“An Existential Crisis” de Borchgrave

De_borchgrave "Alarm bells suddenly went off in government offices from Washington to Ottawa to London to The Hague when Pakistan’s newly minted democratic government, after almost nine years of military rule, suddenly closed the border to all NATO resupply traffic to Afghanistan.

NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan are resupplied by endless convoys of trucks that snake over 1,200 miles from Karachi on the Arabian Sea to Peshawar and the Khyber Pass to reach Kabul and points north and east, and more than 600 miles for the more direct route through Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, and Chaman on the border to reach Kandahar and points south and west in Afghanistan. Oil, food, heavy equipment, hospital supplies, all are trucked at a cost of $1 million a day in Pakistani road tolls. "

de Borchgrave


In the Washington Post today, Fred Hiatt, the neocon editor of the Post’s editorial page is busy trying to make a case for the unique brilliance of the "surge."  I suppose that is an effort to counteract Woodward’s latest book "The War Within" and Gellman’s expose of Cheney’s efforts to destroy the Constitution of the United States.  Both of those were serialized in the Post.  Hiatt must feel a bit put upon some days.  No matter.  He manages to pack the editorial page of the Post with his neocon brethren, Dennis Ross, Dr. Krauthammer, etc.

Meanwhile, Arnaud de Borchgrave, a man who served in the invasion of Normandy and who stood on the field of Dien Bien Phu the day the French took the place by airborne assault, is telling us that the supply crisis that has long been dreaded in Iraq is upon us in Afghanistan.

NATO forces in Afghanistan are inadequate.  The outgoing NATO commander says that 400,000 men are needed.   Where such forces would be found is anyone’s guess.  Pakistan is a state built as a compromise among those Indian Muslims who could not reconcile themselves to life among a Hindu majority.  Is it a surprise that such a state is torn by the most extreme kinds of Islamic fervor?  American relations with Pakistan have always had a tentative flavor, even as we supported the various governments there.  Now, the counter-terrorist fervor of the United States has led us to stoke the fires of internal division in Pakistan to such an extent that the survival of the state itself is in question.

Russia has deliverable nuclear weapons.  So does Pakistan.  pl




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30 Responses to “An Existential Crisis” de Borchgrave

  1. John Howley says:

    Here’s a conundrum.
    The road from Karachi to Peshawar is the Indus Highway which includes the Kohat Tunnel.
    Do a google news search on either of those terms and you will find several reports in the Pakistani press to the effect that the Kohat Tunnel has been closed since the end of August. Also, there are mentions of bridges on the Indus Highway having been blown up.
    Major NATO supply route closed for over two weeks…isn’t that newsworthy?

  2. Arun says:

    In my opinion, the US cannot deal successfully with Afghanistan and Pakistan without having Iran on board. A cooperative Iran will greatly diminish the points of leverage that Pakistan has.

  3. Twit says:

    Some more data to underscore the precariousness of our relationship with Pakistan:
    Pakistani troops fire on U.S. helicopters apparently delivering special operations forces (apparently SEALS, from reading other articles) on a raid against targets in
    Pakistan: http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSISL14941720080915
    Congressional hearings on stopping F-16 sales to Pakistan because it’s possible that the USAF might eventually have to shoot them down:

  4. Twit says:

    Oops – looks like that Reuters article has been updated and it was a rumor.

  5. VietnamVet says:

    Juan Cole cites a Pakistan newspaper; “According to sources, US troops boarded on two helicopters were trying to enter onto Pakistan’s areas near Angoor Adda along Pak-Afghan border when local tribes and troops of Pakistan army resisted the move and opened fire, forcing US helicopters to return.”
    Nothing will unite the tribes and Muslim government troops faster than incursions by foreign Christian troops in big slow choppers.
    The central Pakistan government is playing a game of chicken if it is taking under counter bribes to continue the truck convoy’s through to Afghanistan. A State has to defend its territory to survive. To avoid a coup, Pakistan central government has to either stop the convoys dead in their tracks or promote covert raids to make the costs to great to continue.
    In order to order to hand the head of bin Laden to the McCain/Palin ticket, the dogs of war have been unleashed in nuclear Pakistan.

  6. zanzibar says:

    Hopefully someone will inform the neocon armchair military strategists that Russia, China and Pakistan have the ability to retaliate. Russia and China have the ability to fire missiles that can hit any US city. Pakistan I believe have missiles with ranges that can reach the persian gulf. And as Pat points out they all have nuclear warhead delivery capability!
    This is not invading Iraq as Cheney is reportedly to have said because “its doable”.
    And as we see today despite all the massive intervention by the Treasury and the Fed to bailout Wall Street the financial meltdown continues. Next, we can expect even more rate cuts and monetization by the Fed and more fiscal stimulus from Congress – everything but deal with the crux of the issues.

  7. Walrus says:

    We might well remember the massacre of the British Army and its followers in the First Afghan War (1839 – 1842), about 16,500 dead.
    Dr. William Brydon, thought at the time to have been the sole survivor, was allegedly allowed to escape by the Afghans to tell the British Government what had happened to the rest of their army. Lady Butler’s painting of him arriving at Jalalabad on his dying horse is touching.
    Without jet and diesel fuel, and in winter weather when air support is highly problematic, I think exactly the same vulnerabilities remain.

  8. John Howley says:

    That pesky energy nonsense always seems to be lurking in the background:
    DANIEL GRAEBER UPI Correspondent
    Published: Sept. 15, 2008 at 1:04 PM
    The Pakistani government is ignoring warnings from Washington and moving ahead with talks with Tehran on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, officials said.
    Pakistani energy officials and top envoys said they would travel to Tehran for a two-day summit Sept. 27… Pakistan is facing a spiraling energy crisis, with reserves nearing exhaustion as demand continues to grow, prompting Islamabad to look to shore up its energy supplies quickly.
    … U.S. energy officials told Islamabad the IPI pipeline was unacceptable to Washington.

  9. I fully expect boots on the ground before the election in Pakistan by the US. Reason, US seems to really have no idea how it and its actions are percieved in Pakistan. This will be a crisis before Christmas. Bunker busters of US may be flying in Pakistan while those of Israel fly in Iran. The real policy should just be stated. No one allowed NUKES to be in possession of possible Islamic Jihadis. This is the real BUSH policy. As you sow you shall reap.

  10. b says:

    I have written about the logistic situation in Afghanistan for a while now (search Afghanistan, logistics at my blog). Seems few others are thinking about the dangers of a LoC through a country the U.S. now attacks.
    “At All Cost” were the words the Pakistani chief general Kayani used recently to express the determination to fight U.S. incursions onto Pakistan.
    Pakistan has nukes. “At all cost” includes nukes. The equivalent Cheney/Bush verbiage is “all options are on the table”.
    There is an additional curious development now.
    India closed down the water-flow from the Chenab river into Pakistan. This is giving Pakistan some MAJOR headaches (famine, electricity outage, foreign reserves).
    I suggest that this is a U.S. play to pressure Zardari. I do not expect this pressure to be successful. Read some editorials in the quite good Pakistan newspapers: The Dawn, The Nation or The News and you’ll see why.
    The Cheney/Bush administration is again playing with fire here. The lesson seen from 2010 will be comparable to Lebanon 2006 seen from 2008.
    WTF is NATO allowing those separate U.S. troops these escapades like incursions into Pakistan? Yes, I know.
    This will be the death of NATO as the U.S. interests/policies and personal fantasies of Bush are now endangering soldiers from some 40 other states. That is indefensible for any European government.
    (Sorry for pimping my writings above, but they seem relevant and the media are sleeping over this. There are soldiers from my army involved in the fighting too.)

  11. b says:

    I couldn’t open Pat’s first link. There is an alternative here.

  12. R Whitman says:

    deB and pl have outlined the problem. Any proposed attempts at a solution other than retreat??

  13. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. Is the fate Afghanistan a “vital” US national interest? If so, why?
    2. NATO is in Afghanistan because the concept of “out of area” operations was approved some years ago. Should NATO have remained committed only to its original mission and area? If not, why not? Why should NATO be in Afghanistan?
    3. The tribals out that way have been fighting for centuries, should this surprise?
    4. It did not take that much imagination to “assess” Usama and the boyz would exfiltrate from Afghanistan to Waziristan etc. poste haste. There they would naturally be protected by locals and elements of the Pak establishment military and civilian.
    5. What portion of the Pak military is Islamist-hardcore?
    5. What is the level of Pak civilian elite participation in the heroin trade profits?
    6. What is the level of Pak military participation in the heroin trade profits?
    7. What percentage of the Pak national budget is financed through the heroin trade?
    8. Is it not elementary that the Taliban was created by elements of the Pak civilian and military elite and financed by Saudi etal.?
    9. What is the role of Pak elites in promoting the spread of radical political Islam and associated terrorist activity?

  14. lally says:

    Could another source of regional instability be the most recent news of the IDF’s consideration of a request from the Indian government to address Islamic insurgents in Kashmir? IDF brass was just there for 3 days:
    “Under the proposed agreement, the IDF would send highly-trained commandos to train Indian soldiers in counterterror tactics, urban warfare and fighting in guerrilla settings.”
    This detailed article provides more information on the ongoing nature of this co-operation.

  15. Mad Dogs says:

    Bulls in china shops never seem concern themselves with the broken dishes.
    And as is the Bush/Cheney pattern, cleaning up the mess will be left to somebody else.
    One would have hoped that the drunken frat-boy antics would dissipated somewhat in the 6th decade of his presence on this planet, but apparently once a frat-boy, always a frat-boy.
    Seems like the Bush/Cheney motto is:
    “Since we can’t fix it, we’ll break it.”

  16. Curious says:

    FATA and afghanistan border are very complicated, but the way they do it will cause worst long term problem than taliban crossing the borders.
    anybody know how the taliban get their weapons? (bullets supply, RPG, mine, explosives) Those can’t be made in a village. It’s industrial product.
    Second, the ecoonomy of FATA and taliban. How can they sustain all that? Opium trade?
    from Georgian conflict. German reports not being happy with the attack.
    But then Saunders qualifies his statement: “More and more people are realizing that there are two sides in this conflict, and that Georgia was not as much a victim as a willing participant.” Members of US President George W. Bush’s administration, too, are reconsidering their position. Georgia “marched into the South Ossetian capital” after a series of provocations, says Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried.
    Does this suggest that America’s pronouncements of solidarity with Saakashvili were just as premature as those of the Europeans? British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had called for a “radical” review of relations with Moscow, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt decried what he called a violation of international law, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised Georgia that, at some point, it would “become a member of NATO, if it so wishes.”

  17. condfusedponderer says:

    Troubling news indeed.
    And pissing off Russia over Georgia (and in general, and in doing so making them actively unhelpful, also isn’t the smartest of moves with regard to Afghanistan. But then, this is the wrecking crew at work…
    The attacks in Pakistan are a convenient way of blaming the mess and lack of progress in Afghanistan all on Pakistan, while giving in to their own urges for escalation. That’s the flipside of can-do spirit. The step supports McCain’s views, which helps him making his case to be ‘tough on national security’. Also consider the implications for ‘presidential legacy’ – going after Bin Laden – squarely – after seven years of waiting.
    All that means that attacking Pakistan was irresistible for Bush. Attacking in Pakistan of course means that being allied with Russia and Iran is all the more important, but that are both things the Bushies can’t get themselves to accept, probably much like McCain.

  18. Twit says:

    R Whitman: “Any proposed attempts at a solution other than retreat??”
    How about a “Congress of South Asia” (in tribute to PL’s for the ME) with a series of mutually beneficial deals between the US and:
    1. The Pashtuns and the Baluchi tribal leaders (we get AQ takfiris, they get autonomy from Islamabad),
    2. The Pakistani Government (we get intel and agreements to make (1) happen and they get trade deals plus assurances that US will end the destabilizing GWOT on their territory)
    3. Iran (we get Iranian commitments to eliminate heroin route through Iran, and they get counternarcotics resources plus some diplomatic benefits).
    4. India (we get their support vis a via Pakistan, they get US support vs China)
    Benefits: elimination of the actual threat to US interests (AQ), more stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and decreased capabilities of Taliban (by cutting off their primary funding stream, heroin).
    Costs: the above, plus a conversation with Iran, an end to the idea of an indefinite, unlimited war on terror.
    I’m not a regional expert, but thought that might be a good starting point for discussion? What do you all think?

  19. David Habakkuk says:

    Certainly Iran has every interest in countering Sunni jihadists — as has been dramatised by the virulent sectarianism these have displayed in Iraq. So too have the Russians — who control the supply lines through the north. To eschew any serious attempt at a compromise settlement with the Persians, while getting involved in a new Cold War with the Russians over an unbending commitment to arbitrary borders created by Stalin, indicates strategic incompetence of a high order.
    It may not simply be the soldiers of foreign countries who are endangered.
    The Pakistan High Commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, has — perfectly sensibly, in my view — pointed to the potentially highly dangerous effects of the responses of the very large part of Britain’s Muslim community which has its roots in Pakistan. According to the Telegraph:
    ‘His remarks followed outrage in Pakistan over five attacks in the past 10 days, including a ground assault in the village of Angoor Adda in which 20 people were killed. US officials said they were all supporters of terrorism but Pakistan insists they were civilians, including women and children.
    ‘Mr Hasan said: “This will infuriate Muslims in this country and make the streets of London less safe. There are one million Pakistanis in the diaspora here and resentment is mounting. I’m being flooded by text messages from community leaders saying we must organise our anger.
    ‘”The Americans’ trigger-happy actions will radicalise young Muslims. They’re playing into the hands of the very militants we’re supposed to be fighting.”‘
    (See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/2957417/American-raids-inside-Pakistan-could-provoke-terror-attacks-in-London-says-top-official.html.)

  20. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Where’s the “reset” button?
    Time to push it.

  21. b says:

    Pakistan orders troops to open fire if US raids

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday.

    “The orders are clear,” [army spokesman] Abbas said in an interview. “In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire.”

  22. Andy says:

    First, there was no real interruption in NATO supplies. A few trucks were temporarily halted in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have variously described the reasoning as for inspections, or because of security concerns along a particularly dangerous stretch of roadway.
    That is not to say that Pakistan wasn’t making a political point to the US and NATO and reminding them the Afghan operation’s dependencies. This “blockade” undoubtedly had a domestic political component as well, one aimed at a restive Pakistani populace already sensitive about the border and US air strikes inside Pakistan. Pakistan must tread carefully given its unenviable position between its powerful “ally” the US and elements of its own population and factions within the government.
    All sides here are playing a dangerous game – too dangerous, IMO. US ground operations inside Pakistan may have some effect on the Taliban/AQ leadership, but at the cost of a further destabilized Pakistan. I don’t think the trade-off is worth it in the long run. Instability in a nuclear-armed nation is a danger that everyone should be concerned about. Once again, the US does not seem to be thinking beyond the medium term. We seem all too willing to trade transitory short-term gain at the cost of increased long-term risk.

  23. JohnH says:

    R Whitman: “Any proposed attempts at a solution other than retreat??”
    How about starting with an assessment of WTF we’re doing there? We’re obviously not there to fight terrorism, since we’re creating more of them every day.
    How about demanding that our leaders make a clear statement regarding the West’s vital strategic interests in Afghanistan? Then how about if they define some measurable objectives and a clear mission that directly address those interests? Once those basic elements are clear, then we can determine whether to continue the fight or retreat.
    It’s astounding that we’re eagerly going to war without a clue as to why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’re there because we’re there–imperial hubris. The forward march of “freedom and democracy” cannot be reversed, just like the Soviets thought that the forward march of Communism could not be reversed 30 years ago–except that it was reversed…in Afghanistan.

  24. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “The key in Pakistan, as always, is the army. If the already heightened U.S. raids inside the country continue to escalate, the much-vaunted unity of the military High Command might come under real strain. At a meeting of corps commanders in Rawalpindi on September 12th, Pakistani Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani received unanimous support for his relatively mild public denunciation of the recent U.S. strikes inside Pakistan in which he said the country’s borders and sovereignty would be defended “at all cost.”
    “The neo-Taliban now control at least twenty Afghan districts in Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan provinces. It is hardly a secret that many officials in these zones are closet supporters of the guerrilla fighters. Though often characterized as a rural jacquerie they have won significant support in southern towns and they even led a Tet-style offensive in Kandahar in 2006. Elsewhere, mullahs who had initially supported President Karzai’s allies are now railing against the foreigners and the government in Kabul. For the first time, calls for jihad against the occupation are even being heard in the non-Pashtun northeast border provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.”

  25. Shrike58 says:

    At a certain point Afghanistan changed from being a theatre in the global war on terror to being part of the American war on drugs; just another fine example of mission creep.

  26. PS says:

    Today there are more reports of UAV-fired missiles hitting a training camp in the NW territories, killing five — presumably bad — guys. Nice timing, there.

  27. TomB says:

    To me some of the people who ought to be most abashed about their thinking are those who were crying out against Musharaf now that it’s clear from a realist perspective how much he was doing for us. “Oh he’s no true democrat,” the cry was, mostly from the Left. So now look who (their President) Obama will have to deal with if he wins: That Paki guy they call “Mr. 10%” for his insatiable grafting, or some other fakir who likewise hasn’t the interest or balls to hold down their country’s nutballs.
    I agree with Andy then; goofing around inside Pakistan now—unless you really had bin Laden or Zawahiri right in your Predator sights—is like tugging at the bottom of a house of matchsticks so as to make it a bit prettier.
    We ought to just essentially stand off and just make it politely clear to the Pakistani people that we will not stand for any country allowing any group hostile to us on their soil to develop any offensive capabilities against us too far, and in the event any such group does strike us we aren’t going to use kid gloves coming in to respond nor are we going to pump in billions to help “rebuild” afterwards. And further make clear that if any such country’s army chooses to oppose us in doing so then they will utterly lose that army too. Then let the Pakistani people and army decide just how much they want to indulge their fundamentalists.
    Pakistan has a good strong middle-class and an army that doesn’t want to be destroyed. So treat the Pakistanis like the grown-up state and I’d bet they’d respond fine.
    Right now, it’s a no-cost thing for any loud-mouth over there to condemn what we’re doing. Give them something to think about and their critics some rhetorical ammo to shoot back with.
    My sense of the Pakistani people is that they aren’t in thrall to their Fundamentalists at all and do want to have a modern country. Give them their head, I say.
    And in Afghanistan we ought to simply pull out of any area that’s too contested and simply concentrate on humanitarian aid and development elsewhere in the counry.
    We always want and think we can get 100% of every loaf; “solving” the entire “terrorist” problem in the ME totally in one fell swoop or etc.
    American optimism or American hubris; funny how it’s sometimes hard to distinguish.

  28. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    While the Paks help Taliban they also engage in fomenting terrorist orgs and action against India:
    “The ISI has long worked with several Islamist insurgent/terrorist groups that are active in Kashmir and Bangladesh – especially the Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT), Jaysh-e-Muhammad (JeM)and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami-Banglasesh (HUJI-B) – but these organizations lacked both an all-India presence and the ability to build one.
    “According to Indian security officials, however, Pakistan and the ISI have used Dawood Ibrahim’s Karachi-based D-Company and the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) to provide the contacts, safe houses and front organizations needed to allow LeT, JeM and HUJI-B to become all-India threats. The recent terrorist operations in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Surat (July 25-27), for example, are thought by Indian security officials to have been made possible by the support of D-Company and SIMI for the aforementioned terrorist groups.
    “Pakistan’s economic undermining of India’s economy also seems to be executed by the same set of organizations. Islamabad’s major tool for this aspect of its low-intensity campaign is counterfeit Indian currency, what New Delhi calls Fake Indian Currency Notes or FICN. The FICN are printed on high-quality security paper similar to that used by New Delhi; is all but indistinguishable from genuine Indian currency; and is moved into the country by LeT, JeM, HUJI-B and D-Company members before being distributed across India.
    “Some current estimates show that up to a quarter of the Indian currency in circulation could be FICN, and Indian officials worry that this fact may account for part of the country’s high inflation rate and may lead to decreased confidence in New Delhi’s ability to protect the credibility of its currency. Indian officials also believe that the profits derived from the sale of FICN are being used to fund Islamist activities in J&K and perhaps elsewhere in India.”….

  29. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Some insights on Waziristan from a Brit WWII vet:
    “Few places on earth are as remote and hostile as Waziristan, part of the Pakistani tribal belt that the Pentagon now sees as the new front line in the war on terror. When the Americans started dropping bombs and sending commandos into the area last month, few westerners had heard of it. But to one retired insurance manager living by the sea in West Sussex, the name brought back vivid memories.
    At almost 82, Frank Leeson is the last surviving British officer to have served in Waziristan. After years of quiet retirement with Gloria, his wife of 50 years, he suddenly finds himself in demand. Since Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, recently described the tribal areas as “a clear and present danger to Afghanistan, to Pakistan and to the West”, western officials have been hotfooting it to Leeson’s door to hear his tales….”

  30. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    S’more on our Pak “allies” and their double and triple games:
    “Pakistani military forces flew repeated helicopter missions into Afghanistan to resupply the Taliban during a fierce battle in June 2007, according to a Marine lieutenant colonel, who says his information is based on multiple U.S. and Afghan intelligence reports.
    “The revelation by Lt. Col. Chris Nash, who commanded an embedded training team in eastern Afghanistan from June 2007 to March 2008, adds a new twist to the controversy over a U.S. special operations raid into Pakistan Sept. 3.
    “Pakistani officials strongly protested that raid, with a statement issued by the foreign ministry calling it a “gross violation of Pakistan’s territory.”
    “But fewer than 15 months earlier, Pakistani forces were flying cross-border missions in the other direction to resupply a “base camp” in Nangarhar Province occupied by fighters from the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Hezb-i-Islami faction led by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Nash told Army Times in a Sept. 17 telephone interview.”…
    What percentage of the officer corps is hardline Islamist?
    What percentage of the officer corps is participating in the heroin trade?
    What percentage of the officer corps supports Taliban?
    Same for civilian elites…

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