A Few Links On Afghanistan & AfPak

Via Soundcloud, throwing some ideas out there:  Stefan Molyneux talks with Erik Prince about strategy in Afghanistan (~25:00 min). Prince has self-interest in highlighting the bloat and waste once the Pentagon gets involved, but you know, once any organization get as big as the Pentagon (inviting policies of inclusiveness and equality and diversity, potentially above mission), then there’s bound to be a lot of waste.

My basic takeaway:  Underlying American strategic objectives can and should be met with sleeker design: This would include targeted training of Afghan Army batallions and more counter-insurgency targeting of the kinds of people flowing back and forth over the Pakistani border.

Privatization, basically, means paying people with skills to do the dirty work.

As Prince points out, if coalition forces withdraw entirely, the Taliban could likely take control within a year, and remnants of IS, Al Qaeda and militant terrorist and nuke-seeking types could easily find safe-haven, battling for power amongst themselves in a mostly lawless region, posing serious risk to American and Western security once again.

**Strategically, East Asia and Eurasia seem to be gaining greater importance.

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It’s almost like there’s a war of sorts going on:

As posted:

Robert Kaplan makes the argument that geography and history are destiny in Pakistan’s case:

‘Pakistan encompasses the frontier of the subcontinent, a region that even the British were unable to incorporate into their bureaucracy, running it instead as a military fiefdom, making deals with the tribes. Thus, Pakistan did not inherit the stabilizing civilian institutions that India did. Winston Churchill’s first book as a young man, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, wonderfully captures the challenges facing colonial border troops in British India. As the young author then concluded, the only way to function in this part of the world is through “a system of gradual advance, of political intrigue among the tribes, of subsidies and small expeditions.’

and:

‘The term AfPak itself, popularized by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke, indicates two failed states — otherwise, they would share a strong border and would not have to be conjoined in one word. Let me provide the real meaning of AfPak, as defined by geography and history: It is a rump Islamic greater Punjab — the tip of the demographic spear of the Indian subcontinent toward which all trade routes between southern Central Asia and the Indus Valley are drawn — exerting its power over Pashtunistan and Baluchistan, just as Punjab has since time immemorial.’

Related On This Site:  18 million people and growing: Via Youtube Via Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘VICE Guide To Karachi’

Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Pauline Baker At The American Interest: ‘Unraveling Afghanistan’

A Wednesday Link On Afghanistan

Via Mick Hartley-Terry Glavin at The Ottawa Citizen: ‘Admit it. We’ve Lost Afghanistan:’

I can’t say I really agree, but am open to argument  (I don’t believe U.S. soldiers have died in vain, either). The logic keeping coalition forces in Afpak is pretty simple:

Because it’s so unstable, Afghanistan is a haven for all networks of ruthless, unscrupulous Islamist and terrorist organizations aiming to target citizens in Western countries, and Western leaders can’t risk that happening:

Of course, it’s a mess, and it appears a worsening mess:

‘Like every Afghan leader over the past two centuries, Ghani is a Pashtun – the ethnic bloc that has produced everything from enlightened monarchs and quick-witted statesmen to the murderous pro-Soviet thug regime of the late 1970s to the leadership of the Taliban and its allied Haqqani network in Pakistan’

Many parts of the world are truly lawless, but increasingly connected: It’s important to remember there’s a world black market full of shady, unscrupulous people, sometimes in control of States, that peddle nuclear technology and Afghanistan often serves as the market bazaar:

‘In recent weeks, Taliban commanders have confirmed that Tehran is boosting its supply of funding and weaponry to the Taliban leadership, and that some of those arms shipments originate in Russia.’

Ah, that delightful post-1979 crowd in Iran may simply have been emboldened to keep oppressing many of its people and to keep advancing its aims with questionable and limited gains for the West (the community of nations may have in fact, less leverage than the coalition in Afghanistan).

Here’s a documentary on the Green Berets passed along by a reader, which has good footage of what American special forces are being asked to do in Afghanistan: The fierce fighting. The tribal, poor and divided loyalties of what come to be Afghan forces. The thuggish tactics of the Taliban:

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Related On This Site: From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Repost-David Rohde At The NY Times: ‘Inside The Islamic Emirate’

I was just looking over the archives…worth another look after 7 years?:

Full article here.  (The second in a series)

Rohde was the NY Times reporter kidnapped for months inside Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He is writing a series of articles about his experiences.  Let this be a lesson to young journalists…risking your life can be worth it…

Also On This Site:  Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”

-Really?  You don’t say? I Was an ISIS Jihadist-Until They Arrested And Tortured Me

Which map are you using to understand this conflict:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Ayan Hirsi Ali has used the ideals of the West (especially women’s rights) to potentially confront Islam; which has served her politically as well:  Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Is Islam incompatibile with freedom as we define it here in the West, or is this a false choice?:  From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

A tense relationship: Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Christopher Hitchens At Vanity Fair: ‘From Abbotabad To Worse’Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”And: Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

More Or Less On The Bergdahl Trade-Some Links

Folks at Blackfive are keeping an eye on things, but it’s still early on:

‘As someone who worked the Sgt Bergdahl issue for 4 years, I have a long, sordid history with this issue. And I WAS going to come out on the topic this week- I had mentioned to several people that I wanted to post up about it. But I’ve been advised not to, by some people who understand the ‘why’.’

The issue has gotten quite political now, largely due to that strange Rose Garden press conference where we got to see some of how the sausage is made. Like Benghazi, the Bergdhal affair offers a lot to be concerned about, but it’s also partially become a proxy to argue larger political and policy directions, and dissatisfaction with this President’s commitments (closing Guantanamo, offering a timeline and negotiations for AfPak withdrawal etc., dealing with bad people for questionable gains).

Many gatherers around similar ideals are trying to protect the President and their commitments, while many opponents are on the attack.

From a linked-to piece by Brad Thor:

‘It is important to note that the Haqqanis are not the same thing as the Afghan Taliban. The two are different groups…The Haqqanis are a heavily criminal enterprise sowing and feeding off of the chaos in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region. Envision Al Qaeda crossed with the Sopranos and you begin to get the picture of what these thugs are like.’

Dexter Filkins at the New Yorker takes a look at the Haqqani-ISI (Pakistani Intelligence) connection. I recall that even as Pervez Musharraf signed on the partnership in the War on Terror, he was playing us on both ends, partly because of the political realities of Pakistan.  You can’t ask a leader to be too far ahead of his people.

Bergdahl was probably hustled over into Pakistan through the Haqqanis:

Given the close connections that the I.S.I. maintains with the network, it seems inconceivable that the organization wasn’t well aware of Bergdahl’s condition, status, and whereabouts. Did the I.S.I. try, over the years, to free him? We don’t know. Could Pakistani intelligence officials have done more to help him? Did they do nothing? Likewise, we don’t know. Were they involved, and perhaps even instrumental in, gaining his final release? We don’t know. But, given the amount of American money that flows into Pakistan, we’re entitled to ask.’

Lots of questions in the air…

Robert Tracinski At The Federalist: ‘With Bergdahl Trade, Obama Stops Going Through the Motions’

Full piece here.

‘That’s the pattern we’re now seeing. Obama has stopped going through the motions of caring what happens in Afghanistan. Before his term is over, he wants us out of Afghanistan, he wants terrorist detainees out of our custody, he wants to wash his hands of the last vestiges of American intervention overseas.

This is his declaration that he’s just not interested in the War on Terrorism any more. Unfortunately, I suspect we’re going to find in the years to come that the war is still interested in us’

It’s tough to imagine how the Haqqani network and the Taliban are people we can do business with. They’re generally Islamic purists and reactionaries who’ve treated th[eir] own people badly enough. In taking territory, they often kidnap and kill civilians who get in the way, clearing out villages and halting all economic activity during the fighting. When in charge they are usually brutal (unsurprising in a land run previously by tribal and ethnic warlords).

So why are our troops there? Well, even though we supported some of these same guys during the Russian invasion, the Taliban most recently ran Afghanistan from 1996-2001 and still run parts of the tribal, non-government controlled Pakistani border regions (Pakistan is a big draw for terrorist activity all around). They have their own local concerns and ambitions, but acting as Islamic guerrilla fighters, they were natural allies to bin Laden and Al Qaeda leadership whom they harbored; that pan-Arab group of Islamist radicals and guerrilla fighters with global ambitions and briefly, terrible reach.

We have objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they are mainly are to ensure there aren’t further attacks on our soil, nor that this area again becomes a place that harbors the kinds of people who can pose a direct security threat to make attacks on our soil or interests. More broadly, they can threaten not only us, but the West and beyond, and arguably even global stability and order. There are pockets of sympathetic groups throughout the Muslim world, and some even living in the West. But this is the region where pound for pound, it’s most likely you’ll find folks like A.Q. Khan running around, people with nuclear know-how and perhaps the willingness to use it so that it might fall into questionable hands.

This blog welcomes any criticism, or new thinking as how to best address these objectives, and protect our interests, and maybe even redefine or challenge those objectives and interests.

Simply aiming to close Guantanamo Bay where many enemy combatants are being held, or expecting to withdraw troops and announce the end of the conflict in Afghanistan with political timing in mind strikes this blog as naively optimistic, and quite possibly very dangerous without proper consideration of those objectives.Let me know what I’ve got wrong.  I don’t know what I don’t know, and I’m trying to figure out what I do know.

There’s Susan Rice again, staying on message.

At what cost?

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Related On This Site:  From Michael Yon: ‘General Petraeus Letter’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

A Few Thoughts On The FATA Region Of PakistanFrom The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

Related On This Site:  18 million people and growing: Via Youtube Via Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘VICE Guide To Karachi’

Pauline Baker At The American Interest: ‘Unraveling Afghanistan’

Full piece here.

‘Many Americans think that President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw most if not all U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of this year will end the U.S. role in that country’s travails. To the extent they think about Afghanistan at all, most Americans seem to assume that when the last combat soldier has departed from what has been the longest war in American history, the United States (and its International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] allies) can close the book on Afghanistan with a mixed record of accomplishment.’

Have we met our objective?

From accounts I’ve heard, what doesn’t often reach the American public is how fierce the fighting in Afghanistan can be, how much we’ve asked of our troops in fulfilling such a broad mission, and how we still haven’t reached our objective, which is to prevent further attacks on our soil.

Corruption runs rampant, illiteracy remains high, and decades of war have ruined the infrastructure.  Under such conditions, and with so many different ethnic and linguistic groups, it’s tough to provide basic security and incentivize the good in people, allowing interested local village elders, farmers and decent folks have a shot at stability. Afghanistan was most recently headed by a thuggish gang of religious purists, warlords and opium-traffickers, and may well soon be again.

Many of these guys, whose ancestors likely fought against the British, and a few elders who fought against the Soviets, are now aiding or abetting the enemy, and/or are fighting our troops. It’s their backyard, after all, but it’d be much better not to have these local and tribal grievances become the fuel for an international fire, and the opening for the Taliban to fill back in. If so, this opens the door to the global ambitions of Islamist franchises like Al Qaeda once again.

Which means we could be right back where we started.

Interestingly, the concerns of Western secular humanists and global peace-workers actually line-up pretty well with traditional, conservative, pro-military supporters:  We’ve got to keep thinking about solutions and a larger strategy when it comes to this region.

It’s not really over, even though this is the longest war we’ve ever had:

Vice had some coverage:

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From Walter Russell Mead: ‘Hastily Leaving Afghanistan Won’t Encourage Taliban To Make Concessions:’

‘And there are still lots of countries in the region that don’t want Afghanistan to fall under Taliban rule again: Iran, Russia, China, and India all think this would be a terrible outcome. We shouldn’t assume that Mullah Omar is going to get everything he wants’

Sarah Chayes’ Essay From 03/01/2007:  ‘Days Of Lies & Roses

Canadian documentarian Louie Palu covered the Kandahar region of southwest Afghanistan, where much of the fiercest fighting has occurred, and where the British, Soviets and coalition forces have fought.

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Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Reflections on Political Violence’

Full piece here.

On the murderer of Salman Taseer in Pakistan:

“As “a slave of the Prophet,” he had the natural right to murder Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, not even for committing “blasphemy” but for criticizing a law that forbade it for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. And this sweeping new extension of the divine right to murder not only was not condemned by the country’s spiritual authorities; it was largely approved by them.”

At least Hitchens has the courage to stand up for his ideals where they conflict with the Muslim world, and try and define them.  This fault-line will be at work for some time.

Also On This Site:  …Alvaro Vargas Llosa At Real Clear Politics: “Pakistan’s Crooked Roots”From Foreign Policy: ‘Taseer’s Murder Another Sign Of The Dysfunctional Pakistani State’

From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’

A former Marxist materialist and still quite anti-religious:  Via Youtube: “UC Television-Conversations With History: Christopher Hitchens”

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’ From Foreign Policy: ‘Germany’s Age Of Anxiety’

Alvaro Vargas Llosa At Real Clear Politics: “Pakistan’s Crooked Roots”

Full post here.

Our author suggests:

Pakistan’s original sin — the reason for its instability, its dysfunctional politics, and the penetration of its state and society by religious fanaticism — was the brutal influence of military rule in that republic’s short life. And it still is.”

Related On This Site:  From Michael Yon: ‘General Petraeus Letter’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Greg Mortenson On Charlie Rose: Afghanistan And PakistanFrom Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkA Few Thoughts On The FATA Region Of PakistanFrom The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa (Alvaro’s father) won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Robert Kaplan At Foreign Policy: ‘What’s Wrong With Pakistan?’

Full piece here.

Kaplan makes the argument that geography and history are destiny in Pakistan’s case:

‘Pakistan encompasses the frontier of the subcontinent, a region that even the British were unable to incorporate into their bureaucracy, running it instead as a military fiefdom, making deals with the tribes. Thus, Pakistan did not inherit the stabilizing civilian institutions that India did. Winston Churchill’s first book as a young man, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, wonderfully captures the challenges facing colonial border troops in British India. As the young author then concluded, the only way to function in this part of the world is through “a system of gradual advance, of political intrigue among the tribes, of subsidies and small expeditions.’

and:

‘The term AfPak itself, popularized by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke, indicates two failed states — otherwise, they would share a strong border and would not have to be conjoined in one word. Let me provide the real meaning of AfPak, as defined by geography and history: It is a rump Islamic greater Punjab — the tip of the demographic spear of the Indian subcontinent toward which all trade routes between southern Central Asia and the Indus Valley are drawn — exerting its power over Pashtunistan and Baluchistan, just as Punjab has since time immemorial.’

Related On This Site:  18 million people and growing: Via Youtube Via Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘VICE Guide To Karachi’

Via Youtube Via Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘VICE Guide To Karachi’

Michael Totten post here.

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What’s life like in a slum in Karachi?  Crime bosses provide basic social services and protection for residents and become populist figures, earning the love and fear of the people.  The bosses then buy off the police.  The corruption is deep,  the makers of the film courageous, and perhaps a little nuts.  The PPP doesn’t necessarily have control. Good film. Perhaps, what the Karachi government is to the Liyari slum, the Federal government is to the FATA region.

Related On This Site:   From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And Pakistan…A tense relationship: Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Christopher Hitchens At Vanity Fair: ‘From Abbotabad To Worse’Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

Is the creation of a powerful state (police, law, courts) a necessary step to overcome this basic corruption?  If so, is it a matter of timing…and here in the U.S. (Chicago, New York especially) won’t there always remain corruption?  Fukuyama’s analysis is deep, but what are the limits of the modern liberal State?:  Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest-’The Two Europes’

Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have plans for America and India to address some of the corruption there, and it may involve much more state involvement here in America by extension.  Can you see life, liberty and property from here?:  Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis

From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

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