The Reality of Afghanistan

I mentioned last week that France is facing severe budgetary pressureson its military deployments abroad. In the last few days, PrimeMinister François Fillon and Defense Minister Hervé Morin have announced the goal of reducing foreign deployments, now numbering 13000troops, by roughly 20 percent, or 3000 troops. So far, thecuts announced have been in African missions that are largely completed(Ivory Coast) or that will be relieved by the UN (Chad, where 600 outof 1800 French troops will remain). In addition, the two navy vesselsdeployed to the UNIFIL maritime mission in Lebanon are being removed,although it’s not clear if they will be […]

The Bridge to Nowhere

Patrick Barry at Demcoracy Arsenal says, “Not so fast,” on those Russian supply routes for Afghanistan. Seems like the Russians are denying that any formal agreement was reached. Frankly, I’d been surprised by the initial reports that the Russians had given the go ahead. President Obama has yet to clarify his stance on European-based missile defense and NATO expansion, and I doubt anything on the U.S.-Russia agenda will budge a whole lot until he does.

Worst Case Scenarios for Afghanistan

Rob over at Arabic Media Shack makes two good points, one strategic and one political, regarding my earlier post on France and Afghanistan, which I neglected to make in focusing on the financial and material constraints facing our European allies with regards to troop increases: Looking at this from the French perspective, it’s hard for me to see whyit’s in French interests to send troops to Afghanistan. If the U.S. shipis sinkingin Afghanistan, as many are saying, why should France jumpon board, given their long-term interest in maintaining a globalforeign policy independent of the United States? Furthermore,US-Europe relations during Bush […]

France, Afghanistan and the Price of Ambition

Apparently whoever blogs for the Economist found this Dan Drezner post a bit heavy on the French-bashing, too. (Drezner’s response here.) To be fair to Drezner, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin’s flat-out rejection of any troop increases in Afghanistan on the day after President Obama was sworn in was uncharacteristically clumsy. Morin’s a very savvy and articulate politician whose tenure as Defense Minister won me over despite the fact that he stabbed François Bayrou in the back to get it, and I’m sure that he’s already gotten an earful from Nicolas Sarkozy. Drezner also pointed out some of the public […]

ISRAEL MIGHT FIGHT FIRST, VOTE LATER — Even with the faint prospect of a ceasefire in the offing, there is talk of postponing Israel’s Feb. 10 national elections. For one thing, none of the parties has been campaigning; the public has been distracted (though not unduly dismayed: a recent poll showed only 10 percent of Israelis are against the Gaza incursion, and 82 percent believe Israel has not “gone too far”); and then there is the rather pious argument that a postponement would prevent resolution of the conflict from becoming a political issue. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is flying […]

Bin Laden’s Driver Freed in Yemen

Salim Hamdam, the man known as Osama Bin Laden’s driver, was released by Yemen after serving out the rest of his sentence following his transfer from Gitmo last year. Hamdam’s case was profiled in a WPR feature article by Brian Glyn Williams, who testified as an expert witness for the defense in Hamdan’s military commission proceeding. Williams’ expertise on the 055 Brigade, al-Qaida’s paramilitary force in Afghanistan, helped convince the commission that Hamdan was a lawful combattant, entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, and not a terrorist.

The East-West Corridor to Afghanistan

Ten days ago, I referred to this M.K. Bhadrakumar piece in Asia Times Online as “speculation.” In the meantime, things have moved pretty quickly, and the direction they’re headed in lends increasing weight to the scenario Bhadrakumar sketched out. In a nutshell, the Afghanistan Surge is essentially a done deal, with logistical preparations for an additional 30K troops already underway. That, in turn, creates a need for more secure supply lines than is presently the case via land routes through Pakistan. There are essentially three alternatives: the East-West Corridor by boat, rail and road via Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkemenistan; airlift via Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan […]