cross-section of Pakistan’s political players have assigned to the jihadist threat. As a result, the political stakeholders in Pakistan who are responsible for dealing with the existential threat posed by the jihadists are preoccupied with other battles.

This will further undermine U.S. efforts to secure reliable partners in Islamabad in its efforts to craft a strategy for dealing with the jihadist threat in the region.
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« Reply #370 on: March 17, 2009, 04:43:27 PM »

Washington Post
March 15, 2009
Pg. 1

Troops Face New Tests In Afghanistan

Battalion's Experience Outlines Issues in South

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post Staff Writer

MAYWAND, Afghanistan -- Lt. Col. Daniel Hurlbut rolled into this dusty Taliban stronghold in September with a battalion of U.S. Army infantrymen and a detailed, year-long plan to combat the Taliban.

The first quarter was to be devoted to reconnaissance. The next three months would involve military operations to root out insurgents. By now, his unit should have been focusing on reconstruction and building up the local government.

But the battalion's efforts to pry information about the Taliban from the local population -- by conducting foot patrols, doling out money for mosques to buy new prayer rugs and offering agricultural assistance to subsistence farmers -- have been met with indifference, if not downright hostility.

"Nobody wants to tell us anything," Hurlbut said, sighing.

His initial plan, he has since concluded, was wildly optimistic.

"We're still in the first quarter," he said. "Our expectation for results is now a lot longer than we thought it would be."

U.S. commanders regard Hurlbut's battalion as a harbinger of the 17,000 additional Army and Marine troops that President Obama has ordered to southern Afghanistan this spring to augment NATO forces, which have been stretched thin by the Taliban's growing strength. As those troops flow into a series of new garrisons, they will confront a set of challenges that is very different from what the U.S. military has faced in Afghanistan thus far.

The southern part of the country is now regarded by U.S. and NATO commanders as the central front in the Afghan war. It encompasses the nation's second-largest city, Kandahar, and six provinces where the Taliban has built a significant degree of popular support, in part through intimidation but also by delivering Afghans a degree of security against criminals that the local police and international forces have been unable to provide.

While the Obama administration forges a new strategy in Washington to salvage an Afghan nation-building operation that is entering its eighth year, the perilous state of affairs in the south has already prompted commanders here to develop a new approach to fighting the insurgency. It may provide a preview of ways in which the overall international military effort in Afghanistan could be transformed over the coming months.

"If we're going to win, we have to fight this war differently," said U.S. Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, a deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. "For too long, we've had an economy of force. We've had a stovepiped approach to combat and to development, too. All that has to change."

The new strategy here involves a major -- but controversial -- push to better coordinate the efforts of NATO troops deployed in the south, a new focus for counternarcotics operations and the allocation of more troops to train Afghan security forces. It also seeks to apply a fundamental tenet of the U.S. Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine: Deploy the troops to create zones of security around population centers instead of mounting in-and-out raids against the insurgents.

Unlike in eastern Afghanistan, where the U.S. military had been concentrating its troops since 2002, American units in the south will be forced to work far more closely with other NATO forces. The new U.S. troops will find themselves in a swath of the country that is the epicenter of opium poppy cultivation and where far fewer resources have been devoted to reconstruction and development. And they will be forced to deal with a deep-rooted, indigenous insurgency -- the Taliban got its start in the south -- that has mounted increasingly potent attacks on civilians and security forces.

What the new strategy does not seek to do, however, is to borrow a page from the U.S. playbook in Iraq by creating tribal militias to fend off the Taliban. Commanders here said that approach could create even more warlords and new intratribal feuds. And the commanders see little benefit from negotiations with the Taliban right now, despite Obama's support for such an overture.

Military officials regard the Taliban, composed largely of ethnic Pashtuns, as both too strong and too fragmented in the south to pursue an effective deal, although they remain open to the possibility in the east, where some tribal leaders who have supported the insurgency could be persuaded to switch sides.

Senior officials at the NATO regional headquarters in Kandahar see the insurgency in the south as made up of a core of die-hard Taliban operatives and a much larger group of young freelance fighters who are motivated more by money than religious zealotry. NATO troops, as well as U.S. Special Forces teams in the region, have been seeking to target the operatives, hoping to stem the flow of funds and munitions to the low-level fighters. The officials also believe that new economic development projects funded by international donors could help to lure some of the fighters to lay down their weapons.

But U.S. and NATO officials in the region are not certain how the Taliban will respond to the new American forces moving into the south. Some may hide or simply move to parts of the country with fewer international forces. Or they may choose to fight with roadside bombs and the occasional ambush. The result could be a significant increase in Taliban attacks -- and U.S. casualties -- this summer.

"With the new troops arriving, it will bring more people into contact with more Americans," said Philip Hatton, an adviser to Nicholson on stabilization issues. "What will the result of that be? We don't know."

Ending the Fractured Approach

When NATO forces were deployed to the south in 2006, the Canadians were assigned the province of Kandahar, the British got Helmand, and the Dutch were sent to Uruzgan. The three nations developed their own battle plans and agendas for development. They established provincial reconstruction teams that report to their capitals, not the NATO regional command at the Kandahar airport.

People at the regional command now joke that the three provinces should be renamed Canadahar, Helmandshire and Uruzdam.

"It's a totally dysfunctional way of fighting a war," said a U.S. officer in the south. "You've got each of these guys doing their own thing in their provinces with very little coordination."

The fractured approach is a result of demands imposed by NATO members as a condition of sending troops to Afghanistan. Each nation wanted its own chunk of the action so it could show off what it had accomplished. That model has been less problematic in the far north and west, where there has been less violence, and in the east, where the U.S. military has established its own command.

"The big question for NATO now isn't whether members are going to send more troops or what caveats will be placed on those troops, but whether the nations who have decided to stand up and fight will actually fight together," a senior U.S. military official said.

The task of trying to get everyone to collaborate has fallen to Nicholson, who is pushing the British, Canadians and Dutch to embrace a more integrated approach to war-fighting and development. "We need a coherent regional plan for victory," he said, "not a bunch of national plans for victory."

Instead of demanding that Britain, Canada and the Netherlands scuttle their individual plans, he is trying to compensate for the differences among the individual approaches by forming a regionwide development agenda. It calls for spending $700 million on road, electricity and water projects, several of which cross province borders. He plans to take the wish list to international donors in the next few months.

Although some British and Canadian officials grouse in private about what they view as Nicholson's efforts to wrest control over reconstruction planning, they also recognize that with the addition of 17,000 troops, the United States will have the largest military presence in the south and a corresponding ability to influence policy.

'Progress Here Has Been Slow'

When Hurlbut's battalion arrived in Maywand last fall, its first order of business was to encircle a swath of dusty plain with razor wire and erect an outpost. It began as a makeshift effort, with tents and wooden latrines and meals in a bag, but Forward Operating Base Ramrod has since assumed the trappings of modern military life: a gymnasium, an Internet room and a chow hall run by the defense contractor KBR.

Although this district 45 miles west of Kandahar had long been regarded by the NATO-led military command in Afghanistan as a key infiltration route for insurgents, there were too few international forces to maintain a permanent presence here. The Canadian army, which has been responsible for the area since early 2006, came every few months to clear out Taliban fighters, but the insurgents would invariably crop back up as soon as the troops left.

Hurlbut's soldiers are trying a different tack and employing a counterinsurgency technique that has been used in the Iraq war. They are staying in Maywand. Some bed down near the municipal building and the police headquarters. Another contingent patrols the highway. Still others walk through villages every day, trying to convince impoverished farmers that they should cast their lot not with the Taliban but with NATO forces and Afghanistan's fledgling national government.

The soldiers had hoped their presence in the district would be welcomed by residents, who keep telling the troops that what they want more than anything is security -- and they will side with whomever can provide it. But it hasn't worked yet.

"The local people are completely sitting on the fence, and they're content to stay on the fence," said Hurlbut, who commands the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Regiment. "They don't really want to give us information."

After almost three years of seeing Canadian troops roll in and roll out, one officer said, "they don't yet believe us when we say we're here to stay."

Even the local officials are wary. The district governor, Hurlbut said, started becoming friendly with him only last month.

The Taliban, however, has taken the 2-2 Infantry's presence in the district seriously. Insurgents mined the roads with scores of improvised explosives devices, more than 150 of which have hit the battalion's patrols and convoys.

In some parts of Afghanistan, police regularly patrol roads and interdict people planting bombs. But in Maywand, the police spend more time in the district capital. Although they have been through a new U.S.-led training program and have been assigned a team of civilian and military mentors, the police officers generally cannot be bothered to walk the beat. And they have little interest in solving crimes. When a man came to police headquarters recently to complain that his motorcycle had been stolen, the police refused to act without a bribe.

"Fine," he said, according to soldiers who witnessed the encounter. "I'm going to the Taliban. At least they'll take me seriously."

Even efforts to hand out money here have not been without peril. Last month, Hurlbut said he sought to win over a local mullah by outfitting his mosque with new prayer rugs and a loudspeaker system. But after three weeks, the Taliban stole all of it.

"The progress here has been slow," Hurlbut said. "We shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking that everything will change when we get 17,000 additional troops in the south. They're going to be moving into places like this, where there haven't been any foreign forces for a long time. And they're going to discover that it's going to take a while to accomplish our goals."
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« Reply #371 on: March 18, 2009, 06:52:37 AM »

U.S. Weighs Taliban Strike Into Pakistan
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: March 17, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the unruly tribal areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Baluchistan, where top Taliban leaders are orchestrating attacks into southern Afghanistan.

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The New York Times
The Taliban have found a haven in and around Quetta.
According to senior administration officials, two of the high-level reports on Pakistan and Afghanistan that have been forwarded to the White House in recent weeks have called for broadening the target area to include a major insurgent sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta.

Mullah Muhammad Omar, who led the Taliban government that was ousted in the American-led invasion in 2001, has operated with near impunity out of the region for years, along with many of his deputies.

The extensive missile strikes being carried out by Central Intelligence Agency-operated drones have until now been limited to the tribal areas, and have never been extended into Baluchistan, a sprawling province that is under the authority of the central government, and which abuts the parts of southern Afghanistan where recent fighting has been the fiercest. Fear remains within the American government that extending the raids would worsen tensions. Pakistan complains that the strikes violate its sovereignty.

But some American officials say the missile strikes in the tribal areas have forced some leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to flee south toward Quetta, making them more vulnerable. In separate reports, groups led by both Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of American forces in the region, and Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, a top White House official on Afghanistan, have recommended expanding American operations outside the tribal areas if Pakistan cannot root out the strengthening insurgency.

Many of Mr. Obama’s advisers are also urging him to sustain orders issued last summer by President George W. Bush to continue Predator drone attacks against a wider range of targets in the tribal areas. They also are recommending preserving the option to conduct cross-border ground actions, using C.I.A. and Special Operations commandos, as was done in September. Mr. Bush’s orders also named as targets a wide variety of insurgents seeking to topple Pakistan’s government. Mr. Obama has said little in public about how broadly he wants to pursue those groups.

A spokesman for the National Security Council, Mike Hammer, declined to provide details, saying, “We’re still working hard to finalize the review on Afghanistan and Pakistan that the president requested.”

No other officials would talk on the record about the issue, citing the administration’s continuing internal deliberations and the politically volatile nature of strikes into Pakistani territory.

“It is fair to say that there is wide agreement to sustain and continue these covert programs,” said one senior administration official. “One of the foundations on which the recommendations to the president will be based is that we’ve got to sustain the disruption of the safe havens.”

Mr. Obama’s top national security advisers, known as the Principals Committee, met Tuesday to begin debating all aspects of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama has made no decisions, but is expected to do so in coming days after hearing the advice of that group.

Any expansion of the war is bound to upset those in Mr. Obama’s party who worry that he is sinking further into a lengthy conflict in Afghanistan, even while reducing forces in Iraq. It is possible that the decisions about covert actions will never be publicly announced.

Several administration and military officials stressed that they continued to prod the Pakistani military to take the lead in a more aggressive campaign to root out Taliban and Qaeda fighters who are attacking American forces in Afghanistan and increasingly destabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan.

But with Pakistan consumed by political turmoil, fear of financial collapse and a spreading insurgency, American officials say they have few illusions that the United States will be able to rely on Pakistan’s own forces. However, each strike by Predators or ground forces reverberates in Pakistan, and Mr. Obama will be weighing that cost.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS last week that the White House strategy review addresses the “safe haven in Pakistan — making sure that Afghanistan doesn’t provide a capability in the long run or an environment in which Al Qaeda could return or the Taliban could return.” But another senior official cautioned that “with the targets now spreading, an expanding U.S. role inside Pakistan may be more than anyone there can stomach.”

As part of the same set of decisions, according to senior civilian and military officials familiar with the internal White House debate, Mr. Obama will have to choose from among a range of options for future American commitments to Afghanistan.

His core decision may be whether to scale back American ambitions there to simply assure it does not become a sanctuary for terrorists. “We are taking this back to a fundamental question,” a senior diplomat involved in the discussions said. “Can you ever get a central government in Afghanistan to a point where it can exercise control over the country? That was the problem Bush never really confronted.”

A second option, officials say, is to significantly boost the American commitment to train Afghan troops, with Americans taking on the Taliban with increasing help from the Afghan military. President Bush pursued versions of that strategy, but the training always took longer and proved less successful than plans called for.

A third option would involve devoting full American and NATO resources to a large-scale counterinsurgency effort. But Mr. Obama would be bound to face considerable opposition within NATO, whose leaders he will meet with early next month in Strasbourg, France. At the very time the United States is seeking to expand its presence in Afghanistan, many of the allies are scheduled to leave.

As for American strikes on militant havens inside Pakistan, administration officials say the Predator and Reaper attacks in the tribal areas have been effective at killing 9 of Al Qaeda’s top 20 leaders, and the aerial campaign was recently expanded to focus on the Pakistani Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, as well as his fighters and training camps. American intelligence officials say that many top Taliban commanders remain in hiding in and around Quetta, but some Afghan officials say that other senior Taliban leaders have fled to the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Missile strikes or American commando raids in the city of Quetta or the teeming Afghan settlements and refugee camps around the city and near the Afghan border would carry high risks of civilian casualties, American officials acknowledge.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington, and Carlotta Gall from Islamabad, Pakistan.
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« Reply #372 on: March 18, 2009, 12:13:29 PM »

second post of the day

My friend writes "Actually, this report is inaccurate, the Taliban are already part of the security forces, this is the first official admission to formalize the arrangement...."

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/03/pakistan_proposes_in.php
 
Pakistan proposes integration of Taliban into security forces
By Bill RoggioMarch 14, 2009 10:58 PM

A senior official in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province wants the Taliban to integrate into the security forces in the region where the governemnt ceded to the Taliban's demands to implement sharia, or Islamic Law, and end military operations. The official also described the Swat Taliban leader as "good human being."

Syed Muhammad Javed, the Malakand Division Commissioner, has proposed the Taliban provide recruits for the police and the paramilitary Levies force. The Malakand Division is made up of the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, and Chitral.

"I have proposed the Taliban be adjusted in police or Levies force and have suggested this at several forums," Javed told Daily Times. He claimed the police force's "confidence is shaken" due to a Taliban campaign of assassination and intimidation.

The police have been hit so hard that the force has been rendered ineffective. The governemnt claimed 70 policemen, an estimated five percent of the force, have been killed since the fighting in Swat broke out in July 2007. More than 800 policemen, more than half of the force, have deserted their posts or taken extended leaves to avoid the Taliban attacks. Another 142 troops from the paramilitary Frontier Corps have been reported killed since August 2008.

During the fighting between the Swat Taliban and government forces, the Swat Taliban targeted police officers, tribal leaders, and politicians. Family members of government officials and tribal leaders were killed, and their homes were torched.

The military ceased operations in Swat in February 2009 after it failed to dislodge the Taliban. Sufi Mohammed, the father-in-law of Swat Taliban commander Mullah Fazlullah, brokered a peace agreement between the government and the Taliban. Under the agreement, the government has committed to implement sharia, end the military campaign, and release Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban agreed to end attacks. But the Taliban have violated the agreement several times when it kidnapped the district coordinating officer and his bodyguards, murdered two soldiers, and captured a Frontier Corps officer and several of his men.

Javed and the military have refused to respond to the Taliban infractions. Javeed even went out of his way to praise Mullah Fazlullah. He described Fazlullah as a "good human being," Daily Times reported.

Javed's proposal to integrate the Taliban into the security forces comes as the US Congress is debating a $20 billion aid package to Pakistan. Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar have proposed giving Pakistan a one-time $5 billion grant plus a 10 year aid package worth $15 billion. Some of this money is slated to improve the security forces in Paksitan's Northwest Frontier Province and the Taliban-controlled tribal agencies.

But Pakistan's history of appropriately spending US aid money is appalling. More than $3.8 billion of an estimated $5 billion of military aid given to Pakistan up until December 2007 is unaccounted for, and it has been reported that millions of dollars in US aid has gone to pay reparations to the Taliban in Swat.
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« Reply #373 on: March 19, 2009, 07:57:13 AM »

THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Obama and his advisers have decided to significantly expand Afghanistan’s security forces in the hope that a much larger professional army and national police force could fill a void left by the central government and do more to promote stability in the country, according to senior administration and Pentagon officials.

The Afghan Army and other security forces would be greatly expanded under a plan developed by President Obama and his advisers in the hope of stabilizing the nation.

A plan awaiting final approval by the president would set a goal of about 400,000 troops and national police officers, more than twice the forces’ current size, and more than three times the size that American officials believed would be adequate for Afghanistan in 2002, when the Taliban and Al Qaeda appeared to have been routed.

The officials said Mr. Obama was expected to approve a version of the plan in coming days as part of a broader Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. But even members of Mr. Obama’s national security team appeared taken aback by the cost projections of the program, which range from $10 billion to $20 billion over the next six or seven years.

By comparison, the annual budget for the entire Afghan government, which is largely provided by the United States and other international donors, is about $1.1 billion, which means the annual price of the program would be about twice the cost of operating the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Those figures include only the cost of training and establishing the forces, and officials are still trying to determine what the cost would be to sustain the security forces over the long term.

Administration officials also express concerns that an expanded Afghan Army could rival the corruption-plagued presidency of Mr. Karzai. The American commanders who have recommended the increase argued that any risk of creating a more powerful Afghan Army was outweighed by the greater risks posed by insurgent violence that could threaten the central government if left unchecked.

At present, the army fields more than 90,000 troops, and the Afghan National Police numbers about 80,000 officers. The relatively small size of the security forces has frustrated Afghan officials and American commanders who wanted to turn security over to legitimate Afghan security forces, and not local warlords, at a faster pace.

After resisting the idea for several years, the Bush administration last summer approved an increase that authorized the army to grow to 134,000 over the next three years, in a program that would cost about $12 billion.

The resistance had been a holdover from the early months after the rout of Taliban and Qaeda fighters in 2001, when it appeared that there was little domestic or external threat that required a larger security force.

The new proposal would authorize a doubling of the army, after the increase approved last summer, to about 260,000 soldiers. In addition, it would increase the number of police officers, commandos and border guards to bring the total size of the security forces to about 400,000. The officials who described the proposal spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to discuss it publicly in advance of final approval by Mr. Obama.

Some European countries have proposed the creation of an Afghan National Army Trust Fund, which would seek donations from oil kingdoms along the Persian Gulf and other countries to pay for Afghanistan’s security forces.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which would have to approve new American spending, endorsed the goal of expanding Afghan security forces, and urged commanders to place Afghans on the front lines to block the border with Pakistan to insurgents and terrorists.

“The cost is relatively small compared to the cost of not doing it — of having Afghanistan either disintegrate, or fall into the hands of the Taliban, or look as though we are dominating it,” Mr. Levin said in an interview late on Tuesday.

Administration officials and military experts cited recent public opinion polls in Afghanistan showing that the Afghan Army had eclipsed the respect given the central government, which has had difficulty exerting legitimacy or control much beyond the capital.

“In the estimation of almost all outside observers, the Ministry of Defense and the Afghan National Army are two of the most highly functional and capable institutions in the country,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, who is retired and commanded American and coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005.

General Barno, currently the director of Near East and South Asian security studies at National Defense University, dismissed concerns that the army or the Ministry of Defense would challenge the authority of elected officials in Kabul.

“They are respectful of civil governance,” he said. “If the government of Afghanistan is going to effectively extend security and the rule of law, it has to have more army boots on the ground and police shoes on the ground.”

Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Obama administration now appeared “willing to accept risks and accept downsides it might not otherwise” have considered had the security situation not deteriorated.

Military analysts cite other models in the Islamic world, like Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey, where the United States supports democratically elected civilian governments but raises no objection to the heavy influence wielded by military forces that remain at least as powerful as those governments.

Martin Strmecki, a member of the Defense Policy Board and a former top Pentagon adviser on Afghanistan, told a Senate committee last month that the Afghan Army should increase to 250,000 soldiers and the national police force should add more than 100,000 officers. Mr. Strmecki said that only when Afghan security forces reached those numbers would they achieve “the level necessary for success in counterinsurgency.”

Military officers also see an added benefit to expanding Afghanistan’s security forces, if its growing rosters can offer jobs to unemployed young men who now take up arms for the insurgency for money, and not ideology.

“We can try and outbid the Taliban for ‘day workers’ who are laying I.E.D.’s and do not care about politics,” Mr. Biddle said, referring to improvised explosive devices. “But if we don’t control that area, the Taliban can come in and cut off the hands of anybody who is taking money from us.”

C.I.A. Chief in Overseas Trip

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, is traveling to India and Pakistan this week to discuss the investigation into the Mumbai terrorist attacks, improved information-sharing to combat violent extremists and other intelligence issues, an American official said Wednesday.

Making his first overseas trip as C.I.A. director, Mr. Panetta was in India on Wednesday and was expected to travel to Pakistan and possibly another country in the following days, the official said.

David E. Sanger contributed reporting.

Correction: March 19, 2009
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« Reply #374 on: March 20, 2009, 11:49:36 AM »

By FOUAD AJAMI
We face today the oddest and most unexpected of spectacles: On its sixth anniversary, the Iraq war has been vindicated, while the war in Afghanistan looks like a hopeless undertaking in an impossible land.

This is not what the opponents of the Iraq war had foreseen. After all, Afghanistan was the good war of necessity whereas Iraq was the war of "choice" in the wrong place.

The Afghan struggle was in truth a rod to be held up in the face of the Bush administration's quest in Iraq. Some months ago, Democratic Party strategist Robert Shrum owned up to this fact. "I was part of the 2004 Kerry campaign which elevated the idea of Afghanistan as the 'right war' to conventional Democratic wisdom. This was accurate as criticism, but also reflexive and perhaps by now even misleading as policy."

 
Getty ImagesThe opponents of the American project in Iraq did not know much about Afghanistan. They despaired of Iraq's sectarianism and ethnic fragmentation, but those pale in comparison with the tribalism and ethnic complications of Afghanistan. If you had your fill with the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shiites of Iraq, welcome to the warring histories of the Pashtuns, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, and the Hazara Shiites of Afghanistan.

In their disdain for that Iraq project, the Democrats and the liberal left had insisted that Iraq was an artificial state put together by colonial fiat, and that it was a fool's errand to try to make it whole and intact. Now in Afghanistan, we are in the quintessential world of banditry and tribalism, a political culture that has abhorred and resisted central authority.

Speak of colonial fiat: It was the Pax Britannica that drew the Durand Line of 1892 across the lands of the Pashtuns and marked out a meaningless border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It should have taken no great literacy in the theories and the history of "state-building" to foresee the favorable endowments of Iraq and the built-in disadvantages of Afghanistan.

Man battled the elements in Mesopotamia, and the desert and its ways of plunder and raiding pushed against urban life, but the land gave rise to powerful kingdoms: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Abbasids. In more modern times, oil and the central treasury knit the place together, often in terror, but kept it together nonetheless.

Contrast this with Afghanistan's impassable mountains and anarchic ways, and with the poppy cultivation and its culture of warlords and bandits. A Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad can dispense of oil largess and draw the provinces toward the capital; a Hamid Karzai in Kabul is what foreign donors and benefactors make of him and enable him to do.

The flattering cliché that Afghanistan is the "graveyard of empires" is a hollow boast. Empires that wandered there did so by default, for there never was anything in Afghanistan -- save for geography -- that outsiders coveted. It was the primitiveness of the place -- the landscape that evoked the imagined early centuries of Islam's beginnings -- and its age-old way of extracting booty from outsiders that had drawn the Arab jihadists, and their financiers and handlers, to Afghanistan.

Now the Democrats own this Afghan struggle. They have to explain and defend it in the midst of a mood of introversion in our national life. It is hard to sound the trumpet at a time of economic distress. Plainly, our country has been living on its nerves since 9/11. It had not willed an Islamic imperium, but it had gotten one. It was bequeathed this terrible duty by the upheaval in the lands of the Arab-Islamic world, and by the guile and cunning of a generation of jihadists and their enablers, who deflected the wrath of their people onto distant American power.

George W. Bush answered history's call -- as he saw fit. The country gave him its warrant and acceptance, and then withdrew it in the latter years of his presidency. Say what you will about his call to vigilance, he had a coherent worldview. He held the line when the world of Islam was truly in the wind and played upon by ruinous temptations. He took the war on terror into the heart of the Arab world. It was Arabs -- with oil money, and with the prestige that comes with their mastery of Arabic, the language of the Quran, among impressionable Pakistanis and Afghans -- who had made Afghanistan the menace it had become. Without Arab money and Arab doctrines of political Islam, the Taliban would have remained a breed of reactionary seminarians, a terror to their own people but of no concern beyond. It thus made perfect strategic sense to take the fight to the Arab heartland of Islam. Saddam Hussein had drawn the short straw.

President Barack Obama -- another "decider" with an expanded view of the presidency's power -- faces a wholly different challenge. It was the economic distress that delivered the state into his stewardship. A cerebral man, he has presented himself as a "realist" in foreign affairs. Not for him is the Bush "heat" about liberty in distant lands.

By the appearance of things, Mr. Obama is undecided about Afghanistan. He has neither embraced this war, nor ditched it. In a perfect world, that AfPak theater (Afghanistan/Pakistan) would hold still as the administration struggles with AIG, the crisis in Detroit, and the selling of the budget. But the world rarely obliges, and sooner or later the administration will have used up the luxury of indecision. It will not be easy for this president to summon this nation to a bigger endeavor in Afghanistan. Set aside his fear that his domestic agenda could be compromised by a bold undertaking far from home. The foreign world simply does not beckon this president.

In fairness to him, his hesitancy in the face of foreign challenges is a fair reflection of the country's fatigue with causes beyond its borders. He could link Afghanistan with 9/11 and with the wider war on terror, but he put forth the word that the vigilance and zeal of that struggle is best forgotten. By his admonition, we are not to speak of the global war on terror. The world is full of reconcilables and deal-makers, bazaaris one and all in Damascus and Tehran and Palestine. In the Obama worldview, it is now time for diplomatic accommodations.

The president is on the horns of a dilemma of his own making. In his determination to be the "un-Bush," he has declared his intention to repair what some have called "Brand America" and to pursue a nonideological foreign policy of multilateralism and moderation. His aloofness from what played out in Iraq is a hindrance to him when it comes to issuing any call to arms in Afghanistan.

He can't build on the Iraq victory, because he has never really embraced it. The occasional statement that we can win over the reconcilables and the tribes in Afghanistan the way we did in the Anbar is lame and unconvincing. The Anbar turned only when the Sunni insurgents had grown convinced that the Americans were there to stay, and that the alternative to accommodation with the Americans, and with the Baghdad government, is a sure and widespread Sunni defeat. The Taliban are nowhere near this reckoning. If anything, the uncertain mood in Washington counsels patience on their part, with the promise of waiting out the American presence.

Mr. Obama does not have to offer the Iraq campaign post facto vindication. But as he does battle in the same wider theatre of that Greater Middle East, he will have to draw the proper lessons of the Iraq campaign. This Afghan war can't be waged in stealth, and in silence. Half-measures will not do. This war will have to be explained -- or explained away. For it to have any chance, it will have to be claimed and owned up to even in the midst of our economic distress. It's odd that so articulate a president has not yet found the language with which to describe this war, and the American stakes in it.

Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies and an adjunct senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
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« Reply #375 on: March 20, 2009, 12:43:15 PM »

Our Must-Win War
The 'Minimalist' Path Is Wrong for Afghanistan

U.S. soldiers on patrol this month outside Bagram, Afghanistan. (By Rafiq Maqbool -- Associated Press)
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By John McCain and Joseph Lieberman
Thursday, March 19, 2009; Page A15

Later this month, the Obama administration will unveil a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. This comes as most important indicators in Afghanistan are pointing in the wrong direction. President Obama's decision last month to deploy an additional 17,000 U.S. troops was an important step in the right direction, but a comprehensive overhaul of our war plan is needed, and quickly.

This Story
Our Must-Win War
Civilians to Join Afghan Buildup
Getting It Right in Afghanistan
As the administration finalizes its policy review, we are troubled by calls in some quarters for the president to adopt a "minimalist" approach toward Afghanistan. Supporters of this course caution that the American people are tired of war and that an ambitious, long-term commitment to Afghanistan may be politically unfeasible. They warn that Afghanistan has always been a "graveyard of empires" and has never been governable. Instead, they suggest, we can protect our vital national interests in Afghanistan even while lowering our objectives and accepting more "realistic" goals there -- for instance, by scaling back our long-term commitment to helping the Afghan people build a better future in favor of a short-term focus on fighting terrorists.

The political allure of such a reductionist approach is obvious. But it is also dangerously and fundamentally wrong, and the president should unambiguously reject it. Let there be no doubt: The war in Afghanistan can be won. Success -- a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary -- can be achieved. Just as in Iraq, there is no shortcut to success, no clever "middle way" that allows us to achieve more by doing less. A minimalist approach in Afghanistan is a recipe not for winning smarter but for losing slowly at tremendous cost in American lives, treasure and security.


Yes, our vital national interest in Afghanistan is to prevent it from once again becoming a haven for terrorists to plan attacks against America and U.S. allies. But achieving this narrow counterterrorism objective requires us to carry out a far broader set of tasks, the foremost of which are protecting the population, nurturing legitimate and effective governance, and fostering development. In short, we need a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency approach backed by greatly increased resources and an unambiguous U.S. political commitment to success in Afghanistan over the long haul.

A narrow, short-term focus on counterterrorism, by contrast, would repeat the mistakes made for years in Iraq before the troop surge, with the same catastrophic consequences. Before 2007 in Iraq, U.S. Special Forces had complete freedom of action to strike at terrorist leaders, backed by more than 120,000 conventional American forces and overwhelming air power. Although we succeeded in killing countless terrorists -- including the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- the insurgency continued to grow in strength and violence. It was not until we changed course and applied a new approach -- a counterinsurgency strategy focused on providing basic security for the people and improving their lives -- that the cycle of violence was at last broken.

Those who argue for simply conducting targeted counterterrorist strikes in Afghanistan also fail to grasp that by far the best way to generate the intelligence necessary for such strikes is from Afghan civilians, who will risk their lives to help us only if they believe we are committed to staying and protecting them from the insurgents and helping to improve their lives.

Loose rhetoric about a minimal commitment in Afghanistan is counterproductive for another reason: It exacerbates suspicions, already widespread in South Asia, that the United States will tire of this war and retreat. These doubts about our staying power deter ordinary Afghans from siding with our coalition against the insurgency. Also important is that these suspicions are a major reason some in Pakistan are reluctant to break decisively with insurgent groups, which, in a hedging strategy, they view as integral to positioning Pakistan for influence "the day after" the United States gives up and leaves Afghanistan. That is why it is so important for the president to reject the temptations of minimalism in Afghanistan and instead adopt a fully resourced, comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy, backed by an unambiguous American commitment to success over the long term. In doing so, he must invest the political capital to remind Americans why this fight is necessary for our national security, speak openly and frankly to our nation about the difficult path ahead, and -- most of all -- explain clearly to our fellow citizens why he is confident that we can prevail.

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama called Afghanistan "the war we must win." He was absolutely right. Now it is time to win it -- and we and many other members of both political parties stand ready to give him our full support in this crucial fight.

John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, was the 2008 Republican nominee for president. Joe Lieberman, an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000.
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« Reply #376 on: March 21, 2009, 01:07:24 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Haqqani Network and Negotiations With Afghan Jihadists
March 20, 2009

A report in the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday said that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government has begun preliminary negotiations with a key jihadist faction, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. According to the report, Kabul’s emissaries met with representatives of Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, who have agreed in principle to steps toward an ultimate political settlement. The first stage of the roadmap entails a halt to U.S. military raids on the group’s facilities and the release of its prisoners — provided the group stops burning schools and targeting reconstruction teams. If these initial conditions are met, the next stages involve working on a new system of government for Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces.

Though this development is in line with U.S. efforts to explore options for a political settlement in Afghanistan, it is strange in that the last time the Haqqani network made headlines, it was in September 2008 — when U.S. drones launched missiles at Haqqani’s residential compound in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Some two dozen members of his family were killed, although Haqqani and his sons survived the attack. The air strike occurred a little over two months after the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which senior U.S. military and intelligence officials believed was the work of the Haqqani network acting in concert with officials from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Therefore, before examining the pros and cons of negotiating with the Haqqani network, it is important to understand the network’s place in the jihadist landscape and its relationship with Pakistan’s security establishment. Although it is part of the Afghan Taliban movement, the Haqqani network has maintained distinct autonomy. It is closely allied with al Qaeda and is responsible for the bulk of suicide bombings in Afghanistan.

With its zone of operations in the eastern Afghan provinces along the border with Pakistan, Haqqani’s group wields disproportionate influence among Taliban forces on both sides of the Durand Line. Haqqani’s eldest son, Sirajuddin — who now runs the group because of his father’s advanced age — has been involved in persuading Pakistani Taliban forces to end their attacks inside Pakistan and focus on fighting Western forces in Afghanistan. At a time when Pakistan faces a growing Pashtun jihadist insurgency, the Haqqani network is one of the Taliban factions with which Islamabad retains considerable influence.

In other words, the Haqqani network is well positioned between al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Pakistan. This has implications for any move to negotiate with jihadist insurgents, especially since the U.S. objective is to drive a wedge between Afghan jihadists (the Taliban) and the transnational jihadists of al Qaeda. Haqqani is a critical player in the insurgency, and engaging him in negotiations could help to achieve that objective and undercut the insurgencies in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Conversely, al Qaeda’s leadership also could use its relationship with the Haqqani network, which dates back approximately 20 years, to counter the campaign against the transnational jihadists.

The case of the Haqqani network underscores the excruciatingly complex and difficult task that the Obama administration faces in its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

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« Reply #377 on: March 22, 2009, 11:42:21 AM »

By YOCHI J. DREAZEN in Washington and MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Islamabad
The Obama administration's hopes of stabilizing Pakistan increasingly rest on the strong bond between military chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.

The two men spoke daily during the recent political crisis, in which growing opposition protests threatened to undermine the government until Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari -- also under pressure from Gen. Kayani and senior U.S. officials -- made significant concessions.

During the crisis. Gen. Kayani assured Adm. Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he wasn't contemplating a military coup, according to U.S. officials. These officials said Adm. Mullen trusted the assurances -- but they acknowledged that some senior U.S. military officials harbor doubts about Gen. Kayani's capabilities and intentions.

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Associated Press
Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, right, greets a troop. He and Adm. Mike Mullen have developed a bond that U.S. officials say aids efforts to ensure Pakistan's stability and its support in fighting militants along the border with Afghanistan.
Gen. Kayani ultimately helped resolve the crisis by mediating between Mr. Zardari and his chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.

The relationship offers potential dividends for both countries. American officials want Islamabad to take stronger steps against the militants working to destabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan, and need Gen. Kayani's help as an ally in the fight, which they say he supports. Pakistan wants to continue receiving American financial aid and military assistance, which requires maintaining close ties with Adm. Mullen's Pentagon.

It is a relationship born of necessity. Mr. Zardari is also seen as committed to battling militants, but his government is fragile. Many Pentagon officials believe the government will fall within the next few months, although civilian U.S. officials say the president could hold on.

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Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
U.S. military chief Adm. Mike Mullen with troops.
As an ally, Gen. Kayani is "seen as the safer bet, because he'll probably be the last one standing," a senior U.S. military official said.

But the U.S. reliance on Gen. Kayani carries risks. During the Bush years, U.S. officials had a similarly warm relationship with Gen. Kayani's predecessor as army chief, Pervez Musharraf, and sent him more than $10 billion in American aid. In the end, Mr. Musharraf, who was also president, disappointed the U.S. by failing to order a broad crackdown on the Islamic extremists in his country.

"It's a complete replay of what took place with Musharraf," said C. Christine Fair, a senior political scientist with Rand Corp. and former United Nations political officer in Kabul. "We have a love affair with whichever chief of army staff is in office at any one time until they thoroughly disappoint."

In their public and private comments, U.S. and Pakistani officials say such concerns are unfounded.

"Gen. Kayani wants the system to work," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in an interview, adding that the officer's outlook was "pro-democracy."

U.S. military and civilian policy makers say Gen. Kayani shares their belief that Islamic extremism poses a threat to Pakistan's survival and has taken steps that show he is serious about tackling the problem. In September, he replaced the head of Pakistan's intelligence service, which reports to him, and which U.S. officials say has long maintained ties to the Taliban. Pakistani officials say they only maintain contacts with some elements of the Taliban and no longer directly support the militants.

"He has done what he said he was going to do," Adm. Mullen told reporters earlier this year. "Gen. Kayani has not misled me at all."

In an interview, a senior Pentagon official praised Gen. Kayani for keeping tens of thousands of Pakistani troops deployed against Islamic militants in restive Bajaur province, instead of shifting them to the country's tense border with India.

Gen. Kayani is a chain smoker, while Adm. Mullen wakes up before 5 a.m. each day to work out before he arrives at the Pentagon. They also have professional differences: Gen. Kayani once ran Pakistan's main spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence  shocked shocked shocked while Adm. Mullen has spent his entire career in the regular military.

But they have forged strong ties since becoming their nations' top uniformed military officers in 2007.

"There's increasing confidence," said Talaat Masood, a Pakistani military analyst and retired general. "They trust each other in a way, even if they know are certain things that the Pakistan army will not do," he said -- specifically that Pakistan won't drastically reduce its troop strength along the border with India.

Since taking office, Gen. Kayani has cheered U.S. officials by putting experienced, nonideological officers in charge of two of Pakistan's most important security arms: the Inter-Services Intelligence and the 60,000-strong Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that is taking the lead in battling the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas.

More recently, Gen. Kayani played a crucial role in defusing last week's political crisis, which centered on Mr. Zardari's refusal to reinstate the former chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Pakistani officials said that Gen. Kayani repeatedly met with Mr. Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani.  "Initially, he confined himself to polite advice, but his tenor became firmer at the end. It was the Kayani model -- invisible, but around," said Jhangir Karamat, a retired chief of army staff.

—Zahid Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this article.
Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at yochi.dreazen@wsj.com and
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« Reply #378 on: March 23, 2009, 11:16:00 AM »

Afghanistan: The U.S. Between Iran and the Taliban
STRATFOR Today » March 21, 2009 | 1359 GMT


Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived March 20 in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif for a two-day visit. At a time when Washington is reaching out to Iran to assist in Afghanistan, Iran is demonstrating to the United States that it holds significant influence in Afghanistan. At the same time, Iran is not happy about U.S. efforts to engage “moderate” Taliban elements, and will instead be working to revive the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance — an endeavor that is likely to find support in Russia, Central Asia and India.

Analysis
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived March 20 in the northwestern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif to meet with his Afghan and Tajik counterparts in a ceremony marking Nowruz — the Persian New Year celebrated by Iranians, Tajiks, Kurds, and Azeris. On the same day, U.S. President Barack Obama sent a message to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz as part of his administration’s efforts to engage Tehran diplomatically.

The Iranians have welcomed the “Happy Nowruz” message from Obama, but have reiterated their demand that the United States move beyond statements and take concrete steps to initiate the process of normalizing relations. Tehran knows that Washington is simultaneously trying to reach out to the clerical regime; it is also pursuing a diplomatic approach toward the Taliban, an enemy of Tehran that the Iranians nearly went to war with in 1998. From the Iranian point of view, this is the perfect time to demonstrate to the Americans that in addition to the Middle East, the Persian Islamist regime has great influence in South and Central Asia as well.

Intriguingly, the regional gathering is not being held in the Afghan capital, Kabul, but in Mazar-e-Sharif — a city with a Tajik majority in a predominantly Uzbek region, which is near the borders of the Central Asian states (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan). It is also the same city where the Taliban murdered 10 diplomats and an Iranian journalist at the Iranian Consulate in August 1998 as part of a larger massacre of Shiite opponents in and around the town after the Taliban re-captured it from the Northern Alliance. Ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara and Turkmen in Afghanistan, along with their allies in Asghabat, Tashkent and Dushanbe all share Iran’s deep concern over the Taliban resurgence. These state and non-state actors, along with Russia, Iran and India, cooperated in supporting the Northern Alliance (a coalition of Afghan minorities) to counter the Taliban from 1994 to 2001 and then played an instrumental role in the fall of the Taliban regime in the aftermath of 9/11.


Tehran has strong influence among Afghanistan’s largest minority group, the Tajiks, because of ethno-linguistic ties. Similarly, it enjoys close relations with the Hazara, who are — like the Iranians — Shia. Given the way the Taliban routed the Northern Alliance in the 1990s, the Iranians understand that they will need to put together a more robust alliance comprising the Afghan minorities. The Uzbeks, however, are key in this regard because after the Tajiks, they are the next-largest ethnic group in the country. Moreover, the Uzbeks under the leadership of former military commander Gen. Abdul-Rashid Dostum played a key role in the ouster of the Marxist regime in 1992 after defecting to the Islamist rebel alliance.

Therefore, in addition to showing off their regional influence, the Iranians are likely attempting to revive the Northern Alliance. In April 2007, STRATFOR discussed the likelihood of the re-creation of the north-south divide in Afghanistan, pitting its Pashtun majority against the country’s minorities. By countering the rise of the Taliban, the Iranians would be offsetting the moves of their main regional rival, Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is interested in seeing the return of the Taliban as a means of checking Iran, which has created problems for Riyadh in the Arab world. Just as Iran has relied on its Arab Shiite allies and other radical forces in the Middle East to expand its influence, the Iranians have ample tools on their eastern front.

Iran is not the only power that has an interest in bolstering the Northern Alliance. The Russians also want to keep the Taliban contained, and would have an interest in undermining U.S. strategy in Afghanistan by reinforcing the Taliban’s biggest rivals. Iran will probably work through Russia to create a regional alliance against the Taliban, though Iran is aware that Moscow does not want Iran to expand its influence in Central Asia because the Russians see that region as their exclusive turf.

Additionally, Iran can rely on India to join this anti-Taliban regional alliance because of New Delhi’s interest in countering the Taliban’s main state-actor ally, Pakistan, and countering the Islamist militant threat that India faces from its western rival. The Indians have openly criticized U.S. efforts to seek out “moderate” Taliban and are bitter about the Obama administration’s soft approach toward Islamabad.

This emerging alignment of forces complicates an already complex and difficult situation that the United States faces in dealing with Taliban and their al Qaeda allies. Washington is struggling to deal with the spread of the jihadist insurgency from Afghanistan to Pakistan and now will have to balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia as it seeks to deal with the Taliban. A revitalization of an anti-Taliban alliance of state and non-state actors will create problems for the U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Taliban.

Such an anti-Taliban coalition also complicates U.S.-NATO efforts to reach out to the Central Asian republics and Russia in its search for alternative supply routes. Moscow and the Central Asian states are in favor, at the right price, of allowing the West to ship supplies through their territories to NATO forces in Afghanistan because they also want the Taliban in check. Washington’s moves to talk to the Taliban, however, are a cause of concern for the Kremlin and the countries of Central Asia, which is why they will be asking for a role in the U.S.-Iranian negotiations.

These complex dealings underscore the problems that the United States will be facing as it seeks simultaneously to negotiate with its two principal opponents in the Islamic world — Iran and the jihadists.
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« Reply #379 on: March 24, 2009, 03:39:37 PM »

Washington Post
March 22, 2009
Pg. 12

Pakistani Villagers Pay A Price For Defying Rebels

A Few Tribal Leaders Fight Religiously Cloaked Mayhem

By Pamela Constable, Washington Post Foreign Service

BAZITKHEL, Pakistan -- This tiny village in northwestern Pakistan has paid a high price for its defiance.

The health clinic lies in ruins, blasted to rubble by a car bomb that exploded outside three weeks ago. The mayor's compound next door is full of jagged holes. Five residents are dead, including a shopkeeper's small son and daughter. More than 20 were injured, including a young man whose right hand was severed.

But while most inhabitants of this violence-plagued region near the Afghan border have been cowed by the growing tide of Islamist and criminal violence, those in a handful of communities like Bazitkhel -- where tribal bonds are especially strong -- are determined to arm themselves and fight back.

Any vehicle that approaches Bazitkhel on the winding road from Peshawar, the provincial capital about 20 miles away, is quickly surrounded by men of all ages, each carrying a rifle and many loaded with grenade vests, ammo belts or military weapons. None wears a uniform or a badge.

"I am an educated and peaceful man. I would rather be carrying a book than a gun," said Hizar Amin Shah, 22, leaning on a rocket launcher. Shah said he spent the past decade studying and working in the capital, Islamabad, but has answered the call to return and defend his home. "These terrorists want to destroy the peace of Pakistan. It is up to us to finish them," he said.

The government of Pakistan, facing pressure from the West and increasing concern among its own citizens, has been struggling for months to contain an epidemic of religiously cloaked mayhem that is spreading from tribal havens along the Afghan border into the surrounding belt of "settled" areas that are theoretically protected by the state.

Authorities have tried various methods, first using the army to attempt to quash the rebels, and more recently negotiating truces with individual militia groups. Thousands of conflict-zone inhabitants, terrified by government bombing and insurgent brutality, have fled their homes. Few local officials dare visit their constituencies without military escorts.

A few tribal leaders, however, have refused to budge and are urging others to do the same. One of the first was Anwar Kamal Marwat, a former member of Parliament, who decided to organize a self-defense force in 2007 after Taliban militias began kidnapping and threatening people in his native Lakki Marwat district, demanding their support for a holy war.

"We are Muslims, and we know what holy war is. What they were doing was committing crimes," Marwat, 60, said last week in Peshawar. "They kept threatening us, but our tribe is very united and every village went on alert. We wanted to stop them before the cancer spread. It took many months, but now all their camps are gone, and they have not been back."

Marwat's success has been both an inspiration to other vulnerable communities and an embarrassment to the government, whose police are supposed to keep order and whose army is supposed to fight extremists.

One problem, according to experts and tribal leaders, is the divided loyalties and limited capacity of the security forces. Police are easily corrupted, tribal constabularies are ill-equipped and soldiers are often reluctant to shoot fellow Muslims. It is also widely believed here, though the government denies it, that Pakistani intelligence agencies covertly aid the insurgents in order to create trouble for next-door Afghanistan.

A second problem is that malefactors of all types benefit from a peculiar administrative arrangement, instituted by British colonial rulers, in which Pakistan's seven tribal zones are overseen by a federal agency and are off-limits to provincial or state security forces. As a result, they have become sanctuaries for both Islamist militias and criminal mafias, a distinction that local leaders said is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

"Some of the tribal agencies are totally controlled by the militants, and we are surrounded on three sides," said Afrasiab Khattak, a senior official in the party that rules North-West Frontier Province. Khattak has been a key promoter of the recent peace agreement with Taliban commanders in the Swat Valley, a tourist region in the province just outside the tribal belt.

The agreement has been criticized as creating a launching pad for a fundamentalist sweep through Pakistan. Last week, Islamic law courts began operating in Swat under the agreement, but Taliban commanders have not yet laid down their weapons. Still, Khattak said he believes the deal will hold.

"We have morally disarmed the militants in Swat. Now we have to create the conditions for physically disarming them," he said. "Swat is in a transition stage, and there is some confusion. The Taliban have no knowledge of law, and a few of them are addicted to violence, but 90 percent are behaving well."

But even in Peshawar, a city of several million, the chilling effects of Talibanization are everywhere. Half the movie theaters have shut down for lack of attendance at Bollywood action films deemed un-Islamic. Wedding parties have stopped hiring musicians, and only one craftsman who carves traditional instruments has remained in Dabgari Garden, a famous alley that once hummed with nightlife.

Gulzar Alam, an ethnic Pashto singer, has not performed at a single event since two gunmen ambushed him in a cemetery several months ago. As a further precaution, he has grown a beard and carries prayer beads.

"There is no more music in this city, not even in the public buses," Alam said, adding that most of his fellow entertainers have moved away or joined religious minstrel groups. The new provincial government hoped to spark a cultural revival, he added, "but now they've forgotten about it. The militancy problem has taken over everything."

In rural districts closer to the tribal zones, people are even more vulnerable to the predations of outlaw militias that roam freely just a few miles away. Bazitkhel, for example, is very near the Khyber Agency, a relatively prosperous tribal area that bustles with cross-border commerce but is also the stronghold of Mangal Bagh, a former bus driver who heads an Islamist militia-turned-criminal gang.

Leaders in Bazitkhel said most of their troubles originated with Bagh's followers, whom they allege enjoy the tacit acceptance of federal tribal officers. They said they had given authorities specific evidence about numerous attacks and their perpetrators, including cellphone records linking them to gang leaders in Khyber, but that nothing had come of it.

The village council head, Fahim ur Rahman, is now guarded around the clock by a small army of tribal members. He recounted half a dozen recent attacks and tribal retaliations, including a decisive battle last month in which hundreds of villagers encircled a group of militiamen in a three-hour gunfight, killing nine. Two weeks later came a message of gruesome revenge.

A pickup pulled into the village square in mid-afternoon and the driver walked into a shop, asking for cigarettes. The shopkeeper's children were outside munching on candy when the truck exploded, spraying deadly shrapnel in all directions. Two children died on the spot, and a third was rushed to a hospital in Peshawar with her stomach in shreds.

"These people call themselves Taliban, but they are nothing but criminals," Rahman said over rice and meat in his shrapnel-pocked compound. "We ask the security forces to crush them, but the police are afraid to take action, and other authorities protect them. If our tribe were not so united, we would have no hope of defending ourselves. We do not have permission to do this, but we have no choice."
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« Reply #380 on: March 25, 2009, 06:05:22 PM »

McClatchy Newspapers (mcclatchydc.com)
March 23, 2009

U.S. Troops Confront Disciplined, Wily, Mobile Afghan Insurgents

By Philip Smucker, McClatchy Newspapers

ASMAR, Afghanistan — When the young American lieutenant and his 14 soldiers glanced up at the rock face, they thought that the major who'd planned the mission must have been kidding.

Elijah Carlson, a strapping, blue-eyed Southern Californian and a self-proclaimed "gun nut," gripped the crumbling rock, tugged backward by 90-pounds of ammunition and gear. "If we fall back, we are dead!" he whispered to Lt. Jake Kerr, the platoon leader.

In seconds, a rock shot loose beneath one soldier's boot and dropped 20 feet onto another soldier below, sending him tumbling 15 feet to the base and cracking his bulletproof side plate.

What transpired over the next 16 hours was the kind of clash that's led Kerr's commanders in the Army's 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., to conclude that there's no "victory" waiting around the next bend in Afghanistan, only a relentless struggle with a fleet-footed, clever enemy. For Kerr, a recent West Point graduate who specialized in counterinsurgency, it was the first face-off with an often-elusive opponent and a case study in the complex politics of rural Afghanistan.

Kunar, where Combat Company of the 1st Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division's 32nd Infantry Regiment is stationed, is one of the most violent provinces in Afghanistan. Asmar is just 10 miles from the border with Pakistan's Bajaur Tribal Agency, which has been a sanctuary for al Qaida and Afghan Taliban leaders.

The mission was to disrupt the men and weapons infiltrating from Pakistan and root out their staging bases in Afghanistan. The Americans had hoped first to confer with village elders, but after intelligence indicated that insurgents were in the area, they moved in with heavy machine guns.

Kerr's platoon moved for three hours in the darkness. Each time they thought they'd reached the peak, the land shot up farther. The unit came across enemy fighting positions, piled high with rocks and littered with food wrappers.

Afghan and American intelligence reports said these were "Bakt Ali's men," insurgents who lay claim to nearby villages in central Kunar. Ali is a senior Taliban guerrilla leader in Kunar who's thought to have direct ties to Abu Ikhlas al Masri, an Egyptian al Qaida leader in Pakistan. At each dug-in position, Kerr recorded the GPS coordinates of unmanned enemy positions, down to the 10th digit.

As dawn broke over the rocks, company commander Maj. Andy Knight, of Ann Arbor, Mich., set out on foot in the valley 700 feet below. Kerr would provide support from his eagles' nests as Knight attempted to clear two villages where, he said, residents had complained of insurgent intimidation. Accompanied by a reporter, Knight and a detachment of American and 14 Afghan soldiers stepped carefully along mud dikes, greeting Afghan children and their parents with a cordial "Sengay?" — "How are you?"

What Kerr, from Lake Placid, N.Y., heard from his perch above the valley was a surprise: Unseen men along the valley floor were shouting to one another like an oral tag team, passing the news that "the Americans have arrived."

Within minutes, three men, one in a white shalwar kamis — a loose pajama-like shirt and pants — another in a black one and a third in a brown shawl and gray pants, sprinted down the valley from the west with machine guns toward Knight's patrol, which was walking along a dry, rocky streambed about 1,000 feet away.

Kerr, 25, part of a new generation of American warriors schooled at West Point in the raw lessons of fighting counterinsurgencies in the Islamic world, spotted them instantly.

"They were running at Major Knight with AK-47s," Kerr said after the battle. "We opened up on them, and they began firing. But we had the three men outgunned, and they dove for cover in the streambed."

In the valley, the hiking party splashed through irrigation channels and dove for cover amid tall bushes that lined the stream. The chatter of machine guns fired from both sides echoed off the ridges and stone walls.

Knight, who played tight end on the Army football team, shot past in a blur to the front of the marching party. He didn't yet know that two of the insurgents had been hit. They were pulling themselves on their bellies through the rocks, desperate to reach a bend in the stream.

Within five minutes, two Apache attack helicopters buzzed the valley, scanning for enemy positions and listening to Kerr direct them to the target. "I was shooting tracers down at the two fighters crawling in the stream, and the other man in a brown shawl was shooting back," Kerr said.

Hidden behind a wooden shack, Knight's party could see the two Apaches sweep down, ripping up the stream bed. The insurgents had slipped just out of Kerr's sight, however, back up a bend in the stream and away from Knight's party. When the Apaches unleashed their Hellfire missiles, the men already had vanished.

"Dawg 1,6!" Knight snapped into his radio to Lt. David Poe, 24, of Buffalo, N.Y., a few hundred yards away, as he crouched in the rocks. "Are you near the woman in the green dress, tending to the animals? We are moving towards your location."

Almost all the males in the valley had gone missing, but Afghan women were trying to keep spooked cows and goats from fleeing. As Knight's party climbed into the rocks above the stream and dashed along the mountainside, a woman in a black shawl appeared, waving her arms and wailing, berating U.S. and Afghan forces as they passed. An Afghan soldier shouted back, incorrectly, "Back in your house, lady! They shot first!"

Knight stopped to catch his breath. "Do we have maps of these villages?" he demanded of Lt. Eric Forcey, 23, of Lynchburg, Va., who was at his side.

"No, sir," Forcey replied. "For all intents and purposes, they do not exist."

"I think they've existed for a long time, Forcey; the mapmakers just have not found them," the major replied.

"Yes, sir."

WIth "shhh-thwamps, shhh-thwamps," two more Hellfire missiles crashed into the rocks.

With constant translations of the enemy radio chatter in Pashtu, picked up through electronic eavesdropping, and the major's narration of the battle, events appeared to turn. "I think one of them is badly injured," Knight speculated. "They will have to make a decision to drag him out or leave him."

The U.S. forces, augmented by the 14 Afghans, were deliberate, at times cumbersome. From above, Kerr's men heard radio traffic indicating that the insurgents had slipped into a larger village farther up the ravine.

Enemy radio chatter also indicated that the helicopter strikes were landing just in front of the house from which Bakt Ali's men apparently were talking.

Still, this was a shell game with no certainty about the targets' whereabouts, and Knight — who spent a year in Kunar in 2006 and 2007 — knew it. He refused to order an airstrike on the suspected hideout.

Instead, he took Kerr's plea over the radio that, "We can own this valley, sir!" He ordered two Humvees to rush up the stream bed and take up "support-by-fire" positions in front of a group of wooden houses and dispatched Dawg Company's Poe to oversee a group of Afghan commandos, who'd search the village on foot.

The choppers returned from refueling. Once in the village, the Afghan soldiers went house to house, room by room. A cluster of women and children stood on a rooftop. "This is a virtual ghost town, sir," came Poe's report. An Afghan interpreter sniped: "It almost always ends this way."

Kerr and his men were tired and frustrated. No one had found the fugitives' "blood trails," which he'd hoped to follow.

As his men packed in their heavy weapons and began to pull back down the mountain, the insurgents' radio traffic intensified.

"We could hear them actually counting our numbers, and they were saying that they would hit us. A commander told them to wait until we were grouped." The insurgents apparently wanted to target only the departing forces and to avoid destroying the village.

Kerr's team hiked back down the ridgeline, descended about 1,000 feet into the riverbed, linked up with Knight's fighters in U.S. jeeps and reached for water bottles.

Suddenly, an Afghan interpreter, monitoring radio traffic, heard Bakt Ali's commander order the attack. Kerr dove for cover. The pavement exploded with rocket blasts and fire from massive PK machine guns. Carlson, 23, from Torrance, Calif., dropped to his knees, curling into a fetal position under a dirt ledge with his machine gun trained on the crest of the mountain he'd scaled earlier. One U.S. soldier was hit in the groin as he leapt for cover.

Kerr's platoon's work was about to pay dividends, however.

With a rush of satisfaction, Kerr reached into his pocket and pulled out the GPS coordinates of the enemy positions he'd scribbled down that morning. From six miles away at their base in Asmar, a 10th Mountain artillery battery unleashed a torrent of 105 mm howitzer shells onto the enemy positions. In the twilight, .50-caliber machine guns blazed.

The day was over. No one was going back to hunt for the living or the dead. The insurgents had lost fighters, but they'd proved to be a wily, disciplined and mobile force.

The U.S. and Afghan forces had had a reality check. If they didn't already know it, they now understood why they'd been unable to have a peaceful discussion with the village elders. Bakt Ali's forces owned the villages, and until last Thursday, they more or less controlled the entire ravine. It would take more than better maps for the Afghan army and its U.S. allies to wrest control of them.

Smucker is a McClatchy special correspondent.
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prentice crawford
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« Reply #381 on: March 25, 2009, 09:25:37 PM »

Woof,
 Our troops need to be very careful of situations like the one above in the mountainous regions; one of these days the enemy is going to orchestrate a massacre on us.
                               P.C.
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« Reply #382 on: March 26, 2009, 12:12:20 PM »

Woof,

P.C. is correct.  We don't need another Operation Anaconda.  The mountains of Afghanistan are the primary reason why the Afghan people have never truly been beaten by outsiders.  That Lt. definitely has his mind right for the type of situation him and his platoon have to face. 

"At each dug-in position, Kerr recorded the GPS coordinates of unmanned enemy positions, down to the 10th digit."  ...and later on in the fight...  "With a rush of satisfaction, Kerr reached into his pocket and pulled out the GPS coordinates of the enemy positions he'd scribbled down that morning. From six miles away at their base in Asmar, a 10th Mountain artillery battery unleashed a torrent of 105 mm howitzer shells onto the enemy positions. In the twilight, .50-caliber machine guns blazed."

Beautiful.

The mountainous terrain is one thing and the human terrain is another but they're both the biggest obstacles that need to be overcome in Afghanistan.  "Almost all the males in the valley had gone missing".  Why?  Most were probably fighting age males.  What did the TB have to offer that The ANA/ANP didn't?  Maybe it's a case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".  People will always fight for something and rarely for nothing.  Why didn't they do what the villagers in Bazitkhel, Pakistan do and fight back? 

The U.S. and Coalition forces can only do so much and it's sad but true but, a lot of soldiers don't really care what happens here as long as they make it home alive. Ultimately it's up to the Afghan people whether or not they live in a state of constant fear under the Taliban. Then again, that depends on who can provide them with their basic needs, the biggest one being security and not just through arms.  Is it the ANA and ANP or the TB?  The poppy fields are blooming in Helmand and eradication efforts are weak and ultimately ineffective.The TB buys every bit of the opium crop for the farmers.  I don't think that the present government of Afghanistan will be subsidizing wheat anytime soon.  A man has to feed his family.

There are so many issues that need to be addressed here and if too much focus is placed on one thing, others fall off the radar.  Damn!  I wish I could type faster.
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« Reply #383 on: March 26, 2009, 11:45:53 PM »

By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will unveil a new Afghanistan strategy Friday that calls for devoting significant new resources to counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan and economic development in Pakistan, according to senior U.S. officials.

The administration now plans to send about 4,000 military trainers to Afghanistan -- in addition to the recently announced 17,000 additional troops -- and hundreds of diplomats and other civilian officials. The U.S. financial commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan will grow by billions of dollars per year under the plan.


Aid will be tied for the first time to performance benchmarks, though administration officials declined to specify what they were or how they'd be measured.

The Pentagon also is considering a new U.S. military command in southern Afghanistan that would assume responsibility for the American troops deploying there. The area is currently commanded by European NATO generals, and a new U.S. command would signal increasing American control over the war effort.

The moves are part of a broad push to prevent the stalemated Afghan war from destabilizing both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since taking office in January, President Barack Obama has announced plans to wind down military operations in Iraq next year and shift more military resources to Afghanistan. The president was to outline his approach in a White House address Friday morning.


President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan-Pakistan region means additional troops and civilian officials to counter narcotics trade in Southern Afghanistan and more financial aid for the economic development, says WSJ military correspondent Yochi Dreazen.
Senior U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned about Afghanistan and Pakistan. The resurgent Taliban exert day-to-day control over many rural parts of Afghanistan and have pushed U.S. and Afghan military casualties to record highs. Militants in Pakistan have battled the Pakistani army to a draw in several regions of the country and carry out regular suicide bombings.

"There's a clear understanding that the status quo is not remotely sustainable in either country," said a U.S. official involved in the new approach.

The strategy will effectively focus U.S. efforts in Afghanistan on the narrow goal of defeating al Qaeda and its Taliban allies, a shift away from the Bush administration's broader nation-building efforts there.

Officials said the 4,000 American trainers, along with the additional diplomats and civilian officials, will be on the ground in Afghanistan by the fall.

The plan calls for expanded American diplomatic outreach inside and outside Afghanistan. U.S. officials will try to persuade moderate Taliban elements in Afghanistan to abandon violence and join the country's political process. American diplomats will also reach out to Tehran in the hope of winning Iranian assistance in stabilizing the country.

The new strategy is notable for the emphasis it places on Pakistan, which senior officials now see as critical to determining whether Afghanistan stabilizes or continues its downward spiral. The U.S. has given Pakistan more than $10 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the U.S., mostly in military assistance. As part of its new strategy, the Obama administration plans to instead give Pakistan at least $1.5 billion in economic development aid in each of the next five years.

The economic aid will be accompanied by additional American strikes on militant targets inside Pakistan. U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials are drawing up a fresh list of terrorist targets for Predator drone strikes.

The policy changes come less than a week before Mr. Obama travels to France for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit devoted heavily to Afghanistan. Administration officials say Mr. Obama has come to accept that NATO nations are unlikely to contribute more combat troops to Afghanistan because of domestic political opposition.

Instead, White House officials say Mr. Obama will ask European nations to provide more military and police trainers to Afghanistan, as well as additional economic assistance to Pakistan.

The U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan has been a source of increasing friction within the military alliance. In response, Pentagon officials are firming up plans to redraw the balance of power between the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan, according to three military officers familiar with the deliberations.

The idea getting the most support calls for a U.S. military command in southern Afghanistan, the officers said. It would be led by a two-star American general.

Most of the American reinforcements are being deployed to the south of the country, a Taliban stronghold that is one of the largest opium-producing regions in the world. U.S. and NATO officials believe that the drug trade provides the Taliban with billions of dollars each year.

The Obama administration hopes to undercut the Taliban by launching a new counter-narcotics offensive in the Helmand River Valley and other parts of southern Afghanistan. The mission will be the primary focus of the U.S. reinforcements.

Under one facet of the plan, U.S. or Afghan troops will first offer Afghan farmers free wheat seed to replace their crops that produce opium. If the farmers refuse, U.S. or Afghan personnel will burn their fields, and then again offer them free replacement seeds. A senior U.S. military official described the approach as a "carrot, stick, carrot" effort.

—Jonathan Weisman contributed to this article.
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« Reply #384 on: March 27, 2009, 08:14:40 AM »

A surprising article from a NYTimes columnist who usually is quite the useful idiot:
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Op-Ed Columnist
The Winnable War
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy DAVID BROOKS
Published: March 26, 2009
Khyber Pass, Afghanistan

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I came to Afghanistan skeptical of American efforts to transform this country. Afghanistan is one of the poorest, least-educated and most-corrupt nations on earth. It is an infinitely complex and fractured society. It has powerful enemies in Pakistan, Iran and the drug networks working hard to foment chaos. The ground is littered with the ruins of great powers that tried to change this place.

Moreover, we simply do not know how to modernize nations. Western aid workers seem to spend most of their time drawing up flow charts for each other. They’re so worried about their inspectors general that they can’t really immerse themselves in the messy world of local reality. They insist on making most of the spending decisions themselves so the “recipients” of their largess end up passive, dependent and resentful.

Every element of my skepticism was reinforced during a six-day tour of the country. Yet the people who work here make an overwhelming case that Afghanistan can become a functional, terror-fighting society and that it is worth sending our sons and daughters into danger to achieve this.

In the first place, the Afghan people want what we want. They are, as Lord Byron put it, one of the few people in the region without an inferiority complex. They think they did us a big favor by destroying the Soviet Union and we repaid them with abandonment. They think we owe them all this.

That makes relations between Afghans and foreigners relatively straightforward. Most military leaders here prefer working with the Afghans to the Iraqis. The Afghans are warm and welcoming. They detest the insurgents and root for American success. “The Afghans have treated you as friends, allies and liberators from the very beginning,” says Afghanistan’s defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak.

Second, we’re already well through the screwing-up phase of our operation. At first, the Western nations underestimated the insurgency. They tried to centralize power in Kabul. They tried to fight a hodgepodge, multilateral war.

Those and other errors have been exposed, and coalition forces are learning. When you interview impressive leaders here, like Brig. Gen. John Nicholson of Regional Command South, Col. John Agoglia of the Counterinsurgency Training Center and Chris Alexander of the U.N., you see how relentless they are at criticizing their own operations. Thanks to people like that, the coalition will stumble toward success, having tried the alternatives.

Third, we’ve got our priorities right. Armies love killing bad guys. Aid agencies love building schools. But the most important part of any aid effort is governance and law and order. It’s reforming the police, improving the courts, training local civil servants and building prisons.

In Afghanistan, every Western agency is finally focused on this issue, from a Canadian reconstruction camp in Kandahar to the top U.S. general, David McKiernan.

Fourth, the quality of Afghan leadership is improving. This is a relative thing. President Hamid Karzai is detested by much of the U.S. military. Some provincial governors are drug dealers on the side. But as the U.N.’s Kai Eide told the Security Council, “The Afghan government is today better and more competent than ever before.” Reformers now lead the most important ministries and competent governors run key provinces.

Fifth, the U.S. is finally taking this war seriously. Up until now, insurgents have had free rein in vast areas of southern Afghanistan. The infusion of 17,000 more U.S. troops will change that. The Obama administration also promises a civilian surge to balance the military push.

Sixth, Pakistan is finally on the agenda. For the past few years, the U.S. has let Pakistan get away with murder. The insurgents train, organize and get support from there. “It’s very hard to deal with a cross-border insurgency on only one side of the border,” says Mr. Alexander of the U.N. The Obama strategic review recognizes this.

Finally, it is simply wrong to say that Afghanistan is a hopeless 14th-century basket case. This country had decent institutions before the Communist takeover. It hasn’t fallen into chaos, the way Iraq did, because it has a culture of communal discussion and a respect for village elders. The Afghans have embraced the democratic process with enthusiasm.

I finish this trip still skeptical but also infected by the optimism of the truly impressive people who are working here. And one other thing:

After the trauma in Iraq, it would have been easy for the U.S. to withdraw into exhaustion and realism. Instead, President Obama is doubling down on the very principles that some dismiss as neocon fantasy: the idea that this nation has the capacity to use military and civilian power to promote democracy, nurture civil society and rebuild failed states.

Foreign policy experts can promote one doctrine or another, but this energetic and ambitious response — amid economic crisis and war weariness — says something profound about America’s DNA.
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« Reply #385 on: March 27, 2009, 08:19:11 AM »

Third post of the day

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to further bolster American forces in Afghanistan and for the first time set benchmarks for progress in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban there and in Pakistan, officials said Thursday.


In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions.

“The era of the blank check is over,” Mr. Obama told Congressional leaders at the White House, according to an account of the meeting provided on the condition of anonymity because it was a private session.

The new strategy, which Mr. Obama will formally announce Friday, will send 4,000 more troops to train Afghan security forces on top of the 17,000 extra combat troops that he already ordered to Afghanistan shortly after taking office, administration and Congressional officials said. But for now, Mr. Obama has decided not to send additional combat forces, they said, although military commanders at one point had requested a total of 30,000 more American troops.

Although the administration is still developing the specific benchmarks for Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said they would be the most explicit demands ever presented to the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. In effect, Mr. Obama would be insisting that two fractured countries plagued by ancient tribal rivalries and modern geopolitical hostility find ways to work together and transform their societies.

American officials have repeatedly said that Afghanistan has to make more progress in fighting corruption, curbing the drug trade and sharing power with the regions, while they have insisted that Pakistan do more to cut ties between parts of its government and the Taliban. Mr. Obama telephoned President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan on Thursday to share the main elements of the strategic review.

Setting benchmarks for Pakistan could be particularly difficult. For years, the United States has simply paid bills submitted by the Pakistani government for counterterrorism operations, even during truces when its military was not involved in counterterrorism. Pakistan has resisted linking its aid to specific performance criteria and officials acknowledged that developing those criteria could be problematic.

The key elements of Mr. Obama’s plan, with its more robust combat force, its emphasis on training, and its far-reaching goals, foreshadow an ambitious but risky and costly attempt to unify and stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Obama is unveiling his approach at a time when the conflict is worsening, the lives of the people are not visibly improving, and the intervention by American-led foreign powers is increasingly resented.

The goals that Mr. Obama has settled on may be elusive and, according to some critics, even naïve. Among other things, officials said he planned to recast the Afghan war as a regional issue involving not only Pakistan but also India, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Central Asian states.

His plan envisions persuading Pakistan to stop focusing military resources on its longstanding enemy, India, so it can concentrate more on battling insurgents in its lawless tribal regions. That goal may be especially hard to achieve given more than a half century of enmity — including a nuclear arms race — between Pakistan and India.

All told, the 21,000 additional American troops that Mr. Obama will have authorized almost precisely matches the original number of additional troops that President George W. Bush sent to Iraq two years ago, bringing the overall American deployment in Afghanistan to about 60,000. But Mr. Obama avoids calling it a “surge” and resisted sending the full reinforcements initially sought by commanders.

Instead, Mr. Obama chose to re-evaluate troop levels at a series of specific moments over the next year, officials said. Approaching the issue in increments may be easier to explain to members of Mr. Obama’s own party who fear he is getting the country as entangled in Afghanistan as Mr. Bush did in Iraq.

The officials said Mr. Obama planned to frame the American commitment as a counterterrorism mission aimed at denying havens for Al Qaeda, with three main goals — training Afghan security forces, supporting the weak central government in Kabul and securing the population. While the new strategy will call for expanding Afghan security forces more rapidly, it will not explicitly endorse the request from American commanders to increase the national police and army to 400,000.

At the same time, Mr. Obama warned Congressional leaders that he would need more than the $50 billion in his budget plan for military operations and development efforts. Asked by lawmakers about the prospect of reconciliation with moderate members of the Taliban, officials said Mr. Obama replied that he wanted to sift out hard-core radicals from those who were fighting simply to earn money.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, emerged from a briefing with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to declare that in his judgment the administration’s review “was right on track.” He said the new strategy would send a significant number of additional trainers to work with the Afghan National Army and police, part of an overall strategy to “transfer responsibilities to the Afghans, both militarily and in terms of economic development.”

Mr. Levin, who was part of a bipartisan group that pressed Mr. Bush to set benchmarks for Iraq two years ago, embraced the idea of doing the same again for Afghanistan. “There is a determination to set some benchmarks for Afghanistan, and that will be incredibly important,” Mr. Levin said. “We haven’t had them in Afghanistan.”

Republicans emerging from briefings at the White House and on Capitol Hill withheld comment. Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said in a statement that he “had a constructive meeting at the White House” and that he would “reserve public comment until the president makes his formal announcement.”

Dennis C. Blair, the administration’s director of national intelligence, said the United States still lacked intelligence about the power structures inside the country and other basic information necessary for a counterinsurgency campaign. “We know a heck of a lot more about Iraq on a granular level than we know about Afghanistan,” he said.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Blair estimated that up to three quarters of the Taliban’s rank and file in Afghanistan could be peeled away from the Taliban’s leadership, most of whom are hiding in sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #386 on: March 28, 2009, 12:18:37 AM »

US laying ground for troops in Pak?

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/03/white-house-won.html
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« Reply #387 on: March 28, 2009, 07:26:33 AM »

Second post of the day

Well, now that BO is president, the NYT prints things like this.  Anyway, posted here as part of my ongoing search for a sense of our strategy in Afg.
=======================


Graveyard Myths
PETER BERGEN
Published: March 28, 2009

AS President Obama orders an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, he faces growing skepticism over the United States’ prospects there. Critics of the troop buildup often point out that Afghanistan has long been the “graveyard of empires.” In 1842, the British lost a nasty war that ended when fierce tribesmen notoriously destroyed an army of thousands retreating from Kabul. And, of course, the Soviets spent almost a decade waging war in Afghanistan, only to give up ignominiously in 1989.

But in fact, these are only two isolated examples. Since Alexander the Great, plenty of conquerors have subdued Afghanistan. In the early 13th century, Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes ravaged the country’s two major cities. And in 1504, Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, easily took the throne in Kabul. Even the humiliation of 1842 did not last. Three and a half decades later, the British initiated a punitive invasion and ultimately won the second Anglo-Afghan war, which gave them the right to determine Afghanistan’s foreign policy.

The Soviet disaster of the 1980s, for its part, cannot be credited to the Afghans’ legendary fighting skills alone, as the mujahideen were kept afloat by billions of dollars worth of aid from the United States and Saudi Arabia and sophisticated American military hardware like anti-aircraft Stinger missiles, which ended the Soviets’ total air superiority.

In any case, today’s American-led intervention in Afghanistan can hardly be compared to the Soviet occupation. The Soviet Army employed a scorched-earth policy, killing more than a million Afghans, forcing some five million more to flee the country, and sowing land mines everywhere.

While the American military is killing too many Afghan civilians, in any given year the numbers are in the hundreds, not the hundreds of thousands. And even the most generous estimates of today’s Taliban insurgency suggest it is no more than 20,000 men. About 10 times as many Afghans fought against the Soviet occupation.

The Soviet experience in Afghanistan weighed heavily on the minds of Bush administration policymakers, who kept a “light footprint” lest Afghans rebuff American and allied soldiers as hated occupiers. But as it turned out, the Afghans were widely enthusiastic about being liberated from the Taliban. In an ABC/BBC poll conducted in 2005, a full four years after the fall of the Taliban, 8 in 10 Afghans expressed a favorable opinion of the United States — an extraordinary proportion in a Muslim nation — and the same number supported the American-led overthrow of the Taliban in their country.

And just last month, in a new poll by ABC and the BBC, 58 percent of Afghans named the Taliban as the greatest threat to their nation. Only 8 percent said it was the United States. And while only 47 percent of Afghans still had a favorable opinion of America, the Taliban fared far worse, with just 7 percent approval.

What Afghans want is for international forces to do what they should have been doing all along — provide them the security they need to get on with making a living. That means building up the Afghan Army and police, which are only about one-fourth the size of the security services in Iraq. This will not come cheap, but the cost of putting an Afghan soldier in the field is only one-seventieth that of sending an American. President Obama, who will travel to Europe for NATO’s 60th anniversary in early April, can ask those European countries that are reluctant to send additional troops to Afghanistan to instead contribute to a permanent fund to help pay for the expanded Afghan security services.

The United States should also focus on projects that will bring both security and economic benefits to Afghans. A key task is to secure the all-important road between Kabul and Kandahar, a once-pleasant freeway that has become a nightmarish gantlet of potential Taliban ambushes.

Afghanistan’s vast opium/heroin industry finances the Taliban and feeds rampant government corruption. The American Drug Enforcement Administration should make public the names of the top Afghan drug lords, including government officials, so that they can no longer act with impunity. And because Afghanistan’s court system is still incapable of handling major drug cases, Kabul should sign a treaty with Washington that would allow key heroin traffickers to be tried in the United States.

Measures like these would help return Afghanistan to something like the state it was before the Soviets invaded in 1979: a relatively peaceful country slowly building itself into something more than a purely agricultural economy.

Afghanistan is no longer the graveyard of any empire. Rather, it just might become the model of a somewhat stable Central Asian state.

Peter Bergen is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know.”
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #388 on: March 28, 2009, 07:28:27 AM »

Third post of the day

President Obama unveiled his strategy for the war in Afghanistan yesterday, and there is much to like in it. Our main question -- and, we suspect, the world's -- is whether the new Commander in Chief is really prepared to devote the resources and political capital that his plan will need to succeed.

Such fortitude is essential because this new Afghan-Pakistan campaign will be both long and expensive. The President's claim yesterday that "the situation is increasingly perilous" overstates the immediate trouble; Afghanistan has nowhere near the level of violence that consumed Iraq in 2006 before President Bush's surge. But denying the "Afpak" border as a safe haven for al Qaeda and the worst Taliban elements will tax the patience of an already war-weary American public.

All the more so because Mr. Obama himself has spent so much time questioning America's antiterrorist mission abroad. While he tried, during the campaign, to distinguish Iraq (Bush's war) from Afghanistan (the good war), the truth is that they are both exercises in counterinsurgency and nation building. The irony is that both tasks are arguably easier in Iraq, because of its denser population and history of a stronger central government.

Mr. Obama barely mentioned foreign policy in his recent address to Congress. And with his vast domestic agenda, the temptation of political adviser David Axelrod will be to have Mr. Obama give this one speech and drop the subject. That is a good way to discover a year from now that he has opponents emerging on both his left and right in Congress.

The left is already restless, with Les Gelb now writing that "We can't defeat the Taliban" and we should thus gradually withdraw. That is the same Les Gelb who was Vice President Joe Biden's strategic partner in writing in 2006 that the surge was doomed and Iraq had to be partitioned. Mr. Biden was reportedly an internal skeptic about Mr. Obama's new strategy.

On the right, many Republicans will also begin to question the mission, much as Tom DeLay opposed Bill Clinton on the Balkans. Mr. Obama could help here if he could manage to bring himself to speak well of our success in Iraq. The Baghdad surge shows the U.S. can learn from its mistakes and prevail in a long counterinsurgency, and a President should celebrate that achievement.

Yet Mr. Obama kept falling back yesterday on his campaign trope that Afghanistan would be going well now if not for the detour in Iraq. It's more accurate to say that Afghanistan got markedly worse after Pakistan's government cut its 2006 deal in Waziristan that created a Taliban sanctuary. Mr. Obama is not going to sustain GOP support by continuing to campaign against George W. Bush.

For all of those political caveats, we believe the war is winnable. And Mr. Obama's strategy takes some important steps. The most significant is to reclaim the battle from NATO, which never really wanted the job. The U.S. will create a new command in Southern Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan troops will apply the lessons of Iraq. The irony here is that Mr. Obama is asserting U.S. primacy from the failing "multilateralism" of the Bush Administration, which made the mistake of assuming Europeans really believed in the fight. In the end, as usual, the 60,000 or so Yanks will have to do the bloodiest fighting and the Germans can man the supply lines out of harm's way.

Another step forward is the commitment of 4,000 more GIs to train and expand the Afghan army to 134,000 troops by 2011. We agree with strategists who say the ultimate goal should be 250,000 or more -- making the army a major employer and source of national unity. But Mr. Obama is right to say that Afghans will eventually have to learn to defend their own country.

Mr. Obama made much yesterday of an allegedly new willingness to engage elements of the Taliban. This is hardly as revolutionary as it sounds, since U.S. troops did something similar in Anbar Province in Iraq. It makes sense to try to peel away tribal chiefs and others who may be "Taliban" only because they are paid to be, or afraid not to be. But over time this will only work if the U.S. and Afghans can persuade these Taliban-for-hire that the allies can provide security against al Qaeda and the real Taliban.

Also mark us down as skeptics about his new call for "benchmarks" for the Pakistan and Afghanistan governments. As we learned in Iraq, benchmarks can measure the wrong things amid larger progress, and they also make it easier for Congress to find fault. No doubt both Kabul and Islamabad can do more as allies, but the best way to ensure that is with a broad, sustained U.S. commitment, not with what sound like orders from Washington.

Perhaps the best news in yesterday's speech is that Mr. Obama has now taken ownership of this war. One lesson he can learn from Iraq is that -- as hard as the fighting may get and as vociferous as the opposition at home may become -- Mr. Obama now has an obligation to stay the course until our soldiers can return home in victory and with honor.

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« Reply #389 on: March 28, 2009, 07:45:10 AM »

4th post of the day:

OK folks, I'd like to put it out there:  What do we think of the President's plan?  Do we support it?
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« Reply #390 on: March 28, 2009, 11:26:55 AM »

5th post of the day

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2009/mar/27/obama-afghanistan-military
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jkrenz
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« Reply #391 on: March 28, 2009, 01:27:57 PM »

Woof Guro Crafty,

The most perfect battle plan in the world usually goes to crap once the first shot is fired in actual battle.  Or so I've heard.  Communism is a great idea in theory but, once you throw in the human factor, it isn't really all that great.  It sounds like BO has a pretty good plan though and I think it's going to take a hell of a lot of hard work by all parties involved especially those with boots on the ground if it's going to work.  Of course the human factor plays a huge role also.  How are the potential Afghan soldiers and police going to be persuaded to become actual soldiers and police?  How is it going to be sold to the Afghan people?  My guess is through security which seems to be the underlying theme of the "new" strategy for the stabilization of Afghanistan.

Just a few things in no particular order...   

"What Afghans want is for international forces to do what they should have been doing all along — provide them the security they need to get on with making a living."  -I know they are not figuring this out just now.

"The key elements of Mr. Obama’s plan, with its more robust combat force"  -This would definitely help until Afghan forces are strong enough to defend their homeland.

"The United States should also focus on projects that will bring both security and economic benefits to Afghans."  -In that order.  Can't have the latter without the former.

"Afghanistan’s vast opium/heroin industry finances the Taliban and feeds rampant government corruption."  -Really???  Then find a more effective method of eradication than plowing up the poppy fields.  It grows back in a week or two.  And spraying herbicide might harm the environment.   

"The most significant is to reclaim the battle from NATO, which never really wanted the job....  The irony here is that Mr. Obama is asserting U.S. primacy from the failing "multilateralism" of the Bush Administration, which made the mistake of assuming Europeans really believed in the fight. In the end, as usual, the 60,000 or so Yanks will have to do the bloodiest fighting and the Germans can man the supply lines out of harm's way."  -So sad but so true.

"Afghanistan would be going well now if not for the detour in Iraq. It's more accurate to say that Afghanistan got markedly worse after Pakistan's government cut its 2006 deal in Waziristan that created a Taliban sanctuary."  -I don't quite understand this one.  We did shift a lot of focus from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003.  And I think I remember something like "We got him" being said in December 2004.  Where the hell is Bin Laden?  Oh yeah, we were focused on Iraq.

Concerning the new plan,l I think this is what we should have been doing all along and I think it will work out in the long run as long as we don't try to implement another "new" strategy after we hit the first few bumps in the road.

The video is so true it's not even funny.  Wow...  Serious lack of discipline which I think is the oil that makes all the different parts of the military machine run smoothly...       
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« Reply #392 on: March 29, 2009, 08:43:33 AM »

Woof Krenz et al:

My concern is two fold:

1) Can we do it?  For the answer here, I look first and foremost to those there.  In a closely related vein, do we have the will to do what it will take?  Given that the CiC is giving less than half of what his generals are asking for, there is goodly reason to wonder.

2) Will we at home backstab the efforts in the field -- as we did with our efforts in Iraq?  My doubts here begin with our Commander in Chief.  Yes he said some right things the other day, but , , , what will he do when his supporters, who voted for him to bug out of Iraq NOW, abandon him over the hard times his announced path is sure to bring?  Will he throw away the investment our troops make in blood, sweat, and tears as he would have done in Iraq?

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

WSJ:  Pakistan is the main issue

By GRAHAM ALLISON and JOHN DEUTCH
In announcing his new Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, President Barack Obama articulated "a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future."

This is a sound conception of both the threat and U.S. interests in the region. Mr. Obama took a giant step beyond the Bush administration's "Afghanistan policy" when he named the issue "AfPak" -- Afghanistan, Pakistan and their shared, Pashtun-populated border. But this is inverted. We suggest renaming the policy "PakAf," to emphasize that, from the perspective of U.S. interests and regional stability, the heart of the problem lies in Pakistan.

The fundamental question about Afghanistan is this: What vital national interest does the U.S. have there? President George W. Bush offered an ever-expanding answer to this question. As he once put it, America's goal is "a free and peaceful Afghanistan," where "reform and democracy" would serve as "the alternatives to fanaticism, resentment and terror."

In sharp contrast, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama declared that America has one and only one vital national interest in Afghanistan: to ensure that it "cannot be used as a base to launch attacks against the United States." To which we would add the corollary: that developments in Afghanistan not undermine Pakistan's stability and assistance in eliminating al Qaeda.

Consider a hypothetical. Had the terrorist attacks of 9/11 been planned by al Qaeda from its current headquarters in ungoverned areas of Pakistan, is it conceivable that today the U.S. would find itself with 54,000 troops and $180 billion committed to transforming medieval Afghanistan into a stable, modern nation?

For Afghanistan to become a unitary state ruled from Kabul, and to develop into a modern, prosperous, poppy-free and democratic country would be a worthy and desirable outcome. But it is not vital for American interests.

After the U.S. and NATO exit Afghanistan and reduce their presence and financial assistance to levels comparable to current efforts in the Sudan, Somalia or Bangladesh, one should expect Afghanistan to return to conditions similar to those regions. Such conditions are miserable. They are deserving of American and international development and security assistance. But, as in those countries, it is unrealistic to expect anything more than a slow, difficult evolution towards modernity.

The problem in Pakistan is more pressing and direct. There, the U.S. does have larger vital national interests. Top among these is preventing Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear weapons and materials from falling into the hands of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. This danger is not hypothetical -- the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, A.Q. Khan, is now known to have been the world's first nuclear black marketer, providing nuclear weapons technology and materials to Libya, North Korea and Iran.

Protecting Pakistan's nuclear arsenal requires preventing radical Islamic extremists from taking control of the country.

Furthermore, the U.S. rightly remains committed to preventing the next 9/11 attack by eliminating global terrorist threats such as al Qaeda. This means destroying their operating headquarters and training camps, from which they can plan more deadly 9/11s.

The counterterrorism strategy in Pakistan that has emerged since last summer offers our best hope for regional stability and success in dealing a decisive blow against al Qaeda and what Vice President Joe Biden calls "incorrigible" Taliban adherents. But implementing these operations requires light U.S. footprints backed by drones and other technology that allows missile attacks on identified targets. The problem is that the U.S. government no longer seems to be capable of conducting covert operations without having them reported in the press.

This will only turn Pakistani public opinion against the U.S. Many Pakistanis see covert actions carried out inside their country as America "invading an ally." This makes it difficult for Pakistani officials to support U.S. operations while sustaining widespread popular support.

As Mr. Biden has warned: "It is hard to imagine a greater nightmare for America than the world's second-largest Muslim nation becoming a failed state in fundamentalists' hands, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons and a population larger than Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea combined."

Avoiding this nightmare will require concentration on the essence of the challenge: Pakistan. On the peripheries, specifically Afghanistan, Mr. Obama should borrow a line from Andrew Jackson from the battle of New Orleans and order his administration to "elevate them guns a little lower."

Mr. Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and author of "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe" (Holt Paperbacks, 2005). Mr. Deutch is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Bill Clinton.

 
« Last Edit: March 29, 2009, 11:42:23 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #393 on: March 30, 2009, 01:57:41 AM »

Woof,
 I think it very likely, if we over step in Pakistan that we will send a nation of over 170 million people with 100 nuclear weapons, into irretrievable chaos.
                                P.C.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2009, 01:59:43 AM by prentice crawford » Logged

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« Reply #394 on: March 31, 2009, 11:26:58 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Obama's Afghanistan Strategy and the Reliability Question
March 30, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama has revealed his new Afghanistan policy. Having already announced his plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan by 17,000, he decided to send another 4,000 troops with the primary purpose of training Afghan forces. More interesting was the explicit recognition that success in Afghanistan requires success in Pakistan, and the decision to provide Pakistan with $1.5 billion per year for five years in non-military development aid in order to bolster its war effort.

Obviously, the two countries constitute a single theater of operations. And this is the fundamental problem. The troops now allocated to Afghanistan are insufficient by themselves to pacify Afghanistan against a determined and capable enemy like the Taliban. Pakistan is a country of more than 170 million people — the sixth most populous country in the world. There is no military solution to the Pakistani problem. And so long as Pakistan is the source of both supplies and sanctuary for the Taliban, there is no possible way for available forces to defeat the Taliban.

The root issue is reliability. The United States is going to help train Afghanistan’s military and police forces. There are two strategies here: train only forces from ethnic groups hostile to the predominantly Pashtun Taliban, or train an all-Afghan force. If you do the latter, the probability is that many of the recruits will be Taliban sympathizers. As we saw in Vietnam and many other wars, the construction of a military force is an opportunity for the enemy to infiltrate it. If, on the other hand, you recruit only forces hostile to Taliban, you are reaching into a minority pool that the Taliban already defeated in a civil war. Therefore, the key question is how reliable the force will be if you go for an inclusive force, or how capable it is of functioning without you if you do not.

The situation is compounded in Pakistan. It is not clear that the Pakistanis are incapable of shutting the Taliban down, but there is ample evidence that the Pakistanis do not want to shut them down. It is clear that elements in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and in the military in general are ideologically sympathetic to the Taliban. Those who are not sympathetic are not eager for a civil war between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani military.

Therefore, the issue is whether the billions being offered the Pakistani government will buy the United States what it wants: cooperation against the Taliban. The Pakistanis might not reject the money, but it is not clear that they will act, or at least act effectively.

Put simply, the United States wants to create forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan that are willing and able to engage the Taliban in both countries and shut them down. In both countries, the problem with the strategy is the reliability of the forces being generated, as well as their effectiveness. The United States is sending advisers to Afghanistan and money to Pakistan to influence the situation. Each might work, but it is far from certain that it will.

Even if the forces work, the conflict will not end. According to the Iraq model — and that is the model being attempted in Afghanistan — the end game is negotiation with the enemy and getting the enemy to join the coalition. The Sunni insurgents in Iraq were willing to negotiate and cooperate with the United States because they were on the ropes militarily, trapped between foreign jihadists and the Americans, and with dangerous Shiite militias — some of whom were backed by Iran — in the background. The Sunnis were in trouble and needed a friend, and the Americans presented themselves.

What the Americans are trying to do is to put at least some of the Taliban in the same box they put the Sunnis. For that to work, the Afghan-Pakistani strategy must be able to trap the Taliban and force them to the table. The question is whether the forces available and the money given to Pakistan are sufficient to trap the Taliban, or whether the Taliban’s ability to subvert the Afghan army and undermine the effectiveness of the Pakistani army will cause the plan to fail.
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« Reply #395 on: March 31, 2009, 05:45:25 PM »

The Idiot's Guide to Pakistan

By Nicholas Schmidle
 
Posted March 2009
 
Everyone in Washington is talking about Pakistan, but few understand it. Here’s how to dazzle the crowd at your next Georgetown cocktail party.



CHEAT SHEET:
 
Photo: TARIQ MAHMOOD/AFP/Getty Images
After eight years of a White House that often seemed blinkered by the threats posed by Pakistan, the Obama administration seems to grasp the severity of the myriad crises affecting the South Asian state. The media has followed suit and increased its presence and reporting, a trend confirmed by CNN’s decision to set up a bureau in Islamabad last year.

And yet, the uptick in coverage hasn’t necessarily clarified the who’s-doing-what-to-whom confusion in Pakistan. Some commentators continue to confuse the tribal areas with the North-West Frontier Province. And the word lashkars is used to describe all kinds of otherwise cross-purposed groups, some fighting the Taliban, some fighting India, and some fighting Shiites.

I admit, it’s not easy. I lived in Pakistan throughout all of 2006 and 2007 and only came to understand, say, the tribal breakdown in South Waziristan during my final days. So to save you the trouble of having to live in Pakistan for two years to differentiate between the Wazirs and the Mehsuds, the Frontier Corps and the Rangers, I’ve written an “idiot’s guide” that will hopefully clear some things up.

Next: The Troubled Tribals >>



Nicholas Schmidle is a fellow at the New America Foundation and author of the forthcoming To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan (New York: Henry Holt, May 2009).
 
     The Idiot's Guide to Pakistan
 
1. The Troubled Tribals

Bring up the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at a Washington cocktail party and you’re sure to impress. Tick off the name of a Taliban leader or two and make a reference to North Waziristan, and you might be on your way to a lucrative lecture tour. The problem, of course, is that no one knows if you’ll be speaking the truth or not. A map of the border region is crammed with the names of agencies, provinces, frontier regions, and districts, which are sometimes flip-flopped and misused. With only an unselfish interest in making you more-impressive cocktail party material (and thus, getting you booked with a lecture agent during these economic hard times), I want to straighten some things out.

First off, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are not part of the North-West Frontier Province. The two are separate entities in almost every sense of the word. While the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is, well, a province with an elected assembly, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are geographically separate areas governed through “political agents” who are appointed by the president and supported by the governor of NWFP (who is also a presidential appointee). Residents of NWFP technically live according to the laws drafted by the Parliament in Islamabad, while the only nontribal law applicable to residents of FATA is the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a colonial-era dictate sanctioning collective punishment for tribes and subtribes guilty of disrupting the peace.

Within FATA, there are seven “agencies” and six “frontier regions.” The agencies are Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan; the somewhat more governed frontier regions (FRs) cling like barnacles to the eastern edge of FATA and include FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Bannu, FR Lakki, FR Tank, and FR Dera Ismail Khan, each of them named after the “settled” districts they border.

All residents of FATA and the vast majority of those in NWFP are ethnically Pashtuns. Pashtuns also make up the majority in Baluchistan, the vast province bordering Iran and Afghanistan, which is named after the minority Baluch. Besides NWFP and Baluchistan, there are two other provinces in Pakistan; Punjab is populated mostly by ethnic Punjabis, and Sindh was historically dominated by Sindhis until millions of Muslims migrated from India at the time of Partition and settled in Sindhi cities such as Karachi and Hyderabad. Now, Sindh is composed of ethnic Sindhis and the descendents of these migrants, known as mohajirs.

Foreigners are prohibited from entering FATA without government permission. If you see a newspaper dateline from a town inside FATA, chances are that the Pakistani Army organized a field trip for reporters. Those traveling unaccompanied into, say, South Waziristan have either a death wish or a really good rapport with the Taliban, who effectively run North and South Waziristan and large portions of the other agencies and frontier regions. The recalcitrance of the tribesmen is hardly something new. In the words of Lord Curzon, the former viceroy of India: “No patchwork scheme -- and all our present recent schemes, blockade, allowances, etc., are mere patchwork -- will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steamroller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine.”

Next: A Taliban Who's Who >>




   The Idiot's Guide to Pakistan
 
2. A Taliban Who’s Who

In December 2007, the smattering of bearded, black-turbaned, AK-47-toting gangs in FATA and NWFP announced that they would now answer to a single name, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban Movement. For decades, Pakistani jihadists have used such fancy names to declare splinter groups (many of which go unnoticed), but some analysts latched onto the TTP as gospel and postulated that, overnight, the Talibs had become disciplined and united. In the process, such analysts have overlooked important distinctions and divisions within the pro-Taliban groups operating in Pakistan.

Let’s start with a little history. In 1996, Mullah Mohammed Omar and his band of “Taliban” -- defined in Urdu, Pashto, and Arabic as “students” or “seekers” -- conquered Afghanistan. Five years later, the United States routed the Taliban government and the al Qaeda henchmen who had been operating under Mullah Omar’s protection. Many of them escaped into FATA, which is of course technically part of Pakistan but truthfully ruled by tribes whose loyalty, in this instance, fell with the Taliban and their foreign guests, al Qaeda. Before long, groups of men from FATA had begun banding together and crossing the border to fight against the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Pashtuns ignore the border separating Afghanistan and Pakistan, named the Durand Line after the Englishman who drew it in 1893; the Pashtun “nation” encompasses wherever Pashtuns may live. Fighting the Americans, therefore, was seen as self-defense, even for the residents of FATA. Meanwhile, al Qaeda was entrenching itself more and more in FATA. These largely Arab and Uzbek outsiders influenced a new Taliban mind-set, one far more aggressive toward the Pakistani military and disruptive toward the local, tribal traditions.

So, back to the cocktail party: Someone mentions Baitullah Mehsud, the man accused by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence of masterminding the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Although Mehsud is the nominal chief of the TTP, he has plenty of rivals, even in his native South Waziristan. Two major tribes populate South Waziristan: the Mehsuds and the Wazirs. The Wazirs dominate Wana, the main city in South Waziristan. But the ranking Taliban leader from the Wazirs, Maulvi Nazir, is a darling of Pakistan’s military establishment.

You’re probably scratching your head right now, a bit confused. You see, Nazir is only interested in fighting U.S., Afghan, and NATO forces across the border. He is not part of the TTP and has not been involved in the wave of violence sweeping Pakistan of late. Therefore, in the minds of Pakistani generals, he is a “good” Taliban versus Baitullah Mehsud, who is, in their mind, unequivocally “bad.” That’s just one example of Talibs living in Pakistan who do not necessarily come under the title “Pakistani Taliban” or the “Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan” moniker.

In Swat Valley, where Islamabad recently signed a peace treaty with the Taliban, the fissures among the militants are more generational. Swat, unlike South Waziristan, is part of NWFP and shares no border with Afghanistan. In the late 1980s, a group calling itself the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, TNSM or the Movement for the Establishment of the Law of Mohammed, launched a drive to impose Islamic law in Swat and its environs. They resorted to violence against the state in the 1990s on numerous occasions, including once taking over the local airport and blocking the main road connecting Pakistan to China.

After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the leader of TNSM, Sufi Mohammed, organized a group of madrasa students and led them across the border to combat the Americans. But only Sufi Mohammed returned. The legions who had followed him were “martyred,” or so he told their parents. Sufi Mohammed was thrown in jail by then president and Army chief Pervez Musharraf, and so he named his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, to run TNSM in his stead. But Fazlullah had wider ambitions and assembled a several-hundred-man army vowing to fight the Pakistani government. The senior leadership of TNSM soon disowned Fazlullah, who happily embarked on his own and is now Mehsud’s deputy in the TTP. For the past year and a half, Fazlullah’s devotees have bombed, kidnapped, and assassinated anyone who’s dared to challenge their writ in Swat.

By 2008, Sufi Mohammed looked like a moderate in comparison to his son-in-law. So the Pakistani government asked him to mediate. Perhaps he could cool Fazlullah down. The recent treaty you’ve heard about in Swat is between the Pakistani government and Sufi Mohammed, who has pledged to bring Fazlullah on board. So far, the treaty has held, unless you count the soldiers who were killed by Fazlullah’s Talibs for not “informing the Taliban of their movements.”

Next: Kiss My Lashkar >>




   The Idiot's Guide to Pakistan
 
3. Kiss My Lashkar

You might have heard the word lashkar of late and wondered what a science fiction character was doing in Pakistan. This past fall, two distinctly different stories featured lashkars carrying out two distinctly different missions. In one, Lashkar-e-Taiba was executing a murderous campaign of violence in Mumbai; in another, lashkars were fighting against the Taliban in FATA. In other words, one was having a terrible effect while the other seemed to be doing some good. (Oh yeah, in another, less read story, Lashkar-e-Janghvi was killing Shiites in the southwestern city of Quetta.) So what gives? What’s a lashkar?

In Arabic, the language of Islam, a lashkar describes an irregular tribal militia. Say you’re a tribesman in South Waziristan who has beef with a member of a rival tribe. You need a posse. So you raise a lashkar. When news broke in October that the Pakistani government was sending Chinese-made AK-47s to tribesmen willing to defy Taliban rule in FATA, the weapons were said to be sent to lashkars. That’s a lashkar in the traditional sense of the word.

But Pakistan’s jihadi groups, to glorify their agendas, have long used the word lashkar in their names. (Other common Arabic names for army include sipah and jaish.) Although Lashkar-e-Taiba is committed to fighting the Indians over Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Janghvi is bent on killing Shiites, and Jaish-e-Mohammed seems ready to attack anyone. The proliferation of these terrorist militias became so bad that in January 2002, Musharraf was obliged to declare, “Our army is the only sipah and lashkar in Pakistan.”

Next: Border Guards >>

 




   The Idiot's Guide to Pakistan
 
4. Border Guards

If there was so much confusion over who was and wasn’t the real army in Pakistan that the Army chief had to intervene and clarify, perhaps someone from the Pakistani military should set the record straight on who’s fighting whom in FATA. This confusion came to a head last June, when a contingent of Pakistani forces, known as the Frontier Corps, was locked in a gun battle with U.S. soldiers across the border. The U.S. troops were pursuing Talibs attempting to retreat back across the border into Pakistan. The kerfuffle ended -- at least the armed one, the diplomatic one was just starting -- when a few bombs dropped by U.S. planes landed on the Frontier Corps outposts and killed 11 Pakistani border guards. So what’s the deal with the Frontier Corps? Whose side are they on anyway?


Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
The Frontier Corps (FC) are a paramilitary force composed of roughly 80,000 men tasked with border security, law enforcement, and increasingly, counterinsurgency in FATA, NWFP, and Baluchistan. (Rangers fill similar tasks in Punjab and Sindh, the provinces bordering India.) By almost any definition outlining the ideal counterinsurgent, the FC would be it: They are almost all Pashtuns, more familiar with the language, the people, the tribes, and the terrain than any regular Pakistani soldier or U.S. troop could ever be. But their biggest advantage also happens to be their biggest liability, because Pashtuns are renowned for their sense of community; asking one Pashtun to kill another, especially when it’s seen as being done at the bidding of an “outsider,” be it Punjabi or American, would be like your boss telling you to kill your cousin. Not gonna happen, right?

The Pakistani leadership, and before them, the British, weren’t blind to this issue. To try to limit potential conflicts of interest, they said that Wazirs wouldn’t serve in Waziri areas, Afridis (based in Khyber agency and FR Kohat) wouldn’t serve in Afridi areas, and so on. Questions over ethnic sympathies simply couldn’t be surmounted, but this way at least concerns over clan and family sympathies could.

In the past few years, Washington has realized the significance of the FC and tried to enhance its fighting capability. (Traditionally, an FC corpsman would sport a salwar-kameez -- the baggy trousers and tunic get-up -- leather sandals, and an AK-47.) But the problems of getting money to the right FC units have been numerous.

First off, the FC falls under the Interior Ministry, not the Defense Ministry, which overseas the half-million-member Army and has received the lion’s share of U.S. aid since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Defense Ministry’s dominance of the aid game means that the money Washington gives Islamabad to reimburse Pakistani security forces for operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda, money known as Coalition Support Funds, hardly, if ever, trickles down to the FC units manning a border post in South Waziristan who are, truly, on the “front lines” of the so-called war on terror.

Second, there is an issue of command structure because the FC is officered by regular Army colonels and generals. And finally, there is the problem that, owing to the widespread anger among Pashtuns toward the United States and the Pakistani establishment, no one can say whether the FC won’t simply hand over night-vision goggles and new weapons to the Taliban, especially when oversight by U.S. officials in FATA, parts of NWFP, and Baluchistan is so scarce.

Next: Finger on the Trigger >>




   The Idiot's Guide to Pakistan
 
5. Finger on the Trigger

There is some leeway in the grooming standards and fitness levels expected by the Pakistani Army -- especially for officers. Mornings are for praying and sleeping; lunches are for buffets; and evenings are for gallons of tea. Not much time for exercise, is there? And mustaches? The thicker, the better. Beards? The longer, the better. Does that mean that the Pakistani Army is composed of Islamic fundamentalists salivating at the opportunity to fire some nukes? Yes and no.


Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
First a disclaimer: Most Pakistani soldiers consider India to be their mortal enemy and would like nothing more than to incinerate their neighbor. They get that from the grade-school textbooks. And they will usually frame the conflict between them and India as one between Islam and Hinduism. This ground has been pretty well covered by others who write about Pakistan.

But we should realize that anti-Indianism doesn’t translate to Talibanism, what with locking up womenfolk and caning criminals and all. Consider the serving chief of Army staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who is beardless, reportedly enjoys an occasional Scotch and a game of bridge, chain-smokes cigarettes through a long plastic tip, and is a favorite of the Americans. In other words, he’s not likely to declare himself “Commander of the Faithful” anytime soon.

But what about the ISI? We hear so much about the ISI, or Inter-Services Intelligence, being manned by al Qaeda sympathizers, sponsoring regional terrorism, and forming the vanguard of Islamism in Pakistan. Aren’t they Islamist?

Let’s complicate matters before we take up this question. The ISI is the intelligence wing of the military. The Army, meanwhile, has its own intelligence wing, confusingly named Military Intelligence (MI). The Interior Ministry has its own: Special Branch. And so on and so forth; there are more intelligence wings in Pakistan than there are varieties of dal. And when Pakistanis on the street suspect that they’re involved in something nefarious, they simply refer to “the agencies.” That way, there’s no need to specify which agency was responsible because no one has any idea who is behind what, frankly.

Are people within the ISI any more Islamist than any of the others? I don’t see why they would be. The ISI draws from the ranks of the regular Army (in addition to some civilians), the same Army that is commanded by Sandhurst-educated, Johnnie Walker Black Label-loving Anglophiles. What makes the ISI different is not so much its personnel as its agenda, an agenda that might, on any given day, include ferrying money to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan or training Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters to wage jihad against India in Kashmir. These programs are considered to serve Pakistan’s national interests, not the religious preferences of its generals.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any kind of soft corner for the agencies and certainly don’t want to seem an apologist for them. They kicked me out of the country once via deportation and chased me out another time by planting stories in the local press that I had been kidnapped. I feel no love for the ISI, MI, Special Branch, or any of their shady affiliates. But they’re not all the same. Keep that in mind at your next cocktail party. We should know what we’re talking about when we talk about Pakistan.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4782
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« Reply #396 on: March 31, 2009, 06:05:26 PM »

My head spins.

Good piece.

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

By ABDULLAH GüL
International efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and improve the lives of the Afghan people have fallen short of their targets. There is daily violence in the country and expectations continue to outpace achieved results. It is time for a policy shift. It is time for increased involvement.

We must first accept that so far the international community has not achieved results that match the significant sum of funds it has spent. We must also realize that Afghanistan and its surrounding region cannot be a secondary source of concern. We need to understand that this region is the new "powder keg" of the world and that the stakes are as high as they can be.

Therefore, it is encouraging to know that President Barack Obama understands these facts and has reviewed the United States' Afghanistan policy.

Not everything has gone awry. This year, Afghanistan will hold presidential elections. Next year, it will hold parliamentary elections, completing a transition to democracy. The Afghan people now have a right to universal suffrage.

However, more must be done. The Afghan National Army is composed of tough fighters, but it needs better equipment and training. I saw this first hand on a visit to the country. I saw two units. One was composed of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops; the other was composed of Afghans. What struck me was that the international soldiers had much better equipment.

One Afghan commander summed it up for me this way: "If anyone has to die for Afghanistan, it must not be the children of foreign nations. It must be our sons, and they are ready to do so. But they must be given a fair chance to be able to fight for their country. They must be properly armed and trained."

But more troops and more money alone will not be enough. The Afghan government needs military force to operate from a position of strength. But real improvement requires embracing every Afghan ready to work through peaceful means for the good of their country.

Political, diplomatic, economic, and social efforts must be increased and focused on consolidating national unity to bring about tangible improvement to people's lives. To have peace, we must win over the people.

There is a role here for the international community in enabling Afghan officials working to meet the basic needs of their people. Health care and education must both be top priorities. The country's civil service needs work. Its judiciary and police forces need to be strengthened. The people must come to believe that change is underway that will create a sense of normalcy for them.

We are doing our part. One thing I noticed in Kabul was unpaved roads. Where cars and trucks should have been able to drive unimpeded, people slogged through knee-deep mud. To fix this, Turkey is paving more than 60 miles of roads inside Kabul.

There is one more area of struggle, and it is the most difficult one. Extremist ideology in the region must be confronted. Education is the long-term remedy. The Afghans' desire for education is strong. What's needed is an international fund to support education in Afghanistan.

Turkey, which has cultural bonds with Afghanistan, could take the lead in creating such a fund. We have seen firsthand how much can be achieved with perseverance and hard work that does not alienate the people. Today, Turkey is involved in building and operating girls' schools where once girls could not walk on the streets.

Turkey, with its limited resources, is doing what it can to support Afghanistan. Since 2002, Turkey has assumed command of the ISAF twice. Turkey has also provided training, equipment and support to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. To support Afghanistan, Turkey has launched its most comprehensive long-term assistance program in its history. And our commitment to reconstruction in Afghanistan is ongoing.

The international community cannot abandon the Afghan people at their time of difficulty. Rather than being mired in subjective discussions of hopelessness, we should draw the necessary lessons from the past and focus on helping the Afghan people build necessary institutions and find their own solutions to the problems they face.

Mr. Gül is the president of the Republic of Turkey.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2009, 06:11:30 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #397 on: April 02, 2009, 05:47:08 PM »

 

IMPLICATIONS OF THE MANAWAN ATTACK

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

On March 31, Baitullah Mehsud, commander of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),
called The Associated Press and Reuters to claim responsibility for the March 29
attack against a Pakistani police academy in Manawan, which is near the eastern
Pakistani city of Lahore and the Indian border. The attack had been previously
claimed by a little-known group, Fedayeen al-Islam (FI), which also took
responsibility for the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September 2008.
Mehsud has also released an Urdu-language audio message claiming responsibility for
the Manawan attack as well as a failed March 23 attack on the headquarters of the
Police Special Branch in Islamabad. Mehsud, whom authorities claim was behind the
March 3 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, also warned that there
would be additional attacks all across the country in retaliation for U.S. drone
strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Area. He even threatened to launch
attacks in Washington, D.C.

It is not clear at this point if the two claims of responsibility for the Manawan
attack are indeed contradictory. If FI is an independent group, it is possible that
it was working with Mehsud in the assault on the police academy. However, it is also
quite possible that FI is either part of the larger TTP (which is an umbrella group
with many factions) or perhaps just a nom de guerre used by the TTP to claim certain
attacks. When a reporter asked about the FI claim, Mehsud refused to comment. Two
things can be ascertained from this: that Mehsud's organization has the ability to
conduct these attacks, and that a major jihadist figure like Mehsud has no real need
to claim the attacks of others to bolster his reputation. In fact, lying about such
a thing would hurt his well-established reputation.

It is a good bet, therefore, that the TTP was in fact involved in the Manawan
attack. The odds are even greater when one considers the intelligence reports from a
few days prior to the attack: that Mehsud had dispatched a group of 22 operatives
from his base in South Waziristan, through the town of Mianwali in southwestern
Punjab, to conduct attacks in Lahore and Rawalpindi. Pakistani authorities were
actively searching for those operatives when the attack occurred in Manawan. 

While STRATFOR has already published a political assessment of the Manawan attack,
we believe it might also be interesting to look at the incident from a protective
intelligence standpoint and examine the tactical aspects of the operation in more
detail.

Sequence of Events

The attack on the police academy in Manawan happened at approximately 7:20 a.m. on
March 29 as more than 800 unarmed police cadets were on the parade field for their
regularly scheduled morning training. Witness reports suggest that there were 10
attackers who scaled the back wall of the academy and began to attack the cadets.
Part of the attack team reportedly was dressed in police uniforms, while the rest
reportedly wore shalwar kameez (traditional Pakistani dress). Several members of the
team also wore suicide belts, and at least some of them carried large duffle bags
(similar to those carried by the assailants in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and
the March 3 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore). The gunmen reportedly
engaged the cadets with hand grenades and fire from assault rifles. As the gunmen
raked the parade ground, many of the cadets reportedly fled the compound or
barricaded themselves in various rooms inside the facility. Because the bulk of the
people at the academy were cadets and not trained police, they were not issued
firearms.

The armed guards at the academy were able to offer some resistance, but the attack
team was able to make its way across the parade ground and into the barracks, where
the attackers established defensive positions, apparently with the hope of
initiating a prolonged hostage situation. Reports are conflicting as to how many
hostages they were actually able to seize and control inside the barracks.

The Pakistani police and military responded aggressively to the attack. Within about
30 minutes, officers from the Elite Force -- a highly trained branch of the Punjab
Police responsible for counterterrorism -- reportedly had surrounded the barracks
building. By 9 a.m., paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and Pakistani army troops began
to arrive. Many of the wounded cadets were evacuated from the parade ground using
armored personnel carriers (APCs) to protect them from the attackers' fire. The
attackers apparently attempted to use grenades to attack the APCs, but were met with
heavy suppressive fire from the security forces. Pakistani forces also apparently
used tear gas against the attackers, as well as APCs and helicopter gunships.
Eventually, the Elite Force went room to room to clear the barracks building of
attackers. By 4 p.m., the siege had ended, with six of the attackers captured and
four killed. (Three of the four reportedly killed themselves using suicide belts.)
Despite initial reports of high casualties, it now appears that only eight police
officers or cadets were killed in the attack, with more than 90 others wounded.

While armed assaults against paramilitary forces, convoys and other targets are
common along the border with Afghanistan, this attack was only the second such
attack in Lahore. Terrorist attacks in Pakistan have more commonly been committed by
suicide bombers, and it appears that Mehsud's group may have embraced a change in
tactics, perhaps influenced by the success of Mumbai. (However, as we will discuss
below, this latest attack, like the attack on the cricket team, was far from a
spectacular success.)

Analysis

First, it must be recognized that jihadist attacks on police recruits are not
uncommon. We have seen attacks on police training and recruiting centers in Iraq and
Afghanistan, among other countries, and we have also seen them before in Pakistan.
On July 15, 2007, a suicide bomber attacked a police recruitment center in Dera
Ismail Khan, killing 26 people and wounding 35. The victims were at the center to
take medical and written tests for entering the police force.

A training center like the one in Manawan provides an unusually large concentration
of targets. The more than 800 cadets at the academy were a far larger group of
police than is normally found in the police stations scattered throughout the
country. The training center was also a far softer target than a traditional police
station, where all the officers are armed. From media reports, it appears that there
were only seven armed guards on duty at the academy at the time of the attack. The
instructors allegedly were armed only with lathis (long canes commonly used by
police in India and Pakistan). The academy's rigid training schedule also provided a
highly predictable target, as the attackers knew the cadets would be on the parade
field from 7-8 a.m. every day.

With so many potential targets on the parade field and in the barracks, and with so
many attackers, it is amazing that there were only eight people killed in this
attack (one-fourth the death toll of the April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting). This is
an indication that the Manawan attackers were not nearly as well trained in
marksmanship as the assault team that conducted the November Mumbai attacks, in
which 10 gunmen killed 173 people. The 10 heavily armed Manawan assailants did not
even succeed in killing one victim each in a situation akin to shooting fish in a
barrel. 

From a military standpoint, such a formation of massed people in the open would have
been far more effectively targeted using mortars and crew-served machine guns, so it
can also be argued that the attack was poorly planned and the attackers improperly
equipped to inflict maximum casualties. Even so, it is quite amazing to us that
attackers armed with assault rifles and grenades did not kill one victim apiece. 

Of course, one thing that helped contain the carnage was the response of Pakistani
security personnel and their efforts to evacuate the wounded under fire. While not
exactly practicing what are known in the United States as "active shooter
procedures", the Elite Force officers did quickly engage the attackers and pin them
down until more firepower could be brought to bear. The Elite Force also did a
fairly efficient job of clearing the barracks of attackers. The Pakistani response
ensured that the incident did not drag on like the Mumbai attacks did. The Elite
Force went in hard and fast, and seemingly with little regard for the hostages being
held, yet their decisive action proved to be very effective, and the result was that
a minimum number of hostages were killed.

There were some significant differences from the situation in Mumbai. First, there
was only one crime scene to deal with, and the Pakistani authorities could focus all
their attention and resources there. Second, the barracks building was far smaller
and simpler than the hotels occupied in the Mumbai attacks. Third, Manawan is far
smaller and more isolated than Mumbai, and it is easier to pin the attackers down in
a city of that size than in a larger, more densely populated city such as Mumbai.
Finally, there were no foreign citizens involved in the hostage situation, so the
Pakistani authorities did not have to worry about international sensibilities or
killing a foreign citizen with friendly fire. They were able to act aggressively and
not worry about distractions -- or the media circus that Mumbai became.

The Future

Perhaps the most important thing to watch going forward will be the response of the
Pakistani people to these attacks. In his claim of responsibility, Mehsud said the
Manawan attack was in direct response to the expanding U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle
(UAV) campaign in Pakistan. Mehsud threatened that there would be more militant
attacks in Pakistan and the United States if the UAV attacks did not stop. Clearly,
Mehsud is feeling the heat from these attacks, and although he claims he is ready to
be martyred, his bravado is belied by the fact that he is taking such extraordinary
measures to try to halt the UAV campaign. He obviously fears the UAV strikes, not
only for what they can do to him, but for what they can do to degrade his
organization. 

When the Elite Force completed the clearing of the barracks, several officers came
out on the roof of the building, shouted "God is great" and fired celebratory shots
into the air (something that is anathema to Western police and military forces).
Many of the people gathered outside the academy joined in the shouting and loudly
cheered the Elite Force. This sentiment was widely echoed in the Pakistani media.

Although the Manawan attack was intended to demoralize Pakistani security forces, it
may have just the opposite effect. The bravery and dedication exhibited by the
Pakistani police and soldiers who responded to the attack may instead serve to steel
their will and instill professional pride. Mehsud's recent threats, along with the
militant attacks, may also work to alienate him from people who had been supportive
of -- or at least ambivalent toward -- him and the jihadists.

Up until 2003, the Saudi public, and many in the government, pretty much turned a
blind eye to the actions of jihadists in Saudi Arabia as long as the jihadists were
concentrating their attacks on targets outside the kingdom. But when the jihadists
declared war on the Saudi royal family and began to conduct attacks against targets
inside the kingdom that resulted in the deaths of ordinary Saudis, the tide of
public opinion turned against them and the Saudi government reacted aggressively,
smashing the jihadists. Similarly, it was the brutality of al Qaeda in Iraq that
helped turn many Iraqi Sunnis against the jihadists there. Indeed, an insurgency
cannot survive long without the support of the people. In the case of Pakistan, that
also goes for the support of Inter-Services Intelligence and the army. The TTP, al
Qaeda and their Kashmiri militant allies simply cannot sustain themselves without at
least the tacit support of Pakistan's intelligence apparatus and army. If these two
powerful establishments ever turn against them, the groups will be in serious peril.
 

Pakistan has long been able to control the TTP and al Qaeda more than it has. The
country has simply lacked the will, for a host of reasons. It will be interesting to
watch and see if Mehsud's campaign serves to give the Pakistani people, and the
authorities, the will they need to finally take more serious steps to tackle the
jihadist problem. Having long battled deep currents of jihadist thought within the
country, the Pakistani government continues to face serious challenges. But if the
tide of public support begins to turn against the jihadists, those challenges will
become far more manageable.
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« Reply #398 on: April 11, 2009, 09:25:48 AM »

By MATTHEW KAMINSKI
Islamabad, Pakistan

His face tense and unsmiling, a young man from a village in Pakistan's western tribal areas tells his story, mixing English, Pashto and Urdu. He is the only male in his clan to get an education, but can't find a job, and blames a corrupt national government. Americans are bombing his neighbors, he says, tempting him to join the Islamist militants in his area. Across the room, another Pakistani turns toward his hosts at the U.S. Embassy and says, "You are hated."
 
Ismael RoldanThe comments are addressed to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and the new American special representative for the region, Richard Holbrooke. Seated alongside the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, Mr. Holbrooke asks a dozen or so men in the room about the presence of the Taliban in their villages. "We are all Taliban," comes a response. The others nod in accord. All are or were "religious students," or Taliban in Pashto. But the expression of solidarity with the various Pakistani and Afghan insurgents who go by the name is lost on no one.

After the meeting, Mr. Holbrooke looks shaken, out of character for a diplomatic operator who picked up the nickname "bulldozer" a decade ago in the Balkans. As he knows, these men who spoke so directly to him are the "friendly" types from the tribal areas -- literate, ambitious and willing to risk the ire of the Taliban fighters to meet him and Adm. Mullen at the embassy.

Their home regions of North and South Waziristan and the Khyber agency are familiar place names in this long war: as the world's sanctuary to al Qaeda's leadership, as the launching pad for attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan, and as the source of the Islamist challenge to the civilian government atop this rickety nuclear-armed state.

The Obama administration recently unveiled a new strategy to enlarge America's military footprint in Afghanistan and press Pakistan to act against Taliban safe havens. Mr. Holbrooke and Admiral Mullen took the policy on a regional road show this week, and at every stop got a sobering earful. While Afghanistan's troubles are monumental, the nightmare scenarios start and end with Pakistan.

Mr. Holbrooke, who leads the diplomatic charge, acknowledges the hardest work will be here. His airplane reading is Dennis Kux's history of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship titled, "The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies." "Pakistan is at the center of our strategic concerns," he tells me Tuesday night, flying from Islamabad to India's capital, Delhi. "If Afghanistan had the best government on earth, a drug-free culture and no corruption it would still be unstable if the situation in Pakistan remained as today. That is an undisputable fact, and that is the core of the dilemma that the Western nations, the NATO alliance, face today."

Take the dilemma a logical step further, I suggest. The terrorists who threaten America are in Pakistan, but the U.S. fights the Afghan Taliban, who don't. "That's a fair point," says Mr. Holbrooke, "but the reason for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is clear: The Taliban are the frontrunners for al Qaeda. If they succeed in Afghanistan, without any shadow of a doubt, al Qaeda would move back into Afghanistan, set up a larger presence, recruit more people and pursue its objectives against the United States even more aggressively." Public support for the expanded U.S. Afghan mission hinges on making this case stick.

In a Hillary Clinton White House, Mr. Holbrooke would almost certainly be in charge at the State Department. In this administration, he serves Secretary Clinton and brings a familiar mix of enthusiasm and bluster, charming and bullying the world's difficult characters. In the previous decade, Mr. Holbrooke brokered the end of the Bosnian conflict, working then as now closely with the military. He went on to write a memoir titled "To End a War" and become something of a celebrity in the Balkans, even having a bar in Kosovo named after him. The 1995 Dayton peace talks "was 21 days and it was pass or fail," he says. "This is more complicated even than that."

The complications in Afghanistan start with an incubator state and mind-boggling corruption, from top to bottom. The past year saw a sharp spike in Afghan civilian as well as American casualties. A rural insurgency is fed by anger at the government and money from the Gulf states, as well as the booming poppy trade. The administration will send 17,000 additional combat troops to confront the Taliban, initially in the south. Mr. Obama also approved 4,000 military trainers, and plans are in the works to double the target size for the army and the police.

Mr. Holbrooke needs to walk a fine diplomatic line. On the one hand, he assures people who know their history that America won't pull the plug early on this project. At a meeting with Afghan female legislators who have most to fear from a Taliban comeback, he says, "President Obama has made a commitment. We will not abandon you." On the other hand, the U.S. must counter Taliban propaganda that America replaced Russia as the occupying force. With conservative Afghan religious leaders, Mr. Holbrooke shifts his emphasis: "We are not here as occupiers. We are here to help you. We will leave when you no longer need us."

Though Adm. Mullen provides the plane on this trip and holds the senior job, Mr. Holbrooke takes the lead in meetings. He moderates discussions like a big-band leader, improvising as necessary. "Good to have a force of nature on the case," notes a European diplomat watching one performance over dinner in Kabul. "You're reminded that half of diplomacy is theater." Holbrooke detractors tend to put the proportion higher.

America sits in the driver's seat in Afghanistan, but not Pakistan. Here it's far from clear who does.

Flying into Islamabad, Mr. Holbrooke and Adm. Mullen call on the civilian and military rulers to ask for action against the militants in the tribal areas. The Pakistanis press back. At a joint press conference, the foreign minister is prickly, denouncing strikes by unmanned U.S. Predators on Pakistani territory and noting an absence of "trust."

In private, American officials report no better progress. The Pakistanis say their terror problems are Afghanistan's fault. They resent American criticism of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military's intelligence arm that nurtured Islamist groups for decades, and rule out the deployment of any American troops on their territory.

Talking to the Pakistani press, Mr. Holbrooke says, "We face a common threat, a common challenge." Pakistani civilians are concerned by the rising number of suicide bombings, now seen in once tranquil Islamabad and Lahore. Whether the army is as well is the question. The military struck a "peace" deal with the local Taliban in the Swat Valley. President Asif Ali Zardari didn't sign the accord, but the military went ahead to implement it, turning a former tourist destination in the mountains into a Taliban redoubt beyond the reach of the Pakistani state. The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan dates back to the previous regime's 2006 truce with the militants in Pakistani border areas.

Among Pakistani politicians, Mr. Zardari speaks most clearly about the threat emanating from the country's west, noting the assassination in late 2007 of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. But he is politically weak, and sounds disinclined to push the military to wage war against the Pashtun tribes in the mountains.

"Holbrooke is a friend," Mr. Zardari tells me and a couple other journalists along for the ride on this listening tour. "But it's a long walk. And in that long walk I am losing the people of Pakistan."

Mr. Holbrooke says the Pakistani president "deserves credit for his personal courage" in holding the job. He welcomes the "statesmanlike" resolution of a recent political feud with rival Nawaz Sharif over the reinstatement of a supreme court judge. The fight could have resulted, he says, in "civil war on the one hand or assassinations on the other."

With politics a sideshow, many observers, including in American intelligence, think the Pakistani military and the ISI play a double game. They make the necessary pledges to secure billions in American aid while keeping ties to Islamists. The calculation, a Pakistani analyst notes, is America will leave sooner or later and the military needs to hedge its strategic bets.

"We are well aware of these accusations," says Mr. Holbrooke. "But our experience with [Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani does not support them. We deal with him with respect and with the assumption that he is a serious person doing the best he can under difficult circumstances."

As part of a "long-term commitment to Pakistan," the Obama administration wants to lock in billions in aid for the country. Military officials also say the scope of Predator strikes will be broadened, against Pakistani official objections, and efforts to get the adversarial Pakistani and Afghan intelligence services to cooperate will be intensified. Mr. Holbrooke insists the U.S. will respect Pakistan's "red lines" about American combat troops.

"Some people say to me, particularly after a few drinks, 'Why don't we go in there with our troops and just clean it up?'" he says. "First of all we can't without their permission, and that would not be a good idea. Secondly, cleaning them up in the mountains of Pakistan's tribal areas, as anyone can see from the search for al Qaeda in Afghanistan, is a daunting mission. It's the same kind of mountains. A few weeks ago I flew up through the deepest and remotest valleys imaginable. You could see tiny villages in the crevices in the mountains. You don't want American troops in there. So that option's gone."

Though only Pakistan and Afghanistan appear in his job title, Mr. Holbrooke isn't one to think small. He helped court the Europeans to chip in more troops and aid -- with no more success on the former than the Bush administration. He wants to press the Gulf states to cut the illicit flow of funding to the Taliban, involve India and reach out to the Chinese, who are close to the Pakistani military. Last month, at the donor's conference on Afghanistan at The Hague, he was the first American official to engage an Iranian official since 1979. After Iran downplayed the encounter, so does Mr. Holbrooke. "I'm very much in favor of giving Iran a place at the table if it wants it to discuss the future of Afghanistan," he says. "But they have not indicated whether they wish to participate or not."

Mr. Holbrooke's first posting was in Saigon in the 1960s. As Vietnam analogies for Afghanistan mushroom, particularly from inside his own Democratic Party, he doesn't dismiss them outright. But he makes a case for continued engagement with a view, perhaps, toward firming up support on the Hill and among the public for a war about to enter its eighth year. "There are a lot of structural similarities" with Vietnam, he says. "The sanctuary [in Pakistan]. They even have a parrot's peak in both countries, on the Pakistan-Afghan border just as there was in Cambodia. An issue of governance. The fact that the government was supporting a guerilla war. Counterinsurgency.

"But the fundamental difference is 9/11. The Vietcong and the north Vietnamese never posed a threat to the United States homeland. The people of 9/11 who were in that area still do and are still planning. That is why we're in the region with troops. That's the only justification for what we're doing. If the tribal areas of western Pakistan were not a sanctuary, I believe that Afghanistan could take care of itself within a relatively short period of time."

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal's editorial board.
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« Reply #399 on: April 13, 2009, 06:26:45 AM »

http://www.watoday.com.au/world/west-warned-on-nuclear-terrorist-threat-from-pakistan-20090413-a4ac.html?page=-1

West warned on nuclear terrorist threat from Pakistan
Paul McGeough
April 11, 2009

The next few months will be crucial in defusing a global terrorist threat that would be even deadlier than the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a leading Washington counter-terrorism expert warns.

David Kilcullen — a former Australian army lieutenant colonel who helped devise the US troop surge that revitalised the American campaign in Iraq — fears Pakistan is at risk of falling under al-Qaeda control.

If that were to happen, the terrorist group could end up controlling what Dr Kilcullen calls "Talibanistan". "Pakistan is what keeps me awake at night," said Dr Kilcullen, who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House.

"Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al-Qaeda sitting in two-thirds of the country which the Government does not control."

Compounding that threat, the Pakistani security establishment ignored direction from the elected Government in Islamabad as waves of extremist violence spread across the whole country — not just in the tribal wilds of the Afghan border region.

"We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we're calling the war on terror now," Dr Kilcullen told The Age during an interview at his Washington office. Late last month, when US President Barack Obama unveiled his new policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, he warned that al-Qaeda would fill the vacuum if Afghanistan collapsed, and that the terror group was already rooted in Pakistan, plotting more attacks on the US.

As the US implements its new strategy in Central Asia, Dr Kilcullen warned that time was running out for international efforts to pull both countries back from the brink.

Special US Envoy Richard Holbrooke has been charged with trying to broker a regional agreement by reaching out to Iran, Russia and China. Dr Kilcullen spoke highly of Mr Holbrooke's talent as a diplomat: "This is exactly what he's good at and it could work.

"But will it? It requires regional architecture to give the Pakistani security establishment a sense of security, which might make them stop supporting the Taliban," he said.

"The best-case scenario is that the US can deal with Afghanistan, with President Obama giving leadership while the extra American troops succeed on the ground, at the same time as Mr Holbrooke seeks a regional security deal."

The worst case was that Washington would fail to stabilise Afghanistan, Pakistan would collapse and al-Qaeda would end up running what he called "Talibanistan".

"This is not acceptable; you can't have al-Qaeda in control of Pakistan's missiles," he said.

"It's too early to tell which way it will go. We'll start to know about July. That's the peak fighting season and the extra troops will have hit the ground, and it will be a month out from the Afghan presidential election."

Dr Kilcullen also cautioned Western governments against focusing too heavily on Afghanistan at the expense of the intensifying crisis in Pakistan, because "the Kabul tail was wagging the dog". Contrasting the challenges in the two countries, Dr Kilcullen described Afghanistan as a campaign to defend a reconstruction program.

"It's not really about al-Qaeda," he argued. "Afghanistan doesn't worry me. Pakistan does."

However, he was hesitant about the level of resources and likely impact of Washington's new drive to emulate the effectiveness of an Iraq-style "surge" by sending an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan.

"In Iraq, five brigades went into the centre of Baghdad in five months," he said.

"In Afghanistan, it will be two combat brigades (across the country) in 12 months. That will have much less of a punch effect than we had in Iraq.

"We can muddle through in Afghanistan. It is problematic and difficult, but we know what to do. What we don't know is if we have the time or if we can afford the cost of what needs to be done."

Dr Kilcullen said that a fault line had developed in the West's grasp of the situation on either side of the Durand Line, the long-disputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"In Afghanistan, it's easy to understand, difficult to execute. But in Pakistan, it is very difficult to understand and it's extremely difficult for us to generate any leverage, because Pakistan does not want our help.

"In a sense there is no Pakistan; no single set of opinion. Pakistan has a military and intelligence establishment that refuses to follow the directions of its civilian leadership.

"They have a tradition of using regional extremist groups as unconventional counterweights against India's regional influence.

"The (Pakistani) military also has an almost pathological phobia by which it sees al-Qaeda as 'this little problem', as distinct from what they see as the main game opposing India.

"In terms of a substantial threat, Pakistan is the main problem we face today.

"We don't have a responsible actor to work through in Islamabad. My judgement, to use diplomatic speak, is that Pakistan has yet to demonstrate genuine commitment."
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