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Topic: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan (Read 210944 times)
Reply #500 on:
October 05, 2009, 01:22:49 PM »
I can't seem to find a transcript of his speech in London.
Even though I don't agree with OBama it is not helpful to have a commander directly contradicting the commander in chief in public.
***By JOHN F. BURNS
Published: October 1, 2009
LONDON — The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, used a speech here on Thursday to reject calls for the war effort to be scaled down from defeating the Taliban insurgency to a narrower focus on hunting down Al Qaeda, an option suggested by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as part of the current White House strategy review.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal speaking in London on Thursday about the war in Afghanistan. He has requested more troops.
Several Afghan Strategies, None a Clear Choice (October 1, 2009) After his first 100 days in command in Kabul, General McChrystal chose an audience of military specialists at London’s Institute for Strategic Studies as a platform for a public airing of the confidential assessment of the war he delivered to the Pentagon in late August, parts of which were leaked to news organizations. General McChrystal, 55, did not mention Mr. Biden or his advocacy of a scaled-down war effort during his London speech, and referred only obliquely to the debate within the Obama administration on whether to escalate the American commitment in Afghanistan by accepting his request for up to 40,000 more American troops on top of the 68,000 already deployed there or en route.
But he used the London session for a rebuttal of the idea of a more narrowly focused war. When a questioner asked him whether he would support scaling back the American military presence over the next 18 months by relinquishing the battle with the Taliban and focusing on tracking down Al Qaeda, sparing ground troops by hunting Qaeda extremists and their leaders with missiles from remotely piloted aircraft, he replied: “The short answer is: no.”
“You have to navigate from where you are, not from where you wish to be,” he said. “A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.”
In Washington on Thursday, Gen. David H. Petraeus told an audience that he had “not yet endorsed” General McChrystal’s specific request for additional troops, even though he has said he supports General McChrystal’s grim assessment of the war.
General Petraeus, the American commander who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and works closely with General McChrystal, was sounding a careful note in public after participating in a three-hour strategy meeting with Mr. Obama and the administration’s national security team at the White House on Wednesday. For now, his aides say he does not want to get ahead of the president and the continuing deliberations.
Speaking with Brian Williams of NBC as part of a two-day conference with newsmakers at the Newseum in Washington, General Petraeus said that Wednesday’s meeting at the White House was “a very good and quite long discussion going back and looking at the goals and objectives and assumptions” underlying Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan strategy that the president announced in March.
At the Institute for Strategic Studies, General McChrystal noted that the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan had provided sanctuary to Al Qaeda, from which it planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, and he said political stability there was vital to regional security, as well as to the security of Britain, the United States and elsewhere.
Advocating a “counterterrorist focus” in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda, instead of a “counterinsurgency focus” against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, he said, was a formula for what he called “Chaos-istan.” Proponents of that approach, he said, would accept an Afghanistan in which there was “a level of chaos, and just manage it from outside.”
The general’s troop request was at the heart of the White House strategy session on Wednesday led by Mr. Obama, which included Mr. Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, other cabinet secretaries, top generals, and General McChrystal, participating by videolink from London. The request has come as the worsening conflict in Afghanistan has prompted increased unease in the United States and Europe.
In an oblique acknowledgment of the tricky political terrain, General McChrystal said there had been no pressure on him from military superiors to scale down his troop request — a pattern that developed at points during the Iraq war, when American generals hesitated to call for more troops after the defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, ruled them out.
“All of the interaction I’ve had with my senior leadership, they’ve not only encouraged me” to be blunt in stating his case, the general said, “they’ve insisted on it.”
As if in an afterthought, he added, laughing, that there was no certainty he would always be so free to speak so plainly. “They may change their minds and crush me some day,” he said.
General McChrystal was named the new American and allied commander in Afghanistan this summer in succession to Gen. David D. McKiernan, who was removed after barely a year in the job, and retired, when Mr. Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates decided they needed a fresh approach.
But direct contact between Mr. Obama and the Afghanistan commander has been rare. Aides in London said that Wednesday’s teleconference was only the second time since General McChrystal assumed his command in June that the two men had talked by videolink, a form of contact with field commanders that President George W. Bush, at the height of the Iraq war, used as often as once a week. Although he was out of Afghanistan on Wednesday, the aides said, General McChrystal was not invited to attend the White House strategy session in person.
But judging from General McChrystal’s relaxed demeanor at the session in London, any suggestion he might be headed for a showdown with the White House over war strategy — for the kind of clash that Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur had with President Truman during the Korean War — seemed far-fetched. He went out of his way to say that the White House strategy review was an essential part of developing a successful approach to the war. “I think the more deliberation and the more debate we have, the healthier that’s going to be,” he said.
In the war assessment he delivered to the Pentagon, he struck a note of urgency, saying that if the troop increases he had recommended were not in place within 12 months, the allied effort risked failure. But he told the London audience that the time being taken by current policy review in Washington was worth it. “I don’t think we have the luxury of going so fast that we make the wrong decision,” he said.
The general has used his London trip to make a renewed bid for an increase in Britain’s troop commitment in Afghanistan. With 9,000 soldiers, Britain currently has the second largest coalition contingent after the Americans. Officials at Britain’s Defense Ministry have said discussions with the Americans have included the possibility of about 2,500 additional troops in the British contingent.
John F. Burns reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris.***
Orbat.com's take on the recent deaths in Afpakia
Reply #501 on:
October 06, 2009, 08:17:52 PM »
Orbat.com's take on the recent US deaths in Af-Pak area...FWIW...
Three days ago the Taliban attacked a US/Afghan outpost in Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. The outpost is described as "remote"; this is not particularly helpful because most any part of Afghanistan is "remote" Be that as it may, the outpost is set among forests and mountains, perhaps 10-km as the bird flies from the Pakistan border.
The reason the outpost was set up in the first place was to interdict infiltration from Pakistan. when attacked, it had 50 US soldiers and 90 Afghan Army and police. A year ago the US decided things weren't working, and decided to withdraw the outpost. The new Afghanistan strategy in any case calls for giving up desolate outposts in the middle of nowhere, and focusing the limited available resources on the main town and cities. This is sensible, as in any case no one manages to control the countryside, which has been, is, and always will be the home of the tribes. If the west thinks it will at some point succeed in building up sufficient Afghan forces to permit Kabul to control the country, then the west is sadly deluded and will fail even worse than it is failing.
Back to the outpost.
Every story we read leaves us shaking our head in sheer bewilderment. We cannot understand in the slightest what the US military thinks it has been doing.
Let us first make very, very clear: we would never presume to judge the tactics employed at a particular place and time, no matter which army we are discussing. Not just are we going solely by the media reports, the media more often than not gets things very wrong. Unless we went over, carefully examined the ground, and extensively discuss matters with the US troops, the Afghan military, the locals, and the Taliban, we would lack the data needed for an objective judgment.
So we are not passing any judgments: we are simply going to point out a few things that make absolutely no sense to us about this outpost.
The outpost was situated 1-km down-mountain of the mosque and village used by the insurgents as their assembly area. It does not matter what the reason, you absolutely never put yourself down-mountain of the enemy especially when he is practically at your doorstep.
US troops had not visited the village for a year, and also did not visit other villages in the area. The reason given is that the US, in the interests of good relations, did not want to enter the local villages unless invited, and they were never invited. Bosh, Baloney and Bunkum. Since when has it been US policy not to enter villages without invitation? Where in the world when you are doing CI do you wait for invitations from the locals who are hand in glove with the insurgents to issue you polite invites for tea and crumpets?
US troops could not patrol the area beyond a couple of thousand meters out. The reason given is that the area was too dangerous. We accept that. But in that case the Army was super-negligent in stationing the outpost because the troops there are blind to what's happening all around them, and sending over a UAV every so often is not going to give them eyes to see.
The outpost was not evacuated because the local Governor said if the Americans withdrew before the election, it would Not Look Good. In case you are waiting for us to grandly proclaim: "Military decisions should never be made on political grounds," you wait in vain. That is complete twaddle. Everything in CI is political first, military second.
But a clear distinction has to be made: the decision to go to that region can be political. Once you arrive there, however, purely military considerations have to take over. How can it be that US Army found the outpost untenable but hung around for a year because the provincial governor would lose face? Makes no sense - and here we are willing to acknowledge likely the press has got things wrong. Nonetheless, if for political reasons US had to be there, the US Army should have done everything possible to make the outpost defensible.
US is short of helicopter lift and could not evacuate earlier Someone has got something egregiously wrong here. It take 4-5 Chinook sorties or 20 UH-60 sorties to get 140 men and essential equipment out. Mo way you will get us to believe that for weeks or months or whatever US couldn't spare this tiny bit of airlift.
US Army knew this was a hotspot: outpost has come under attack 50 times since May 2009. This speaks for itself. No one can say they were caught unawares.
How it looks to us in the absence of better information. You have an outpost in the middle of nowhere, and the troops are boxed into a tiny space. They cannot get out because its not safe. They cannot go out every night and lay ambushes, even if it is just a 2-man sniper team. They are sitting passively in the middle of Indian Country, with a big Kick My Butt sign on the outpost. The enemy knows everything the post does, the post knows nothing of what the enemy is doing.
The Taliban obliged.
We are NOT attempting to second-guess anyone We are not joining the coulda woulda shoulda brigade here. We don't know the whole story, likely even 5% of the story. But what we do know is, this outpost looks like a Prime A error to us. It smells of careless complacency and people who have still not understood what counter-insurgency is about.
If and when we get more information, we will be the first to revise/update/change our formulation. Right now things don't look good to us, not one little bit.
What's the big deal, the outpost held It did. Excellent. We are not going all mushy hearted because 8 US soldiers got killed. That's war. People get killed, and most of them get killed for no good reason or meaningful gain. Sorry about that.
But see, people. We are not writing about this outpost because of the battle the other day. The same outpost was written up in detail some weeks back in the WashPo. Our head shaking reaction is from then. We've been mulling over writing the same thing we have above, then.
We're writing because when we read the first article, we thought what we have said here: why is the US Army accepting being in lock-down in a little place in the middle of nowhere. The story then said no one had been interdicted or intercepted in months. And that's not because All Was Calm, etc., the troops made clear they couldn't get out and couldn't control anything.
The Taliban on the battle This battle, as far as is know as of now, was very professionally fought by the Taliban. Aside from the US casualties, there were several Afghan dead and perhaps 20 or more Afghans captured. This means the Taliban caught the outpost completely by surprise and got inside the wire. This is Big Boys League.
Likely this is the caliber of the enemy in this region, because the Taliban certainly has not managed anything like this elsewhere. The 2008 attack at Wanat, which in the same province, was also highly professional.
US deploys a powerful lot of firepower, and when artillery, gunships and tactical air joins in the battle, a lot of attackers are going to die. But only five bodies were found. This is very, very professional indeed.
So, we are suspicious and so is our occasional correspondent Major AH Amin. He has said, in a circumspect way, that he believes the Pakistan Army conducted the attack. Nothing impossible: till the US came into Afghanistan the hard military core of the Taliban was the Pakistan Army, not just as advisors, but as entire brigades. That's how the Taliban came out of "nowhere" and in two years took the entire country bar 15% in the northwest, beating one warlord after another in conventional battle.
In fairness, we must say Bill Roggio does not agree He feels the Taliban are quite capable of executing such attacks by themselves and there is no need to invoke the Pakistan Army.
Either way, however, this attack is trouble, even if only - say - 10 percent of the Taliban have reached this level of competence.
Meanwhile, the Taliban tied the attack directly to the impending US reinforcement of Afghanistan, saying they too could reinforce, and reinforce more than the US could.
Now boys and girls: here is a question. Since the outpost is 10-km from Pakistan border, guess just where those Taliban or Pakistani-soldiers-as-Taliban came from.
Hint: it wasn't from London or Paris.
NYT: China's angle
Reply #502 on:
October 07, 2009, 07:15:46 AM »
Beijing’s Afghan Gamble
By ROBERT D. KAPLAN Published: October 6, 2009
IN Afghanistan’s Logar Province, just south of Kabul, the geopolitical future of Asia is becoming apparent: American troops are providing security for a Chinese state-owned company to exploit the Aynak copper reserves, which are worth tens of billions of dollars. While some of America’s NATO allies want to do as little as possible in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, China has its eyes on some of world’s last untapped deposits of copper, iron, gold, uranium and precious gems, and is willing to take big risks in one of the most violent countries to secure them.
In Afghanistan, American and Chinese interests converge. By exploiting Afghanistan’s metal and mineral reserves, China can provide thousands of Afghans with jobs, thus generating tax revenues to help stabilize a tottering Kabul government. Just as America has a vision of a modestly stable Afghanistan that will no longer be a haven for extremists, China has a vision of Afghanistan as a secure conduit for roads and energy pipelines that will bring natural resources from the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. So if America defeats Al Qaeda and the irreconcilable elements of the Taliban, China’s geopolitical position will be enhanced.
This is not a paradox, since China need not be our future adversary. Indeed, combining forces with China in Afghanistan might even improve the relationship between Washington and Beijing. The problem is that while America is sacrificing its blood and treasure, the Chinese will reap the benefits. The whole direction of America’s military and diplomatic effort is toward an exit strategy, whereas the Chinese hope to stay and profit.
But what if America decides to leave, or to drastically reduce its footprint to a counterterrorism strategy focused mainly on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border? Then another scenario might play out. Kandahar and other areas will most likely fall to the Taliban, creating a truly lawless realm that wrecks China’s plans for an energy and commodities passageway through South Asia. It would also, of course, be a momentous moral victory achieved by radical Muslims who, having first defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, will then have triumphed over another superpower.
And the calculations get more complicated still: a withdrawal of any kind from Afghanistan before a stable government is in place would also hurt India, a critical if undeclared American ally, and increasingly a rival of China. Were the Taliban to retake Afghanistan, India would face a radical Islamistan stretching from its border with Pakistan deep into Central Asia. With the Taliban triumphant on Pakistan’s western border, jihadists there could direct their energies to the eastern border with India.
India would defeat Pakistan in a war, conventional or nuclear. But having to do so, or simply needing to face down a significantly greater jihadist threat next door, would divert India’s national energies away from further developing its economy and its navy, a development China would quietly welcome.
Bottom line: China will find a way to benefit no matter what the United States does in Afghanistan. But it probably benefits more if we stay and add troops to the fight. The same goes for Russia. Because of continuing unrest in the Islamic southern tier of the former Soviet Union, Moscow has an interest in America stabilizing Afghanistan (though it would take a certain psychological pleasure from a humiliating American withdrawal).
In nuts-and-bolts terms, if we stay in Afghanistan and eventually succeed, other countries will benefit more than we will. China, India and Russia are all Asian powers, geographically proximate to Afghanistan and better able, therefore, to garner practical advantages from any stability our armed forces would make possible.
Everyone keeps saying that America is not an empire, but our military finds itself in the sort of situation that was mighty familiar to empires like that of ancient Rome and 19th-century Britain: struggling in a far-off corner of the world to exact revenge, to put down the fires of rebellion, and to restore civilized order. Meanwhile, other rising and resurgent powers wait patiently in the wings, free-riding on the public good we offer. This is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.
Of course, one could make an excellent case that an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan is precisely what would lead to our decline, by demoralizing our military, signaling to our friends worldwide that we cannot be counted on and demonstrating that our enemies have greater resolve than we do. That is why we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight.
But as much as we hone our counterinsurgency skills and develop assets for the “long war,” history would suggest that over time we can more easily preserve our standing in the world by using naval and air power from a distance when intervening abroad. Afghanistan should be the very last place where we are a land-based meddler, caught up in internal Islamic conflict, helping the strategic ambitions of the Chinese and others.
Robert D. Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a correspondent for The Atlantic.
Reply #503 on:
October 07, 2009, 09:18:28 AM »
China may well find it's self fighting against the global jihad anyway. Unlike the US they will use torture and scorched earth tactics and unlike the US the "world" won't utter a peep in protest.
The BO plan to remake Pakistan
Reply #504 on:
October 08, 2009, 07:36:55 AM »
The Obama Plan to Radically Remake Pakistan
IN AN UNUSUAL MOVE, the Pakistani military on Wednesday publicly criticized the Kerry-Lugar Bill — a five-year, multibillion-dollar U.S. aid package recently approved by Congress and now awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The military’s motivation is simple: The aid package is designed to limit the Pakistani military’s role in governance. It stipulates that the aid is contingent upon the U.S. secretary of state’s certification that, among other things, a democratic government in Pakistan “exercises effective civilian control of the military, including a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.”
Effectively, this means that, through the aid package, the Obama administration is trying to alter the nature of the Pakistani state — a very ambitious project to say the least. Encouraged by events in Pakistan during the final days of the Bush administration — as the military government of former President Pervez Musharraf weakened and eventually fell, paving the way for a civilian government — the Obama administration feels that the Pakistani state is ready to move toward an even more robust form of democratic rule. The administration’s thinking holds that the U.S. fight against militant Islamism in South Asia is best served by ensuring civilian primacy in Pakistan, given the military’s historical ties to militant non-state proxies. The Obama administration believes that aggressively pushing for a more democratic Pakistan will reset the imbalance in civilian-military relations.
“The administration’s thinking holds that the U.S. fight against militant Islamism in South Asia is best served by ensuring civilian primacy in Pakistan.”
But this view disregards the nature of the Pakistani state as it has evolved since its creation. The military has ruled the country directly — or indirectly dominated during brief periods of civilian rule — throughout its 62-year history. The current democratic arrangement is in its infancy, with disparate forces competing within civilian institutions: The presidency, parliament and judiciary all have been wracked by internal conflict. The need to rein in an assortment of jihadist non-state actors threatening national security is putting the nascent civilian state under even more pressure. In short, though weakened, the military remains the Pakistani institution best positioned to meet the first requirement of any nation-state: keeping the country together.
The U.S. move will exacerbate civilian-military tensions. This is already evident, as the Pakistani central command moves to counter the Kerry-Lugar Bill. It is extremely unlikely that it will go so far as to mount a coup — and face a domestic and international backlash — but the military has no intention of yielding without a struggle, which almost surely will result in increased instability.
While Washington’s actions can be explained as a mere misreading of the situation, the motives of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government for supporting the Kerry-Lugar Bill are less apparent. According to well-placed sources, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government is trying to follow the model of the ruling Justice & Development (AK) Party in Turkey, which over the last few years has successfully reined in the Turkish military establishment. After a successful collaboration with the military in mounting effective offensives against Taliban rebels, the Zardari government now feels that with U.S. financial and political support, it can consolidate greater civilian rule over time. But there are too many differences between the circumstances in Turkey and Pakistan to prevent the PPP from accomplishing in Pakistan what the AK Party has been able to do in Turkey.
For starters, unlike the AK Party government, which enjoys an overwhelming parliamentary majority, the PPP leads a fractious coalition government that became very unpopular shortly after coming to power in February 2008. Despite the fact that it is the country’s largest political force and a secular party, the PPP and its coalition are struggling to deal with Islamist radicalism. In Turkey, by contrast, the AK Party has maintained a decent equilibrium between the Islamist and secularist elements, despite its own Islamist roots. And the Turkish military — a staunchly secularist establishment — has established a working relationship with the government of the AK Party, while the Pakistani military leadership historically has been at odds with the PPP, despite their shared secular ideology.
That said, Pakistan is no longer a place where the military can simply dismiss civilian governments, let alone take over. At the same time, the country is also far from the point where civilians can exercise greater control over the military. Therefore, any radical move to alter the nature of the state could have serious repercussions for both the country and U.S. interests in the region — a serious matter, given that Washington already is struggling to craft a policy for Afghanistan.
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Reply #505 on:
October 08, 2009, 09:21:51 AM »
Obama WH bought COIN without understanding the cost: WaPo
posted at 9:30 am on October 8, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
If nothing up to this point convinced people of the amateurish and bungling nature of Barack Obama and his administration, this Washington Post story makes the case all by itself. For two years, Obama campaigned on changing the strategy in Afghanistan to a more effective counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, claiming that the Bush administration had dropped the ball in the Af-Pak theater in large part by not committing the resources needed for an effective battle plan (an assessment shared by John McCain). On taking office, Obama quickly increased troop levels in Afghanistan and appointed COIN strategist Gen. Stanley McChrystal to lead the mission.
However, the Post reports that Obama and his team never understood the implications of his demand for the new strategy. McChrystal’s assessment of the needs for his COIN plan sent them into “sticker shock,” according to one Post source in the White House (emphasis mine):
In early March, after weeks of debate across a conference table in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the participants in President Obama’s strategic review of the war in Afghanistan figured that the most contentious part of their discussions was behind them. Everyone, save Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, agreed that the United States needed to mount a comprehensive counterinsurgency mission to defeat the Taliban.
That conclusion, which was later endorsed by the president and members of his national security team, would become the first in a set of recommendations contained in an administration white paper outlining what Obama called “a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Preventing al-Qaeda’s return to Afghanistan, the document stated, would require “executing and resourcing an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy.” …
To some civilians who participated in the strategic review, that conclusion was much less clear. Some took it as inevitable that more troops would be needed, but others thought the thrust of the new approach was to send over scores more diplomats and reconstruction experts. They figured a counterinsurgency mission could be accomplished with the forces already in the country, plus the 17,000 new troops Obama had authorized in February.
“It was easy to say, ‘Hey, I support COIN,’ because nobody had done the assessment of what it would really take, and nobody had thought through whether we want to do what it takes,” said one senior civilian administration official who participated in the review, using the shorthand for counterinsurgency.
The failure to reach a shared understanding of the resources required to execute the strategy has complicated the White House’s response to the grim assessment of the war by the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, forcing the president to decide, in effect, what his administration really meant when it endorsed a counterinsurgency plan. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s follow-up request for more forces, which presents a range of options but makes clear that the best chance of achieving the administration’s goals requires an additional 40,000 U.S. troops on top of the 68,000 who are already there, has given senior members of Obama’s national security team “a case of sticker shock,” the administration official said.
After two years of campaigning on this new strategy and eight months of ordering it as Commander in Chief, Barack Obama now has to make up his mind what he meant? It was the single most important issue on the war during the general campaign, thanks to the sharp improvement in Iraq that Obama predicted would never happen. He had hundreds of military officers and foreign-policy experts advising him on this issue — and none of them apparently ever taught the young candidate what COIN actually entailed.
This is a damning indictment of the President and his lack of preparation for the job, but it goes farther than that. Obama has essentially been “on the job” since the transition, which started eleven months ago. Considering the priority of any policy that puts American men and women in battle, Obama should have worked to understand the implications of his COIN solution from Day 1 in the transition, if not Day 1 of his term in office. He appointed McChrystal for this specific purpose in the spring without bothering to understand the concepts and the resources required for COIN.
In other words, Obama has half-assed it, and has gotten caught.
Update: Michael Yon links to an intriguing report from Anthony Lloyd from Afghanistan. Don’t forget to hit Michael’s tip jar. We’re going to need him on the ground more than ever.
Short Sighted Policies
Reply #506 on:
October 08, 2009, 02:52:36 PM »
October 5, 2009
Shortsighted U.S. Policies on Afghanistan to Bring Long-Term Problems
by Lisa Curtis and James Phillips
I absolutely believe that al-Qaeda and the threat of al-Qaeda and Taliban senior leadership are critical to stability in the region. ... But I also believe that a strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a shortsighted strategy.
--U.S. and NATO Forces Commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, October 1, 2009
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the outcome of the current White House debate on Afghanistan to the future of vital U.S. national security interests. Early discussions have been characterized by wishful thinking about the U.S.'s ability to negotiate a political solution in the near term and confusion about the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. A shortsighted view of the long-entrenched problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan risks plunging the region into deeper instability, thus reversing recent gains against al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.
The success of increased drone strikes against al-Qaeda and senior Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal border areas over the last year has apparently led some U.S. officials to mistakenly conclude that these types of operations alone can end the threat from al-Qaeda and its extremist allies. Analysis of the Taliban and its evolution over the last 15 years reveals, however, that its ideology, operational capabilities, and close ties with al-Qaeda and other Pakistan-based extremist organizations allows the movement to wield tremendous influence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thus the U.S. cannot hope to uproot extremism from the region without denying the Taliban the ability to again consolidate power in Afghanistan.
Voices in Pakistan
There have been several positive developments in Pakistan over the last six months, such as the Pakistan military's thrust into the Swat Valley to evict pro-Taliban elements and significant improvement in U.S.-Pakistani joint operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that led to the elimination of Baitullah Mehsud in August. Moreover, the Pakistani military is reportedly preparing for an offensive in South Waziristan, where al-Qaeda and other extremists have been deeply entrenched for the last few years.
But this recent success in Pakistan should not mislead U.S. policymakers into thinking that the U.S. can turn its attention away from Afghanistan. In fact, now is the time to demonstrate military resolve in Afghanistan so that al-Qaeda and its affiliates will be squeezed on both sides of the border.
If the U.S. scales back the mission in Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban views itself as winning the war there, it is possible that the recent gains in Pakistan will be squandered. Anti-extremist constituencies in Pakistan that are fighting for their lives and the future of Pakistan are begging the U.S. to "stay the course" in Afghanistan, with full knowledge that a U.S. retreat would embolden extremists region-wide. Washington should listen to these voices.
Negotiation from Position of Weakness Equals Surrender
There appears to be some wishful thinking within the Obama Administration regarding the U.S.'s ability to negotiate a political solution with the Taliban in the near term. A survey of the failed attempts by U.S. diplomats in the late 1990s to convince the Taliban to improve their record on human rights and to turn over Osama bin Laden should inform current U.S. deliberations about the efficacy of such attempts at engagement.
After eight years of battling coalition forces, the Taliban ideology is even more anti-West and visceral now than it was in the 1990s, and the bonds between al-Qaeda and the senior Taliban leadership are stronger. In addition to close ties forged on the battlefield and congruent ideological goals, the symbiotic relationship between the two Islamist organizations has been reinforced by intermarriage. For example, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the top leader of the Taliban, is reportedly married to one of bin Laden's daughters.
Despite these strong ties, there is a perpetual desire in Washington to try to distinguish the Taliban leadership from al-Qaeda and its global agenda--a desire that has little basis in reality. The goals espoused by the senior Taliban leadership and al-Qaeda do not differ enough to justify separating the two organizations with regard to the threat they pose to U.S. national security interests. If the Taliban increases its influence in Afghanistan, so does al-Qaeda.
Some in the Obama Administration appear to advocate allowing the Taliban to control certain parts of Afghanistan or including their leaders in governing structures. The risk of pursuing these "top-down" negotiations right now is that the Taliban is in a relatively strong position in Afghanistan and would be able to cow moderate Afghans who support a democratic process.
A top-down negotiation with hard-line elements of the Taliban at this time would also constitute an abandonment of America's Afghan partners who are fighting for a better future for their country. These Afghans are fighting to avoid a return to Taliban rule, which included complete disregard for citizens' rights--particularly of women (including outlawing education for girls)--and the systematic destruction of the rich historical and cultural traditions of the country in order to force a barbaric interpretation of Islam on the Afghan people. If the U.S. caves in to the Taliban, America would be seen the world over as a weak and unreliable partner, unwilling to defend the very ideals upon which the U.S. itself is founded.
Although there are no signs that the senior Taliban leadership is ready to compromise on a political solution or break its ties with al-Qaeda's destructive global agenda, there is advantage in pursuing local reconciliation efforts that bring the non-ideological "foot soldiers" of the Taliban into the political process. The goal of such a strategy is to put military pressure on the top Taliban leaders and to protect the population from intimidation by the Taliban while simultaneously convincing local insurgents that they are on the losing side and would benefit by laying down their arms and joining the mainstream political process.
Do Not Undermine Friends and Embolden Enemies
President Obama must give his military commanders the best chance for success by meeting their requests for the troops and resources necessary to fully implement the counterinsurgency strategy adopted by his Administration in March. As General McChrystal warned in his October 1 speech: "We must show resolve. Uncertainty disheartens our allies, emboldens our foe."
If the Obama Administration chooses to deny its field commander's request for more troops and instead seeks to engage Taliban leaders in negotiations with the vain hope that these militants will break from their al-Qaeda allies, the results would likely be disastrous. Many Afghans that currently support the Kabul government would be tempted to hedge their bets and establish ties with the Taliban, while Afghans sitting on the fence would be much more likely to come down on the Taliban's side. President Obama must take the long view and avoid shortsighted policies that undermine U.S. friends in Afghanistan and Pakistan while encouraging America's enemies.
Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center and James Phillips is Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
See Lisa Curtis, "Scaling Back in Afghanistan Would Jeopardize Security of U.S. Homeland," Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2625, September 23, 2009, at
James Phillips, "Success in Afghanistan Requires Firm Presidential Leadership, Not Half-Measures," Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2607, September 4, 2009, at
WSJ: Strange Bedfellows
Reply #507 on:
October 10, 2009, 09:53:23 AM »
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
SHARANA, Afghanistan -- U.S. commanders here are enlisting some unusual allies: former mujahedeen guerrillas who battled the Russians with tactics now used by the Taliban.
Gen. Dawlat Khan, who commands the 2,000 Afghan police in this town in eastern Paktika province, came of age during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. His father was a leader of the local resistance efforts, and during his teenage years Gen. Khan helped to funnel American-donated machine guns and weaponry to the tribal fighters.
Capt. Suleimanjan, who fought the Soviets in the 1980s, this year arrested his province's No. 2 Taliban commander.
Today, American commanders say former Islamic militants like Gen. Khan make valuable partners because they are well-schooled in the insurgency's tactics.
"We used roadside bombs and ambushes, just like they do now," Capt. Suleimanjan, one of Gen. Khan's top commanders, said in his office at a crumbling old fort in Sharana. "It was the same kind of fight, but now we're on the other side."
The strategy carries risks. Former mujahedeen forged close ties to warlords during the long fight against the Soviets, and it is far from clear that they have shifted their loyalties to Kabul's fragile central government. U.S. officials also worry that some onetime militants who have since joined the police force have struck informal peace treaties with the Taliban.
"It's like the police in the States making a deal with the mob," said Capt. Mark Evans, who until recently ran the U.S. effort to train the Afghan police in Sharana. "The police aren't that well trained or well equipped, and I can understand why they'd want a quid pro quo."
The strategy of working with former mujahedeen has been tried with the Afghan National Army, and is part of an American push to overhaul the national police, a beleaguered force whose ineffectiveness is a threat to President Barack Obama's hopes of pacifying the country.
"The police are the first line of defense," said Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the U.S.'s top day-to-day commander in Afghanistan.
Gen. Khan, 45 years old, said that when he returned home to Paktika last October after a long exile he was stunned to discover how many of his officers were corrupt or addicted to hashish.
Gen. Khan and his aides ousted the department's chief of security and top administrative official. They also fired a trio of police chiefs who had turned a blind eye to lower-ranking policemen extorting money from truck drivers and motorists.
In rebuilding the department, he turned to other former mujahedeen. His top investigator, Capt. Suleimanjan, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, fought with Gen. Khan's father against the Soviets. Chief Nazerkhan, who commands the garrison in the nearby town of Motakhan, battled the Russians alongside Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is now one of the most-wanted militants in the world.
Gen. Khan was at school one afternoon in 1979 when he saw Russian tanks moving through the streets of his town, followed by columns of soldiers. His father, Haj Sultan Muhammed, led armed men from his tribe into the local mountains and joined the nascent religious war against the Soviets.
Afghan Interior Ministry officials in Kabul said Mr. Muhammed became a leader of the local mujahedeen, working closely with Mr. Haqqani, then a charismatic young fighter. Gen. Khan himself remembers playing soccer with the militant, today a key Taliban ally.
"We were friends once but if I saw him today I'd try to arrest or kill him," Gen. Khan said. "He would do the same if he saw me."
During the long war, Gen. Khan moved to Pakistan, where he says he worked to funnel U.S.-donated AK-47s and other weaponry to his father. Gen. Khan won't say how he got the guns. An Afghan official in Kabul who worked with Mr. Muhammed said the weapons were delivered by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA declined to comment.
Paktika has deteriorated sharply in recent years. The Taliban control many towns and have littered the province's dirt roads with buried roadside bombs that have killed dozens of police officers. At night, cellphone service shuts down because the Taliban have threatened to destroy relay towers that remain operational.
Gen. Khan's biggest victory as police chief came earlier this year when Capt. Suleimanjan arrested the No. 2 Taliban commander in the province.
Capt. Suleimanjan said he identified the insurgent after an informant slipped him a promotional video the local Taliban command filmed to recruit new fighters. "I have shadows in every village," Capt. Suleimanjan said with a smile. "Sometimes they give me things."
He said that there are key differences between the two generations of Islamic fighters. Capt. Suleimanjan says that while the mujahedeen tried to avoid harming civilians, the Taliban have killed Afghan engineers working on roads and burned down several schools. "They use the name of Islam, but it's fake," he said.
The U.S. mentors worry that Chief Nazerkhan and some of Gen. Khan's other police commanders maintain secret ties to the insurgency.
In August, a group of American trainers prepared to leave the small police base at Motakhan after two days of training. Lt. Israel Darbe, a member of the mentor team, called over one of the Afghan translators.
"We're fixing to roll on out of here," Lt. Darbe told him. "Have the chief tell his Taliban buddies to leave us the hell alone."
Capt. Evans said he suspected Chief Nazerkhan had struck an informal peace treaty with the Taliban. Chief Nazerkhan dismissed the speculation. "It is all rumor and lies," he said.
Gen. Khan, for his part, is increasingly focused on staying alive. A few months ago, an elderly man walked to the gates of the police headquarters here, asked for Gen. Khan, and then blew himself up. Several police officers died in the blast.
The Afghan commander said he wasn't surprised by the failed assassination attempt.
"The mujahedeen used to assassinate Russian commanders all the time," he said, shrugging.
Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at
Reply #508 on:
October 10, 2009, 10:23:41 AM »
October 8, 2009, 2:16 PM
The Real Trouble with Afghanistan and Obama
Underneath all this week's he-said/she-said over the war's future lies a self-inflicted wound: Our young president has lost sight of what matters in the military conflict that will define him, and lost sight of it to another Boomer-era vice president's guilty conscience.
By Thomas P.M. Barnett
Should I surge or should I go now? It's the question that has Washington — and, indeed, the world — abuzz over America's future in Afghanistan. First it was the military's convenient leak to Bob Woodward of the starkest assessment of the war to date (Failure!). Then, a week ago, it was General Stanley McChrystal's smacking down of the Joe Biden "fewer troops, more Al Qaeda hunting" plan (Short-sighted!). Then Bob Gates told him, in so many words, to shut up and listen to the Communicator in Chief (Eyebrow-raising!). On Tuesday, President Obama had the ears of thirty legislators, but it seemed to set the Afghan debate further off course than anywhere near consensus (Grumpy old men! And a liberal catfight!).
By this morning, with Kabul rocking and Obama stalling, the question many Americans were asking seemed perfectly natural: So how many troops are we gonna send, Mr. President? And therein lies Team Obama's Bushian dilemma: They've created such huge expectations of a definitive decision on the war that no matter which way the president turns, he will have backed himself into a strategic corner from which he cannot escape. All the leaks and sound bytes and "senior White House official" signal shifts have made some number more important than the most complex military conflict of our time. It's Truman-versus-MacArthur and Bush-versus-Fallon all over again, but the fallout could lead to trouble the likes of which we didn't even see in Iraq. Here's what Obama has been ignoring (Chain of command? China? Petraeus? A firm hand? Anyone?), and why it will all come back to haunt him sooner than he or Stan McChrystal would like to admit.
Truth or Consequences, Afghanistan: Potential Fallout Along the Chain of Command
I was at the Pentagon on Monday, just around the time Gates was giving his "candidly but privately" spiel, and every conversation I had kept coming back to the same concern: "How can we show positive impact in Afghanistan over the next couple of months?" Believe me — when your national-security establishment wraps itself around the axle like that, your narrow strategic mindset ain't no secret.
But if the administration doesn't go along with the recommendations of its handpicked commander (and there were signs this afternoon that it was leaning away from the McChrystal plan and back toward Biden's strategy), then it will have effectively repudiated McChrystal's command with a highly publicized vote of no confidence. By extension, the White House will have completed its marginalization of McChrystal's boss, General David Petraeus. Which, given that the Iraq surge hero and Central Command chief has been urged to run for president in 2012, may be politically hard to resist for Obama's politically savvy advisors. But, again, the political savvy is getting the best of Team Obama when it comes to Afghanistan — this is a war, not an election, with many more lives at stake than a few of the best and brightest, and they'd be stupid to muddle or confuse the two.
The more profound consequence of choosing the Biden option, however, would be to repudiate what is working in Afghanistan. The troops are already pissed off at the anti-McChrystal hyperbole, and limiting our footprint for more drones amounts to a public discounting of the American armed forces' tremendous effort in recent years to transform into an effective instrument of "small wars" counterinsurgency — especially the Army and Marines. Again, by extension, such a decision would tarnish Gates's legacy-in-the-making as bureaucratic godfather to this stunning institutional evolution. I mean, if this was a capacity our military lacked going into Afghanistan and Iraq, only to subsequently develop it under extreme duress, will it be the decision of the Obama administration to immediately shelve our hard-earned capability in a "war of necessity" just because Joe Biden said so?
Worse yet, the world will interpret any "half measures" (John McCain's fighting words) as a signal toward our inevitable withdrawal (watch for the phrase "exit strategy"). And once that happens, world leaders — friend or foe — will immediately start interpreting any statements by Obama that threaten to use force as, you know, threatening to pin-prick with fancy robotic bombers. Waffling, in other words, doesn't answer that Pentagon-wide concern.
The Obama Doctrine: A Product of Another Vietnam-Shadowed Veep
And yet Obama will almost certainly seek to split his Big Afghanistan Decision down the middle (Talk big but act small!). That won't work, and not just because the world's bad boys will think of the American military as a bunch of high-tech pansies — because it reeks of Obama speak for permanent downshifting in our long-term commitment to Afghanistan's future, which, by extension, makes everybody nervous about Pakistan's future.
And so, by shorting Afghanistan, the president may end up inadvertently declaring The Obama Doctrine: (1) yes, Iraq was a one-of-a-kind war, never to be repeated; and (2), in Clinton-era Colin Powell speak honed for the counterterrorism era, we go anywhere we want to kill anyone we want, but as far as the locals are concerned, they can simply fuck off.
In doing so, Obama will position himself internationally as both a full-blown wimp (Jimmy Carter much?) and a sanctimonious cynic (hellooooo, Bill Clinton!), confirming French president Nicolas Sarkozy's first impression that under that fabulous exterior lies a fabile young president.
What's so intriguing and tragic about Obama's indecisiveness here is that it's been triggered by yet another vice-presidential, Boomer-era "wise man" determined to right the wrongs of the Vietnam era. With George W. Bush, it was Jerry Ford's chief of staff Dick Cheney who was determined to restore the power of the imperial presidency, and with Barry, it's Joe Biden (his '72 Senate upset win in Delaware was fueled by his fierce opposition to the war), who, along with 'Nam vets John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, counsels our JFK-ish president to get out of this quagmire now — while he still can. Despite all of Obama's campaign rhetoric about bringing a post-Boomer perspective to the White House, on this crucial call he appears as captive to that mindset as his two predecessors were.
And yes, the perverse influence that links them all is Obama's kitchen-cabinet adviser Colin Powell (aka Two-Face), who never met a war he didn't want to decisively win but likewise never met a post-war situation he didn't want to assiduously avoid. If you want a poster-child for how Vietnam still screws up presidencies, then General Powell's your man. Just understand that, later on, he'll deny everything to Bob Woodward.
Esquire contributing editor Thomas P.M. Barnett is the author of Great Powers: America and the World After Bush.
Reply #509 on:
October 11, 2009, 08:26:14 AM »
Normally I find Frank Rich to be a typical Pravda on the Hudson douche bag-- and indeed some of that is on full display here. That said, mingled in with some historical innaccurracies are some questions posed that we need to be able to answer.
Anyone here up to it?
Two Wrongs Make Another Fiasco Sign in to Recommend
By FRANK RICH
Published: October 10, 2009
THOSE of us who love F. Scott Fitzgerald must acknowledge that he did get one big thing wrong. There are second acts in American lives. (Just ask Marion Barry, or William Shatner.) The real question is whether everyone deserves a second act. Perhaps the most surreal aspect of our great Afghanistan debate is the Beltway credence given to the ravings of the unrepentant blunderers who dug us into this hole in the first place.
Let’s be clear: Those who demanded that America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 — when there was no Qaeda presence in Iraq — bear responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan that ensued. Now they have the nerve to imperiously and tardily demand that America increase its 68,000-strong presence in Afghanistan to clean up their mess — even though the number of Qaeda insurgents there has dwindled to fewer than 100, according to the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones.
But why let facts get in the way? Just as these hawks insisted that Iraq was “the central front in the war on terror” when the central front was Afghanistan, so they insist that Afghanistan is the central front now that it has migrated to Pakistan. When the day comes for them to anoint Pakistan as the central front, it will be proof positive that Al Qaeda has consolidated its hold on Somalia and Yemen.
To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.
What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.
Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.
He takes no responsibility for any of this. Asked by Katie Couric last week about our failures in Afghanistan, McCain spoke as if he were an innocent bystander: “I think the reason why we didn’t do a better job on Afghanistan is our attention — either rightly or wrongly — was on Iraq.” As Tonto says to the Lone Ranger, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”
Along with his tribunes in Congress and the punditocracy, Wrong-Way McCain still presumes to give America its marching orders. With his Senate brethren in the Three Amigos, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, he took to The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page to assert that “we have no choice” but to go all-in on Afghanistan — rightly or wrongly, presumably — just as we had in Iraq. Why? “The U.S. walked away from Afghanistan once before, following the Soviet collapse,” they wrote. “The result was 9/11. We must not make that mistake again.”
This shameless argument assumes — perhaps correctly — that no one in this country remembers anything. So let me provide a reminder: We already did make that mistake again when we walked away from Afghanistan to invade Iraq in 2003 — and we did so at the Three Amigos’ urging. Then, too, they promoted their strategy as a way of preventing another 9/11 — even though no one culpable for 9/11 was in Iraq. Now we’re being asked to pay for their mistake by squandering stretched American resources in yet another country where Al Qaeda has largely vanished.
To make the case, the Amigos and their fellow travelers conflate the Taliban with Al Qaeda much as they long conflated Saddam’s regime with Al Qaeda. But as Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post reported on Thursday, American intelligence officials now say that “there are few, if any, links between Taliban commanders in Afghanistan today and senior Al Qaeda members” — a far cry from the tight Taliban-bin Laden alliance of 2001.
The rhetorical sleights of hand in the hawks’ arguments don’t end there. If you listen carefully to McCain and his neocon echo chamber, you’ll notice certain tics. President Obama better make his decision by tomorrow, or Armageddon (if not mushroom clouds) will arrive. We must “win” in Afghanistan — but victory is left vaguely defined. That’s because we will never build a functioning state in a country where there has never been one. Nor can we score a victory against the world’s dispersed, stateless terrorists by getting bogged down in a hellish landscape that contains few of them.
Most tellingly, perhaps, those clamoring for an escalation in Afghanistan avoid mentioning the name of the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, or the fraud-filled August election that conclusively delegitimized his government. To do so would require explaining why America should place its troops in alliance with a corrupt partner knee-deep in the narcotics trade. As long as Karzai and the election are airbrushed out of history, it can be disingenuously argued that nothing has changed on the ground since Obama’s inauguration and that he has no right to revise his earlier judgment that Afghanistan is a “war of necessity.”
Those demanding more combat troops for Afghanistan also avoid defining the real costs. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the war was running $2.6 billion a month in Pentagon expenses alone even before Obama added 20,000 troops this year. Surely fiscal conservatives like McCain and Graham who rant about deficits being “generational theft” have an obligation to explain what the added bill will be on an Afghanistan escalation and where the additional money will come from. But that would require them to use the dread words “sacrifice” and “higher taxes” when they want us to believe that this war, like Iraq, would be cost-free.
The real troop numbers are similarly elusive. Pre-emptively railing against the prospect of “half measures” by Obama, Lieberman asked MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell rhetorically last week whether it would be “real counterinsurgency” or “counterinsurgency light.” But the measure Lieberman endorses — Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s reported recommendation of 40,000 additional troops — is itself counterinsurgency light. In his definitive recent field manual on the subject, Gen. David Petraeus stipulates that real counterinsurgency requires 20 to 25 troops for each thousand residents. That comes out, conservatively, to 640,000 troops for Afghanistan (population, 32 million). Some 535,000 American troops couldn’t achieve a successful counterinsurgency in South Vietnam, which had half Afghanistan’s population and just over a quarter of its land area.
Lieberman suggested to Mitchell that we could train an enhanced, centralized Afghan army to fill any gaps. In how many decades? The existing Afghan “army” is small, illiterate, impoverished and as factionalized as the government. For his part, McCain likes to justify McChrystal’s number of 40,000 by imbuing it with the supposedly magical powers of the “surge” in Iraq. But it’s rewriting history to say that the “surge” brought “victory” to Iraq. What it did was stanch the catastrophic bleeding in an unnecessary war McCain had helped gin up. Lest anyone forget, we still don’t know who has “won” in Iraq.
Afghanistan is not Iraq. It is poorer, even larger and more populous, more fragmented and less historically susceptible to foreign intervention. Even if the countries were interchangeable, the wars are not. No one-size surge fits all. President Bush sent the additional troops to Iraq only after Sunni leaders in Anbar Province soured on Al Qaeda and reached out for American support. There is no equivalent “Anbar Awakening” in Afghanistan. Most Afghans “don’t feel threatened by the Taliban in their daily lives” and “aren’t asking for American protection,” reported Richard Engel of NBC News last week. After eight years of war, many see Americans as occupiers.
Americans, meanwhile, want to see the fine print after eight years of fiasco with little accounting. While McCain and company remain frozen where they were in 2001, many of their fellow citizens have learned from the Iraq tragedy. Polls persistently find that the country is skeptical about what should and can be accomplished in Afghanistan. They voted for Obama not least because they wanted a new post-9/11 vision of national security, and they will not again be so easily bullied by the blustering hawks’ doomsday scenarios. That gives our deliberating president both the time and the political space to get this long war’s second act right.
Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan - Frank Rich NY Times
Reply #510 on:
October 11, 2009, 10:37:54 AM »
"I find Frank Rich to be a typical Pravda on the Hudson douche bag" - Reading only this piece I would say you are sugar-coating it. Good to know what post-partisan liberal journalism looks like. Can't we all just get along? His obsession with McCain makes me want to write an attack piece on Walter Mondale, and see what readership I get. No wonder they are bankrupt and seeking federal bailouts. Does he know that Republicans and conservatives especially can no longer declare war, fund war, stop war or even participate in committee meetings? What an *sshole.
I just hate reading a piece where the first sentence is a lie but that is how today's liberals start an argument: "...America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003".
- I would like to see the supply route aerial photos of our troops and treasure leaving Kabul on the long journey to Baghdad.
In fact the Afghanistan war was the model of a multi-lateralist intervention and Iraq at least according to this scumbag was a go-it-alone venture. In Iraq, we won - not mentioned in the piece. In Afghanistan, apparently there is still a problem and why would allies stay committed if we are happy to do it for them.
"these hawks insisted that Iraq was “the central front in the war on terror” when the central front was Afghanistan, so they insist that Afghanistan is the central front now that it has migrated to Pakistan. When the day comes for them to anoint Pakistan as the central front, it will be proof positive that Al Qaeda has consolidated its hold on Somalia and Yemen."
- If we keep winning, the world they operate in keeps getting smaller and smaller. BTW, it was bin Laden who put the central focus on Iraq and who chose Afghan for an ungoverned safe haven that this author infers that he would prefer. Also curious about his writings that propose a US war right now in Pahkistahn or is this all just hot air and bullsh*t?
Side note, how would it affect the pressure we want to put on Iran right now to prevent them from going fully nuclear if Saddam had just this week successfully tested his own new nuclear weapons. That is what the Iraq Study Group predicted: he was 5-7 years away, more than 5-7 years ago... not mentioned in the hit piece.
"[McCain] hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq"
- The WMD evidence came through all the best intelligence agencies in the world, why would you not 'hype' it if you gave a damn about American security. The part that was faulty originated with Saddam himself over-hyping his ability to impose destruction - even after he had attacked FOUR of his neighbors: Iran, Kuwait, Israel and Saudi. Besides the Bush hatred, or in this case McCain just to mix it up, the only response these armchair hate writers have had to Saddam taking Kuwait, Saudi and maybe Israel, shooting American aircraft, defying UN resolutions and their own surrender agreement and going fully nuclear would come from Paul McCartney lyrics (to the beautiful melody): "Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be. There will be an answer,let it beeeee."
"they promoted their strategy (war in Iraq) as a way of preventing another 9/11 — even though no one culpable for 9/11 was in Iraq."
- I wonder if they don't read their own words, but we weren't trying to prevent the attack that already happened, we are trying to prevent future attacks by taking battle to our declared enemies. Not mentioned as usual is that future attacks were stopped and BTW, Saddam did not go nuclear or restart his chemical or biological programs.
"If you listen carefully to McCain and his neocon echo chamber, you’ll notice certain tics. President Obama better make his decision by tomorrow, or Armageddon (if not mushroom clouds) will arrive."
- No. I don't think he said that, lol. What they perhaps are saying is that the Commander in Chief, Lyndon Baines Obama, should make clear to the troops in harm's way whether we are in this war to win or are we out or are we content to settle for a quagmire under his watch.
"Most tellingly, perhaps, those clamoring for an escalation in Afghanistan avoid mentioning the name of the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, or the fraud-filled August election..."
- But he would return our troops to America? With the ACORN prosecutions in full force and the ACORN legal defense team in charge??? Lol. That election (Afghanistan in August) took place under Obama's new plan for Afghanistan and uner his watch and command. Not McCain. Did I miss a news story where Obama alled for a re-vote or a re-count?
"Those demanding more combat troops for Afghanistan also avoid defining the real costs. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the war was running $2.6 billion a month in Pentagon expenses alone even before Obama added 20,000 troops this year."
- Those demanding more troops are Obama's chosen command team.
"Gen. David Petraeus stipulates that real counterinsurgency requires 20 to 25 troops for each thousand residents. That comes out, conservatively, to 640,000 troops for Afghanistan (population, 32 million)."
- I don't think the major battle areas of Afghanistan encompass the whole nation or the whole population.
Frankly this anti-war piece could more logically be written attacking Obama. Even if some points are valid, what is his plan to protect America while allowing all known safe havens to fester?
Last Edit: October 11, 2009, 10:56:36 AM by DougMacG
Reply #511 on:
October 11, 2009, 10:41:53 AM »
1. When the first American troops landed to engage the nazis in north africa after Pearl Harbor, no one screamed about it. (This is before the modern left, where rooting for your country to lose a war is standard behavior)
2. Saddam was a state sponsor of terror in violation of the cease-fire and Iraq was the ideal nation where an alternative to a totalitarian or jihadist nation could be built. This is a multigenerational war and creating a free Iraq would create an alternate vision for the muslim world rather than the standard of statism or jihad.
3. The intel under Clinton and most every other nation state's intel apparatus was that Saddam retained a WMD program and the ability to use it or hand it off to a non-state actor for use against us.
4. Karzai is corrupt, but Afghanistan doesn't have any prince charmings waiting in the wings. It's the proverbial sow's ear and the fact that it in no way resembles a silk purse doesn't mean that there were better options left untouched. In much of the world, the least evil version of a Tony Soprano is the best thing you'll find that has any chance of success.
5. Lot's of scrutiny of McCain here, funny that the guy he's run against seems to avoid all but the most book-licking adoration.
6. AQ and today's talibs aren't tight like they were in 2001 ? Would making peace with an Axis state have been ok in 1943?
7. Yeah, Iraq is a tragedy in the minds of Frank Rich and his ilk as it may well become a decent country, despite their best efforts.
Reply #512 on:
October 11, 2009, 10:49:44 AM »
Nice work gentlemen!
Please give me a soundbite response (plus more if you wish, but please do include a soundbite) to the argument that Bush took his eye off the ball in Iraq, that while we committed our bandwidth to Iraq, that Afghanistan was left to fester and degenerate into the clusterfcuk it currently is.
Reply #513 on:
October 11, 2009, 11:00:11 AM »
FDR sunk most of his resources into the european theater and won there first. Did he take his eye off the ball in asia? In any fight, you must prioritize and disperse your resources in the way you see as best for you. Iraq is much closer to being a viable nation-state. Afghanistan is a mess of near stone-age tribes. Where would you invest your assets in the hope of winning approval from a post-modern American public with an MTV-attention span?
Last Edit: October 11, 2009, 11:08:09 AM by G M
Reply #514 on:
October 11, 2009, 11:09:31 AM »
Obama WH falsely downplaying risks of retreat in Afghanistan: Military, intel sources
posted at 11:00 am on October 11, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Sources within both the intelligence and military communities tell McClatchy that Barack Obama’s White House has not been honest about the risks of moving away from a robust strategy of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Obama and his advisers have begun publicly discussing the Taliban as a moderate alternative to al-Qaeda in terms of enemies, but the latest intelligence shows just the opposite. Taliban leadership and AQ have integrated even more tightly than ever since 9/11 and act in concert on strategy and tactics:
As the Obama administration reconsiders its Afghanistan policy, White House officials are minimizing warnings from the intelligence community, the military and the State Department about the risks of adopting a limited strategy focused on al Qaida, U.S. intelligence, diplomatic and military officials told McClatchy.
Recent U.S. intelligence assessments have found that the Taliban and other Pakistan-based groups that are fighting U.S.-led forces have much closer ties to al Qaida now than they did before 9/11, would allow the terrorist network to re-establish bases in Afghanistan and would help Osama bin Laden export his radical brand of Islam to Afghanistan’s neighbors and beyond, the officials said.
McClatchy interviewed more than 15 senior and mid-level U.S. intelligence, military and diplomatic officials, all of whom said they concurred with the assessments. All of them requested anonymity because the assessments are classified and the officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Bob Kerrey openly wonders why the White House has begun to tread the ground of retreat, in an op-ed for today’s Wall Street Journal:
Yet despite these setbacks, our leaders must remain focused on the fact that success in Afghanistan bolsters our national security and yes, our moral reputation. This war is not Vietnam. The Taliban are not popular and have very little support other than what they secure through terror.
Afghanistan is also not Iraq. No serious leader in Kabul is asking us to leave. Instead we are being asked to withdraw by American leaders who begin their analysis with the presumption that victory is not possible. They seem to want to ensure defeat by leaving at the very moment when our military leader on the ground has laid out a coherent and compelling strategy for victory.
When it comes to foreign policy, almost nothing matters more then your friends and your enemies knowing you will keep your word and follow through on your commitments. This is the real test of presidential leadership. I hope that President Obama—soon to be a Nobel laureate—passes with flying colors.
If the military and intel communities are telling Obama that the idea of a “moderate Taliban” is false — and Lara Logan emphatically agrees — then where did this idea arise in the first place? It comes not from Afghanistan, but from the left wing of the Democratic Party. They have increased pressure on Obama to get out of Afghanistan, and the Nobel Peace Prize was specifically intended to help in that effort. The Left wants a way out of the war, and the Obama administration has begun floating trial balloons to help sell this as something other than a retreat, if Obama goes along with it.
Kerrey doesn’t think Obama will do so, and to his credit, Obama has increased resources and offered stalwart political support for the war … until last month, when he finally got schooled on COIN resourcing. If Obama intends on making an honest decision on this, he needs to stop his advisers from making very dishonest arguments in public about it. The Taliban are not moderates, and they share the same ideological, political, and tactical goals as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Anyone saying anything differently is simply selling a false argument for a dishonorable retreat in the face of our enemies.
Reply #515 on:
October 11, 2009, 11:56:16 AM »
Sorry no sound bites.
Their main argument is a fictional picture that Obama and Edwards drew in the 2008 Democrat debates where the viewer is led to believe that American snipers, high in the mountains, had Osama bin Laden surrounded and in their sights, ready to shoot, but received instead a radioed message from President Bush telling them to quickly lay down their rifles and leave the mountains of Tora Bora immediately, and take the next train to Fallujah lol because that is now the central focus of the war on terror. It just didn't happen that way. The politicians in Washington did not micro-manage the commanders in either war, they weren't denied resources to track terrorists in the mountains and no one ever had bin Laden in their sights much less turn back, unless you count the opportunities we passed up under President Clinton.
Ironically, the intelligence that could have prevented the 'unnecessary' war was not available perhaps due to the gutting of the intelligence agencies by the appeasers who took power after the cold war threats were settled without a shot fired by the trigger happy Pres. Reagan. The prevention opportunity for the attacks on America on September 11, 2001 would have been to massively and fatally strike al Qaeda after one of the many previous attacks they made on Americans and American interests such as the USS Cole bombing in Aden in 2000 or the Embassy attacks in Africa in 1998.
Post-9/11/01 is when bin Laden truly knew to hide because (other than Saddam Hussein as published in his own state newspaper 51 days prior-
) only al Qaeda knew of the attacks that were coming.
Both Bush and the Nobel peace laureate have authorized major strikes into the 'safe' areas of Pakistan. It is ridiculous and counter-productive to make the choices we face now out to be political or partisan.
Last Edit: October 11, 2009, 12:00:03 PM by DougMacG
Reply #516 on:
October 12, 2009, 09:35:21 AM »
"and the Nobel peace laureate"
Doug, this shocker from Drudge and the WSJ:
***Obama fails to win Nobel prize in economics
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- In a decision as shocking as Friday's surprise peace prize win, President Obama failed to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Monday.
While few observers think Obama has done anything for world peace in the nearly nine months he's been in office, the same clearly can't be said for economics.
The president has worked tirelessly since even before his inauguration to wrest control of the U.S. economy from failed free markets, and the evil CEOs who profit from them, and to turn it over to wise, fair and benevolent bureaucrats.
Obama reacts to NobelPresident Obama says he was surprised and humbled by the honor. Video courtesy of Fox Business News.
From his $787 billion stimulus package, to the cap-and-trade bill, to the seizures of General Motors and Chrysler, to the undead health-care "reform" act, Obama has dominated the U.S., and therefore the global, economy as few figures have in recent years.
Yet the Nobel panel chose instead to award the prize to two obscure academics -- Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson -- one noted for her work on managing collective resources, and the other for his work on transaction costs. See full story on the Nobel winners.
Other surprise losers include celebrity noneconomist and filmmaker Michael Moore; U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and Larry Summers, head of the U.S. national economic council.
It is unclear whether the president will now refuse his peace prize in protest against the obvious slight to his real achievements this year.
-- Tom Bemis, assistant managing editor
Add Comment › · Recommend (20) · Post: Alert Email Print Share
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« « ‹ ‹ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 › › » » Comments (230)
cowboyup6 17 minutes ago+2 Votes (5 Up / 3 Dn) Request sentBut he has garnered the praise of every marxist and jihadist leader in the world, so that is the surest sign that he is succeeding in socializing the U.S. The Nobel Peace prize, not, was merely a prod from the leftist loons in Norway to continue on the path of marxism that he and his looters, like George Soros, have planned. Now, if he can only make Israel stand still for their complete destruction at the hands of his muslim brothers and not make waves by fighting for their survival. The destruction of Israel will bring another peace prize and the eternal gratitude of muhammed.Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse UncleDudley 17 minutes ago+2 Votes (4 Up / 2 Dn) Request sentI'm in total shock that the prize didn't go to Charles Rangel.
Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse
tothemoon 13 minutes ago+3 Votes (5 Up / 2 Dn) Request sentIt was a close race, Rangel, Dodd, Frank were all in the running against Mugabe.
Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse probability 9 minutes ago+2 Votes (3 Up / 1 Dn) Request sentOr good ol' Ben and Timmy.Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse producer 17 minutes ago+6 Votes (6 Up / 0 Dn) Request sentWatch out Tom! Here come the true believers decrying you for heresy. Remember the hatred shown to Palin after she punctured the bubble on the deification in Denver. All of the people who put Obama in that Greek Temple will be screaming for your blood.
Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse flintooffm 14 minutes ago-1 Vote (0 Up / 1 Dn) Request sentI hope every one is enjoying Casino and the jokers of the circusReply Link Track Replies Report Abuse ranger 10 minutes agoEven (1 Up / 1 Dn) Request sentYou mean Bernanke or Paulson or Barney Frank did not win? Sarcasm.
Perhaps they should have awarded the prize to our congress for not listening to the people and voting to approve 2 bailout bills and now there is dicussion of bailout bill # 3 on the way.Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse woodsmoke52 8 minutes ago+2 Votes (4 Up / 2 Dn) Request sentI hope we can still poke fun at a sitting president without being called "partisan". Leno, Letterman and O'Brien had a field day with Bill Clinton's peccadilloes and Bush's blunders without being flogged as political partisans. Why are the Neo-Stalinists so touchy about their man Barry?
I guess we could go back and flog the Bush carcass some more over No WMD's, Henry "Let's Loot America" Paulson and the public indiscretions of the Bush daughters, but where's the fun in that? Bush is so Not President Any More, so yesterday.
This is (I hope) still America, and lampooning politicians is a leading national pastime. Clinton needed a good lampooning and he got it, Bush needed it bad and also got it bad.
But few presidents have needed deflating more than this one, with his enormous ego and gigantic fake humility, his "I will heal the oceans and end the suffering of mankind" blather.
Deifying presidents is not a healthy trend.
Awarding Obama a Nobel Prize in "diplomacy" was an embarrassing political prostration by Stockholm. All he did was jump in a taxpayer-funded 757 and fly around the world, bowing to a succession of thugs and mountebanks and apologizing for America. Medvedev scoffed at him, Putin smiled behind his hand, Ahmadinejad mocked him openly, Chavez insulted him.
What did he actually accomplish, beyond trimming jet-fuel inventories?
This is the most arrogant presidency since....uh, since the last one. Load on the satire, Mr. Bemis. It will do us all good.Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse funbus 8 minutes ago+1 Vote (2 Up / 1 Dn) Request sentI would like to see Obama choke on that peace prize!Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse flintooffm 8 minutes ago+1 Vote (1 Up / 0 Dn) Request sentFire works are getting ready for Dow to reach Mt. Everest @ 10,000 heightReply Link Track Replies Report Abuse funbus 7 minutes ago+1 Vote (2 Up / 1 Dn) Request sentObama hasn't done sh't! Everyone around the world now knows he's a joke!
According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize should be awarded to the person who:
“ during the preceding year [...] shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse funbus 4 minutes agoEven (1 Up / 1 Dn) Request sentBarack Obama win mocks Nobel peace prize: Alexander Downer
Print Brad Norington, Washington correspondent | October 13, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THE Nobel Peace Prize was discredited if Barack Obama could be nominated for the award after just 11 days in office and win it nine months later, former foreign minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.
Mr Downer called the US President's surprise win a farce, saying it was a pity Mr Obama had not refused the award.
He singled out Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as a worthy alternative who had been ignored after years of struggling for human rights.
"The peace prize has to be for actual achievement - not potential - and it has to be achievement in promoting world peace, not raising the prestige of the American state, which is largely what Barack Obama has done so far," Mr Downer told the ABC.
Mr Obama had been in office for just 11 days when nominations for this year's Nobel Peace Prize closed on February 1. He spent most of those first days settling into the White House.
Although humbly questioning whether he was deserving, he described the prize as a "call to action".
The award's founder, Alfred Nobel, decreed the annual prize was to be bestowed for achievements "during the preceding year". According to his will, the winner "shall have done the most, or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".
The Norwegian judges took an alternative approach, handing the prize to Mr Obama for future works. Thorbjorn Jagland, the committee's chairman, defended the award in the face of public outcry, saying: "It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve."
It took two other former US presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, a combined total of 12 years before they were given the award.
Roosevelt had been president for five years when the Nobel committee gave him the honour in 1906 for mediating a peace treaty that ended war between Russia and Japan. He declined to personally accept the award until years after he had left office.
Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 - seven years after he became president - for creating the League of Nations in the wake of World War I. Wilson's drive in bringing the US into the war was critical to its end, and he took the leading role afterwards in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
When Mr Obama was nominated for the peace prize in February, he was still five months away from delivering his Cairo speech that called for a new beginning in relations between the US and Muslim world.
It was eight months before his UN speech in New York last month in which he pledged that the US would re-engage with the world after the isolation of the Bush administration.
Mr Obama has also launched a policy initiative to reduce nuclear weapons, sought to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and declared he was open to renewed diplomacy with North Korea and Iran.
But most commentators said the challenges lay ahead of the President, not behind him, and pointed out he was still fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the first 11 days after January 20, Mr Obama appointed Richard Holbrooke as his envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and George Mitchell as his envoy to the Middle East. His other notable moves attracting international attention were pledges to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and ban torture.
Mr Obama's Nobel win came as a surprise to him when he was awoken with the news by his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, at 6am last Friday (9pm AEST).
But on February 27, he was reported as a nominee, along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who intervened after conflicts in Georgia and Gaza.
Under the Nobel process, nominations are not released for 50 years and the judging process remains secret.
It is not known who nominated Mr Obama. Under the rules, names can be submitted only by members of governments and national assemblies, international courts, academics, past winners and former advisers appointed by the Norwegian institute. Invitations for nominations are sent out each September, and the deadline is February. A shortlist is sent to a panel of permanent advisers, and then sent back for a majority vote by the five-person peace prize committee in early October.
The decision is final, with no appeal.
Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse joeyzero 3 minutes ago+2 Votes (2 Up / 0 Dn) Request sentI read this twice. I thought the reporter was creating a tongue-in-cheek article. Sure Obama has made a lot of noise around economic and healthcare reform but you can't give him credit for any achievement. This isn't kindergarten; we don't give out green ribbons for trying hard...Reply Link Track Replies Report Abuse Obama-a-Bankster 3 minutes ago+1 Vote (1 Up / 0 Dn) Request sentWarmonger Wins Peace Prize
Paul Craig Roberts
Infowars.com, October 10, 2009
It took 25 years longer than George Orwell thought for the slogans of 1984 to become reality.
“War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” “Ignorance is Strength.”
I would add, “Lie is Truth.”
The Nobel Committee has awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to President Obama, the person who started a new war in Pakistan, upped the war in Afghanistan, and continues to threaten Iran with attack unless Iran does what the US government demands and relinquishes its rights as a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty.
The Nobel committee chairman, Thorbjoern Jagland said, “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
Obama, the committee gushed, has created “a new climate in international politics.”
Tell that to the 2 million displaced Pakistanis and the unknown numbers of dead ones that Obama has racked up in his few months in office. Tell that to the Afghans where civilian deaths continue to mount as Obama’s “war of necessity” drones on indeterminably.
No Bush policy has changed. Iraq is still occupied. The Guantanamo torture prison is still functioning. Rendition and assassinations are still occurring. Spying on Americans without warrants is still the order of the day. Civil liberties are continuing to be violated in the name of Oceania’s “war on terror.”..more..****
Reply #517 on:
October 12, 2009, 07:28:33 PM »
Robert D. Kaplan writing in the Atlantic:
Even if Obama does end up making the correct decision on Afghanistan strategy (by which I mean adding troops, since counterinsurgency is manpower-intensive), the public agony over his deliberations may already have done incalculable damage. The Afghan people have survived three decades of war by hedging their bets. Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment to their country, they are deciding, at the level of both the individual and the mass, whether to make their peace with the Taliban—even as the Taliban itself can only take solace and encouragement from Obama's public agonizing. Meanwhile, fundamentalist elements of the Pakistani military, opposed to the recent crackdown against local Taliban, are also taking heart from developments in Washington. . . .This is how coups and revolutions get started, by the middle ranks sensing weakness in foreign support for their superiors.
Obama's wobbliness also has a corrosive effect on the Indians and the Iranians. India desperately needs a relatively secular Afghan regime in place to bolster Hindu India's geopolitical position against radical Islamdom, and while the country enjoyed an excellent relationship with Bush, Obama's dithering is making it nervous. And Iran, in observing Washington's indecision, can only feel more secure in its creeping economic annexation of western Afghanistan.
Italian Payoffs Lead to Troop Deaths
Reply #518 on:
October 14, 2009, 10:17:28 PM »
French troops were killed after Italy hushed up ‘bribes’ to Taleban
Taleban insurgents involved in the ambush that killed ten French soldiers in 2008 show off some of the weapons and uniforms that were stripped from mutilated bodies
When ten French soldiers were killed last year in an ambush by Afghan insurgents in what had seemed a relatively peaceful area, the French public were horrified.
Their revulsion increased with the news that many of the dead soldiers had been mutilated — and with the publication of photographs showing the militants triumphantly sporting their victims’ flak jackets and weapons. The French had been in charge of the Sarobi area, east of Kabul, for only a month, taking over from the Italians; it was one of the biggest single losses of life by Nato forces in Afghanistan.
What the grieving nation did not know was that in the months before the French soldiers arrived in mid-2008, the Italian secret service had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to Taleban commanders and local warlords to keep the area quiet, The Times has learnt. The clandestine payments, whose existence was hidden from the incoming French forces, were disclosed by Western military officials.
US intelligence officials were flabbergasted when they found out through intercepted telephone conversations that the Italians had also been buying off militants, notably in Herat province in the far west. In June 2008, several weeks before the ambush, the US Ambassador in Rome made a démarche, or diplomatic protest, to the Berlusconi Government over allegations concerning the tactic.
However, a number of high-ranking officers in Nato have told The Times that payments were subsequently discovered to have been made in the Sarobi area as well.
Western officials say that because the French knew nothing of the payments they made a catastrophically incorrect threat assessment.
“One cannot be too doctrinaire about these things,” a senior Nato officer in Kabul said. “It might well make sense to buy off local groups and use non-violence to keep violence down. But it is madness to do so and not inform your allies.”
On August 18, a month after the Italian force departed, a lightly armed French patrol moved into the mountains north of Sarobi town, in the district of the same name, 65km (40 miles) east of Kabul. They had little reason to suspect that they were walking into the costliest battle for the French in a quarter of a century.
Operating in an arc of territory north and east of the Afghan capital, the French apparently believed that they were serving in a relatively benign district. The Italians they had replaced in July had suffered only one combat death in the previous year. For months the Nato headquarters in Kabul had praised Italian reconstruction projects under way around Sarobi. When an estimated 170 insurgents ambushed the force in the Uzbin Valley the upshot was a disaster. “They took us by surprise,” one French troop commander said after the attack.
A Nato post-operations assessment would sharply criticise the French force for its lack of preparation. “They went in with two platoons [approximately 60 men],” said one senior Nato officer. “They had no heavy weapons, no pre-arranged air support, no artillery support and not enough radios.”
Had it not been for the chance presence of some US special forces in the area who were able to call in air support for them, they would have been in an even worse situation. “The French were carrying just two medium machine guns and 100 rounds of ammunition per man. They were asking for trouble and the insurgents managed to get among them.”
A force from the 8th Marine Parachute Regiment took an hour and a half to reach the French over the mountains. “We couldn’t see the enemy and we didn’t know how many of them there were,” said another French officer. “After 20 minutes we started coming under fire from the rear. We were surrounded.”
The force was trapped until airstrikes forced the insurgents to retreat the next morning. By then ten French soldiers were dead and 21 injured.
The French public were appalled when it emerged that many of the dead had been mutilated by the insurgents— a mixed force including Taleban members and fighters from Hizb e-Islami.
A few weeks later French journalists photographed insurgents carrying French assault rifles and wearing French army flak jackets, helmets and, in one case, a dead soldier’s watch.
Two Western military officials in Kabul confirmed that intelligence briefings after the ambush said that the French troops had believed they were moving through a benign area — one which the Italian military had been keen to show off to the media as a successful example of a “hearts and minds” operation.
Another Nato source confirmed the allegations of Italian money going to insurgents. “The Italian intelligence service made the payments, it wasn’t the Italian Army,” he said. “It was payments of tens of thousands of dollars regularly to individual insurgent commanders. It was to stop Italian casualties that would cause political difficulties at home.”
When six Italian troops were killed in a bombing in Kabul last month it resulted in a national outpouring of grief and demands for troops to be withdrawn. The Nato source added that US intelligence became aware of the payments. “The Italians never acknowledged it, even though there was intercepted telephone traffic on the subject,” said the source. “The démarche was the result. It was not publicised because it would have caused a diplomatic nightmare. We found out about the Sarobi payments later.”
In Kabul a high-ranking Western intelligence source was scathing. “It’s an utter disgrace,” he said. “Nato in Afghanistan is a fragile enough construct without this lot working behind our backs. The Italians have a hell of a lot to answer for.”
Haji Abdul Rahman, a tribal elder from Sarobi, recalled how a benign environment became hostile overnight. “There were no attacks against the Italians. People said the Italians and Taleban had good relations between them.
“When the country [nationality of the forces] changed and the French came there was a big attack on them. We knew the Taleban came to the city and we knew that they didn’t carry out attacks on the Italian troops but we didn’t know why.”
The Italian Defence Ministry referred inquiries to the Prime Minister’s Office. A spokesman said: “The American Ambassador in Rome did not make any formal complaint. He merely asked for information, first from the previous Government and then from the current Government. The allegations were denied and they are totally unfounded.”
Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, defeated Romano Prodi at elections in April 2008.
The claims are not without precedent. In October 2007 two Italian agents were kidnapped in western Afghanistan; one was killed in a rescue by British special forces. It was later alleged in the Italian press that they had been kidnapped while making payments to the Taleban.
Reply #519 on:
October 17, 2009, 06:34:36 AM »
Friday, October 16, 2009 STRATFOR.COM Diary Archives
Pakistan and the Kerry-Lugar Bill: Aid, or an Affront to an Alliance?
THURSDAY WAS A PARTICULARLY ROUGH DAY for Pakistan. Suspected Taliban militants carried out a spate of armed assaults and suicide attacks against three security facilities in Lahore, killing 38 people. The violence followed 11 other attacks that occurred in the past week. And with the military gearing up for an offensive against Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan, more attacks designed to demonstrate the militants’ resolve are likely in store.
Also on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Kerry-Lugar bill — legislation that triples the amount of U.S. aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion over five years. This might seem like a silver lining in the cloud of Pakistan’s terrorism woes. After all, the United States is signaling a deepened commitment to its front-line ally in the war against terrorism, during its most desperate hour, isn’t it?
“In the eyes of the military — the indisputable power-broker of the Pakistani state — the mere inclusion of these provisions, even if they are non-binding, is a direct affront to the U.S.-Pakistani alliance. An alliance that is already very troubled.”
While that might be the popular viewpoint in Washington, any reaction in Islamabad to mention of the Kerry-Lugar bill likely would have a stream of colorful expletives attached. For many in Islamabad, the aid package represents a deep betrayal because it includes what the Pakistanis call “highly intrusive” provisions — clauses that make the flow of funds contingent upon the U.S. secretary of state’s ability to certify that Pakistan is combating militant groups on its soil and that the Pakistani government wields “effective civilian control over the military.”
In the eyes of the military — the indisputable power broker of the Pakistani state — the mere inclusion of these provisions, even if they are non-binding, is a direct affront to the U.S.-Pakistani alliance. It is an alliance that is already very troubled.
Since Pakistan’s violent inception in 1947, it was clear that the state had gotten the short end of the stick when it was carved out of British-controlled India. Pakistan’s borders deprived it of any significant strategic depth, while its rival India had significantly advantages in size, military prowess, population and wealth. This is a reality that Pakistan cannot escape. Therefore, it is a strategic imperative for Pakistan to acquire an outside power patron, preferably a superpower like the United States.
For decades, Pakistan has been willing to help the United States: It has offered to host U.S. bases along the Baloch coast, facilitated a U.S. rapprochement with China at the height of the Cold War, took the lead in operationalizing the U.S. proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, and it is now on the front line in the war against terrorism. Yet time and again Pakistan has been disappointed.
Islamabad essentially expected the United States to repay it with security guarantees, as well as military and economic assistance that would allow Pakistan to level the playing field with India.
But Washington could never really fulfill Islamabad’s expectations. An alliance with Pakistan offers short-term utility from time to time, but the United States recognizes India as the heavyweight on the Asian subcontinent. India’s location in the Indian Ocean basin provides a strategic advantage, allowing it to hedge against Russia and China and to form a bulwark against radical Islam. Moreover, it can help to either secure or threaten critical sea-lanes running from the Persian Gulf to Asia. As an added bonus to the United States, India is also the world’s largest democracy. Circumstances may not always have permitted a deeper U.S.-Indian strategic partnership, but geopolitical times have changed. No longer bound by Cold War alliances, India and the United States see an opening to work on common interests. Ironically, Pakistan (and its Islamist militancy issues) is now one such common interest.
The idea of a deepening U.S.-Indian strategic partnership is enough to shake Pakistan to its core. In the past, when Islamabad saw that the United States wasn’t prepared to guarantee Pakistan’s territorial integrity, it developed nuclear weapons, but also came up with a back-up insurance policy to use against its rivals: irregular warfare through the development of militant proxies. Pakistan’s irregular warfare doctrine eventually spiraled out of control, and the side effects of that policy now form the glue in its current alliance with the United States in the battle against terrorism. But as the Kerry-Lugar bill symbolizes, an alliance with the United States rarely comes without strings attached. This is especially true as the debate intensifies in Washington over whether the United States should reduce its commitments in battling jihadists and refocus attention on other priorities in the world.
A familiar sense of betrayal is creeping back into Islamabad. Only this time, the irregular warfare policy is broken and militants that Pakistan once nurtured are threatening to shatter its political coherence. Meanwhile, India and the United States are finding a lot more common ground.
Reply #520 on:
October 21, 2009, 08:11:44 AM »
America's political class has developed a habit of talking itself into defeat. Yet the predictions of doom in Afghanistan and Pakistan are as misplaced there as they were in Iraq, as events in the last week show. Afghanistan yesterday demonstrated political maturity by moving to resolve a dispute over a fraudulent election. On Sunday, Pakistan's military launched an offensive against the Islamist sanctuary in the mountainous tribal region of South Waziristan.
Since the August 20 poll, the independent Electoral Complaints Commission has reviewed and disqualified fraudulent votes. Enough ballots were thrown out to put President Hamid Karzai's final tally below the 50% threshold required to win. A second round must now be held to determine a winner, which will take place November 7. Mr. Karzai was reluctant, but he did the right thing and accepted a runoff, earning praise as a "statesman" from the U.S.
To Afghanistan's credit, the election tensions never degenerated into violence, which could have pitted the Pashtuns against Tajiks, who back challenger Abdullah Abdullah. Mr. Karzai didn't declare victory when the state-run Independent Electoral Commission initially gave him 54% of the vote. Nor did Mr. Abdullah rile up his supporters to fight outside the system. Few emerging democracies would have shown such restraint.
The runoff won't come off without security or logistical risks, and the resurgent Taliban want to disrupt the poll. But in the first round, the bigger threat to the election's integrity came from Mr. Karzai's supporters in the southern provinces who inflated his tally. Mr. Karzai is still favored to win, but a more successful second round will help with his popular legitimacy—as much in the U.S. as in Afghanistan.
As for Pakistan, this week's offensive goes into tribal areas that Islamabad has never managed to control. About 30,000 Pakistani troops are taking on 10,000 or so Islamist fighters associated with the Mehsud clan. Leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a U.S. drone strike this summer, but his men remain a formidable fighting force.
Pakistani public opinion now backs this costly fight because the Pashtun insurgents in the tribal areas are increasingly viewed as a threat to Pakistan itself. At the same time, anti-Americanism runs deep, Obamamania or not. Many in the military and intelligence service support Islamist terror groups fighting more in Kashmir or Afghanistan. If Pakistan's rulers finally decide to end their role as a leading sanctuary for Islamist terror, the outlook for Afghanistan will brighten as well. The battle in Waziristan is an early litmus test.
All of this progress is being made despite President Obama's all too public second thoughts over the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. His advisers and generals deserve credit for helping to turn events around in the Afpak theater, but our allies are still waiting to find out what kind of "statesman" the U.S. President will be.
Stratfor: Serious thought piece
Reply #521 on:
October 21, 2009, 08:33:33 AM »
The Afghanistan challenge
Expecting infantry to bring victory is a radical departure from US fighting doctrine since World War II.
The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda’s sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.
After Obama took office, it became necessary to define a war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan. The most likely model was based on the one used in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, now head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility covers both Afghanistan and Iraq. Paradoxically, the tactical and strategic framework for fighting the so-called “right war” derived from U.S. military successes in executing the so-called “wrong war.” But grand strategy, or selecting the right wars to fight, and war strategy, or how to fight the right wars, are not necessarily linked.
Afghanistan, Iraq and the McChrystal Plan
Making sense of the arguments over Afghanistan requires an understanding of how the Iraq war is read by the strategists fighting it, since a great deal of proposed Afghan strategy involves transferring lessons learned from Iraq. Those strategists see the Iraq war as having had three phases. The first was the short conventional war that saw the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s military. The second was the period from 2003-2006 during which the United States faced a Sunni insurgency and resistance from the Shiite population, as well as a civil war between those two communities. During this phase, the United States sought to destroy the insurgency primarily by military means while simultaneously working to scrape a national unity government together and hold elections. The third phase, which began in late 2006, was primarily a political phase. It consisted of enticing Iraqi Sunni leaders to desert the foreign jihadists in Iraq, splitting the Shiite community among its various factions, and reaching political — and financial — accommodations among the various factions. Military operations focused on supporting political processes, such as pressuring recalcitrant factions and protecting those who aligned with the United States. The troop increase — aka the surge — was designed to facilitate this strategy. Even more, it was meant to convince Iraqi factions (not to mention Iran) that the United States was not going to pull out of Iraq, and that therefore a continuing American presence would back up guarantees made to Iraqis.
It is important to understand this last bit and its effect on Afghanistan. As in Iraq, the idea that the United States will not abandon local allies by withdrawing until Afghan security forces could guarantee the allies’ security lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, e.g., before local allies’ security could be guaranteed, would undermine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. To a great extent, the process of U.S. security guarantees in Afghanistan depends on the credibility of those guarantees: Withdrawal from Iraq followed by retribution against U.S. allies in Iraq would undermine the core of the Afghan strategy.
U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan ultimately is built around the principle that the United States and its NATO allies are capable of protecting Afghans prepared to cooperate with Western forces. This explains why the heart of McChrystal’s strategy involves putting U.S. troops as close to the Afghan people as possible. Doing so will entail closing many smaller bases in remote valleys — like the isolated outpost recently attacked in Nuristan province — and opening bases in more densely populated areas.
McChrystal’s strategy therefore has three basic phases. In phase one, his forces would fight their way into regions where a large portion of the population lives and where the Taliban currently operates, namely Kabul, Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The United States would assume a strategic defensive posture in these populated areas. Because these areas are essential to the Taliban, phase two would see a Taliban counterattack in a bid to drive McChrystal’s forces out, or at least to demonstrate that the U.S. forces cannot provide security for the local population. Paralleling the first two phases, phase three would see McChrystal using his military successes to forge alliances with indigenous leaders and their followers.
It should be noted that while McChrystal’s traditional counterinsurgency strategy would be employed in populated areas, U.S. forces would also rely on traditional counterterrorism tactics in more remote areas where the Taliban have a heavy presence and can be pursued through drone strikes. The hope is that down the road, the strategy would allow the United States to use its military successes to fracture the Taliban, thereby encouraging defections and facilitating political reconciliation with Taliban elements driven more by political power than ideology.
There is a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, however. In Iraq, resistance forces rarely operated in sufficient concentrations to block access to the population. By contrast, the Taliban on several occasions have struck with concentrations of forces numbering in the hundreds, essentially at company-size strength. If Iraq was a level one conflict, with irregular forces generally refusing conventional engagement with coalition forces, Afghanistan is beginning to bridge the gap from a level one to a level two conflict, with the Taliban holding territory with forces both able to provide conventional resistance and to mount some offensives at the company level (and perhaps at the battalion level in the future). This means that occupying, securing and defending areas such that the inhabitants see the coalition forces as defenders rather than as magnets for conflict is the key challenge.
Adding to the challenge, elements of McChrystal’s strategy are in tension. First, local inhabitants will experience multilevel conflict as coalition forces move into a given region. Second, McChrystal is hoping that the Taliban goes on the offensive in response. And this means that the first and second steps will collide with the third, which is demonstrating to locals that the presence of coalition forces makes them more secure as conflict increases (which McChrystal acknowledges will happen). To convince locals that Western forces enhance their security, the coalition will thus have to be stunningly successful both at defeating Taliban defenders when they first move in and in repulsing subsequent Taliban attacks.
In its conflict with the Taliban, the coalition’s main advantage is firepower, both in terms of artillery and airpower. The Taliban must concentrate its forces to attack the coalition; to counter such attacks, the weapons of choice are airstrikes and artillery. The problem with both of these weapons is first, a certain degree of inaccuracy is built into their use, and second, the attackers will be moving through population centers (the area held by both sides is important precisely because it has population). This means that air- and ground-fire missions, both important in a defensive strategy, run counter to the doctrine of protecting population.
McChrystal is fully aware of this dilemma, and he has therefore changed the rules of engagement to sharply curtail airstrikes in areas of concentrated population, even in areas where U.S. troops are in danger of being overrun. As McChrystal said in a recent interview, these rules of engagement will hold “Even if it means we are going to step away from a firefight and fight them another day.”
This strategy poses two main challenges. First, it shifts the burden of the fighting onto U.S. infantry forces. Second, by declining combat in populated areas, the strategy runs the risk of making the populated areas where political arrangements might already be in place more vulnerable. In avoiding air and missile strikes, McChrystal avoids alienating the population through civilian casualties. But by declining combat, McChrystal risks alienating populations subject to Taliban offensives. Simply put, while airstrikes can devastate a civilian population, avoiding airstrikes could also devastate Western efforts, as local populations could see declining combat as a betrayal. McChrystal is thus stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one.
One of his efforts at a solution has been to ask for more troops. The point of these troops is not to occupy Afghanistan and impose a new reality through military force, which is impossible (especially given the limited number of troops the United States is willing to dedicate to the problem). Instead, it is to provide infantry forces not only to hold larger areas, but to serve as reinforcements during Taliban attacks so the use of airpower can be avoided. Putting the onus of this counterinsurgency on the infantry, and having the infantry operate without airpower, is a radical departure from U.S. fighting doctrine since World War II.
Seismic Shift in War Doctrine
Geopolitically, the United States fights at the end of a long supply line. Moreover, U.S. forces operate at a demographic disadvantage. Once in Eurasia, U.S. forces are always outnumbered. Infantry-on-infantry warfare is attritional, and the United States runs out of troops before the other side does. Infantry warfare does not provide the United States any advantage, and in fact, it places the United States at a disadvantage. Opponents of the United States thus have larger numbers of fighters; greater familiarity and acclimation to the terrain; and typically, better intelligence from countrymen behind U.S. lines. The U.S. counter always has been force multipliers — normally artillery and airpower — capable of destroying enemy concentrations before they close with U.S. troops. McChrystal’s strategy, if applied rigorously, shifts doctrine toward infantry-on-infantry combat. His plan assumes that superior U.S. training will be the force multiplier in Afghanistan (as it may). But that assumes that the Taliban, a light infantry force with numerous battle-hardened formations optimized for fighting in Afghanistan, is an inferior infantry force. And it assumes that U.S. infantry fighting larger concentrations of Taliban forces will consistently defeat them.
Reply #522 on:
October 21, 2009, 08:34:57 AM »
Obviously, if McChrystal drives the Taliban out of secured areas and into uninhabited areas, the United States will have a tremendous opportunity to engage in strategic bombardment both against Taliban militants themselves and against supply lines no longer plugged into populated areas. But this assumes that the Taliban would not reduce its operations from company-level and higher assaults down to guerrilla-level operations in response to being driven out of population centers. If the Taliban did make such a reduction, it would become indistinguishable from the population. This would allow it to engage in attritional warfare against coalition forces and against the protected population to demonstrate that coalition forces can’t protect them. The Taliban already has demonstrated the ability to thrive in both populated and rural areas of Afghanistan, where the terrain favors the insurgent far more than the counterinsurgent.
The strategy of training Afghan soldiers and police to take up the battle and persuading insurgents to change sides faces several realities. The Taliban has an excellent intelligence service built up during the period of its rule and afterward, allowing it to populate the new security forces with its agents and loyalists. And while persuading insurgents to change sides certainly can happen, whether it can happen to the extent of leaving the Taliban materially weakened remains in doubt. In Iraq, this happened not because of individual changes, but because regional ethnic leadership — with their own excellent intelligence capabilities — changed sides and drove out opposing factions. Individual defections were frequently liquidated.
But Taliban leaders have not shown any inclination for changing sides. They do not believe the United States is in Afghanistan to stay. Getting individual Taliban militants to change sides creates an intelligence-security battle. But McChrystal is betting that his forces will form bonds with the local population so deep that the locals will provide intelligence against Taliban forces operating in the region. The coalition must thus demonstrate that the risks of defection are dwarfed by the advantages. To do this, the coalition security and counterintelligence must consistently and effectively block the Taliban’s ability to identify, locate and liquidate defectors. If McChrystal cannot do that, large-scale defection will be impossible, because well before such defection becomes large scale, the first defectors will be dead, as will anyone seen by the Taliban as a collaborator.
Ultimately, the entire strategy depends on how you read Iraq. In Iraq, a political decision was made by an intact Sunni leadership able to enforce its will among its followers. Squeezed between the foreign jihadists who wanted to usurp their position and the Shia, provided with political and financial incentives, and possessing their own forces able to provide a degree of security themselves, the Sunni leadership came to the see the Americans as the lesser evil. They controlled a critical mass, and they shifted. McChrystal has made it clear that the defections he expects are not a Taliban faction whose leadership decides to shift, but Taliban soldiers as individuals or small groups. That isn’t ultimately what turned the Iraq war but something very different — and quite elusive in counterinsurgency. He is looking for retail defections to turn into a strategic event.
Moreover, it seems much too early to speak of the successful strategy in Iraq. First, there is increasing intracommunal violence in anticipation of coming elections early next year. Second, some 120,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq to guarantee the political and security agreements of 2007-2008, and it is far from clear what would happen if those troops left. Finally, where in Afghanistan there is the Pakistan question, in Iraq there remains the Iran question. Instability thus becomes a cross-border issue beyond the scope of existing forces.
The Pakistan situation is particularly problematic. If the strategic objective of the war in Afghanistan is to cut the legs out from under al Qaeda and deny these foreign jihadists sanctuary, then what of the sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal belt where high-value al Qaeda targets are believed to be located? Pakistan is fighting its share of jihadists according to its own rules; the United States cannot realistically expect Islamabad to fulfill its end of the bargain in containing al Qaeda. The primary U.S. targets in this war are on the wrong side of the border, and in areas where U.S. forces are not free to operate. The American interest in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the emergence of follow-on jihadist forces. The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia — or even Cleveland for that matter. Securing Afghanistan is thus not necessarily a precondition for defeating al Qaeda.
Iraq is used as the argument in favor of the new strategy in Afghanistan. What happened in Iraq was that a situation that was completely out of hand became substantially less unstable because of a set of political accommodations initially rejected by the Americans and the Sunnis from 2003-2006. Once accepted, a disastrous situation became an unstable situation with many unknowns still in place.
If the goal of Afghanistan is to forge the kind of tenuous political accords that govern Iraq, the factional conflicts that tore Iraq apart are needed. Afghanistan certainly has factional conflicts, but the Taliban, the main adversary, does not seem to be torn by them. It is possible that under sufficient pressure such splits might occur, but the Taliban has been a cohesive force for a generation. When it has experienced divisions, it hasn’t split decisively.
On the other hand, it is not clear that Western forces in Afghanistan can sustain long-term infantry conflict in which the offensive is deliberately ceded to a capable enemy and where airpower’s use is severely circumscribed to avoid civilian casualties, overturning half a century of military doctrine of combined arms operations.
The Bigger Picture
The best argument for fighting in Afghanistan is powerful and similar to the one for fighting in Iraq: credibility. The abandonment of either country will create a powerful tool in the Islamic world for jihadists to argue that the United States is a weak power. Withdrawal from either place without a degree of political success could destabilize other regimes that cooperate with the United States. Given that, staying in either country has little to do with strategy and everything to do with the perception of simply being there.
The best argument against fighting in either country is equally persuasive. The jihadists are right: The United States has neither the interest nor forces for long-term engagements in these countries. American interests go far beyond the Islamic world, and there are many present (to say nothing of future) threats from outside the region that require forces. Overcommitment in any one area of interest at the expense of others could be even more disastrous than the consequences of withdrawal.
In our view, Obama’s decision depends not on choosing between McChrystal’s strategy and others, but on a careful consideration of how to manage the consequences of withdrawal. An excellent case can be made that now is not the time to leave Afghanistan, and we expect Obama to be influenced by that thinking far more than by the details of McChrystal’s strategy. As McChrystal himself points out, there are many unknowns and many risks in his own strategy; he is guaranteeing nothing.
Reducing American national strategy to the Islamic world, or worse, Afghanistan, is the greater threat. Nations find their balance, and the heavy pressures on Obama in this decision basically represent those impersonal forces battering him. The question he must ask himself is simple: In what way is the future of Afghanistan of importance to the United States? The answer that securing it will hobble al Qaeda is simply wrong. U.S. Afghan policy will not stop a global terrorist organization; terrorists will just go elsewhere. The answer that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is important in shaping the Islamic world’s sense of American power is better, but even that must be taken in context of other global interests.
Obama does not want this to be his war. He does not want to be remembered for Afghanistan the way George W. Bush is remembered for Iraq or Lyndon Johnson is for Vietnam. Right now, we suspect Obama plans to demonstrate commitment, and to disengage at a more politically opportune time. Johnson and Bush showed that disengagement after commitment is nice in theory. For our part, we do not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan, but that McChrystal has proposed a good one for “hold until relieved.” We suspect that Obama will hold to show that he gave the strategy a chance, but that the decision to leave won’t be too far off.
Reply #523 on:
October 21, 2009, 11:35:58 AM »
Strat has the analysis of the Afghan situation as good as any I've read. Obama doesn't have the commitment to go in and do what is necessary in the urban centers and take heat like Bush took over casualties and mistakes. If he tries without full commitment it will fail because the trust of the people necessary to get good intelligence won't happen. Retreating to the horizon will fail for the lack of on-the-ground intelligence and because air strikes would take casualties making things worse. Lack of a commitment to win (or exit) means perpetual war favoring the side willing and able to take the most casualties, and unless I'm missing something, we lack the commitment.
Strat: "The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia — or even Cleveland for that matter."
Yes but I draw a distinction. It is very important that the terrorists over time have a smaller map to operate in and they not get too comfortable in any of their locations.
The fact that the governments of Indonesia and Pakistan are at least trying to end/prevent safe havens is important - governments of Cleveland, Detroit and Minneapolis could take a lesson from them.
Joining the jihad is not glamorous, even for a suicide bomber, when your side is losing. OBL knows that; recall the importance he put on winning in Iraq.
Obama's goal is political, to keep the conflict from getting worse and to find cover. He needs to make peace with his fellow contributors to the 'General Betray Us' ad from when the General was sworn in to take condescension from then-Sen. Hillary et al. Remember that LBJ was removed by his own party.
If Obama allows global terrorism to fester and we are attacked after his term he won't be harmed any worse than Bill Clinton was in his legacy. From what I can see, this is about him and about not losing political power to wield at home. How could anyone read his statements and positions over his brief career and think his focus is national security?
Last Edit: October 21, 2009, 11:38:53 AM by DougMacG
NATO pressures President Hamlet
Reply #524 on:
October 24, 2009, 05:45:51 AM »
Pravda on the Hudson
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Defense ministers from NATO on Friday endorsed the ambitious counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan proposed by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, giving new impetus to his recommendation to pour more troops into the eight-year-old war.
Notes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas of conflict in the post-9/11 era. Go to the Blog »
General McChrystal, the senior American and allied commander in Afghanistan, made an unannounced appearance here on Friday to brief the defense ministers on his strategic review of a war in which the American-led campaign has lost momentum to a tenacious Taliban insurgency.
“What we did today was to discuss General McChrystal’s overall assessment, his overall approach, and I have noted a broad support from all ministers of this overall counterinsurgency approach,” said NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The acceptance by NATO defense ministers of General McChrystal’s approach did not include a decision on new troops, and it was not clear that their judgment would translate into increased willingness by their governments, many of which have been seeking to reduce their military presence in Afghanistan, to contribute further forces to the war.
But it was another in a series of judgments that success there could not be achieved by a narrower effort that did not increase troop levels in Afghanistan substantially and focused more on capturing and killing terrorists linked to Al Qaeda — a counterterrorism strategy identified with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The NATO briefing, though held privately, thrusts General McChrystal back into the debate over what President Obama should do about Afghanistan — a role that has raised tensions between the general and the White House in the past, and even drawn a rebuke from his boss, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
NATO’s support got no official reaction from the White House. But an administration official noted that an endorsement by defense ministers was not the same as an endorsement by the alliance’s political leadership. Other officials were emphatic that Mr. Obama would not be stampeded in his deliberations and suggested that the NATO statement should not be taken as evidence that the White House had made a decision about how to proceed.
“In no way, shape or form are the president’s options constrained,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, speaking to reporters at the State Department.
General McChrystal’s review calls for adopting a full-scale counterinsurgency strategy that would protect population centers and accelerate training of Afghan Army and police units — both of which would require significant numbers of fresh troops. NATO diplomats noted that it was difficult to see how an acceptance of this broad strategy could be viewed as anything but an endorsement of the need to increase both military and civilian contributions.
Mr. Gates, who has kept his views about additional troops close to his vest and has discouraged his commanders from lobbying too publicly for their positions, declined to be drawn out on this assessment.
“For this meeting, I am here mainly in listening mode,” Mr. Gates said in Bratislava after the NATO briefing, although he noted that “many allies spoke positively about General McChrystal’s assessment.”
Mr. Gates said the administration’s decision on Afghanistan was still two or three weeks away, and he cautioned that it was “vastly premature” to draw conclusions now about whether the president would deploy more troops. He said that allied defense ministers had not voiced concerns about the administration’s decision-making process.
Although NATO will not meet until next month to decide whether to commit more resources to Afghanistan, Mr. Gates did reveal that he had received indications that some allies were prepared to increase their contributions of civilian experts or troops, or both.
Britain and other NATO members have had their own fractious political debates over troop levels. A retired top general in Britain recently said that the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown had rebuffed his requests for more troops, a charge Mr. Brown denied.
Separate from his strategic review, General McChrystal has submitted a request for forces, which is now working its way through both the American and NATO chains of command.
The options submitted by General McChrystal range to a maximum of 85,000 more troops, although his leading option calls for increasing forces by about 40,000, according to officials familiar with the proposal.
The pressure for more troops was a theme throughout the day at the NATO meeting, as other senior international representatives told defense ministers of the need to increase their commitments in order to succeed in Afghanistan.
The United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, who also flew to the Slovakian capital to meet the ministers, stressed that “additional international troops are required.” He also told the allies, “This cannot be a U.S.-only enterprise.”
Mr. Eide acknowledged that it might be difficult to rally public support for force contributions while allegations of election fraud continued to taint the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Senior American military officers have already endorsed General McChrystal’s overall strategy, including Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in the Middle East.
Senior NATO officials made clear that additional commitments should go beyond combat forces to include trainers for the Afghan Army and police force, as well as civilians to help rebuild the economy and restore confidence in the government.
“What we need is a much broader strategy, which stabilizes the whole of Afghan society, and this is the essence in the recommendations presented by General McChrystal,” said Mr. Rasmussen, the NATO secretary general. “This won’t happen just because of a good plan. It will also need resources — people and money.”
General McChrystal was not scheduled to make any public comments here. The general’s reticence was not unexpected, as some administration officials have criticized his recent statements as an attempt to press the White House to act.
The general and his aides have denied they were playing politics. General McChrystal said in a recent interview that success required a unified, government-wide strategy.
NATO officials assessing the potential for allied troop contributions said that delicate negotiations were under way, and that NATO capitals were watching the Obama administration for signals even while they sent signals of their own.
Thom Shanker reported from Bratislava, and Mark Landler from Washington.
NYT: Pak army takes Kotkai
Reply #525 on:
October 25, 2009, 09:11:28 AM »
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — After a week of fighting Taliban and Qaeda militants in the mountains of South Waziristan, the Pakistani Army said Saturday that it had captured a town important for both its symbolic and strategic value.
Kotkai, a strategic town, was taken after "intense fighting."
The town, Kotkai, most of whose 5,000 residents had already fled, is the home of the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, and one of the most feared Taliban commanders, Qari Hussain. Mr. Hussain is believed to be the organizer and trainer of the group’s suicide bombing squads.
The army has been struggling in the treacherous terrain in South Waziristan, long a militant sanctuary. Military officials said Saturday that Kotkai had been taken only after “intense fighting.” Four days ago, the militants repulsed the first army attempt to capture the town and killed nine soldiers, according to a military intelligence officer.
It was the first notable sign of progress in what military analysts say will be an arduous slog for the army against a resilient enemy. And it came as Pakistan has been enduring a withering series of terrorist attacks over the past three weeks.
At a military briefing Saturday, the information minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira, acknowledged that the attacks, which have focused on police and government sites and have killed about 200 people, had taken a serious toll. But he insisted that “the nation will not be terrorized.”
The farther the army tries to penetrate South Waziristan, the harder the fighting will get, as soldiers encounter defensive positions dug into the sides of mountains that the guerrillas will battle hard to keep, military analysts and residents of the area said.
For example, on the southeast axis of the army’s attack into the Taliban stronghold, soldiers will soon encounter the defensive positions leading to Kaniguram, a village about 6,700 feet high that serves as the hide-out of Uzbek fighters, some of the most battle-hardened around, a former resident of the area said.
“The military’s movement is faster than in their previous campaigns,” a former government official from North Waziristan said, referring to three short-lived army campaigns that ended in negotiated settlements with the Taliban. “But the more they get inside the sanctuary, the more they will be bogged down.”
Time may also be working against the army. In past years, many of the Taliban militants fighting American and NATO forces in Afghanistan have come to Waziristan as winter approached to train and prepare for the next year’s fighting.
Although there is evidence that the seasonal fighting in Afghanistan has become a more year-round affair, the concern is that any Taliban fighters who do cross the border into Pakistan could be used against the army in South Waziristan. One militant organizer in the region, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the migration had already started, swelling the number of active militants in the region well beyond the present estimates of 7,000 to 10,000.
Reinforcements for the militants were also coming from other parts of the Pakistani tribal region, the militant organizer said.
Still, Pakistani soldiers are receiving more support than they did in past campaigns, including better winter gear and air support from fighter jets, the former Waziristan official said.
American officials have praised the Waziristan offensive, after months of pressure on Pakistani officials to begin. But at the military briefing, the army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said that the fight was a purely Pakistani enterprise, unaided by the United States or anyone else.
There have been no reported missile attacks by American drones in South or North Waziristan against Qaeda targets since the beginning of the Pakistani Army offensive a week ago. Both South and North Waziristan have been the focus of the more than 40 drone attacks this year.
Pakistan had asked the United States to refrain from drone attacks while the army operation was under way in South Waziristan, a senior Pakistani government official said Saturday.
Families continued to flee South Waziristan, and Mr. Kaira said the government was granting the refugees a month’s supply of food and a monthly stipend worth about $50.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it still had no access to North or South Waziristan to care for civilians. “We are concerned by the lack of access granted to humanitarian organizations like the I.C.R.C. whose role it is to protect and assist victims of fighting,” the committee said in a statement.
Elsewhere, in the tribal belt in Bajaur, a missile fired from a drone killed 22 people in the town of Damadola on Saturday, two Pakistani officials said.
The strike appeared to be aimed at a senior Pakistani Taliban leader, Faqir Mohammad, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said two relatives of Mr. Mohammad were killed.
Jane Perlez reported from Islamabad, and Pir Zubair Shah from Peshawar, Pakistan.
While President Hamlet decides
Reply #526 on:
October 27, 2009, 08:46:00 AM »
This from Pravda on the Hudson, so caveat lector:
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — Forced to confront the rising insurgency in once peaceful northern Afghanistan, the German Army is engaged in sustained and bloody ground combat for the first time since World War II.
A German soldier stands guard in a compound in Kunduz Province. Two men from his company were killed in June, among 36 German soldiers who have died in the Afghan war. More Photos »
Soldiers near the northern city of Kunduz have had to strike back against an increasingly fierce campaign by Taliban insurgents, while carrying the burden of being among the first units to break the German taboo against military combat abroad that arose after the Nazi era.
At issue are how long opposition in Germany will allow its troops to stay and fight, and whether they will be given leeway from their strict rules of engagement to pursue the kind of counterinsurgency being advocated by American generals. The question now is whether the Americans will ultimately fight one kind of war and their allies another.
For Germans, the realization that their soldiers are now engaged in ground offensives in an open-ended and escalating war requires a fundamental reconsideration of their principles.
After World War II, German society rejected using military power for anything other than self-defense, and pacifism has been a rallying cry for generations, blocking allied requests for any military support beyond humanitarian assistance.
German leaders have chipped away at the proscriptions in recent years, in particular by participating in airstrikes in the Kosovo war. Still, the legacy of the combat ban remains in the form of strict engagement rules and an ingrained shoot-last mentality that is causing significant tensions with the United States in Afghanistan.
Driven by necessity, some of the 4,250 German soldiers here, the third-largest number of troops in the NATO contingent, have already come a long way. Last Tuesday, they handed out blankets, volleyballs and flashlights as a goodwill gesture to residents of the village of Yanghareq, about 22 miles northwest of Kunduz. Barely an hour later, insurgents with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades ambushed other members of the same company.
The Germans fought back, killing one of the attackers, before the dust and disorder made it impossible to tell fleeing Taliban from civilians.
“They shoot at us and we shoot back,” said Staff Sgt. Erik S., who, according to German military rules, could not be fully identified. “People are going to fall on both sides. It’s as simple as that. It’s war.”
The sergeant added, “The word ‘war’ is growing louder in society, and the politicians can’t keep it secret anymore.”
Indeed, German politicians have refused to utter the word, trying instead to portray the mission in Afghanistan as a mix of peacekeeping and reconstruction in support of the Afghan government. But their line has grown less tenable as the insurgency has expanded rapidly in the west and north of the country, where Germany leads the regional command and provides a majority of the troops.
The Germans may not have gone to war, but now the war has come to them.
In part, NATO and German officials say, that is evidence of the political astuteness of Taliban and Qaeda leaders, who are aware of the opposition in Germany to the war. They hope to exploit it and force the withdrawal of German soldiers — splintering the NATO alliance in the process — through attacks on German personnel in Afghanistan and through video and audio threats of terrorist attacks on the home front before the German elections last month.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior American and allied commander in Afghanistan, is pressing NATO allies to contribute more troops to the war effort, even as countries like the Netherlands and Canada have begun discussing plans to pull out. Germany has held out against pleas for additional troops so far.
Ties between Germany and the United States were strained last month over a German-ordered bombing of two hijacked tanker trucks, which killed civilians as well as Taliban. Many Germans, from top politicians down to enlisted men, thought that General McChrystal was too swift to condemn the strike before a complete investigation.
Germany’s combat troops are caught in the middle. In interviews last week, soldiers from the Third Company, Mechanized Infantry Battalion 391, said they were understaffed for the increasingly complex mission here. Two men from the company were killed in June, among 36 German soldiers who have died in the Afghan war.
The soldiers expressed frustration over the second-guessing of the airstrike not only by allies, but also by their own politicians, and over the absence of support back home.
While the intensity of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan’s south has received most attention, the situation in the Germans’ part of the north has deteriorated rapidly. Soldiers said that just a year ago they could patrol in unarmored vehicles. Now there are places where they cannot move even in armored vehicles without an entire company of soldiers.
American officials have argued that an emphasis on reconstruction, peacekeeping and the avoidance of violence may have given the Taliban a foothold to return to the north.
German officers here said they had adjusted their tactics accordingly, often engaging the Taliban in firefights for hours with close air support. In July, 300 German soldiers joined the Afghan Army and National Police in an operation in Kunduz Province that killed more than 20 Taliban fighters and led to the arrests of half a dozen more.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called the operation “a fundamental transition out of the defensive and into the offensive.”
Germany’s military actions are controlled by a parliamentary mandate, which is up for renewal in December. The German contingent has unarmed drones and Tornado fighter jets, which are restricted to reconnaissance and are not allowed to conduct offensive operations.
German soldiers usually stay in Afghanistan for just four months, which can make it difficult to maintain continuity with their Afghan partners. The mandate also caps the number of troops in the country at 4,500.
A NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, called the mandate “a political straitjacket.”
A company of German paratroopers in the district of Chahar Darreh, where insurgent activity is particularly pronounced, fought off a series of attacks and stayed in the area, patrolling on foot and meeting with local elders for eight days and seven nights.
“The longer we were out there, the better the local population responded to us,” said Capt. Thomas K., the company’s commander. Another company relieved them for three days but then abandoned the position, where intelligence said that a bomb was waiting for the next group of German soldiers.
“Since we were there, no other company has been back,” the captain said.
Stefan Pauly contributed reporting from Berlin.
Reply #527 on:
October 27, 2009, 08:50:35 AM »
Commentary posing as news-- from Pravda on the Hudson? Shocking!
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Obama administration is putting pressure on Pakistan to eliminate Taliban and Qaeda militants from the country’s tribal areas, but the push is straining the delicate relations between the allies, Pakistani and Western officials say.
The Pakistani military’s recent heavy offensive in South Waziristan has pleased the Americans, but it left large parts of Pakistan under siege, as militants once sequestered in the country’s tribal areas take their war to Pakistan’s cities. Many Pakistanis blame the United States for the country’s rising instability.
When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives in Pakistan this week, as she is scheduled to do, she will find a nuclear-armed state consumed by doubts about the value of the alliance with the United States and resentful of ever-rising American demands to do more, the officials said.
The United States is also struggling to address Pakistan’s concerns over the conditions imposed on a new American aid package of $7.5 billion over five years that the Pakistani military denounced as designed to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.
The Obama administration has endorsed the Pakistani Army’s recent offensive in South Waziristan, suggesting it showed overdue resolve. But it has also raised concerns about the Pakistani Army’s long-term objectives. How South Waziristan plays out may prove to be a bellwether for an alliance of increasingly divergent interests.
The special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, said Friday that the Obama administration would be trying to find out whether the army was simply “dispersing” the militants or “destroying” them, as the United States would like.
From the number of troops in South Waziristan, it was not clear that the army wanted to “finish the task,” said a Western military attaché, who spoke on the condition of anonymity according to diplomatic protocol.
The army would not take over South Waziristan as it had the Swat Valley, where the military is now an occupying force after conducting a campaign in the spring and summer that pushed the Taliban out, the officials said.
It remains to be seen how the campaign will play out in a region where the army has failed in the past, analysts said. The army has sent about 28,000 soldiers to South Waziristan to take on about 10,000 guerrillas, a relatively low ratio, according to military specialists.
In all, of the roughly 28,000 soldiers, there are probably about 11,000 army infantrymen, said Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier. Instead of a ratio of one to one, he said, the ratio should be at least five to one.
The army appeared to have no plans to occupy South Waziristan, but rather to cut the militants “to size,” said Tariq Fatemi, who served briefly as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States in 1999.
With the uncertainty of American plans in Afghanistan, and the strong sentiment in Pakistan that India was “up to no good” in the restive province of Baluchistan and the tribal areas, Mr. Fatemi said, the army would not abandon the militant groups that it has relied on to fight as proxies in Afghanistan and in Kashmir against India.
The goal in South Waziristan, Mr. Fatemi said, was to eliminate the leadership that had become “too big of their boots” with the attacks on Pakistan’s cities. The army would like to find more pliant replacements as leaders, he said.
The militants’ war against the cities in the past three weeks had produced a wave of fear that shored up support for the army to fight back in South Waziristan, many Pakistanis said.
But the terror has also amplified complaints that the unpopular civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari, who is seen as slavishly pro-American, is unable to cope with the onslaught.
Mr. Zardari, whose relations with the Pakistani military appear increasingly strained, has not addressed the nation since the militants unfurled their attacks or since the army launched the offensive in South Waziristan.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik was pelted with stones last week when he visited the International Islamic University after two suicide bomb attacks on the campus killed six students, including women.
After the attack at the university, the government ordered all schools and universities closed in Punjab, the most populous province, a move that affected Pakistani families like never before.
“The impact is being felt in every home, before it was just the North-West Frontier Province,” said Jahangir Tareen, a member of Parliament and a member of the cabinet under President Pervez Musharraf.
When schools were ordered re-opened Monday, parents were still unhappy.
“The mood is as bleak as I remember,” said a well-to-do parent in Lahore who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The government says the private schools must open, but security is up to the schools. Where is the government?”
The range and different style of attacks in the urban areas, particularly in Islamabad, the capital, and the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, surprised Pakistani security officials, said a Western diplomat who is in frequent contact with them.
The Pakistani security services knew that sleeper cells had been put in place in both cities in the past six months, but their strength was unknown, the diplomat said. “These were not your scared suicide bomber boys from the villages, these were well trained commandos,” the diplomat said.
The assassination of an army brigadier as he drove through Islamabad last week further unnerved people, demonstrating that the militants had a cadre of spotters or observers probably marshaled from the increasing number of students attending radical religious schools in the capital, the diplomat said.
Whatever President Obama decides about troop levels in Afghanistan, Pakistan sees the United States and NATO headed for the exits, an outcome that encourages Pakistan to hang onto the militants that it has used as proxies, the Western diplomat said.
The fact that the United States had so far failed to persuade India to restart talks with Pakistan and that it was doing little to curb what Pakistan sees as the undue influence of India in Afghanistan was unsettling for Pakistan, Mr. Fatemi, the former ambassador, said.
On top of everything else, that feeling was driving a surge of anti-American sentiment, even among the elite, some Pakistanis said, increasing the challenges ahead.
“There is a general perception in the educated class that Pakistan is paying a very heavy price for fighting alongside the United States,” said Ashfaq Khan, a prominent economist and dean of the business school at the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad.
WSJ: Watches and Time
Reply #528 on:
October 27, 2009, 09:12:13 AM »
third post of the AM
By JAMES SHINN
Those of us in the Bush administration who were responsible for its "Afghan Strategy Review" kept our mouths shut when we handed over the document to the Obama transition team last fall. We didn't want to box in the new administration.
And when President Barack Obama and his advisers rolled out their own Afghanistan strategy on March 27, I was quietly pleased. It came to basically the same conclusion we had: The paramount goal was to squash terrorism through counterinsurgency and better governance in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs promised the press corps at the time that its strategy would be "fully resourced." Later, in August, Gen. Stanley McChrystal's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan was leaked. It was a road map to implement precisely the Obama strategy that was announced in March.
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.But one key element of both the Bush and Obama strategies is getting lost in the debate—that we must apply the military and economic resources for the time required to achieve our goals. As the Obama administration's March 27 White Paper notes, "There are no quick fixes to achieve U.S. national security interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
The average counterinsurgency war lasts a decade and a half; the successful British campaign in Malaya in the 1950s, for example, took 12 years. Even if Gen. McChrystal gets the 40,000 additional troops he has requested, there is unlikely to be short-term progress in meeting any of the security "metrics" that opponents of the war in Afghanistan will try to insert into the defense appropriations for carrying out the president's strategy.
What the White House says—or doesn't say—about a long-term commitment is hugely important. Americans are famously impatient, and there is cruel wisdom in the oft-quoted Taliban boast that "NATO has all the watches, but we have all the time." Most Afghans are sitting on the fence, waiting to see who wins. Our allies are nervously looking for the exits, and the Pakistanis and the Iranians are hedging their bets in case the U.S. decides to pull the plug.
Meanwhile, as the Obama national security apparatus publicly wrings its hands over strategy, the media promote half-baked solutions to Afghanistan that further confuse friends and enemies while ignoring the crucial matter of time. Three of the least sensible solutions are "remote control" counterterrorism, a grand regional solution to disputes between neighboring states (including a resolution of the Kashmir territorial dispute between India and Pakistan), and the negotiation of a peace deal with the Taliban.
Replacing the hard work of counterinsurgency and nation-building with Predator drones and Special Operations defies geography and common sense. A Predator has a range of 400 miles: It is 600 miles from Pakistan's Waziristan region to the Arabian Sea.
From where are you going to fly the drones? What intelligence will be available to guide the drones or special ops if we abandon Kabul and Islamabad to fight on their own?
A "regional" solution that convinces India, Pakistan and Iran (among others) that their interests are better served by a stable Afghanistan than by backing proxy forces there is a laudable undertaking. But it would take years of patient diplomacy, in which the terms and pace of NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan will be the central item of negotiation. Fat chance of striking a deal if you're already gone.
As for a deal with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and his leadership council, the Quetta Shura, forget about it. They have no incentive to lay down their arms if they still think time is on their side.
The Taliban will eventually come down from the hills, probably in dribs and drabs, when they've been sufficiently pummeled by the combined Afghan National Army and NATO forces, seen their base among the Afghan people undermined by improved governance, and had their sanctuaries in Pakistan squeezed from the East. This is going to take time.
Time was very much on the mind of Afghanistan's Minister of the Interior Hanif Atmar recently, when I visited him in his office in Kabul—shards of glass still on the floor from the suicide bomb attack on the nearby Indian Embassy a few days earlier. "All the Taliban have to do is blow things up," he said. "We have a lot more things to worry about. Despite the deteriorating security situation in parts of the country, we still have a window of time to prevail, if we and our American allies have sufficient resolve."
I also visited Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil on a dusty street in the Karte Char district. A sleepy policeman with an AK-47 outside was the only symbol of his house arrest. He was Mullah Omar's secretary and then both a spokesman and foreign minister for the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan until his capture in 2001. Today he remains an interlocutor between the Karzai government and the Quetta Shura up in the mountains. I thought he'd be a good judge of Taliban resolve.
Time was on his mind, too. He was puzzled by the drawn-out pace of the Obama administration's strategy deliberations. He took care to distance the Quetta Shura's objectives (to govern Afghanistan and remove foreign troops) from the goals of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan across the border (which are close to those of al Qaeda, namely to bring down the government in Islamabad and establish a greater Islamic Caliphate).
In response to my skeptical questions, he also drew a distinction between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda. "But the longer this war drags on, the harder it is to separate our interests from theirs," he said.
Mullah Mutawakil's sparse quarters featured a Koran, several volumes of Islamic jurisprudence and a television. "I watch the news, and the Turkish soap operas," he confessed with a smile. He wasn't wearing a watch.
Mr. Shinn was assistant secretary of defense for Asia (2007-2008) and one of the authors of the Bush administration's Afghan Strategy Review. He previously served in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Official resigns in protest
Reply #529 on:
October 28, 2009, 12:14:55 AM »
U.S. Official Matthew Hoh Resigns in Protest of Afghanistan War Policy
Filed Under:Foreign Policy, Afghanistan
Matthew Hoh, the senior U.S. civilian in Afghanistan's Zabul province, resigned in protest because he believes the American effort there is simply fueling the insurgency, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. Hoh, a former Marine Corps captain who also served in Iraq, wrote a four-page letter to the State Department's head of personnel in September, and his resignation became official last week.
"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote in the letter. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."
Hoh's letter caused a stir in the Obama administration, and he was hastened to meetings with senior U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington. They praised his record of service and begged him to stay, offering him new positions in both locations. Hoh initially accepted the Washington job, but changed his mind a week later.
Hoh said that his act of protest and decision to speak out were painful, even "nauseating" at times, but he was strongly motivated by the friends he had lost on the battlefield and the mental anguish he has experienced since returning home. "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, 'Listen, I don't think this is right,' " he explained, adding that he "is not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love."
Hoh will meet with Joe Biden's foreign policy adviser this week, and will advise a reduction in troops. He said he feels the U.S. "has an obligation for it not to be a bloodbath," but that Afghans are resistant to what they see as a military occupation.
A few months ago I had a very interesting conversation here in LA with an Afghani taxi driver who clearly had been no ordinary man back in Afghanistan. The following tracks very closely with what he told me. Bottom line for him: The whole thing was about business.
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Tue, October 27, 2009 -- 9:10 PM ET
Brother of Afghan President Is on C.I.A. Payroll, Officials Say
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a
suspected player in the country's booming illegal opium
trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence
Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according
to current and former American officials.
The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, and
those financial ties and the agency's close working
relationship with him raise significant questions about
America's war strategy, which is currently under review at
the White House.
Last Edit: October 28, 2009, 12:34:34 AM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #530 on:
October 28, 2009, 08:34:18 AM »
Continuing our search for truth with the second post of the day-- a cynic might note that this piece takes a position favorable to those who would reject McChrystal's plan and that the author is looking for a job , , ,
By DAVID ADAMS AND ANN MARLOWE
From the beginning of 2007 to March 2008, the 82nd Airborne Division's strategy in Khost proved that 250 paratroopers could secure a province of a million people in the Pashtun belt. The key to success in Khost—which shares a 184 kilometer-long border with Pakistan's lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas—was working within the Afghan system. By partnering with closely supervised Afghan National Security Forces and a competent governor and subgovernors, U.S. forces were able to win the support of Khost's 13 tribes.
Today, 2,400 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Khost. But the province is more dangerous.
Mohammed Aiaz, a 32-year-old Khosti advising the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team, puts it plainly: "The answer is not more troops, which will put Afghans in more danger." If troops don't understand Afghan culture and fail to work within the tribal system, they will only fuel the insurgency. When we get the tribes on our side, that will change. When a tribe says no, it means no. IEDs will be reported and no insurgent fighters will be allowed to operate in or across their area.
Khost once had security forces with tribal links. Between 1988 and 1991, the Soviet client government in Kabul was able to secure much of eastern and southern Afghanistan by paying the tribal militias. Khost was secured by the 25th Division of the Afghan National Army (ANA), which incorporated militias with more than 400 fighters from five of Khost's 13 major tribes. The mujahedeen were not able to take Khost until internal rifts among Pashtuns in then-President Mohammed Najibullah's government resulted in a loss of support for the militias in Khost and, eventually, the defection of the 25th Division in April 1991.
The mistake the Najibullah government made was not integrating advisers to train the tribal militias and transform them into a permanent part of the government security forces. During the Taliban period between 1996-2001 the 25th Division dispersed amongst the tribes. Many fled to Pakistan.
When the U.S. invaded in 2001, the 25th Division, reformed under the command of Gen. Kilbaz Sherzai, immediately secured Khost. But the division was disbanded by the new Afghan government for fear of warlordism.
Today, some elements of the 25th still work for the Americans as contract security forces. However, the ANA now stationed in Khost is mainly composed of northern, non-Pashtun Dari speakers, and it is regarded as a foreign body. Without local influence and tribal support, the ANA tends to stay on its bases.
Part of this is our fault. We built the ANA in our own Army's image. Its soldiers live on nice bases and see themselves as the protectors of Afghanistan from conventional attacks by Pakistan. But to be effective, the ANA must be structured more like a National Guard, responsible for creating civil authority and training the police.
We saw how this could work in the Tani district of Khost starting in 2007. By assisting an ANA company—with a platoon of American paratroopers, a civil affairs team from the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team, the local Afghan National Police, and a determined Afghan subgovernor named Badi Zaman Sabari—we secured the district despite its long border with Pakistan.
Raids by the paratroopers under the leadership of Lt. Col. Scott Custer were extremely rare because the team had such good relations with the tribes that they would generally turn over any suspect. These good tribal relations were strengthened further by meeting the communities' demands for a new paved road, five schools, and a spring water system that supplies 12,000 villagers.
Yet security has deteriorated in Khost, despite increases of U.S. troops in mid-2008. American strategy began to focus more on chasing the insurgents in the mountains instead of securing the towns and villages where most Khostis live.
The insurgents didn't stick around to get shot when they saw the American helicopters coming. But the villagers noticed when the roads weren't built on time and the commanders never visited.
Meanwhile, the increasing number of raids on Afghan homes alienated many of Khost's tribal elders. The Afghan National Police in Tani and many other districts of Khost were afraid to patrol in their uniforms and official vehicles lest they be killed by insurgents. The ANA in Tani rarely left the district center, which came to resemble a small fortress. Having lost support of the tribes, Badi Zaman Sabari was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2009, by insurgents led by the longtime mujahedeen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani. They are the main belligerents focused on undermining ISAF's efforts in southeast Afghanistan.
A major reason for our slow progress in Afghanistan is that, because of turnovers in leadership and changes in strategy, we continue to fight one-year wars and forget about the long term. When we become fixated on clearing insurgents, we lose focus on the tribes, which are critical to our success. The proper recipe is not clear, hold and build. As we learned in Khost, it is befriend, secure, build governance—and then hold. Without a consistent strategy of enlisting tribal cooperation, more troops will simply find more trouble in the Pashtun belt.Cmdr. Adams commanded the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team from March 2007 to March 2008. He is now the prospective commander of the nuclear submarine the USS Santa Fe. Ms. Marlowe did four embeds with American forces in Khost during 2007-2008.
Cmdr. Adams commanded the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team from March 2007 to March 2008. He is now the prospective commander of the nuclear submarine the USS Santa Fe. Ms. Marlowe did four embeds with American forces in Khost during 2007-2008.
While Prez Hamlet dawdles
Reply #531 on:
November 07, 2009, 02:08:33 PM »
THE IMPLICATIONS OF A PARTIAL U.N. RELOCATION FROM AFGHANISTAN
THE UNITED NATIONS on Thursday announced plans to relocate about 600 personnel who
have been working in Afghanistan. The move follows a recent attack on U.N. living
quarters in Kabul that left six people dead. The relocation is intended to be
temporary, and U.N. personnel will continue to work on their projects from afar. But
the message is clear: U.N. officials believe that the organization’s foreign
employees in Afghanistan are vulnerable.
Even as U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration contemplates its strategic
options in Afghanistan, senior commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal is pushing forward
with a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign. This model of warfare entails a generally
protracted effort to win the support of the local population. As an outside power,
the U.S. military has inherent difficulty with blending in and understanding the
local population. This limits the availability of intelligence, it makes identifying
the enemy difficult, and it can make traditional advantages -- such as overwhelming
firepower -- self-defeating if they are not wielded with discretion.
But COIN also implies the need to establish a friendly political environment. NATO
forces use provincial reconstruction teams that coordinate a broader spectrum of
government services than military units can provide. Aid agencies are also critical
and will continue to play an important role after troops have left.
Attacking aid agencies therefore can be an effective tool. Aid agencies can be
particularly casualty-averse (especially when it comes to Western foreign
nationals), and when push comes to shove, they are not able to operate in highly
dangerous conditions. While they take advantage of the opportunity to employ locals,
they also rely on an outside, professional presence to orchestrate operations.
"The more that can be done outside of the military rubric, the more the military
will be able to focus on its core goal: security."
Aid agencies have to be visible, dispersed and engaged with populations that may or
may not be friendly to foreign powers. Essentially, if they are to conduct
operations, they are vulnerable to attack. In less hostile environments, this is
part of the job. But when there cannot be a reasonable expectation of security, they
cannot do their jobs. If the U.N. is not able to protect its personnel in Kabul, it
speaks volumes about maintaining safety throughout the country.
The more that can be done outside of the military rubric, the more the military will
be able to focus on its core goal: security. The problem is that if aid agencies are
unable to help with the development side of counterinsurgency, the burden falls to
an overstretched military -- or the work doesn't get done.
Provincial reconstruction teams are still at work. Thousands of Afghan nationals are
still employed by the U.N. But on Thursday, the U.N. took a significant step back
from Afghanistan -- a step that parallels those of many NATO states that refuse to
commit new resources and are anxious to withdraw from the country.
The U.N. has not given up on Afghanistan. But by drawing down personnel at what
McChrystal repeatedly has declared to be the critical moment in the now 8-year-old
campaign, the move raises serious questions about the efficacy of the current
Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
An important shift?!?
Reply #532 on:
November 12, 2009, 11:22:32 AM »
The former foreign minister of the ousted Taliban regime, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, has said that one part of the Taliban movement is prepared to negotiate with the United States if Washington is ready to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, top Afghan Taliban commander in Kandahar Mullah Toor Jan said the Afghan Taliban movement has nothing to do with Pakistan’s main Taliban rebel group, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, that the Afghan Taliban only targets U.S. and NATO forces, and that al Qaeda has no influence over the Afghan Taliban. Though the statements suggest the mainstream Afghan Taliban movement is positioning itself for substantive talks down the road with the United States, a U.S.-Taliban understanding — assuming it can be achieved — would not suffice to solve all of Washington’s problems in Afghanistan.
Part of the Taliban movement is prepared to negotiate with the United States if Washington is ready to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil told CNN on Nov. 11. Muttawakil added that there is a huge difference between al Qaeda and the Taliban, as the former has an international agenda while the Taliban pose no threat to the world. He also said the Taliban are prepared to assure the world that Afghanistan will not be used as a launching pad for transnational attacks. Just one day before that, top Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Toor Jan (aka Abdul Manan) in the southeastern Afghan city of Spinboldak told Pakistani news channel Aaj TV that the Afghan Taliban movement has nothing to do with Pakistan’s main Taliban rebel group, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Mullah Toor said that the Afghan Taliban only attacks U.S. and NATO forces, and that al Qaeda has no influence over the Afghan Taliban.
The statements suggest the mainstream Afghan Taliban movement is working hard to distinguish itself from al Qaeda and from the Pakistani Taliban, and that the Afghan Taliban could be ready to negotiate with the United States. Many obstacles still lie ahead for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, however.
Since Muttawakil’s surrender to U.S. forces shortly after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and his subsequent release from detention at Bagram air base in 2003, the Afghan Taliban leadership has found him useful as a conduit for communications with the West. While Muttawakil does not hold major influence over the Taliban movement, he has been engaged in a number of efforts to connect the Taliban with the U.S. government; so far, these have not born fruit.
In a July report, STRATFOR discussed how Mullah Omar would be willing to negotiate, but only for the right price. Though the Taliban have the initiative in the war, and the United States and its NATO allies are struggling to come up with a coherent strategy to deal with the Afghan insurgency, the Taliban realize the limits of their own power. This is not 1996, when the Taliban were able to take power in Kabul by force and later impose their writ upon as much as 95 percent of the country. The Taliban is not the same organization it was when it first arose in the mid-1990s, as the Taliban now is a moniker for a broad array of largely Pashtun Islamist militant factions on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border and Afghanistan no longer faces the kind of anarchy that allowed the Taliban to take power.
The Afghan Taliban realizes that to successfully stage a political comeback, it will need broad international recognition as a legitimate stakeholder in Afghanistan. This requires losing its designation as a terrorist organization — no easy feat given the shelter it offered the masterminds of Sept. 11 — explaining the recent bid to sharpen the distinction between itself and transnational jihadism.
While the Taliban are ready to deal on al Qaeda, they cannot accept a settlement that does not provide for a withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan. The Taliban are hoping they can exploit the sentiment within the West against a long-term military commitment to their advantage. Still, Western governments feel that at a minimum, they will need a limited military commitment in Afghanistan to guarantee the country does not once again become a safe-haven for transnational jihadists.
By saying the things the United States is most interested in hearing, the Afghan Taliban are hoping to expand the advantage they hold in terms of the insurgency into a political one. The current statements seem to offer Washington just the opening it has sought. Washington’s strategy calls for driving a wedge between pragmatic and more ideological segments of the Taliban as well as separating the Pashtun jihadist movement from al Qaeda. But the United States, assuming it can somehow get past the political hurdles of dealing with the leadership that harbored the group responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, still lacks the intelligence on the Taliban to be able to tell one faction apart from the other.
The only actor that has any semblance of an understanding of the internal configuration of the Afghan Taliban is Pakistan. Islamabad, however, has its hands full with its own indigenous Taliban rebellion, and has lost a certain degree of influence over the Afghan Taliban. Nonetheless, given the Pashtun ethnic linkages between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islamabad is the only player that can help connect Washington with the Afghan Taliban. But the growing rift between Washington and the Pakistani military has made such cooperation less likely.
The multibillion-dollar Kerry-Lugar aid package has soured the Pakistani military on Washington, as have fears within Pakistani central command that the United States is out to denuclearize Islamabad. The gap between how Pakistan distinguishes between “good” versus “bad” Taliban and how the United States distinguishes reconcilable versus irreconcilable Taliban elements also will hamper such cooperation. Both sides’ efforts to categorize the Taliban into two parts ignore al Qaeda’s links across the entire Taliban landscape. And while the United States welcomes the Pakistani offensive against TTP rebels and their transnational allies, deep mistrust between the two sides remains, with Washington concerned about the scope of the offensive and Islamabad wondering about U.S. intentions with regard to Afghanistan (and troubled about an increased Indian role in Afghanistan and close U.S.-Indian relations).
Even Pakistani assistance in Afghanistan would not suffice to solve the United States’ problems there, however. Iran must also be brought on board if there is to be a settlement on Afghanistan, given Iran’s influence among the anti-Taliban forces as well as certain elements within the Pashtun jihadist movement — something Washington has acknowledged. Tensions over the nuclear negotiations are preventing any U.S.-Iranian consensus on Afghanistan, however. With the nuclear talks in limbo and the risk of a U.S. or Israeli military strike against Iran, any agreement on Afghanistan appears unlikely anytime soon.
Meanwhile, U.S. relations with Kabul have hit a serious low point given the fiasco over the recent Afghan presidential election and the Obama administration’s efforts to find an alternative to President Hamid Karzai. No alternative was found, and the effort ended up creating a rift among the forces previously united in their opposition to the Taliban.
Ultimately, each major stakeholder in Afghanistan whose participation is critical to a settlement — Kabul, the Taliban, Pakistan, and Iran — has a problematic relationship with the United States. If there is to be a settlement in Afghanistan, Washington will have to deal with each of these issues.
POTH: Some success in Afg
Reply #533 on:
November 13, 2009, 04:37:53 AM »
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: November 12, 2009
JURM, Afghanistan — Small grants given directly to villagers have brought about modest but important changes in this corner of Afghanistan, offering a model in a country where official corruption and a Taliban insurgency have frustrated many large-scale development efforts.
Since arriving in Afghanistan in 2001, the United States and its Western allies have spent billions of dollars on development projects, but to less effect and popular support than many had hoped for.
Much of that money was funneled through the central government, which has been increasingly criticized as incompetent and corrupt. Even more has gone to private contractors hired by the United States who siphon off almost half of every dollar to pay the salaries of expatriate workers and other overhead costs.
Not so here in Jurm, a valley in the windswept mountainous province of Badakhshan, in the northeast. People here have taken charge for themselves — using village councils and direct grants as part of an initiative called the National Solidarity Program, introduced by an Afghan ministry in 2003.
Before then, this valley had no electricity or clean water, its main crop was poppy and nearly one in 10 women died in childbirth, one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Today, many people have water taps, fields grow wheat and it is no longer considered shameful for a woman to go to a doctor. If there are lessons to be drawn from the still tentative successes here, they are that small projects often work best, that the consent and participation of local people are essential and that even baby steps take years.
The issues are not academic. Bringing development to Afghans is an important part of a counterinsurgency strategy aimed at drawing people away from the Taliban and building popular support for the Western-backed government by showing that it can make a difference in people’s lives.
“We ignored the people in districts and villages,” said Jelani Popal, who runs a state agency that appoints governors. “This caused a lot of indifference. ‘Why should I side with the government if it doesn’t even exist in my life?’ ”
Jurm was tormented by warlords in the 1990s, and though it never fell to the Taliban, the presence of the central government, even today, is barely felt. The idea to change that was simple: people elected the most trusted villagers, and the government in Kabul, helped by foreign donors, gave them direct grants — money to build things like water systems and girls’ schools for themselves.
Local residents contend that the councils work because they take development down to its most basic level, with villagers directing the spending to improve their own lives, cutting out middle men, local and foreign, as well as much of the overhead costs and corruption.
“You don’t steal from yourself,” was how Ataullah, a farmer in Jurm who uses one name, described it.
The grants were small, often less than $100,000. The plan’s overall effectiveness is still being assessed by academics and American and Afghan officials, but the idea has already been replicated in thousands of villages across the country. Anecdotal accounts point to some success. There have even been savings. When villages in the Jurm Valley wanted running water, for instance, they did much of the work themselves, with help from an engineer. A private contractor with links to a local politician had asked triple the price. (The villagers declined.)
Even such modest steps have not come easily. Jurm presented many obstacles, and it took a development group with determined local employees to jump-start the work here. One basic problem was literacy, said Ghulam Dekan, a local worker with the Aga Khan Development Network, the nonprofit group that supports the councils here. Unlike the situation in Iraq, which has a literacy rate of more than 70 percent, fewer than a third of Afghans can read, making the work of the councils painfully slow. Villagers were suspicious of projects, believing that the people in the groups that introduced them were Christian missionaries.
“They didn’t understand the importance of a road,” Mr. Dekan said.
Most projects, no matter how simple, took five years. Years of war had smashed Afghan society into rancorous bits, making it difficult to resist efforts by warlords to muscle in on projects.
“They said, ‘For God’s sake, we can’t do this, we don’t have the capability,’ ” Mr. Dekan said. “We taught them to have confidence.”
(Page 2 of 2)
Muhamed Azghari, an Aga Khan employee, spent more than a year trying to persuade a mullah to allow a girls’ school. His tactic: sitting lower than the man, a sign of deference, and praising his leadership. He paid for the man to visit other villages to see what other councils had accomplished.
“Ten times we fought, two times we laughed,” Mr. Dekan said, using the Afghan equivalent of “two steps forward, one step back.”
When it came to women, villagers were adamant.
But forcing conditions would have violated a basic principle of the approach: never start a project that is not backed by all members of the community, or it will fail.
“People have to be mentally ready,” said Akhtar Iqbal, Aga Khan’s director in Badakhshan. If they are not, the school or clinic will languish unused, a frequent problem with large-scale development efforts.
Five years later, the village of Fargamanch has women’s literacy classes and a girls’ high school. Over all, girls’ enrollment in Badakhshan is up by 65 percent since 2004, according to the Ministry of Education. The number of trained midwives has quadrupled. Health has also improved. Now, 3,270 families have taps for clean drinking water near their homes, reducing waterborne diseases. The councils are also a check on corruption. When 200 bags of wheat mysteriously disappeared from the local government this year, council members demanded they be returned. (They were.) When a minister’s aide cashed a check meant for a transformer, Mr. Ataullah spent a week tracking down a copy. (The aide was fired.)
“The government doesn’t like us anymore,” Mr. Azghari said, laughing. “They want the old system back.”
While Badakhshan’s changes are fragile, the forces of modernization are growing. Televisions have begun to broadcast the outside world into villages. Phone networks cover more than 80 percent of the province, triple what the figure was in 2001. Perhaps most important, Afghans are tired of war, and seeing the benefits of a decade of peace might be enough to encourage new kinds of decisions. Ghulam Mohaiuddin, a farmer, seethes when he remembers the past.
“The jihad was useless,” he said, sitting cross-legged in his mud-walled house.
Suddenly, a loud blast went off, startling his guests. He laughed. It was the sound of canal construction, not a bomb.
“Now we’ve put down our weapons and started building,” he said, smiling.
POTH: The Missing Link
Reply #534 on:
November 15, 2009, 06:31:46 AM »
Anyone want to take a stab at assessing the hypothesis here?
The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul
By FRANK RICH
Published: November 14, 2009
THE dead at Fort Hood had not even been laid to rest when their massacre became yet another political battle cry for the self-proclaimed patriots of the American right.
Their verdict was unambiguous: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian parentage who sent e-mail to a radical imam, was a terrorist. And he did not act alone. His co-conspirators included our military brass, the Defense Department, the F.B.I., the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and, of course, the liberal media and the Obama administration. All these institutions had failed to heed the warning signs raised by Hasan’s behavior and activities because they are blinded by political correctness toward Muslims, too eager to portray criminals as sympathetic victims of social injustice, and too cowardly to call out evil when it strikes 42 innocents in cold blood.
The invective aimed at these heinous P.C. pantywaists nearly matched that aimed at Hasan. Joe Lieberman announced hearings to investigate the Army for its dereliction of duty on homeland security. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, vowed to unmask cover-ups in the White House and at the C.I.A. The Weekly Standard blog published a broadside damning the F.B.I. for neglecting the “broader terrorist plot” of which Hasan was only one of the connected dots. Jerome Corsi, the major-domo of the successful Swift-boating of John Kerry, unearthed what he said was proof that Hasan had advised President Obama during the transition.
William Bennett excoriated soft military leaders like Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, who had stood up for diversity and fretted openly about a backlash against Muslim soldiers in his ranks. “Blind diversity” that embraces Islam “equals death,” wrote Michelle Malkin. “There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world,” wrote the columnist Jonah Goldberg. Islam is “not a religion,” declared the irrepressible Pat Robertson, but “a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world.”
As a snapshot of where a chunk of the country stands right now, these reactions to the Fort Hood bloodbath could not be more definitive. And it’s quite possible that some of what this crowd says is right — not about Islam in general, but about the systemic failure to stop a homicidal maniac like Hasan in particular. Whether he was an actual terrorist or an unfathomable mass murderer merely dabbling in jihadist ideas, the repeated red flags during his Army career illuminate a pattern of lapses in America’s national security. Whether those indicators were ignored because of political correctness, bureaucratic dysfunction, sheer incompetence or some hybrid thereof is still unclear, but, whichever, the system failed.
Yet the mass murder at Fort Hood didn’t happen in isolation. It unfolded against the backdrop of Obama’s final lap of decision-making about Afghanistan. For all the right’s jeremiads, its own brand of political correctness kept it from connecting two crucial dots: how our failing war against terrorists in Afghanistan might relate to our failure to stop a supposed terrorist attack at home. Most of those who decried the Army’s blindness to Hasan’s threat are strong proponents of sending more troops into our longest war. That they didn’t mention Afghanistan while attacking the entire American intelligence and defense apparatus in charge of that war may be the most telling revelation of this whole debate.
The reason they didn’t is obvious enough. Their screeds about the Hasan case are completely at odds with both the Afghanistan policy they endorse and the leadership that must execute that policy, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal. These hawks, all demanding that Obama act on McChrystal’s proposals immediately, do not seem to have read his strategy assessment for Afghanistan or the many press interviews he gave as it leaked out. If they had, they’d discover that the whole thrust of his counterinsurgency pitch is to befriend and win the support of the Afghan population — i.e., Muslims. The “key to success,” the general wrote in his brief to the president, will be “strong personal relationships forged between security forces and local populations.”
McChrystal thinks we might even jolly up those Muslims who historically and openly hate America. “I don’t think much of the Taliban are ideologically driven,” he told Dexter Filkins of The Times. “In my view their past is not important. Some people say, ‘Well, they have blood on their hands.’ I’d say, ‘So do a lot of people.’ I think we focus on future behavior.”
Whether we could win those hearts and minds is, arguably, an open question — though it’s an objective that would require a partner other than Hamid Karzai and many more troops than even McChrystal is asking for (or America presently has). But to say that McChrystal’s optimistic — dare one say politically correct? — view of Muslim pliability doesn’t square with that of America’s hawks is the understatement of the decade.
As their Fort Hood rhetoric made clear, McChrystal’s most vehement partisans don’t trust American Muslims, let alone those of the Taliban, no matter how earnestly the general may argue that they can be won over by our troops’ friendliness (or bribes). If, as the right has it, our Army cannot be trusted to recognize a Hasan in its own ranks, then how will it figure out who the “good” Muslims will be as we try to build a “stable” state (whatever “stable” means) in a country that has never had a functioning central government? If our troops can’t be protected from seemingly friendly Muslim American brethren in Killeen, Tex., what are the odds of survival for the 40,000 more troops the hawks want to deploy to Kabul and sinkholes beyond?
About the only prominent voice among the liberal-bashing, Obama-loathing right who has noted this gaping contradiction is Mark Steyn of National Review. “Members of the best trained, best equipped fighting force on the planet” were “gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously,” he wrote. “And that’s the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy — in Afghanistan and in Texas.” You have to applaud Steyn’s rare intellectual consistency within his camp. One imagines that he does not buy the notion that our Army, however brilliant, has a shot at building “strong personal relationships” with a population that often regards us as occupiers and infidels.
In a week of horrific news, it was good to hear at the end of it that Obama is dissatisfied with the four Afghanistan options he has been weighing so far. The more time he deliberates, the more he is learning that he’s on a fool’s errand with no exit. After Karzai was spared a runoff last month and declared the winner of the fraud-infested August “election,” Obama demanded that he address his government’s corruption as a price for American support. Only days later the Afghan president mocked the American president by parading his most tainted cronies on camera and granting an interview to PBS’s “NewsHour” devoted to spewing his contempt for his American benefactors.
Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and, until recently, a State Department official in Afghanistan, could be found on MSNBC on Thursday once again asking the question no war advocate can answer, “Do you want Americans fighting and dying for the Karzai regime?” Hoh quit his post on principle in September despite the urging of colleagues, including our ambassador there, Karl W. Eikenberry, that he stay and fight over war policy from the inside. But Hoh had lost confidence in our strategy and would not retract his resignation. Now he has been implicitly seconded by Eikenberry himself. Last week we learned that the ambassador, a retired general who had been the top American military commander in Afghanistan as recently as 2007, had sent two cables to Obama urging caution about sending more troops.
We don’t know everything in those cables. What we do know is that American intelligence continues to say that fewer than 100 Qaeda operatives can still be found in Afghanistan. We also know that the Taliban, which are currently estimated to number in the tens of thousands, can’t be eliminated. As McChrystal put it to Filkins, there is no “finite number” of Taliban, so there’s no way to vanquish them. Hence his counterinsurgency alternative, which could take decades, costing untold billions and countless lives.
Perhaps those on the right are correct about Hasan, and he is just one cog in an apocalyptic jihadist plot that has infiltrated our armed forces. If so, then they have an obligation to explain how pouring more troops into Afghanistan would have stopped Hasan from plotting in Killeen. Don’t hold your breath. If we have learned anything concrete so far from the massacre at Fort Hood, it’s that our hawks, for all their certitude, are as utterly confused as the rest of us about who it is we’re fighting in Afghanistan and to what end.
Reply #535 on:
November 15, 2009, 01:43:35 PM »
As Obama dithers, Iran acts:
Afghans fear infiltration from Iran
By Zia Ahmadi and Mustafa Saber
HERAT - Islam Qala, a small border town that forms the gateway between Iran and Afghanistan, is a focus of concern for Afghan officials fighting the Taliban insurgency because some believe Iran is using it to infiltrate guerrillas intent on destabilizing the Kabul government.
"I was working in Iran for about eight months," said one man, a former refugee, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But I got an offer from the Taliban in Gozara district [of Herat province] offering me a higher salary, so I accepted."
Once he had crossed the border into Afghanistan, he said Pakistanis and Iranians based in the hills of Pashtun Zarghon
district, the site of a growing insurgency, gave him military training.
For four months, the man said he participated in armed attacks on behalf of the Taliban in the Gozara and Pashtun Zarghon districts, and received a monthly salary of 20,000-30,000 Pakistani rupees (US$240 to $360).
"We struck security posts in the villages of Toot, Siyawooshan and Injel, as well as carrying out attacks on foreign military convoys," he said.
Now he is happily settled in civilian life, having been awarded a certificate by the Peace and Reconciliation Commission - an Afghan body established in 2005 as a mechanism for engaging with insurgents - that records his decision to lay down his arms.
Border police officials in Islam Qala say that more than 100 Afghans return from Iran daily. Many lack refugee documents or other identity cards to prove their Afghan citizenship and there is no adequate process to check them, which leads to many undesirables passing through, they say.
"Dozens of refugees are deported from Iran every day," said Abdullah Achakzai, a border police officer who works at the Islam Qala checkpoint. "We have caught Arab and Iranian citizens trying to enter Afghanistan without the proper documentation and have turned them over to the National Directorate of Security, NDS. But we cannot check everybody so carefully. We do not have enough officers, or the right equipment."
Officials fear that Islam Qala is being used as an infiltration point by potential guerrillas, whether they are returning Afghans or foreign citizens trying to conceal their identities.
"One of these refugees told us that Iranian troops at the Sang-e-Safed military base said that Afghanistan is under American occupation," Achakzai said. "They asked him to fight against America when he went back to Afghanistan."
Achakzai said the border police had recently stopped an Iranian citizen posing as an Afghan refugee. "He had maps with him of Herat airport and other documents concerning the 207th Zafar [Afghan National Army] corps."
Haji Sher Ahmad, who owns a hotel in Islam Qala, told the Institute for War and Peace Reporting that many foreigners had stayed there recently.
"Several men who were speaking Arabic, and had apparently been deported from Iran, came to my hotel and stayed several nights," he said. "They asked for the best rooms, and ordered the most expensive food. I contacted the police, but they did not do anything."
An employee of the Bamyan Chahr Fasel Hotel in Herat city said that over the past year, several people had come to the hotel introducing themselves as Afghan refugees returning from Iran, but were in fact speaking Arabic among themselves.
"After staying a few nights, they went off someplace," said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We recently found a suitcase of one of the 'repatriates' that had been forgotten at the hotel. When we opened it, it was full of maps and other documents. We gave it to the NDS."
Police officials in Herat say that many foreigners who support the insurgency in western Afghanistan have entered the country illegally through checkpoints like Islam Qala.
"Two Iranian citizens were arrested during a police operation against anti-government militants in Gozara district," said Ismatullah Alizai, Herat police chief. "We turned them over to the NDS for further investigation."
According to Alizai, more than 50 foreigners, among them Pakistanis, Chechens and Iranians, had been identified in the Gozara and Pashtun Zarghon districts. They are suspected of supporting the insurgency.
"Many terrorist attacks are organized by foreigners in Herat province," he said.
In Gozara district, which has seen a spike in insurgent activity over the past year, residents say that two Iranian Kurdish women had been seen in Siyawooshan village.
"I spoke with these two women," said one Gozara resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They were over 30 years old. They told me that Afghanistan has been invaded by America, and it is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to devote their lives to the liberation of this Muslim land."
Parliamentarian Mohammad Daud Sultanzoy said he had seen reports indicating that foreign militants who are cooperating with the Taliban often enter Afghanistan posing as refugees being repatriated.
"If the Afghan border police cannot control the borders, it is undeniable that the influence of foreigners who support the anti-government militants will grow," he said.
He recommended that the number of border police be increased, so that no refugee without the proper documentation would be able to enter the country.
Officials at the Iranian consulate in Herat said the country deports only Afghans who do not have proper documentation. They dismissed any suggestion that they were encouraging or allowing Pakistanis, Chechens or other foreign citizens to enter Afghanistan as Afghan refugees.
But in early October, Afghan speculation about Iranian intentions was further fueled when local people say Iran temporarily relaxed its border restrictions and allowed hundreds of undocumented Afghans to cross the border into Iran.
According to Colonel Hamidullah Sarhadi, the quartermaster of the border police in Herat, close to 2,000 Afghans were allowed to enter Iran during a two-day period.
Some Afghans fear Iran is deliberately attracting energetic young people so that they can be indoctrinated and sent back to Afghanistan to fight the Americans.
"With the use of Afghan refugees, Iran is paving the way for opposition against the Afghan government," said Khalil Ahmad Amiri, 30, a resident of Herat city.
But Iranian border officials deny that their frontier was opened. According to the Iranian consulate in Herat, the country already has close to one million registered Afghans in the country, along with another million who have entered illegally. In past years, Iran has embarked on a campaign to expel illegal Afghan refugees, sometimes as many as 500 per day, creating huge problems on the Afghan side of the border.
Some Afghan commentators have poured cold water on the speculation around the reported relaxation of border restrictions. "It is too early to say that Iran is going to use these Afghans for military purposes," said political expert Ahmad Saeedi.
Saeedi thinks a more subtle Iranian opposition to the United States and the Afghan government could have been the reason behind the alleged move.
"Iran wants to show its sympathy to the Afghans, who have suffered so much as a result of Iranian deportation. It wants to gain a political, social and economic advantage in Afghanistan because of its opposition to the United States," he said.
Basir Begzad, a political analyst in Herat, suggests that the reported frontier opening was an attempt to undermine confidence in the Kabul authorities and the international community. "They want to show the world that Afghans are not happy with the current government and the foreign forces, and that they run away as soon as they get the chance," he said.
Zia Ahmadi and Mustafa Saber are IWPR-trained reporters based in Herat.
Taliban targetting ISI
Reply #536 on:
November 16, 2009, 10:48:29 AM »
Pakistan: The Taliban Strategy Behind Targeting the ISI
Stratfor Today » November 13, 2009 | 2252 GMT
An injured Pakistani man after the Nov. 13 Inter-Services Intelligence building bombing in PeshawarSummary
The Taliban’s suicide-bombing attack on the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate’s headquarters in Peshawar Nov. 13 was intended to send a clear message: that a government offensive against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan is having little effect on the TTP’s ability to wage war. For now, even if the TTP is limited to operating only within the North-West Frontier Province, the group continues to have the upper hand in the insurgency.
The vehicle-borne suicide bombing of the headquarters of Pakistan’s premier spy service in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Nov. 13 killed relatively few people (16 at last count). However, the blast was so powerful that a significant portion of the provincial headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate in Peshawar was demolished. This is the second time an ISI provincial headquarters has been targeted by Taliban rebels since the much larger May 27 attack on the intelligence agency’s Punjab headquarters in Lahore.
The Nov. 13 attack was against a major ISI facility focused on fighting the jihadist insurgency in the region at a time when Pakistani troops are trying to dismantle the headquarters of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan. The attack is intended to send a clear message: that the government offensive is not having much of an effect on the TTP’s ability to operate. There is also much PR mileage to be gained from striking a facility of the country’s most powerful security organization. Yet another message the jihadists are trying to send — this time to an already rattled Pakistani public — is that the state is unable to protect itself, let alone its citizens.
But a careful examination of the series of Taliban attacks since the beginning of the ground offensive in South Waziristan on Oct. 17 shows that the TTP has not been able to pull off any major attacks beyond the NWFP. The last major attack was on Oct. 10, when militants were able to penetrate the main headquarters of the military in Rawalpindi (the twin city of the capital, Islamabad) and take control of the Military Intelligence directorate building along with 30 hostages. Since then, however, the attacks that have taken place in Lahore and Islamabad have proved to be relatively small-scale strikes.
For the time being, law enforcement and intelligence operations in Punjab and Karachi, coupled with the offensive in South Waziristan and operations elsewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, appear to have limited the effective radius of TTP attacks to the NWFP. And there has been a sustained focus on Peshawar, with several large-scale bombings in the NWFP provincial capital. There have also been attacks that have targeted civilians, for which TTP and al Qaeda leaders have denied responsibility. One of these attacks, on Oct. 28, killed more than150 people — mostly women and children.
In fact, TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud and al Qaeda prime leader for Afghanistan/Pakistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, have said the bombings targeting civilians were the work of the U.S. private security contractor Blackwater (which has been renamed Xe). By accusing the security firm, the jihadists are trying to exploit perceptions in Pakistan that the firm is engaged in suspicious activity in the country and may be trying to destabilize it or even remove or dismantle its nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, attacking the ISI headquarters in Peshawar is a way for the TTP to conduct damage control in the wake of the civilian bombings. Even if the TTP is limited, at least for now, to a meaningful striking capability only within NWFP, the group continues to have the upper hand in the insurgency. The question is whether the government’s Waziristan offensive can put a significant dent in its overall war-making capability.
Reply #537 on:
November 17, 2009, 01:14:36 PM »
Corruption in Afghanistan
It’s tempting to say fighting corruption is for police, not soldiers. Tempting, but wrong.
By Brock Dahl
In his congratulatory phone call to Hamid Karzai, President Obama emphasized the importance of fighting corruption and noted that “the proof is not going to be in words; it’s going to be in deeds.” He would do well to heed his own advice.
Since the beginning of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. and coalition forces have never seen policing as a priority element of the counterinsurgency mission. Indeed, when asked about looting in 2003, a British military spokesman responded, “Do I look like I’m a policeman?” Around the same time, a U.S. Central Command official told reporters, “The U.S. won’t be a police force.”
Regarding Afghanistan, Douglas Feith proudly tells a story in his memoirs about a confrontation between Hamid Karzai and a provincial warlord named Pacha Khan in 2002. Karzai sought U.S. assistance, but Secretary Rumsfeld declined to give it. Feith concluded, “Karzai rose to the challenge from Pacha Khan. He managed in time to quiet the situation without major fighting, using political skill within his own means.” We may never know what Karzai and Pacha Khan actually discussed. Afghan sources have told me, however, that as the U.S. shifted forces to Iraq and seemed to lose interest in Afghanistan, Karzai did not have the resources to enforce the authority of his Kabul government, and had to make concessions to leading provincial personalities to maintain some hold on power. No wonder, then, that the country is now riddled with corruption.
A policing vacuum can make civil conflict worse. We have rightly focused on fighting insurgents and terrorists. Yet organized crime and government corruption are often tied to these primary threats, and they may do more to undermine the Iraqi and Afghan governments in the eyes of their own people than the insurgents and terrorists themselves.
When violence and chaos escalate, normal state and market activities are disrupted. Powerful players step into the void, profiting off conflict by providing access to all kinds of goods, from food and clothing to guns and drugs. As the violence abates, these actors solidify their newfound power. What some experts refer to as a “political-criminal nexus” develops. A host of corrupt and criminal activities pursued by powerful networks weaken state institutions.
When such alternative power centers develop, it takes forceful efforts to deconstruct them. These are efforts of a sort that a weak government, racked by war and lacking resources, may not be able to prosecute successfully. If U.S. and coalition forces refuse to support selected policing operations in Afghanistan, the state will never be able to break the cycle of corruption and criminality.
The U.S. military is slowly coming around to this realization. As Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, recently put it, “The only way to clean up Chicago is to get rid of Capone.” Indeed, General Flynn is onto something. Ending the rule of complex organizations such as Capone’s required aggressive law-enforcement measures against the most powerful individuals in the organization. We have not yet undertaken such advanced policing operations in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Military forces usually operate by eliminating targets. Our military cannot kill corrupt Afghan officials, but it could do much more than it has been doing to help the Afghan government investigate, arrest, and prosecute them. In other words, it can give Afghan law-enforcement agencies the added strength that they need to make any headway against corruption and crime.
How Karzai would use this assistance is in question. But since he was willing to seek it previously, he may be willing to accept it now. The awkwardness of the recent elections and the substantial international pressure for change provide an opportunity. Karzai, however, having been left out in the cold before, may require convincing that U.S. assistance will be sustained and that a compelling plan for turning the tide toward properly functioning institutions is available. Both require immediate U.S. action.
So, when it comes to the U.S. concern about corruption, President Obama was right on target in saying “the proof is not going to be in words; it’s going to be in deeds.”
— Brock Dahl is a former U.S. Treasury Department official who worked in the Treasury attaché’s office in Baghdad and on the Afghanistan Interagency Operations Group. He is currently a Washington Fellow at the National Review Institute and is pursuing a J.D. at the George Washington University Law School.
National Review Online -
Reply #538 on:
November 18, 2009, 08:22:31 AM »
One of the notions that I have held throughout the War with Islamic Fascism is the importance of defining it as a matter of civilization vs barbarism. Seen through this filter, the true turning point of Iraq was not only the Surge, but the fact that the excessess of AQ Iraq provoked a situation in which both Sunni and Shia Muslims were able to work with the Surge.
Now that the Islamo Fascists of the Whackostans have frontally taken on the Pakistani State, we now "coincidentally" see the Pak State having at it with them on their home turf.
Of course our President now sees this as a moment to be shocked, absolutely shocked, that there is corruption in Afghanistan and apparently prepares the way to "Run Away!" -- just as he called for us to do in Iraq during the pivotal moments of decision making on the Surge.
The Pakistani Army recently took control in Sararogha, a town in the South Waziristan region that militants had claimed as their capital.
By SABRINA TAVERNISE and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: November 17, 2009
SARAROGHA, Pakistan — This windswept, sand-colored town in the badlands of western Pakistan is empty now, cleared of the militants who once claimed it as their capital. But its main brick buildings, intact and thick with dust, tell not of an epic battle, but of sudden flight.
A month after the Pakistani military began its push into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, militants appear to have been dispersed, not eliminated, with most simply fleeing. That recurring pattern illustrated the problems facing the Obama administration as it enters its final days of a decision on its strategy for Afghanistan.
Success in this region, in the remote mountains near the Afghan border, could have a direct bearing on how many more American troops are ultimately sent to Afghanistan, and how long they must stay.
Pakistan has shown increased willingness to tackle the problem, launching sweeping operations in the north and west of the country this year, but American officials are still urging it to do more, most recently in a letter from President Obama to Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, over the weekend.
On Tuesday, the military escorted journalists on a tour of the area, where it closely restricts access, showing piles of things they had seized, including weapons, bombs, photos and even a long, curly wig. “It all started from here,” said Brig. Muhammed Shafiq, the commander here. “This is the most important town in South Waziristan.”
But lasting success has been elusive, tempered by an agile enemy that has moved easily from one part of the tribal areas to the next — and even deeper into Pakistan — virtually every time it has been challenged.
American analysts expressed surprise at the relatively light fighting and light Pakistani Army casualties — seven soldiers in five days in Sararogha — supporting their suspicions that the Taliban fighters from the local Mehsud tribe and the foreign fighters who are their allies, including a large contingent of Uzbeks, have headed north or deeper into the mountains. In comparison, 51 Americans were killed in eight days of fighting in Falluja, Iraq, in 2004.
“That’s what bothers me,” an American intelligence officer said. “Where are they?”
The Pakistani military says it has learned from past failures in a region where it lost hundreds in fighting before. It spent weeks bombing the area before its 30,000 troops entered. It struck alliances with neighboring tribes.
But the pending campaign was no secret, allowing time for local people and militants to escape, similar to what happens during American operations in Afghanistan.
“They are fleeing in all directions,” said a senior Pakistani security official, who did not want to be identified while discussing national security issues. “The Uzbeks are fleeing to Afghanistan and the north, and the Mehsuds are fleeing to any possible place they can think of.”
But there was some fighting, as destruction in Sararogha’s market area shows, and the fact that the military now occupies the area is something of a success, analysts say. American officials have expressed measured praise for the Pakistani operation so far.
“The Pakistani Army has done pretty well, and they have learned lessons from the Swat campaign, including the use of close-air support from their fighter jets,” said a senior American intelligence official, referring to the army’s first offensive this spring.
But big questions remain: How long will the military be able to hold the territory? And once they leave, will the militants simply come back?
“Are they really winning the people — this is the big question,” said Talat Masood, a military analyst and former general in Islamabad, the capital. “They have weakened the Taliban tactically, but have they really won the area if the people are not with them?”
Winning them over will not be easy. Waziristan’s largely Pashtun population has been abandoned by the military in the past, including in 2005, when, after a peace deal, a military commander called Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Taliban, a “soldier of peace.” People who are from this area are still deeply skeptical of the army’s intentions.
“People want to know: how serious is the military this time?” said a military official who asked not to be named in order not to undermine the official position publicly.
The military argues that it is, saying that it has lost 70 soldiers in this operation so far, on top of more than 1,000 killed in the last several years of conflict.
Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, principal spokesman for the Pakistan military, said that about 50 percent of the Mehsud territory is now under army control, including most major towns and roads, and that the military would soon begin to press into villages where militants were hiding.
Finding a reliable local partner will be difficult. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have ruled the impoverished area for so long that they have altered its social structure, killing hundreds of tribal elders and making it hard for the military to negotiate.
The alliances that the military has struck with neighboring tribal leaders, including Hafiz Gul Bahadur, may also prove problematic. The senior Pakistani security official said Mr. Bahadur was hosting the families of two top Pakistani Taliban leaders.
Some American officials also voiced concern that if and when the Pakistani Army crushes the Mehsuds, it will declare victory and cut more permanent peace deals with other Pakistani militant factions, rather than fighting and defeating them.
But the Pakistani military argues that as long as the other groups are not attacking the Pakistani Army or state, it would be foolish to draw them into the war, particularly because Pakistan is not confident the United States will be around much longer.
Mr. Masood explained the thinking: “You are 10,000 miles away and we are going to live with them, so how can we take on every crook who is hostile to you?”
And there is history to overcome. One Pakistani intelligence official pointed to the American abandonment of the region in 1989, after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. “If they leave in haste, like they left in the past, we will be back to the bad old days,” the official said. “Our jihadis would head back to Afghanistan, reopen training camps, and it will be business as usual.”
Sabrina Tavernise reported from Sararogha, Pakistan, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan.
NYT: Afghani militias?
Reply #539 on:
November 22, 2009, 10:18:30 AM »
As Afghans Resist Taliban, U.S. Spurs Rise of Militias
By DEXTER FILKINS
Published: November 21, 2009
ACHIN, Afghanistan — American and Afghan officials have begun helping a number of anti-Taliban militias that have independently taken up arms against insurgents in several parts of Afghanistan, prompting hopes of a large-scale tribal rebellion against the Taliban.
Members of the Afghan National Police, above, passed an abandoned Russian Army vehicle on a patrol near a village in Kunduz Province.
The emergence of the militias, which took some leaders in Kabul by surprise, has so encouraged the American and Afghan officials that they are planning to spur the growth of similar armed groups across the Taliban heartland in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
The American and Afghan officials say they are hoping the plan, called the Community Defense Initiative, will bring together thousands of gunmen to protect their neighborhoods from Taliban insurgents. Already there are hundreds of Afghans who are acting on their own against the Taliban, officials say.
The endeavor represents one of the most ambitious — and one of the riskiest — plans for regaining the initiative against the Taliban, who are fighting more vigorously than at any time since 2001.
By harnessing the militias, American and Afghan officials hope to rapidly increase the number of Afghans fighting the Taliban. That could supplement the American and Afghan forces already here, and whatever number of American troops President Obama might decide to send. The militias could also help fill the gap while the Afghan Army and police forces train and grow — a project that could take years to bear fruit.
The Americans hope the militias will encourage an increasingly demoralized Afghan population to take a stake in the war against the Taliban.
“The idea is to get people to take responsibility for their own security,” said a senior American military official in Kabul, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “In many places they are already doing that.”
The growth of the anti-Taliban militias runs the risk that they could turn on one another, or against the Afghan and American governments. The Americans say they will keep the groups small and will limit the scope of their activities to protecting villages and manning checkpoints.
For now, they are not arming the groups because they already have guns.
The Americans also say they will tie them directly to the Afghan government.
These checks aim to avoid repeating mistakes of the past — either creating more Afghan warlords, who have defied the government’s authority for years, or arming Islamic militants, some of whom came back to haunt the United States.
The American plan echoes a similar movement that unfolded in Iraq, beginning in late 2006, in which Sunni tribes turned against Islamist extremists.
That movement, called the Sunni Awakening, brought tens of thousands of former insurgents into government-supervised militias and helped substantially reduce the violence in Iraq. A rebellion on a similar scale seems unlikely in Afghanistan, in large part because the tribes here are so much weaker than those in Iraq.
The first phase of the Afghan plan, now being carried out by American Special Forces soldiers, is to set up or expand the militias in areas with a population of about a million people. Special Forces soldiers have been fanning out across the countryside, descending from helicopters into valleys where the residents have taken up arms against the Taliban and offering their help.
“We are trying to reach out to these groups that have organized themselves,” Col. Christopher Kolenda said in Kabul.
Afghan and American officials say they plan to use the militias as tripwires for Taliban incursions, enabling them to call the army or the police if things get out of hand.
The official assistance to the militias so far has been modest, consisting mainly of ammunition and food, officials said. But American and Afghan officials say they are also planning to train the fighters and provide communication equipment.
“What we are talking about is a local, spontaneous and indigenous response to the Taliban,” said Hanif Atmar, the Afghan interior minister. “The Afghans are saying, ‘We are willing and determined and capable to defend our country; just give us the resources.’ ”
In the Pashtun-dominated areas of the south and east, the anti-Taliban militias are being led by elders from local tribes. The Pashtun militias represent a reassertion of the country’s age-old tribal system, which binds villages and regions under the leadership of groups of elders.
The tribal networks have been alternately decimated and co-opted by Taliban insurgents. Local tribal leaders, while still powerful, cannot count on the allegiance of all of their tribes’ members.
Militias have begun taking up arms against the Taliban in several places where insurgents have gained a foothold, including the provinces of Nangarhar and Paktia.
Published: November 21, 2009
(Page 2 of 2)
So far, there appears to be some divergence in the American and Afghan efforts. While American Special Forces units have focused on helping smaller militias, Afghan officials have been channeling assistance to larger armed groups, including those around the northern city of Kunduz. In that city, several armed groups, led by ethnic Uzbek commanders as well as Pashtuns, are confronting the Taliban.
“In Kunduz, after they defeated the Taliban in their villages, they became the power and they took money and taxes from the people,” Mr. Atmar, the interior minister, said. “This is not legal, and this is warlordism.”
Colonel Kolenda said, “In the long run, that is destabilizing.”
One of the most striking examples of a local militia rising up on its own is here in Achin, a predominantly Pashtun district in Nangarhar Province that straddles the border with Pakistan.
In July, a long-running dispute between local Taliban fighters and elders from the Shinwari tribe flared up. When a local Taliban warlord named Khona brought a more senior commander from Pakistan to help in the confrontation, the elders in the Shinwari tribe rallied villagers from up and down the valley where they live, killed the commander and chased Khona away.
The elders had insisted that the Taliban stay away from a group of Afghans building a dike in the valley. When Khona’s men kidnapped two Afghan engineers, the Shinwari elders decided they had had enough.
“The whole tribe was with me,” one of the elders said in an interview. “The Taliban came to kill me, and instead we killed them.”
The two tribal elders in Achin who led the rebellion spoke at length with The New York Times about their activities. At the request of American commanders in Kabul, who feared that the elders would be killed by the Taliban, the identities of the men are being withheld.
Since the fight, the Taliban have been kept away from a string of villages in Achin District that stretch for about six miles. The elders said they were able to do so by forming a group of more than 100 fighters and posting them at each end of the valley.
The elders said they had been marked for death by Taliban commanders on both sides of the border.
“Every day people call me and tell me the Taliban is trying to kill me,” one of the Shinwari elders said. “They call me and tell me: ‘Don’t take this road. Take a different one.’ I am worried about suicide bombers.”
The feud between the Taliban and the Shinwari elders caught the attention of American officers, who sent a team of Special Forces soldiers to the valley. This reporter was unable to reach the interior of the valley where the men live, so it was difficult to verify all of the elders’ claims.
Both the Shinwari elders said that “Americans with beards” had flown into the valley twice in recent weeks and had given them flour and boxes of ammunition. (Unlike other American troops, Special Forces soldiers are allowed to wear beards.)
American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they intended to help organize and train the Shinwari militia. They said they would give them communication gear that would enable them to call the Afghan police if they needed help.
But that, as well as other aspects of the plan, seems problematic, at least for now. There are only about 50 Afghan police officers in Achin, the district center, and none in the valley. There are no Afghan Army soldiers in the area, and the nearest American base is many miles away.
The hope, of course, is that the revolt led by the Shinwari elders spreads. Each of the elders interviewed leads a branch of the 12 Shinwari tribes. If they survive, both elders said, they believe that others will join them.
“The Taliban are not popular here, not educated,” another Shinwari elder said. “They are stray dogs.”
POTH: Lots of Smoke Signals
Reply #540 on:
November 25, 2009, 07:53:39 AM »
Pravda on the Hudson struggles with articulating His Glibness's strategy. There's so many references to "signaling" in the piece and so much blowing of smoke that for me it all blended into "smoke signals".
WASHINGTON—In declaring Tuesday that he would “finish the job” in Afghanistan, President Obama used a phrase clearly meant to imply that even as he deploys an additional 30,000 or so troops, he has finally figured out how to bring the eight-year-long conflict to an end.
But offering that reassuring if somewhat contradictory signal — that by adding troops he can speed the United States toward an exit — is just the first of a set of tricky messages Mr. Obama will have to deliver as he rolls out his strategy publicly.
Over the next week, he will deliver multiple messages to multiple audiences: voters at home, allies, the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the extremists who are the enemy. And as Mr. Obama’s own aides concede, the messages directed at some may undercut the messages sent to others.
He must convince Democrats, especially the antiwar base that helped elect him, and the slim majority of the country that tells pollsters the conflict is no longer worth the sacrifice, that in sending more troops he is not escalating the war L.B.J.-style. In fact, some of those involved in the deliberations on an Afghanistan strategy say Mr. Obama will argue that providing the additional numbers is the fastest way to assure that the United States will be able to “finish the job,” because it will speed the training of the Afghan national army.
But at the same moment, he must persuade Republicans that he is giving the military what it needs to beat back the Taliban and keep Al Qaeda from threatening the United States.
That would be a difficult task even if Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s strategic assessments and troop requests had not been paraded across front pages, including his contention that the task will require 40,000 or more troops if Mr. Obama wants to create true security in the country’s major population centers.
At a time when Mr. Obama is vowing to reduce sky-high deficits, he must make the case that the price tag — roughly $1 million per soldier — is justified. He already faced pre-emptive resistance on Tuesday from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
So it is no surprise that one of Mr. Obama’s senior aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged Tuesday that the forthcoming speech was a “potential minefield.” One of his national security strategists put Mr. Obama’s challenge this way: The trick, he said, will be “signaling resolve to the allies while not signaling open-ended commitment to the American people.”
Both sides of that equation are complicated.
Mr. Obama must signal resolve — and staying power — because the Dutch and the Canadians are both scheduled to be pulling their troops out of Afghanistan just as Mr. Obama is putting more forces in. In quiet meetings over the past month, American defense and national security officials have been trying to forestall those departures, while obtaining commitments of increasing numbers of troops from NATO allies.
So far, the administration has been successful only with the British, who have pledged an additional 500 troops. Germany, Italy and other NATO contributors have been silent, explaining to their American visitors that the war has become so unpopular at home that they can barely sustain the troop levels now in place.
“I think we’ll get there,” said an official who has been sent for those conversations. “But not in time for the president’s announcement.” Others said it may be early next year before Mr. Obama can extract any additional commitments.
Pakistan poses a particularly difficult problem. Mr. Obama has been highly attuned to the need to declare that the United States is not in what he recently called “an open-ended commitment” in Afghanistan.
But for years, throughout the Bush administration and into the Obama administration, American officials have been making trips to Pakistan to reassure its government that the United States has no intention of pulling out of Afghanistan as it did 20 years ago, after the Soviets retreated from the country. Inside the Pakistani Army and the intelligence service, which is known as the ISI, it is an article of faith among some officers that the United States is deceiving them, and that it will replay 1989.
If that happens, some Pakistanis argue, India will fill the void in southern Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan surrounded by its longtime enemy. So any talk of exit strategies is bound to reaffirm the belief of some Pakistani officials that they have to maintain their contacts with the Taliban — their hedge against Indian encroachment.
So the United States is stuck, one official said, between not wanting to suggest it will be a military presence in the region forever and showing enough commitment to encourage Pakistan to change its behavior.
Mr. Obama has a similar signaling problem with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. A parade of Washington officials, most recently Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, have traveled to Kabul to warn that continuing American help is dependent on the Afghan government’s meeting benchmarks in tackling corruption and building up credible security forces. But Mr. Obama is not likely to say what will happen if Mr. Karzai fails to deliver, for fear of further alienating the mercurial Afghan president.
At home, the more urgent issues are troop numbers and the cost of the escalation. Here, Mr. Obama will have more room to maneuver. Over the past two weeks, military officials have been expecting a decision that will give them roughly 34,000 additional troops, not far from what was sought by General McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan. At the White House and among the allies, the figure most commonly heard is just under 30,000.
Both figures, and anything in between, could prove right. Counting support troops and “trainers” is an art form in the military. The troops will be dispatched in phases, and Mr. Obama is likely to declare that he will review the deployment next year, to evaluate its progress.
That gives him the flexibility to tell the Democrats that his commitment is limited, and to tell the Republicans that he will do whatever it takes to win what, only three months ago, he called a “war of necessity.”
POTH: Jobs for the Taliban
Reply #541 on:
November 28, 2009, 09:10:11 AM »
I bet President Bush would have appreciated such support from POTH when he was rallying the nation to back the Surge , , , but I digress , , ,
Afghans Offer Jobs to Taliban Rank and File if They Defect Recommend
Published: November 27, 2009
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — The American-backed campaign to persuade legions of Taliban gunmen to stop fighting got under way here recently, in an ornate palace filled with Afghan tribal leaders and one very large former warlord leading the way.
“O.K., I want you guys to go out there and persuade the Taliban to sit down and talk,” Gul Agha Shirzai, the governor of Jalalabad, told a group of 25 tribal leaders from four eastern provinces. In a previous incarnation, Mr. Shirzai was the American-picked governor of Kandahar Province after the Taliban fell in 2001.
“Do whatever you have to do,” the rotund Mr. Shirzai told the assembled elders. “I’ll back you up.”
After about two hours of talking, Mr. Shirzai and the tribal elders rose, left for their respective provinces and promised to start turning the enemy.
The meeting is part of a battlefield push to lure local fighters and commanders away from the Taliban by offering them jobs in development projects that Afghan tribal leaders help select, paid by the American military and the Afghan government.
By enlisting the tribal leaders to help choose the development projects, the Americans also hope to help strengthen both the Afghan government and the Pashtun tribal networks.
These efforts are focusing on rank-and-file Taliban; while there are some efforts under way to negotiate with the leaders of the main insurgent groups, neither American nor Afghan officials have much faith that those talks will succeed soon.
Afghanistan has a long history of fighters switching sides — sometimes more than once. Still, efforts so far to persuade large numbers of Taliban fighters to give up have been less than a complete success. To date, about 9,000 insurgents have turned in their weapons and agreed to abide by the Afghan Constitution, said Muhammad Akram Khapalwak, the chief administrator for the Peace and Reconciliation Commission in Kabul.
But in an impoverished country ruined by 30 years of war, tribal leaders said that many more insurgents would happily put down their guns if there was something more worthwhile to do.
“Most of the Taliban in my area are young men who need jobs,” said Hajji Fazul Rahim, a leader of the Abdulrahimzai tribe, which spans three eastern provinces. “We just need to make them busy. If we give them work, we can weaken the Taliban.”
In the Jalalabad program, tribal elders would reach out to Taliban commanders to press them to change sides. The commanders and their fighters then would be offered jobs created by local development programs.
The Pashtuns, who form the core of the Taliban, make up a largely tribal society, with families connected to one another by kinship and led by groups of elders. Over the years, the Pashtun tribes have been substantially weakened, with elders singled out by three groups: Taliban fighters, the rebels who fought the former Soviet Union and the soldiers of the former Soviet Union itself. The decimation of the tribes has left Afghan society largely atomized.
Afghan and American officials hope that the plan to make peace with groups of Taliban fighters will complement an American-led effort to set up anti-Taliban militias in many parts of the country: the Pashtun tribes will help fight the Taliban, and they will make deals with the Taliban. And, by so doing, Afghan tribal society can be reinvigorated.
“We’re trying to put pressure on the leaders, and at the same time peel away their young fighters,” said an American military official in Kabul involved in the reconciliation effort. “This is not about handing bags of money to an insurgent.”
The Afghan reconciliation plan is intended to duplicate the Awakening movement in Iraq, where Sunni tribal leaders, many of them insurgents, agreed to stop fighting and in many cases were paid to do so. The Awakening contributed to the remarkable decline in violence in Iraq.
In the autumn of 2001, during the opening phase of the American-led war in Afghanistan, dozens of warlords fighting for the Taliban agreed to defect to the American-backed rebels. As in Iraq, the defectors were often enticed by cash, sometimes handed out by American Army Special Forces officers.
At a ceremony earlier this month in Kabul, about 70 insurgents laid down their guns before the commissioners and agreed to accept the Afghan Constitution. Some of the men had fought for the Taliban, some for Hezb-i-Islami, another insurgent group. The fighters’ motives ranged from disillusion to exhaustion.
“How long should we fight the government? How many more years?” said Molawi Fazullah, a Taliban lieutenant who surrendered with nine others. “Our leaders misled us, and we destroyed our country.”
Like many fighters who gave up at the ceremony, he shrouded his face with a scarf and sunglasses, for fear of being identified by his erstwhile comrades.
The Americans say they have no plans to give cash to local Taliban commanders. They say they would rather give them jobs.
In a defense appropriations bill recently approved by Congress, lawmakers set aside $1.3 billion for a program known by its acronym, CERP, a discretionary fund for American officers. Ordinarily, CERP money is used for development projects, but the language in the bill says officers can use the money to support the “reintegration into Afghan society” of those who have given up fighting.
For all the efforts under way to entice Taliban fighters to change sides, there will always be the old-fashioned approach: deadly force. American commanders also want to squeeze them; such is the rationale behind Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for tens of thousands of additional American troops.
Indeed, sometimes force alone does the trick. On Oct. 9, American Special Forces soldiers killed Ghulam Yahia, an insurgent commander believed responsible for, among other things, sending several suicide bombers into the western city of Herat. Mr. Yahia had changed sides himself in the past: earlier in the decade, he was Herat’s mayor.
When the Americans killed Mr. Yahia, in a mountain village called Bedak, 120 of his fighters defected to the Afghan government. Others went into hiding. Abdul Wahab, a former lieutenant of Mr. Yahia’s who led the defectors, said that the Afghan government had so far done nothing to protect them or offer them jobs. But he said he was glad he had made the jump anyway.
“We are tired of war,” he said. “We don’t want it anymore.”
Sangar Rahimi and Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Stratfor: Nukes and a presidential struggle
Reply #542 on:
November 28, 2009, 06:21:07 PM »
Pakistan: Nuclear Weapons and a Presidential Struggle
Stratfor Today » November 28, 2009 | 1915 GMT
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Sept. 29 in ItalySummary
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari late on Nov. 27 handed over control of the country’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The move is more about the president’s political survival than the South Asian nation’s nuclear weapons. Zardari’s efforts are unlikely to bear fruit and the potential political instability could have grave implications for Islamabad’s counter-insurgency efforts against jihadists and Washington’s plans for the region.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari late on Nov. 27 transferred power of the country’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. According to a statement from presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Zardari issued the 2009 National Command Authority (NCA) Ordinance — an amendment to the original ordinance that was issued by former President Pervez Musharraf naming the president chairman and the prime minister vice-chairman. The amendment is part of a re-promulgation of 27 ordinances that were enacted by Musharraf, which the Supreme Court ruled on July 31would expire on Nov. 28 if parliament did not approve them.
The move is Zardari’s way of catering to the demand from across the country that he shed powers he inherited from Musharraf, yet allowing him to retain control over the government. He hopes giving up the chairmanship will help defuse pressure from the military — the state’s principal stakeholder.
The military opposes Zardari primarily because it perceives he is working with the United States to weaken the position of the military through the recently approved Kerry-Lugar Aid package. The military has also been particularly concerned that the multibillion-dollar assistance program undermines the country’s national defense by seeking to limit its nuclear weapons arsenal. But domestic and international circumstances limit the military’s ability to get rid of the president, hence the increasingly complex legal procedures against him.
From Zardari’s point of view, the chairmanship is symbolic: The nuclear establishment is dominated by the military. The chairmanship was significant under Musharraf, who served as president and military chief. Currently, with a civilian president, the real players in the nuclear establishment are the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC); Gen. Tariq Majid, who heads the powerful Development Control Committee (DCC); and the director general of Strategic Plans Division (SPD), retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai.
The chairman only plays a role when rare strategic decisions have to be made — at which time the entire committee meets. Given that the chairman, despite being the committee’s head, is one of many NCA members who are among the top brass and civilian leadership in the nation, Zardari is not losing much by handing the post over to Gilani. If anything, it could help, given that Gilani is more acceptable to the military and the country as a whole. The DCC and the Employment Control Committee (which includes the defense, interior and finance ministers, the CJCSC, the SPD chief and the three armed services chiefs with the foreign minister at the helm) make up the NCA.
As far as command and control of the nuclear arsenal are concerned, these political maneuverings and domestic changes are superficial. The nuclear establishment is not affected by the political changes. In the event of a true crisis, the civilian and military leadership would be jointly involved in nuclear decisions.
In addition to the NCA move, Zardari on Nov. 27 told private television channel Express News that the controversial 17th amendment would be abolished by parliament in December. The 17th amendment of 2003 rendered Musharraf more powerful than the legislature or the prime minister, as opposed to the original 1973 constitution. Yet it is unclear to what extent Zardari, who also heads the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, would be willing to heed to the growing demand that he shed powers he enjoys, including the right to dismiss parliament and appoint the military chiefs.
The country’s constitution calls for a parliamentary form of government in which the popularly elected prime minister is the chief executive, while the president, elected by national and provincial legislatures, is a ceremonial head of state. However, through long periods of military rule, through some crafty constitutional and political engineering, the president has remained powerful while the prime minister was relegated to the status of a vice-president. Interestingly, it is ironic that the military wants to return to the original system, when it favored a strong presidency in the past.
Ideally, Zardari would like to appoint the next army chief when Gen. Ashfaq Kayani retires in November 2010. Given Zardari’s weak position and the pressure from the military, he is likely to also relinquish this authority to the prime minister. As head of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party — and in his pursuit to hold onto that role — Zardari must try to retain control of the government, even as he is forced to accept a presidency with ceremonial powers. The dilemma for Zardari is: How does he retain control over the government should he be forced to accept a presidency with ceremonial powers?
Furthermore, within months he may face a constitutional ouster, given the brewing controversy surrounding the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which also expired Nov. 28. Musharraf in late 2007 issued the NRO, which granted amnesty to politicians accused of corruption, murder and other criminal activity.That made it possible for Zardari and many of his key allies to rise to power. The law’s expiration sets into motion a political and constitutional crisis because of the revival of all criminal cases against thousands of senior government officials — a development temporarily delayed by the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Once the country returns from the holiday, the domestic political crisis will likely overshadow all other issues. Because Zardari has legal immunity from prosecution so long as he holds the office of president, it will be sometime before the presidency will be affected. However, many senior Cabinet ministers, appointees and bureaucrats will have to face the courts – overwhelming the judiciary. Zardari’s opponents seek to force him out of office by challenging his eligibility to run for the presidency in the Supreme Court, which is expected to be the main event in the coming legal storm.
Pakistan’s civilian institutions historically have been weak, with political instability hardwired into the state system. Even as the civilian institutions try to assert themselves, the end result is the same instability — and it comes at a critical time when the country’s military has its hands full with a major counter-insurgency offensive against jihadists. This latest round of instability could exacerbate the problems the United States and its NATO allies face as they try to come up with a strategy for neighboring Afghanistan.
Stratfor: Whackostan offensive
Reply #543 on:
November 28, 2009, 06:27:23 PM »
Pakistan: The South Waziristan Offensive Continues
Stratfor Today » November 25, 2009 | 2145 GMT
NASEER MEHSUD/AFP/Getty Images
A Pakistani army soldier guards his South Waziristan post Nov. 18 as he watches internally displaced civilians fleeing from military operations against Taliban militants
Inspector-General of the Pakistani Frontier Corps Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan said Nov. 24 that South Waziristan would be split into two separate agencies. The statement comes nearly six weeks into a Pakistani military offensive to root out Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) forces from their stronghold in South Waziristan, and will form part of Pakistan’s political strategy to maintain alliances with neutral tribal leaders and prevent the Taliban from re-entrenching themselves in the region.
The military offensive Rah-i-Nijat is entering its sixth week of ground operations in South Waziristan. The Pakistani army has been fighting through a section of South Waziristan home to the Mehsud tribe that was, until recently, the center of operations for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The military has employed a strategy of attacking this area from three directions: Jandola-Sararogha, Shakai-Kaniguram and Razmak-Makeen. Each axis has led to the capture of major roads and major population centers in the area — objectives that deny militants mobility and sanctuary.
The military has not completely consolidated its control over the area — militant ambushes, mortar and improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks continue. However, the military has captured and cleared the major population centers of Sararogha, Kaniguram and Makeen, and is now moving to other strategic population centers such as Ladha (where there is a fort that was taken by the TTP in 2008) and Janata, as well as clearing smaller villages outside of the larger towns.
It is important to emphasize that military operations are ongoing and that the Pakistani forces deployed to South Waziristan will be tied up there for some time. Presently, there is no withdrawal plan and the military has not indicated when operation Rah-i-Nijat will conclude. This also means that internally displace persons (IDPs) in South Waziristan will continue to be without homes for a while. However, the total IDPs resulting from Rah-i-Nijat number around 300,000 — much more manageable for the government than the nearly 2 million IDPs that resulted from Rah-i-Rast, the May 2009 military operation in the Swat Valley.
Pakistan, however, still faces many challenges, including how it can mitigate the dispersion of soldiers and prevent the TTP from simply re-establishing itself outside of South Waziristan. Even before military operations began, many of the high-level TTP commanders were believed to have fled to other areas of Pakistan, so it is key that the militant threat does not return and re-establish itself as soon as the military operations end. By the nature of non-state groups like the Taliban, leaders are elusive, so capturing or killing all of them is extremely difficult, but disrupting their bases of operations will likely weaken their power and frustrate their objectives against the Pakistani state.
In addition to the South Waziristan, the army has also paid considerable attention to the northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) agencies of Bajaur, Orakzai, and Khyber, where pre-existing Taliban allies remain strong and have likely attracted at least some fleeing militants from South Waziristan. Militants in Bajaur Agency continue to engage the Pakistani army, and as recently as Nov. 22, the army killed 16 militants in an operation there that was part of the larger mission of preventing the spread of militant fighters. Despite recent success against militants in Bajaur, Islamabad still faces belligerents there.
Meanwhile, in Orakzai Agency (which was the home of current TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud before he took over following Baitullah Mehsud’s death), the Pakistani air force has conducted a sustained air campaign against several militant positions and killed scores of militants. However, it is clear that the TTP and its militant allies have maintained their capability to attack the Pakistani state, as seen by the string of attacks since Rah-i-Nijat began.
Additionally, Pakistani ground forces and helicopter gunships have been patrolling Khyber Agency to protect the major route that is used to supply NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as deny militants a sanctuary from which they can strike at nearby Peshawar. Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) in collaboration with the TTP is likely responsible for recent attacks in Peshawar. Even though LI is more oriented toward organized crime and making money by smuggling goods into Afghanistan, it has an interest in allying with the TTP (which it has been in competition with) in order to resist the state’s offensive.
The Nov. 24 announcement that South Waziristan will be divided and politically administered as two separate agencies (raising the number of agencies in FATA from seven to eight) is also part of Islamabad’s strategy to maintain order in South Waziristan once the military mission there is complete. The specific geographical split is not yet clear, but it will largely divide the Mehsud and Waziri tribal areas. The Mehsud area is in the center of South Waziristan, where the TTP has its largest presence and, consequently, where the Pakistani military has launched operation Rah-i-Nijat. The Waziri tribal area (largely under the control of Taliban warlord Maulvi Nazir Ahmad) is located primarily in the west along the border with Afghanistan.
Maulvi Nazir and the Waziri tribes located along the Afghan border have cooperated with Islamabad by remaining neutral before and during the execution of Rah-i-Nijat. Nazir’s forces are more concerned with fighting Western forces in Afghanistan and have not taken up arms against Islamabad. The understanding reached between Islamabad and Nazir was an effort to divide forces in South Waziristan in order to isolate the TTP and its leadership from neighboring tribes, whose combined resistance to the Pakistani military would have frustrated their mission. Splitting South Waziristan agency in two would be a continuation of the strategy to divide control of the geographically difficult-to-govern territory in order to weaken remaining TTP elements. This also would have put the TTP’s area of operation under Islamabad’s direct control without unnecessarily impeding upon other actors in the region (like the Waziris) whom Islamabad is wary of further alienating.
Islamabad is considering several options to govern South Waziristan and FATA in general after Rah-i-Nijat. First, FATA may lose its autonomous status and become another province, which would give Islamabad more control over the area’s governance and services. Another option would be to follow the recent example of Gilgit-Baltistan in the north, which is not a new province but will now be responsible for its own regional executive, legislature and judiciary. FATA could also be incorporated into the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and its governing structures assimilated into the NWFP’s government (which is much more closely controlled than FATA). Regardless of what happens, it will be quite some time before military control on the ground can permit effective political changes that would drastically alter the way the area is governed.
The federal government is responsible for these decisions, which is itself suffering from destabilizing disputes like the one surrounding the National Reconciliation Ordinance — a highly controversial piece of legislation that granted amnesty to politicians accused of corruption and other criminal activity, many of whom are part of the current government.
But for now, the Pakistani military is still occupied with the task of securing the area and preventing the TTP from taking back what it has lost. The future success of this offensive depends upon the outcome of the political battle in Islamabad over the NRO, which will be heating up once the legislation expires on Nov. 28.
Reply #544 on:
December 02, 2009, 08:37:56 AM »
Regarding President BO's speech last night:
Let me see if I have this straight:
1) This is a "must win war";
2) We will begin leaving in 18 months;
3) We will leave our fate in the hands of the Afghan Army whether it is ready or not;
4) Pakistan and the people of Afghanistan, knowing that we are leaving, will align with us;
5) We can't afford to stay any longer than because we need to pass the President's health care, cap and trade, and so much other spending;
6) Therefore we will give Gen. McChrystal less troops than he has said are necessary to prevent defeat.
Is that about right?
Reply #545 on:
December 02, 2009, 09:11:48 AM »
That would be funny, were it not so painfully true.
Reply #546 on:
December 02, 2009, 10:53:40 AM »
second post of the morning:
Obama's Plan and the Key Battleground
December 2, 2009
By George Friedman
U.S. President Barack Obama announced the broad structure of his Afghanistan
strategy in a speech at West Point on Tuesday evening. The strategy had
three core elements. First, he intends to maintain pressure on al Qaeda on
the Afghan-Pakistani border and in other regions of the world. Second, he
intends to blunt the Taliban offensive by sending an additional 30,000
American troops to Afghanistan, along with an unspecified number of NATO
troops he hopes will join them. Third, he will use the space created by the
counteroffensive against the Taliban and the resulting security in some
regions of Afghanistan to train and build Afghan military forces and
civilian structures to assume responsibility after the United States
withdraws. Obama added that the U.S. withdrawal will begin in July 2011, but
provided neither information on the magnitude of the withdrawal nor the date
when the withdrawal would conclude. He made it clear that these will depend
on the situation on the ground, adding that the U.S. commitment is finite.
In understanding this strategy, we must begin with an obvious but unstated
point: The extra forces that will be deployed to Afghanistan are not
expected to defeat the Taliban. Instead, their mission is to reverse the
momentum of previous years and to create the circumstances under which an
Afghan force can take over the mission. The U.S. presence is therefore a
stopgap measure, not the ultimate solution.
The ultimate solution is training an Afghan force to engage the Taliban over
the long haul, undermining support for the Taliban, and dealing with al
Qaeda forces along the Pakistani border and in the rest of Afghanistan. If
the United States withdraws all of its forces as Obama intends, the Afghan
military would have to assume all of these missions. Therefore, we must
consider the condition of the Afghan military to evaluate the strategy's
Afghanistan vs. Vietnam
Obama went to great pains to distinguish Afghanistan from Vietnam, and there
are indeed many differences. The core strategy adopted by Richard Nixon (not
Lyndon Johnson) in Vietnam, called "Vietnamization," saw U.S. forces working
to blunt and disrupt the main North Vietnamese forces while the Army of the
Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would be trained, motivated and deployed to
replace U.S. forces to be systematically withdrawn from Vietnam. The
equivalent of the Afghan surge was the U.S. attack on North Vietnamese Army
(NVA) bases in Cambodia and offensives in northern South Vietnam designed to
disrupt NVA command and control and logistics and forestall a major
offensive by the NVA. Troops were in fact removed in parallel with the
Nixon faced two points Obama now faces. First, the United States could not
provide security for South Vietnam indefinitely. Second, the South
Vietnamese would have to provide security for themselves. The role of the
United States was to create the conditions under which the ARVN would become
an effective fighting force; the impending U.S. withdrawal was intended to
increase the pressure on the Vietnamese government to reform and on the ARVN
Many have argued that the core weakness of the strategy was that the ARVN
was not motivated to fight. This was certainly true in some cases, but the
idea that the South Vietnamese were generally sympathetic to the Communists
is untrue. Some were, but many weren't, as shown by the minimal refugee
movement into NVA-held territory or into North Vietnam itself contrasted
with the substantial refugee movement into U.S./ARVN-held territory and away
from NVA forces. The patterns of refugee movement are, we think, highly
indicative of true sentiment.
Certainly, there were mixed sentiments, but the failure of the ARVN was not
primarily due to hostility or even lack of motivation. Instead, it was due
to a problem that must be addressed and overcome if the Afghanistation war
is to succeed. That problem is understanding the role that Communist
sympathizers and agents played in the formation of the ARVN.
By the time the ARVN expanded - and for that matter from its very
foundation - the North Vietnamese intelligence services had created a
systematic program for inserting operatives and recruiting sympathizers at
every level of the ARVN, from senior staff and command positions down to the
squad level. The exploitation of these assets was not random nor merely
intended to undermine moral. Instead, it provided the NVA with strategic,
operational and tactical intelligence on ARVN operations, and when ARVN and
U.S. forces operated together, on U.S. efforts as well.
In any insurgency, the key for insurgent victory is avoiding battles on the
enemy's terms and initiating combat only on the insurgents' terms. The NVA
was a light infantry force. The ARVN - and the U.S. Army on which it was
modeled - was a much heavier, combined-arms force. In any encounter between
the NVA and its enemies the NVA would lose unless the encounter was at the
time and place of the NVA's choosing. ARVN and U.S. forces had a tremendous
advantage in firepower and sheer weight. But they had a significant
weakness: The weight they bought to bear meant they were less agile. The NVA
had a tremendous weakness. Caught by surprise, it would be defeated. And it
had a great advantage: Its intelligence network inside the ARVN generally
kept it from being surprised. It also revealed weakness in its enemies'
deployment, allowing it to initiate successful offensives.
All war is about intelligence, but nowhere is this truer than in
counterinsurgency and guerrilla war, where invisibility to the enemy and
maintaining the initiative in all engagements is key. Only clear
intelligence on the enemy's capability gives this initiative to an
insurgent, and only denying intelligence to the enemy - or knowing what the
enemy knows and intends - preserves the insurgent force.
The construction of an Afghan military is an obvious opportunity for Taliban
operatives and sympathizers to be inserted into the force. As in Vietnam,
such operatives and sympathizers are not readily distinguishable from loyal
soldiers; ideology is not something easy to discern. With these operatives
in place, the Taliban will know of and avoid Afghan army forces and will
identify Afghan army weaknesses. Knowing that the Americans are withdrawing
as the NVA did in Vietnam means the rational strategy of the Taliban is to
reduce operational tempo, allow the withdrawal to proceed, and then take
advantage of superior intelligence and the ability to disrupt the Afghan
forces internally to launch the Taliban offensives.
The Western solution is not to prevent Taliban sympathizers from penetrating
the Afghan army. Rather, the solution is penetrating the Taliban. In
Vietnam, the United States used signals intelligence extensively. The NVA
came to understand this and minimized radio communications, accepting
inefficient central command and control in return for operational security.
The solution to this problem lay in placing South Vietnamese into the NVA.
There were many cases in which this worked, but on balance, the NVA had a
huge advantage in the length of time it had spent penetrating the ARVN
versus U.S. and ARVN counteractions. The intelligence war on the whole went
to the North Vietnamese. The United States won almost all engagements, but
the NVA made certain that it avoided most engagements until it was ready.
In the case of Afghanistan, the United States has far more sophisticated
intelligence-gathering tools than it did in Vietnam. Nevertheless, the basic
principle remains: An intelligence tool can be understood, taken into
account and evaded. By contrast, deep penetration on multiple levels by
human intelligence cannot be avoided.
Obama mentioned Pakistan's critical role. Clearly, he understands the
lessons of Vietnam regarding sanctuary, and so he made it clear that he
expects Pakistan to engage and destroy Taliban forces on its territory and
to deny Afghan Taliban supplies, replacements and refuge. He cited the Swat
and South Waziristan offensives as examples of the Pakistanis' growing
effectiveness. While this is a significant piece of his strategy, the
Pakistanis must play another role with regard to intelligence.
The heart of Obama's strategy lies not in the surge, but rather in turning
the war over to the Afghans. As in Vietnam, any simplistic model of
loyalties doesn't work. There are Afghans sufficiently motivated to form the
core of an effective army. As in Vietnam, the problem is that this army will
contain large numbers of Taliban sympathizers; there is no way to prevent
this. The Taliban is not stupid: It has and will continue to move its people
into as many key positions as possible.
The challenge lies in leveling the playing field by inserting operatives
into the Taliban. Since the Afghan intelligence services are inherently
insecure, they can't carry out such missions. American personnel bring
technical intelligence to bear, but that does not compensate for human
intelligence. The only entity that could conceivably penetrate the Taliban
and remain secure is the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This
would give the Americans and Afghans knowledge of Taliban plans and
deployments. This would diminish the ability of the Taliban to evade
attacks, and although penetrated as well, the Afghan army would enjoy a
chance ARVN never had.
But only the ISI could do this, and thinking of the ISI as secure is hard to
do from a historical point of view. The ISI worked closely with the Taliban
during the Afghan civil war that brought it to power and afterwards, and the
ISI had many Taliban sympathizers. The ISI underwent significant purging and
restructuring to eliminate these elements over recent years, but no one
knows how successful these efforts were.
The ISI remains the center of gravity of the entire problem. If the war is
about creating an Afghan army, and if we accept that the Taliban will
penetrate this army heavily no matter what, then the only counter is to
penetrate the Taliban equally. Without that, Obama's entire strategy fails
as Nixon's did.
In his talk, Obama quite properly avoided discussing the intelligence aspect
of the war. He clearly cannot ignore the problem we have laid out, but
neither can he simply count on the ISI. He does not need the entire ISI for
this mission, however. He needs a carved out portion - compartmentalized and
invisible to the greatest possible extent - to recruit and insert operatives
into the Taliban and to create and manage communication networks so as to
render the Taliban transparent. Given Taliban successes of late, it isn't
clear whether he has this intelligence capability. Either way, we would have
to assume that some Pakistani solution to the Taliban intelligence issue has
been discussed (and such a solution must be Pakistani for ethnic and
Every war has its center of gravity, and Obama has made clear that the
center of gravity of this war will be the Afghan military's ability to
replace the Americans in a very few years. If that is the center of gravity,
and if maintaining security against Taliban penetration is impossible, then
the single most important enabler to Obama's strategy would seem to be the
ability to make the Taliban transparent.
Therefore, Pakistan is important not only as the Cambodia of this war, the
place where insurgents go to regroup and resupply, but also as a key element
of the solution to the intelligence war. It is all about Pakistan. And that
makes Obama's plan difficult to execute. It is far easier to write these
words than to execute a plan based on them. But to the extent Obama is
serious about the Afghan army taking over, he and his team have had to think
about how to do this.
Reply #547 on:
December 02, 2009, 10:54:38 AM »
third post of the morning
Obama Announces New U.S. Afghan Strategy
.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, speaking at West Point, laid out his new strategy for “concluding” the Afghan war. The short version is as follows: 30,000 additional U.S. troops will begin deployment at the fastest possible rate beginning in early 2010; the force’s primary goal will be to enable Afghan forces to carry on the war themselves; U.S. troops will begin withdrawing by July 2011 and complete their withdrawal by the end of the president’s current term.
Obama outlined a series of goals for U.S. forces, the four most critical of which STRATFOR will reproduce here. The first is to deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. The second is to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government, largely by securing key population centers. The third is to strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s Security Forces and government so that more Afghans can get into the fight. The fourth is to create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.
“In many ways the new strategy seems less like an active military strategy than one of a series of mild gambles.”
Let us first look at the somewhat obvious points from STRATFOR’s point of view:
There isn’t a lot that you can do in 18 months, even with that many troops. You certainly cannot eradicate the Taliban. Even reversing the Taliban’s momentum as Obama hopes to do is a very tall order. And you might find it fairly difficult to root out the apex leadership of al Qaeda, especially if it is in Pakistan instead of Afghanistan. Simply pursuing that goal would require the regular insertion of forces into Pakistan, enraging the country upon which NATO military supply chains depend. Even more so, having full withdrawal by the end of Obama’s current term puts a large logistical strain on the force, giving it less manpower to achieve its goals — particularly once the drawdown begins in July 2011. For most of the period in question, the United States will have far fewer than the roughly 100,000 troops at the ready that the Obama policy envisions.
In many ways the new strategy seems less like an active military strategy than one of a series of mild gambles: that the force will be sufficient to (temporarily) turn the tide against the Taliban, that this shift will be sufficient to allow the Afghan army to step forward, and that this shift will be sufficient to allow U.S. forces to withdraw without major incident. That’s tricky at best.
Now for the less-than-obvious points:
Ramrodding 30,000 troops into Afghanistan immediately will severely tax the military. Bear in mind that the drawdown in Iraq has only recently begun, and forces pulled from Iraq will either need substantial time to rest and retool before they can do something else, which in many cases may to be shipped off to Afghanistan. The ability of U.S. ground forces to react to any problem anywhere in the world in 2010 just decreased from marginal to nonexistent. Many of America’s rivals are sure to take note.
However, by committing to a clear three-year timeframe, Obama is aiming for something that Bush did not. He is bringing the U.S. military back into the global system as opposed to its current sequestering in the Islamic world. The key factor that has enabled many states to challenge U.S. power in recent years — Russia’s August 2008 war with Georgia perhaps being the best example — is that the United States has lacked the military bandwidth to deploy troops outside of its two ongoing wars. If Obama is able to carry out his planned Iraqi and Afghan withdrawals on schedule, the United States will shift rapidly from massive overextension to full deployment capability.
And so states that have been taking advantage of the window of opportunity caused by American preoccupation now have something new to incorporate into their plans: the date the window closes.
Reply #548 on:
December 02, 2009, 11:07:12 AM »
4th post of the morning.
Tis a rare event, but a reasoned piece from Thomas Friedman:
This I Believe
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: December 1, 2009
Let me start with the bottom line and then tell you how I got there: I can’t agree with President Obama’s decision to escalate in Afghanistan. I’d prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders the way we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place. Given our need for nation-building at home right now, I am ready to live with a little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan.
I recognize that there are legitimate arguments on the other side. At a lunch on Tuesday for opinion writers, the president lucidly argued that opting for a surge now to help Afghans rebuild their army and state into something decent — to win the allegiance of the Afghan people — offered the only hope of creating an “inflection point,” a game changer, to bring long-term stability to that region. May it be so. What makes me wary about this plan is how many moving parts there are — Afghans, Pakistanis and NATO allies all have to behave forever differently for this to work.
But here is the broader context in which I assess all this: My own foreign policy thinking since 9/11 has been based on four pillars:
1. The Warren Buffett principle: Everything I’ve ever gotten in life is largely due to the fact that I was born in this country, America, at this time with these opportunities for its citizens. It is the primary obligation of our generation to turn over a similar America to our kids.
2. Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things. If we become weak and enfeebled by economic decline and debt, as we slowly are, America may not be able to play its historic stabilizing role in the world. If you didn’t like a world of too-strong-America, you will really not like a world of too-weak-America — where China, Russia and Iran set more of the rules.
3. The context within which people live their lives shapes everything — from their political outlook to their religious one. The reason there are so many frustrated and angry people in the Arab-Muslim world, lashing out first at their own governments and secondarily at us — and volunteering for “martyrdom” — is because of the context within which they live their lives. That was best summarized by the U.N.’s Arab Human Development reports as a context dominated by three deficits: a deficit of freedom, a deficit of education and a deficit of women’s empowerment. The reason India, with the world’s second-largest population of Muslims, has a thriving Muslim minority (albeit with grievances but with no prisoners in Guantánamo Bay) is because of the context of pluralism and democracy it has built at home.
4. One of the main reasons the Arab-Muslim world has been so resistant to internally driven political reform is because vast oil reserves allow its regimes to become permanently ensconced in power, by just capturing the oil tap, and then using the money to fund vast security and intelligence networks that quash any popular movement. Look at Iran.
Hence, post-9/11 I advocated that our politicians find sufficient courage to hike gasoline taxes and seriously commit ourselves to developing alternatives to oil. Economists agree that this would ultimately bring down the global price, and slowly deprive these regimes of the sole funding source that allows them to maintain their authoritarian societies. People do not change when we tell them they should; they change when their context tells them they must.
To me, the most important reason for the Iraq war was never W.M.D. It was to see if we could partner with Iraqis to help them build something that does not exist in the modern Arab world: a state, a context, where the constituent communities — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — write their own social contract for how to live together without an iron fist from above. Iraq has proved staggeringly expensive and hugely painful. The mistakes we made should humble anyone about nation-building in Afghanistan. It does me.
Still, the Iraq war may give birth to something important — if Iraqis can find that self-sustaining formula to live together. Alas, that is still in doubt. If they can, the model would have a huge impact on the Arab world. Baghdad is a great Arab capital. If Iraqis fail, it’s religious strife, economic decline and authoritarianism as far as the eye can see — the witch’s brew that spawns terrorists.
Iraq was about “the war on terrorism.” The Afghanistan invasion, for me, was about the “war on terrorists.” To me, it was about getting bin Laden and depriving Al Qaeda of a sanctuary — period. I never thought we could make Afghanistan into Norway — and even if we did, it would not resonate beyond its borders the way Iraq might.
To now make Afghanistan part of the “war on terrorism” — i.e., another nation-building project — is not crazy. It is just too expensive, when balanced against our needs for nation-building in America, so that we will have the strength to play our broader global role. Hence, my desire to keep our presence in Afghanistan limited. That is what I believe. That is why I believe it.
Reply #549 on:
December 03, 2009, 07:46:42 PM »
U.S. President Barack Obama’s long-awaited announcement on U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan is not sitting well in Islamabad or New Delhi. While Pakistan now has to figure out how to keep American forces from taking more aggressive action against jihadists in Pakistan, India does not want to deal with the messy aftermath of a U.S. military exit from the region in two years. Meanwhile, the jihadists operating in Pakistan have a greater incentive to create a crisis on the Indo-Pakistani border through rogue attacks in India — a scenario that could well upset Obama’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced Dec. 1 the broad strokes of his administration’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan. In short, he said there are three main objectives: deny al Qaeda a safe haven on the Afghan-Pakistani border, halt the momentum of the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan with an additional 30,000 troops, and train and build Afghan security and civilian forces to deal with the jihadist threat themselves. Notably, Obama also refused to commit to a long-haul nation-building strategy in Afghanistan. On the contrary, he defined the endgame for the war and specified that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could begin as early as July 2011.
Pakistan’s primary concern with the strategy has to deal with the first objective: denying al Qaeda a safe haven. It is well known that al Qaeda’s safe haven is not in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are concentrated, but in Pakistan, where Pakistani forces employ a much more nuanced method of distinguishing between “good” and “bad” jihadists.
Under the Obama plan, the U.S. military is evidently working on a tight timeline to demonstrate (prior to the 2012 U.S. elections) that al Qaeda has been defeated. The United States needs results and it needs them fast. Pakistan can thus assume that the United States is about to apply a lot more pressure on Islamabad to dismantle al Qaeda in Pakistan.
But Pakistan’s definition of “bad” jihadists does not mesh with that of the United States. Indeed, the targets of Pakistan’s offensive in Swat and South Waziristan have been those Taliban militants who have clearly turned against the Pakistani state, namely the Tehrik-i-Taliban movement. Al Qaeda and its allies, on the other hand, have strategically kept their focus on Afghanistan while maintaining a safe haven in Pakistan. If Pakistan widens the scope of its counterinsurgency efforts to include the militants on Washington’s hit list — particularly the Haqqani network, the Mullah Omar-led group of Afghan Taliban, Maulvi Nazir, Hafiz Gulf Bahadir and other high-value targets with strong linkages to al Qaeda — then the Pakistani military will be forced to deal with a bigger backlash.
Pakistan continues to deliberate over how the United States actually intends to achieve its objective of denying al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan. In private discussions with Pakistani leaders, the United States has delivered an ultimatum to Islamabad: either give up its militant-proxy project and enjoy the political, economic and military benefits of an enhanced relationship with Washington or the United States will take unilateral action on Pakistani soil. Such unilateral action would go beyond the CIA’s unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in the borderlands and likely entail sending in fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft with special forces for quick “get in and get out” operations against al Qaeda targets deep inside Pakistani territory. The United States carried out such an overt incursion in Pakistan in September 2008 in South Waziristan, which led to widespread popular backlash inside the country.
This type of unilateral U.S. military action is a redline for the Pakistani military. The impression STRATFOR has gotten from Pakistani military sources is that Islamabad is still quite confident that the United States won’t risk a serious destabilization of Pakistan in pursuit of its counterterrorism objectives. In fact, Pakistani officials have made it a point to paint a doomsday scenario for the United States should the Pakistani military be pushed to the edge in its fight against Pakistani jihadists while trying to hold a feeble government and shaky economy together.
Pakistan will thus try to hedge as best it can to keep U.S. forces at bay. The Pakistani military has a strategic imperative to continue along the current path and engage in limited military offensives against those jihadists who have turned on the Pakistani state while turning a blind eye to those jihadists whose efforts are focused on Afghanistan and/or India. But the United States is unlikely to tolerate Pakistan’s way of handling its jihadist threat, particularly now that U.S. forces are under a tight deadline to neutralize al Qaeda in Pakistan.
As U.S. pressure on Islamabad and the threat to Pakistani sovereignty inevitably increase in the months ahead, Pakistan will rely more heavily on intelligence cooperation with Washington to manage its relationship with the United States. STRATFOR’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report this week discusses in depth how the U.S. battle against al Qaeda and its jihadist allies is largely an intelligence war, one in which Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate could play a crucial role in penetrating al Qaeda and the Taliban. The more reliant the United States is on Pakistani intelligence to achieve its aims in Afghanistan, the better able Islamabad will be in convincing Washington that it’s better off leaving the Pakistani segment of the U.S.-jihadist war to the Pakistanis — or so Pakistan hopes. At the end of the day, Pakistan cannot escape its fear that the United States will take more aggressive action on Pakistani soil with or without Islamabad’s consent.
Pakistan also has a deeper dilemma to contend with concerning its relationship with the United States. Though Pakistan’s alliance with the United States has often left Pakistan feeling betrayed, Pakistan still needs a great power patron with enough interest in the region, like the United States, to counter India. During the Cold War, Pakistan was the key for the United States in containing Soviet expansion in South-Central Asia. Today, Pakistan is the key to containing radical Islamism. In both cases, Pakistan has benefited from U.S. political, economic and military support in its attempts to level the playing field with India.
Though the U.S. partnership with Pakistan against the jihadists is fraught with complications, Pakistan still does not want the day to come when U.S. forces draw down from the region and leave it to Islamabad to pick up the pieces of the jihadist war. If the United States is sufficiently satisfied with its mission in the region by the summer of 2011 to draw down forces according to the timeline Obama laid out, U.S. interest in Pakistan will wane and Islamabad will be left in a difficult position. Pakistan is feeling especially vulnerable these days considering the United States’ growing strategic partnership with India next door.
Pakistan can therefore be expected to lay heavy demands on the United States to restrain India if Washington expects greater cooperation from Islamabad. Pakistan is already urging the United States to restrict Indian influence in Afghanistan, which is viewed by Islamabad as nothing short of an Indian encirclement strategy. Whereas India has been careful to specify that its support for Afghanistan is primarily economic, Pakistan remains convinced that the Indian presence in Afghanistan, whether in the form of consulates or construction companies, is simply a front for Indian Research and Analysis Wing intelligence agents to exploit the Baloch and jihadist insurgencies in Pakistan.
Moreover, Pakistan will continue to insist to the United States that it cannot devote more forces to combating the jihadist threat in its western periphery as long as it has to worry about the high concentration of Indian troops along the Indo-Pakistani border to the east. New Delhi, however, remains convinced that Pakistan continues to support militant proxies against India and is unlikely to heed any U.S. request to back off the border with Pakistan to assuage Islamabad’s concerns when the threat of another militant attack remains real and near.
Obama telephoned Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the eve of his Dec. 1 speech to brief him on his strategy for Afghanistan. India publicly expressed support for the strategy, maintaining the image that U.S.-Indian relations are tightening following Singh’s official state visit to the United States the previous week. Privately, however, India has reason to be skeptical of Obama’s plan.
There is no getting around the fact that Obama is attempting to define an endgame for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, recognizing the need to free up the U.S. military for crises beyond South Asia. This is not to say that the United States will completely abandon the region or that the threat of militant Islam will not persist, but removing thousands of U.S. troops in the region certainly changes the equation in New Delhi’s mind. The last thing India wants is for the United States to draw down its commitment to Afghanistan (and thus ease up pressure on Pakistan) in two years, leaving New Delhi to deal with the aftermath. Indeed, when Singh met with Obama at the White House, he told the U.S. president to stay resolute on his mission in Afghanistan, warning that a U.S. defeat there would have catastrophic consequences.
India sees the benefit of developing a closer partnership with the United States but also wants Washington to do its part to convince Pakistan to give up its decades-long policy of supporting proxy militants against India. Now that Pakistan is experiencing the side effects of its own militant-proxy strategy, India’s hope is that with enough U.S. pressure, Pakistan can be induced to clean up its militant landscape. Yet if the United States is preparing its exit from the region, India may end up losing a valuable lever to use against Pakistan.
Jihadist Wild Card
New Delhi and Islamabad have different reasons to be concerned about U.S. strategy in the region, but there is one area of concern that is common to both: rogue jihadists operating on Pakistani soil.
Al Qaeda and its jihadist allies are examining Obama’s strategy just as intently as everyone else. These jihadists can quite easily deduce that more pressure will be brought to bear on their safe havens in northwest Pakistan, thus threatening their survival. There is a clear intent, therefore, for these jihadists to keep Pakistan focused on the Indian threat on its eastern border in order to alleviate the pressure on their jihadist bases in the northwest. The best way to do this is to create a conflict between India and Pakistan through a large-scale militant attack in hopes of inducing an Indian military response and possibly triggering another near-nuclear confrontation on the border.
Pakistan wants to avoid getting bogged down in a fight with India while trying to deal with its jihadist problems at home. Though Pakistan is trying to rein in many of its former militant proxies, it still has to worry about a number of rogues that could embroil Pakistan in a conflict that it did not ask for. The 2001 bombing of the Indian parliament and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai revealed signs of jihadist involvement that may not have been under direct Pakistani control. Pakistan can attempt to stave off such a crisis by sharing intelligence on militant plots and actors with India through a U.S. channel, but even with enhanced intelligence cooperation, an attack could still happen.
India is already bracing itself for such a scenario and is still grappling with the dilemma that any Indian military response inside Pakistan — even limited strikes — would risk emboldening the jihadists, seriously destabilizing Pakistan and bringing the region to the brink of a nuclear conflagration. India struggled with this issue in the wake of the Mumbai attacks and it appears undecided on how to react to another major attack. In any case, a crisis along the border can be expected, and it would be up to the United States to put out the fire.
The United States is already giving itself a limited timetable to complete its objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it needs Pakistan’s cooperation to make its strategy work. A crisis on the Indo-Pakistani border would certainly jeopardize those plans, since Pakistan would devote its energy to dealing with India (its primary existential threat) rather than al Qaeda and the Taliban. Throw the threat of nuclear war into the equation, and the United States has an entirely new challenge.
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