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Topic: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan (Read 156336 times)
The 5 Biggest Insults to American Manhood by the Rules of Engagement in Afghanis
Reply #1350 on:
February 26, 2013, 10:48:01 AM »
The 5 Biggest Insults to American Manhood by the Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan
Bing West and Vince Flynn make the case against the castration of our military.
America’s muddle in Afghanistan is not merely an unwise policy. Two prominent American authors — one a serious analyst (and former badass warrior), the other a bestselling novelist (who created one of our biggest badass heroes) — worry that it is an affront to American manhood as well.
For years Bing West has argued that our carrot with no stick approach to counterinsurgency and nation building in Afghanistan is sapping the “martial spirit” of our armed forces. Recently, he even wrote a column titled “We’re Too Nice to Win in Afghanistan,” detailing how a wimpy approach to a truly savage enemy is making victory impossible.
West proposes we change from a counterinsurgency protocol (winning hearts and minds in order to recruit allies against the terrorists while building a civil society) to a counter-terror strategy (kill them whenever and wherever we can find them and let the Afghan government build its own society).
Vince Flynn, in his new book The Last Man, has his fictional alter ego, Mitch Rapp, take a very direct approach. Upon being introduced to a former Taliban official the CIA has recruited to be part of the Afghan security infrastructure as America prepares to leave the country, and who is certainly playing both sides, he sees only one incentive structure that can work:
Pistol-whip the sneaky bastard and threaten to kill him if he doesn’t cooperate.
So, based on West’s superb book on the war in Afghanistan, The Wrong War, and Flynn’s best thriller to date, here are 5 ways that Obama’s approach to Afghanistan is an affront to American manhood.
5. Sets a Date Certain to Give Up
From the time Americans males are little boys — at least for those who have real men for fathers — we are instructed in the virtues of perseverance. Sports gives a prime example. NFL coaches stress “playing for 60 minutes,” and NBA coaches for 48.
Winning is about how you finish, not how you start. Just ask Admiral Yamamoto.
Now George W. Bush had his problems with how he conducted the war, adopting a counterinsurgency strategy of nation-building; but he drew the line at drawing this line. You don’t tell the enemy “Just hold out until 2014, and we will be out of your hair.”
Even if you think that nation-building is good, and merely letting SEALs, Delta, and the like play whack-a-mole with the bad guys to their hearts’ content is insufficient, this is just plain stupid. Telling the people whose support you need that you are outta here soon, but the enemy will stay forever, is not exactly what an economist would call a good incentive.
Mitch Rapp adds that incentive through pistol whipping.
Bing West explained in a Wall Street Journal column last October that the deadline loomed over everything the Marines he was with were trying to accomplish:
Joint patrols cannot substitute for Afghan troops who must believe in their own cause. Nothing is gained by “jointness” if the Afghan forces are getting ready to cut local deals and pull back as we leave.
It will just be great for morale, and for recruiting soldiers with a warrior spirit, if the greatest military the world has ever seen is just admitting they are tired, even though they are not being beaten on the battlefield.
4. It Doesn’t Inflict Justice on the Guilty
In The Wrong War, West uses a history of modern guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency to point out that the United States is trying to do something that has never been done before anywhere in how it is trying to bring civilization to Afghanistan, rather than merely punishing the enemy:
Following the First World War, Winston Churchill, then secretary of state for the colonies, approved of summary executions of Irish insurgents in retaliation for the deaths of British soldiers occupying southern Ireland. The foremost scholar on counterinsurgency, David Galula, described his experience as a French officer in the Algerian War in the 1950s in these terms: “We searched the suspect’s house thoroughly and found the missing shotgun. I phoned my battalion commander and asked him if he agreed that the man should be shot on the spot. He did. The harkis executed him.” On another occasion, Galula threatened to bake a man in an oven. The man co-operated.
During the Second World War — the “good war”— the esteemed journalist Eric Sevareid stood by as U.S. soldiers shot German troops and Italian civilians. “As the weeks went by and this experience was repeated many times,” Sevareid wrote, “I ceased even to be surprised.” In his book Citizen Soldiers, the historian Stephen Ambrose devoted a chapter to prisoners of war, citing numerous instances when American soldiers shot prisoners. The press never reported one instance.
In The Village, a chronicle of my Combined Action Platoon in Vietnam, I wrote, “The Marines watched as Thanh beat his prisoners. When one woman refused to talk, he rubbed a wet cloth with lye soap and pressed it against her face. The woman struggled to breathe and sucked into her throat the stinging lye.”
Such stories had no effect at the time they were written; in 2011, they would all be sensations to the press. Today, the U.S. Congress would not tolerate deportation, sanction a $500-million bribe, approve of retaliatory executions, or ration food. Galula would be portrayed as a war criminal. Sevareid, the face of CBS, would be excoriated for not reporting the killings of prisoners, as would I for complicity in waterboarding.
Afghanistan was singularly different from any prior insurgency. Far from employing sticks of coercion of any sort, the Western coalition offered only aid and sympathy to hostile villagers. The United States possessed precision firepower, with sensors that tracked any individual out of doors. Yet in 2010, less than 5% of aircraft sorties dropped a single bomb, despite over 100 reports of troops in contact daily. This forbearance was without historical precedent. The coalition imposed upon itself the strictest rules in the history of insurgent warfare.
Forget the hoary clichés about the British and the Russians failing to rule Afghanistan. Afghanis (whatever they are) have never ruled the region named Afghanistan — basically a border drawn around the leftovers as the British Empire contracted.
3. It Doesn’t Protect the Innocent
The first manly virtue is to protect the weak. Women and children first may be considered chauvinistic in some circles, but… good. Who cares about those circles, anyway? More from West in The Wrong War :
However, coalition and Afghan rules covering crime and punishment lacked purpose, consistency and reliability. A few kilometres south of Jakar, an 11-year-old boy often waved at passing patrols. The Marines took to chatting with the boy, who pointed out a trail the Taliban occasionally used. A few weeks later, the Taliban executed him and his brothers, sisters, mother and father. Although shocked neighbours knew the identities of the gang that had gone to the farm in the middle of the day, no one would testify.
The tragedy illustrated a disquieting truth: American military doctrine didn’t know how to confront evil. On the one hand, the Taliban were portrayed as extremists who stoned women to death, burned schools and whipped men. On the other hand, the generals indicated that most Taliban were misguided youths.
“In the Taliban ranks,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal said, “there’s a tremendous number of fighters and commanders who would like to come back in.” Among the fighters who might come back in were the local Taliban farm boys who murdered the 11-year-old and his family. The American military and judicial systems were so tied up in political knots that in Afghanistan there were no coalition trials for murderers or terrorists. If they renounced the insurgency, the coalition would give them jobs.
Worse, Afghans as a society denied that fellow Afghans were capable of evil. The locals knew the killers. But there was no penalty for murder if committed in the name of Islam.
(By the way, the above quote is worth considering before conservatives like Sean Hannity put McChrystal on a pedestal just because he is critical of Obama.)
Our only concern for the innocents in Afghanistan seems to be the politically motivated desire to avoid collateral civilian deaths. But by instituting the most restrictive rules of engagement since Vietnam, we have given the Taliban and al-Qaeda incentive to use human shields.
And by making American soldiers, Marines, and airmen stand around and let this happen, we murder their martial spirit, and ask them to be less than the men they are.
2. It Spoils Them Rotten
As West spells out in frustrating detail, the nation-building policies of the last two administrations have made welfare clients rather than allies out of Pakistani villages. Even if you think that counterinsurgency programs rather than counterterrorist missions are a wise policy, all carrot and no stick is doomed to fail.
Thus, our military became a gigantic Peace Corps, holding millions of shuras, drinking billions of cups of tea, and handing out billions of dollars for projects. Risk in battle was avoided because generals proclaimed that killing the enemy could not win the war. Senior officials fantasized that the war would be won by protecting and winning over the population. The tribes however, were determined to remain neutral, while the Afghan president tolerated corruption and ineffectiveness. The futile effort to build a democracy diverted the energies of our soldiers and weakened their martial spirit.
For years, Pakistan was in the hunting-bin-Laden business, to the tune of $2 billion a year. If they actually had “found him” it would have been nice publicity, but that would have ended that particular gravy train.
Of course, as Flynn details in The Last Man, the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency, was neck deep with bin Laden from the beginning — and the location of his ultimate hiding place only adds to the suspicion that that association did not end after 9/11.
Our policy now is of continuous handouts to tribal leaders whose hands are constantly out, but who will do nothing to help us against the Taliban because they know there is a date certain where we will be gone and they will be on their own. All the while we do nothing to make them regret coddling the terrorists.
1. It Requires Negotiation Where a Good Pistol Whipping Would Do
Mitch Rapp to the rescue!
Vince Flynn’s latest Mitch Rapp novel is about a rescue mission in Afghanistan, but it’s also a mission of mercy to thriller readers at the end of a tepid year for red-blooded American heroes.
In fact, from the summer on, I’m not sure I can think of two adult-oriented suspense novels I enjoyed as much as PJM contributor Andrew Klavan’s two “young adult” actioners in 2012.
But while Flynn targets action-starved readers with his latest book, he also targets the Obama administration’s policy of reintegration, re: not only granting amnesty to former Taliban members, but making them members of the security forces in Afghanistan.
Flynn does a nice job of detailing what is wrong with the policy and its various dangers and complications — but his hero Mitch Rapp registers his disgust minutes after landing on the ground, without needing all that.
In fact, pretty much the first thing Rapp does when he lands in Kabul on a rescue mission is to pistol whip a former Taliban official that CIA officers have recruited.
As any real American man would like to.
The Last Man is not only one of the year’s best thrillers, it’s also Vince Flynn’s most politically sophisticated work to date. The plot — while it features Mitch Rapp’s signature methods as the Dirty Harry of international espionage — has the currency, and nearly the complexity, of an Alex Berenson novel.
The Last Man plunges Mitch Rapp into America’s current exercise in nation-building in Afghanistan — a situation so muddled and confused that even our favorite bull-in-the-china-shop hero can stop and smell the ambiguity.
Joe Rickman, the head of CIA clandestine operations in Afghanistan, has been kidnapped in a bloody raid on his quarters in Pakistan, and presumably spirited across the porous border into a Taliban camp. For Irene Kennedy, concerns are two-fold. First, Rickman is one of those operators whose every move and contact are not necessarily known to his superiors, and he knows everything the Agency is doing in Afghanistan… and should be doing.
Second, she remembers all too well the Hezbollah capture of William Buckley, the Beirut station chief in the 1980s, and the damage done to networks in the Middle East — but also the regular taunting videos of his torture sent to Langley by the terrorist group.
Mitch Rapp is sent to Kabul with his favorite kind of orders — get the job done at any cost. Rickman is important enough that even the delicate balancing act of the “alliance” with Pakistan takes a back seat.
Pakistani officials, after the embarrassment of the Osama bin Laden raid, are not only suspicious of American operatives inside their borders but of each other. Adding to Rapp’s headaches — and outrage — is the fact that the CIA station chief and his top aide are heavily investing in the policy of “reintegration,” the policy of recruiting former Taliban into the Afghan police and security forces.
Rapp promptly pistol whips a corrupt former Taliban and current police commander into working for him under the threat of death—drawing the ire of the CIA officials on scene.
But his impatience at what he considers the wimpy policy of coddling enemies really takes a beating when Rapp is forced to accept the help of the assassin who killed his wife.
Meanwhile, Rapp is not so convinced that Rickman’s disappearance is merely a Taliban operation. A coordinated attack on the clandestine division—including evidence going to the FBI, and egged on by a liberal senator that implicates Rapp in the theft of millions in black bag mission money—smacks of state involvement more reminiscent of a Cold War-class operation than of something the Taliban or even the Pakistanis could pull off.
But the title also refers to the attempt by liberals to weed real men out of the CIA. The ultimate bad guy of the book (a twist I can’t reveal here) is not merely afraid of Rapp because he is talented, smart, or dangerous. It is he who dubs Rapp “the last man” at the CIA.
What the villain fears most about Rapp is that while all the other bureaucrats around him are caught up in the weeds of their complicated calculations and alliances, Rapp’s all-American sensibilities will be offended enough that his B.S. detector will cut through the policy he despises and straight to the real solution.
Through Rapp, Flynn continuously expresses manly contempt for the various schemes the United States has concocted in Afghanistan in order to conduct the war in a way that is acceptable to wimpy modern sensibilities. He fully adopts Bing West’s point in The Wrong War that America has bought temporary allies with our largess, but that the bad guys we don’t kill are a permanent fixture, just waiting for us to leave.
Flynn is contemptuous of the notion that complicated is always smarter than simple and that believing in shades of gray in the name of pragmatism is successful. Some ideas really are so absurd that only “smart” people can convince themselves they will work. Evil is evil, and it can only be defeated or accommodated in the long run. It is never bought off.
The Last Man is a welcome return to the present day for Mitch Rapp, after a couple of so-so origin stories from Flynn.
Now if only a foreign policy worthy of the American males who do the fighting and dying for it would return, also.
What Went Right?
Reply #1351 on:
March 10, 2013, 10:45:27 AM »
From the article:
Forget what you hear from some of the more vocal critics of U.S. President Barack Obama's drawdown plans -- the chances of the Taliban coming back to run Afghanistan are now vanishingly small. Favorable views of the Taliban in polling across Afghanistan over the past several years are consistently no more than 10 percent. There is nothing like experiencing life under the Taliban to convince Afghans that the group cannot deliver on its promises of an Islamist utopia here on Earth. And if the Taliban have scant chance of returning to power, their al Qaeda buddies have even less chance of returning to Afghanistan in any meaningful way. Few Muslim countries harbor a more hostile view of al Qaeda and its Arab leaders than Afghanistan.
Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan
Reply #1352 on:
March 10, 2013, 10:34:06 PM »
One notes there are plenty of other places for AQ/Islamo-fascist groups to hang out and prepare, the prevention of which in Afpakia was a major leg of our justification for being there, , , ,
No time to read the piece right now on the hotel lobby connection-- perhaps later this week.
Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan
Reply #1353 on:
March 12, 2013, 07:14:23 PM »
Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a slight adjustment to a time-tested strategy March 10 when he publicly stated that the United States was colluding with the Taliban in order to justify a post-2014 troop presence. The claim coincided with new U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's first visit to Afghanistan. The remarks were mostly expected -- similar verbal attacks have accompanied other public visits by high-profile officials because of the publicity they generate. What was unexpected, however, was the harshness of the claim.
Though the statement seems illogical and inflammatory, it illustrates the two main constraints that Karzai has consistently had to deal with. First, he must placate a domestic populace hostile to cooperation with the United States. Second, he must prevent direct negotiations between Washington and the Taliban for fear that they could leave him and his allies with little to no power. Despite the bluster, the United States and its allies will not dramatically shift their course.
U.S. and International Security Assistance Force officials have categorically denied Karzai's claim and even expressed confusion as to the reasoning of the accusations since they seem to run counter to Karzai’s security imperatives. In his visit to the United States earlier this year, Karzai expressed his gratitude for and acceptance of a long-term security presence and funding to be provided by various International Security Assistance Force members.
Karzai's public about-face is rooted in the extreme constraints under which he must operate and the undermining effects those constraints have on each other. On one hand, he has his security imperatives, which require a security apparatus that far outstrips his country's resources. Therefore, he must rely on foreign security forces just so his government may exist and operate -- a role the International Security Assistance Force has fulfilled. The force's presence has helped prevent the Taliban from regaining power.
On the other hand, there is the fractured Afghan public that, while generally hostile to the Taliban, is on the whole nearly as hostile to the decadelong foreign security presence and anyone seen as directly linked to it. The challenge for Karzai is that he must rely on the intervention force but not be seen as a tool of it. The result over the years has been Karzai's sharp and public criticisms of specific unpopular U.S. and International Security Assistance Force tactics, such as U.S. special operations forces night raids.
With the official drawdown of foreign forces in Afghanistan under way, Karzai's criticisms and demands have begun to evolve. First, he fought for and gained control of all private security companies operating in Afghanistan. He also moved to consolidate control of the International Security Assistance Force detention facilities, with the facility at Bagram Air Field being the notable exception. (The handover of the facility, scheduled for March 9-10, was canceled after Karzai balked at some of the exemptions.) More recently, Karzai has accused Afghan units attached to U.S. special operations forces of abuses in Wardak province and has demanded that all U.S. forces leave the province. He also recently limited the ability of Afghan security forces to call for and use U.S. airpower.
Karzai's escalating public rebukes are in many ways symbolic, since troop reductions and the assumption of a supporting role have already limited foreign forces' direct combat role. It is the Afghan National Security Forces that have shouldered much of the burden and that enable Karzai to seemingly challenge the foreign powers without shifting the balance of power on the ground.
At the same time, the claim is an attempt to undermine direct bilateral talks that the United States has taken up with the Taliban without including Kabul. The talks are particularly unnerving for the Karzai government, which fears a deal that could include power sharing with the Taliban and that could sideline Karzai and his allies. By claiming that the two sides are cooperating to prolong the foreign security presence in Afghanistan, Karzai is hoping to discredit their negotiations and bolster his nationalist qualifications.
The domestic pressure on Karzai is intense and diverse, coming from several different ethnicities, powerful warlords, foreign interlopers and multiple tribes and clans. In order for Karzai -- or his successor after the 2014 elections -- to succeed, he must constantly maneuver between these groups. The West recognizes these challenges, and a major shift in their approach in Afghanistan is unlikely in response to Karzai's comments.
Read more: The Afghan President's Strange Public Statements | Stratfor
Pakistani rave party
Reply #1354 on:
March 17, 2013, 09:31:20 AM »
Enjoy the Harlem Shake af-pak style....
Last Edit: March 18, 2013, 01:02:13 PM by Crafty_Dog
POTH: Som Afg. villages rising up against Taliban
Reply #1355 on:
March 21, 2013, 10:09:49 AM »
Stratfor: The mountains of Afpakia
Reply #1356 on:
March 21, 2013, 10:26:09 AM »
The mountains of Afghanistan are among the most hazardous terrains for military operations. This topography has long enabled Afghans to successfully resist much more powerful conventional armies, as it did when Alexander the Great tried to conquer Afghanistan in the fourth century B.C. and again when Europeans undertook conquest attempts in the 1800s. After the Taliban were removed from power, they retreated to these mountains to stage their resistance against the new Afghan government and NATO forces.
Afghanistan's mountains, which run east to west through the country, are the westernmost extension of the Himalayan mountain system. The mountains consist of extremely elevated mountain ranges, such as the Safed Koh range along the Pakistani border and the Hindu Kush range to the north, which contain some of the highest peaks in the world and very rugged, steep topography. Though the desert climate means there is little vegetation to limit visibility, the complexity of the topography makes it difficult to observe or strike at militants hiding there, whether by ground or from the air.
The mountains that dominate central and northeastern Afghanistan break up the plains in the north and south of the country. While the Taliban have been active across Afghanistan, the mountain region along the Pakistani border is where most militant activity persists. This activity is mostly concentrated in Wardak, Logar, Paktia, Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman provinces, south and east of Kabul. Militancy has also been on the rise in Badakhshan province in the northeastern corner of the country. Until around 2010 the main threat of Taliban forces was in the southern plain, in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, but the lack of complex terrain allowed NATO forces there to be much more effective than those in the mountains during the U.S. troop surge. Since the mountains provide more protection for the Taliban than the plains, NATO troops have had to focus their operations in this area, though they remain active throughout Afghanistan, including in its southern provinces.
This mountainous terrain is also important due to its proximity to the Pakistani border. Political borders can cause a major interdicting factor in military operations against militants. The need to coordinate operations with separate actors, as well as the inability to operate across the border in the territory of an allied sovereign state without causing diplomatic incidents, affects operations on the ground and can create areas of lesser resistance that allow militants to seek refuge or supplies across borders. Militants' seeking refuge in Pakistan is one of the main factors behind U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle operations across Afghanistan's borders.
Pashtun tribes and other Afghan ethnic groups on both sides of the border also help make the Pakistani border a haven for militants. This population can support militant activity across the border and enables those that cross from one side to the other to easily blend into the local population. On the Pakistani side of the border, there are also a number of large refugee camps that have been a great source for Taliban recruitment and shelter or medical care for militants. The ability to execute precise unmanned aerial vehicle strikes against suspected militant leaders, such as those of the Haqqani network, is greatly limited by the militants' ability to take cover or hide among the population. This also allows them to set up bases and operate in populated areas, where they can depend on familial and logistics support.
The prime target of Kabul is also located within these mountains, allowing militants to operate in and around the city. Since many targets are within the same terrain that protects the militants, they can attack their adversaries without leaving cover. In addition, the mountainous provinces south and east of Kabul, where Taliban militants are currently concentrated, make up the main supply line leading directly from Pakistan into Kabul. However, this area also presents a challenge to the Taliban because it forces them to maneuver tribal relations in order to guarantee access throughout the region. For this they need to work with and often pay tolls to local tribes, whose allegiances can change over time. As many advantages as the mountainous terrain may provide, militants and local governments still must navigate the intricate web of tribal relations in the region.
Winter adds an extra element of hardship to the Afghan mountain terrain. From December to April, the temperature in much of this area drops below freezing and snowfall limits movement during part of the winter, reducing supply lines in the central and northern regions of Afghanistan. After the winter period, thawing snows and storms can cause flash floods. The region's extremely limited transportation infrastructure makes it especially vulnerable to these natural phenomena.
These meteorological constraints are as applicable to the NATO forces as they are to the Taliban militants. Taliban forces disperse and, while some do remain in the mountains, others go home to farm or cross the border into Pakistan, returning in the spring to recommence the insurgency around late March and April. NATO forces become static throughout the winter season, due to the difficulty of conducting patrols or maneuvers. During the winter usually only special operations forces conduct offensive actions, but even these slow down because the militants are less active.
Though the value of this terrain is similar to other mountainous regions used by militants in other countries, the great area of the Afghan mountains enhances their ability to provide refuge for militants. The region's elevation and distance from the equator causes it to have a harsh winter that introduces temporal constraints in addition to the spatial constraints on operations against militants. The downtime during the winter gives the Taliban an opportunity to reorganize and continue the insurgency. The combination of protective physical geography and temporal constraints enhances the ability of a guerilla-styled Taliban force to resist, and continue to remain effective against, the conventional armed forces trying to dislodge them
Read more: The Taliban's Mountain Hideout in Afghanistan | Stratfor
Democracy in Pakistan?
Reply #1357 on:
March 21, 2013, 05:04:49 PM »
Second post of the day
At the same time that Pakistan has experienced an increase in religious extremism and terrorism, the country has been on a path toward democratization. March 17 marked the first time since the country's founding in 1947 that a democratically elected Pakistani parliament has completed a full term. The outgoing government has been in talks with the opposition to nominate a caretaker prime minister, whose interim administration is expected to hold fresh elections in May.
Pakistan is likely to continue democratizing, which could help the country deal with its social, economic and security problems. The rise of civilian rule in Pakistan might also help on the foreign policy front, especially with regard to post-NATO Afghanistan.
Pakistan is not a country that would be expected to be making progress toward democratization. It is the global headquarters of al Qaeda transnational jihadist forces and has experienced a massive Islamist insurgency. Thousands of attacks have occurred in Pakistan over the past decade, killing at least 40,000 citizens, including the leader of the country's largest political party and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007. The country's economy is in shambles, a situation made worse by collapsing infrastructure in its power and energy sectors and high levels of insecurity. Since the 1980s, it has experienced a growth in religious extremism and radicalism. And, most important, Pakistan has been ruled by its military-intelligence establishment for most of its history.
Nevertheless, the government's completion of a full five-year elected term on March 17 could be significant turning point. In accordance with the constitution, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has dissolved the parliament and Cabinet and will remain in his position for a few days, until the government and the opposition agree on a caretaker prime minister. The democratic transfer of power is not complete and will not be until after elections are held in May, but this is a time of many unprecedented developments in Pakistan's history -- developments made all the more significant by the many ills that are plaguing and will continue to plague the country in the near term.
The Paradox of Pakistan's Democracy
How is it possible that Pakistan can democratize at the same time that it is facing unprecedented challenges?
First, the constitutional process has been ingrained in Pakistan since its inception. Even though military autocrats have long ruled the country, it was created as the result of a constitutional process in which the demand for Muslim separatism from the founders of Pakistan led to the partition of British India in 1947. Second, the country's 1973 constitution is resilient, having survived two long periods of military rule: the regimes of Muhammad Zia ul-Haq (1977-88) and Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008). Third, for the first time the two main parties, the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, looked beyond their differences and, recognizing that it was always a loss for both sides, did not collaborate with the military to topple the other's government.
But most important, the military's ability to run the country has been reduced, largely due to the manner in which Musharraf, the country's last military ruler, governed the country. It was under Musharraf's rule that Pakistan saw an exponential growth of civil society, the rise of the private media and the country's judiciary asserting itself as an actor independent of the military. Certainly Musharraf did not intend for his doctrine of "enlightened moderation" to undermine his own government, but it did.
It was under Musharraf that Pakistan, in the wake of 9/11, was forced to revise its decades-old policy of using Islamist militants as instruments of foreign policy in relation to India and Afghanistan. That policy had allowed Islamist militants to establish deep roots in society and the state, especially the security establishment. This is why when Pakistan aligned with the United States in the war against jihadism, many of Islamabad's former proxies and their local and international allies responded by launching an insurgency that has worsened in the past seven years. Largely, Pakistan suffered because of the Taliban and al Qaeda spillover in the aftermath of the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
The Military's Weakening Political Role
Until early 2007, the Musharraf-led military regime had things mostly under control -- there were still hundreds of terrorist attacks, but they targeted foreigners and religious minorities instead of the state. Musharraf's decision to sack the chief justice in March 2007 and the military raid to flush out extremists from a major mosque in the heart of the capital in July created a twin crisis for the regime. As a major pro-democracy movement began, jihadists dramatically increased their attacks, largely against police, military and intelligence targets.
Eventually, the military could no longer manage the situation. Musharraf was forced to resign as military chief in November, and one month later, Bhutto was assassinated. Bhutto's party and other secular parties then won most of the seats in the February 2008 elections. Six months later, Musharraf was forced to step down from the presidency.
Since the fall of Musharraf, the army and the country's main intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, have increasingly been off-balance -- in great part because they could not simultaneously deal with the jihadist insurgency and the growing demands for civilian rule. The position of the Pakistani military was further undermined when relations between Islamabad and Washington imploded in 2011, due largely to the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S. commandos.
Considering the overall situation of the country, military rule would only aggravate matters. Most social and political forces are no longer willing to tolerate the military in government. If the military tried to intervene, it would risk a major public uprising, which the jihadists would exploit. The United States and the international community could also impose sanctions. In fact, the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar aid package that the United States approved for Pakistan specifically states that the aid will be given to Pakistan only if there is a civilian government.
Agreement Is Key
All these factors have enabled civilian rule to grow in Pakistan. It should be noted that the military may not be in a position to intervene in politics, but it retains significant influence in policymaking, especially when it comes to foreign policy and national security matters. What has kept the democratic process going is that the men in uniform and their civilian counterparts so far have been more or less on the same page on most issues.
Of course, the performance of the outgoing government has been dismal, especially on the security and economic front. There is growing public dissatisfaction with the main parties, as seen in the rise of Imran Khan's movement and the recent popular march and sit-in organized by cleric-turned-politician Tahir-ul-Qadri. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that there will be enough public outrage for Khan's movement to make a strong showing in the May elections.
The major parties will retain considerable support from their core constituencies. In fact, according to two recent polls (especially the one organized by the independent democracy promotion group Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency), Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz seems to have the most support. Regardless of which party comes out on top, a more divided parliament is likely to emerge, meaning policymaking will be a struggle.
But as long as the political process moves forward, Islamabad will probably be able to continue to manage the country's numerous crises. The most significant challenge for the next government will be to deal with the effects of a U.S. and NATO drawdown from Afghanistan, something that threatens to worsen militancy in Pakistan. Washington and Islamabad are both hoping that a democratic government will produce enough political stability that the situation can be managed.
Ultimately, whether Pakistan continues on this path of democratization depends largely on the ability of the civilian forces to get along with one another.
Read more: The Unlikely Democratization of Pakistan | Stratfor
POTH: Afghan Army learning to fight on its own
Reply #1358 on:
April 08, 2013, 07:19:13 AM »
Looks like we're going to be missed even before we go
Reply #1359 on:
April 15, 2013, 07:32:57 PM »
Afghanistan and Pakistan After the 2014 NATO Drawdown
April 15, 2013 | 1045 GMT
Pakistan has been simultaneously grappling with a complex political transition and a domestic Taliban insurgency for many years. Now, Islamabad is under pressure to weaken its Taliban insurgency before NATO withdraws from Afghanistan since U.S.-Afghan Taliban talks are not going well and the Afghan Taliban could emerge in a position of power in 2014. A dominant Taliban in Afghanistan would represent a nightmare scenario for Islamabad because it could embolden the Pakistani Taliban and thwart Pakistan's desires to take control of its northern territories.
In the latest violence in Pakistan's tribal belt along the Afghan border, up to 25 Pakistani soldiers and some 125 militants have been killed in a new counterjihadist offensive. Pakistani ground and air forces for the past week have sought to dislodge Taliban fighters from key heights in the Tirah Valley in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, one of the seven districts that make up the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. This represents the biggest offensive in the region over the past two years against fighters from Pakistan's main Taliban rebel grouping, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and their allies from Laskhar-e-Islam, a local Taliban grouping.
Islamabad launched a major counterjihadist offensive nearly four years ago to try to regain control of its northwest, a region that since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan increasingly has fallen under the control of Pakistani Taliban rebels aligned with al Qaeda. The Pakistani armed forces have struggled to hold these areas long enough to build up civilian governance and pursue development projects to integrate its northwestern Pashtun periphery into the core. Civilian governance, however, has a long way to go before it can establish itself in the core of the country, and thus it is unlikely that peripheral areas affected by the Taliban insurgency will fall under Islamabad's writ anytime soon.
Pakistani Interests in Afghanistan
Pakistan has hoped a negotiated settlement between the United States and the Afghan Taliban ending the insurgency in Afghanistan would eventually help Islamabad deal with militants on Pakistani side of the border. But with just a little more than a year until the NATO drawdown concludes, talks between Washington and the Afghan jihadist movement have produced little in the way of results.
Exacerbating the uncertainty in Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- who has been at the center of the post-Taliban Afghan state since its inception 11 years ago -- will be leaving office due to term limits. From Islamabad's perspective, a post-NATO Afghanistan that fails to include the Taliban in a political understanding would be disastrous.
An Afghan Taliban insurgency unencumbered by Western forces poses a direct national security threat to Pakistan because it offers the Pakistani Taliban havens in Afghanistan and could even reverse the dwindling fortunes of al Qaeda prime, which is headquartered in Pakistan. Already, Pakistani Taliban rebels displaced from the greater Swat region have found sanctuary in northeastern Afghan provinces such as Kunar, from where they periodically mount attacks in Pakistan. For this reason, the outgoing Pakistani government has spent the last few years trying to improve its relations with the Karzai administration. It also has reached out to anti-Taliban factions among Afghan ethnic minorities not represented in the central government. Both steps are meant to build additional checks on the Taliban.
The latest example of this outreach was the April 10 inauguration of the $18 million Liaquat Ali Khan Engineering University, built by Pakistan in Afghanistan's Balkh province. The province is a major stronghold of Afghanistan's second-largest ethnic community, the Tajiks, who have long been at odds with Islamabad given the latter's historical support for their enemies, the Taliban.
Though Pakistan has an incentive to continue building such ties, there has been a reversal in the move toward improved Kabul-Islamabad relations in recent weeks as both sides have accused the other of undermining the peace efforts. To a great extent, this souring of ties is due to the uncertainty in Kabul regarding who will assume power after Karzai in next year's presidential election. Progress in NATO-Afghan Taliban talks remains elusive, and the Afghan state could destabilize even before NATO forces depart.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is going through a historic transition of its own. Its first democratically elected government recently completed its five-year term and the country's first democratic transfer of power is expected to take place after May 11 elections. While Pakistan is slowly moving toward consolidating its democracy, the coming elections are expected to produce an even more fragmented parliament than before. Right-wing nationalist political forces, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League and Imran Khan's Pakistani Tehrik-i-Insaf, could make major gains at the expense of the center-left Pakistan People's Party, which led the coalition government until last month.
An even more divided parliament will complicate matters regarding the cross-border Taliban insurgencies on Pakistan's western flank. A fragmented legislature will complicate policymaking, and a right-wing government would create room for the Pakistani Taliban to exploit. These right-wing parties rely heavily on Islamists and the broader group of conservative voters -- many of whom do not favor what is perceived as a U.S. war that has undermined Pakistani security. The Pakistani political right has argued that if a superpower like the United States is being forced to talk to the Afghan Taliban, then Pakistan should be able to negotiate with its own citizens who have shifted toward supporting the Taliban in order to bring them back into the mainstream.
While this might seem logical, the bulk of the Pakistani Taliban subscribe to al Qaeda's transnational jihadism -- unlike the Afghan Taliban, who are nationalist jihadists and thus have self-imposed limits on their political goals for the state. Accordingly, the Pakistani Taliban wish to see Pakistan serve as a launchpad for the creation of an international caliphate. However, it could still be possible to negotiate with some elements within the Pakistani Taliban landscape and bring them into the political mainstream.
Many among Pakistan's strategic planners had hoped a settlement in Afghanistan would help Islamabad tackle its own Taliban problem. The thinking is that a withdrawal of U.S. forces and a power-sharing deal that empowers the Afghan Taliban would eliminate much of the basis for the militancy in Pakistan. The entry of the Afghan Taliban into the political mainstream would then create fissures within the Pakistani Taliban landscape, making the group much more militarily and politically manageable.
But there are two major factors that will likely prevent this outcome. First, the talks with the Afghan Taliban have stalled. Second, many among the Pakistani Taliban are fighting not because of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, but to topple the Pakistani state because they deem it "un-Islamic." This makes them unlikely to end their insurgency in the event of a breakthrough in Afghanistan.
An intensified civil war in post-NATO Afghanistan would only make matters worse for Pakistan because it would provide strategic depth for the Pakistani Taliban to operate more freely. A politically dominant Taliban in post-NATO Afghanistan would also embolden the Pakistani Taliban to act against Islamabad.
If the Afghan Taliban are not part of a broad-based coalition government in Kabul, Pakistan will face serious difficulties in getting a handle on its own Taliban rebels. This explains why Pakistan has been pushing for a balance of power between the Taliban and anti-Taliban forces. Islamabad cannot hope to integrate its own Taliban and tribal areas into the federation if the main Taliban movement in Afghanistan is not brought into a post-NATO coalition government. Pakistan's own political transition is thus in many ways linked to political stability in Afghanistan. Ultimately, Pakistan will need to exert its energies to encourage the Afghan Taliban to reach a settlement with their opponents in the Afghan state and society. It must also continue to reach out to reconcilable elements among its own Taliban rebels through the help of neutral warlords. The key question is to what degree Afghan and Pakistani Taliban forces will be willing to accept the current constitutional setups in both countries.
Read more: Afghanistan and Pakistan After the 2014 NATO Drawdown | Stratfor
WSJ: The Stakes for America in the upcoming elections
Reply #1360 on:
April 17, 2013, 10:24:33 AM »
By MICHÈLE FLOURNOY AND MICHAEL O'HANLON
Afghanistan has held two presidential elections since 2001. Hamid Karzai won both, but the most recent (in 2009) was marred by irregularities such as stuffed ballot boxes and acrimony between Mr. Karzai and the international community. The Afghan constitution demands that Mr. Karzai step down next year, and by most accounts that is his intention. Who will succeed him?
On a recent trip to Afghanistan, almost everyone we spoke to highlighted next April's presidential election as a make-or-break event for the country—including its ability to fend off the Taliban and avoid backsliding into civil war.
What should be the international community's role over the next 12 months? Although the United States and other key outside nations shouldn't and won't try to pick a winner, they should do what they can to ensure that the next elections are freer and fairer than the last. Since the U.S. has promised at least $5 billion a year in future aid (for half a decade or more) and is considering spending $10 billion a year or more on a post-2014 military presence, Americans in particular have a stake in the electoral process and outcome.
Put more bluntly: If Afghans either hold a fraudulent election or elect a corrupt future leader, the odds of the U.S. Congress providing the expected aid are slim to none. This is also the case for other countries. The U.S. should, therefore, voice its views now rather than simply cut off aid later if the election goes badly.
As Afghans remember all too well, the Soviet-installed government of Mohammad Najibullah fell not when the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1989 but when Moscow cut off the money three years later. When the Taliban overran Kabul in 1996, Najibullah was tortured and murdered. All too aware of this history, Afghan reformers, opposition politicians and members of civil society are asking Americans and others to help them make their election a success.
No Afghan has yet announced a candidacy for next year's election, but many names are being floated. They include current or former chiefs of staff to the president, Mr. Karzai's brother Qayum, Minister of Education Ghulam Farooq Wardak, Minister of Finance Omar Zakhilwel, Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, former Foreign Minister and presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, and former minister Haneef Atmar.
There is much talk in Kabul these days about the desirability of finding a "consensus" candidate or slate. The idea here is to use Afghanistan's consultative traditions to avoid a divisive election while the country's democracy is so fragile.
In principle, this is a reasonable and even appealing idea. In practice, it risks having President Karzai play the role of kingmaker, since it is hard to see how a consensus would otherwise develop in a place with such strong political rivalries and with so many people clearly angling to be president. The devil will be in the details of a consensus candidate if one emerges.
Against this confusing backdrop, the international community can help by focusing on a few goals:
First, remind Afghans that Americans and others will exercise their own sovereign rights to determine future aid levels once Afghanistan exercises its sovereign right to choose a new leader. The quality of the election process and the quality of the new president's leadership will both affect decisions on aid. This is just common sense and should be conveyed as a matter of fact, not a menacing threat.
Second, help ensure the independence and integrity of the Afghan watchdog groups charged with overseeing the electoral process. For all the criticism of past Afghan elections, it was these Afghan groups—the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission—that uncovered the fraud and threw out the bad ballots. Whether or not they include foreigners, future appointees to the commissions should be selected with the input of parliament, and Mr. Karzai shouldn't be able to dismiss them once appointed. This issue is more important than many others currently being debated in Kabul, including redoing voter registration and issuing new voter cards.
Third, watch how the campaigns play out starting later this year. Afghan state media need to give reasonable time to all candidates, including the opposition. Vote-buying and voter intimidation need to be deterred and prevented through timely investigations of allegations. The electoral commissions will do the investigating, but outside forces must stand behind them.
Fourth, give technical, moral and if necessary financial support to fledgling Afghan political parties—provided they have multiethnic memberships and platforms, and promise to eschew violence. When U.S. officials visit Afghanistan, they should meet not only with members of the executive branch but also with a broad range of next-generation Afghan politicians and civil-society members who are the real hope for the country's future.
American passivity in the coming Afghan elections could be just as counterproductive as American assertiveness (including some nasty public spats with Mr. Karzai) was last time around. The verdict on the war in Afghanistan may be settled less on the country's battlefields than at its polling stations next spring. That election is already sneaking up on us—there is little time to lose.
Ms. Flournoy, a co-founder of the Center for a New American Security, was under secretary of defense for policy from 2009-11. Mr. O'Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Karzai ensures continued US Presence
Reply #1361 on:
May 09, 2013, 11:00:19 AM »
I must confess, I am not at all clear at what the point is for the US , , ,
Karzai Ensures a Continued U.S. Presence in Afghanistan
May 9, 2013 | 1518 GMT
JOHN MOORE/Getty Images
U.S. soldiers in Kunar province, Afghanistan, in 2011
It appears the United States will maintain a robust military presence in Afghanistan well after its withdrawal in 2014. In a speech at Kabul University on May 9, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would be willing to allow the U.S. military to keep nine bases in Afghanistan. The details are not set, but this would indicate that Karzai sees that he must have U.S. security support in order to keep shaping his desired outcome in Afghanistan.
The essence of the announcement is not surprising, but the timing and the large number of bases mentioned is telling of Karzai's strategy. Currently, his attention is split between upcoming elections, for which he must choose a successor, and the multiparty peace negotiations that so far have made almost no progress. These bases would give the United States the option to leave a sizable and geographically dispersed force in the country as long as it continues to work with Karzai -- and that is the key. Karzai is making himself indispensable to the United States so that Washington cannot push him aside and work through someone else.
The proposed bases will initially anger the Taliban and pose a serious obstacle to negotiations. However, the talks are already stalled, and the large number of bases means that Karzai's government and the United States will have a point to negotiate down from. Karzai can use the bases' potential existence as leverage to get some concessions from the Taliban in ongoing talks.
Lastly on the political front, the announcement rebuffs several of the other third-party actors that have a stake in the country and that are clamoring for influence, such as Pakistan, Iran and China. Karzai clearly stated that the United States will continue to have sway in the system, unlike in Iraq, where the absence of an agreement led to a full withdrawal, creating an opportunity for Iran to step in and assume an influential role. Karzai is avoiding a similar outcome in Afghanistan by cementing the U.S. presence now.
From the Pakistani point of view, U.S. bases have benefits and drawbacks. Islamabad has been hoping that the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from its Western neighbor would eliminate some of the justification for the Taliban to continue fighting -- a situation that could help Pakistan regain control over its own Taliban rebels. U.S. bases in Afghanistan undermine that objective, but they help mitigate the vacuum that the Pakistanis were afraid would further undermine their security, especially if there is no negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban.
The announcement means that the Taliban will have to show that these bases will not help the Afghan state establish security, and an escalated offensive on their part can be expected. It also gives the Taliban fuel for their claims that the United States does not intend to give up its occupation of the country.
On the security front, Karzai is acknowledging that a U.S. military presence is absolutely necessary for his government's survival. The Afghan National Security Forces have taken the lead in all operations and will soon assume responsibility for the entire territory of the country, but the fact remains that they still require massive support from U.S. firepower in order to be combat-effective. Losing this support at the end of 2014 would be a security nightmare. International funding, predominantly from the United States, is also a critical reason that the Afghan National Security Forces are even able to exist. If the United States were summarily rebuffed from the country, it would have little incentive to continue this funding for long.
Karzai is weak on his own, and given the country's fractures, anyone who wants to control it needs a great deal of military strength. A U.S. commitment to Afghanistan lends U.S. strength to Kabul. Without that, the fight for political pre-eminence in the country would continue.
Read more: Karzai Ensures a Continued U.S. Presence in Afghanistan | Stratfor
Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan
Reply #1362 on:
May 11, 2013, 01:48:22 PM »
POTH: Tyranny of the majority
Reply #1363 on:
May 11, 2013, 03:03:07 PM »
Pakistan’s Tyrannical Majority
By MANAN AHMED ASIF
Published: May 10, 2013
JUST after the stroke of midnight on Aug. 14, 1947, the Peshawar broadcast station of All India Radio crackled to life: “This is Pakistan Broadcasting Service.” Next came the words of the Urdu-language poet Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi: “Pakistan bananay walay, Pakistan Mubarak” — “Oh, maker of Pakistan, congratulations on Pakistan.”
On Saturday, Pakistanis will head to the polls to choose a new government; for the first time in 66 years, a democratically elected administration has completed its term. Given Pakistan’s tumultuous past, this is an impressive achievement, but it should not prevent citizens from asking the candidates vying for their votes: what kind of Pakistan have you made?
The makers of Pakistan were peasants and laborers. In 1940, they passed a resolution in Lahore to demand a separate homeland for Muslims and an end to British colonial occupation. In 1946, their votes brought a political party, the Muslim League, to power. They chose Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a modernist technocrat, as their leader.
Jinnah asked his party’s legislators to focus on the well-being of the “masses and the poor” and demanded that “every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his color, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations.” Men like Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (an Ahmadi diplomat) and Raja Amir Ahmad Khan (a Shiite noble) had worked alongside Jinnah for decades to fulfill this dream of equality.
Yet the birth of Pakistan was not auspicious for minorities. The original claim of Pakistan — religious equality — was the first claim proved false. Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, though he became the first foreign minister, was hounded by religious conservatives, who branded him an apostate because of his Ahmadi faith. Ahmadis, followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), consider themselves part of the Muslim tradition but have faced stern resistance from Sunni Muslims, who accused them of following a false prophet.
In 1974, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed an amendment to the Pakistani Constitution declaring anyone who did not believe that Muhammad was the last prophet a non-Muslim. And in the 1980s, the military dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq passed punitive laws that defined the practice of the Ahmadi faith as a “blasphemous” criminal offense. Ahmadis are allowed to vote only for parliamentary seats reserved for non-Muslims, effectively disenfranchising them. Since they refuse to declare themselves non-Muslims, they don’t vote.
Shiites have not fared much better. Raja Amir Ahmad left Pakistan, soon after 1947, fearing for the safety of his community. In the last five years, more than 1,000 Shiites, belonging to the Hazara community, have been targeted and killed in the city of Quetta. In February, when 84 Shiites were killed in a bombing attack, Quetta’s Hazaras refused to bury their murdered kin, demanding that the government ensure their safety. The corpses, wrapped in burial shrouds in coffins, were kept on the streets and mourned by thousands. This act of civic protest shook the nation, but it did little to prompt action from the state.
Today, tolerance is under siege from all directions. Even Imran Khan, the sports star turned politician — who enjoys a near-divine status among young, urban Pakistanis — has contributed to the marginalization of minorities. On May 4, he said at a rally that he did not regard Ahmadis as Muslims and would not campaign for their votes. Mr. Khan has based his campaign on a message of “change” reminiscent of President Obama’s in 2008. His statement on Ahmadis was therefore particularly damaging and chilling.
As a candidate marketing himself as a political outsider, he could have opened up a national conversation on equality of citizenship and reached out to all voters, including Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians. Instead he reaffirmed the political exclusion of minorities and legitimized intolerance in the eyes of his millions of idealistic young followers, who quickly echoed his dismissal in online networks.
Over the last five years, hundreds of Ahmadis have been targeted and killed in Pakistan’s cities. In 2010, 94 were killed in a terrorist attack in Lahore, and since then their burial grounds, mosques and homes have been under assault. There has been no response from the government, which still refuses to grant them equal status as citizens of Pakistan. Christian communities have also been targeted, and prominent Christian leaders, like Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister of minorities, have been assassinated. While the state has done little to punish these acts, various militant organizations have brazenly claimed credit for them.
The candidates campaigning in this election, rather than arguing for the rights of all Pakistanis, have further marginalized religious minorities and given license to those who attack them.
Despite the rise of satellite television and online media that have allowed mass participation in politics outside of old patronage networks, a new form of majoritarian tyranny has taken hold. It is built on the classic anxieties of the rising middle class: the fear of the other, the conspirator among us.
Today, the verses of another poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who was imprisoned and exiled by Pakistan’s military dictators, seem more appropriate: “Chalay chalo kay woh manzil abhi nahin aaye” — “Keep on walking, for we are not at the destination yet.”
Manan Ahmed Asif, an assistant professor of history at Columbia, is the author of “Where the Wild Frontiers Are: Pakistan and the American Imagination.”
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