The current election imbroglio in Afghanistan is so obviously a self-inflicted wound that it raises some intriguing questions. After all, any savvy 16-year old urchin in the bazaars of Kabul could have confidently predicted what would happen in the election to ensure a comfortable win for the incumbent, Hamid Karzai. So, what made US policy makers decide to attempt holding a genuinely “free and fair” election? Sheer lunacy? Or did someone pull off a clever ploy to scuttle the war?
Whatever the cause, the effects of this situation are quite clear. However the election drama (low comedy, really) plays out, at the end Karzai will still be President. But a Karzai who is now absolutely clear that he has outlived his usefulness to the US, and who can be expected to act accordingly. He will either use the US-NATO military effort to improve his bargaining position and then do a deal with the Taliban, or he (and his family) will redouble their wealth accumulation so as to be ready to make a quick exit at a suitable moment. In either case, with relations between the Afghan government and the foreign forces deteriorating, the war is going to go badly (surge or no surge). Western publics, already doubtful about the whole enterprise, will become increasingly disenchanted; at some point politicians will have to take note. NATO countries will start dropping off first, and then, in the not too distant future, the US Congress will pull the plug.
The attempt to hold a genuine election in Afghanistan was so obviously a sabotaging of the war policy that one is tempted to ask: was it deliberately advocated to achieve just that? Perhaps by some European policy-makers keen to get out without seeming to abandon the US? By the UN? Or, maybe, by some Obama supporter in the US policy-making structure, anxious to prevent the administration from being sucked into a Vietnam-like quagmire?
The depressing truth is most likely to be that this was a serious policy initiative of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. This worthy Policy Czar has not shown much understanding of the area he is supposed to look after, nor has he displayed any marked evidence of intellect. His strength seems to lie in bulldozing his way through problems, and it is quite possible that, having failed in earlier attempts to sideline Hamid Karzai, he believed that such an election would be a way of getting rid of this difficult player. For Mr Holbrooke the most apt comment on this whole affair would have to be something akin to this doggerel verse from the 19th century:
What, what, what,
What’s the news from Swat?
Sad news, bad news.
Holbrooke has always been labeled a rising star and potential Secretary of State. Like defeated candidate John Kerry however after almost 4 decades Holbrooke has never honestly come down on whether the US effort in RVN was a win or a loss or whatever. Time to move beyond the Viet Nam Generation in our foreign policy and foreign relations. I come down that the US effort in Viet Nam was delivery of a very expensive message to the Soviet Union and China that knew the message already and did not need for it to be constantly reiussed. Others may differ yet many brave men died or lost much their including their souls. Would support a statutory ban on those in Viet Nam from 1962-1975 from running USA foreign policy or relations. They pretty much proved they may well have learned many wrong lessons from that period. Disclosure drafte September 10, 1967 but did not serve in RVN!
Yes, the “election” was a remarkable spectacle, a farce worthy of Fellini. And anyone who was paying the least attention knew that it was going to be that way. There was no other possible outcome. Democratic elections just don’t occur when much of the country is outside government control (and often when governments are too much in control). Some of the world’s greatest despots hold “free elections,” too.
The intent of the election was obvious–to show the gullible Western TV viewer that Afghanistan was on the road to becoming a stable democracy, if only it could get a little help from its “friends” in the West.
FB Ali is correct to ask who blew the cover? Who has enough influence with the US media to get it to pay attention? It wasn’t the neocons, who were counting on an election, any election. It wasn’t the Obama administration, who presided over the farce and was counting on it to validate their policies. Most of other players could not have been effective in blowing the cover, because they have no standing with the media.
My guess is that’s an inside job. There must be elements within the defense and intelligence establishment who are truly alarmed at how seriously astray American foreign policy has gone.
To update an old and possible apochrypal pun and diplomatic cable:
I will try not to take your comment personally.
To quote the central character in “Miller’s Crossing,”
“What soul?” pl
Ah, yes, “I have sinned.” (Sind) pl
Not “We have Sinned” ?
Amusing, but I think Napier reported “peccavi.” Pl
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.
It appears many now have ‘causa ut secedo’. From the authors analysis it looks like Mr. Holbrook joins a long line of westerners who fail to understand this region.
I had hoped that the Obama administration would show more patience in developing a clear strategy for US action in Afghanistan (I’m still not certain what he intends to do there) and less with trying to get ‘bi-partisan’ support for his domestic legislation.
I believe that would be “peccavimus.” pl
Only the intel types seem to have survived the RVN period. Apparently small unit intel was really good in RVN but reporting upwards sometimes resulted in modification of raw intel by unauthorized personnel. WAS this another instance in which the CIA missed it? Soviet Union collapse! Iraqi invasion of Kuwait! WMD in Iraq! Etc. Etc.
peccaverunt = they have sinned.
Only because the proper current diplomatic verbage:
erratum erant trado just doesn’t have that understated victorian flair.
CK – Fun
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.
Obama & administration thus far have proven adept at keeping afloat the consensus of their foreign policy wisdom. (Conceding the legitimate “Obama-effect” gen’rl int’l boost). Safely in the broad liberal pocket does their compass point – As opposition grows they will move (on this issue) to stay in the pocket of opinion. and of course, no one likes to admit being wrong.
Arguably, elections were an inevitability – what else would come down the pipeline with a U.S.-Instructed government presiding? Granted, the drastic/depressing results certainly turned the administration’s milk sour.
A great over generalization but interesting.
CIA analytic efforts were largely irrelevant to the war. They expended some effort from Langley to monitor what was going on so that they could “play” with Johnson in the PDB process. They had a couple of really good people like Sam Adams.
The military collection in the theater was pretty good. It collected more information than the analysts could handle and process. In 1968 the Army tried making brigade and division analytic shops a lot bigger in order to handle the flow. These bigger analytic offices were called “Battlefield Information Coordination Centers.” (BICC) The problem in analysis arose when you passed corps headquarters (FF) and reached MACV J-2. There, the generals were under direct pressure from the WH to produce analysis that said that we were relentlessly attriting the enmy and well on the way to victory. Lyndon Johnson demanded such tripe and the generals gave it to him.
Collection was prety good. Air reconnaissance was effective using IR sensors. SIGINT was effective against all the long range circuits, but, what we did not know until the cease fire in 1973(?) is that the enemy had a 2 watt HF manual morse network that connected all their units. We could not hear that because the signal was too weak. They just had hundreds of relays. I learned that while drinking with an NVA colonel in the officers’ club at Tan Son Nhut after the cease fire. Clandestine HUMINT was, as always very much a matter of persoanltiies and so it varied widely in quality. Mine was great of course. PW interrogations were effective, Document and materiel exploitation likewise.
Every once in a while I have some innocent say to me that since I was an officer in intelligence I must have had a desk job.
I have quit responding to that.
Vietnam was not really a very difficult intelligence problem.
The US just gave up. pl
“Pecavi” is correct for Napier.
here is a good one.
“In the 1950s, the United States declined Afghanistan’s request for defense cooperation but extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan’s physical infrastructure–roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy.”
feeling deja vu?
Read the rest. It’s the future script of afghanistan.
The exact corrupt, incompetent crews who killed each other is back in charge. And people wonder why afghanistan didn’t meaningfully rebuilt in the past 8 yrs.
Basically, afghanistan history for the next 20 years will be the same as 40 yrs ago.
major power jockeying each other. Weak and corrupt monarchy finally pissed the public off and the people start demanding change. Failed suppression, assassination then civil war. All mixed with ego, ignorance, corruption and weapons from major power.
Here are examples:
how is that Israel hijacking Russian ship? (It has ripple effect. Syria, Lebanon, Iran.)
China canceling major economic projects in southern Pakistan? Why? (that was suppose to increase serious amount of trade for Pakistan)
etc. etc.. The cummulative effect of these type of event will ultimately lead to afghanistan rehash.
Afghanistan is not some random latin american country that can be experimented on for decades. Once any power in that area says enough. It’s game over. Ten pounds of well placed high explosive is enough to collapse entire afghanistan into another civil war.
As long as there is no geopolitical stability between major powers. The fancy talk of COIN and nation building will go up in smoke in about 2 weeks after that big explosion.
As long as there is no “real” leadership that politically unite Afghanistan, there isn’t going to be “nation building”. It’s nothing more than a list of fancy construction projects. To be demolished few months after the civil war begins.
… an exact repeat.
Well yes, but one might also label it retro 19th century “liberal imperialism.”
Holbrooke’s staff of “advisors” (curiously)includes a woman on loan from the British Foreign Office. His staff seems rather strongly influenced by the Center for American Security think tank which is reportedly bankrolled by Soros. The Carr Center at Harvard is a “player” in the policy process and you can check their “liberal” studies on Afghanistan and policy recommendations.
Some advisors no doubt believe in the “democracy,” “human rights,” “women’s rights” rhetoric. Others I imagine don’t believe it but are cynical enough to think such policy justification can “rally” Congress or the American people. Perhaps Holbrooke is a cynic on this despite his staff as useful window dressing. The President is a Harvard man so perhaps the Carr Center has some special influence.
As much as I hate to contradict you, Tom Regan (the Irish mobster in “Miller’s Crossing”) said in response to Bernie Birnbaum pleading for his life:
Bernie: “Look into your heart.”
Tom: “What Heart?”
Followed by Bernie’s brains being scattered along the hallway. Not that I advocate that sort of thing, but Bernie did have it coming.
Regarding the ‘election’ in Afghanistan, I think “Miller’s Crossing” is an apt film to mention. Tom Regan, the aforementioned mobster, mentions he voted for the current (thoroughly corrupt machine mayor) several times in the last election. Life imitating art?
I stand corrected. Pl
Holbrooke is trying his Balkanization tour, and between him and the Neocons and their love affair with Karzi have/are creating rifts between our U.S. and the other indigenous persons of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was/is stupid.
Could the land of the stans fracture into more ‘pieces’ thanks to the Neocon/Balkaners, it’s beginning to look that way.
Hmmm…let’s see there’s a new Pashaistan, a new Nuristan, Sindhu Desh, etc.. Don’t forget the Baluchi separatists that the Indian RAW has been supplying. I can just imagine what the Turkmens are thinking right about now
I am all for genuinely free and fair elections. But when one is fighting a war that needs public support at home to continue, and local support to succeed, it is crazy to try to hold such an election when it is certain that the only way the incumbent can win (as win he must) is through massive rigging. Instead, the sensible thing would be to provide him with some experts (from Florida?) in seamless poll rigging.
I still hanker for some other explanation for what happened; human stupidity is so depressing. Incidentally, you’ve given me another peg on which to hang my fantasy – the woman from the British Foreign Office. The silliness in Kabul appears to be contagious; witness the animated discussion above on ‘peccavi’ versus ‘peccavimus’ etc. So, here is my contribution, in appropriate verse form:
THE GIRL FROM THE FO
What? What? What?
What’s this wicked plot?
Taking him for a ride,
Putting him on a slide.
Who played this dirty trick
Upon poor, trusting Dick?
The girl, the girl, ‘twas the FO girl!
She’s the one who did it,
She’s the one who hid it
In that deadly paper,
She pulled this naughty caper.
Afghanistan finally has something worth fighting over. A major copper deposit was discovered a few years back.
This may change some traditional dynamics.
1. PECCAVI — “The most brief and brilliant example of a favourite British form of humour, the pun. In 1843 Sir Charles Napier conquered the Indian province of Sind (now southeast Pakistan), and was criticized in parliament in 1844 for his ruthless campaign. A girl in her teens, Catherine Winkworth (1827–78), remarked to her teacher that Napier’s despatch to the governor general of India, after capturing Sind, should have been Peccavi (Latin for ‘I have sinned’). She sent her joke to the new humorous magazine Punch which printed it as a factual report under Foreign Affairs. As a result the pun has usually been credited to Napier.”
Catherine Winkworth went on to other linguistic achievements — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Winkworth
2. The (in my view) far superior Swat/Akond/Akhoond verse is Edward Lear’s
The Akond of Swat
WHO or why, or which, or what,
Is the Akond of SWAT?
Is he tall or short, or dark or fair?
Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or chair,
The Akond of Swat?
Is he wise or foolish, young or old?
Does he drink his soup and his coffee cold,
The Akond of Swat?
Does he sing or whistle, jabber or talk,
And when riding abroad does he gallop or walk,
The Akond of Swat?
Does he wear a turban, a fez, or a hat?
Does he sleep on a mattress, a bed, or a mat,
or a COT,
The Akond of Swat?
When he writes a copy in round-hand size,
Does he cross his T’s and finish his I’s
with a DOT,
The Akond of Swat?
Can he write a letter concisely clear
Without a speck or a smudge or smear
The Akond of Swat!
Do his people like him extremely well?
Or do they, whenever they can, rebel,
At the Akond of Swat?
If he catches them then, either old or young,
Does he have them chopped in pieces or hung,
The Akond of Swat?
Do his people prig in the lanes or park?
Or even at times, when days are dark,
O the Akond of Swat!
Does he study the wants of his own dominion?
Or doesn’t he care for public opinion
The Akond of Swat?
To amuse his mind do his people show him
Pictures, or any one’s last new poem,
For the Akond of Swat?
At night if he suddenly screams and wakes,
Do they bring him only a few small cakes,
or a LOT,
For the Akond of Swat?
Does he live on turnips, tea, or tripe?
Does he like his shawl to be marked with a stripe,
or a DOT,
The Akond of Swat?
Do he like to lie on his back in a boat
Like the lady who lived in that isle remote,
The Akond of Swat?
Is he quiet, or always making a fuss?
Is his steward a Swiss or a Swede or a Russ,
or a SCOT,
The Akond of Swat?
Does he like to sit by the calm blue wave?
Or to sleep and snore in a dark green cave,
or a GROTT,
The Akond of Swat?
Does he drink small beer from a silver jug?
Or a bowl? or a glass? or a cup? or a mug?
or a POT,
The Akond of Swat?
Does he beat his wife with a gold-topped pipe,
When she lets the gooseberries grow too ripe,
The Akond of Swat?
Does he wear a white tie when he dines with friends,
And tie it neat in a bow with ends,
or a KNOT,
The Akond of Swat?
Does he like new cream, and hate mince-pies?
When he looks at the sun does he wink his eyes
The Akond of Swat.
Does he teach his subjects to roast and bake?
Does he sail about on an inland lake,
in a YACHT,
The Akond of Swat?
Some one, or nobody, knows, I wot,
Who or which or why or what
Is the Akond of Swat!
This usage of “prig” threw me a bit — seems to mean “steal”:
“A knavish beggar in the Beggar’s Bush, by Beaumont and Fletcher.
“1 Prig. A coxcomb, a conceited person Probably the Anglo-Saxon pryt or pryd.
“2 Prig. To filch or steal. Also a pickpocket or thief. The clown calls Autolycus a “prig that haunts wakes, fairs, and bear-baitings.” (Shakespeare: Winter’s Tale, iv. 3.)
“3 In Scotch, to prig means to cheapen, or haggle over the price asked; priggin means cheapening.”
E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898
One Jane Marriott, and affiliated with the Soros backed Center for American Progress:
“Jane Marriott has spent the last six years focusing on Afghanistan and Iraq. She has been involved in the process from the front line as political advisor to coalition forces in southern Iraq in 2003 and 2004, political advisor to CFC-A in Afghanistan in 2004, and political counselor in Baghdad from 2005 to 2006. She was the deputy head for Afghanistan issues from 2007 to 2008 before joining the CENTCOM Assessment Team. She moonlighted as chief speechwriter to the U.K. defense secretary before her past returned to haunt her and she joined Ambassador Holbrooke’s team in May. In earlier incarnations, she was head of nuclear non-proliferation and helped pilot a criminal justice bill through the Houses of Parliament. As her accent will betray, Jane is a British diplomat, on loan to Ambassador Holbrooke. She is an officer of the Order of the British Empire and holds an master’s of philosophy in international relations from the University of Cambridge.”
To get the flavor of the mindset (?) of Holbrooke etal there is some “discussion” with video available at Center for American Progress with Holbrooke and his team:
Perhaps one of SST’s UK readers could provide us details on Ms. Marriott.
Being British, perhaps she could check for the White House with that street urchin out Peshawar way who used to hang around with the kindly abbot of a Tibetan monastery, a Red Hat as I recall. The urchin had a Pathan friend, a horse trader, who was well informed on Afghan matters.
FB Ali, All,
To sharpen some analytical focus, if possible, here is data on the Center for American Progress, a Democratic Party think tank, led by John Podesta. John’s come a long ways since his days at Senate Ag.
“John Podesta is considered one of the Democratic party’s sharpest and toughest operatives. Podesta is a 54-year-old marathon runner with an intense, angular face that seems to suggest he is always calculating something you would never be able to grasp. He is also the leader and architect of a new liberal think tank in Washington known as the Center for American Progress. His goal is to build an organization to rethink the very idea of liberalism…The Center for American Progress is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization under U.S. Internal Revenue Code. The institute receives approximately $25 million per year in funding from a variety of sources, including individuals, foundations, and corporations. From 2003 to 2007, the center received about $15 million in grants from 58 foundations. Major individual donors include George Soros, Peter Lewis, Steve Bing, and Herbert M. Sandler. The Center receives undisclosed sums from corporate donors.
Some open government groups, such as the Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center, criticize the Center’s failure to disclose its contributors, particularly since it is so influential in appointments to the Obama administration.
CAP has also been funded by the Democracy Alliance.”
“The little friend of all the world”, searching for a red bull on a green field and a keen and accurate observer. Just what we need around the Khyer Pass.
Clifford Kiracofe, William P. Fitzgerald,
I have regrettably not had time to check out Jane Marriot. However, I strongly suspect that she is the kind of person whom the ‘street urchin out Peshawar way’ would have taken for an idiot, to whom one told lies as a matter of course.
I am thinking of the marvelous passage in which Kim decides that, contrary to what he has been told, the ethnographer-spook Colonel Creighton is probably not as foolish as he makes himself appear. At first, Creighton talks to him in English:
‘Kim pretended at first to understand perhaps one word in three of this talk. Then the Colonel, seeing his mistake, turned to fluent and picturesque Urdu and Kim was contented. No man could be a fool who knew the language so intimately, who moved so gently and silently, and whose eyes were so different from the dull fat eyes of other Sahibs.’
The unambiguous implication is that Creighton is very much an exception — note in particular the reference to the ‘dull fat eyes of other Sahibs’.
Yes indeed, a nice young fellow he. Probably knows the urchins in Kabul referred to by Brig Ali. No doubt they all think the Americans daft and stupid.
To focus the analysis still further:
1. we can take note that Obama is a Chicagoan (via Hawaii, however), Rahm Emmanuel same, and John Podesta same. Thus would come as no surprise that Podesta has clout and personal connections when it comes to Democratic Party foreign policy. His influence on “AfPak” policy would seem to demonstrate this. Yes, a long way from Senate Ag.
2. As Podesta wants to create a “new” liberalism according to the Center for American Progress puff, then judging from the foreign policy line it is not so different from say the late 19th and early 20th century (British) “liberal imperial” mode. Perhaps this is where Ms. Marriott fits in as a sort of coach to the daft and stupid Americans.
3. Useful background and historical context anent “liberal imperialism”:
Robert J. Scally, The Origins of the Lloyd George Coalition. The Politics of Social-Imperialism, 1900-1918 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. Press,1975.) Says the jacket cover:
“The book examines the intrusion of imperialist modes of thought into the domestic politics of the Edwardian period and the war years. The author analyzes the fusion of social-imperialist ideology with the Lloyd George insurgency in the Liberal Party and reinforces the hypothesis that European imperialism in this era aligned itself with progressive Liberalism….”
Thanks to all for the corrections and enlightenment regarding peccavi.I can only plead brain-fade. Special thanks to pbrownlee for making clear the role of Catherine Winkworth, and for printing Edward Lear’s delightful poem.
David Habakkuk, FB Ali,
Yes, a good fellow that Creighton.
Very much look forward to insights on Lady Jane, Holbrooke’s “little helper” Although as Mick Jagger said: “Lady Jane is a complete sort of very weird song. I don’t really know what that’s all about myself.”
But we can turn to other little helpers of Holbrooke.
1. Let’s take one Vikram Singh:
” Vikram Singh is the Senior Defense Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also manages the Information and Communication Cell for the Special Representative. Before joining Ambassador Holbrooke’s staff, he was Senior Director for Counterinsurgency Policy at the Pentagon and a member of the Department of Defense team for the White House Strategy Review for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Singh returned to government service in February 2009 after two years as a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, DC. At CNAS he worked on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Asia policy issues, and a range of defense strategy and planning projects. Before joining CNAS, Mr. Singh worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on policy issues including stability operations and counter-insurgency capabilities; disaster response and humanitarian assistance; oversight of peacekeeping missions; and the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. From 1999 through 2001, Mr. Singh managed a five-country Ford Foundation project on minority rights and security in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka at the International Center for Ethnic Studies in Colombo. He also covered Sri Lanka’s civil war and reported from South Africa for the Voice of America. Mr. Singh is the author of several CNAS reports and has written for publications ranging from The New York Times to Armed Forces Journal. While at CNAS, he was a regular commentator on television and radio, including CNN, FOX and PBS. Mr. Singh holds a B.A. in history from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.A. in international security policy and human rights from Columbia University. He is married to Dilshika Jayamaha and lives on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.”
His participation in the BUSH-Rumsfeld DOD 2006 Quadrennial Review indicates a certain continuity as he is Holbrooke’s DOD go to guy it seems. From the Ford Foundation “minority rights” crew to DOD in short order, not bad for a young lad.
It is not clear to me whether he is a US citizen or another foreign advisor like Lady Jane, or Kilcullen for that matter.
At any we might situate him in Indian-South Asian context. I haven’t had a chance to communicate with Kim on this but as a first go:
Hindu, Singhs usually from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. All the Singhs are Rajputs or Thakurs (warrior caste), except in Bihar where a “Singh” could be Brahmin — a Brahmin that cultivates land and known as the “Bhumihars”. A small, but powerful, community in Bihar. Most of the Singhs, however, come from Rajasthan and are Rajputs. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar most Singhs are Thakurs –landlords and people with properties. His wife, I take it is from Ceylon perhaps.
2. Or how about Major General Burton Field of the Center for American Progress:
“Major General Burton Field is the senior military advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force in 1979 after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has commanded the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.; the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea; and the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virgina. From 2007 to 2008, he commanded the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Balad Air Base, Iraq. General Field has served two tours on the Joint Staff to include his previous job as the vice director of the J-5 Strategic Plans and Policy. General Field is a command pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours in the F-16 and the F-22A.”
As we have time, we can focus on others.
Meanwhile, I am getting ready to run my Ducati 900SS SP up the Shenandoah Valley to the Mid-Atlantic Italian Motofest in Shepherdstown, WV on the 26th. It ran well today in the mountains.
Per Kilcullen, another little helper for the war party, at an AfPak conference in Australia:
“We are facing a crisis of legitimacy at the local level,” said David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency expert and an adviser to the Nato commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal. “Local populations in any insurgency are in a lethally uncertain environment. In these environments, support follows strength, not the other way around…”
“Some described the situation in Afghanistan as beyond repair, and suggested it may be too late to be holding conferences about state-building and establishing rule of law.”
When in Delhi in August, friends there made the point to me that counterinsurgency doctrine calls for a long term commitment, say 30 years or a generation. Given the US political system and politics, it is not logical to plan for a 30 year US commitment in Afghanistan. Because the US will not stay 30 years, it will “lose.” Thus it is better for Washington to recognize this now and to make the appropriate adjustments in policy. Meanwhile, the problem of rising fundamentalism and terrorism in the region must be addressed on a regional basis with the involvement of Iran not to mention Russia and China.
Have you noted the activity along the India-China border? I hear reports that India is raising 2 divisions to deal with a perceived Chinese threat. One division to be attached to 3 Corps and one to 4 Corps. These would relate to Arunachal Pradesh and to Myanmar. Skirmishes coming?… China is said to have a 50,000 man military exercise ongoing in Tibet.
My bazaar urchin tells me that she wasn’t always FO. In fact, that once upon a time she trod the path of Creighton Sahib (he didn’t say what her eyes were like).
FB Ali, Clifford,
I started looking up Jane Marriot, and almost the first thing I found was a report in the Sunday Times from October 2004 that Tony Blair had ordered a “special Iraq honours list” to reward civil servants who supported him over the war.
‘One recommendation for inclusion in the list is that of Jane Marriott, who as head of the Foreign Office department on nuclear proliferation was at the centre of the government’s contentious assessments of Saddam’s weapons.’
Further comment from me is I think redundant.
Thanks for the insight.
Glancing at her areas of operation indicated in open sources — Iraq and Afghanistan — Col. Creighton might wonder just what sort of “advice” she is giving. One would hope she is not part of that brilliant and well-informed network which brought us London’s “dodgy dossier” of Iraq War fame.
Here’s some on yet another “little helper” of Holbrooke, one Rina Amiri, a women’s rights activist.
Rina Amiri served as an Afghan activist and returned to her native country Afghanistan in February 2002 to take part in peace-building and reconstruction efforts following three decades of instability and war. She served as a political affairs officer in the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and as a member of the political unit implementing the Bonn Peace Accords. In preparation for the 2003 Constitutional Loya Jirga, Ms. Amiri oversaw and managed elections for women, nomads, refugees, and minorities at risk in the provinces of Afghanistan and in the refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. She also served as a liaison for political parties in the presidential elections and as a part of the UNAMA and Afghan Independent Human Rights team for the verification of political rights for the upcoming Afghan parliamentary elections. She has provided analysis on the peace building process in Afghanistan at major institutions, including the United Nations, Harvard University, the US Institute of Peace, the State Department, the Council of Foreign Affairs as well as news publications, television, and radio programs, including, CNN, The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Currently she serves as a Senior Regional Advisor with the Central Eurasia Project/Middle East North Africa Initiative at the Open Society Institute. (12.2007)”
and some touching puff:
“Rina Amiri has been preparing since she was a child for her present dynamic role as a peace builder and reconstruction strategist in her devastated homeland, Afghanistan. It is a role she has longed for, and to which she has been passionately committed for as long as she can remember. Yet before the events of September 2001, it seemed inconceivable that she could return to her country, devastated by decades of invasion, clan warfare, drought, and famine.” http://www.huntalternatives.org/pages/394_rina_amiri.cfm
Meanwhile it appears there are some academic types etc. who have had enough with the pretensions of the daft and stupid war party. From Steve Clemon’s Washington Note blog:
” have signed this letter along with a number of others I respect including Robert Jervis, Christopher Preble, Rajan Menon, Andrew Bacevich, Jack Snyder, David Rieff, Gordon Adams, Jonathan Clarke, Michael Desch, Stephen Walt, Eugene Gholz, Sean Kay, Scott McConnell, Barry Posen, and many others. The list will be added to in coming days.
The letter is important as I think it captures well the views of an important wing of the foreign policy establishment that is arguing that it is unconvinced by the White House’s depiction of objectives and the rationale for deployed resources in the Afghanistan conflict….”
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Dear Mr. President:
During your campaign for the Presidency, Americans around the country appreciated your skepticism of the rationales for the Iraq war. In 2002, you had warned that such an endeavor would yield “a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, and with unintended consequences.” You pointed out the dangers of fighting such a war “without a clear rationale and without strong international support.” As scholars of international relations and U.S. foreign policy, many of us issued similar warnings before the war, unfortunately to little avail.
Today, we are concerned that the war in Afghanistan is growing increasingly detached from considerations of length, cost, and consequences. Its rationale is becoming murkier and both domestic and international support for it is waning. Respectfully, we urge you to focus U.S. strategy more clearly on al Qaeda instead of expanding the mission into an ambitious experiment in state building.
First, our objectives in that country have grown overly ambitious. The current strategy centers on assembling a viable, compliant, modern state in Afghanistan–something that has never before existed. The history of U.S. state-building endeavors is not encouraging, and Afghanistan poses particular challenges. Engaging in competitive governance with the Taliban is a counterproductive strategy, pushing the Taliban and al Qaeda together instead of driving them apart. If we cannot leave Afghanistan until we have created an effective central government, we are likely to be there for decades, with no guarantee of success.
Second, the rationale of expanding the mission in order to prevent “safe havens” for al Qaeda from emerging is appealing but flawed. Afghanistan, even excluding the non-Pashto areas, is a large, geographically imposing country where it is probably impossible to ensure that no safe havens could exist. Searching for certainty that there are not and will not be safe havens in Afghanistan is quixotic and likely to be extremely costly. Even if some massive effort in that country were somehow able to prevent a safe haven there, dozens of other countries could easily serve the same purpose. Even well-governed modern democracies like Germany have inadvertently provided staging grounds for terrorists. A better strategy would focus on negotiations with moderate Taliban elements, regional diplomacy, and disrupting any large-scale al Qaeda operations that may emerge. Those are achievable goals.
Third, an expanded mission fails a simple cost/benefit test. In order to markedly improve our chances of victory–which Ambassador Richard Holbrooke can only promise “we’ll know it when we see it”–we would need to make a decades-long commitment to creating a state in Afghanistan, and even in that case, success would be far from certain. As with all foreign policies, this enormous effort must be weighed against the opportunity costs. Money, troops, and other resources would be poured into Afghanistan at the expense of other national priorities, both foreign and domestic.
Mr. President, there is serious disagreement among scholars and policy experts on the way forward in Afghanistan. Many of those urging you to deepen U.S. involvement in that country are the same people who promised we would encounter few difficulties in Iraq and that that war would solve our problems in the Middle East, neither of which proved to be the case. We urge your administration to refocus on al Qaeda and avoid an open-ended state-building mission in Afghanistan.”
It might also be useful to have a letter from retired military and FSOs to a similar effect.
Of course, all this was done before in the run up to the Iraq War with no effect.
Wasn’t Valerie Plame also in the nuclear non-proliferation business? It seems to provide a good cover for all sorts of covert activities. On both sides of the Atlantic, spooks were front and centre in the Iraq wardrums party. Understandably; nothing like a nice little war to boost the secret budgets.
It appears that the interests of a lot of different factions (as shown by Clifford’s select bios) converge on continuing the war in Afghanistan for as long as possible. The voices against, however sensible, are unlikely to be heard amidst this martial drumbeat.
I see….a streetwalker for the poodle. Thanks for the data.
The Holbrooke kindergarden services the diplomatic and civilian development side of things, thus the Secretary of State.
For the Defense Dept side, and thus the Secretary of Defense, we would consider inputs from the Defense Policy Board,Advisory Committee for which see Wiki:
1. Note the new presence gratis Gates of Stephen Biddle, the Af-Pak go to guy for the US foreign policy imperial grand lodge…Council on Foreign Relations, NYC.
2. Also the new position gratis Gates for Sarah Sewell of the Carr Center at Harvard. She’s from US Senator Mitchell’s office back when. Podesta being at Senate Ag then as a lawyer type. This is the George Mitchell now in the Muddled East.
3. Then we see the usuals and leftovers who helped bring the Iraq War still on the board.
Some other snippets:
1. US-India Conference on Strategic Relationship:
2. When I was in Delhi in August, a group of Rand types were scuttling about. Led by Queen Bee Christine Fair the group seems to have invited itself into several think tank type settings. One Indian colleague told me at the time the Randoids were rather arrogant and she was quite abrasive. Fair is a Pakistan “expert.”
Excellent piece by Juan Cole today at
From a review of a new book on Afghanistan by a Randoid
“For all of the debate over how to administer the Afghan government, it still remains to be seen how Western armies in the country will be able to control the countryside. Even formerly peaceful provinces in the north –n Kunduz, for example — have recently become insurgent strongholds, and, in the majority of the country, insurgents freely operate at night when the troops are back at their bases. This is something that administrative restructuring and policy catchphrases will not alleviate.”