Germany Raises Afghanistan Troop Levels

Worth noting, given my repeated warnings over fading European commitment to the NATO Afghanistan mission: the German parliament just formally approved the plan to add a thousand troops over the next fourteen months, bringing Germany’s total deployment to 4500, third behind the U.S. and Britain. Behind that silver lining, however, lurks a cloud: Merkel, supported by the Defense Ministry, did not want the mission tobe used by her political opponents during the federal election campaignnext year, particularly since there is growing public opposition tocontinuing German military involvement inAfghanistan. Apparently when we export democracy, it leaves less to go around back […]

The EU’s Russia Approach

It’s impossible to assess the longterm impact of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, but at least one immediate outcome is certain: increased European travel privileges for Eurasian and Central Asian dictators. Uzbekistan’s EU travel ban for government officials was lifted and that of Belarus’ President Lukashenko and his government suspended, due to the vast improvement in each country’s human rights record, obviously. (For background, see Marianna Gurtovnik’s WPR piece on Belarus’ recent parliamentary elections.) Irony aside, new circumstances call for new measures, and the Georgia War certainly qualifies as a new circumstance. I think the EU’s handling of the crisis has […]

In the midst of two wars and with an “era of persistent conflict” foreseen ahead, America and its military are confronting battlefield urgencies and operational complexities that challenge the very way in which we conceive of warfare. Whether on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, or on the waters off of Somalia, the reality of today’s conflicts have exposed gaps in our tactical thinking and operational approach to waging war. The responses have combined doctrinal evolutions and operational innovations, demonstrating once again the strategic asset represented by American ingenuity and creative thinking. But they have also generated a passionate and […]

The Russian government may not yet describe itself as a superpower, but its latest military exercise, “Stability 2008,” clearly aims to affirm Russia’s global military reach. The exercise’s hypothetical scenario posited a local conflict (e.g., over Georgia) that escalates into a world war, pitting Russia and its ally, Belarus, in a conflict with the West in which both sides employ land, air, maritime, and eventually nuclear forces. All three components of Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent (bombers, submarines, and land forces) participated in the maneuvers, which were the largest conducted on Russian territory since the collapse of the Soviet Union in […]

Zardari’s China Visit: Follow the Leader?

From the NY Times (via Small Wars Journal), President Ali Zardari of Pakistan is headed to China, Pakistan’s longtime ally and hedge against India. My first thought was that if politics is war by other means, then this represented Pakistan’s efforts to find a way of waging its war against domestic terrorism independently of America’s regional interests. But Arif Rafiq, my source for all things Pakistan over at The Pakistan Policy Blog, is quoted in the fourth paragraph of the piece as saying: . . .”the two closely timed visits to China by President Zardari and General Kayani are not […]

CONFRONTING THE CRISIS — An EU financial doctrine and a new set of EU regulations for executive compensation in the banking and financial sector have emerged out of the financial chaos of the last week, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said in Washington on Friday. The new doctrine says EU governments will protect their financial institutions, safeguard the taxpayers’ interests, put in motion a reform of the financial sector, guarantee bank deposits, and take a short term stake in financial institutions to help their recovery. The European Union’s 27 member states will apply the financial doctrine according to their needs […]

COIN as Transfer of Wealth

I’ve mentioned the impact the financial crisis is likely to have on European resolve with regards to the Afghanistan mission. Here’s Charlie from Abu Muqawama on the potential impact Stateside: But if you think the American public is fickle and short-sighted in the best of times, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It’s going to be increasingly hard to justifying long-term occupations overseas…not to mention Army and Marine plus-ups (that budget money is going to go to big ticket hardware items like ships and planes, the kinds of things that create jobs in congressional districts). That touches on something that’s been […]

Pakistan’s Domestic Terror Response

The terrorist attacks in Pakistan are striking closer and closer to home, this time the highly secure police headquarters in Islamabad. There’s lots of speculation about what impact the domestic attacks will have on the Pakistani leadership’s approach to the extremist elements they’ve been otherwise cultivating for many years. My hunch is that it will be a lot like the American approach in Iraq, and what’s increasingly being proposed for Afghanistan and the FATA: buy out the ones who have a price, and fight the ones who don’t. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to figure out who’s who and what that […]

The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal That Is and Isn’t

Two of the major sticking points of the U.S.-India nuclear deal (or 123 Agreement) were India’s right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, but especially the degree to which India’s access to imported nuclear fuel would be guaranteed. The reason being that India wanted to maintain its liberty of action with regards to nuclear weapons testing, while the international community wanted to make sure the IAEA and NSG safeguards agreements that allowed the deal to go through wouldn’t just be a way for India to get a free pass on the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India viewed both the Hyde Act and the […]

French Desertion Rumors Unfounded

To follow up on an earlier post on rumors of desertion among French troops deploying to Afghanistan, Jean-Dominique Merchet at Secret Défense has done some digging and decided that the evidence doesn’t back them up. Going through the numbers for the 8th RPIMa, he found only two cases of confirmed AWOL: The 8th is an elite regiment with highly motivated personnel, so it’s likely those numbers are higher in other units. But for now, it would not be honest to talk of a troubling phenomenon. (Translated from the French.) There are still a lot of troubling phenomena about the NATO […]

Despite several days of intense lobbying, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the senior American diplomat for Korean nuclear issues, has apparently been unable to persuade the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to continue its denuclearization process. Instead, events during the past two weeks suggest that Pyongyang is returning to its rogue ways, at least for the time being. Last week, the DPRK ordered the removal of international monitors and their surveillance equipment from its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon. This week, the North Korean government has begun taking nuclear equipment out of storage and returning it to the […]

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The arrest last week of Ohn Kyaing, a 69-year-old former journalist and member of the Burmese opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), suggests that recent hopes concerning the Burmese military regime’s willingness to cooperate with the international community were premature. Kyaing’s arrest comes little more than a week after the junta announced the release of 9,002 prisoners as a goodwill gesture, perhaps targeting world opinion in anticipation of nationwide elections in 2010. Seven prisoners of conscience were among those set free, including U Win Tin, the country’s longest serving political prisoner. Tin, who was a key […]

Kaplan on Afghanistan

When Robert Kaplan speaks, I listen. His NY Times op-ed (via Small Wars Journal) makes the case for taking Afghanistan seriously as a strategic priority, and committing the resources necessary for rebuilding it as a functioning state instead of just treating it as a manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Kaplan makes the good point that notwithstanding the shortsightenedness that the Indian-Pakistani rivalry often provokes, a stable Afghanistan is in everyone’s longterm interests. . . .Even under a weak central government, Afghanistan could finally achieve economic salvation: the construction of a web of energy pipelines that have been envisioned for years […]

The NATO Afghanistan Unraveling Begins?

Following up on the “Coalition of the Bankrupt” post from last week, Jean-Dominique Merchet at Secret Défense has a series of posts (here and here, both in French) discussing whether or not French army units scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan are experiencing higher rates of absenteeism (read: desertion). The thread was begun when Merchet reported that a unit that had been training for its deployment for the past six months was “frustrated” and “disappointed” to learn that it had been replaced by another and would, in fact, be staying put as an operational reserve. Merchet noted that the unit’s reaction […]

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE DRAWS SCRUTINY — The impending announcement of this year’s Nobel peace prize winner is drawing more speculation than usual from human rights advocates, the media and governments, as 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Most observers believe the nominating committee, which is scheduled to make its selection announcement Oct. 10, will pick an individual or group involved in human rights, with the winner most likely related to China. While speculation regarding a China-related winner has been growing for several years, many observers believe that concerns over how such a move would […]

Channeling the Rise of the Rest

As sometimes happens when blogging, I read a Fareed Zakaria article on the two presidential candidates’ vision of the world, had a quick thought about whether the U.S. can counter or only channel the emerging powers, dashed it off and largely forgot about it. Then Nikolas Gvosdev happened across my post, had a less hurried thought about the relative “brittleness” of Russia and China and the implications for countering vs. channeling them, and developed it. And before you know it, Kal at The Moor Next Door has a leisurely and very well formulated thought about the limits of both China […]

India as Strategic Partner

As expected, the big winner of the U.S.-India nuclear deal, which just passed the House and might be approved by the Senate as early as today, is France. Actually, that’s just a catchy lede, because the agreement signed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Indian PM Manmohan Singh yesterday in Paris is simply the French equivalent of the American “1-2-3 Agreement.” The actual contracts between Areva and India have yet to be signed (although I’d be surprised if there aren’t any rough drafts already circulating). They would eventually need EU approval as per the Euratom Treaty [Update: Looks like Sarkozy […]

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