The latest assault in Mumbai has brought fresh tensions to fragile India-Pakistan relations at a time when the Pakistani government had made unprecedented friendly overtures toward its traditional rival. The attacks — which at latest count claimed more than 170 lives, while injuring over three hundred — took place just three days after Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari proposed a “no first nuclear strike” policy with India. According to early news reports, one of the captured attackers revealed under questioning that he was from Pakistan’s Punjab province, belonged to the banned extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and had been trained in […]

The terrorist carnage in Mumbai resulting in more than 170 deaths draws attention to the role of Pakistan, which India instinctively accuses of responsibility. The fedayeen-type attack singled out Americans and Jews as targets, which smacks of an al-Qaida game plan. Delhi initially distinguished between terrorist groups in Pakistan and the Pakistani authorities as such, but that distinction is getting blurred. Islamabad stubbornly rejects imputations of involvement. Reflexes are hardening on both sides. In the competitive environment of domestic politics as India heads for general elections in the next six months, it will be suicidal for the ruling party to […]

To say that the geopolitics of South Asia is in a state of flux might sound like a cliché for a region that is nowadays commonly described as the most dangerous place on the planet. The horrific terrorist attacks on the western Indian city of Mumbai in November underscore the grim reality. The region indeed finds itself at a crossroads. There are huge uncertainties about regional security. The pall of gloom is deepening. The war in Afghanistan inevitably becomes the focal point. But that isn’t everything. Not a day passes without one form or other of violence gripping South Asia. […]

TORONTO — Major media organizations operate as devout, if secular, institutions. Think of churches, mosques and temples, stripped of their religious content. What remains is the faith, however, both in the mission of journalism and the audience’s ability to appreciate it. This belief system is often accompanied by heavy doses of public sanctimony. Consider the approach of these organizations when confronted with the abduction of their own correspondents. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), upon learning that Mellissa Fung had been snatched in Afghanistan, requested an embargo on information from all Western media outlets in the country. The corporation, citing advice […]

Gates Stays?

The NY Times is reporting that it’s almost official: Secretary of Defense Bob Gates will stay on at the Pentagon in the Obama adminsitration, although it’s not certain for how long. I think the political optics of what signal this sends regarding Democrats ability to manage national security rightly take a back seat here to the fact that Gates has been very impressive in effecting the institutional changes necessary to support the operational needs of two ongoing wars. But the Pentagon’s final internal armistice lines (COIN vs. conventional and hard vs. soft power in Iran, for instance) have not been […]

The Cost of Victory in Afghanistan

Commenting on my post about the projected end state size of the Afghan security forces (I had taken the figure to be for the Afghan army alone), Joshua Foust has this to say over at Registan: I think, despite his deep skepticism, he might be underselling the problems even here . . . The State Department wants about 162,000 ANSF—Afghan NationalSecurity Forces, or all the troops and police combined. In 2010, thatwill cost more than Afghanistan’s total GDP. Literally, the U.S.government’s big plan is to build an Afghan security force whose costexceeds the total economic output of the country, and […]

Afghan Army per Capita

I usually don’t do any posting over the weekend, but that doesn’t mean the internal content management system gets shut down. To give an example, a not-so-little number kept rattling around in the cranium the past couple of days: 162,000. That’s the end strength goal the Dept. of Defense has now set for the Afghan National Army by 2010, in order to provide the manpower needed to adequately support U.S.-NATO operations once “surged.” Since Afghanistan’s population, according to the latest CIA Factbook estimates, is 32.7 million, that’s roughly the size, per capita, of the combined American military (including the Air […]

Bob Gates & COIN

Discussing Barron YoungSmith’s TNR post about the potential tension between Michele Flournoy (the head of President-elect Barack Obama’s Defense Dept. transition team) and Bob Gates should Gates stay on as Sec. of Defense, Kevin Drum writes: Gates has taken the position that the Army should focus almostexclusively on counterinsurgency and irregular warfare in the future. . . Now, I’ve been keeping a wary eye on the body-snatching COIN pods ever since they touched down, primarily because of how tempting the vision of warfare that they offer is to both the humanitarian left and the hawkish right. I’m also skeptical of […]

The Surging Afghanistan Surge

Joshua Foust argues at Registan that far from being a novel or promising step, Hamid Karzai’s recent offer to engage the Taliban in negotiations was a repeat performance and a sign of electoral desperation. He also argues that until we regain the initiative in the war effort, any negotiations with the Taliban will be a sign of overall weakness. That strikes me as about right, although I wonder whether we ought not think twice about the actual weakness that the oft-cited signs of weakness signal. Especially since our NATO allies are signalling that they’re on board for signalling weakness, which […]

Afghan Awakening and the Westphalian Order

Steve Clemons flags an interview with Andrew Bacevich and excerpts some highlights, of which this caught my eye: Advice on Afghanistan: pay attention to history. Effective governance has never been exercised from Kabul. Local tribal leaders have always run the place. That should be okay with us so long as Al Qaeda is denied sanctuary. We should provide incentives to local leaders so that they will see it in their interest to keep Al Qaeda out. This, along with a troop surge, adapted to the particularities of the Afghan conflict, seems to be the emerging consensus about how to deal […]

Europe and the Afghanistan Redirect

I couldn’t agree with Ilan Goldenberg, writing at Democracy Arsenal, more. There’s this gathering meme out there suggesting that the way to deal with Europe’s positive reaction to Barack Obama’s election victory is to quickly get our partners to agree to unpopular American policy proposals to which they’ve been signalling their opposition very strongly. Just Monday, the head of the British Armed Forces, Gen. Jock Stirrup, expressed his opposition to redirecting British troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, citing an overstretched military. British public opinion is resolutely opposed to the Afghanistan War, calling for withdrawal within a year, and even Prime […]

With the U.S. presidential election finally decided, attention has now turned to just how President-elect Barack Obama will handle American foreign policy. As a candidate, Obama often displayed the clearsighted vision of a foreign policy realist, while embracing the rhetorical flourishes of an idealist. In WPR’s latest biweekly feature issue, two prominent foreign policy analysts examine the challenges and opportunities that await The Obama Presidency. In Wilsonian Idealist or Progressive Realist? Nikolas Gvosdev, former editor of the National Interest, considers the kinds of “80 percent solutions” the Obama administration might be forced to consider, and whether it will be willing […]

How is President-elect Barack Obama planning to shape the foreign policy of his administration? Is he a Wilsonian idealist? A progressive realist? Some mix of the two? How Obama will define his foreign policy still remains somewhat of a mystery. Between now and when he actually begins his term of office, I expect that his rhetoric about U.S. foreign policy and America’s place in the world will become more expansive and lyrical. After all, this is to be expected. American chief executives traditionally use the post-election period, culminating in the Inaugural Address, as a time to appeal to our loftiest […]

The Saudi-Iranian Cold War

James Brazier has a piece worth reading in Diplomatic Courrier on the Saudi-Iranian “Cold War” and how any accomodation of the Taliban in Afghanistan will come at the expense of Tehran. In terms of order, though, it seems obvious that a prior breakthrough on Israeli-Palestinian and/or Israeli-Syrian negotiations seriously strengthens Obama’s hand to bargain with the Iranians. But a political breakthrough that secures a meaningful stability in Afghanistan might have the same impact. Again, it’s important to point out that the talks in Riyadh were exploratory, that the Taliban are an unsavory lot who will be difficult to sustain any […]

British SAS Chief Quits Over Poor Afghanistan Equipment

Just last Friday, Douglas Duncan’s WPR piece on poor morale amongBritish armed forces mentioned the problem of troops deployed inAfghanistan and Iraq not being propoerly or adequately equipped. Thispast Monday, the Telegraph (via Defense Industry Daily) reported on anew equipment controversy, this one involving Britain’s lightly armoredSnatch Land Rovers, in which four British soldiers — including itsfirst female casualty of the war — were killed in June. The commanderof British SAS (special forces) troops in Afghanistan has now resignedas a result: In his resignationletter, Major Morley, the commander of D Squadron, 23 SAS, said”chronic underinvestment” in equipment by the Ministry […]