Reintegrating the Taliban, Really

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 […]

Afghan Police Force Sees Reform

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.

Vilsack: Afghan Farmers Top Priority

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 […]

Afghanistan: The Civilian Strategy

A lot of observers, myself included, have criticized the way in which U.S. foreign policy has been militarized of late. One pernicious illustration of that trend is how these same observers, myself included, often spend a lot more time analyzing the military components of U.S. foreign policy than the civilian aspects. Both trends are exagerrated when it comes to Afghanistan and, before it, Iraq. Part of that is understandable, since Afghanistan is a warzone. And if foreign policy really is militarized, then to undersatnd it, you’re better off analyzing the military strategy. Nevertheless, I found it interesting that, for all […]

While considerable disagreement exists on precise steps for creating a more stable Afghanistan, most key international policymakers now agree that any successful strategy there, and in Pakistan, hinges on the ability to mainstream anti-government fighters and potential fighters into the political and economic systems in those countries. That was reflected in the communiqué that emerged from last week’s London summit on Afghanistan, which called for, among other things, reintegrating Taliban who cut ties with al-Qaida and other extremist networks. But more attention needs to be given to the difficulties involved with such an approach, which will likely prove extremely challenging […]

Mehsud, or the Dangers of No. 2

Whether or not he’s actually dead, Hakimullah Mehsud illustrates one of the dangers of a CT strategy based on organizational decapitation — namely, that the No. 2 guy waiting in the wings might actually prove to be more dangerous than the guy whose charred boots he filled. A similar phenomenon has been noticeable among the Basque ETA terrorist group, which has replenished its ranks with what appears to be an even more militant younger generation. (Of course, Americans need only look to their own very recent past for another useful illustration.) I have admittedly been among those who have made […]

BONN, Germany — Since the conservative Free Democratic Party’s (FDP) surprisingly strong showing in September elections here, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have taken a sharp turn to the right, pulled toward more fiscally conservative policies by FDP leader and foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. Since the FDP and CDU formally became a coalition in October, tax breaks have been given to big business, little action has been taken against banks viewed by many here as the main culprits of the financial crisis, and threats of cuts in social services loom. While the business community has […]

Trading Poppies for Saffron

The war in Afghanistan is paying particular attention to Afghanfarmers. The Obama administration has made a point to focus onincreasing the quality of life for farmers and arming them with thetools they need to trade in their opium business for other lucrativecrops such as saffron. Experts say that if the initiative issuccessful, it will not only help the Afghan export business, but willalso help to gain the trust of locals in rural areas.

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