Tag: American military

CANADA WITHDRAWS, U.S. DOWN-SIZES, BUT—FACING IMMEDIATE THREATS—ISRAEL TAKES A PRO-ACTIVE MILITARY APPROACH

Canada Should Keep its Fighter Jets in the Middle East: Allan Levine, National Post, Oct. 26, 2015 — Given his busy schedule the past two months, you can forgive prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau for not having had the time to watch the first episode of season 5 of Homeland …

A New Phase to an Old Conflict: Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 15, 2015— The spate of murderous, unorganized Palestinian attacks on Israelis probably won’t end any time soon.

Proactive Redemption in Responding to Palestinian Violence: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Oct. 11, 2015— The ongoing discourse among Israeli cabinet members and, to a large extent among settler leaders, has been largely over how to provide security to Israelis.

Obama’s Military Policy: Down-Size While Threats Rise:  Michael O’Hanlon, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 28, 2015 — The Obama administration’s official policy on U.S. military ground forces is that they should no longer be sized for possible “large-scale prolonged stability operations.”

 

On Topic Links

 

IDF Prepares for Possible Combined Attack from Iranian-Backed Syrian Forces: Raphael Poch, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 3, 2015

US Military Intensifies Cooperation With Israel: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News,  Oct. 18, 2015

A Joint Israeli-Arab Attack on Iran?: Ehud Eilam, Israel Defense, Nov. 4, 2015

What Coordination? Russia and Israeli Warplanes Play Cat and Mouse Over Syria: Debka, Nov. 2, 2015

                                      

         

CANADA SHOULD KEEP ITS FIGHTER JETS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Allan Levine                                                         

National Post, Oct. 26, 2015

 

Given his busy schedule the past two months, you can forgive prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau for not having had the time to watch the first episode of season 5 of Homeland, the intense television drama about the CIA and the realities of terrorism. He probably also has not had a chance to read Yale University historian Timothy Snyder’s new book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Both should be on his to-do list before he carries through with his decision to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the mission against the Islamic State.

 

In the new Homeland episode (mild spoilers ahead), CIA operative Peter Quinn (actor Rupert Friend), who has spent two years in Syria including the city of Al-Raqqah, now controlled by the Islamic State, is invited to offer his assessment of the U.S.-led bombing strategy to a room full of American decision-makers. “What strategy?” he poignantly asks them. He explains that ISIL does have a strategy based on its distorted interpretation of the Koran. “They’re gathering right now in Raqqah by the tens of thousands … and they know exactly what to do,” he says. “They call it the ‘end of times.’ What do you think the beheadings are about? The crucifixions and the revival of slavery? Do you think they make this shit up? … They’re there for one reason and one reason only to die for the Caliphate and usher in a world without infidels. That’s their strategy and it’s been that way since the 7th century.” Pressed further as to what he would suggest, he says that the Americans should dispatch 200,000 soldiers for a ground war and the same number of doctors and teachers. The officials tell him that’s not possible. Then, says, Quinn, “Hit reset. Pound Raqqah into a parking lot.”

 

That may be problematic, but it is probably not overstating the case: That the only way ISIL will be stopped is by a massive allied assault, precisely the same approach the west took with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Imagine if one of Trudeau’s Liberal Party predecessors, William Lyon Mackenzie King, had decided that Canadian participation in the Second World War would have consisted only of providing training.

 

Perhaps this is not an accurate comparison with what is transpiring in Syria and Iraq. Yet, Timothy Snyder’s new book, though far from perfect in its analysis, does provide insight into Hitler’s global strategy to rid the world of Jews and then reshape the planet. The Nazi plan for world domination was broader than ISIL’s quest to re-establish its Caliphate, yet both share an extreme and brutal mindset in which negotiation and diplomacy has no part.

 

Justin Trudeau may be correct that Canada’s six fighter jets are only minimally effective in the war against ISIL, but at least they are doing some damage. Doing nothing militarily is worse — and on the ground training of Iraqi troops, while helpful, is hardly the answer. It is difficult to figure out Trudeau’s exact thinking or logic on this issue. In an interview last January, London, Ont., radio host Andrew Lawton attempted without success to pin Trudeau down on explaining when he would consider it essential for Canada to participate in a ground war against terrorism. The best Lawton could obtain was Trudeau’s comment that: “I’ve never been against Canada engaging robustly against ISIS. What I have been concerned with is the prime minister’s choice around the way we should best do that.” Lawton had pointed out that a United Nations report had indicated that 8,400 Iraqi civilians had been killed by ISIL up to then.

 

“Well, I think it is warranted if there is a reasonable chance of success,” Trudeau explained further. “If there’s a way that Canada can offer expertise the rest of the world is unable to provide.” He also added that looking at conflicts in the Middle East that “very few people believe there is a military-only solution to what is going on in the Middle East … there are a lot of different paths that need to be taken by the international community to de-fang and neutralize ISIS.”

 

Two months later, during the debate in the House of Commons on extending and expanding the anti-ISIL mission into Syria, Trudeau asserted that “we are all committed to keeping Canadians safe.” He argued, as he still does, that Canada “does have a role to play in responding to humanitarian crises and security threats in the world” and “that when we deploy the Canadian Forces — especially into combat operations — there must be a clear mission and a clear role for Canada.”

 

Finally at the end of June, in an interview with Terry Milewski on CBC television’s Power & Politics, Trudeau once more was asked to explain his reasoning about confronting ISIL. “I was very much focused on making sure that Canada’s position is the right one for the long term,” he said. “And that’s where crossing the line from a non-combat mission into a combat mission is a decision that has to be taken very, very carefully and [responsibly]. And to be quite frank about it, the prime minister did not take that aspect of it very seriously. He preferred to play politics … ”

 

One cannot but get the feeling that it is Justin Trudeau who is now “playing politics.” Having made his promise to end the anti-ISIL air mission, he is stuck with it — even if it does not serve the larger and desperate needs of the thousands of people being terrorized by ISIL, and even if it leaves our allies left in the fight while Canada goes home. Whether Canadian CF-18’s are making a huge difference is not really the point; at least they are doing something pragmatic in a difficult battle that we cannot afford to lose. More talk, training and humanitarian aid are all important, but they are not going to produce the desired result. On this significant issue, Trudeau should try channelling Winston Churchill, not Neville Chamberlain.                                                                 

                                                                       

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A NEW PHASE TO AN OLD CONFLICT                                             

Yaakov Lappin                                                               

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 15, 2015

 

The spate of murderous, unorganized Palestinian attacks on Israelis probably won’t end any time soon. Despite the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this latest phase of terrorism is driven by the same fundamental force that has been behind all previous stages: The rejection by Palestinians of Israel’s existence in this land. As such, Israelis will have to stand firm in the face of the effort to terrorize them as security forces get down to the business of formulating effective ways to minimize the number of attacks.

 

The IDF is joining forces with the Israel Police, which is stretched to the limit, and has sent 10 companies of soldiers from Training Base One and other units to enable police to beef up their presence in every district. Additionally, the army has made available more than 20 Combat Collection Intelligence units to police in east Jerusalem. The units provide visual intelligence assistance to enable the police to identify in real time the movement of terrorists on their way to try and butcher Israeli civilians.

 

The IDF understands that if it does not help police reduce the level of attacks in east Jerusalem and Israeli cities, the violence will spread to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It is focused on the mission of seeking to improve Israelis’ sense of security and avoiding a situation in which Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah-Tanzim and the Palestinian Authority’s own security forces join in the violence – a development that would dramatically escalate the situation.

 

Along the border with Gaza, the IDF deployed two additional battalions to cope with the new phenomenon of Palestinian rioters approaching the fence. Wherever rioters approach the border fence in the vicinity of Israeli communities, army units are under orders to respond more aggressively to ensure that civilians are not at risk. In cases where mobs riot near the fence in open areas, a more flexible response, which decreases the chances of casualties and a further escalation, is encouraged.

 

At the end of 2014, the IDF’s Military Intelligence assessed that the Palestinian arena was the most likely front to erupt. Yet, that does not mean the defense establishment is sure of where things are headed. This phase of terrorism is, despite the claims of terrorist organizations, unorganized, and it is coming from the depths of Palestinian society. This society is deeply radicalized, as polls show 16 percent of Gazans and 13% of West Bank Arabs support Islamic State. In Arab countries around Israel, this support is at between 3% and 4%.

 

This provides a clue to the depth of the pent-up hatred that is now coming to the fore. Certain triggers have amplified this rage, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas speech at the UN last month, when he transmitted a message of desperation to the General Assembly. According to the military’s assessments, systematic incitement to hate, false claims of a changing status quo at the Temple Mount and incidents like the deadly arson attack on the Duma family home all helped nourish the already-existing hate. A growing number of incidents in which settlers attack Palestinians in Area B of the West Bank could also prove explosive.

 

This is a new phase of an old conflict in which the spilling of blood and symbols of al-Aksa generate more attacks every day. Yet, away from east Jerusalem, in the West Bank, the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) are continuing to keep a reasonable level of control over organized terrorism. The IDF maintains more soldiers in Judea and Samaria than all the forces under the Northern and Southern commands put together. It is these security personnel who risk their lives every night to make arrests based on accurate Shin Bet intelligence and stop organized terrorist cells from maturing into imminent threats.

 

Now, however, the fire is focused in east Jerusalem, and the IDF must adjust its operational and intelligence capabilities to deal with the new threat. A number of key restraining factors still remain in place. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are wary of an open conflict with Israel in Gaza, and are not firing rockets into Israel (though Islamic State-affiliated terrorists are, on occasion). Fatah is restraining its Tanzim militiamen in the West Bank from engaging the IDF in gun battles.

 

And the PA, despite its public rhetoric, continues to coordinate security with the IDF, which is a key Israeli interest (as well as serving the PA). PA forces are instrumental in holding back large Palestinian riots. The livelihoods of some 100,000 Palestinians continue to rely on Israel, a fact that prevents workers from swelling the ranks of the rioters. Given all of these factors, the IDF has not begun calling up its reserves. If this changes, it will mean the current efforts to contain and reduce the terrorist attacks have failed.      

                                                                       

                                                                       

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PROACTIVE REDEMPTION IN RESPONDING TO PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE                                              

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

BESA, Oct. 11, 2015

 

The ongoing discourse among Israeli cabinet members and, to a large extent among settler leaders, has been largely over how to provide security to Israelis. While this is obviously a valid objective, it has nevertheless locked Israel into a defensive posture.

 

Israel's defense doctrine, devised by Israel's first prime minster, David Ben-Gurion, seeks to transfer the battlefield into enemy territory, in part because Israel's narrow borders makes defensive maneuvering difficult. But the main reason why Ben-Gurion favored this approach was his belief that to win a war, even a defensive war, Israel had to seize the initiative. In other words: Israel must be proactive, rather than, reactive.

 

It is not enough to arrest those who killed Israelis after they perpetrated their crime. When you call such crimes terrorism, it blurs the need to figure out what the terrorists tried to achieve. Even if it is hard to pinpoint exactly who the masterminds are, the attacks create a trend that undermines Israel's strategic and vital interests and its very sovereignty in its capital.

 

Under the government's defensive strategy, the Israel Defense Forces is tasked with providing security. The government expects the IDF to take a series to steps to respond to the situation, with the expectation that the overall operational effect would lead to the ebbing of violence. But reality is more complex. When the Palestinians create a reality in which certain areas are essentially off bounds for Jews – as has been the case in the current reality we live in – they consider it an accomplishment.

 

Helping a derailed train get back on track is a technical solution that restores order. The job is done when the train resumes normal operation. But when it comes to the complex relations between human beings, even when calm is restored, a new reality is created. In this part of the world, to reshape reality according to one's preference, a proactive and strategic initiative is necessary. It is incumbent upon us to subscribe to a new modus operandi to effect the desired change by departing from the reactive pattern of behavior.

 

But what kind of proactive action would serve Israel in the current state of affairs? This question puts Israel (in) a critical crossroad that could define the very essence of our presence on this land: Do we want Israel to be a homeland where Jerusalem serves as the linchpin of statehood, with all the religious and national implications; or do we simply want a country that serves as a safe haven for persecuted Jews and is recognized by the international community?

 

At the height of the War of Independence, in 1948, Ben-Gurion explained why he set the capture of Jerusalem as a primary objective in the war. Speaking before the Zionist General Council, he said, "I don't need to tell you what value Jerusalem has had in the history of the Jewish people and the land of Israel and world. … If a land has a soul, then Jerusalem is the soul of the land of Israel, and the battle for Jerusalem is paramount, not just in a military sense. … We are duty bound to stand by Jerusalem, and it deserves it. The pledge we took on the rivers of Babylon is binding now as it was binding then, otherwise we would no longer be able to call ourselves the people of Israel."

 

Indeed, that pledge is recited by every Jewish groom: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." Jerusalem is a point in the universe that encapsulates the Jews' religion, nationhood and polity. The Palestinians also consider it as their national focal point. That is why the city has fueled this current conflagration.

 

In light of this reality, the government should do more than just approve the security establishment's operational plans. Proactive measures are required that go beyond the authority of security authorities. At the strategic level, the situation calls for increased construction in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem. Such action will serve the national interest, not just a narrow sectarian interest. At this critical juncture, those who view this land and country as a stepping stone for redemption and as a national homeland will act differently than those who view Israel merely as a safe haven. We have to make fateful choices that will shape our future here, and our decision should be clear.                              

                                               

                                                                  

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OBAMA’S MILITARY POLICY: DOWN-SIZE WHILE THREATS RISE                                                             

Michael O’Hanlon                                                                                                                 

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 28, 2015

 

The Obama administration’s official policy on U.S. military ground forces is that they should no longer be sized for possible “large-scale prolonged stability operations.” The policy was stated in the administration’s 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, and dutifully reasserted last year in the Pentagon’s signature planning document known as the Quadrennial Defense Review.

 

“Stabilization operations” can include the range of missions spanning counterinsurgency, state-building, large-scale counterterrorism, and large-scale relief activities conducted in anarchic conditions. Though constraints like sequestration have limited the money available for the U.S. military, the Obama policy calling for a smaller standing ground army reflects a deliberate strategy shift and not just a response to cost-cutting, since some other parts of the military are not being reduced.

 

It is understandable that in the aftermath of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama would want the military to avoid messy ground operations in the future and rely instead on drones, commandos and other specialized capabilities. But as a guide to long-term force planning, the order to end America’s ability to mount such large-scale missions is dangerous. It should be corrected by the next president before it does real harm to the nation’s military.

 

There are lots of reasons to worry about the effect of the edict. As a direct result of it, during the 2013 government shutdown standoff, Pentagon internal budget reviews contemplated an active-duty army of only 380,000 soldiers. That would have been less than half Reagan-era levels and almost 200,000 fewer than in the George W. Bush and early Obama years. Such a figure would also have been 100,000 fewer than in the Clinton years, when the world seemed somewhat safer than it does today.

 

Nonetheless, people such as former Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead have advocated an army of less than 300,000 full-time soldiers which, at least in terms of size, would barely leave it in the world’s top 10. The U.S. Army is already smaller than those of China, North Korea and India—even if one adds the Marine Corps’s 180,000 active-duty forces.

 

Such small-is-enough thinking echoes a romantic part of America’s past. For most of its first 150 years, the U.S. had a very modest standing army. Until the Civil War, the figure hovered around 15,000 soldiers, and after the war it declined to similar levels. At the turn of the 20th century, U.S. ground forces barely ranked in the top 20 in the world in size. After World War I they were cut back to a comparable standing, as America consciously sought to avoid the ways and mores of the European nation-states and their permanent militarization.

 

After World War II, the U.S. disbanded its armed forces so fast that five years later, in 1950, the nation that had recently wielded the greatest military machine in history was unable to fend off North Korean communists attacking the South. By Vietnam the U.S. had forgotten so much about the innate character of war that it wound up waging a counterinsurgency campaign that overemphasized tanks, artillery, B-52s and napalm.

 

After Vietnam, the national revulsion against messy ground war, combined with a fascination with precision-strike technology after Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91, persuaded us that traditional ground conflicts would not be repeated. As a result, the U.S. was caught off guard by the tactical requirements of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

With defense budgets declining, China rising, and high-tech frontiers beckoning, the temptation is again to put all of our strategic eggs in the baskets of cyber operations, high-tech air and sea operations, robotics, space technologies and special forces. All are important and should be pursued in certain ways. But history suggests they will not be enough.

 

To protect core national security interests, the U.S. must anticipate a range of possible large-scale ground operations. Some—like scenarios involving Russia’s President Putin and aggression against the Baltic states, or conflict between the Koreas—have more the character of classic preparation for war. Others range from stabilization and relief missions after a massive tragedy or Indo-Pakistani war in South Asia, to a peace enforcement mission after a future peace deal in Syria, to a complex counterinsurgency alongside an Ebola outbreak in a place like northern Nigeria.

 

In every case, deterrence would be better than having to fight. But deterrence may fail. Each crisis could directly threaten the U.S. and its security, and could require American forces as part of a multinational coalition. This suggests that while the Army may not need to grow significantly, it should not be cut further.

 

It is one thing for President Obama to try to avoid more Mideast quagmires on his watch. It is quite another to direct the Army not to be ready for the plausible range of missions that history, as well as ongoing trends in demographics and technology and global politics, counsels us to anticipate. In our future defense planning, we should remember the old Bolshevik saw: You may not have an interest in war, but war may have an interest in you.

                                                                                              

 

On Topic

 

IDF Prepares for Possible Combined Attack from Iranian-Backed Syrian Forces: Raphael Poch, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 3, 2015 — A senior source in the IDF told Israeli media outlets that the Mount Hermon Brigade, the IDF brigade which sits closest to the Syrian border, is preparing to counter combined terrorist attacks from Iranian-backed forces in Syria.

Read more at https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/52843/idf-prepares-for-possible-combined-attack-from-iranian-backed-syrian-forces-idf/#zQ4Vu4SlGS7PfAhk.99

US Military Intensifies Cooperation With Israel: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News,  Oct. 18, 2015—The US and Israel are marking a jam-packed week of military-to-military cooperation that cuts across all services and command echelons, from America’s top-ranked officer – USMC Gen. Joseph Dunford – to members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), who are winding up a five-month deployment with rest and relaxation here in this Red Sea resort town.

A Joint Israeli-Arab Attack on Iran?: Ehud Eilam, Israel Defense, Nov. 4, 2015 —Israel and Sunni-led Arab states are worried that Iran might produce nuclear weapon, i.e. "the Bomb".

What Coordination? Russia and Israeli Warplanes Play Cat and Mouse Over Syria: Debka, Nov. 2, 2015—Syrian media reported an Israeli air force attack Sunday, Nov. 1, after two sorties Friday night against Syrian army and Hizballah bases in the Qalamoun Mountains on the Lebanese border.

AFGHAN END GAME – CAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TRUMP INTERNAL TRIBAL DIVISIONS & INDIAN/PAKISTANI/U.S. RIVALRIES?

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: some articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click on the article  link for the complete text – Ed.)

 

 

Two Diverging Roads for Afghanistan: Thomas Barfield, Real Clear World, Jan. 14, 2013—As the 2014 date for the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan approaches, the country faces two starkly different futures. One is a return to the civil war conditions of the 1990s that brought disaster and disunity. The other is the emergence of a stable, prosperous Afghanistan bankrolled by these same neighbours. In this scenario economic self-interests trump old parochial politics.

 

U.S. Needs Significant Military Presence in Afghanistan: Ahmad Majidyar, CNN, Jan. 11, 2013—The United States has two vital interests in the AfPak region: preventing al Qaeda and its affiliates from reconstituting in Afghanistan and ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not fall into terrorists’ hands. These two objectives cannot be guaranteed without a significant military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

 

Pakistan's Territorial Disunity Stirs Ghosts of a Violent Past: Sajjad Ashraf, The National (UAE), Nov. 11, 2012—More than 30 years after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan finds itself sucked into a quagmire from which it is hard to extract itself. Its governance structures, never strong points, are broken. Pakistan is now radicalised to a point where even the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, accuses it of exporting terrorism.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan on Rise for 2013: Greg Miller, Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2013
A Million StepsAmericans in Afghanistan: Bing West, National Review, October 15, 2012

Playing With Fire: Pakistan Must Crack Down on Terrorism for Its Own Sake: Editorial, Times of India, Jan 14, 2013

America's Go-to Man in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province: David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 12, 2013

Pakistan Bombings: Militancy is a Many-Headed Beast Here: Samira Shackle, The Guardian, Jan. 11, 2013

Despite Fears of Afghan Collapse, U.S. May Pull All Troops by 2014: Robert Burns,  National Post, Jan 9, 2013

 

 

 

 

TWO DIVERGING ROADS FOR AFGHANISTAN

Thomas Barfield

Real Clear World, Jan. 14, 2013

 

As the 2014 date for the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan approaches, the country faces two starkly different futures. One is a return to the civil war conditions of the 1990s that brought disaster and disunity. In this scenario Afghanistan is abandoned by the international community before falling prey to the machinations of neighbours who bankroll conflict between rival ethnic groups, potentially bringing about the country's dissolution as a unitary state. The other is the emergence of a stable, prosperous Afghanistan bankrolled by these same neighbours. In this scenario economic self-interests trump old parochial politics.

 

But how can two such divergent paths proceed from the same Afghan starting point? The neighbours and rivalries are the same, with the Afghans politically fractured and the West marginalized in both cases. The direction depends on whether Afghanistan breaks its longstanding lack of economic integration with the outside world. Growing Asian economies could make life-transforming investments in Afghanistan, restoring its old role as an overland trade entrepôt and ensuring a new role as mineral treasure house. Instability and violence could derail this process, and the short-term thinking of Afghanistan's current political class presents an almost greater challenge.

 

The pessimistic path has been well trodden over Afghanistan's past 35 years. Over the past century and a half a series of Afghan rulers cultivated economic isolationism and religious xenophobia as a protective survival response to successive "Great Game" rivalries over their country. Indeed, Afghanistan had the almost unique misfortune of attracting new geopolitical conflict whenever a previous one subsided. In the 19th century British India and Czarist Russia both preserved and clashed over Afghanistan as a buffer state between their respective colonial empires. In the 20th century Afghanistan became a proxy battleground in the Cold War. And Afghanistan opened the 21st century under Taliban rule, hosting Osama bin Laden who organized a terrorist attack on the United States. The culmination of each of these geopolitical rivalries was one or more foreign invasions, foreign occupations and foreign withdrawals, of which the 2014 departure will be the fourth for Afghanistan since 1841.

 

Many analysts assume disorder will ensue with the American withdrawal and predict quick victory for the Taliban over a weak Karzai government in Kabul. Afghan history suggests otherwise. Insurgents do have a splendid track record in getting foreign armies to leave Afghanistan, but tend to struggle in displacing a Kabul government that retains the patronage of a Great Power. Insurgents' unity against foreigners breaks down when the conflict is only among Afghans. Supporters of Kabul governments also historically replace their feckless, passive rulers with more active ones. Afghan rulers installed by an invading foreign army fail, but those installed by a withdrawing foreign army succeeded. Only in the absence of any Great Power partnership did Afghanistan fall into anarchy, such as the decade-long civil war in the 1990s that brought the Taliban to power. Such devolution into civil war rather than Taliban victory is the more likely scenario if Afghanistan falls into political violence.

 

It could take a number of forms. Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India could bring their rivalry into Afghanistan to fight a proxy war with Pakistan supporting the Taliban and India backing the Kabul government. Or, Afghanistan regions could revive their militias and turn a two-party war into a free-for-all. Or the Central Asian states, Russia, India and Iran could back a two-state solution that splits the non-Pashtun north, west and center from the Pashtun south and east, leaving Pakistan with a supersized Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

 

The positive path harks back to long ago when Afghanistan was the prosperous hub of an international overland Eurasian trade network linking China with South Asia and the Middle East. Today's model would have China and India making massive investments in rail systems and processing plants to extract Afghanistan's mineral deposits. Pakistan and India would support construction of pipelines and pylons through Afghan territory to import natural gas from Turkmenistan and hydroelectricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Landlocked Central Asian states would transit Afghan roads and new rail lines to reach ocean ports of Iran or Pakistan.

 

Few in the West give this possibility much credence, but they have not been following the moves of Afghanistan's neighbours. With the exception of Pakistan, all have already committed large investments and infrastructure that integrate Afghanistan into their economies, motivated not by charity but pursuit of profits and resources.

 

The list of projects is impressive. In 2008 India completed construction of a 220-kilometer road connecting the Iranian port Chahbahar with Afghanistan's Nimroz Province. As part of a larger billion-dollar-plus Indian-financed transportation network within Afghanistan, the new road ended Pakistan's former monopoly on seaborne transit trade to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia. India has also taken a large role in constructing $500 million project financed by the Asian Development Bank to build a 1300-megawatt, high-voltage transmission power line through Afghanistan, across the Khyber Pass into Pakistan.

 

Despite its suspicion of India, Pakistan is poised to be the greatest beneficiary of a new Central Asia/South Asia Regional Electricity Market. In 2008 China signed a $3 billion mining agreement for a 30-year lease on the rich Aynak copper deposit south of Kabul with an estimated value of $88 billion. China has already begun preliminary site development and announced plans to finance and construct a rail line north to its western province of Xinjiang through the Hindu Kush Mountains. Other mining projects include an Indian-financed agreement to mine 1.8 billion tons of iron ore from the Hajigak deposit west of Kabul, a $14 billion investment that also includes a steel-mill complex and transport links.

 

Even the long stalled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline (TAPI) no longer seems like a pipe dream. Designed to carry up to 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, the 1,800-kilometer long pipeline, at a cost of $7.6 billion, would make Afghanistan the primary export corridor for Turkmenistan's enormous surplus of natural gas desperately in demand by energy-poor South Asia.

 

By way of comparison, the United States has funded $1.6 billion in infrastructure projects since 2006. Significantly, the many projects span multiple economic sectors and Asia's largest emerging economic powers play key roles. The projects do not demand Western financing, nor do all need to succeed for Afghanistan to prosper. As each comes online the risk/reward calculation of making trouble in Afghanistan changes. Pakistan might think twice about supporting attacks in Kabul if the Afghans can turn off the lights in Islamabad. China is unlikely to sit idly by if its investments and engineers are attacked by insurgents. As Afghanistan's neighbors become more dependent on transportation, minerals and energy flows within a common regional market, preserving Afghanistan's peace and stability moves from the realm of goodwill into the matrix of self-interest. For those that think any stability is impossible to achieve in Afghanistan, a similar growing economic interdependence in Western Europe after 1945 proved more successful in preserving peace than any set of political treaties.

 

The Afghan government plays only a passive role in these developments. Other than balancing out its mineral contracts with both India and China, it has displayed no strategic vision. If Afghanistan wishes to become another Dubai rather than another Somalia, it needs imaginative leaders who offer an economic vision that offers hope to people who have already suffered too much.

 

Thomas Barfield's is director of Boston University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies & Civilization and currently serves as president of the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies.

 

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PAKISTAN'S TERRITORIAL DISUNITY
STIRS GHOSTS OF A VIOLENT PAST

Sajjad Ashraf

The National (UAE), Nov. 11, 2012

 

More than 30 years after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan finds itself sucked into a quagmire from which it is hard to extract itself. Its governance structures, never strong points, are broken. Pakistan is now radicalised to a point where even the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, accuses it of exporting terrorism. Located on historic invasion routes to India, the lands that now constitute Pakistan have had their fair share of border changes. In the process, many kingdoms, sultanates and states have been formed and disintegrated. Perceived discrimination was the basis of independence movements that created Pakistan, and later Bangladesh. And today, three different territorial issues have the potential of seriously altering the current boundaries of the state.

 

Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province by area, constituting nearly 42 per cent of the country and home to much of its natural resources, is into its fifth military confrontation with the federation since its controversial accession in 1948. Balochis have continued to resent the exploitation of their resources, with little compensation. The current troubles began in 2002, when the army moved in to set up cantonments in Kohlu and Sui districts, which are located in the middle of the country.

 

The callous killing of the Oxford educated tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in 2006, has led the Baloch nationalists and the military into a war of attrition. Thousands of Baloch young men have allegedly disappeared in the process. Many tortured and mutilated bodies have since been found…The [Pakistan] Supreme Court  has ruled that the Balochistan government has constitutionally failed. The military's statement supporting a political solution to Balochistan provided it is "within the constitution" sounds hollow. Yet proposed energy pipelines, critical to the economic growth of Pakistan and Gwadar port's success, depend upon peace in Balochistan.

 

The second territorial hot spot is Sindh, the only province that voted for a Muslim League-majority government before the partition of India. People in Sindh have not forgiven the Punjab-led army for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's killing, in 1979 (the Bhutto family traces its ancestral roots to Sindh). To destroy Bhutto charisma, especially in urban Sindh, General Zia Al Haq sponsored the Muhajir Qaumi Movement-MQM (meaning refugee – the descendants of migrants from India, and later renamed Muttahida Qaumi Movement), arguably the first ethnic party in Pakistan. The Karachi-centred MQM has been unable to garner any support in other provinces.

 

Pashtuns, about 25 per cent of the 20 million people in Karachi, now demand more political space. With MQM unable to augment their numbers, every round of trouble is deadlier than the previous one. To secure a governing coalition, President Asif Ali Zardari, is taking the short-term route of placating the MQM, which is widely believed to harbour plans to divide Sindh. Knowing their value to President Zardari, the MQM demands and receives higher returns every time it threatens to walk out of the coalition. The recently promulgated Sindh local government law, negotiated secretly between Mr Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the MQM will solidify MQM's control of cities and thus access to huge funds. The Sindhi nationalists and others coalition partners have quit Sindh cabinet in protest. The MQM and the Pashtuns are arming themselves for a possible showdown. With time running against them, the MQM are in a hurry to secure political advantage.

 

The third territory in crisis is southern Punjab. Some months back the PPP, protesting against discrimination, called for the division of Punjab for "administrative" reasons into a Saraiki speaking southern Punjab province, and a northern Punjab. But the real reason is PPP's inability to break the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N, referring to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) stranglehold over Punjab for over a quarter of a century.

 

For obvious reasons, a call for the division of Punjab, which considers itself as the glue holding the country together, evokes sharp reaction. Dithering initially, the PML-N, mindful of the electoral cost of opposing the idea, demanded Punjab be divided into three parts instead of two. Political sparring has already begun for elections next year, leading to hardening of positions drawing similarities to East and West Pakistan fissures before 1970 elections.  The big issue is the reaction of the Punjab-based military. If trouble spills over to a point where a military solution is sought, a Bangladesh-like situation may arise, which will predictably be the "1971 moment", as some commentators fear. That year, of course, was when Bangladesh earned its independence.

 

Only a few things, like cold-blooded attacks on teenage girls, anti-Americanism or cricket, seems to unite Pakistanis now. Indeed, on the day Malala Yousafzai was attacked, 13 innocent women and children were killed in a US drone attack. While history will judge the US for its actions, Pakistan needs to shed its own ignorance, elect credible and honest leaders, establish the rule of law and look inward to secure its future.

 

Sajjad Ashraf is a former Pakistani foreign service officer and an adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore

 

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U.S. NEEDS SIGNIFICANT
MILITARY PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN

Ahmad Majidyar

CNN, Jan. 11, 2013

 

President Barack Obama will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai today [jan 11] at the White House to assess the progress of the war and discuss America’s future role in Afghanistan. The two leaders are expected to talk about a wide range of issues, particularly concerning security transition to the Afghan lead, reconciliation with the Taliban, and Afghanistan’s presidential elections slated for April 2014. At the top of the meeting agenda, however, will be a discussion over the nature, scope and obligations of a residual U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan after the foreign combat mission there ends next year. Three key issues are likely to be contentious in the talks: legal immunity for U.S. soldiers, transfer of detention facilities to the Afghan government, and Kabul’s request for advanced military equipment.

 

The immunity issue, which derailed negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and Iraq in late 2011, will be the most sensitive one. A postwar U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is inconceivable unless American soldiers are granted protection from local prosecution. Nonetheless, while Karzai might use the question of immunity as leverage to extract concessions from the White House, the issue is unlikely to be a deal breaker this time. Kabul will be more flexible than Baghdad in negotiating a SOFA with Washington because, unlike oil-rich Iraq, Afghanistan’s economy is almost entirely dependent on foreign aid. Moreover, the Afghan government requires U.S. and NATO help to fund, train, and equip its 350,000 security personnel for many years beyond 2014.

 

Another sticking point could be Karzai’s demand for transfer of all detainees held by the U.S. military at a facility in Bagram Air Base near Kabul. The U.S. has already handed over more than 3,000 terrorism suspects to the Afghan government since the two sides signed an agreement last March, but Karzai has recently accused U.S. forces of breaching the accord by still keeping some prisoners under custody. Washington believes the Afghans are not yet ready to take over the control of all prisoners, especially ones believed to be too dangerous or affiliated with al Qaeda….

 

Leaked reports suggest the White House is considering cutting troop numbers by 20,000 to 30,000 this year and keeping as few as 2,500 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, despite requests by military commanders in the field to maintain most of the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops through the next two fighting seasons and a larger post-2014 presence. Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, said Tuesday [Jan 8] that a complete pullout by the end of next year is also an option. But while a steep drawdown and keeping a small or no residual force may be politically expedient for the Obama administration, it is a recipe for failure in Afghanistan.

 

First, without a significant military presence after 2014, Washington risks undoing the gains of the past decade and allowing al Qaeda and the Taliban to reconstitute in parts of Afghanistan. Terrorist groups have already returned to some Afghan areas vacated by withdrawing foreign troops. Residents of eastern Nuristan Province, for example, say about 70 percent of the province is under the de facto rule of the Taliban and foreign militant groups, including al Qaeda and Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT). More remote areas could fall into terrorists’ control if U.S. forces leave precipitously.

 

Second, a hasty pullout undermines the training and strengthening of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Over the past three years, the ANSF has made remarkable progress in size and quality and is now responsible for security of 75 percent of Afghanistan’s population. But it still remains heavily reliant on the coalition for enablers, such as logistics, air power, medevac, reconnaissance, route-clear equipment and intelligence. A Pentagon study released last month rated only one of 23 Afghan Army brigades as independent. Without coalition’s help, the ANSF’s operational capabilities will decline dramatically. NATO and other allied nations would also not provide sufficient numbers of advisors and mentors for the ANSF if they perceive ambivalence from Washington.

 

Third, without a post-2014 military presence, the CIA-led drone strikes into Pakistan’s tribal regions will most likely cease. With Washington-Islamabad ties at their nadir, the U.S. drone campaign against al Qaeda and its affiliates in South and North Waziristan is now entirely dependent on bases in Afghanistan. The Navy Seal helicopters tasked with killing bin Laden flew from a base in eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

 

Fourth, a significant post-2014 military presence is needed to send a clear message to friends and enemies in the region that the United States and its allies are not abandoning Afghanistan. The Taliban will not have an incentive to enter meaningful peace talks if they see allied forces on the run. With the ANSF not yet ready to defend against a Taliban return, warlords and minority ethnic leaders would decide to take things on their own hands. Many local strongmen have already begun rearming their militias in preparation for a potential civil war.

 

The United States has two vital interests in the AfPak region: preventing al Qaeda and its affiliates from reconstituting in Afghanistan and ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not fall into terrorists’ hands. These two objectives cannot be guaranteed without a significant military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

 

Ahmad Majidyar is a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. The views expressed are the author’s own.

 

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A Million Steps: Bing West, National Review, October 15, 2012—Over the past several years, the coalition has partnered throughout the country with Afghan soldiers and police. The goal was for the Afghans to gain skills, confidence, and independence by following our example in operations. That process has ceased, with no known replacement program. Now, without American firepower, reinforcements, and medical evacuation, Afghan forces are even more reluctant to patrol. The Taliban have gained freedom of movement and a psychological edge.

 

U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan on Rise for 2013: Greg Miller, Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2013—The CIA has opened the year with a flurry of drone strikes in Pakistan, pounding Taliban targets along the country’s tribal belt at a time when the Obama administration is preparing to disclose its plans for pulling most U.S. forces out of neighboring Afghanistan.

 

Playing With Fire: Pakistan Must Crack Down on Terrorism for its Own Sake: Editorial, Times of India, Jan 14, 2013—It's no secret that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, remains a state within a state and continues to patronise known anti-India terrorists such as Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed. Despite New Delhi handing over several dossiers to Islamabad on Saeed's involvement in the 26/11 attack, the latter remains a free Pakistani citizen.

 

America's Go-To Man in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province: David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 12, 2013—Thousands of desperately poor Afghans in this remote province rely on Matiullah for charity and protection. And his presence here is equally important to the U.S. military, which views Oruzgan as a linchpin in southern Afghanistan. It relies on Matiullah to support a U.S. special forces team and to secure the crucial supply road from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt, the provincial capital.

 

Pakistan Bombings: Militancy is a Many-Headed Beast Here: Samira Shackle, The Guardian, Jan. 11, 2013—Bomb attacks are the background music to life in Pakistan. A blast somewhere in the country is reported nearly every day, and it is easy to become inured to it. After several months living there, I found myself thinking, as many others do: "Only three people died, it wasn't a bad one."

 

Despite Fears of Afghan Collapse, U.S. May Pull All Troops By 2014: Robert Burns, National Post, Jan 9, 2013—The Obama administration says it might leave no troops in Afghanistan after December 2014, an option that defies the Pentagon’s view that thousands of troops may be needed to contain al-Qaeda and to strengthen Afghan forces.

 

 

 

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