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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Sons of Pakistan?

I went scanning the Pakistani English-language press for fallout over the American covert training presence in the FATA (just one low-key item in Dawn). Instead I stumbled across coverage of a proposed Village Defense Council program in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). That’s the province that contains both the troubled Swat valley and larger Malakand disctrict, where the Pakistani government recently agreed to a controversial ceasefire deal with militants. (See Ahmed Humayun’s Briefing.) Both the News and Daily Times report that the province’s governor plans to distribute 30,000 rifles (you read that right) to carefully screened participants, who will be […]

Of foreign policy’s dirtiest words, which do Americans least like to hear: war or state-building? That is the question the Obama administration now has to ask itself about Afpakia, the most volatile swath of South Asia. Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, is a failed state. Pakistan, chronically unstable, possesses dozens of nuclear weapons. India, the regional power, would typically stabilize all of this, but it has been at war with Pakistan, on and off, for the last six decades. As the new administration in Washington contemplates an Afpakia strategy, at first glance nearly everyone seems to agree on the […]

On Feb. 16, the Pakistani government announced a truce with insurgents in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). In the agreement, the government agreed to promulgate Islamic law in one-third of NWFP. Pakistani officials are arguing that Islamic law is a popular demand, and that the creation of state-led Islamic courts will reduce support for extremism. However, rather than vitiating jihadism, the accord will legitimize radical ideology and demonstrate the efficacy of violence in its realization. NWFP’s citizens have not been agitating for the establishment of Islamic law. True, the province was governed from 2002 to February 2008, by the Muttahida […]

The Pakistan Narrative: Reality or Best Screenplay?

The question to ask with regards to the covert American “training” mission to the Pakistani military on the Aghan border is, Why leak it to the NY Times now? The answer plays a central, if so far unexamined, role in Gen. David Petraeus’ COIN doctrine: narrative. As the heat lowers — real or perceived — in Iraq, American troops aren’t the only thing being diverted to Afghanistan. Outside of a rearguard action planning Iraqi withdrawal routes, the D.C. policy-making brain trust is migrating to the Afghanistan problem as well. The consensus is that the problem in Afghanistan is Pakistan, and […]

Europe and the Afghan Troop Increase

A lot of people have been questioning the timing of President Barack Obama’s announcement of a troop increase for Afghanistan. Obama had already delayed his decision by a few weeks, and some, like Joe Klein, wondered why he didn’t wait for the outcome of his much-heralded strategic reassessment. James Joyner doesn’t connect the dots, but his write-up of yesterday’s NATO defense ministers’ summit suggests a speculative explanation to Obama’s Tuesday announcement: As widely foreshadowed, the United States used the occasion of ameeting of NATO defense ministers in Warsaw to call on its Europeanallies to contribute more troops and resources to […]

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