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Monday, June 28

Afghanistan War: Obama tries to quash New York Times mutiny

I don't know whether the mutiny is actually against the White House or the ISAF command or both. All I've been able to piece together is that after fortifying themselves with rum and the battle cry, 'We're nobody's poodle!' the New York Times editorial board gave the heave-ho to NATO's march to the rear in Afghanistan.


So this is a very strange turn of events and worthy of examination.

The mutiny might have started earlier but as near as I can figure it began June 11. On that date the New York Times reported on a version of what transpired during Karzai's dispute with two officials:
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two senior Afghan officials were showing President Hamid Karzai the evidence of the spectacular rocket attack on a nationwide peace conference earlier this month when Mr. Karzai told them that he believed the Taliban were not responsible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Karzai told me that he can’t trust the Americans to fix the situation here,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.” ...
The revelations in the Times report about secret negotiations got no attention from the American public. But on June 24, while the nation's attention was fixed on the Afghanistan War because of General Stanley McChrystal's resignation, the Times tried again, expanding on the June 11 report and adding more specifics.

This time, news about the secret negotiations set off an uproar. For readers who missed my post The Last American helicopter out of Kabul, I'll quote again from the Times report titled Pakistan Is Said to Pursue a Foothold in Afghanistan:
...Washington has watched with some nervousness as General Kayani and Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Mr. Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a postwar Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset. ...

Despite General McChrystal’s 11 visits to General Kayani in Islamabad in the past year, the Pakistanis have not been altogether forthcoming on details of the conversations in the last two months, making the Pakistani moves even more worrisome for the United States, said an American official involved in the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan deliberations.

“They know this creates a bigger breach between us and Karzai,” the American official said.

Though encouraged by Washington, the thaw heightens the risk that the United States will find itself cut out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis, and one that does not necessarily guarantee Washington’s prime objective in the war: denying Al Qaeda a haven. ...
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who evidently had not gotten the memo about the mutiny by the time of his June 25 press briefing, only poured fuel on the fire started by the mutineers:
QUESTION: ... the New York Times today reported that the Pakistan army has offered to mediate for peace talks with the Taliban and also with the Haqqani network. Is the offer with you?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we’ve said many times, this is an Afghan-led process, but obviously there are discussions going on between Afghan officials and Pakistani officials, and we certainly want to see ways in which Pakistan can be supportive of this broader process.

QUESTION: Do you see the Haqqani network coming – sharing power with the Afghan Government? Do you support that?

MR. CROWLEY: We have been very clear in terms of the conditions that any individual or any entity need to meet in order to have a constructive role in Afghanistan’s future: renouncing violence, terminating any ties to al-Qaida, and respecting the Afghan constitution. Anyone who meets those criteria can play a role in Afghan’s future.
The White House, more alarmed by the Times mutiny than Crowley's foot-in-mouth replies, scrambled to do damage control. Yesterday Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and a toady in the GOP camp, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, were packed off to Fox News Cable's Sunday show to give assurances that if General Petraeus needed more time to win the war in Afghanistan he had it.

Leon Panetta was also dispatched to the Sunday morning TV network circuit, which receives close attention here in the nation's capital. So it came to pass that Panetta made his first appearance on American network television since he became director of the CIA. He appeared on ABC's "This Week" and faced questions from Jake Tapper, who soon turned discussion to the June 24 Times report:
The New York Times reported this week that Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaida, who runs a major part of the insurgency into Afghanistan into a power sharing arrangement. In addition, Afghan officials say the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies with Pakistani General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership. Do you believe Pakistan will be able to push the Haqqani network into peace negotiations?
Panetta responded with a broad pantomime to convey that only fools believed what they read in the newspapers then replied:
You know, I read all the same stories, we get intelligence along those lines, but the bottom line is that we really have not seen any firm intelligence that there's a real interest among the Taliban, the militant allies of Al Qaida, Al Qaida itself, the Haqqanis, TTP, other militant groups. We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation, where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce Al Qaida, where they would really try to become part of that society.

We've seen no evidence of that and very frankly, my view is that with regards to reconciliation, unless they're convinced that the United States is going to win and that they're going to be defeated, I think it's very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that's going to be meaningful.
But never content to miss a chance to embarrass one of his appointees, President Obama took it upon himself to personally quash the New York Times mutiny. This set up a contradiction between his remarks and Panetta's, which the Times highlighted in their report on the Panetta interview, C.I.A. Chief Sees Taliban Power-Sharing as Unlikely:
... While Mr. Obama said a political solution to the conflict was necessary and suggested elements of the Taliban insurgency could be part of negotiations, he said any such effort must be viewed with caution. The C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, was even more forceful in expressing his doubts.

“We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation, where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce Al Qaeda, where they would really try to become part of that society,” Mr. Panetta said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Acknowledging that the American-led counterinsurgency effort was facing unexpected difficulty, Mr. Panetta said that the Taliban and their allies had little motive to contemplate a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan.

“We’ve seen no evidence of that and very frankly, my view is that with regards to reconciliation, unless they’re convinced that the United States is going to win and that they’re going to be defeated, I think it’s very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that’s going to be meaningful,” he said.

Mr. Obama, speaking later after the Group of 20 meeting in Toronto, noted that as the Afghanistan war approached its 10th anniversary, it was the longest foreign war in American history, and that “ultimately as was true in Iraq, so will be true in Afghanistan, we will have to have a political solution.” [Pundita note: Odd. I thought it was a military victory in Iraq that was the solution.]

As for Pakistan’s effort to broker talks, Mr. Obama added: “I think it’s too early to tell. I think we have to view these efforts with skepticism but also with openness. The Taliban is a blend of hard-core ideologues, tribal leaders, kids that basically sign up because it’s the best job available to them. Not all of them are going to be thinking the same way about the Afghan government, about the future of Afghanistan. And so we’re going to have to sort through how these talks take place.”

The president avoided any direct comment on whether the Haqqani network, the Taliban element reportedly proposed by Pakistan as part of a deal, could become part of Afghanistan’s future leadership. But he said that “conversations between the Afghan government and the Pakistani government, building trust between those two governments, are a useful step.”

The comments Sunday were the administration’s first public response to a report of Pakistan’s deal-brokering efforts last week in The New York Times. ...
I appreciate Mr Panetta's college try. But if he thinks it's difficult to proceed with reconciliation unless the Taliban are convinced that "the United States is going to win and that they’re going to be defeated," how would he explain the efforts of the Obama administration and the NATO command to pressure Karzai to negotiate with Taliban fighters?

From a June 25 report for The New York Times titled Karzai Pressed to Move on Luring Low-Level Taliban to Lay Down Arms :
KABUL, Afghanistan — Three weeks after a grand assembly recommended making peace with the Taliban and other armed groups, NATO and Afghan officials are pressing President Hamid Karzai to move more quickly to set up a council to oversee the process and to set in motion a plan to win over low-level Taliban fighters.

Since the closing of the grand peace assembly, or jirga, a committee to review the cases of detainees being held without charge or evidence — another of its recommendations — has already started working and released a number of prisoners.

But a decree to initiate the rest of the program, which is focused on the reintegration of Taliban foot soldiers, has not been signed, Mohammed Massoom Stanekzai, the presidential adviser in charge of the effort, said this week.

The Afghan peace plan envisages winning over low-level fighters and commanders, while negotiating a higher-level political reconciliation with the leaders of the insurgency and conducting diplomacy to gain the support of neighboring countries, such as Pakistan and Iran, which have links to the insurgents.

The plan has moved slowly, however, because of the need to bow to Afghan political concerns, as well as reservations in Washington over making peace with the Taliban leadership. But the plan for reintegration has received American backing.

“If we don’t get it going soon we will start missing the boat,” said Maj. Gen. Philip Jones, who is in charge of the NATO unit that is working on the plan. “We have to catch this moment here in every sense.”

The reintegration plan is nominally an Afghan one, drafted by Mr. Stanekzai, but with the close collaboration of NATO officials since it is seen as a vital part of the coalition counterinsurgency strategy devised by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal ...
"Afghan political concerns?" Well I guess that's one way of describing Afghans who're so frightened and angry about Karzai's negotiations with the Taliban they're threatening civil war. From a June 26 report for the New York Times titled Overture to Taliban Jolts Afghan Minorities:
Talks between Mr. Karzai and the Pakistani leaders have been unfolding here and in Islamabad for several weeks, with some discussions involving bestowing legitimacy on Taliban insurgents.

The leaders of these minority communities say that President Karzai appears determined to hand Taliban leaders a share of power — and Pakistan a large degree of influence inside the country. The Americans, desperate to end their involvement here, are helping Mr. Karzai along and shunning the Afghan opposition, they say.

Mr. Oghly said he was disillusioned with the Americans and their NATO allies, who he says appear to be urging Mr. Karzai along. “We are losing faith in our foreign friends,” he said.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was worried about “the Tajik-Pashtun divide that has been so strong.” American and NATO leaders, he said, are trying to stifle any return to ethnic violence.

“It has the potential to really tear this country apart,” Admiral Mullen said in an interview. “That’s not what we are going to permit.”
I'll interrupt here to ask how Admiral Mullen plans to forbid Afghanistan from tearing apart if Washington and the NATO command keep pushing Karzai to negotiate with the Taliban?

To return to the Times report:
Afghanistan’s minorities — especially the ethnic Tajiks — have always been the most reliable American allies, and made up the bulk of the anti-Taliban army that the Americans aided following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

The situation is complicated by the politics of the Afghan Army, the centerpiece of American-led efforts to enable the Afghan military to one day take over. The ethnic mix of the Afghan Army is roughly proportional to the population, and the units in the field are mixed themselves. But non-Pashtuns are widely believed to do the bulk of the fighting.

There are growing indications of ethnic fissures inside the army. President Karzai recently decided to remove Bismullah Khan, the chief of staff of the Afghan Army, and make him the interior minister instead. Mr. Khan is an ethnic Tajik, and a former senior leader of the Northern Alliance, the force that fought the Taliban in the years before Sept. 11. Whom Mr. Karzai decides to put in Mr. Khan’s place will be closely watched.

One recent source of tension was the resignation of Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghan intelligence service and an ethnic Tajik. Mr. Saleh, widely regarded as one of the most competent aides, resigned after Mr. Karzai said he no longer had faith that he could do the job.

Along with Mr. Khan, the army chief of staff, Mr. Saleh was a former aide to Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary commander who fought both the Soviet Union and the Taliban. Since leaving the government, Mr. Saleh has started what appears to be the beginning of a political campaign.

Other prominent Afghans have begun to organize along mostly ethnic lines. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister and presidential candidate, has been hosting gatherings at his farm outside Kabul. In an interview, he said he was preparing to announce the formation of what would amount to an opposition party. Mr. Abdullah, who is of Pashtun and Tajik heritage, said his movement would include Afghans from all the major communities. But his source of power has historically been Afghanistan’s Tajik community.

Mr. Abdullah said he disagreed with the thrust of Mr. Karzai’s policy of engagement with the Taliban and Pakistan. It would be impossible to share power with Taliban leaders, Mr. Abdullah said, because of their support for terrorism and the draconian brand of Islam they would try to impose on everyone else.

“We bring the Taliban into the government — we give them one or two provinces,” Mr. Abdullah said. “If that is what they think, it is not going to happen that way. Anybody thinking in that direction, they are lost. Absolutely lost.”

The trouble, Mr. Abdullah said, is that the Taliban, once given a slice of power, would not be satisfied. “They will take advantage of this,” he said of a political settlement, “and then they will continue.”

The prerequisite for any deal with the Taliban, Afghan and American officials have said repeatedly, is that insurgents renounce their support of terrorists (including Al Qaeda), and that they promise to support the Afghan Constitution.

Beyond that, though, Mr. Karzai’s goals vis-à-vis the Taliban are difficult to discern. Recently he has told senior Afghan officials that he no longer believes that the Americans and NATO can prevail in Afghanistan and that they will probably leave soon. [Pundita note: Reference the June 11 Times report] That fact may make Mr. Karzai more inclined to make a deal with both Pakistan and the Taliban.

As for the Pakistanis, their motives are even more opaque. For years, Pakistani leaders have denied supporting the Taliban, but evidence suggests that they continue to do so. In recent talks, the Pakistanis have offered Mr. Karzai a sort of strategic partnership — and one that involves giving at least one the most brutal Taliban groups, the Haqqani network, a measure of legitimacy in Afghanistan.

Two powerful Pakistani officials — Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff; and Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, — are set to arrive Monday for talks with Mr. Karzai.

Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun leaders are watching these discussions unfold with growing alarm so far they have taken few concrete steps to resist them.

But no one here doubts that any of these groups, with their bloody histories of fighting the Taliban, could arm themselves quickly if they wished.

“Karzai has begun the ethnic war,” said Mohammed Mohaqeq, a Hazara leader and a former ally of the president. “The future is very dark.”
Will President Obama manage to quell the uprising at the New York Times? From their coverage of the Panetta interview, I think the answer from the Times is 'No par-ley!'

But even if the editorial board walks the plank it's too late to stop what they started. Al Jazeera has followed the Times' lead (Karzai "holds talks" with Haqqani) and so has the Guardian (Afghanistan in turmoil after peace talk rumours). Even Dawn, Pakistan's major English-language newspaper, jumped into the fray (US aware of Afghan-Pak contacts with Haqqani).

The Guardian reporter scared up the best quote to emerge so far from the mutiny:
Michael Semple, a regional expert, said he was alarmed at the speed with which the [Afghan] political class was fissuring.

"Sane people, who've been part of this process all along, are now saying the country won't survive till the end of the year," he said.
Rum, anyone?

Friday, June 25

To Kyle in Oz, and a few words about U.S. foreign policy today

Dear Kyle:
I have suspended the comment section, at least temporarily. So I'll reply here to your thoughtful speculations abut why the U.S. has over many years gone easy on Pakistan's regime and your conclusion:
" ... The only answer that seems even close, and it is quite unsatisfactory, is this: That any attempt to defang the Pak system would lead to the collapse of Pakistan itself. The 'Grand Strategy' here is simple: A collapse of Pakistan would lead to the Indians being strategically unencumbered.

The only strategically unencumbered great powers in recent history are Great Britain and its successor, the US. There is no Japan or Korea or Taiwan anywhere in India's sphere that could act as a balancer were Pakistan to collapse."
Many months ago an Indian reader insisted that I was wrong when I wrote that the U.S. had originally made Pakistan a client state in order to contain the Soviets. He pointed to Sir Olaf Caroe's 1951 Wells of Power to shore his argument that the real objective of Washington in supporting Pakistan was to contain India, not the Soviet Union.

The problem with that argument is that by the time Caroe tried to peddle his book in Washington (where reportedly he got much less of a hearing than he claimed), the U.S. had already made Pakistan a client state and with the express objective of containing the Soviet Union.

Yes, Washington did not like Delhi's attempt to stay non-aligned during the Cold War, which is why they indulged and even supported Pakistan's machinations against India. But it is looking at things from the vantage point of today to assume that throughout the Cold War Washington's defense establishment considered containment of India to be an issue.

Besides, India was doing an excellent job of containing itself without any help from the USA. And you only have to read a few of Rajeev Srinivasan's acid comments about Delhi's current foreign policy to consider that India is still doing a good job of containing itself. Rajeev (and other Indians, such as the former Career Diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar) have decried Delhi's habit of sitting like a stump on a log while Beijing and Islamabad run rings around them.

However, you're correct in assuming that Washington in this era does not want to see Pakistan's government collapse. The Pentagon is very concerned about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, and the ISAF has enough trouble, as it is, getting supplies trucked through the county to Afghanistan without the society going up in flames.

Beyond that, I venture you're being too rational if you perceive a grand strategy at work. There are so many grand strategies in Washington they tend to cancel each other out, which is how the Obama administration managed to drive Hamid Karzai insane.

So while it might be that there is one faction or group of lobbyists pushing to contain India for strategic reasons, you may trust other lobbyists are arguing that this is a stupid idea.

It comes down to which lobbies can shout the loudest before another lobby out-shouts them. The resulting melee was sent up in Daniel Drezner's dissertation on how Washington's three major schools of foreign policy would deal with a threat from flesh-eating zombies. (The Night of the Living Wonks.)

In all seriousness if you want to grasp Washington's thinking on foreign policy, listen to John Batchelor's hilarious June 23 interview with Drezner about how Washington would manage a threat from the undead.

(The interview starts around the halfway mark in the podcast; you can also read John's blog post on the interview for an introduction.)

If you say at the end, 'Then the actual approach to zombies would be to confuse them so much they'd return to Hell rather deal another day with the U.S. Department of State' -- on paper, yes. But here we come to a snag. I maintain there is a fourth school of American foreign relations, and that this one has had remarkable focus and staying power.

I'll take up a discussion of the fourth school when and if my mood improves. In the meantime, and as an introduction to the fourth school, here is my reply (originally posted yesterday at Zenpundit's comment section) to an Indian American who wondered aloud if the poor treatment India receives from Washington is due to prejudice against India's "funny brown people."
...After 26/11 it became harder for Atlanticists to argue that Pakistan needed to remain a U.S. client state in case the Kremlin made contact with a Klingon battleship. But Atlanticists are quite set in their view of the world. ...

If it’s any comfort the 'Get Russia' crowd does not give a fig about the funny white people of the United States, either.

I doubt you’re ready to believe me but I tell you again that the studious blindness in Washington about Pakistan is propped up by the enduring influence of the Get Russia crowd inside the Beltway.

The crowd is comprised of Atlanticists — who believe European NATO countries are the Middle Kingdom — plus lumpenproletariat such as oil barons, bankers, and Russian oligarchs who don’t care about NATO and just want to run Russia again.

(An American Atlanticist is someone who can name every major city in Romania but can’t find Mexico City or Pittsburgh on a map.)

The big obstacle the U.S. military has to overcome in dealing with Pakistan’s regime is the delusion that officers in the Pakistani military are ‘guys just like us.’ No they’re not; they’re just skilled at mirroring back to the American Sahib how he likes to see himself. The skill was honed and passed down during centuries of dealing with the British Sahib.

The American military, intelligence, and diplomatic establishments also don’t understand how the caste system works in Pakistan and how it impacts the military class. They understand nothing about the Pakistanis.

When one doesn’t understand other peoples while fighting a war, one needs to fall back on common sense – on what one can do – and not try to refashion the other in one’s image. If Petraeus and his advisors can understand that much, and learn about the relevance of Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir to the Taliban in Afghanistan, they’ll be able to throw together a better plan for Afghanistan.
I gave that advice hours before I'd seen the New York Times and Washington Post reports that plunged me into a vile mood and prompted today's earlier post (The Last American Helicopter out of Kabul). After studying the reports I realized my advice had come eight years too late.

In closing: policy by its very nature is something that doesn't shift and change with every breeze. That explains why my last analysis of U.S. foreign policy, in 2008, ended with the recommendation "Run for your lives."

The incoherence in America's foreign relations cannot be laid at Barack Obama's doorstep; that foreign policy utterly collapsed within a year of his becoming U.S. President only completed a process that began decades earlier. In fact, Obama's approach to decision-making, which is based soley on his reelection campaign strategy for 2012, is the most coherence official Washington has seen in years.

The United States has simply arrived at the limits of representative democracy in the era of globalization. America's founders never intended representative government to mean that thousands of competing interests would be representing themselves inside the political establishment. But that's where American government stands today.

Thank you again for your comments.

Best regards,
Pundita

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The last American helicopter out of Kabul


General Stanley McChrystal was barely out the door when the Obama administration gave the nod to America's two most influential newspapers that it was time to start telling the truth to the American public about the Afghanistan War.

Thusly, The New York Times mentioned in passing yesterday that Pakistan had been fighting a proxy war against the United States in Afghanistan:
... Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement.

In addition, Afghan officials say, the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership.

Washington has watched with some nervousness as General Kayani and Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Mr. Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a postwar Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset. ...

Despite General McChrystal’s 11 visits to General Kayani in Islamabad in the past year, the Pakistanis have not been altogether forthcoming on details of the conversations in the last two months, making the Pakistani moves even more worrisome for the United States, said an American official involved in the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan deliberations.

“They know this creates a bigger breach between us and Karzai,” the American official said.

Though encouraged by Washington, the thaw heightens the risk that the United States will find itself cut out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis, and one that does not necessarily guarantee Washington’s prime objective in the war: denying Al Qaeda a haven.

It also provides another indication of how Pakistan, ostensibly an American ally, has worked many opposing sides in the war to safeguard its ultimate interest in having an Afghanistan that is pliable and free of the influence of its main strategic obsession, its more powerful neighbor, India.

The Haqqani network has long been Pakistan’s crucial anti-India asset and has remained virtually untouched by Pakistani forces in their redoubt inside Pakistan, in the tribal areas on the Afghan border, even as the Americans have pressed Pakistan for an offensive against it.

General Kayani has resisted the American pleas, saying his troops are too busy fighting the Pakistani Taliban in other parts of the tribal areas.

But there have long been suspicions among Afghan, American and other Western officials that the Pakistanis were holding the Haqqanis in reserve for just such a moment, as a lever to shape the outcome of the war in its favor.

On repeated occasions, Pakistan has used the Haqqani fighters to hit Indian targets inside Afghanistan, according to American intelligence officials. The Haqqanis have also hit American ones, a possible signal from the Pakistanis to the Americans that it is in their interest, too, to embrace a deal. ...
The Washington Post chimed in today:
... The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which have quadrupled the number of civilians in Afghanistan in the past year, are still not confident of civilian capabilities. The Afghan government clearly cannot carry the burden.

So the administration is looking for a decent, negotiated exit. The Pakistani intelligence service would act as a surrogate (and guarantor) for the Taliban, as Slobodan Milosevic did for the Bosnian Serbs 15 years ago. The Americans would deliver Kabul. The deal might leave the Taliban in control of large parts of Afghanistan but keep al-Qaeda in Pakistan, where Islamabad would agree to deal harshly with its fighters.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly enunciated her "red lines" for such an agreement: Taliban renunciation of violence and willingness to abide by the Afghan constitution (which guarantees women equal rights), as well as refusal to allow al-Qaeda or others to operate against the United States. ...
So let's get this straight. Pakistan's military promises to start dealing harshly with their asset al Qaeda if their other asset, the Taliban, were put in charge in Afghanistan.

What Pakistan's generals could offer in return was to allow American personnel to evacuate Kabul safely and cross their hearts and hope to die they wouldn't unleash al Qaeda on the Afghans until after the last American helicopter had left Kabul.

Ironically, before I learned about The New York Times report yesterday, I disagreed with The Glittering Eye's blogger, Dave Schuler, about whether Afghanistan could be considered another Vietnam. That happened while I was visiting Mark Safranski's Zenpundit blog. He'd featured two of my most recent posts on Pakistan and I'd joined the discussion about them at the Zenpundit comment section.

Dave wrote:
You are … get ready for it … refighting Vietnam. Last night on OTB Radio Pat Lang, James Joyner, and I agreed that’s a pretty fair characterization of the last 9 years. With Pat and I having lived through that period (he in harm’s way in Southeast Asia) we both find it pretty darned sad.
I replied:
Dave, IMHO Afghanistan is not Vietnam although I understand the temptation to see it as such. The U.S. was not supporting the Red Chinese and Russian armies and collaborating with them while fighting their proxies in Vietnam, whereas the U.S. is going a long way toward supporting the Pakistani military and collaborating with it while fighting its proxies in Afghanistan.

There are several other key differences but in short Afghanistan is a unique situation for the U.S. military; they won’t be able to fully appreciate this until they confront Pakistan’s role and admit that to leave Afghans in the care of Pakistan’s military would be to set off a humanitarian disaster on a scale the rest of the world would not accept. And in these days of satphones, camera cell phones, and internet social networks there would be no way for the U.S. government to hide the atrocities. That, too, is another difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan.

If Americans throw up their hands and say we can’t afford to stay in Afghanistan forever — it won’t be forever, not with Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth — but let this be a hard lesson that there are consequences to treating entire peoples as chess pawns, which is what Americans did to Afghans during the Cold War. The Pottery Barn rule does apply here, as it did in Iraq.
But another blogger, Lexington Green at Chicago Boyz, said it best:
This isn’t Vietnam because, unlike in Vietnam, we are supporting Diem (Karzai), building ARVN (ANA) and at the same time we are financing and arming the DRV (Pakistan), financing the Vietcong (Taliban), paying for the PAVN (Pakistani Army), and pretending that the country which is providing sanctuary to the VC (Pakistan) is our "ally."

We have been paying for both sides of the same war at the same time, while getting our own people shot on one side of it. If there is a strategic "most stupid" scenario, that may be it. If it were only as bad as Vietnam, it would be progress.

The one thing that was worse about Vietnam was we were sending draftees over there, getting them killed in droves, and pretty much blowing up our own society in the process. If Petraeus cannot restore some sanity, no one can. If he stays on the current course, we will lose, and Pakistan will win, and we will never have acknowledged who our real enemy was.
Well, Americans can be grateful that President Obama decided it was time for everyone to face up to reality. So I guess that means Dave gets the last word.

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Thursday, June 24

Anti-COIN rebellion catches fire with Stanley McChrystal's departure

It might have seemed Mark Safranski spoke to soon when he announced this January that The Post-COIN Era is Here. But with General Stanley McChrystal's departure as the top commander in Afghanistan the disagreements about counterinsurgency and its applications in Afghanistan, which had been largely confined to military/ academic circles and milblogs, have suddenly gone mainstream. Writing for Newsweek today, Michael Hirsh observed:
[T]he counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy that McChrystal championed and Petraeus virtually invented may be fatally flawed, at least as it’s practiced in Afghanistan.
[...]
This grim new reality in Afghanistan in turn has given new life to a kind of insurgency-against-counterinsurgency thinking inside the military. Critics say COIN has gone too far in supplanting traditional war fighting in U.S. military doctrine (this is something of an irony since it wasn’t that long ago that the COIN types were saying that they were being ignored). These dissidents lament the “atrophying” of traditional fighting skills, and they say the COIN virus has infected the Israeli military as well because it has done little but that in years of conducting ops against the Palestinians. The critics are targeting Petraeus and leading COIN thinkers like John Nagl, the president of the Center for a New American Security, which the journalist Tara McKelvey has called “counterinsurgency central in Washington.”
[...]
At the risk of playing the kid in The Emperor's New Clothes, I would point out for the hundredth time that COIN tactics haven't been delivering in Afghanistan because the bulk of the perceived insurgency is a proxy war mounted by Pakistan's military that's cleverly disguised as an insurgency. That's the same playbook Pakistan's military used in Kashmir against India's government.

If critics of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan don't soon differentiate between proxy warfare and insurgency they'll end up throwing the baby out with the bath water. Population-centric COIN worked just fine in Iraq because there was a genuine insurgency there. To ask it to fight a proxy war is asking it to do something it wasn't designed for -- particularly when the enemy is treated as an ally.

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David Petraeus might study Kashmir if he doesn't want to repeat Stanley McChrystal's mistakes in Afghanistan

B. Raman has published an excellent analysis of General Stanley's McChrystal's military success in Iraq and the failure of his approach in Afghanistan. Raman warned that General Petraeus will also meet with failure unless he revises the war plan for Afghanistan. I'd like to add to Raman's observations and recommendations by bringing up Kashmir again.

In my post on Friday I explained that the ISAF commanders were up against a battle plan that was invisible to them. Because of this, they'd mistaken a proxy war launched by Pakistan's military for a Taliban insurgency. I further explained that every detail of Pakistan's proxy war in Afghanistan was copied from the battle plan they used against India in Kashmir.

On Monday the RAND Corporation published a paper titled Counterinsurgency in Pakistan by Seth G. Jones and C. Christine Fair. I don't agree with most of the authors' recommendations. However, I think the section of the paper titled Pakistan's Use of Proxy War, which goes into some detail about Pakistan's Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir, will be instructive in light of Pakistani-sponsored actions against ISAF and the Afghans who resist Taliban rule.

The section begins on page 6, chapter two. Although I don't provide the footnotes I've kept the footnote numbering for ready reference. (The paper can be downloaded for free in PDF at the RAND website. A summary in PDF is also available):
Pakistan’s Use of Proxy Warfare

Most accounts assume that Pakistan first engaged in using militants as a foreign policy tool during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Pakistan, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and others supported seven major mujahideen groups operating in Afghanistan.

“The Mujahedeen could achieve nothing without financial support,” acknowledged Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, who headed the Directorate for Inter-services Intelligence’s (ISI’s) Afghan bureau from 1983 to 1987, and was responsible for the supply, training, and operation planning of the mujahideen.

“Almost half of this money originated from the U.S. taxpayer, with the remainder coming from the Saudi Arabian government or rich Arab individuals.”3

In many standard accounts, Pakistan redeployed these battle-hardened operatives to Kashmir in 1990 when the Soviets formally withdrew from Afghanistan. In fact, Pakistan has relied on nonstate actors to prosecute its foreign policy objectives in Kashmir since its independence in 1947. In that year, the state mobilized lashkars (tribal forces) to seize Kashmir while the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, debated whether to join India or Pakistan.

The Pakistan Army supported the lashkars. Worried about being defeated by the lashkars, the maharaja asked New Delhi for military support. Delhi’s price was accession to India, and the maharaja agreed.

By October 1947, Pakistan’s first foray into asymmetric warfare had precipitated the first Indo-Pakistani conventional military crisis (the 1947–1948 war). That war ended on January 1, 1949, with the establishment of a ceasefire line sponsored by the United Nations, which demarcated which areas were under Pakistani and which were under Indian control. The ceasefire line was converted to a line of control during the Simla Accords, which concluded the end of the Indo-Pakistani 1971 war.4

Following the failed effort to seize Kashmir in 1947, Pakistan supported numerous covert cells within Indian-administered Kashmir, sometimes using operatives based in the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi.

In 1965, Pakistan assessed that a wider indigenous insurgency could be fomented in Indian-administered Kashmir.5 Pakistan’s interest in using proxy war may have increased during the 1950s, when the United States provided insurgency-specific training during the Cold War.6 The United States was an important supplier of military equipment for several reasons, including to help balance against Soviet power in the region. Pakistan’s military also undertook an important doctrinal shift under American influence and tutelage.

As Stephen Cohen noted, Pakistan began intensively studying guerilla warfare during its engagement with the U.S. military. While the United States was interested in suppressing such wars, Pakistan was interested in learning how to launch such wars against India -- or even to develop its own “people’s army” as a second defense against India.7

With American assistance, Pakistan established the Special Services Group in 1956, a special forces unit initially led by Lieutenant Colonel A. O. Mitha that could fight the Soviets should they invade and occupy the country. It was trained to fight a guerrilla war, and Pakistani officers were brought to Fort Bragg and other facilities in the United States.8

Pakistani professional military journals also began exploring “low-intensity conflict,” a concept and vernacular that Pakistanis still use in place of counterinsurgency.

Case studies were written on Yugoslavia, North Vietnam, Algeria, and China. Many of these studies concluded that guerilla warfare could be a “strategic weapon,” a “slow but sure and relatively inexpensive” strategy that was “fast, overshadowing regular warfare.”9

Maoist doctrine in particular was appealing because of Pakistan’s close ties to China and its perceived applicability for Kashmir. Pakistan concluded that the key conditions for a successful guerilla war in Kashmir were in place: a worthy cause, challenging terrain, a resolute and warlike people (referring to Pakistanis),
a sympathetic local population, the ready availability of weapons and equipment, and a “high degree of leadership and discipline to prevent [the guerillas] from degenerating into banditry” unlike what had happened in 1947.10

Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar in 1965, named after Tariq bin Ziad’s conquest of Spain in 711 with 10,000 Moroccans. Pakistan’s military leaders may have been motivated by their study of asymmetric warfare and by U.S. military assistance to India during its 1962 war with China.

In addition, India was relatively weak following its defeat in the 1962 war, and the Pakistani military appeared confident of victory following a 1965 skirmish with India in the Rann of Kutch, along the Indo-Pakistani border. Pakistani planners sought to ensure plausible deniability that regular forces were involved. The bulk of each company of about 120 men comprised razakars and mujahideen.

Recruited from Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir, they were given special training. Officers and a component of men from two paramilitary organizations, the Northern Light Infantry and the Azad Kashmir Rifles, accompanied the irregulars, as did a small number of elite Special Services Group commandos.11

Groups of four to six companies were combined into units commanded by an officer with the rank of a major. Many of the locations where Pakistan trained the irregular fighters were later used to train mujahideen for the Kashmir jihad launched in 1989.12

In total, Pakistan dispatched approximately 30,000 infiltrators during Operation Gibraltar into Indian-administered Kashmir to set up bases, carry out sabotage, and create conditions that would foment a wider indigenous insurrection and facilitate the induction of regular troops into the conflict.

While Operation Gibraltar failed to ignite the desired indigenous rebellion against India, it did succeed in precipitating the second conventional Indo-Pakistani conventional conflict, the 1965 war, which ended in a stalemate.13

In the early 1970s, Pakistan began to provide covert aid to Islamist militant groups in Afghanistan, including those led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Pakistan’s assistance was modest, most likely to minimize punitive action from the Soviet Union, whose military and civilian presence in Afghanistan grew during the 1970s.14

Especially alarming to the Pakistanis was the desire of senior Afghan government officials, including President Daoud Khan, to unite Pashtuns on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.15

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Pakistan’s support to Afghan militants did not commence with the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Some argue that Pakistan was a victim of U.S. exploitation during the Soviet occupation and U.S. abandonment of Pakistan once the Soviets withdrew.16 But Pakistani assistance began at least five years before the Soviet invasion. [...]

Wednesday, June 23

Why General Stanley McChrystal is going straight to hell

(Also see today's post, David Petraeus might study Kashmir if he doesn't want to repeat Stanley McChrystal's mistakes in Afghanistan, which discusses Pakistan's proxy war in Kashmir in light of the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan against ISAF troops.)
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posted by Pundita : 11/21/2009 08:53:00 AM

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pakistan-U.S. relations: Why General Stanley McChrystal is going straight to hell

On or about August 30, 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates received a detailed assessment of the military situation in Afghanistan that included a request for additional U.S. troops. The report was from General Stanley A. McChrystal, Commander, Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan. But as noted on the first page the assessment was a joint effort representing input from ISAF staff and the component commands.

On the matter of Pakistan the report noted:
Afghanistan's insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's lSI.
A year earlier McChrystal's predecessor, General David D. McKiernan, delivered a franker assessment of the same situation. He stated flatly that he was certain there was a "level of ISI complicity" in the militant areas of Pakistan and within organizations like the Taliban.

McKiernan's observation came on the heels of a secret visit by a top CIA official to Islamabad; the visit was to directly confront Pakistan's most senior officials with new data about ties between the ISI and militants operating in Pakistan tribal areas.

It seems the CIA met with the same stonewalling Britain's government encountered in 2006 when they brought virtually the same charges to Pakistan because their next move echoed the one taken by Britain's Ministry of Defense: the CIA leaked news of the trip to a major press outlet -- in their case, The New York Times.

These naive attempts to embarrass a government comprised of terror-masters, dope dealers and professional beggars skilled at wheedling billions in aid out of the West came to nothing, beyond the ISI's decision to outsource more of their oversight of terrorist attacks on NATO troops to front agencies such as the SSG.

And General McKiernan hardly needed to study a classified CIA report to know the score. Over a period of years many intelligence analysts and journalists from India, Pakistan, Europe and the USA, not to leave out Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and his intelligence advisors, have spent years publishing books, churning out reports, and generally doing everything they could think of to impress on Washington that Pakistan is the biggest problem.

However, look at it from Washington's viewpoint. You know how it is when you can't find the keys you lost inside the house: you go outside to search because the light is better out there.

So Washington continues to search high and low for solutions in Afghanistan that don't address the biggest problem there.

Fine. Understood. The United States has been covering Pakistan's ass for 60 years, on one excuse or another. It is a matter of public record that starting in the 1950s the U.S. government knew of A. Q. Khan's activities to sell nuclear weapons technology to any buyer and took no action to roll up his WMD network until 2003; and that the U.S. government helped the ISI sweep Daniel Pearl's murder under the rug.

But you need to draw the line when it comes to cooperating with a government that's ordering the shooting and maiming of your own troops, or you need to face a charge of treason.

The situation of Pakistan-directed attacks on ISAF troops has not been resolved. I believe that to call for more troops under such circumstances is criminally negligent.

General McKiernan might have broken rank or trod on the State Department's turf by publicly speaking about the ISI in blunt terms. Whether this might have added to Gates's displeasure with his performance, I don't know. The reasons given for the very unusual decision to fire a commander of his rank and under such circumstances have never stacked in my eyes.

I will not explore the decision here, beyond asking whether the Department of Defense thought to do a study analyzing the increased attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan in light of any increased ISAF intelligence-sharing with Pakistan's military.

Another question I'd like answered: were any known instances of ISI spying on ISAF movements analyzed in light of the increased attacks during the same period?

From all the accounts I've read, it seems the U.S. government's public response to Pakistan's duplicity tends to echo Pakistan's claim that "rogue" elements of the ISI and military are responsible for any attacks on NATO troops. Such claims would fly in the face of history.

Writing for the January 2, 2008 edition of the Virginia Quarterly Review, Alan Brody gave the clearest summary I've ever come across of the Pakistan-backed rise to power of the Taliban.

Brody, a graduate of Harvard and the University of Iowa, worked for UNICEF for 22 years before his retirement in 2006. In 1993 he was assigned as the planning officer and deputy head of office for UNICEF in Afghanistan to deliver humanitarian aid. The periodic outbreaks of war between factions occupying Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, prevented him from living in the city. He worked from an office across the border, in Peshawar, in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province -- itself a very dangerous a place, a place of "intrigues," as Brody observed. But he commuted to Afghanistan and his position gave him a bird's eye view of the battles for Kabul during that era, which the Pakistan-backed Taliban forces finally won.

Writing elsewhere Brody has observed that the mujahideen groups in Afghanistan during the early 1990s were "bickering and fighting among themselves, with support to these different factions coming from their patrons in Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia."

There were indeed different mujahideen factions, but it was Pakistan's Taliban that finally overran Kabul then took over much of the country until the combined U.S.-U.K. operations in 2001 routed them.

And for those who don't remember it or never knew, the U.S. sponsored evacuation dubbed "Operation Evil Airlift" made it clear that Pakistan -- a vaunted U.S. ally -- was at war with U.S. and U.K. during the 2001 invasion. I've provided the entire Wikipedia article on the operation at the end of this post. If you're new to the story and have relatives serving in Afghanistan, better belt down a stiff drink before you read it.(1)

One may lay the blame for Operation Evil with Vice-President Dick Cheney, and his act could be construed as treasonous if one doesn't know it was par for the Cold War course. But the Cold War is long gone, and Cheney has been gone for office for close to a year. Yet still the U.S. government continues to downplay that Pakistan did not create the Taliban to fight the Soviets; they did it because they saw the U.S.-led effort against the Soviets in Afghanistan as their means to take over the country without running into stiff international punishment.

And the U.S. government continues to mix apples with oranges: there are surely "rogue" elements in Pakistan's military and intelligence agency -- "rogue" meaning Pakistanis who want a Taliban-style government in Pakistan. But the entire Pakistan defense establishment and the civilian government are united in support of their decades-old cold war against India. As part of that war they want to regain the control of Afghanistan they lost because of Operation Enduring Freedom.

I think Islamabad's determination to control their neighbor has only increased with the recent discoveries of vast oil and gas reserves and key industrial/ military-use metal lodes in Afghanistan. With development, Afghanistan's fabulous store of natural resources can make the country one of the richest and even a major world power.

As long as the United States was chiefly preoccupied with Iraq, Pakistan's military was content to allow things to bump along in Afghanistan. But once the United States signaled a serious intention to build up Afghanistan's military and civilian government; once the U.S. began a close cooperation with India's external intelligence service, which provided the U.S. defense establishment with considerable evidence about Pakistan's actions against Kabul and the ISAF; and once it was evident to Islamabad that the CIA was not going to neutralize Hamid Karzai, who had allied his government with India's, the targeting of U.S. forces had to be stepped up.

The ISAF assessment tip-toes around the situation:
Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.
I'd like to know what part of Indian aid is not benefiting the Afghans. And there's no "likely" about it; any doubts that regional tensions are already exacerbated, study the two suicide bombings outside the Indian embassy in Kabul.

No amount of bribing, either from the USA or any other government or agency, is going to change the situation. Pakistan's government will take the bribes -- either in cash, loans, or military equipment -- then continue on as they've done. Why not? They have history to guide their confidence that they can play the WMD blackmail card whenever the NATO countries bring pressure on them. That's what they've been doing since 2001; without a significant change in U.S. policy they'll continue in exactly the same pattern.

Those who assume Pakistan is turning over a new leaf because of several Taliban attacks on the ISI or military facilities need to read B. Raman's crash course on Taliban factions, which he dashed off in May 2009 for Forbes magazine. He wrote in answer to a reader who asked why Taliban attacked the ISI (if the ISI indeed controlled them).

The answer has to do with internal disputes -- with tribes and sub-tribes who're mad at Pakistan's government -- and who're also mad at the USA for helping to prop up the government. (Take special note of Raman's mention of the Lal Masjid massacre.) The tribes in the pay of the ISI who attack ISAF troops are a different story.

Does all this mean there is no actual insurgency in Afghanistan, just a proxy war being fought by Pakistan, and spillovers of tribal rage toward Islamabad? The answer is to first thin the forest of Pakistan's actions in Afghanistan, then see how many trees are left standing.

Things have turned very ominous in recent months because Afghanistan's north, including the region's biggest city, Mazar-e-Sharif, is coming under increasing attack from Taliban, who are bribing unemployed locals to work for them. There is a mystery attached to the situation:
[...] Karzai ... stunned the country in October when he announced that there would be [inquiries] into reports that helicopters had been transporting Taliban fighters to the north, adding that he had known about the action for some time.

It is widely believed that such air transit could only have operated with the knowledge of local and foreign powers who control air traffic. So conspiracy theories blossomed.

People wondered if southern politicians were stirring up the rebellion to undermine their northern rivals, or if international forces were fanning the flames of violence to provide an excuse for staying the country and exploiting its mineral wealth.

The regional head of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, Qazi Same, believes that “invisible hands” may be trying to destabilise the area. But he dismisses as completely illogical the idea that either local or international armed forces are involved,

“They suffer casualties every day. That they try to spread insecurity, logically that’s not believable,” he says. [...]
I agree with Same, but his observations suggest the "invisible hand" belongs to Pakistan. They backed the Taliban's struggle to conquer Mazar-e-Sharif prior to Operation Enduring Freedom. If Taliban had won the city they would have controlled the region, and that would have consolidated Pakistan's hold on the entire country.

If my analysis of the allover situation is correct, it would indicate the U.S. needs a different plan than the stepped-up counterinsurgency operation the ISAF report recommends, or at least a greatly altered plan.

It would also indicate that General McChrystal needs to yell at the top of his lungs, in public if necessary, about a holdover Cold War-era relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan that's getting many U.S. troops killed and injured for no good reason. And wasting billions of U.S. dollars.

There are a few other things the U.S. command could do in the short term to deal more wisely with Pakistan. That would include ditching the uninformed and self-defeating "Afpak" strategy. But I think I've given you enough reading material for one day, so I'll leave further discussion for a subsequent post.

1) Operation Evil Airlift, Wikipedia (See the article for the footnotes.)
The Airlift of Evil refers to the evacuation of thousands of Pakistani military personnel, Afghan sympathizers, and some members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from the city of Kunduz during the week before its capture by the forces of the Northern Alliance during the early days of the War in Afghanistan (2001-present).

The idea that the American military had aided the escape of potentially dangerous individuals was politically contentious, and sparked a debate in the western media. The first reference to the term appeared in a column on msnbc.com. It is generally thought that the airlift was an attempt to avoid destabilizing the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who, although an ally in the War on Terror, had historically supported the Taliban.

In 2008, more details have emerged in Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid:

"One senior (U.S.) intelligence analyst told me, "The request was made by Musharraf to Bush, but Cheney took charge -- a token of who was handling Musharraf at the time. The approval was not shared with anyone at State, including Colin Powell, until well after the event. Musharraf said Pakistan needed to save its dignity and its valued people.

Two planes were involved, which made several sorties a night over several nights. They took off from air bases in Chitral and Gilgit in Pakistan's northern areas, and landed in Kunduz, where the evacuees were waiting on the tarmac.

Certainly hundreds and perhaps as many as one thousand people escaped. Hundreds of ISI officers, Taliban commanders, and foot soldiers belonging to the IMU and al Qaeda personnel boarded the planes.

What was sold as a minor extraction turned into a major air bridge. The frustrated U.S. SOF who watched it from the surrounding high ground dubbed it "Operation Evil Airlift."

Another senior U.S. diplomat told me afterward, "Musharraf fooled us because after we gave approval, the ISI may have run a much bigger operation and got out more people. We just don't know. At the time nobody wanted to hurt Musharraf, and his prestige with the army was at stake. The real question is why Musharraf did not get his men out before. Clearly the ISI was running its own war against the Americans and did not want to leave Afghanistan until the last moment."

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United Nations to evacuate 1,000 employees from Afghanistan due to increased security threats

Quqnoos
Monday, 21 June 2010
The UN will move an estimated 1,000 of its foreign staff to Kuwait, reports say.

The United Nations has announced plans to remove some of its foreign staff from Afghanistan because of increased security threats.

"These employees who will be temporarily sent abroad, can do their work from the remote places where they live," said a spokesman for the UN, Nazifullah Salarzai.

"After an attack on one of the UN guesthouses in Kabul a while ago, the organisation decided to pull out some of its employees from Afghanistan," he added.

A UN report released last week indicated that violence has risen dramatically in Afghanistan in the first four months of this year.

The number of suicide attacks and militants’ clashes has increased by 94 percent compared to the same period of last year.

Hundreds of foreign UN workers were evacuated in November after insurgents attacked a guesthouse in Kabul, killing five of its employees.

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Tuesday, June 22

RAND paper "Counterinsurgency in Pakistan," stuck in carrot-and-stick groove

AP's head's up about the RAND paper prior to its publication gave me hope that a major American think tank was recommending Washington abandon the carrot-and-stick approach to Islamabad. When I read the paper I saw my hope was in vain.

The paper's authors, Seth G. Jones and C. Christine Fair, did a decent job of pointing out some of the militant groups in Pakistan that receive state support. But far from recommending that Washington stop treating Pakistan's military and civilian leaders like recalcitrant donkeys they advised finding tastier carrots and bigger sticks.

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Toward a rational policy on the zombie threat to humanity

It's said everyone has at least one stroke of genius in his or her lifetime; unless Daniel W. Drezner actually is a genius his analysis of how the major U.S. foreign policy schools would deal with a massed attack from the undead is just that.

Writing for Foreign Policy Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School, introduces the theme of his forthcoming book Theories of International Politics and Zombies, with an analysis of how Realpolitik, Liberal, and Neoconservative wonks would tackle the zombie problem.

I don't want to spoil anyone's fun so I hesitate to add that the analysis is educational. The fascination with zombies is no joke; it's a worldwide phenomenon -- something I didn't know until I read Night of the Living Wonks. Yet instead of pooh-poohing those who are never quite happy unless scared half-witless over nothing at all Drezner grabbed at the chance to breathe life, if you'll pardon the expression, into the subject of international relations.

Hilarity is the result -- and a reminder during these dark days that the human race didn't get this far by being a complete idiot. Hat's off to Daniel Drezner's stroke of genius or just plain genius, as the case may be.

Here's the draft table of contents from the book, which will be published December 2010 by Princeton University Press:
INTRODUCTION.... TO THE UNDEAD

THE ZOMBIE LITERATURE

DEFINING A ZOMBIE

DISTRACTING DEBATES ABOUT FLESH-EATING GHOULS

THE REALPOLITIK OF THE LIVING DEAD

REGULATING THE UNDEAD IN A LIBERAL WORLD ORDER

NEOCONSERVATISM AND THE AXIS OF EVIL DEAD

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF ZOMBIES

THE SECOND IMAGE: ARE ALL ZOMBIE POLITICS LOCAL?

BUREAUCRATIC POLITICS: THE "PULLING AND HAULING" OF ZOMBIES

WE'RE ONLY HUMAN: PSYCHOLOGICAL RESPONSES TO THE UNDEAD

CONCLUSION.... OR SO YOU THINK

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Monday, June 21

RAND paper: Washington, grow up and admit Pakistani regime won't stop supporting terrorist groups (UPDATED)

UPDATE June 22, 7:30 AM EDT
It turned out the RAND paper was stuck in the carrot-and-stick groove. Disappointing, although it's still worth reading.
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Meanwhile, countless anti-government riots are breaking out everywhere in Pakistan ....

Last weekend it was Matt Waldman's paper for the Crisis States Research Center at the London School of Economics which concluded that Pakistan's ISI supported Taliban terrorist organizations as a matter of official policy. Now comes a paper from the RAND think tank that harps on the same theme but broadens it to include the entire Pakistani government. According to an AP report filed by Anne Gearan around midnight EDT:
WASHINGTON — Pakistan hasn't quit its habit of courting insurgents, and extremist networks with current or former ties to the government pose a significant risk to the United States and Pakistan's elected government itself, a new study concludes.

A rising number of terrorist plots in the United States with roots in Pakistan stems in part from an unsuccessful strategy by the U.S.-backed government in Pakistan to blunt the influence of militant groups in the country, the report by the RAND Corp. said.

The report, to be issued Monday, says the May 1 failed car bombing in New York's Times Square is an example of how militant groups, some with shadowy government backing, can increasingly export terrorism far beyond the country's borders.

The United States isn't getting its money's worth for all the billions in aid pledged to the strategically located, nuclear-armed nation, the report concludes. The U.S. should withhold some aid until Pakistan makes "discernible progress," authors Seth Jones of RAND and C. Christine Fair of Georgetown University wrote.
[...]
Matt Waldman had somehow arrived at the idea that 'solving' Kashmir would make a tiger change its stripes. From the rest of the AP report it seems the RAND recommendations are more in line with the ones I made in January, which amount to carefully disengaging from Pakistan as much as possible.

The Pakistanis really don't like being treated like donkeys, so the civilian government and military have not responded well to Washington's carrot-and-stick approach. And I suspect President Asif Ali Zardari's view of President Obama is, 'If you're so smart why aren't you rich?'

Zardari is worth $1.8 billion; he's the second richest Pakistani, and that figure is just what he's declared, not what his fortune is actually worth. Now one may argue and many have that no small part of his wealth comes from corrupt deals but in that part of the world how one got the money is nowhere near as important as having it. I think that attitude explains at least in part why whatever Obama and his envoys tell Zardari goes in one ear and out the other.

As to the tactic of putting more pressure on Pakistan's military, which controls the ISI, that strikes me as naive. From a 2008 report titled, Pakistan Tries To Clean Up ISI Image By Shutting Down Political Wing
In his latest book, "Descent Into Chaos," [Ahmed] Rashid argues that the ISI has set up a series of private organizations in order to put more distance into the relationship between its military leadership and extremist fighters. He says the private organizations are staffed by retired ISI officers and funded through the budget of Pakistan's Frontier Corps.
So that's what tough love gets you in Pakistan: more Three Card Monte.

I think the same observation applies to the effort by Washington to refurbish Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau, which has a domestic focus in the manner of Britain's MI5. Writing in April for Rediff, Indian intelligence analyst B. Raman reported:
The US has also been encouraging the demilitarisation of the IB and the process of the restoration of civilian preeminence in the internal intelligence and security setup of Pakistan. It has increased the allocation of funds for the IB and has been helping it in other ways too for making it once again a professional intelligence organisation run by civilians as it used to be before 1971. The US sees in the strengthening of the IB one way of reducing the negative role of the ISI in Pakistan.[...]
There is some urgency, unrelated to the NATO campaign in Afghanistan, for the ISAF and Washington in particular to straighten out their thinking on Pakistan. Of course it would be the leftists at Canada's Global Research who came up with news about Pakistan that's has been kept out of the American press. The country is beginning to resemble China in that countless anti-government riots are breaking out everywhere:
(July 19) “The military is the muscle that protects the ruling elite from the wrath of the people,” says Pakistani political analyst Dr. Mubashir Hassan. “Right now, people are out on the street; blocking roads, attacking railway stations, etc. If you read the papers, it seems as though a general uprising has started all over Pakistan.”

Dr. Hassan says that sporadic outbursts of anger in Pakistan won’t coalesce into a people’s revolution anytime soon. The demonstrators are too disorganized. But, the sheer volume of daily protests shows that many sectors of Pakistani society have pressing needs and priorities that do not include enlistment as foot soldiers in a proxy force for the United States’ War on Terror.

Dr. Hassan, a co-founder of the People’s Party of Pakistan, is a respected scholar and statesman. Last year, when we met with him, he had just returned from a visit, in the U.S., with Professors Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, his contemporaries in seeking to build just and fair social structures. Last month, in Lahore, he spoke with us about U.S. interference in the region and changing dynamics in Pakistan.

A snapshot of unrest in Pakistan offers a framework for outsiders to understand why it is unfair to insist that Pakistan “do more” to fulfill the United States’ vision for fighting extremism. It may also suggest why strong anti-American sentiments prevail, in Pakistan, among the peasantry, the middle class, religious and secular groups, and the highly educated and privileged classes.

Throughout the past several months, demonstrators burned tires nearly every day in the streets of Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore and other population centers as they voiced their opposition to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and it’s insistence on the implementation of a Value Added Tax (VAT) along with a proposed 11.3 billion dollar bailout package.

In a special meeting convened by the Farmers Association of Pakistan, (FAP), participants said that the VAT would “totally kill the farmers and cause irreparable damage to the agriculture sector by making inputs more expensive. This would, in turn, increase the prices of agriculture produce, adding to the miseries of both the farmer and consumer, who are already facing extreme economic depression.”

Ashraf Javed, writing for [Pakistan's] The Nation, reported that economic experts estimated that the IMF and the Pakistani government’s original plan for the VAT would increase the prices of over 122 major categories of items, including food, by at least 15 percent.

These proposed policies led to protests by the All Pakistan Organization of Small Traders and Cottage Industries, the Pakistan Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islami, textile workers, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and even spawned a nationwide mobile phone boycott.

Because of the immense pressure put on the government to reject the VAT, Pakistan decided to postpone implementation of the tax from July to October. The government, under the leadership of the People’s Party of Pakistan, has also come up with plans to incorporate many of the IMF’s demands for the VAT into the General Sales Tax (GST), which already sits at about 16 percent.

In response, the IMF has threatened to freeze future disbursements coming to Pakistan if the VAT is not implemented by July 1st along with a “power tariff,” or 6 percent increase in electricity rates.

As the IMF and World Bank are insisting on a 6 percent hike in electricity rates, there has been nationwide upheaval over increased “load shedding,” the term for scheduled power outages in Pakistan, which sometimes last for 10-12 hours per day. Protests against the power cuts, often quite militant, have consistently erupted in major cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. Demonstrators in other provinces and cities including Hyderabad, Multan, Quetta, Bahawalnagar, Sukkur, Badin, Mirpur Khas, Larkana, Thatta and Ghotki, Dera Ismail Khan, Hangu, Kurk, Swat and Muzaffarabad have also registered their outrage.

Textile mills, manufacturers, the agricultural sector and traders are among the hardest hit by load shedding which limits the hours of operation, disrupting production and interfering with worker schedules. Protesters have created roadblocks, burned tires, gone on strike and organized massive sit-ins.

In Punjab, Pakistan’s most densely populated province, the Tenants Association of Punjab, (AMP), demands “Ownership or Death.” Involving 1 million landless tenants, based in villages stretching over 15 districts, AMP is one of Pakistan’s largest political movements. For ten years, the AMP has struggled to secure ownership rights for poor families that have tilled their land for over four generations. [...]
If the IMF carries through with its threat, you could see another 'Burma' because in Karachi, the country's largest city, the poor already have their backs to the wall. Because of the 'water mafia,' they're forced to pay exorbitant amounts for water. From Alex Rodriguez's heartbreaking report for the Los Angeles Times titled, Karachi 'water mafia' leaves Pakistanis parched and broke:
Corrupt politicians allow businessmen to siphon off as much as 41% of the city's water supply and turn around and sell it at exorbitant rates to residents, generating an estimated $43 million a year. [Pundita note: for context, $1 = about 85 Pakistani rupees]

(KARACHI) Name a cash cow in this sprawling city of ragged slums and glass-walled office buildings and it's almost certain there's an organized crime syndicate behind it. The illegal operations, routinely referred to as mafias, are everywhere. There's a land mafia that commandeers prime real estate, a sugar mafia that conspires to control sugar prices, and even a railway mafia that forges train tickets and pilfers locomotive parts.

For those on the city's bottom rung, however, the underworld entity they revile the most is the water tanker mafia, a network of trucking firms that teams up with corrupt bureaucrats to turn water into liquid gold worth tens of millions of dollars each year.

The water tanker mafia's prey can be found in slums like Karachi's Gulshan-Sikanderabad neighborhood, where every morning people buy water from the tankers, lug the plastic jugs back to their homes on wooden carts, then come back three or four more times in the afternoon and evening to buy more.

A family that makes $100 a month can spend as much as a quarter of that on water, which, elsewhere in Pakistan, costs pennies and flows out of household taps.

Water scarcity isn't the cause. Karachi has a steady water supply, and it has the network of pipes to pump ample water into every neighborhood, rich and poor.

But Karachi is also a city of opportunists forever on the prowl for under-the-table wealth. As municipal officials look the other way, businessmen illegally tap water mains, and use the makeshift hydrants to supply fleets of tankers that then sell water to businesses, factories and neighborhoods at inflated prices. As many as 272 million gallons a day are siphoned off by the trucks.[...]
Unlike the way Burmese see their military, the vast majority (around 86 percent) of Pakistanis greatly admire their military. But if the military has to quell riots by millions of desperate people, the respect would vanish very quickly.

The Burma protests were touched off because Burma's junta, following IMF orders, jacked up the price of fuel more than 100 percent; like falling dominoes that skyrocketed the cost of food and transportation. People were starving and they couldn't afford the increased fares for buses, etc. to get to work The street protests that followed ended in a military crackdown that set off a bloodbath.

However, the junta did not depend on Western largesse for support so they could afford to shrug off world opinion. That wouldn't be the case for Pakistan's military, which could find itself in a vise.

The authors of the Global Research report (Josh Brollier and Kathy Kelly) observed:
With 60 million people living in poverty and many more living just above the poverty line, the people of Pakistan have priorities that do not include acting as a proxy to fight U.S. wars against purported terrorists.

For many people, including those like Muhammad Akbar, a desperate rickshaw driver who committed suicide on Wednesday due to prolonged financial hardships, these priorities may be simply to put food on the table and to provide for their families. [...] People in the United States wishing to show solidarity with Pakistanis struggling to make ends meet should try to dialogue with Pakistani-led grassroots movements.[...]
The United States government has been doing just the opposite: funneling aid to government administrations in Pakistan that are corrupt when they're not being wasteful. The U.S. did it again this weekend:
ISLAMABAD, Jun 19 (Associated Press Pakistan)

United States on Saturday announced to increase humanitarian assistance for affected areas in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas(FATA). Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan pledged an additional $11.1 million in humanitarian assistance for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

According to US embassy, out of the total pledge, $4 million will be directed through the World Health Organization for provision of life-saving health services [...]
The United States has contributed $173.9 million in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in 2010.
And yet the more aid Washington gives to Pakistan, the more U.S. intentions are met with suspicion and hatred. It's gotten to the point where Pakistanis are blaming everything wrong in their country on the USA. That's a tinder-box situation, which could explode this summer under severe economic pressures.

Meanwhile, the United States has a war to fight. The RAND paper is arriving on the heels of five pieces of bad news from last week:

1. June 15
Militant Group Expands Attacks in Afghanistan

By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A Pakistani-based militant group identified with attacks on Indian targets has expanded its operations in Afghanistan, inflicting casualties on Afghans and Indians alike, setting up training camps, and adding new volatility to relations between India and Pakistan.

The group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is believed to have planned or executed three major attacks against Indian government employees and private workers in Afghanistan in recent months, according to Afghan and international intelligence officers and diplomats here. It continues to track Indian development workers and others for possible attack, they said.

Lashkar was behind the synchronized attacks on several civilian targets in Mumbai, India, in 2008, in which at least 163 people were killed. Its inroads in Afghanistan provide a fresh indication of its growing ambitions to confront India even beyond the disputed territory of Kashmir, for which Pakistan’s military and intelligence services created the group as a proxy force decades ago.

Officially, Pakistan says it no longer supports or finances the group. But Lashkar’s expanded activities in Afghanistan, particularly against Indian targets, prompt suspicions that it has become one of Pakistan’s proxies to counteract India’s influence in the country.

They provide yet another indicator of the extent to which Pakistani militants are working to shape the outcome of the Afghan war as the July 2011 deadline approaches to begin withdrawing American troops.
[...]
2. June 16
Pakistan funds Lashkar-e-Taiba in Punjab

By Bill Roggio, Long War Journal

Here is an excellent reason why upping Pakistan's aid from about $500 million a year to $1.5 billion a year was and still is a terrible idea. Last year, the provincial government of Punjab handed over $951,000 to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the thinly veiled front group for Hafiz Saeed's Lashkar-e-Taiba. This is the same group that launched the Mumbai assault in November 2008 and has participated in numerous raids against US forces in eastern Afghanistan. [...]
Note the financial backing for the LeT front organization is not coming from the ISI.

3. June 16
U.S. showed Pakistan evidence on militant faction

(Reuters) - The United States has presented evidence to Pakistan about the growing threat and reach of a militant faction which Washington suspects has ties to Pakistani intelligence, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
World

In the presentations, U.S. military leaders provided Pakistan's army chief with information detailing the role of the Haqqani network in a string of increasingly brazen bombings, including one last month targeting the main NATO air base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Washington has long pressed Islamabad to crack down on the Haqqanis in the North Waziristan tribal zone bordering Afghanistan, who are closely aligned with the Taliban, but U.S. officials acknowledge it is a hard sell because of resistance within Pakistani intelligence.

General David Petraeus, who oversees the Afghan war as head of U.S. Central Command, told a congressional hearing the Haqqanis had "transnational" ambitions, suggesting they could try to strike beyond Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Washington has issued similar warnings about the growing reach of the Pakistani Taliban, which investigators blame for a botched May 1 car bomb in New York's Time Square.

There are strategic reasons for Pakistan's hesitancy to attack the Haqqanis, a faction which some in Islamabad see as a strategic asset that will give them influence in any eventual settlement to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
[...]
4. News that the Pakistani-American Times Square Bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was paid $12,000 by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) to carry out the plot. India's Hindustan Times noted archly:
It is worth mentioning here that the US officials and analysts had initially brushed off the TTP's claim of a connection to the May 1 botched terror attempt, as it did not consider it a 'trans-national group', however, the growing evidence showcased the lengthening reach of Pakistan-based militants.
5. In public, at least, General David Petraeus hedged about the findings of the LSE paper. June 20, Sify:
[...] Speaking during a congressional hearing earlier this week, General David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander overseeing America's war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he doesn't approve the conclusion of the LSE's report "in all respects".

"Well, first of all, I don't want to imply that I would accept the London School of Economics study or the individual who wrote that for them, his conclusions in all respects," General Petraeus said.

The LSE's report had claimed that supporting the Afghan Taliban was the "official policy" of the ISI.

Although General Petraeus acknowledged that "some of those ties continue in various forms", he said that such links were useful too.

"Some of them, by the way, gathering intelligence ... you have to have contact with bad guys to get intelligence on bad guys. And so it's very important, I think, again, to try to have this kind of nuance feel for what is really going on," The Dawn quoted General Petraeus, as saying.

"I do believe that the Pakistanis - the people, the leaders, the clerics, and the military - all recognise that you cannot allow poisonous snakes to have a nest in your backyard. Even if the tacit agreement is that they're going to bite the neighbour's kids instead of yours, eventually they turn around and bite you and your kids," he added.

According to the LSE's report, which is said to be based on interviews with nine Afghan Taliban commanders, the ISI is providing funds, training and sanctuary to the Taliban on a scale much larger than previously thought. [...]

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Friday, June 18

Sahib Sebastian Gorka instructs John Batchelor's WABC radio audience on Afghanistan and irregular warfare

On June 11 Sebastian Gorka made his second appearance on John Batchelor's nationally syndicated radio show on 77 WABC-AM. According to attenuated résumés posted at websites for three of the many organizations Gorka is associated with (The Atlantic Council, College of International Affairs, and Foundation for Defense of Democracies -- all based in Washington) he is an internationally recognized expert on defense reform, international terrorism, national security, and democratization.

Gorka first discussed irregular warfare, which he termed war conducted by non-state actors, and how it differed from Clausewitzian war theory, which is based on the Westphalian concept of the nation state and its attendant view of sovereignty and the mating habits of pandas; just checking, you need to stay awake for this.

I raise an eyebrow at Gorka's definition of irregular warfare; although the term is used in the way he described it, a glance through this Wikipedia article on Irregular warfare indicates that the more generally accepted term is that it's a standing military's use of forces that are not 'regular.' (Think a military's covert operations, etc.) However, I'm going to let that pass because there are so many terms now in use to denote the kind of warfare conducted by non-state actors that it's getting into the weeds to attempt to nail down precise terminology.

Batchelor asked Gorka to apply his explanation about irregular warfare to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and to dealing with types Batchelor called a "mixture of tribal logic and medieval rivalry" ranged along the Afghanistan border with Pakistan.

Below are my notes on Gorka's lecture and my replies; his remarks are shown in boldface. I've numbered his remarks for reference although the numbers don't necessarily reflect the order of his remarks. You might want to listen to the WABC podcast of the interview and peruse Gorka's résumé before proceeding.

1. Gorka: We have to see there's a gulf between understanding war in the Westphalian sense of war between states and this kind of warfare, irregular -- when it's not a state you're fighting but armed bands.

Pundita: The tribal bumpkins replete with beards and baggy pants are theater. They're a carefully constructed illusion meant to mask and implement a battle plan that was faithfully copied from the Pakistan military's irregular war against India's government in Indian Kashmir.

Every detail of the Afghanistan battle plan and its rationale is found in accounts of the Kashmir 'insurgency.' The detail is the very same at every single level -- right down to the recent assassinations of key government officials in Kandahar.

There are numerous books available on the topic but those who know nothing about Pakistan's proxy war in Indian Kashmir can read Rajeev Srinivasan's 2002 two-part article for Rediff. Here is Part I and Part II. The article is not a history of the Kashmir insurgency but it will put readers in the ballpark about what's really been going on in Afghanistan. And while Srinivasan freely admits he stretches a point by arguing that Kashmir "colonized" the rest of India, he uses the stretch to good effect.

2. Gorka: We talk about cooperation (between the U.S. and Afghanistan) but do we have a functioning state to deal with when Kabul does not exercise its power across the putative nation-state of Afghanistan?

Pundita: You remember President Hamid Karzai, eh? He's the fellow who was driven mad trying to understand how Washington thinks. For years he was under the impression that because NATO was occupying his country and all, it was their job to exercise power across his putative nation state.

When he learned otherwise he blurted, 'But I'm not Genghis Khan.' When the reply cabled back, 'Better learn how to be,' he began talking to himself. When last seen he was weaving baskets and stringing beads for therapy.

3. Gorka: We're dealing with a populace that doesn't necessarily think of itself as Afghan but rather thinks in terms of tribal affiliation.

Pundita: A survey taken a few years ago found that 70 percent of Afghans identified first with their nation and second with their ethnic heritage.

The majority of the other 30 percent, I maintain, would also see themselves as Afghans first if not for Pakistan's machinations in the country, which were supported by the United States of America during the Cold War, and which continue to this day.

While it's true that the British demarcated Pakistan and Afghanistan territories in such way that there are Pashtuns who can "lunch in Pakistan and go to the loo in Afghanistan," as one analyst put it, most of Afghanistan's Pashtuns intelligently prefer to be Afghans rather than a mouse that roared.

Reference the Pakistan regime's transparent attempt to sow yet more trouble among Afghanistan's Pasthuns by rushing through (this April) the renaming of NWFP (Northwest Frontier Province to "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa."

As to the 'Pashtun majority' in Afghanistan, which feeds into the Fox News Cable-CNN view of Afghans as AK-47 toting warlords, the majority is deceptive.

Yes, the Pashtuns are in the majority, but by such a slim margin over the Tajiks that one can fairly say Afghanistan's present ethnic demographic makeup has much in common with Canada at its founding. The French and British were the majority ethnic groups in Canada, with the indigenous or 'natives' a significant minority.

The big difference is that while there are ethnic minorities in Afghanistan, the two majority groups have more in common linguistically and in their heritage than the British and French. The Pashtuns and Tajiks are Iranic peoples and Dari (a dialect of 'Persian' or Farsi), is the lingua franca of the country. The 2009 CIA World Factbook estimates that over 50% of people in Afghanistan speak in Dari as their first language but only 35% of the population speak Pashto as their first language.

In any event Pashto, the language of the Pastuns, is also derived from the Iranic linguistic tree.

4. Gorka: The Westphalian order has failed in Afghanistan because a key aspect of sovereignty is the ability of the nation-state to defend its borders and Afghanistan has been unable to do this.

Pundita: Reference my reply to #2.

5. Gorka: We still haven't established what we want to achieve in Afghanistan. First we wanted to rout al Qaeda and now we want to create a functioning Westphalian state in Central Asia where there has never been one. America has to define concrete objectives in Afghanistan and we still haven't done so.

(Gorka was clearly including Afghanistan in Central Asia even though the country is also considered to be located in South-Central Asia.)

General David Petraeus was carrying out a plan in Iraq that was a straightforward version of what's called 'population-centric' counterinsurgency tactics -- which, because there was no functioning central government to speak of at the time in Iraq, skirted Baghdad and worked directly with provincial leaders.

That's what McChrystal has been trying to replicate in Afghanistan -- although there could be a conflict in goals between the United Nations, other ISAF commands and their respective governments, and possibly factions at the U.S. Department of State. There are an awful lot of chefs in the kitchen and maybe too few line cooks.

However, the biggest problem has been that they're up against a battle plan that's invisible to them. ISAF has been on the defensive in a proxy war it's confused with an insurgency. Reference #1.

6. Gorka: We're not fighting a military band with superior fighting power but a global ideology that is not constrained by rational cost-benefit analysis, and there is no limit to the [human] resources that can be deployed against us by followers of the ideology.

Pundita: The Pakistani military is solely guided by rational cost-benefit analysis. Yes there are hare-brains hopping around Afghanistan shooting people and themselves in foot in the name of ideology. But first thin the forest, then see how many of those ideologues are left.

6. When John asked Gorka whether he thought General McChrystal had learned the lessons of Afghanistan, Gorka hedged so much it's likely he was reluctant to criticize McChrystal in public. But Gorka did say that the irregular war McChrystal was being asked to fight in Afghanistan wasn't the war he was trained for. He also said that McChrystal had to answer to his masters in Washington.

As readers of this blog know I've had my issues with General Stan regarding his prosecution of the Afghanistan campaign. But I hope Gorka knows that Stanley McChrystal is a master of irregular warfare and a card-carrying COINdinista.

In summary, Sebastian Gorka is out of his depth when he talks about Afghanistan.

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