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Afghanistan

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Afghanistan, as a crossroads of empire and a key stage in the Silk Road, is dotted with important archaeological sites that go back 5000 years and can provide insights into the evolution of civilizations across Asia and, in fact, civilization itself. Most of these sites are beyond the reach of the Afghan government’s woefully underfunded... Read More
A lot of government/media misdirection going on concerning Afghanistan. I read the tea leaves over at Asia Times in a piece on Ashraf Ghani’s public lovefest with Nadendra Modi at the “Heart of Asia” conference. Pakistan and China were there, but got precious little “heart”. The piece is titled “The hole at the Heart of... Read More
It's a long way from landlocked Afghanistan to the South China Sea, but... The May 21, 2016 U.S. assassination by drone of Mullah Mansoor, the supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban, would have seemed to be a bad thing for the People’s Republic of China. Mansoor, after all, was the chosen instrument of the Pakistan... Read More
Decisions have consequences. I wonder when there will be a Global Truth & Reconciliation Commission to deal with the ruinous decision of the United States to partner with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations to cultivate, employ, exploit and/or unleash jihadism and religious sectarianism to destroy unfriendly or unhelpful secular/socialist regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya,... Read More
The United States, for the most part, regards Pakistan as little more than a sordid stage on which the West is forced to act out one of the central dramas of its epic War on Terror. However, Pakistan, a nation of 180 million people, is a lot more than that. It is a fragile aggregation... Read More
The piece reproduced below originally appeared at Asia Times Online on November 12, 2012 under the title Myanmar Fixates on Rohingya Calculation. Its thesis is perhaps better represented by the title of this blog post, Burma Washes Its Hands of the Rohingyas. It can be re-posted if ATOl is credited and a link provided. ATOl... Read More
…and a Catastrophe for Pakistan and China
Well, I guess President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is going to go into the record books with a big, fat asterisk next to it. I have an article up at Asia Times Online Beijing broods over its arc of anxiety addressing the implications of the U.S. plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. As... Read More
Do not be naïve about what you are facing. They will bring a destruction you cannot imagine.
In the opinion of America’s counterinsurgency boffins, there are no bad doctrines—only bad clients. Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration’s response to the rather dire situation in Afghanistan is to blame ineffectual and corrupt governance, rather than NATO’s hitherto halfassed and under-manned campaign against the ferocious Taliban. The United States’ desire to give Hamid Karzai the boot... Read More
Or 混水摸鱼 "Hun Shui Mo Yu"
It’s hard to figure out what’s going on in West Pakistan. The Taliban moves into Buner. Then they move out. Or the government kicked them out. Whatever. And I suspect that’s the point. I think the Pakistani government is playing a complicated double game, trying to chivvy the Taliban back into Afghanistan, selectively pressuring groups... Read More
Informed analysis of Pakistan has exploded in a whirlwind of conflicting narratives following the announcement of the deal on sharia law—the Nizam-e Adl Regulation or NAR-- in Swat and the apparent burgeoning of Taliban-centric religious extremism in western Pakistan. The United States policy sphere reacted with a hysterical, “barbarians at the gate (or 100 miles... Read More
In commemoration of Earth Day, and in response to a post by Laura Rozen on a book by Gretchen Peters, Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda, which posits that the fight against the Taleban would be best framed as an anti-criminal—instead of anti-terrorist—effort, I am recycling one of my... Read More
China Matters has pieces up at Asia Times and Counterpunch under the pen name “Peter Lee”. The Asia Times piece, Taliban Force a China Switch, concerns indications that must worry Beijing that the Taliban has discarded a central pillar of traditional foreign policy in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan: the relative immunity of... Read More
Is America Taking on the Neo-Taliban and Missing the Point?
Why is Afghanistan at the nexus of a regional crisis that threatens the security of the United States and the very existence of Pakistan? Because Afghanistan is awash with money, arms, and foreigners. The Obama administration should think twice before assuming that injecting more money, arms, and foreigners into Afghanistan is going to solve the... Read More
It’s the Main Event A Polish engineer is beheaded in Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban threaten attacks on Islamabad. In a desperate effort to turn around the struggle against Islamicist extremists, the Pakistani government considers permitting the imposition of sharia law in a key battleground. Maybe it’s time to admit we don’t have an Afghanistan problem.... Read More
One point that I haven’t seen made yet, that I think should be made, is that Iran, Russia, and China are probably overjoyed that President Obama is not going to pull the plug precipitously on Iraq and Afghanistan. Absent a continued American commitment to the doomed but dangerous democracy crusade and regime change in Iran,... Read More
As America is preoccupied with the global economic crisis and the Obama transition, the State Department can worry that the world’s headlong transition to a post-Bush order has torn events from America’s control and we are unwilling passengers on a runaway train barreling through the Middle East and South Asia. The security, diplomatic, and logistic... Read More
And a Dose of Realism for Afghanistan?
Candidate Obama declared his determination to scale up the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, apparently in an effort to demonstrate that, despite his opposition to the Iraq war, he possessed the necessary bombs away! martial ardor to serve as America’s Commander in Chief. President Obama, in one his first acts upon taking office, explicitly authorized a... Read More
The report about Patrick Moon announcing that the State Department intends to take Mullah Omar off the terrorist blacklist seemed to originate the Iran media—not a paragon of accuracy--and quickly ran around the world. The piece said: Press TV is the Iranian English-language media outlet. But there is some basis. Possibly, Iranian journalists engaged in... Read More
Via Juan Cole comes the rather jaw-dropping news that Mullah Omar will be dropped from the U.S. State Department terrorist list. By U.S. standards, they don’t get much more terroristy than Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban and onetime leader of the hard-core Islamic fundamentalist Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, who blew up Buddhas, burka’d the... Read More
Democracy and Its Death Squads
To civilian liberals of a hawkish bent, General Petraeus projects the reassuring image of the thinking person’s general. It’s kind of hard to wrap one’s head around the idea that operating death squads might be an integral—and perhaps the vital—component of the vaunted Petraeus doctrine of counterinsurgency. Or that death squads will probably continue to... Read More
Barack Obama is acting presidential.
Via Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly blog Calpundit, we learn that Mr. Obama said this in a portion of an interview with Time’s Joe Klein entitled On negotiating with the Taliban: By “presidential”, I mean addressing issues as if he were president, as opposed to regurgitating campaign-ready talking points. As I pointed out in... Read More
I have a piece up at Japan Focus, The Coming Change of Course in Afghanistan, concerning the broad expert and international consensus concerning the need to engage with Afghanistan’s Taliban politically and negotiate some kind of settlement to end the fighting. The American public will apparently be the last to know, since the Afghan war... Read More
A funny thing happened while everybody in the United States, from President Bush to John McCain to Barack Obama swore to muster the will, money, and troops to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, wherever, in order to preserve the victories of Operation Enduring Freedom. Almost everybody else gave up on the war. From... Read More
The prevailing Western narrative concerning the massive blast that destroyed the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad is that this 9/11 style outrage will shove some GWOT backbone up the ass of Pakistan’s elites and compel them to get serious about the extremists they’ve been coddling on Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan. Much of the anger and... Read More
and prepares for a new surge in Afghanistan that may doom Pakistan
American ignorance concerning Pakistani politics and society is profound. And, in the matter of the “surge” scheduled for Afghanistan for year-end 2008, it may be fatal. U.S. observers, both on the left and right, view Pakistan primarily through the lens of the war on terror, in terms of Pakistan’s role in pumping military forces into... Read More
In the “interesting developments” file, NATO forces from Afghanistan operating inside Pakistan killed thirteen members of the Pakistan Frontier Corps, including a major, and wounded about a dozen more. The fatalities were not the result of a stray mortar round or a Hellfire missile fired more on the basis of hope rather than solid intelligence.... Read More
It looks like the American strategy of crushing the Taleban militants in a lumbering pincer movement between NATO troops, airpower, and special ops in Afghanistan to the west and the Pakistani army to the east may have an unexpected, unmanageable, and catastrophic side effect—expansion of the conflict into Pakistan’s urban heartland. And perhaps the only... Read More
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