Pakistan and the Limits of Sovereignty

Matthew Yglesias calls John McCain’s refusal to commit to ordering a U.S. strike on Osama bin Laden in Pakistan were we to have actionable intelligence on his whereabouts bizarre. It’s also inconsistent with these comments McCain made in an interview with the editors of Defense News last October: Q: Does the U.S. have any options with regard to al-Qaida and reputed al-Qaida strongholds in the federally unregulated areas in Pakistan? Other than what seems to be sort of a status quo of waiting for them to come over the border, the Pakistani Army occasionally launching a strike to — well, […]

War on the Ground

Via Abu Muqawama, a Stars and Stripes write-up of the firefight that left nine American soldiers dead in Afghanistan two weeks back. It’s a stark reminder of the reality of war, the one that’s fought on the ground. Kip from AM concludes: Counterinsurgency may be a thinking man’s war, but it remains a fighting man’s war. The essence of force remains the same, described by Rupert Smith as “both the physical means of destruction–the bullet, the bayonet–and the body that applies it.” A valiant and successful defense of a position against an overwhelming enemy, executed by brave Americans who have […]

The Afghanistan Surge

Do not miss Vikram Singh’s WPR piece on the applicability of the Surge to Afghanistan. It’s a balanced, insightful, and revealing treatment of what is increasingly becoming the common wisdom consensus. While Singh is far from a pessimist on the current situation in Afghanistan or on the chances for a successful outcome there, he very ably points out the limits of the current discussion, and what needs to be included to make it more relevant.

After a brazen Taliban attack killed nine U.S. soldiers in a remote outpost in Afghanistan on July 13, Sens. McCain and Obama seemed to start a competition over who would more rapidly surge U.S. military forces to Afghanistan. Sen. Obama’s trip to Afghanistan and Iraq has further focused attention on the vast disparity in U.S. resources going to the two wars. Americans should welcome the recognition by both presidential contenders that Afghanistan is central to U.S. and international security. But we should remain wary of promises to apply an Iraq-style surge to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is even more complex than Iraq, […]

Surging into Afghanistan

It’s reassuring to see that a COIN pro like Charlie over at Abu Muqawama has got some concerns about the McCain campaign’s Afghanistan “surge”: Charlie would love to know which specific “strategy” has been nominated for export….and whether it was based on any assessment of, you know, Afghanistan. There are some basic COIN best practices that might improve the situation in Afg (one word: sanctuary), but the broader population centric approach would require significant changes to be successfully applied there. And if McCain’s crew think they can blindly transfer “lessons” from the Anbar Awakening to the assorted tribes in Afg […]

Rights & Wrongs: Singapore, Afghan Boys, Cluster Bombs, and More

INTERNATIONAL BAR REPORT ON SINGAPORE — Singapore has achieved phenomenal economic development but still fails to meet international standards on freedom of assembly and expression, and an independent judiciary, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released July 8. “As one of the world’s most successful economies, Singapore should be a leader in human rights and the rule of law, and should now have the confidence and maturity to recognize that this would be complementary, not contradictory, to its future prosperity,” institute Executive Director Mark Ellis said at its release. Singaporean authorities continue to restrict media […]

The Next COIN Laboratory

Kevin Drum cites a Juan Cole post questioning the emerging conventional wisdom of refocusing our military commitment from Iraq to Afghanistan, and thinks out loud a bit: The main argument for beefing up our presence in Afghanistan is obvious: It’s the home of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and these are the groups we really ought to be fighting. But what’s left of al-Qaeda is in Pakistan, and Cole argues that this is largely where the remnants of the Taliban are too. . . So if we’re not going to invade Pakistan (and we’re not). . .then what are we doing […]

The Afghan Dare

For some background analysis on how the strategic rivalry between India and Pakistan plays out in Afghanistan, this post by Troy, Abu Muqawama’s resident Aghanologist, is worth a click. In a nutshell, India has long supported the Northern Alliance, while Pakistan has supported the southern Pashtuns from whom the Taliban movement springs. Troy explains that the Pakistani military’s alleged support for the Taliban should be understood as a hedge against an eventual NATO pullout, after which they consider it unlikely that Hamid Karzai would be able to survive. That brought to mind what Nikolas Gvosdev, in describing a presentation by […]

Indian Embassy Blast

You’ll recall a few weeks back that Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened to send Afghan forces across the Pakistani border to pursue Taliban insurgents if Pakistan didn’t start addressing the problem. Now, in the aftermath of the suicide bombing attack on India’s embassy in Kabul, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry declared, “We believe this attack was carried out in coordination and consultation with an active intelligence service in the region.” That’s a pretty strong, if veiled, accusation, one that’s not without precedent. But the fact that the target in this case was apparently India’s military attache in Kabul […]