Saudi mediation for Afghanistan

Omar512 "Next week it will be seven years since the war on terror was officially launched when the US military, with British support, unleashed a devastating bombardment on 31 al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan.

But despite the heroic efforts of coalition forces and the deployment of vast resources, the West appears no closer to achieving its long-term objective of eradicating the threat posed by Islamist groups and helping to turn failed states into ones capable of sustaining democratic government based on the rule of law."  Telegraph


If an agreement can be worked out that does not return Afghanistan to medieval barbarism under Taliban versions of Shariah such an agreement might be useful to the Coalition.

The war in Afghanistan is not going very well.  The Coalition needs to reduce its profile and expenditures for a variety of reasons.  Taliban interest in talking about a "deal" with the Karzai government indicates that they, too, are hurting in the war.

The neocons want to make Afghanistan into a Western clone.  They wanted that in Iraq as well.  They will not get what they want in either place. 

A truce of some kind with the Taliban would enable the Coalition to concentrate on its worthwhile objective in Central Asia.  This is the extirpation of takfiri internationalism in the region.

Pakistan is a looming problem of potentially vast proportion.  The Afghanistan problem should be dealt with on the basis of Afghan internal politics and their application to coalition goals.  (See my earlier piece on engaging the tribes)

In any event, the neocons would be so unhappy about such a development that the entertainment value of such an event would be desirable for that reason alone.  pl

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20 Responses to Saudi mediation for Afghanistan

  1. Cold War Zoomie says:

    In any event, the neocons would be so unhappy about such a development that the entertainment value of such an event would be desirable for that reason alone.
    Maybe we should send in these two?

  2. frogspawn says:

    Maybe we should send in these two?
    Posted by: Cold War Zoomie | 06 October 2008 at 12:57 PM

    Thank you saaaahhh…..
    /guy thrown out of Kipling’s train compartment by Peachy Carnahan

  3. John Howley says:

    I was stunned to read TWO op-eds in the NYT on Sunday, BOTH of which argued for negotiations with the Taliban.
    Usually, the op-ed editor will arrange the page with contrasting views. Not this time.
    Kaplan says we need to make “deals with some Taliban groups against others…”
    Fick and Singh contend that “Incorporating the unarmed Taliban members into the government would give them something to lose.”

  4. VietnamVet says:

    With Wall Street and London City Financial Centers gone South, negotiations to pull out Afghanistan is all that’s left.
    A basic education including Kipling and Gordon of Khartoum should have taught the Brits that the Grand Crusade after 9/11 was never going to be cheap or easy. I could see the frat boy ideologue missing all the salient points, but English PM too?
    Of all the great ambitions to change the Middle East, guarding the high seas from pirates, will be all that remains.

  5. jamzo says:

    if obamma is bold enough and his congressional majority is substantial enough, he has the opportunity to reframe issues because his initiatives will be welcomed by one and all around the world
    in the active military conflict arenas of afghanastan, iraq, and pakistan
    in the long-standing diplomatic mess of israel, palestine, syria, and lebanon
    in bush-mangled relations with russia
    in emerging military/diplomatic
    crisis ems in the oil belt across africa from sudan to
    in bush-mangled situations in haiti, venezuela, cuba and bolivia
    in long-standing drug traffic problems with mexico and columbia
    in dealing with the problem of nuclear proliferation and the cases of iran and north korea
    in framing how we will project ourselves diplomatically and militarily for the next decade and beyond
    the 9-11 crisis gave bush strong support for leadership that he failed to weild usefully
    a resounding electoral victory will give obama a similarly strong leadership position
    we have to wait to see what he does with it
    i think he will be much
    stronger in foreign policy than clinton

  6. Mad Dog says:

    Pat, as we are much in agreement on Afghanistan (I think *g*), I thought I’d focus on this part of your post:
    “Pakistan is a looming problem of potentially vast proportion.”
    In my view, Pakistan is far more vulnerable and closer to a “tipping-point” than many folks realize.
    Yes, they have a relatively large “middle class”.
    Yes, they have a “democratically elected legislature and executive.
    But…these achievements are far more fragile than many understand.
    For folks who missed it, in July, the International Republican Institute released a survey of Pakistan public opinion.
    There are many noteworthy things that should worry those concerned with Pakistan’s future:

    – When asked if they felt that the country was headed in the right or wrong direction, 86 percent responded wrong direction while 12 percent said right direction, roughly the same levels as in IRI’s last poll.
    – When asked about their personal economic situation over the course of the past year, 12 percent said it improved, 72 percent said it worsened, and 16 percent said that it remained the same.

    Sound familiar? Hint…American public opinion now that the financial universe is cratering.
    And then more ominously, there’s this:

    – One significant change was in response to personal security; Pakistanis reported an improvement. In the wake of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, only 12 percent reported being safer this year as opposed to last and 85 percent reported feeling less secure. In IRI’s June poll, the number responding that they felt less secure dropped 22 points to 63 percent, while the number saying that they felt more secure increased 20 points to 32 percent.

    And this:

    – When it comes to solutions for combating extremism and terrorism, IRI’s poll reveals that the Pakistani people are unambiguous, preferring negotiation and development to military options. When asked if they supported political dialogue with the extremists, 71 percent responded yes, while 65 percent said that they supported a peace deal. When asked what they thought was the most effective way to deal with terrorism, 61 percent said economic development and education, nine percent said military force, and 24 percent said both.
    – When asked if they thought that Pakistan should cooperate with the United States on the War on Terror, 15 percent replied yes while 71 percent were opposed, a slight improvement from the last poll.

    Which leads me to my primary concern with Pakistan. It seems that they are but one more assassination (or perhaps just a few focused suicide bombings) away from that “tipping point”.
    Yes, the Pakistan Military has in the past jumped in to provide “stability”, but this is the very same Pakistan Military that regularly gets its butt kicked in the North-West Frontier Provinces by a mostly irregular force of Pakistani Taliban and friends.
    One might be wise to remember what happened to the Shah of Iran and his highly-rated military.
    And since that IRI survey was published in July, the desperate straits of the Pakistani economy has only nosedived further.
    With a weak government, a weak military (against irregular forces), a weak and rapidly deteriorating economy, an intelligence service that has repeatedly been in bed with Jihadis (and still is), and a populace that is despondent and hurting, it would not take much for a Lenin-like or Castro-like figure to ride to the “rescue”.
    And I understand that Osama Bin Laden is a fine horseman.
    Just sayin’!

  7. Ael says:

    I am very worried about regime stability in the entire middle east.
    Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq have well documented issues.
    Syria and Jordon labour under the strain of millions of refugees.
    If the muslim brotherhood ever get elected in Egypt they will call a referendum on the peace treaty with Israel (and peace will likely lose). The Sauds have a restive Shiite population where all their oil sits.
    In fact, Iran looks to be the most stable regime in the neighborhood.
    All this at a time, when the western powers appear to have blown their wad.

  8. Duncan Kinder says:

    Pakistan facing bankruptcy

    Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves are so low that the country can only afford one month of imports and faces possible bankruptcy.

  9. Cold War Zoomie says:

    A basic education including Kipling and Gordon of Khartoum should have taught the Brits that the Grand Crusade after 9/11 was never going to be cheap or easy. I could see the frat boy ideologue missing all the salient points, but English PM too?
    To many people, including myself, Afghanistan was a “just” war. So I could definitely understand Britain joining us there regardless of their own history in that country, especially considering they too are a target of international terrorism.
    What confused the Hell out of me was when they agreed to go into Iraq. Anyone who has spent a few months frequenting their pubs comes to learn that, generally speaking, the Brits love history. And they know it well. The British Mandate of Mesopotamia might as well have been yesterday for them. Yet they plowed (ploughed) right back into it!
    Now I am seeing how Pakistan is akin to the Balkan Powder Keg. I don’t have anything intelligent to offer about fixing this mess. All I can say is that we need some pragmatic, realistic thinking in Washington. What are the chances of that happening?

  10. frank durkee says:

    CWZ. Look at the present political climate and reflect on how it will continue in the next administration and congress fed by the ambitions of public and private individuals and you have the obstacle. In addition once a “narrative ” becomes fixed in the media it is very hard to change.

  11. Curious says:

    I don’t think the generals in Pentagon understand what is going on with the country. They think they can keep fiddling their circus act in afghanistan.
    The windows is now only months, instead of tens of months. If another crisis hit, the windows will be weeks.
    that’s right, in a big crisis, somebody have to decide within weeks if we gonna stick around in afghanistan and Iraq or pull back.
    What the general still doesn’t get it. The entire country financial system is imploding at alarming rate. The meaning of “money” itself is being destroyed by the hour.
    To put it mildly, in worst case scenario, the collapse of soviet will look like picnic, since they have gigantic resource and only need to drive to the border.
    NOW, is the time to calmly hit the panic button. Put the smartest of the smart crews and set plan.
    By December, when Pakistan economy collapse following total US finance collapse. There will be no time for even panicking.
    Up until two weeks ago when the $700 billion bailout package came out of virtually nowhere, the Federal Reserve seemed content to continue swapping its liquid Treasury securities portfolio for the illiquid assets of banks, slowly destroying the Fed’s balance sheet in the process. But the impending failure of AIG and the actual failure of Lehman Brothers apparently did some serious damage to the Fed’s plans, because the most important monetary decision of this entire crisis was made in a big hurry, with virtually no fanfare. I suspect the Fed finally started looking more than a few days ahead and suddenly realized that it might quickly and completely run out of Treasury securities (see below).
    So, the Fed and Treasury announced a seemingly innocuous Supplementary Financing Program on September 17. In reality, it was nothing less than a clandestine federal bailout, a de facto government takeover of the Federal Reserve that will officially materialize as reality at a later date. This radical “program”, which is by far the most extreme of all the Fed and Treasury actions in terms of monetary consequences, has received very little coverage so far in the media, on Wall Street, on Main Street, in the Capitol, or on the Internet. But I suspect this could soon change now that the $700 billion bailout package has been penned into law. Indeed, the Treasury bailout legislation seems to be the fuel for the Supplementary Financing Program, which is nothing less than the biggest monetary helicopter lift since the Weimar experiment with the printing press.

  12. John Howley says:

    Who is following who’s lead? Did the Saudis lead the dance with Gates following or vice versa?
    We’ll never know.
    Gates: Afghan militants key to country’s future
    By LOLITA C. BALDOR – 20 hours ago (10/7/08)
    ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday endorsed efforts to reach out to members of the Taliban or other militants in Afghanistan who may be considered reconcilable, much like what has happened in Iraq.
    And he rejected assertions made by a British commander that the Afghan war is not winnable.

  13. Given the various tribal arrangements in Afganistan and Pakistan, what groups are the largest and are they Sunni or Shia or something else? If the Saudis are co-religionists and of the same sect perhaps they might be of great utility in working out some modus vivendi within both geographic entities (note I really don’t want to call them Nations). By the way a book I am reading by an English historian (John Hale) on “The Civilization of Europe During the Renaissance” indicates that the first use of “nation” was to identify religious blocks not geographic entities. Perhaps a map of the current “nations” of Afghanistan and Pakistan would make more sense if available than portraits of their geography and artificially borders. By the way am reading that book to find out about the impact of Islam on Europe during the Renaissance period. The book uses the period 1450 -1620 for its analytic framework.

  14. david says:

    Perhaps it might make sense to stop and do some research.
    This book, “The Taliban”, describes the freakshow Afghanistan was in the 1980’s and 1990’s while the US and other countries supported certain Muj groups and then switched sides over and over when it was convenient or when the ISI decided to “bet on a new horse”.
    It is a pretty sickening look at geopolitics that makes me wish all parties would pull out funding, drying up the weapon supply and hopefully make the opposing groups sit down and talk.

  15. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. It was a messy game, the usual game. Moralizing about that will not provide a solution. pl

  16. Curious says:
    Pakistan facing bankruptcy
    Pakistan’s foreign
    exchange reserves are so low that the country can only afford one month of imports and faces possible bankruptcy.
    Officially, the central bank holds $8.14 billion (£4.65 billion) of foreign currency, but if forward liabilities are included, the real reserves may be only $3 billion – enough to buy about 30 days of imports like oil and food.
    Nine months ago, Pakistan had $16 bn in the coffers.
    The government is engulfed by crises left behind by Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler who resigned the presidency in August. High oil prices have combined with endemic corruption and mismanagement to inflict huge damage on the economy.

  17. David Habakkuk says:

    Cold War Zoomie, VietnamVet,
    It’s a question of which Brits, unfortunately.
    Blair does not know any history — I doubt whether he knew anything about our past Mesopotamian adventures. And he really is a neocon, and was highly susceptible to all those fantasies about how once one got rid of the evil Saddam, everything would be sweetness and light.
    The Arabist George Joffe decribed to the Guardian journalist Jonathan Steele the complete blank wall he and two other well-known Iraq experts ran into when they tried to take some sense into Blair:
    ‘”We all pretty much said the same thing,” Joffe recalls. “Iraq is a very complicated country, there are tremendous intercommunal resentments, and don’t imagine you’ll be welcomed.” He remembers how Blair reacted. “He looked at me and said, ‘But the man’s uniquely evil, isn’t he?’ I was a bit nonplussed. It didn’t seem to be very relevant.” Recovering, Joffe went on to argue that Saddam was constrained by various factors, to which Blair merely repeated his first point: “He can make choices, can’t he?” As Joffe puts it, “He meant he can choose to be good or evil, I suppose.”
    ‘Joffe got the impression of “someone with a very shallow mind, who’s not interested in issues other than the personalities of the top people, no interest in social forces, political trends, etc”.’

  18. Curious says:
    Transfer Undone
    Pakistan’s civilian government, now controlled by Musharraf’s opponents under President Asif Ali Zardari, failed in an attempt this year to assert authority over the ISI. On July 26, Zardari announced the agency’s transfer to the Interior Ministry to put it “under the elected government’s control,” the newspaper Dawn reported.
    Within hours, Zardari announced the move had been “misunderstood” and reversed it under what Pakistani news reports called military pressure.

  19. Curious says:

    Well this is an interesting proposal.
    except. they can’t answer this question: WHY SHOULD the Iranian accept THAT bargain now. They are winning in all front.
    Another 5 yrs of middle east instability/oil war. The Iranian will own everything. Everybody will fall into their orbit. Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan. With the help of Russia.
    They only need one piece of equipment to achieve this: effective air defense. (S-300 clone)
    Leverett-Mann argue that “a partial easing of tensions…détente, won’t do”, and they explain why:
    Simply put, the next U.S. administration will not be able to achieve any of its high-profile policy goals in the Middle East — in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Arab-Israeli arena — or with regard to energy security without putting U.S.-Iranian relations on a more positive trajectory. And that requires more than U.S.-Iranian détente.
    The main thrust of their argument, and it is worth reading the whole report, is that
    Nearly three decades of U.S. policy toward Iran emphasizing diplomatic isolation, escalating economic pressure, and thinly veiled support for regime change have damaged the interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East
    In its place they recommend a policy of “thorough-going strategic rapprochement”, which would be “most effectively embodied in the negotiation of a U.S.-Iranian ‘grand bargain’”:
    Iran’s strategic location (in the heart of the Persian Gulf and at the crossroads of the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia), its growing influence and standing in key regional arenas, and its enormous hydrocarbon resources make it a country critical for the United States…For the U.S. administration that takes office in January 2009, strategic rapprochement with Tehran will fall into the “must have” category — something truly imperative for American interests in these critical regions.
    Flynt and Hillary set out a quite detailed framework for structuring the ‘grand bargain’ that would need to address three sets of issues:
    * U.S. security interests, including stopping what Washington sees as Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, its support for terrorism, its opposition to a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its problematic role in Iraq and Afghanistan;
    * Iran’s security interests, including extending U.S. security assurances to the Islamic Republic, lifting unilateral U.S. and multilateral sanctions against Iran, and acknowledging the Islamic Republic’s place in the regional and international order; and
    * developing a cooperative approach to regional security.

  20. Curious says:

    Pakistan-afghanistan situation still unresolved.
    Hello? anybody awake in the upper leadership? time is ticking.
    Geopolitical landscape in that area and world economy are shifting fast.
    It’s a bad idea to hold that afghan bag without clear idea why we are there when the storm hits.
    For the first time in the seven years of the war, the Russian foreign minister utilized the annual United Nations General Assembly forum to launch a broadside against the US, on September 27. Sergei Lavrov said:
    More and more questions are being raised as to what is going on in Afghanistan. First and foremost, what is the acceptable price for losses among civilians in the ongoing anti-terrorist operation? Who decides on criteria for determining the proportionality of the use of force?

    The geopolitical reality, however, is that all three countries have transformed in recent years and their foreign policy priorities and orientations have also changed. They relate today to US hegemony in Afghanistan from dissimilar perspectives of national interests.

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