MORE MONEY FOR PAKISTAN — There was good news for Pakistan and bad news for India from Washington this week. Pakistan, which has done a poor job of suppressing Taliban and al-Qaida incursions into Afghanistan at a cost of American and NATO lives, is likely to have an extra $5 billion of the U.S. taxpayers’ money lavished on it in extra aid. This one-time grant would be in addition to the $1.5 billion annual package over ten years now awaiting passage through congress. Meanwhile, the Indian media has interpreted a statement in President Obama’s first address to Congress on Tuesday […]

India’s Carrier Ambitions

India announced it would begin building a homegrown aircraft carrier. Given the porous state of India’s defense procurement system, I’ll believe it when I see it. The rule of thumb with carriers is that having one means having none, due to the downtime during scheduled drydocks. India already has one, which means they need a second one to shore up their invesment. This could just be a negotiating ploy in its ongoing dispute with Russian over a refitted Russian carrier. If not, look for China, which has been making noises about building a carrier for some time, to respond in […]

South Asia’s Regional Democracy

Meanwhile, with all the gloomy news out of South Asia, 2point6billion flags a significant milestone: For the first time, all of the region’s governments — India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives — have been democratically elected. Check back in tomorrow to see if Pakistan and Bangladesh stay on that list. But it’s certainly something to be celebrated while it lasts.

South Asia’s Regional Insurgency

When discussing the Afghanistan War, the conceit among both advocates and opponents to escalation is to treat the Pakistani border areas as safe havens for Afghan insurgents targeting American forces. Developments over the past few years, culminating in the recent ceasefire in Swat, put the lie to that conceit. Here’s what Lt. Gen. David McKiernan lets slip when asked at the very end of this Chicago Tribune interview whether he’s concerned about the Swat truce: Absolutely. Because the insurgency is a regional insurgency. It’s hardto imagine regional stability without a resolution of these sanctuariesthat militant groups operate from. More precisely, […]

Choosing Between Reality and Legal Fiction in Pakistan

Steve Hynd, writing at the New Atlanticist,makes the good point that a lot of analysis of the Taliban treats themlike a monolithic movement, when the groups referred to are actuallydisparate elements with varying degrees of rivalry, cooperation and agenda overlap.I’m definitely guilty of that, so via Hynd, thisAnand Gopal article is a good start towards getting a better handle on the more precise taxonomy. But whether it’s the Afghan Taliban targeting Kabul (Mullah Omar and Jallaludin Haqqani), or the Pakistani Taliban targeting Islamabad (Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah), over and over, the common refrain when discussing the Talibans’ (as opposed […]

When Thai security forces recently raided the offices of the Working Group on Justice for Peace (WGJP) in the country’s insurgency-torn south, it may have been business-as-usual for a military with a checkered human rights record. But a report released last week by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) shows this is part of a disturbing global trend. The report (.pdf), “Assessing Damage, Urging Actions: Report of the Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights,” argues that the Bush administration’s post-9/11 “war paradigm” has led to a globalization of extraordinary legal measures which result in an unprecedented corrosive […]

Afghan Supply Routes

In his WPR column on Monday, Andrew Bast wondered which word Americans least wanted to hear regarding Afghanistan: state building or war? If our alternate supply routes are any indication, we might not really have much of a choice. So far, we’ve got the state-building angle covered: Uzbekistan freight routes and Turkemenistan airspace have now been added to the Russian and Kazakh “northern corridor” for non-lethal supplies. But if we’re going to escalate the war effort, we’re going to have to get some guns in there somehow.

Good News, Bad News, Pak-India Edition

The bad news is that, a) the Pakistan Supreme Court has barred former prime minister and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif from office, heightening tensions in Pakistan’s already fractious and fragile political landscape; and b) the success of American counterterrorism operations in the FATA has probably redirected the terrorist threat towards Pakistan. The good news is that, a) Indo-Pakistani relations seem to be thawing after the Mumbai attacks, with a side meeting scheduled between the two countries’ foreign ministers at an upcoming Sri Lanka conference; and b) this is the last Pakistan–related post of the day. (I promise.)

Afghan Spring

Back to the balloon metaphor. The flurry of developments in Pakistan,taken in combination, suggests a significant shift in the Taliban’sstrategic emphasis. It’s based on inherently unstable deals andalliances, and is in all likelihood seasonally motivated and thereforetemporary. But in broad strokes, it looks as follows: – Consolidating its bridgeheads in Swat and NWFP through allegedly lucrative (as in $6million in government indemnities) ceasefireagreements with the Pakistani government. – Preparing to meet the U.S.’s 17K troop escalation in Afghanistan witha spring offensive that combines up-to-now divided Taliban elements ina pact brokered by Mullah Omar. (Via John McCreary’s Night Watch.) In other […]

In Defense of Stupid Metaphors

I was pretty self-satisfied with my Afghanistan-Pakistan balloon metaphor. In fact, so much so that I’ll be revisiting it later. But Jari thinks it’s stupid. Now, Jari calls himself The Stupidest Man on the Earth, so that might be a compliment, but I don’t think it is. Then again, Jari isn’t really stupid, he’s pretty smart, and I’ve been meaning to flag his blog for a while, because it’s worth a read. So maybe he’s always wrong when he calls something stupid. In any case, I think that’s what’s happened here. To begin with, Jari expresses skepticism that the Pakistani […]

More on U.S. Training in Pakistan

Two quick follow-ups to Judah’s recent posts about the U.S. training mission in Pakistan: First, WPR readers would have seen this coming well before it appeared in the New York Times on Sunday. In a Sept. 5, 2008, piece on WPR, Malou Innocent wrote that a “40-page classified document titled ‘Plan for Training the Frontier Corps’ is under review at Central Command.” A few days later, on Sept. 9, 2008, as I reported on this blog, a senior defense official told a small group of reporters at the Pentagon that the United States would spend $800 million over three or […]

The Crisis Spreads to Eastern Europe

The contagion from the financial crisis has spread to Eastern Europe. Growth in the region is off, credit has dried up, and falling currencyexchange rates risk setting off a repeat performance of the Asiancontagion. The Latvian government already a victim of the fallout, and the European banking system is exposed through lavish loans made during the boom years. The IMF has stepped into the gap, but it is clearly and increasingly underfunded, leading to packages that are insufficient to stem the bleeding. A weekend summit of E.U. leaders called for recapitalizing the Fund, with the goal of doubling its current […]

Dennis Ross as Iran Advisor

Interesting that Dennis Ross has been named special advisor, reporting exclusively to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell were both named special presidential envoys, reporting both to Clinton and President Barack Obama. I would have thought that Obama would like to keep as close an eye on the Iran dossier as on the others. At first glance Ross’ official title, “adviser to the secretary of state for the Gulf and Southwest Asia,” reminded me of Jon Alterman’s WPR Briefing, The Middle East Moves East. Alterman suggested that the Obama administration’s regional approach would redraw the […]

The Cost of  Air Support in Afghanistan

More on COIN narrative, since the domestic opinion-shaping campaign seems to have been cranked up a notch. The “hearts and minds” costs of imprecise airstrikes in a counterinsurgency are too well-documented to spend much time on. Not surprising, then, that part of the narrative now being constructed for the Afghanistan War is the lengths to which American pilots go to avoid actually dropping bombs that might cause civilian casualties. What I did find surprising, though, was this: From 15,000 feet up, the pilots protect supply lines under increasingattack, fly reconnaissance missions to find what they call “bad guys”over the next […]

COIN for Dummies

If you find yourself going, “Whuh?” everytime I or other bloggers mention COIN, or if you know what it refers to but never had the time or inclination to go through the U.S. Army field manual articulating it, the recently released U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide (.pdf) is a very informative, readable way to get up to speed. If the manual reads like a “lessons learned” from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, that’s because it is. That explains why, for instance, it stresses the difficulties involved in COIN campaigns in the aftermath of forcible regime change. It also explains why, by […]

On Feb. 12, Iraq became the latest country to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The country’s entry was especially important in light of the widespread use of chemical weapons by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against his foreign and domestic enemies. Under Hussein, Iraq developed a major chemical weapons industry. During the 1980s, the regime killed thousands of people by repeatedly employing chemical weapons against both Iranian troops during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War and its domestic opponents, most infamously in the March 1988 mustard gas attacks on the Kurdish village of Halabja. With Iraq’s entry, the CWC (as the Convention […]

As Western financial sectors reeled during 2007 and 2008, Asian and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) offered some succor, administering exotic medicine to banks poisoned by subprime toxins. These White Knights cast a dark shadow, however, as questions — and fears — were raised about the political influence that, for instance, a Chinese government presence on the board of Barclays Bank might represent. The focus has shifted recently. Plummeting oil prices and declining demand for imports by contracting U.S, European and Japanese markets undercut the vast revenue base the SWFs were drawing upon. Now SWFs are writing off untold […]

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