NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is playing a crucial role in sustaining the alliance’s Afghan mission, encouraging allied governments and publics alike during his transatlantic travels to appreciate the perspectives of their partners as well as the value of NATO as an institution. Consistent with that, among the objectives of his trip to Washington this week was to remind Americans of how extensively other NATO countries have collaborated in support of U.S. security objectives. In addition to meeting with media and U.S. officials, Rasmussen was also in Washington to participate in a seminar held to advise the Group of Experts […]
Afghan officials are continuing to raise concerns over a recent wave of civilian casualties. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen attributes these errors to be in great part due to difficult terrain and an enemy that is known to mingle with civilians making differentiation difficult. At the end of the day, Mullen said, “war is ugly.”
As NATO forces move deeper into their Marjah offensive, WorldFocus speaks with Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute about what this new strategy might mean for the the future of Afghanistan. He said, “I have no doubt that we will be able to clear the area,” in reference to Marjah. His uncertainty is with handing over security detail to Afghan forces.
As the Marjah offensive progresses, the alleged capture of resistance leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan has raised questions about the structure of the Taliban and how it would recover from a significant loss of leadership. Judy Woodruff speaks with Afghanistan political experts Seth Jones, Thomas Johnson and Steve Coll. “The key issue will be negotiating with the key power brokers in the Marjah area,” Jones says.
I’ve held off on any Marja “analysis,” because a lot of what I’ve read has struck me as “play-by-play” commentary, and I’m pretty convinced that whatever impact offshore observers can have on the debate is better directed toward strategic objectives than tactical operations. What does strike me as significant about the offensive, though, is what it reveals in terms of the evolution of U.S. COIN operations. It’s been clear for a while that in the “clear, hold and build” model, the U.S. military has no real problem with the “clear” phase, provided it is adequately resourced. The decisive phases in […]
Balint Szlanko has been embedded with the 2nd battalion, 2nd Marine regiment and the 3rd battalion, 4th Marine regiment in Garmsir and Now Zad districts, Helmand province, Afghanistan, in January. His WPR briefings can be found here and here. Following a surge of American troops last year, both areas have recently been cleared of Taliban insurgents. With the onset of winter, fighting has for the moment given way to patrolling and busily interacting with the locals. Cpt. Jason Brezler of Lima company, 3rd battalion, 4th Marine regiment, and an Afghan elder share a moment in the sun in the town […]
Whenever I ponder some of the challenges U.S. foreign policy faces today in Afghanistan, Somalia, or Yemen, I inevitably return to a passage in Bob Woodward’s “Veil,” describing how Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, after an attempt to assassinate him had failed, was persuaded to restrain his followers in Lebanon from launching attacks on U.S. interests: The Saudis approached him and asked whether . . . he would act as their early-warning system for terrorist attacks on Saudi and American facilities. They would pay $2 million cash. Fadlallah accepted, but said he wanted the payment in food, medicine and education expenses for […]
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — For Gen. Nick Carter, commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, and Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the U.S. Marines in Helmand, taking a walk late last month in the Garmsir district center’s bazaar without a flak jacket was no big deal. The northern bit of the district, known as the Snake’s Head, has been relatively stable for about a year — unusual for the troubled province of Helmand, which is home to a massive insurgency that makes it a dangerous place to visit even in heavily armored vehicles. But perhaps the most noteworthy thing about […]
Ashraf Ghani, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, explains his view on the pillars of insurgency in Afghanistan at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Ghani says that bad governance, a wealthy, drug-funded base, Al-Qaida, and havens in Pakistan are the driving causes leading insurgencies.
I don’t want to make too much of Pakistan’s offer to facilitate negotiations with the Taliban, because there are still a lot of directions it can take, and many of them are probably bad. But it bears noting that the shift responds to Islamabad’s concerns over securing its influence in a post-American Afghanistan, and was triggered by the July 2011 timeframe that President Barack Obama set for beginning an American drawdown. That suggests two things. First, the regional actors are taking that timeframe a lot more seriously than most American observers, something that was already apparent in the immediate reaction […]
Over the past 30 years, the poisonous effects of Afghanistan’s narcotics industry have steadily transformed Iran’s law enforcement and border security institutions, forcing drastic changes in the way Iran deals with what has become a burgeoning transnational narco-insurgency on its southeastern frontier with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Iran’s police chief, Brig. Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moqaddam, announced last October that Iranian authorities are now using remote security surveillance and control systems from Tehran to help monitor and interdict the massive flow of narcotics streaming over the border from Afghanistan. But despite the country’s draconian anti-narcotics laws and aggressive interdiction efforts, Iran remains […]
The NY Times has two interesting articles on a subject I’ve written about before: film and literature inspired by the Iraq and Afghanistan War. Like me, they note the lack of novels, as compared to memoirs, although this is to be expected given the lag-time before good fiction usually appears. Interestingly, they also discuss something that I’d ignored, namely the lack of political criticism in both the literature and cinema that has come out of the wars to date. In some ways, that was implied in my previous remarks, given the nature of the great post-War and Vietnam-era film and […]
Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returns to the negotiating table with a deal that makes some observers wary. WorldFocus discusses the warranted skepticism in this video. – Afghan farmers receive attention from the USDA as one of the United States’ top non-military priorities. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack briefs the press in this video. And agricultural initiatives can be seen at work in this video. – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed positive developments in N. Ireland in this video. Our video section is updated daily. I’ll highlight […]
The whole question of reintegrating the Taliban bears some attention, since it’s now become the new buzzword with regard to creating the political conditions necessary to ending the insurgency. Yesterday, Craig Davis’ WPR Briefing examined some of the cultural challenges reintegration will present. Today, Joshua Partlow examines some of the political challenges it raises in terms of negotiating with the Taliban leadership, and Martine van Bijlert recently examined some of the potential pitfalls of implementation in terms of ground-level foot soldiers. Clearly, there are a lot of circles to square, and it seems obvious that any power-sharing arrangement will be […]
There is a renewed effort to beef up Afghanistan’s indigenous policeforce while battling a reputation for corruption and illiteracy withinthe force. These new recruits will be at the front lines of thecounter-insurgency effort, with an average of four dying each day onthe job. From Kabul, Al Jazeera’s David Chater reports.
Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack brief the press on their recent trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Vilsack discusses what he calls the United States’ top non-military priority, farming. He says that while visiting, he visited a juice factory in Kabul that is working with more than 50,000 farmers to produce juice concentrate from apples and pomegranates to be sold worldwide. The secretary continued that efforts in Afghanistan’s agriculture sector will be made to reverse the detrimental effects of deforestation, bolster the infrastructure of the ministry itself, and to reinvigorate a once thriving agri-business, both domestically […]
U.S. Air Force Capt. Tyler Rennell and his Afghan student pilot had a communication problem. On a Nov. 2 training flight near Kandahar, Rennell was trying to teach Capt. Moeed, his Afghan air corps trainee, how to use a GPS device to navigate their Mi-17 helicopter. Moeed didn’t seem to understand the device’s terminology, and Rennell didn’t know how to explain it to him. Every word that Rennell and Moeed exchanged had to pass through a Pashto-speaking interpreter sitting in the back of the helicopter, listening in via the chopper’s intercom. “Tell him,” Rennell urged the interpreter, after describing the […]