“How to win in Afghanistan?” National Journal blog

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14 Responses to “How to win in Afghanistan?” National Journal blog

  1. Ormolov says:

    ‘Disaggregate’ indeed.
    I am not worried about leaving Afghanistan a shining city on a hill. But I am as worried about blowback from the region as any issue in the world save catastrophic climate change.
    We are training and arming the next generation of jihadis, unless we take steps to further stabilize the region. So, either we DO engage in a measure of nation-building and long-term stabilization, or we embargo all arms transfers to central Asia (impossible) so that our present day allies don’t fly any planes into our buildings ten years from now.
    Pakistan is arming 100,000 villagers in Swat with American arms. The ISI is still doing its thing. I know you said the two ‘Stans are not as inextricably linked as many commentators suggest. But if we are to reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban to bring about peace, how is that done when most of their bases and sponsors are in Pakistan, staring fixedly across the country at the Jammu Kashmir border?
    Wouldn’t a thoroughly non-military solution be better? It may not bring about peace, and rather ignite another nightmare civil war in Afghanistan, but at least we’d take ourselves off the target list.

  2. John Howley says:

    I agree on the centrality of the India-Pakistan conflict but I thought that Kashmir was excluded from Holbrooke’s brief, to loud applause from the Indian side?
    “RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Yes, it is not part of my mission to work on Kashmir.” (The News Hours 18 Feb 09)
    Steve Coll reports on failed attempt to bring the two sides together in the March 2 New Yorker:

  3. Patrick Lang says:

    “Wouldn’t a thoroughly non-military solution be better?”
    And what would that be?

  4. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. Holbrook is not supposed to negotiate solutions beween India and Pakistan. That is idiocy rooted in our “target fixation” on “the war on terrorism.” His mandate shouild be changed.
    As for previous failure — So what! pl

  5. Duncan Kinder says:

    We seem to have a problem linking the economic tragedy now developing in the United States to the limits of our real options overseas.
    Conversely, particularly since Iraq, it has been our inability to recognize the limits of our options overseas that has contributed so much to our economic tragedy.
    Had we narrowly tailored our post-9/11 response to the specific events rather than launching an open-ended “War on Terror,” at minimum we would have had vastly greater resources to respond to the present economic crisis. Arguably, we could have avoided it altogether.

  6. Jose says:

    Colonel, The Pashtuns (or Pathans, Pashto, or Taliban) are approximately 38 million strong.
    This is not a tribal area as claimed by both Pakistan and Afghanistan, but a nation equivalent to Poland.
    I respectfully, disagree with you because they are IMHO linked together.
    Does the location of planned attacks on the U.S. or NATO really matter if those attacks orginated in Afghanistan or Pakistan?
    Maybe we should ask the Indians if they care of the geography of Mumbai?
    The COIN operations in Iraq were successful because the Sunni wanted the “takfiri jihadi” out and the Iranian-Syrians cooperated with us to end the violence plus we changed tactics from defeating all terrorists to allying ourselves with some of the former terrorist.
    We also accepted the ethnic cleansing of an estimate 4-5 million people and are prepared to live with the consequences of that fact.
    We still do not know what will happen when we leave, but we know the Iraqis want us out of there badly.
    So do we change our tactics in Afghanistan and cut deals with the Pashtuns (or Pathans, Pashto, or the Taliban) or do we try to turn the tribes against each other?
    Will we be able to live with the consequences of what will happen to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the nuclear arsenal once we leave?
    So we must either do a COIN in both areas or IMHO the endeavor will be doomed to failure.
    And can we really afford to fix both Afghanistan and Pakistan?
    We should also remember, that Pakistan will not be able to influence the southern tribes like the Iranians were able to influence the southern tribes in Iraq.
    “Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from defeat”
    “terrorism is a terrible weapon but the oppressed poor have no others.”
    both from Jean-Paul Satre

  7. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. “Secure” Kabul and the Valley.
    2. Deal with the outlying tribals “with guile.” So much per head of each bad guy. Bounty hunters, an all-American tradition. Heads please, maybe some associated hands for prints.
    1. Ensure the unity of the Army as they run things. The politicians are window dressing, which is ok as “democracy” is not the issue.
    2. Reassure the Pak Army viz. India. Conversely, reassure India viz. the Pak Army.
    3. Lean on the Pak Army hard to end any Wahhabi-takfiri jihadi games. Lean VERY hard, we are all tired of the ISI-narco-Saudi-Wahhabi-takfiri BS.
    4. Lean VERY VERY hard on Saudi to cut the Wahhabintern BS. No, they can’t have Central Asia and South Asia as a Wahhabi playground….

  8. curious says:

    various clips and comment, mostly dealing with opinion that might have connection with powr that be view on afghanistan-pakistan.
    6. Fiaz Zafar, “Maulana Fazlullah key naam kulha khat”, Daily Swat.
    This is a must-read. Now contrast Hanif with this “Open Letter”. This one written by another journalist but one who lives _in_ Swat. Read between his lines, look at the ways in which he approaches the same set of questions as Hanif. Here is a man who knows that the price of this letter may very well be his life. Just recently a well-known journalist, Musa Khan Khel was killed in the region.
    However, one can gleam from this open letter that these are not “outsiders” but members of this same community. There is no invasion of Talibans from across the borders but a rapid militarization of internal groups with a long local history. We need to focus on this long history. We need to find a way to deal with it. I have also taken the trouble to translate this second letter for you. (Pardon the spelling mistakes).
    An Open Letter to Maulana Fazlullah
    Respected Maulana Fazlullahh, Supreme COmmander of the Taliban Movement of Swat
    Assalam-u Alaikum
    I hope that you, Haji Muslim Khan, Maulana Shah Durran, Ibn Yamin, Fatih, are in good health. I am in frequent phone contact with Haji Muslim Khan. I even met you, last year, in Taran but have not been able to contact you directly since them. Sometimes, I get to talk to Maulana Shah Durran on the phone. I met Fatih, Abbas and some of your other commanders the day we went to photograph Pir Samihullah’s body in Piuchar. I had really hoped to meet you, so that I could tell you, in person, the things I am about to write. But, it did not happen. Hence I am writing you a letter about myself and the people of Swat.
    The people of Swat are extremely helpless. Thousands have died, thousand homes have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands have migrated, businesses have closed – after all this, to not have mercy on the people of Swat would be a grave injustice indeed. The rich of Swat have all fled to ISlamabad, Karachi, Peshawer, Abbotabad and other cities with their familiyes. Those, like myself, who remain in Swat do not have the capacity to go to these other cities. Those who remain have some demands from you. They have some problems that I am laying before you. I hope that you will provide a solution through Maulana Shah Durran in his FM radio address.
    You have placed a ban on female education. After the ban, people stopped their girls from attending schools. And since the holidays, you will not have seen any girl in the schools. There are over 100,000 girls in various schools in Swat and their parents do have the hopes that they become educated. You know very well that the Swati people are highly religious – a clear evidence being your movement. At a single call from you, thousands of people gathered in Imam Dehrai, Kibl and Dehrai grounds. All the girls who attended school here, also went to religious school after they came home to learn Quran. And often one hears one mother ask of another, how many times has your daughter read the whole Quran and she would tell, with pride, of her own daughters many full recitations. You are a member of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan. Neither Baitullah Mehsud, in Waziristan, nor Maulana Faqir Muhammad, in Bajaur, have placed any restriction on female education. Sure, they have instructed that proper veiling be observed. I humbly request that you re-consult your religious advisory council and reconsider your decision. Certainly, we can have separate section for girls, and only women teachers can teach girls, and even the transportation system of girls can be separated, and all girls must observe strict veiling. You can even order that the subjects of Islam and religion be increased three-fold in schools. And that along with earth-sciences, all girls be taught the Quran in translation. If you make this decision, that the girls can have both religious education and secular.
    …. (more)

  9. Charles I says:

    I’m with you Pat all the way, my bleeding heart sure can’t pay for these wars.
    It strikes me that keeping the 2 matters aggregated serves many interests just as ours will be served by dis-aggregating, and that many many aggregaters are in our own institutional elites. There’s a pretty large and powerful constituency for the full bore GWOT, it has so much collateral damage, er, political and institutional benefits tending to power and finance.
    I know I’ve said there’s no solution(solution= “win”) in Afghanistan without Pakistan a million times, where I now see there’s no solution = win. Period.
    Obviously once you really weigh things the Indo/Pakistani rivalry is the dynamic of direct security interest. Something less than the GWOT + Iraq obviously would have have been the sensible way to go after 9/11, but what are you going to do.
    The big pile of rubble in New york and the much larger one recently more leisurely wrought in Gaza can be game changers in their own ways, for good or ill, as the occasion, opportunity and current political wind direction may indicate.
    W/R/T Holbrooke, I offer this succinct appraisal of him kindly emailed to me by a knowledgeable observer, with apologies to him for sharing, er, plagarizing:
    ” I have just heard him being interviewed on PBS (McNeill Lehrer), and here are a couple of things he said (in effect) :
    “We talked to a lot of ordinary people in Peshawar, and they said things were so bad there they couldn’t even walk their dogs out on the street!”
    “The terrorists who carried out Mumbai belong to the same lot as those who did 9/11 and those in Swat”.
    I suspend my judgement no longer. The man is a twit and a phoney. God help Obama. And the countries entrusted to this guy’s care.”

  10. Ormolov says:

    (“Wouldn’t a thoroughly non-military solution be better?”
    And what would that be?)
    I’ve heard we’re about to fund Pakistan’s civil education system so it can rebuild after years of neglect. Assuming we abdicate our lofty nation-building goals, and instead exit Central Asia with as much grace as possible, a similar program in Afghanistan would be our best attempt. I understand that in the absence of security and a functioning government those schools would most likely be targets for a Taliban returned to power, but I would argue that such a gesture is all we got. This is the limit of our power. Any military solution, save nuclear warheads, has been shown amply over the centuries to be a failure in the region.

  11. Patrick Lang says:

    A true fantasist and naif. pl

  12. curious says:

    VERY hard on Saudi to cut the Wahhabintern BS. No, they can’t have Central Asia and South Asia as a Wahhabi playground….
    Posted by: Clifford Kiracofe | 23 February 2009 at 06:10 PM
    This one is actually fairly big deal in the long run. The hardline wahabi has reached malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Philipine army is running in circle chasing elements of milf trained in Pakistan.
    Malaysia and Indonesia definitely have several minor political parties modeled after this type of religious fundamentalism. Surprise, surprise a lot of players actually been too pakistan.
    But the growth of radicalism has been slowing considerably compared to 8-10 yrs ago.
    India and Pakistan definitely need to work out their northern border conflict. Islamabad Marriott – Mumbai type of terrorism will happen again if they don’t shape up.
    Both sides need to think long term reform and quit pushing religious-nationalism rethorics every time they need to rile up the public.
    but the US-Saudi-Pakistan-Russia-Iran chain of money, religion and cold war game definitely is definitely blowing back. It is deeply structural. Pakistan can’t operate without saudi money. Saudi wants something out of Pakistan. And pakistan politics have to play/appease hardline fundamentalism more and more. State dept has no clue and keep doing “more of the same thing” playing the cold war game. Russia is playing holding their territory and backyard. Iran is playing, old enmity and revolutionary drive.
    Classic example is Balluchistan. To work on Iran, somebody has the smart idea training radicals down there. 2-3 years after the program is canceled, the people down there will start eating Pakistan local after they failed to penetrate Iran. Combined with weapon and money supply from fata, this new training will start growing in area like currently rather calm southern pakistan like Karachi.
    the balluchistan program to me is friggin amazing. It’s like they never learn a thing and keep doing the exact same thing. 5-10 years down the road when nobody remember what those program was for, all of a sudden southern Pakistan start collapsing. (And Pakistan has only one major port of entry. so one can estimate what the impact would be.)
    no doubt saudi, more pentagon military training, more pakistan ‘mini crisis’ ensue… deja vu.

  13. Mad Dogs says:

    I do not personally have a “solution” to the “How to win in Afghanistan” question posed to Pat and others at the NationalJournal blog.
    However, I was struck by this seminal factoid:
    All the “experts” consulted had an opinion…and they were all over the map!
    This brought the following kerfuffle to mind:

    Scene 1 – A customer stops by a used car lot intending to buy a used car:
    User Car Salesman: Howdy! This is your lucky day! This used car just screams you!
    Customer: Ahhh…well…ok. Can we take it for a spin?
    User Car Salesman: No problemo! Slide in the passenger side and I’ll start ‘er up.
    User Car Salesman: Hmmmm…wait right here and I’ll get the mechanics and find out what’s going on.
    Mechanic # 1: Ya’ gotta prime it with that choke thingie first.
    Mechanic # 2: Nah! The thingamajig is off. Push that button there.
    Mechanic # 3: Whatayatalkinabout? Put in in neutral first ya’ dummy!
    Mechanic # 4: Youse guys! Doncha know nuttin? Ya’ need ta turn the ignition longer.
    Mechanic # 5: Waitaminute! I think we need ta put some gas in the tank first.
    Mechanic # 6: Nope, this is a diesel. I don’t know nuttin’ about diesels.
    Mechanic # 7: I think the tires need more air.
    Mechanic # 8: I’m gonna open the hood and blow on the distributor.
    Mechanic # 9: I’m gonna get underneath. It’s gotta be sumthin’ with the drivetrain.
    Scene 2 – Customer quietly and unobtrusively slips away exit stage left.

    Please don’t mistake this as any criticism of these “experts”. That is not my brief nor is it my point.
    My point is that there is no consensus as to what to do vis a vis Afghanistan. And yes, consensus is not by definition necessarily good.
    No, the more important point that I’d raise is that when all the experts in the world, those who are most knowledgeable and experienced about such things, when these very folks are all over the map with respect to a “solution”, one should question whether there is a “solution”.
    Perhaps one should take a step back and ask whether we want to dig this hole deeper or whether we need to find a way out.
    As I said at the start, I do not personally have a “solution” to the “How to win in “Afghanistan”.
    I’m not even sure there is a “solution”.
    I just know that I don’t like sitting in this hole (and we are) and I don’t know how to get out of it.

  14. curious says:

    ..uhhhh, this is not going to be pretty. Specially if public knows the bombing target. my candidates:
    – big train explosion in North Korea (the worst botched assassination attempt ever.)
    – big train explosion in Iran
    – Iraq stuff (boring)
    Upon being apprised of this, I was greatly relieved that we would not have to proceed with the cover solution with Wilkes, and would have more time to explore the best possible solution,” John Doe #1 wrote.
    The documents also argue that Wilkes and Foggo tried to incorporate the military’s need for armored vehicles into an array of contracts that involved not only the CIA’s sensitive air operations but also water for troops in Iraq. Wilkes’ and Foggo’s deals — during which they hid their long, personal friendship from other government officials — included markups of up to 60 percent on the goods and services they sold the CIA.
    The documents released Monday provide extensive details about Foggo’s efforts to move his mistress from Europe to Langley when he was promoted in November 2004 from chief of support at an undisclosed European location to the agency’s No. 3 post, executive director.
    According to prosecutors and testimony included in the filing, Foggo arranged for his family to remain in Europe at taxpayer expense while he moved to Langley. He then arranged a CIA job for his mistress, identified only by the initials ER. At first the CIA ruled that ER was ineligible for employment because a background check found that she had an improper relationship with a superior in her previous government position and had destroyed evidence being sought by the inspector general of that agency.

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