Which Afghanistan War Are We Fighting?

One thing that’s clear, reading through the press briefings and interviews given by returning members of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 60-day strategic review, is that the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is depressingly alarming or alarmingly depressing, take your pick. Both Andrew Exum and Stephen Biddle are in the “hard but not hopeless” camp, but came back with more of the former than the latter to report. And Anthony Cordesman, whose real-time thinking comes out in paragraph form, was downright brutal in his assessment of where things stand. Cordesman thinks the war is winnable, but that we must come to […]

WARDAK, Afghanistan — They used to call Afghanistan “the forgotten war.” They should rename it “the long war.” Not only because it’s been going on for eight years now, but because it’s going to have to go on even longer if the West is to achieve even measured success in this broken country. Wardak province, just west of the capital, Kabul, where I’ve spent the last three weeks with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, illustrates this perhaps even more powerfully than the country’s more war-ravaged areas in the south. For Wardak is not such a terrible place. This is […]

DILI, Timor-Leste — Security sector reform (SSR) is a vital part of state-building, especially in Timor-Leste, a country that came close to civil war in 2006. Significantly, though, few Timorese political leaders interviewed about the issue wanted to speak about one of the highest priorities for the U.N. Mission in Timor-Leste: completing — and, by extension, to some degree implementing — a comprehensive security sector review. Neither the review nor the overall role of the U.N. in SSR was raised in any of World Politics Review’s meetings with politicians in Timor-Leste. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Dili-based foreign diplomat […]

WPR on France 24

World Politics Review managing editor Judah Grunstein appeared on the France 24 panel discussion program, The Debate, on Tuesday to discuss President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Part one of the video can be found here. Part two can be found here.

Burma’s Suu Kyi an ‘Ambassador of Conscience’

Amnesty International has named Burma’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as the 2009 recipient of its Ambassador of Conscience Award. Her selection, AI Secretary General Irene Khan said, is a reflection of her status as “a symbol of hope, courage and undying defense of human rights, not only to the people of Myanmar but to people around the world.” Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won elections in 1990. But the military refused to recognize the results, instead opting to unleash a campaign of brutal repression against dissent that continues today. “The Lady,” as her followers adoringly […]

Afghanistan Thought Experiment

I raised this question in relation to Iraq and the Surge in January 2007. Sam Roggeveen applies it to Afghanistan, with perhaps even better effect: I wonder how convincing such arguments would beif we weren’t inAfghanistan already. Would we now advocate an invasion and long-termoccupation of Afghanistan to stabilise the Indian Ocean region, reducethe chances of nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, disruptdrug supplies, protect energy sources, substitute for the lack of aregional security framework anddiscourage Pakistani cooperation withthe Taliban? More to the point, have any of these problems been reducedor made more manageable by the Western presence in Afghanistan? […]

U.S.-India on the Down Low

For various reasons, the truth of the military relationship between the U.S. and India is inconvenient for both countries. Considerable anti-Americanism and national pride makes the Indian side prickly regarding any perceived infringement on Indian sovereignty and autonomy. Meanwhile, recognition of India’s strategic significance combined with the need for discretion in terms of regional perceptions makes the subject a delicate one for the U.S. The End User Monitoring agreement recently agreed to by the two sides during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit is a good illustration of the dynamics involved, and gives me the opportunity to call your attention […]

WPR Interview with Andrew Exum

I just wanted to call your attention to the interview I conducted with Andrew Exum, a.k.a. Abu Muqawama. Andrew just got back from a month in Afghanistan, where he took part in Gen. stanlye McChrystal’s 60-day strategic review. He took some time out of a busy morning to talk freely and openly about his impressions on the war, including some fo the hard challenges and difficult decisions facing the U.S. military and policymakers. Here’s what he had to say when asked what one thing Americans need to know about the war in Afghanistan: The thing that I would say is […]

NATO officially launched the process of revamping its Strategic Concept this month. As of now, the alliance’s next mission statement is “a blank sheet of paper,” in the words of outgoing Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. But NATO’s recent pronouncements and current challenges offer plenty of guidance on how to fill the page. First, NATO nations must invest more in defense, and they must remember that theirs is, above all, a military alliance. As the secretary general observed, military operations are “NATO’s core business.” The U.S. spends about 4 percent of its GDP on defense, but only four other […]

Anthony Cordesman on Afghanistan

After returning from Afghanistan as part of his participation in Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 60-day review of Afghanistan strategy and operations, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies briefs the press on his view of the current state of the war. An excerpt: “When we talk aboutwinning, we are not talking about transforming Afghanistan into somemirror image of the West or accelerating to the point where it becomesa developed country within the foreseeable future. We’re talking aboutbasic security, basic stability, basic economic opportunity for theAfghans and creating a country which will be free of internationalterrorism.“ Related: This WPR […]

Andrew Exum is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and author of the influential counterinsurgency blog Abu Muqawama. He just returned from a month in Afghanistan, where he took part in recently appointed U.S. and Coalition commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 60-day review of strategy and operations. He graciously agreed to talk with WPR Managing Editor Judah Grunstein about his impressions from his trip. The views expressed here are his own, and do not reflect any U.S. government or military position, nor the views of the CNAS. The following is an edited and abridged transcript of the […]

India’s Dongria Kodh Tribe Resists British Mining Concern

Shareholders at the annual meeting of British mining company Vedanta Resources found themselves thrust into an ongoing debate between the corporation and human rights activists on Monday, when supporters of India’s Dongria Kodh tribe made an impassioned appeal to halt plans for a bauxite mine they believe could end the tribe’s way of life. Vedanta plans an open-pit bauxite mine to tap the resources in Orissa’s Nyamgiri Mountain. The Dogria Kodh people, who number only about 8,000, depend on the mountain and surrounding ecosystem for their way of life, and hold the land to be the sacred home of their […]

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first official trip abroad to Asia in March 2009, insiders in both New Delhi and Washington were privately critical that she neglected to include India in her itinerary. With her now-completed inaugural visit to India, Clinton’s broad mission was to show that the administration of President Barack Obama is just as serious about a strategic partnership with New Delhi as the previous one under George W. Bush. But strengthening the U.S.-India bilateral relationship is just one part of the equation, even if, to be sure, there is much work to be done […]

Last February, the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction published a comprehensive 456-page historical analysis of the Iraq reconstruction experience entitled, “Hard Lessons.” The IG, Stuart Bowen — who was there from the beginning, assuming the post actually before the invasion — was kind enough to send me a copy this week. Having now read it, I must say it’s an incredible piece of data collection and analysis, even if, in my opinion, its concluding optimism about the U.S. government’s recent efforts to better prepare itself for the next “Iraq” — already upon us in the form […]

Managing China’s Growing Assertiveness in the South China Sea

While the U.S. military remains preoccupied with ongoing operations in the Middle East, competition brewing in the South China Sea risks greater conflict if not properly managed. Two recent maritime incidents in the region involving the Chinese and American navies are manifestations of ongoing jockeying between the two powers, and are a reminder that subtle shifts in power have put new areas of Asia into play. In March, Chinese naval vessels harassed an American reconnaissance ship, the U.S.N.S. Impeccable, 75 miles off the coast of Hainan island, and in June, a Chinese submarine stalking a U.S. Navy destroyer collided with […]

The 10th Mountain Division has recently deployed to Afghanistan’s Wardak province in an effort to apply U.S. counterinsurgency tactics to the region 30 miles west of Kabul. Although security has improved since they arrived, American and Coalition efforts still face significant challenges. Insurgent attacks, mainly mortar and roadside explosive devices, remain a threat. The performance of Afghan police and army units — a central component of U.S. and Coalition strategy — is markedly improved but still leaves much to be desired. And winning the trust and allegiance of Afghan villagers, in particular among the Pashtun, is a daily struggle, often […]

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