Afghan Surge Frozen?

Is it possible we’ve actually reached the high-water mark for American forces in Afghanistan? Or is President Barack Obama simply holding the military command’s feet to the fire on approving recent troop requests to send a message? A few months ago, common wisdom seemed to have 30K additional troops penciled in for Afghanistan, with a couple brigades already inked in for January deployment. But Obama has yet to give the green light on even the two brigades, let alone the Afghan “surge” people were talking about. Part of that has to do with waiting for the outcome of the strategy […]

Pakistan’s Deal with the Devil

A few years ago, anytime the Pakistani government negotiated some sort of ceasefire or peace agreement with extremist militants in the FATA, the Western governments fighting those same militants in Afghanistan condemned the moves as undermining efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, instead proposing enlarged military operations, complemented by targeted missile attacks from American drones, to defeat the insurgency. None of those peace deals ended up holding up, but despite limited increases in the pace of military operations, neither the FATA nor Afghanistan is any more stabilized than it was then, and arguably less so. So it’s hard to say who got […]

Needing Russia Less

The interesting thing about walking back our objectives (and/or additional troop deployments) in Afghanistan is that it instantly reduces our need for Russia’s help. Add to that an (admittedly still theoretical) warming of relations with Iran, and you’ve got further lightening of need for Russian support (on the nuclear standoff), as well as a diversified energy source for Europe. There are still plenty of areas where our interests overlap with Russia’s, and it seems silly to needlessly antagonize Moscow, especially if it’s to cultivate alliances with unreliable and/or unstable states like Georgia and Ukraine, or to deploy unproven and not […]

The Middle East Moves East

The U.S. government’s map of the Middle East is changing. Long dominated by the Arab-Israeli conflict, U.S. conceptions of the Middle East are drifting eastward, increasingly centering in the Persian Gulf and coming to envelop the mountains and plains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Seen this way, the U.S. purpose in the region far transcends the need to resolve historical conflicts. The problems of the Middle East now encompass some of the most important challenges to U.S. power and influence in the world. The signs are subtle but no less clear. In his interview last month with al-Arabiya television, President Obama […]

Biden, Munich and Russia

When I first read the transcript of Vice President Biden’s remarks in Munich over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think the language with regard to Russia sounded remarkably similar to that of the Bush administration (prior to the Georgia War, anyway). So I was a bit surprised to see the Russians respond so warmly to it. Apparently, “press the reset button” translates better into Russian than “sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances” or “we will continue to develop missile defense to counter the growingIranian capability, provided the technology is proven […]

The Strategic Airlift Shortage

One of the reasons the U.S. is looking for overland supply routes intoAfghanistan is because air links are more expensive. But as Richard Weitz points out in his thorough analysis of the Afghan supply problem,NATO (and European) strategic airlift also happens to be in prettyshort supply these days. The SALIS and NSAC programs were stopgapmeasures designed to hold until the Airbus A400M is delivered. Theformer involves 15 NATO nations leasing strategic airlift fromUkrainian and Russian firms as needed. The latter is a multinationalconsortium to buy three C-17s as pooled assets. Those A400Mswere originally scheduled to be delivered this year, but […]

Recent news reports indicate that the Obama administration is having second thoughts about whether it wants to double the size of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The president has directed the Pentagon to think very clearly about the specific strategy and purposes involved with any troop increase. Independent defense experts continue to debate the wisdom of applying a variant of the troop surge policy that has apparently stabilized the security situation in Iraq to Afghanistan, with its very different local conditions. One weighty constraint on the proposed force increases concerns logistics. Recent developments in Pakistan and Central Asia in […]

ROHINGYA FIND MORE CRUELTY AFTER FLIGHT FROM BURMA — Thailand’s indifferent and criminal response to the plight of hundreds of Rohingya refugees has stunned the human rights community and highlights the world’s continued failure to effectively protect the rights of refugee and asylum seekers. In the course of the last month, three boatloads of Rohingya males have washed ashore in Indonesia and India telling similar tales of beatings and abandonment by Thai authorities. Thailand has admitted rounding up the men and dragging them out to sea, but says its army did not torture them, and supplied food and water. Over […]

The Third Afghanistan War

Towards the end of last year, there were some indications that the U.S. military was preparing for a significant escalation of the Afghanistan War. Now, though, it seems like the Obama administration is increasingly signaling a more modest set of strategic goals. One of Nikolas Gvosdev’s readers suggested they would return us to: . . . September 2001 — to the initial offer made by President Bush to theTaliban. Turn over Al-Qaeda and don’t export subversion to otherstates, and we won’t interfere in your internal affairs. I’m not sure how accurate a depiction of Obama’s signals that is, since from […]

America may not be losing the war in Afghanistan, but it is also not winning. Neither is the U.S. approach in neighboring Pakistan making friends or preventing new recruits from crossing the border to kill U.S. and other NATO troops. What then is the best way to promote peace and security in the greater South Asia region, home to nearly half the world’s population and several nuclear-armed states? The challenges involved in confronting these threats — which means fighting extremism in both countries, rebuilding governance in Afghanistan, and supporting a weak democratic government in Pakistan — dwarf the past two […]

Back to the Future in Afghanistan

The circle seems to be closing in on the Obama administration’s “regional approach” to Afghanistan. Supply route problems in Pakistan and Central Asia seemingly give Russia an enormous amount of influence over the success or failure of any ambitious plans to create a stable Afghan democracy. Not surprisingly, there are now reports of goalposts growing legs, with preventing the Taliban and al-Qaida from threatening America the new priorities. (Imagine reading that back on Sept. 12, 2001.) And Richard Holbrooke hasn’t even had a chance to dust off his elbow-twisting chops in Pakistan and Afghanistan. To my mind, this inevitable reality […]

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