Small Wars Journal

Pakistani Unconventional Warfare Against Afghanistan

Tue, 02/04/2014 - 3:09pm

Pakistani Unconventional Warfare Against Afghanistan: A Case Study of the Taliban as an Unconventional Warfare Proxy Force

Douglas A. Livermore

As the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan transitions full responsibility for operations to local forces and prepares to withdrawal the bulk of its forces by the end of 2014, it is important to look to the future of the conflict.  The Taliban is far from defeated, and they will definitely remain a formidable foe to the Afghan government in 2015 and beyond.  The world will witness a protracted and extremely violent struggle for dominance between the legitimate Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and the fundamentalist Taliban insurgency vying to reinstitute the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which was overthrown by the US-led effort in late 2001.  On one side, the Afghan government will do everything in its power to remain firmly entrenched as the central national authority governing from Kabul, the capital city.  Opposing them, the Taliban will continue to strike out from safe havens in Western and Southern Pakistan, attempting to undermine the Afghan government and reemerge as the dominant power in Afghanistan.  The Taliban seeks to reclaim the central national authority currently held by the Afghan government and once again exercise near-complete political and spiritual control over the entire population of Afghanistan.

What is not entirely clear to casual outside observers is the “hidden hand” that directs and ultimately benefits from the Taliban’s efforts to destabilize Afghanistan.  Pakistan, and specifically its Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), has been engaged in an incredibly long-term unconventional warfare campaign that provides an illuminating view into how such a strategy can be used to indirectly achieve a state’s national objectives.  By employing the Taliban as a proxy force, Pakistan has achieved key regional objectives without the bulk of its conventional forces becoming decisively engaged in Afghanistan.  While the ISI originally launched an Unconventional Warfare (UW) campaign to destabilize Afghanistan at the direction and with the full backing of then-President Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq after he took power in a bloody coup in 1979, it is unclear if that support continues today under the democratically elected President Asif Ali Zadari.  Regardless, evidence that the ISI continues to support and direct the Taliban is voluminous, indicating a continuation of the UW campaign, with or without the direct permission of Pakistan’s elected leaders.  When viewed with a critical eye, the Pakistani UW campaign against Afghanistan, with the Taliban acting as an indigenous proxy force, exhibits all of the characteristics and phases codified in the UW model used by the United States Government (USG).  By analyzing the campaign through this lens, one can better understand the situation on the ground today as well as predict future Pakistani and Taliban strategies designed to undermine and potentially overthrow the legitimate government of Afghanistan.  Perhaps the most important question that should be asked is this: Why would Pakistan want to conduct UW against Afghanistan? 

 “Pashtunistan.”  This word has struck fear into the hearts of Pakistani leaders for generations.  Meaning “Land of the Pashtuns”, it is a concept deeply rooted in the psyche of the Pashtun tribes which straddle the Afghan-Pakistani border and poses a potential existential threat to modern-day Pakistan.  The modern border, known as the “Durand Line”, is poorly defined and regularly contested.  In 1893, the British, represented by Mortimer Durand, forced the Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman Khan to accept a dictated boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan (then “British India”).  This border was intentionally designed by the British to divide the Pashtuns, thereby keeping Afghanistan weak and a perfect “buffer zone” between the encroaching Russian Empire and British India (on which the Russians had designs).[1]  Afghan rulers since Abdur Rahman have almost universally rejected the “Durand Line” and the current government of President Hamid Karzai, himself a Pashtun, refuses to recognize this border as legitimate.[2]  There are regular skirmishes between Afghan and Pakistani troops all along their shared border as each side jockeys for every slight advantage.  The most recent major flare-up occurred in September of 2011, when Pakistan launched more than 340 artillery rockets into Afghanistan, damaging several towns and forcing the evacuation of thousands of terrified Afghans.  [3]

Generally speaking, there is little common understanding among the population of Afghanistan who exactly qualifies as an “Afghan”.  In antiquity, the ethnic term “Afghan” was accepted as synonymous with only the Pashtuns.[4]  Against this historic framework, and with few exceptions, loyalty in Afghanistan rarely extends beyond the tribal or ethnic level, as Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and other non-Pashtun ethnic groups in Afghanistan cautiously eye the Pashtun majority.  Given their druthers, the Pashtun majority of Afghanistan would undoubtedly seek reunification with the Pashtun tribes in Western Pakistan under the banner of a “Greater Afghanistan”.  Doing so would strip nearly half of Pakistan’s land area as well as its vital Indian Ocean ports of Jiwani, Gwadar, and Pasni.  These ports give Pakistan access to the mouth of the Arabian/Persian Gulf and provide further strategic strength.  Obviously, the loss of Pashtun lands is unacceptable to Islamabad, which is why the Pakistanis have consistently sought to undermine Afghan unity and maintain a weakened Afghanistan in order to secure their northwest border.Despite its concern about Afghanistan, it is India, not Afghanistan, which Pakistan sees as the greatest regional threat. India and Pakistan have officially fought wars in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999, in addition to numerous undeclared skirmishes along their shared borders, particularly near the contested Kashmir province.[5]  Because of this constant threat, Pakistan maintains the vast majority of its conventional forces along the Kashmir and Indian borders, poised to blunt Indian aggression or to potentially take advantage of any real or perceived vulnerabilities in India’s defenses.  Aside from the direct threat posed by the emergence of “Pashtunistan”, the Karzai administration has also greatly improved relations with India, much to the discomfort of Pakistan.  Immediately after the fall of the Taliban and the installation of Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan, India, which previously supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and Pakistan, opened consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad, Herat, and Mazar-e-Sharif.[6]  Both Iran and India have become heavily invested in both the Afghan private and government sectors, thereby raising for the Pakistanis the specter of regional envelopment by hostile powers.[7]  As a result, Pakistan chose to employ the Taliban and other insurgent groups as proxies against Afghanistan as an “economy of force” effort.  Without having to commit the bulk of its conventional force to dealing with Afghanistan, which would have left the Kashmiri and shared borders with India weakened, the Pakistanis instead “outsourced” the bulk of its efforts vis-à-vis Afghanistan to the Taliban.  The Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch reported in 2000:

“Of all the foreign powers involved in efforts to sustain and manipulate the ongoing fighting [in Afghanistan], Pakistan is distinguished both by the sweep of its objectives and the scale of its efforts, which include soliciting funding for the Taliban, bankrolling Taliban operations, providing diplomatic support as the Taliban's virtual emissaries abroad, arranging training for Taliban fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve in Taliban armies, planning and directing offensives, providing and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and ... directly providing combat support.”[8]

In the course of this case study, it will become evident that the ISI has conducted and continues to wage unconventional warfare (UW)—defined by USG as “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.”[9] —against Afghanistan in order to achieve its own national objectives.  This UW campaign, employing the Taliban and other insurgent entities, has alternately been designed to “coerce, disrupt, and overthrow” first the government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan and now the GIRoA.  Beginning with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the ISI has manipulated and used various insurgent factions in Afghanistan to ensure instability and pursue Pakistan’s own regional ambitions.  These efforts came to a head in the post-Soviet era, when the ISI expedited the formation of the Taliban and provided equipment, training, and direction aimed to overthrow the fledgling “Islamic State of Afghanistan” created after the ouster of the Soviet puppet government of Mohammed Najibullah.  The Taliban, with considerable Pakistani support, successfully conquered most of Afghanistan by 1996, claiming Kabul and driving the remaining elements of the transitional government, then called “The Northern Alliance” into the far northeastern corner of the country.  Al-Qaeda (“The Base”), a terrorist group that also traced its origins to the anti-Soviet mujahedeen movement and which received safe haven under Taliban protection in Afghanistan, conducted a series of coordinated attack on the US in September of 2001.  This action nearly undid all of Pakistan’s efforts when the US-led assault quickly overthrew the Taliban and forced the majority of its leadership to take refuge in their original safe havens in Pakistan.  For the last eleven years, the Taliban and its associated insurgent groups have waged guerrilla warfare from these Pakistani safe havens, supported by the ISI.

Careful analysis of the Pakistani UW campaign, using the Taliban as an indigenous proxy force, readily reveals the organizational elements and phasing outlined in USG UW doctrine.  The definitive work on this subject is Training Circular 18-01 “Special Forces Unconventional Warfare”, published by Headquarters, Department of the Army.  This document outlines seven distinct phases within the USG model for UW, though it goes to great lengths to point out that not all phases are necessary or must proceed in a linear fashion to ensure success in UW.  Given specific conditions, successful UW can be waged without conducting all phases.  The USG doctrinal phases of UW consist of:

  1. Psychological Preparation –The aggressor state conducts assessments of and employs information operations (formerly psychological/propaganda operations) designed to influence the population of a target country.  These steps are necessary to determine the suitability for and set the initial conditions to initiate an insurgency.
  2. Initial Contact – Intelligence agents or special operations forces from the aggressor state meet with key leaders of the insurgency to begin cooperation and arrange for follow-on support from the aggressor state to the insurgents.
  3. Infiltration – Agents of the aggressor state and/or indigenous insurgent forces enter, either covertly or clandestinely, into the operational area in order to begin efforts to undermine, coerce, or overthrow the established authority (either a government or occupying power).
  4. Organization – Agents from the aggressor state assess the composition and capabilities of the insurgency and then advise the insurgent leadership on changes designed to maximize effectiveness of the insurgency.  Organizational design is intended to achieve optimal balance between leadership (underground), support personnel (auxiliary), and fighters (guerrillas). 
  5. Buildup – Agents train and advise insurgents while generally avoiding contact with forces from the targeted authority (government or occupying power).  This phase is designed to develop insurgent forces and increase the capabilities of the insurgency before undertaking full-scale combat operations.  Some limited guerrilla operations can be conducted against lightly-defended targets (“confidence targets”) to build the morale of the guerrilla force and validate training previously given by the agents to the guerrillas.
  6. Combat Utilization – Insurgent forces conduct guerrilla warfare under the advisement of aggressor state agents.  The goal is to gradually increase the frequency and intensity of guerrilla attacks in order to achieve operational objectives while preventing a massive retaliation from the targeted authorities (government or occupying power).  These guerrilla operations are designed to achieve insurgent objectives but can also be coordinated with objectives of the aggressor state.  Guerrilla operations can facilitate the introduction of conventional forces from the aggressor state or continue without assistance to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow the government or occupying power.
  7. Transition/Demobilization – Upon the achievement of the aggressor state’s national objectives, the indigenous insurgent forces can either be transformed into the new legitimate authority (in the event of an overthrow of the previous regime) or demobilized (as might be the case if the objective was simply to coerce or disrupt a targeted regime or occupying power).  Members of the insurgency can transition into legitimate government, military, or law enforcement entities thereby ensuring the continuation of control within the targeted country.

The Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, normally referred to as simply the ISI, is an entirely separate entity of the Pakistani government, independent from the Pakistani military and any meaningful civilian oversight.  However, the ISI does draw the bulk of its force from the military, estimated by some experts to be around 10,000 personnel.[10]  Within the ISI, there exists a “Covert Action Division” (CAD), very much akin in design and purpose to the US Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) “Special Activities Division” (SAD).  The CAD/ISI conducts paramilitary and other covert special operations in support of Pakistani national interests, responsibilities into which UW fits perfectly.  Within both the CAD/ISI and SAD/CIA reside the expertise and authorities to execute UW campaigns using indigenous forces to pursue objectives of national importance.  Previously, the CAD/ISI received training from and cooperated with the SAD/CIA, most visibly during their joint UW campaign, Operation CYCLONE, against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.[11]  SAD/CIA and CAD/ISI worked together to train, equip, and direct Afghan resistance forces, known colloquially as the “mujahedeen” (“those who pursue jihad [holy war]”), to undermine and ultimately overthrow the communist, pro-Soviet Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) and expel the Soviet invaders.  The CIA and ISI celebrated the latter outcome when the last Soviet forces withdrew across the so-called “Friendship Bridge” in Balkh Province, Afghanistan in February of 1989.[12]  After the Soviets withdrew, the UW campaign against Afghanistan became a purely Pakistani/mujahedeen affair, as the CIA withdrew the vast majority of its support.  The fall of the DRA, took a bit longer, finally succumbing to the mujahedeen in 1992.  Despite past cooperation with the CIA, the years since 1989 have seen a rapid emergence of radical Islamist sympathies within the ISI, suggesting that, if ISI support of the Taliban is unsanctioned at the Pakistani parliamentary level, it is clearly tolerated within the ranks of the secretive ISI given the ethnic and ideological ties shared between its members and the Taliban.[13]  Since the fall of Pakistan’s strongman dictator-turned-president, Pervez Musharraf, the civilian government’s efforts to exert increased control and oversight of the ISI, such as the abortive July 2008 attempt to legislatively place the ISI under the supervision of the interior ministry, have proved futile.[14]

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December of 1979, the Pakistanis found themselves in a unique position to influence events in Afghanistan in a manner that would ensure continued instability.  By providing safe haven for and a conduit for US/CIA aid to the Afghan resistance, the Pakistanis, specifically the ISI, were placed perfectly to control the “endgame” in Afghanistan.  During the Soviet occupation, the ISI carefully managed the relationships between the major mujahedeen groups and funneled CIA aid in order to ensure Afghan disunity in perpetuity.   While the Soviet’s occupied Afghanistan, the ISI held a legitimate fear that more drastic efforts, such as direct military intervention, would incite a massive Soviet retaliation against Pakistan.[15]  At the same time, the ISI was engaged in Phase 1 (Psychological Preparation) of UW, an intense effort to shape Afghan perceptions and set the conditions for the post-Soviet insurgency planned to install an Afghan government amenable to Pakistani interests.  Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and with the CIA no longer providing or directing the disposition of aid, the ISI shifted the preponderance of military support to the hardline Islamist mujahedeen, such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, in an effort to keep Afghanistan in an extended state of civil war and ensure the emergence of a mujahedeen faction leader loyal to Pakistan.  Hekmatyar, as the head of Hezb-e-Islami, was a Pashtun warlord, fully committed to the pursuit of personal power.  So ambitious was Hekmatyar, that he was often accused of spending "more time fighting other Mujahideen than killing Soviets".[16]  For his part, Haqqani spent part of the war against the Soviets as a member of Hezb-e-Islami before breaking away to form his own network.  During this period, the CIA used Haqqani’s network as an “independent asset” in Afghanistan and US congressman Charlie Wilson, made famous for his own instrumental advocacy of US support to the mujahedeen, referred to Haqqani as “goodness personified”.[17]  Conversely, the chief of staff for the Pakistani army reportedly called Haqqani and his network, “a strategic asset”.[18]  While Haqqani was always considered a hardline Islamic radical, he fortuitously switched his allegiance to the Taliban just before their eventual victory in 1996.  Despite the rise of the Taliban in 1992, Hezb-e-Islami and the Haqqani Network have remained largely independent from the larger group, though they often cooperate on specific goals and the ISI has maintained very active relations with each group for the purposes of waging its UW campaign in Afghanistan.    

As the civil war ground on, living conditions for the average Afghan continued to deteriorate as the warlords squabbled bloodily amongst each other.  Basic necessities became increasingly scarce as inflation soared.  Those who could not flee to Pakistan fell deeper and deeper into squalor.  Particularly in the south, amongst the civilian populace around Kandahar, there was a groundswell of demand for stability and an end to the seemingly ceaseless violence.  Most importantly, the Pakistani Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (“Assembly of Islamic Clergy”), a religiously conservative political group that advocated for imposition of Sharia law in Pakistan, established schools in the Afghan refugee camps that dotted southern and western Pakistan.  These schools, or madrassas, were largely funded by the ISI beginning in the early 1980s, using both Pakistani funds and those provided from private donors in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Middle Eastern states friendly to the cause of radical Islam.  In these schools, radical clerics preached the virtues of jihad and the establishment of a Sharia-based Caliphate.  The first seeds were sown from which the core of the Taliban would eventually spring.  UW  Phase 1 (Psychological Preparation) was intensified through the radicalization of Afghan refugee youth in the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam madrassas, and the Afghan general population’s desperation caused by the Pakistani-sustained civil war, ensuring that Afghanistan would be ripe for the taking in Pakistan’s larger UW campaign.  By 1991, an initial cadre of Taliban, led by a charismatic radical cleric, Mullah Mohammed Omar, moved out of southern Pakistan to set up operations around Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.  Omar was a veteran of the mujahedeen campaign against the Soviets, having received considerable training directly from the ISI on multiple occasions during the 1980s.[19]  Not even the emergence of a weak transitional government in Kabul, called the Islamic State of Afghanistan, in April of 1992 was enough to dissuade the ISI from its intentions to set loose the Taliban in Afghanistan.  The psychological conditions were set for the birth of an insurgency that would, however briefly, achieve Pakistan’s regional goals.      

While the Taliban continued to percolate in southern Pakistan and Afghanistan, the ISI amplified its effort to overthrow the newly-formed Islamic State under interim-President Burhanuddin Rabbani through use of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s hardline Islamist militia, Hezb-e-Islami (“Islamic Party”), by providing massive amounts of military aid and other assistance.[20]  Amin Saikal, an expert on Afghan affairs, wrote of these efforts:

“Islamabad [Pakistan] could not possibly expect the new Islamic government leaders [the Afghan transitional government]... to subordinate their own nationalist objectives in order to help Pakistan realize its regional ambitions.  Had it not been for the ISI's logistic support and supply of a large number of rockets, Hekmatyar's forces would not have been able to target and destroy half of Kabul.”[21]

Hekmatyar was the clear favorite of the Pakistanis to fulfill its purposes as a puppet leader for the Afghans, but his forces proved unable to capture Kabul and were repeatedly defeated by the other warlords now serving the Islamic State, notably Ahmad Shah Massoud.  Known as the “Lion of Panjshir” for his defeat of nine separate Soviet assaults into the Panjshir Valley, Massoud was a legendary figure who served as the Minister of Defense for the Islamic State before and during the Taliban/Pakistani invasion.[22]  Specifically, Massoud expertly led a counterattack that broke and routed Hekmatyar’s forces besieging Kabul.  Massoud, gracious in victory and desiring to end the civil war that ravaged Afghanistan, asked Hekmatyar to accept the post of minister of the interior for the Islamic State, place aside personal ambitions of total power, and bring his Hezb-e-Islami militia into the fold.  Blinded by ambition, Hekmatyar vehemently refused and began rebuilding his forces in preparation for another attempt at overthrowing the Islamic State. 

Meanwhile to the dismay of Pakistan, the new Afghan government was receiving military and economic backing from both Iran and India, two of Pakistan’s greatest regional rivals.[23]  Every day that the government of the Islamic State remained in power was another day with which it could solidify its hold on power.  With frustration mounting, the ISI decided in 1992 to change course and withdrew much of its support of Hekmatyar redirecting it to the Taliban[24]   Fearing that a unified and powerful Afghanistan would eventually seek resolution of the Pashtunistan “question” through force of arms, the ISI provided funding and training to create the first Taliban formations in late 1992 to serve as a proxy force for the destabilization and conquest of Afghanistan. Consistent with Phase 2 (Initial Contact) of the doctrinal UW model, the ISI approached Mullah Omar sometime in 1991 or early 1992 to offer its services for the achievement of the Taliban’s goals in Afghanistan.  Making initial contact with the Taliban was easy for the CAD/ISI, since thousands of adherents remained in Pakistan around Quetta where they continued to receive radical Islamist instruction at the ISI-funded Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam madrassas.  Mullah Omar maintained his rear headquarters in Quetta from which he regularly traveled back and forth to Kandahar and where he allegedly met with the ISI several times.[25]  As the Taliban was essentially a CAD/ISI creation, it did not take long to coordinate agreements between the ISI and the Taliban to achieve the Pakistani objective of toppling the troublesome Afghan transitional government through a UW campaign using the Taliban as a proxy force.  The ISI offered the Taliban the training and equipment it desperately needed to achieve its goal of establishing an Islamist Caliphate in Afghanistan, and all that the ISI asked in return were friendly relations and support of Pakistani regional objectives once the Taliban was in power.  UW Phase 2 (Initial Contact) was essentially a foregone conclusion given the extremely close relationship that the ISI had with the Taliban throughout its formative years. 

Given the lawless nature of southern Afghanistan between 1992 and 1994, Taliban and CAD/ISI forces were able to freely move between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Because of this, Phase 3 (Infiltration) of the UW model was similarly easy for the ISI to accomplish.  The porous border has historically been incredibly difficult to control, as numerous unmapped paths crisscross the mountainous regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  During the mujahedeen conflict against the Soviets, the ISI had used these trails to push tens of thousands of fighters across the very same routes that it would now use to infiltrate Taliban proxy forces as well as their CAD/ISI advisors.  Previously, hardened DRA and Soviet troops had been unable to stem the flow of fighters coming out of Pakistan, even with full control of Kandahar and all of the major routes throughout the country.  Now, in 1992, with Kandahar Province in the throes of a local power struggle between competing warlords, the resulting anarchy allowed the Taliban to come and go as they pleased.  Though starting with very small numbers, the ISI would eventually direct the infiltration of massive formations of Taliban fighters directly into Kandahar Province after which they spread throughout Afghanistan.

As the ISI had been intimately involved in the initial stages of the Taliban’s formation within the madrassas, the Taliban was easily reorganized from a simple student religious group to a functional military formation, ready to conduct guerrilla operations to undermine and ultimately supplant the Rabbanni government of the Islamic State.  Phase 4 (Organization) of the doctrinal UW model, as it was executed by the Pakistani ISI, went through several revisions over the course of the UW campaign.  Often, the religious leader, or mullah, of each madrassa would serve as the military commander for the students under his care, a system that lent itself well to paramilitary organization necessary for training/equipping and guerrilla operations.  The ISI simply adopted and adapted this organizational structure, providing as much training as possible to overcome the lack of military experience from which many of the mullahs suffered.  Of course, in some cases, such as that of Omar, these mullahs were also experienced veterans of the previous insurgency against the Soviets.  As part of this phase, the ISI established routes by which it would be able to sustain the Taliban after infiltration during the UW campaign against the Islamic State government.  Of particular utility were the opium smuggling routes operated by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islam faction, over which Hekmatyar had transported hundreds of thousands of tons of opium by 1992.[26]  The ISI made use of these historic smuggling routes through the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the same ones used during the Soviet occupation to provide military aid to the mujahedeen.   These paths offered ready-made resupply routes over which the Pakistanis would push massive amounts of critical supplies into Afghanistan in order to sustain the Taliban insurgency.    

Starting in 1992, the ISI began an intensive training regimen for the Taliban in Pakistani camps designed to build up and prepare them for battle against the Afghan transitional government, a clear indication of the ISI engagement in UW Phase 5 (Build-Up).  Using recruits from the massive Afghan refugee populations amassed in Pakistan as a result of the Soviet invasion and subsequent Afghan civil war, the ISI established recruitment and training camps while continuing to cultivate leadership elements of the Taliban around the town of Quetta, which today remains the spiritual root of the Taliban.  The masses of young, idealistic students in the madrassas, their heads previously filled by radical clerics with utopian visions of jihad, received practical training in the employment of deadly weapons, small unit tactics, and other necessary skills to create an effective guerrilla.  In camps scattered throughout southern and western Pakistan, specifically in Quetta and the Federally Administered Tribal Area, Pakistani Army and CAD/ISI forces trained and equipped Taliban units for deployment to Kandahar.  The Taliban conducted its first “confidence target” operation in the spring of 1994, in the village of Sangesar, located near Kandahar.  Taliban fighters, led by Mullah Omar in a daring raid, captured a local governor whom villagers accused of kidnapping and raping two young girls.  Without trial, the Mullah Omar ordered the governor hung from the barrel of a tank. [27]   Mullah Omar initially had only about 50 Taliban adherents in the Kandahar area, but reinforcements would soon arrive.  Each raid or ambush on Afghan government troops or other militias built up the Taliban’s confidence in and the ISIs validation of the training completed, while also attracting additional recruits to the cause.  With Phase 5 (Build-Up) complete, the ISI was ready to release the Taliban wholesale into Afghanistan for the purposes of achieving Pakistan’s national objectives during Phase 6 (Combat Employment). 

When Mullah Omar ordered the Taliban to undertake large-scale offensive operations against the government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan in the spring of 1994, it did not take long to swell his ranks with recent Taliban graduates from the Pakistani training camps.  The ISI rapidly pushed large numbers of Taliban across the border and into Kandahar to reinforce Omar, thereby indicating a distinct shift into Phase 6 (Combat Employment) of the UW campaign construct.  By the summer, Mullah Omar could count at least 15,000 fighters within his ranks, making him a serious contender to the Afghan transitional government, which was still struggling to form functional ministries and fend off Hekmatyar’s offenses that were again threatening Kabul.[28]  Taliban formations advanced northward toward Kandahar City from their intermediate staging bases in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province.  Many victories brought additional fighters and heavy weapons into the Taliban fold as the majority of local warlords, with their much smaller militias, chose to join the Taliban rather than futilely resist them.[29]  One province after another fell to the Taliban, with many of their inhabitants welcoming them as liberators and hoping for the stability promised by the Taliban’s Sharia law as an alternative to the horrific chaos of the last fifteen years.  The psychological preparation that the Pakistanis had established as part of their Afghan conflict-extending measures clearly smoothed the way for their Taliban proxies to conquer large swaths of the countryside.  However, there were major setbacks, and the Taliban suffered a number of significant defeats in late 1994 and early 1995.  The Taliban attempt to capture Herat in southwestern Afghanistan was thwarted by government forces and the Taliban suffered extremely heavy casualties.  By late September of 1995, the Taliban had advanced to the outskirts of Kabul, besieging the city and showering rockets onto military and civilian targets, alike.  Once again, Massoud sallied forth leading the armed forces of the transitional government and achieved a miraculous victory over the Taliban, routing them.  Ahmed Rashid, a noted Afghanistan scholar, wrote about the impact of these Taliban defeats:

"The Taliban had now been decisively pushed back on two fronts by the government and their political and military leadership was in disarray. Their image as potential peacemakers was badly dented, for in the eyes of many Afghans they had become nothing more than just another warlord party."[30]

Fearing a possible failure of the mission, the ISI pulled the Taliban forces back and undertook a massive effort to reinforce and reequip them.  Reinforcements came in the form of a massive new “batch” of Taliban recruits from Pakistan, nearly 25,000, as well as several units from the Pakistani Army intended to steel the resolve of the Taliban.[31]  Much of the funding for the new equipment and training came from Saudi Arabia, and the commitment of Pakistani military units signaled the importance which the ISI placed on Taliban success.  In 1996, the Taliban went back on the offensive.  The US Defense Intelligence Agency reported in 1996 that:

"These Frontier Corps elements [of the Pakistani Army] are utilized in command and control; training; and when necessary - combat. Elements of Pakistan's regular army force are not used because the army is predominantly Punjabi, who have different features as compared to the Pashtun and other Afghan tribes."[32]     

The Taliban, now aided directly by Pakistani CAD/ISI and military forces, captured Herat in a surprise attack in September 1995.  The siege of Kabul was renewed that same month, though Massoud continued to hold out and was even able to continue the consolidation of power under the transitional government.  In addition to Taliban rockets, the Pakistanis added indiscriminate artillery bombardment and even used its ground attack aircraft to pound Kabul and its outskirts.  Massoud’s effort to negotiate an inclusive government with Taliban participation was rejected outright.  Regardless, Massoud held out for a year before finally withdrawing his forces from the city, still in good order, to prevent more needless death and destruction.[33]  The Taliban entered Kabul on 26 September 1996, having successfully overthrown Rabbani and seized power.   The capture of Kabul marked the end of Phase 6 (Combat Employment) as the ISI UW campaign entered into the last and possibly most critical phase, Phase 7 (Transition).  The remnants of the transitional forces, led by Massoud, conducted a fighting withdrawal to the north after rebranding themselves the “United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan”.  This group was factional, at best, with ethnic groups operating under their own commanders but owing some grudging allegiance to Massoud.  Massoud’s forces, more commonly known to the West as the “Northern Alliance”, managed to hold onto a small number of Northern provinces despite the best efforts of the Taliban and Pakistanis to crush them.  India and Iran provided massive amounts of aid to the Northern Alliance in order to resist the Taliban and their Pakistani masters, estimated at approximately $70 million (and at least five Mi-17 helicopters) between 1996 and 2001.[34]  Conservative estimates place the total number of Pakistani military troops who served in Afghanistan between 1994 and 1999, fighting alongside the Taliban at between 80,000 and 100,000.[35]    Human Rights Watch reported, "Pakistani aircraft assisted with troop rotations of Taliban forces during combat operations in late 2000 and... senior members of Pakistan's intelligence agency and army were involved in planning military operations.”[36]  Clearly, Afghanistan, as a whole, served as an extended proxy battlefield between the major regional powers, much to the detriment of the average Afghan civilian and regional stability.

The Taliban and Pakistanis moved swiftly to consolidate the transition of power during Phase 7 (Transition) at the successful conclusion of the UW campaign.  Pakistan, followed only by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, quickly recognized the Taliban movement, their own creation and UW proxy force, as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.[37]  Ultimately, the Taliban would extend its influence deep into the lives of nearly every Afghan, banning smoking, dancing, music, alcohol, and a whole litany of other “vices”.  Women and girls were banned from working or attending school, and required to wear the traditional “burqa” full-body dress.[38]  To enforce these rules, the Taliban established “religious police” who employed draconian measures to punish perceived offenses.  Sharia law replaced the existing justice system and Afghanistan witnessed a complete reversal of the democratic processes started under President Rabbanni.

Once in power, the Taliban executed a number of moves intended to solidify their power and support Pakistan’s regional interests.  For instance, in 1998, an Iranian consulate in a Northern Alliance area was seized by the Taliban and the Iranian diplomats murdered.  Though the Taliban claimed the murders were the work of “rogue elements”.[39]  Iran alleges to this day that it collected radio intercepts during the attack proving that Mullah Omar personally approved the execution of its diplomats.[40]  Regardless, the attack weakened Iran’s influence and ability to aid the Northern Alliance, benefitting both the Taliban and Pakistan’s efforts in Afghanistan.  Despite such “gains”, the Taliban’s success in Afghanistan was ultimately undone because of its relationship with a small but deadly terrorist faction, al-Qaeda.  The founder of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin-Laden, had been a low-level financier and facilitator for a small group of Arab mujahedeen during the 1980s.  During that time he formed important and lasting relationships, in particular with the head of the Pakistani ISI, Hamid Gul.[41]  After the Soviet withdrawal, bin-Laden had returned to Saudi Arabia, only to be infuriated by the US presence in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War against Iraq.  Al-Qaeda evolved slowly, but its headquarters moved repeatedly during the 1990s, being expelled from Sudan before finally finding a home in Afghanistan under the Taliban.[42]  Assassins from al-Qaeda, posing as a media crew, detonated explosives hidden in a camera during an interview and killed Massoud at his Northern Alliance headquarters just two days before al-Qaeda’s brazen series of coordinated attacks on the US on 11 September 2011.[43]  In response, the US demanded that the Taliban surrender bin-Laden and the leadership of al-Qaeda.  The Taliban refused, instead offering to hand al-Qaeda over to a “neutral” third party, such as Pakistan, for trial and eventual punishment.  Unsatisfied, the US led an invasion, itself a UW campaign, spearheaded by special operations forces and paramilitary operatives from the CIA who, together with the Northern Alliance, succeeded in toppling the Taliban by November.

Pakistan claims that it severed all ties of support with the Taliban after the September 2001 attacks, though that has not prevented the Taliban from reoccupying the safe havens in Western Pakistan from which it originally sprang in 1992.  Taliban and al-Qaeda forces fleeing Afghanistan in November of 2001 allegedly received assistance from ISI, and some were even evacuated on Pakistani Air Force cargo aircraft out of Kunduz to refuge in Pakistan.[44]  In 2006, the chief of staff for UK forces in southern Afghanistan, Colonel Chris Vernon, stated, "The thinking piece of the Taliban is out of Quetta in Pakistan. It's the major headquarters."[45]  This headquarters, known as the “Quetta Shura”, is located in southern Pakistan while sizeable formations of Taliban train and launch operations into Afghanistan from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan.  Islamabad granted Waziristan virtual autonomy and has exercised very limited control in the FATA since 2006, allowing the Taliban near-immunity to impose Sharia law and regroup for their continuing operations to undermine the legitimate government of Afghanistan.[46]

The Taliban, allegedly acting on intelligence and with support provided by the ISI, have repeatedly attacked Indian targets in Afghanistan.[47]  The Indian Embassy in Kabul was attacked by suicide bombers in July 2008, killing 58 and wounding 141, and again in October 2009, this time killing 40 and injuring more than 100.  In both cases, the Afghans, Indians, and US either insinuated or outright accused the ISI of being behind the attacks, though the Taliban claimed responsibility.  The US president, George W. Bush, presented evidence of ISI involvement in the 2008 attack to the Pakistani Prime Minister and threatened “serious action”.[48]  The Indian national security advisor was much more direct, stating, "We have no doubt that the ISI is behind this [referring to the 2008 suicide bombing]."[49]  Rather than refrain from attacking diplomatic targets, the ISI allegedly employed the Taliban to attack the US embassy in Kabul in September of 2011, killing at least seven people and wounding another 19.[50]  In response, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullins, stated before the US Senate Armed Services Committee that:

"The fact remains that the Quetta Shura [Taliban] and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity.  [They are] Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan [that] are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as US soldiers.  For example, we believe the Haqqani Network, which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, is responsible for the September 13th attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul."[51]

Most recently, the Taliban launched a massive assault on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on 3 August 2013.  The attack resulted in several deaths and injuries, though the majority occurred at nearby mosque damaged by a suicide truck bomb.[52]  Attacks of this nature are well within the modus operandi of the ISI, as demonstrated by the alleged involvement of the ISI in directing and supporting members of the Pakistani hardline Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Righteous”) during the bloody coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India, in November of 2008.  Lashkar-e-Taiba conducts operations from bases in the Pakistani-Kashmir region and has sought since 1990 to achieve the “liberation” of Muslims in Indian-Kashmir by way of violence.  While Pakistan officially declared Lashkar-e-Taiba a terrorist organization, a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2011 found significant evidence that the ISI employs the group to conduct terrorist attacks in Kashmir and India as part of a larger UW campaign to weaken India’s hold on the contested area.[53]  In the 2008 Mumbai attack, Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists conducted numerous small-arms and bomb attacks against a number of popular Mumbai hotels and shopping centers, killed 166 people and injured at least 308.  One of the terrorists was captured alive by Indian security forces and later admitted to receiving direction and support from the ISI.[54]  Repeatedly, the ISI employs proxy forces to conduct long-term, low-cost UW against Pakistan’s regional rivals because this strategy presents an irresistible “win-win” outcome.  At worst, the Pakistanis can support an indefinite UW campaign that keeps its neighbors destabilized, which in the case of Afghanistan renders it unable to pursue its intentions with regard to Pashtunistan or closer Indian relations.  At best, with ISI support the Taliban might regain control in Kabul and be repositioned as a puppet government malleable to Pakistani interests.  This outcome would provide Pakistan considerable “strategic depth” on its Western flank, allowing them to focus all of their attention on India without fear of “Pashtunistan”. 

The Taliban conquest of Afghanistan provides a fascinating and complete doctrinal example of modern unconventional warfare.  The Pakistanis employed a predominantly indigenous force, the Taliban, to overthrow the legitimate transitional government and install a pro-Pakistani regime.  Armed with Pakistani weapons, trained by Pakistani advisers, sympathetic to Pakistani interests, and eventually with Pakistani soldiers fighting directly alongside them, the Taliban conquered Afghanistan.[55]  Today, with more than thirty years of investment in the destabilization of Afghanistan, it is improbable that Pakistan will abandon these efforts and risk the emergence of a strong, independent Afghan government pursuing reunification with the Pashtun tribes of Western Pakistan.  Pakistan’s efforts to undermine Afghanistan and prevent any pursuit of a “Greater Pashtunistan” state by means of a UW campaign is consistent with their world view, in which they are beset on all sides by neighbors laying claim to significant chunks of Pakistan’s sovereign territory.  Once Pakistani interests are understood, their continued support to the Taliban becomes understandable, if not acceptable to the international pursuit of regional stability.

End Notes

[1] The Oriental Review. "When Will the Great Game End?" November 15, 2010.

[2] The Atlantic Magazine. "The Durand Line: Afghanistan's Controversial, Colonial-Era Border." October 25, 2012.

[3] Express Tribune. "Afghanistan claims Pakistan Army shelling Afghan border areas ." September 26, 2011.

[4] Tanner, Stephen. Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War Against the Taliban. De Capo Press, 2009.

[5] Talbot, Ian. The Armed Forces of Pakistan. Macmillan Publishers, 1999.

[6] Hindustan Times. "Why Indians were targeted?" July 8, 2008.

[7] Bajoria, Jayshree. "India-Afghanistan Relations." Council on Foreign Relations, July 22, 2009.

[8]  Pakistan's support of the Taliban . Human Rights Watch, 2000.

[9] Training Circular 18-01 “Special Forces Unconventional Warfare”. Headquarters, Department of the Army, January 2011.

[10] Pike, John. "Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence." Journal of the Federation of American Scientists, July 25, 2002.

[11] Raman, B. Intelligence: Past, Present & Future. New Delhi: Lancer Publishers & Distributors, 2002.

[12] Grau, Lester. "Breaking Contact Without Leaving Chaos: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan." Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol. 20 (Foreign Military Studies Office Publications), November 2, 2007.

[13] Kaplan, Eben, and Jayshree Bajoria. "The ISI and Terrorism: Behind the Accusations." Journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, May 4, 2012.

[14] Khan, M. Ilyas. Spy agency confusion in Pakistan. British Broadcasting Corporation, July 28, 2008.

[15] Bearden, Milt, and James Risen. The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB. Random House Publishing, 2003.

[16] Bergen, Peter L. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden. Free Press, 2001.

[17] Carlstrom, Gregg. Who Are the Taliban. Al-Jazeera News Service, June 9, 2010.

[18] Philp, Catherine. "Pervez Musharraf was playing 'double game' with US." The Times (London), February 17, 2009.

[19] Price, Colin. "Pakistan: A Plethora of Problems ." Global Security Studies, Volume 3, Issue 1. Northfield, VT: School of Graduate and Continuing Studies in Diplomacy, Norwich University, Winter 2012.

[20] Nojumi, Neamatollah. The Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan: Mass Mobilization, Civil War, and the Future of the Region. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

[21] Saikal, Amin. Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co., 2002.

[22] Tomsen, Peter. "Wars of Afghanistan." Public Affairs. 2011.

[23] Saikal, Amin. Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival.

[24] The September 11th Sourcebooks Volume VII: The Taliban File. George Washington University, 2003.

[25] Matinuddin, Kamal. The Taliban Phenomenon, Afghanistan 1994–1997. Oxford University Press, 1999.

[26] Chossudovsky, Michel. "Pakistan and the Global War on Terrorism." January 8, 2008.

[27] Matinuddin, Kamal. The Taliban Phenomenon, Afghanistan 1994–1997.

[28] Felbab-Brow, Vanda. Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs. Brookings Institution Press, 2010.

[29] Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia. I.B.Tauris, 2002.

[30] ‘’

[31] ‘’

[32] "Pakistan Involvement in Afghanistan." Defense Intelligence Agency, November 7, 1996.

[33] Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin Press HC, 2004

[34] Mcleod, Duncan. India and Pakistan. n.d. (accessed September 2, 2012).

[35] Maley, William. "The Afghanistan Wars." Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

[36] "Crisis of Impunity." Human Rights Watch. July 2001.

[37] Guelke, Adrian. Terrorism and Global Disorder. International Library of War Studies, 2006.

[38] Dupree Hatch, Nancy. "Afghan Women under the Taliban." In Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban. , by William Maley. Hurst and Company, 2001.

[39] Gutman, Roy. How We Missed the Story: Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Hijacking of Afghanistan. Institute of Peace Press, 2008.

[40] Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

[41] Hussain, Zahid.  Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam. Columbia University Press, 2007.

[42] Kronstadt, K. Allen, and Kenneth Katzman. Islamist Militancy in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region and U.S. Policy. U.S. Congressional Research Service, November 2008.

[43] The New York Times. "Taliban Foe Hurt and Aide Killed by Bomb." September 9, 2001.

[44] Hersh, Seymour M. "The Getaway." The New Yorker, January 28, 2008.

[45] The Guardian (UK). "Pakistan sheltering Taliban, says British officer." May 18, 2006.

[46] Crews, Robert D., and Amin Tarzi. The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan. Harvard University Press, 2008.

[47] New York Times. "Pakistanis Aided Attack in Kabul, U.S. Officials Say." August 1, 2008.

[48] The Times (London). "Rogue Pakistan spies aid Taliban in Afghanistan." July 8, 2008.

[49] The Gulf News. "India blames Pakistan for Kabul embassy attack." July 13, 2013.

[50] The New York Times. "U.S. Embassy and NATO Headquarters Attacked in Kabul." September 13, 2011.

[51] Joscelyn, Thomas. "Admiral Mullen: Pakistani ISI sponsoring Haqqani attacks." The Long War Journal, September 22, 2011.

[52] The British Broadcasting Corporation News. "Afghan attack targets Indian mission." August 3, 2013.

[53] Cordesman, Anthony H., Arleigh A. Burke, and Varun Vira. Pakistan: Violence vs. Stability. Washington, DC: Burke Chair in Strategy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 25, 2011.

[54] The Globe and Mail. "Accused in India massacre claims ties to Pakistani secret service." April 11, 2011.

[55] "Documents Detail Years of Pakistani Support for Taliban, Extremists." George Washington University, 2007.



About the Author(s)

Doug Livermore works as a contracted operational advisor to ASD SO/LIC while continuing his military service as a Special Forces officer in the U.S. Army National Guard. Previously, Doug served for a decade on active duty as first an Infantry officer and later a Special Forces officer. He holds a Master of Arts degree in International Security Studies from Georgetown University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Military History from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff Course. Doug is the National Director for External Communications for the Special Forces Association and the National Capital Region Ambassador for the Green Beret Foundation. He was also recently selected as a 2020-21 Fellow to West Point’s Modern War Institute.


Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 11:49am

We should do as little as possible. No, I mean, since you are there to be there, and to provide contractors with money, you all should become masters of inactivity with an ear on the ground for intelligence. Make paperwork your friend, go slow, tell people what they want to hear but take your sweet time delivering, coopt the contractors by giving them busy work they get paid for but doesn't do any harm, and pretty much lay low unless you need to pay someone off.

Well, what other option is there?

Anyway, I guess it's Russian propaganda time around here, just like the old Galula days. Yes, Russian propaganda is the reason we didn't pour weapons into Ukraine; not nuclear weapons,location, local government corruption, relative unimportance to American goals of Ukraine compared to other goals, a relatively uninterested American electorate, an EU reaching a point of crisis through its own mismanagement....

Seriously, on Afghanistan. Can you do as little as possible while seeming to be doing things?

What? Isn't that unconventional? Don't blow up hospitals or help those that do, just kinda hang out.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 10:55am

Three levels of analysis for insurgency:

1. Global
2. Regional
3. Local

Global: NATO, US, Russia and China power politics
Regional: India, Iran, Russia, China, Pakistani politics
Local: Corruption, ethnic polities, rural versus city, religion, culture

What is wrong the the intellectual world of international affairs, I mean all the various fields that study these things from history to political science to the rest of it? What is it about this part of the world that stymies American discourse and discussion besides the malign influence of influence agents that surely pollute the intellectual waters with money? Ideology doesn't help, either.

No, I know you can find everything I am saying here in some quiet academic place but that's just the point. Is there anyone honest once they get to the world of policy? It is corrupt so it attracts corrupt souls or those who speak in elision because they are afraid to speak outright.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 10:45am

I posted this on another thread and it belongs here. I better collect all that I've collected here in this homework-like thread of mine so that glitches don't drop comments:


Does this explain this curious article?

<blockquote>The former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, says one of the biggest problems facing Afghanistan continues to be its poor relationship with its neighbor, Pakistan.
Khalilzad told VOA in an interview Friday that "the two countries need each other and they should cooperate." He said the United States did not succeed in bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan together after 9/11 and "we have not succeeded still."</blockquote>

That's because Vali Nasr, the standard old British and NATO line (both are changing a bit due to changing internal circumstances) and the Washington Consensus view that the main problem is Pakistani insecurity regarding India is wrong.

Negotiations were never going to work in terms of a grand bargain because insecurity is not the issue and there are powerful outside patrons besides the U.S., including China. And who knows what power the Chinese really have or if they even have an internal consensus or if they don't always mind disorder.

Also, who knows what the Saudis are up to in all of this, really. As long as there is disorder, they get a sense of Iran being isolated regionally.

Both the American right/progressives and left failed to get this one right but I don't see the progressives reevaluating its advice to negotiate with the Taliban or Pakistan and I don't see the right thinking about anything other than reflexive militarism.

Did we attempt to sanction any individuals (individuals, not nations, things like delaying visas, etc.) responsible?

Didn't one of Hillary Clinton's old advisors suggest that in an email but she never replied?

And who knows how many think tankers and PhDs working so very hard on their position term papers.

Disorder retains clients, sells weapons, keeps the DC consensus in work.

But really, the non-interventionists and American progressives should take a look at how they were coopted by certain narratives. Drones do not explain the whole story and never have.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 9:15am

Our Saudi friends say Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan and Sunni tribes in Iraq are key to both conflicts.

And then our think tanks and military and related militaries (NATO) allies say the same thing.

Our Saudi friends also like MegaCities, Army:

<blockquote>The King Abdullah Economic City, (KAEC, pronounced "cake") is one of four new cities upon which the late monarch pinned his hopes for the future of his realm once the oil runs out.
Peppered with cranes, the city - or building site to be more accurate - lies one-and-a-half hour's drive north of Jeddah between the Red Sea and scrubby desert.
Its future depends on balancing the complex and evolving transport, health, education, housing and employment requirements of the city's projected two million residents.</blockquote>

The Nation! WSJ! NYT! Weekly Standard! Truth out! Truth dig! Anti war dot com! CATO! CNAS! Heritage! AEI!

Megacities, Pashtuns and Sunnis. So very important.

Different agendas, swirling around.

To study carefully, to study with care, to study, Study.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 9:07am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

What is interesting is that progressive groups as much as conservative sort of went along with this thinking, from Anand Gopal's popularity on the left to the coindinistas/Afghan surge crew on the right/internationalist left.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 9:05am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Do you see a certain similarity to calls within the American think tank world for creating a Sunni force within Iraq to battle ISIS?

Military friends, what happens out there?

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 9:04am

A broken promise, but we aren't leaving and I thought we would, I honestly thought we'd wind it up mostly.

Anyway, the better title is "Unconventional Warfare and Afghanistan" because I still can't figure out exactly what happened in the propaganda realm:

Why are Pashtun or Sunni Tribes so important? Let's ask Prince Turki who had a To Do list at the Washington Post (2009):

<blockquote>Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's main opponent in the election, is a Tajik, and he will not be accepted to lead the country by either the Pashtuns or the Uzbeks, the two largest components of Afghanistan's tribal structure. Abdullah's "Westerly ways" further undermined his credibility among nationalists. Once the commission investigating the recent election fraud declares its conclusions, the United States should move on and concentrate on setting benchmarks for Karzai, especially on development projects.
- Change the media theme from attacking the Taliban and calling them the terrorists to concentrating on al-Qaeda and "foreign terrorists." By removing the stigma of terrorism from the Taliban, you can pursue meaningful negotiations with them. Mohammad Omar has never enjoyed the full support of Pashtuns. He is a lowly figure in tribal terms, and he is blamed by many of them for the calamity that has befallen Afghanistan. Reaching out to tribal leaders is what will move negotiations.</blockquote>…

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 10:29pm

There are multiple passages in the book listed below that I'd like to discuss in future but for now I'll just leave it open and question the assertion that the initial victory in 2001 was as decisive as claimed, By now you know what I mean and I don't mean the standard narrative of the Taliban melting away:

1. Given the initial fog of war and the trouble coordinating air power, special forces and conventional forces, was the air power as efficient as has been the claim?

2. Was a more decisive blow blunted because for political reasons people were held back, and those political reasons were more complicated than the claim that we were afraid what too many forces would do in Afghanistan? Was the light footprint claim really a cover for something else?

So on. When I have some more time, I will try and pull the passages where I have questions. I have no doubt that this has been thoroughly discussed but I am not familiar with the larger military scholarly literature and so don't know which papers to search.

<em>Special Forces, Terrorism and Strategy: Warfare By Other Means</em>

By Alastair Finlan

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 10:11pm

From History Commons, and I question that is was "the gravest error," I think it belongs to a sequence, or, at least, I'd like to make that argument and suggest further study:

<blockquote>About 4,000 US marines have arrived in Afghanistan by now. Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis, the commander of these troops, is convinced his forces can seal the Tora Bora area to trap bin Laden there. Around this date, Mattis argues strongly to his military superiors at Centcom that his troops should fight at Tora Bora, but he is turned down. The New York Times will later report that the Bush administration will eventually secretly conclude “that the refusal of Centcom to dispatch the marines—along with their failure to commit US ground forces to Afghanistan generally—was the gravest error of the war.” [NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, 9/11/2005]
Entity Tags: James N. Mattis, US Central Command</blockquote>…

I'd like to pair this with the following as food-for-thought:

<blockquote>Grenier may have been channeling the concerns of the ISI, but they were hardly unreasonable worries. For weeks, ISI officials had been whispering to their CIA counterparts in Islamabad that a war in Afghanistan could spin wildly out of control.</blockquote>

The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, By Mark Mazzetti

But you know, even if the officials were sincere and believed what they believed, the creation of crisis and things spinning out of control between India and Pakistan is the story that is told again and again, it brings Kashmir (or, in this case, the desire to have the Taliban and Pashtuns as the key concern in the campaign) into the picture, it happens again and again, decade after decade, it is a recurring pattern and you can see what you want to see, that it is the nature of the place, or that it is something else.

Bush officials were too clever by half and because of their ignorance or mistaken Cold War narratives, thought that they could do a kind of deal where they would, in the middle of an initial MILITARY campaign, make all the necessary moves to create some kind of placating effect with bringing in the question of Pashtuns.

And it is interesting that in 2011, there were many stories in Western papers, especially non-interventionist sites, that made the claim that the Bush administration had missed out on an offer early on in negotiating with the Taliban, right after 9-11.

Yet something is unsatisfying about that claim. I can believe it, and I can also look at it more than one way....

While that may have been true, the claims are just that, hard to vet, and it is interesting timing to see so much of that line pushed at that particular time.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:50pm

In another comment, I asked how what we may have inadvertently telegraphed after 9-11 regarding our campaign and how people inside various systems may have had access to the information, and so were able to blunt some of what we did. I am not making a conspiracy claim, simply the idea that so many people involved across so many continents makes information management difficult:

<strong>US Centcom chief due in Pakistan next month</strong>

<blockquote>Islamabad, Aug 24, IRNA -- Commander of the United States Centcom, General Tommy Franks is due to arrive in Islamabad for a visit next month.

This will be his second visit to the country in less than one year.

Earlier, he visited Pakistan in January 2001.

Another General of Centcom's Air Force component, General Charles Wald is also due to visit Islamabad, at the end of this month.

These will be the first visits of their kind ever since the induction of the present Bush administration.</blockquote>

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:18pm

Some Pakistani journalists make the claim that some of the proxy Taliban forces were essentially "retracted" during the initial 2001 invasion in Afghanistan, the initial toppling of the regime, that it was a sort of "drill". Given that claim, I'd like to offer the following for discussion:

<blockquote>Alaistair Campbell, Tony Blair's main media advisor had already shaken up the turgid bureaucracy of NATO's medial machine during the Kosovo war. He was instrumental in establishing the Coalition Information Centres (CICs) in London, Washington, and Islamabad during the 2001 war in Afghanistan. These centers helped to bridge the gap among different time zones in the twenty-four-hour news cycle. </blockquote>

<em>Shooting the Messenger: The Political Impact of War Reporting</em> page 225

Paul L. Moorcraft, Philip M. Taylor.

Stay away from any conspiracy theory stuff that is rampant in various West and South Asian nations and instead think of how much was "telegraphed" to various Taliban supporters in the initial invasion, how many people were involved from how many nations, and what opportunities might have existed for mischief-making, as it were, no matter how sincere people may have been.

For instance, who knew what about targeting and airpower in those hazy initial months?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:46pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

It's important to understand various narratives, not simply those that come from our own internal system or experience, I think. At least, that is what I have learned thanks to this site. The following links are meant as a discussion point and not in any way as a measure of disrespect:

<strong>U.S. envoy quickly makes his presence felt OPERATION RESTORE HOPE</strong>

<blockquote>When he was U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad, Robert B. Oakley earned the nickname "viceroy" from a Pakistani newspaper for his determined-some say abrasive-style and strong influence on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.</blockquote>…

There is also a 2004 NBC News interview with Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg by Tom Brokaw where Gen. Beg said the same thing, the behavior was as a viceroy.

Very little of the aid that was doled out during the 80s made it to the people we might have preferred, it went instead to parties that could be used later. I don't know why it's so hard to admit this, the evidence is overwhelming.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:28pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

This article from the New Yorker by Seymour M. Hersch (1993) makes an interesting read; in order to have our proxy war in Afghanistan in the 80s, State and others played games with the FBI and some CIA departments on nuclear proliferation

As others have said, that is the practice run for the manipulation of intelligence post 9-11. A lot of the same names. And if you want to understand how information is being manipulated now, towards Ukraine and Syria and other crisis areas, I think it represents a good area of study. It really helps.

If you don't care for Seymour Hersch, you can verify some of that article via other good government sites that have declassified materials and testimonies:

By the way, I have no idea if any one student is reading or lurking, I sort of make that up. A kind of message-in-a-bottle thrown out there but of course students must read this site. We have to place hope in the future or what do we have?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:17pm

For those of you younger folk lurking, don't be discouraged by recent comments posted on the blog in other comment sections.

For veterans of the Cold War who had some dealings with Afghanistan, India-Pakistan is a kind of hyphenation that prevents understanding that region in a complete way. Even the best diplomats and State Department officials made the mistake of sort of lumping the two together so that crisis management and a kind of superiority complex developed; any time the Indians or Pakistanis came to the Americans with any information, it was simply lumped under a sort of well-meaning and thoughtless condescension, a soft form of bigotry, as in: "oh, those two just can't get along."

But that is simply not true, much was missed by placing the various proxy wars and regional competitions within such a simplistic framework.

A lot of what I am posting here was relayed to people in DC again and again but was dismissed because it was mentally filed under "Indians and Pakistanis just can't get along." So, warnings were made, and warnings were ignored, and one reason in the complicated multifactorial process is the idea that Americans working with the Pakistanis against the Soviets in the 80s were kind of neutral observers, outside the process, unaware of their own ignorance and the ways in which various parties cultivated the Americans and duped them in the process.

I learned all too slowly there is no point in confronting such a mentality.

I guarantee you, no matter how much information I post under this thread or elsewhere, it will be ignored by some because of my ethnicity. It's been decades and so many people made so many errors, lied, or were naive, as RantCorp has said. There is no point in going over it again and again because, don't worry, I'll do it for you :) Giving up on an intellectual or scholarly puzzle is not my style.

PS: I should add this pertains to SOME, not all. Certainly plenty of people understood the Mujahideen narrative was not as it seemed.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 12:52am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The other thing to get out of this is that some American military men and women (and civilian foreign policy elites) held attitudes that were very stubborn about the region. It will be hard for people under a certain age to understand, but Indian and American foreign policy elites and some military really disliked one another during the Cold War. Well, they HATED each other. When I first started commenting on milblogs, some years ago and before 2011, my ideas were treated basically with contempt. At times I wondered if there was some bigotry in the attitudes. To be fair, I am not the best writer.

I keep making these points which I know are not novel at this point because I still think we are not thinking about tactics and counterunconventional warfare in the correct way but I don't know, I don't have the proper experience and background to know if this is the case.

And for heaven's sake, be careful with ANY narrative put out by DC today, from Ukraine to ISIL to Syria, you know? Once you start to learn to read the patterns, it's quite striking.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 12:43am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

What I mean by American Right and Left messing this up is that they both have their mythologies about the Muj in Afghanistan in the 80s and even subtle twists outside that narrative seem not to interest some. That might seem unfair to the American Left but blowback is not the only story. The story also includes a very particular narrative toward the region that both sides have ratified; Pakistan insecurity and Kashmir as the Valley only, and as the key to "solving" the region. During the Cold War, these themes fit into the American psyche in complicated ways.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 12:40am

<strong>For discussion:</strong>

<em>Pakistan: On the Front Porch of Conflict</em>

Edgar O'Ballance
Military Review
March 1986

<blockquote>The Chinese strategic threat to India is the logical one, but India, emotionally and illogically, regards Pakistan as its principle enemy.</blockquote>

Does that sound correct given the 1962 India-China war and Indian strategic writing from that period? I don't believe that is the case and the article does not provide footnotes for this.

From the same article:

<blockquote>Pakistan is the keystone of stability and resistance to Soviet expansion in Southwest Asia and the Balkanization of that region. If Pakistan disappeared, the area would undoubtedly erupt into a conflagration the United States would unlikely be able to influence.</blockquote>

That angle keeps coming up, of the desperate need to save the state from itself, doesn't it? I suppose after 1971 it seemed plausible. The writing from this period in American journals is quite interesting. Contrast to the following that I have previously posted:

<blockquote>India's nuclear dilemma began when China conducted an atomic test in 1964 - two years after China's war with India and the forging of the unholy Chinese-Pakistani military alliance. While China, then as now, continued to build its nuclear capability, India refrained from pursuing nuclear weapons until 1972. However, the Indian nuclear dilemma became more acute after the Nixon-Kissinger tilt toward Pakistan during the critical Bangladesh crisis of 1971. This was also a time when the United States was pursuing rapprochement with Communist China, the other archenemy of India and ally of Pakistan. Under these circumstances, nuclear guarantees on behalf of India against China became dubious, and the nuclear question was reopened.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has enabled Pakistan to acquire sophisticated American arms intended mainly for use against India and to scoff at the Symington Amendment with impunity. Likewise, it is important for the American right to distort the Indian-Soviet military relationship to justify a new round of United States arms to Pakistan, forgetting that Indian military dependence on the Soviet Union was created by American arms to Pakistan. Meanwhile, massive economic aid for Pakistan - the third largest per capita foreign aid the United States gives to any country after Israel and Egypt - has enabled it to enjoy the highest economic growth rate in South Asia. <strong>It is no wonder Pakistan is not serious about resolving the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.</strong></blockquote> - letter to the NYT from 1987…

Upon reflection, and based on what has happened in the current campaign in Afghanistan, which seems closer to the scenario of what happened?

The standard American narrative portrayed something in Afghanistan in the 1980s which didn't quite match reality. The same thing as with torture and drones today; the same types of people are making claims of efficacy that do not match reality. This, of course, doesn't even get into the moral issues involved. Pakistan is not the issue here, the issue is the American security system and how it goes about seeing the world.

I have been quite surprised to see both American Right and Left mess up this particular twist in the story but the attitudes toward South Asia are quite set and have been for some time.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 9:51pm

<strong>For discussion</strong>:

From Military Review July 1973
<em>Toward a Definition of Military Nationbuilding</em>
Raymond A. Moore

<blockquote>Yet, in the earlier years of the United States and other developed countries, the military played important roles in welding together the various peoples, areas and interests into one cohesive whole-or in consolidating territory, building new roads and exploring new lands. One has only to glance at the formats of <strong>our television Westerns</strong> to be reminded that, when new lands were being opened and developed by pioneers, the US Army often played a pivotal role in the westward movement.

It was the discovery of such a fact in Pakistan and India that convinced this writer that study of its contributions to building that nation would be both useful and valuable.</blockquote>

Hussain Haqqani interviewed T.V. Paul for the Hudson Institute and Dr. Paul said that very quickly, within a year or so, the Indians had an Indian head of the military, while in Pakistan officers from the old British Indian Army were still in place? This then contradicts the thinking of the 1960s attitudes of Military Review which viewed Pakistan and India through the lens of the old British Army without thinking about the larger societal pictures. This taps into the work that Douglas Porch has written, in that COIN within the colonial context had a trouble relationship to civil power.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 9:17pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

General Einsel was all about "Star Wars" during the 80's, is that correct?

Going through old Military Reviews, what I note is that it's all nation building in the 60s, then it's a bit mixed up and muddled in the 70's, and then it goes off the deep end in the 80's, as if mutually assured destruction really did make Army doctrine a bit crazy, the jargon, the crazy theories, it really, really goes off the deep end in the 80's. The Coindinistas seem not to be interested in the way in which India and Pakistan were discussed regarding militaries and nation building, unless they were, they just remembered those articles literally.

I think, though, that it had to do with the idea of "classic" counterinsurgency articles which is actually quite anti-scholarly. There is evidence, there is study, there is proper study. Classic means nothing.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 9:13pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I posted the following earlier in the thread too. Quite interesting to reflect on as you read so many articles in the NYT or WaPo about drones, or special forces, or JSOC, or COIN, etc.

Strategy and tactics, questionable? Because a part of getting it right would be for so many to admit that something very different happened than we are able to let ourselves talk about? Even the left's complaints about blowback in Afghanistan or the humanitarian concerns about drones doesn't really challenge the narrative in this way, does it?

<blockquote>The CIA, lacking any independent verification capabilities on the ground, had to accept the ISI's reports at face value. Like all organizations, the CIA preferred to be part of a great victory, and that was exactly what the ISI had been reporting all along. Again, there was no motivation to challenge or doubt one's own success story. Within time, there emerged a vicious cycle where the CIA exacerbated its self-deception by its willingness to wholeheartedly believe in inflated claims of its own success. It was in the name of protecting the CIA's record that emerging warnings and disturbing reports were brushed aside as unreliable.
Resistance Commanders who persisted too much in contradicting the success story were severely punished by the ISI, usually by cutting their funds and weapons supplies. In Washington, the CIA, whose mandate is to collect facts, became the staunchest infighter for the defense of its own conclusions, refusing to acknowledge, let alone professionally examine, accumulating evidence that all was not as it seemed.</blockquote>

Unheeded Warnings: The Lost Reports of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare Volume 1: Islamic Terrorism and the West

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 9:00pm

Earlier in the thread, I had posted on the following (1980s testimony by whistleblower Richard Barlow):

<blockquote>Then Solarz called on Barlow to speak. "I told the truth. I said it was clear Pervez was an agent for Pakistan's nuclear programme. Everyone started shouting. <strong>General Einsel</strong> screamed, 'Barlow doesn't know what he's talking about.'</blockquote>

I also posted a link from a Baltimore paper that ran the same article as below (from 1994):

<blockquote><strong>Retired Army Maj. Gen. David Einsel</strong>, deputy assistant secretary of defense for atomic energy from 1980 to 1985, confirmed the "Green Light" teams' assignment. Man-portable nuclear warheads "were not the weapon of choice, and it had to be a very worthwhile mission or you weren't going to set it off in the first place," Einsel added.</blockquote>…

In an article on Michael Vickers from 2011 (WaPo), there is this:

<blockquote>Prior to joining the CIA, he trained to parachute behind Soviet lines with a nuclear device strapped to his body.</blockquote>

And this:

<blockquote>Vickers has overseen an expansion of Special Operations activity around the world, including a counterterrorism network that focuses on 20 “high-priority” countries. “The war on terror is fundamentally an indirect war,” Vickers told The Washington Post in 2007. <strong>“It’s a war of partners . . . but it also is a bit of the war in the shadows.”</strong></blockquote>

But you all (who "you all" is, I don't really know) got screwed (or screwed over others) the first time around, on nuclear proliferation, on who your partners actually supported, on what really happened and what actually pushed/pulled the Soviets out of Afghanistan.

The same thing happened again during our current Afghanistan campaign, and in Iraq of course, and will happen again as the NatSec community moves forward with its "partners" in Syria. Regime change. The DC Consensus is certifiable. No wonder the "military intellectual" community doesn't want to really study Kashmir as an insurgency. No wonder....

In another thread around here, Bing West spoke of our Sunni "allies". I greatly admire Mr. West, but allies is not the word I would use. Instead, I'd say, they are the deal with the devil that we made for power, and the bill keeps coming due, again, and again, and again....

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 12:11pm

A book review in Foreign Affairs (July/August 1995) by Eliot Cohen:

<blockquote>Asymmetric Conflicts: War Initiation by Weaker Powers
By T. V. Paul Reviewed by Eliot A. Cohen

This dissertation turned book looks at six cases of weaker states attacking stronger ones. Stripped of its political science superstructure, part of the reason they did it is that they thought they could get away with it. However, an ability to launch a limited surprise offensive and then assume the defensive helped, as did some expectation of patronage from other powers. In some cases, decision makers simply underestimated the resolve or capabilities of their opponents, which suggests that military power is more difficult to assess than it would appear in retrospect. This latter proposition deserves greater exploration than it receives here. Nonetheless, the case studies are well presented, and the argument clearly put."</blockquote>

One of the case studies was Kashmir, among others. And much that can be applied to a campaign-wide understanding of Afghanistan post 9-11. "Patronage" and so on.

Is this the same Eliot Cohen (forgive me, I don't follow DC as closely as I like to pretend that I do around here):

<blockquote>Dr. Cohen is the Robert E. Osgood Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advance International Studies (SAIS). He directs the strategic studies program at SAIS and the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies, which he founded. He has twice won the SAIS Excellence in Teaching Award. For ten years, he led a SAIS partnership with the Maxwell School of Syracuse University in providing executive education to general officers and senior Defense Department officials, the National Security Studies program.

From April 2007 through January 2009 he served as Counselor of the <strong>Department of State</strong>. A principal officer of the Department, he had special responsibility for advising the Secretary on matters pertaining to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia, as well as general strategic issues.</blockquote>…

Why COIN, why Malaya, why the prioritization of Iraq and Iran and Russia? How odd. They (who do I mean? DC Consensus?) did read the stuff that mattered but never recognized that they had?

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 12:09pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

At one time, interested in the what I call the "Kabul double step" during the initial 2001 air campaign, I had looked up some books on Special Forces and air power but it is beyond my ability to understand what some of those authors are saying. I will try and find those books and post the excerpts if I've still got them.

I would very much like help but I don't know how to ask for it or look for it. I think I'm in my own place and I don't even know how to communicate this intellectual place to anyone else.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 12:06pm

I posted this under the Crimea Twofer thread but this belongs here too. I know no one is interested and it's a shame. Reading through old Military Reviews, I see how so much happened, and maybe still happens? Asymmetric and Hybrid were words used by scholars of other South Asian nations, and for years:

<blockquote>Though this oversimplifies Mr. Gleason's complex picture; he emphasizes the fact that "during much of the period in question Great Britain's policy was, in the main, more provocative than Russia's" (p.3), and exposes the complete unreality of the "threat to India" by quoting an <strong>American diplomat's report in 1835: "Among the means daily employed to popularize [Russophobia], the preferred views of Russia upon British India have been, however absurdly, held up to excite the ignorant fears of the people" (p. 186). </strong>Mr. Gleason concludes that by 1841 there was "a generally accepted stereotype "of Russian villainy whose existence could be assumed by politicians. A few evocative phrases would produce immediate hostile reactions (p. 204, 225, 275f)."</blockquote>

The Genesis of Russophobia in Great Britain by J. H. Gleason
Christopher Hill
Science & Society

Vol. 16, No. 3 (Summer, 1952), pp. 281-283

Robert Gates has a very funny exchange recounted in his first memoir:

<blockquote>At the end of the history lesson, Casey agreed to find a way to increase the pressure and provide more help to the Mujahedin. Zia then asked for better aircraft capability. He said, "The Pathans are great fighters, but shit-scared when it comes to air power." </blockquote> page 252

<em>From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War</em>, Robert M. Gates.

Oh, but please don't go back to a boots on the ground vs. airpower/RMA argument, neither gets at the heart of the issue, really.

PS: Sometimes I think it is embarrassment that ignores much of what I am posting here. Plain old embarrassment (ignoring by the DC Consensus to include the military intellectual community, at least, the more conventionally popular writers).

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:55pm

Speaking of the Jundallah claims and the Iran angle, is this book one of those "strange" books that you always find on these topics, or is it somewhat useful? Yeah, I know I am not going to get an answer :)

<blockquote>Reveals: private notebooks of Oliver North; Administration's secret plans to invade Nicaragua; details of the second planned rescue attempt of the Iran hostages and why it happened; story behind the commando raid to free the hostages in Lebanon and why the raid was cancelled; most explosive secret courts-martial in American military history; how Army agents launched a major intelligence operation against Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega; How bureaucratic infighting caused warning of a terrorist attack to be ignored one week before 241 Marines died in a Beirut bomb blast; how the military brought in psychics to help track down kidnapped General James Dozier in Italy; How the Pentagon planned to counterattack in the TWA and Achilles Lauro hijackings; and how a transvestite prostitute and an inebriated counterintelligence man blew some of the government's most highly classified operations on late night in Baltimore.</blockquote>…

It's amazing what is out there, claim and counterclaim-wise.

What was that special detachment for anti-Iran activities that was out of Pakistan at one time? Wasn't there something that I posted earlier? Hey, I do this on down time and when I supposed to rest because of the MS, it's not a job....

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:27pm

I find it interesting to take a historical article, dissect it, and then compare key parts to more current events, sort of a cut-and-paste job, just to see what falls out, you know?

For instance:

Compare and contrast 1 and 2:


<blockquote>MR. KOPPEL: Did the president raise with you the question of sending Pakistani troops to Iraq?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: He did. He did talk of the Iraq dispute, and we did discuss Pakistan troops. In principle, we would agree, but we are looking at the modalities.</blockquote>

2. <blockquote>US Policy objectives in Southwest Asia since the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan has been to promote stability in the region, to protect the Western Alliance's Persian Gulf oil lifeline, to resist future Soviet expansion and to maintain the security of Israel. The Reagan administration is attempting to accomplish these objectives by building a "strategic consensus" among key states in the region. Pakistan, with whom a five year $3.- (can't read from the digital copy) billion arms and economic aid package was recently concluded would seem to be the Eastern anchor of the consensus.</blockquote>

From Military Review, October 1982 (page 42)
Pakistan and the Middle East Connection by Major David O. Smith, US Army

It all seems a bit foolish and "why on earth did we think what we thought?" in retrospect, doesn't it? Decades from now, the same rueing will occur with the new Cold War, provided we don't blow up the world. Dust to radioactive dust....

James Kirchick ought to read that article from Military Review. Why do I say that? Oh, I am thinking of a particular article or blog post that I can't find right now, but in it he said, "it ought to be able to" blah blah blah just like Robert Kagan. No one who has carefully studied the history of the region would think that any carefully targeted military/aid program would change the nature of the security state and its views, as if training dogs or something.

They are men and women, flesh and blood creatures, human beings, not something that you train to be your pet, gentlemen.

The soft bigotry of low expectations, neoconservatives, liberal internationalists, do-gooder aid givers of many a stripe....give for humanitarian reasons, not to build your own selves up.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:10pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The generation of Generals that began the Afghan campaign in 2001--or planned to bring old regional military allies back into the fold (look up Colin Powell at the National Security Archives and his meetings with Pakistani military personnel)--must have read the sorts of articles I am posting from the <em>Military Review</em>, especially the 1980s article? Or something like that. Their knowledge, then, was dated and reinforced by desires to retain an old strategic partnership and asset. A theory, at any rate:

<blockquote>A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News. The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran. It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.</blockquote>

Well, a lot of misinformation out there, so who knows? Nothing in South or West Asia is ever as it seems, except for the US propensity to believe in its own scheming 'strategy' hype. We are not the only ones playing in that particular sandbox.

A certain type of personality must need to forever scheme and machinate, not only American, and the amount of pain these fools cause the world....Blogger Pundita once joked that we'd need a space exploration program just to keep these sorts of people occupied so that they'd be less trouble on Earth!

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:52am

170 comments so far, most of them mine. I'm clearly procrastinating on going back and reorganizing them into some sort of outline which I really should do for the Council thread I started (with one comment, mine).

From Military Review, October 1982 (page 42)

<em>Pakistan and the Middle East Connection</em> by Major David O. Smith, US Army

<blockquote>US Policy objectives in Southwest Asia since the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan has been to promote stability in the region, to protect the Western Alliance's Persian Gulf oil lifeline, to resist future Soviet expansion and to maintain the security of Israel. The Reagan administration is attempting to accomplish these objectives by building a "strategic consensus" among key states in the region. Pakistan, with whom a five year $3.- (<em>can't read from the digital copy</em>) billion arms and economic aid package was recently concluded would seem to be the Eastern anchor of the consensus.</blockquote>

But as pointed out many times in this thread, Pakistan as a guaranteer of Middle East security is nothing new, and Pakistani democratizers often complain that the pushing of Pakistan toward the MIddle East deprived the nation of its own identity as an Asian, even "subcontinental" nation. The Saudis are often blamed for this, but the conflicting desires to be seen as both Middle Eastern and Asian ("home of Indian Muslims") go back to the very beginning.

This from the article reads very uncomfortably today:

<blockquote>The strong commitment to Islam is desirable from the standpoint of building national identity and pride.</blockquote>

The commitment, as we have seen, was mixed up with desires to be a region, even world, yes, world, hegemonic power (all nations seem to have factions that dream of being important at the world level, even if in small ways):

<blockquote>Pakistan's hope of leading the Muslim world finally ended in the summer of 1952 when its plans to host yet another conference of Muslim prime ministers would be abandoned because of a general lackluster response from invitees.</blockquote>

India, Russia, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, the US; more to the region that the India-Pakistan Diad that so consumed the State Department, the roots of which many past State Department political appointees seem not to understand. One mode of cultivation of one party (the West cultivating Pakistan) became a sort of political science or international relations law without understanding the shallow roots of the status quo.

How many times am going to say the same thing over and over again? As many times as I am able to do just that. The New Republic, so worried about Afghanistan, and Max Boot and the Commentary crowd, did not do their homework. Afghanistan, and our own campaign in Afghanistan, suffered terribly because of the "get Russia" and "get Iran" crowds, two groups whose desire for permanent enemies trumps even the desire to win any particular campaign.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 1:17pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

From the NYT link below:

<blockquote>— American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, officials said, setting off an espionage investigation that has stunned diplomatic circles here.

That conversation led to months of secret surveillance on the former diplomat, Robin L. Raphel, and an F.B.I. raid last month at her home, where agents discovered classified information, the officials said.

The investigation is an unexpected turn in a distinguished career that has spanned four decades. Ms. Raphel (pronounced RAY-full) rose to become one of the highest-ranking female diplomats and a fixture in foreign policy circles, serving as ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration.</blockquote>

It's interesting, isn't it? The way our public conversation goes versus facts-on-the-ground, whatever they are? The internet didn't open up a new age of American civic knowledge, it seems.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 1:15pm

The NYT article on Raphael reminds me of the following (what is with the State Department?):

<blockquote>GIRALDI: So the FBI was monitoring people from the Israeli Embassy and the Turkish Embassy and one, might presume, the Pakistani Embassy as well?

EDMONDS: They were the secondary target. They got leftovers from the Turks and Israelis. The FBI would intercept communications to try to identify who the diplomatic target’s intelligence chief was, but then, in addition to that, there are individuals there, maybe the military attaché, who had their own contacts who were operating independently of others in the embassy.

GIRALDI: So the network starts with a person like Grossman in the State Department providing information that enables Turkish and Israeli intelligence officers to have access to people in Congress, who then provide classified information that winds up in the foreign embassies?</blockquote>…

It may be time, long past time, to move beyond Afghanistan, but don't lose interest in this sort of article and the processes it mines, these are the very forces you are still dealing with, the processes of influence and misinformation (from vested DC interests, and the lack of general honesty that permeates defense discussions) that pollute so much of discussion about NATO, the MidEast, everything really.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 12:52pm

It's good of Prince Turki to have been so interested:

<blockquote>The Kingdom is ready to play a role in resolving other conflicts, in <strong>Kashmir and elsewhere,</strong> and to share intelligence and expertise to prevent terrorism. King Abdullah is working to promote inter-religious dialogue and encourage the middle ground in order to fight extremism in the world. “Centrifugal forces suck other nations into conflicts,” Prince Turki concluded. The Middle East is hoping for the best when President Obama takes office.</blockquote>

Reading the papers from 1994 is interesting, the papers that were supposedly briefed about the human rights situation in South Asia. Took the bait, the lot of you. How'd that work out for humans in that area, again?

I wonder if Mazetti and crew will find a way to examine the whole Kabul vs. Islamabad intelligence thing, or if they will stick to one or two narratives about the region?

<blockquote>American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, officials said, setting off an espionage investigation that has stunned diplomatic circles here.</blockquote>

Lot more money and budgets to be made on the east-of-durand drone side? Get Iran or Get Russia lobbies? Atlanticist lobbies? The old, but 'that is our American strategic fulcrum in Asia' policy Einsteins? Who can say?…

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:48am

On connections, parallels, comparisons and creativity:…

<blockquote>Kanerva's remarks come amid mounting Ukrainian frustration with the OSCE, the main international body tasked with fostering peace in eastern Ukraine, where government forces are battling pro-Russian separatists. Despite the checkpoint mission and a larger special mission launched on the Ukrainian side of the border in March, the OSCE has been unable to prevent separatists from receiving massive amounts of heavy weaponry.</blockquote>…

<blockquote>Most of the camps are located near major military establishments (within 1-15km), which Indian intelligence maintains provide the bulk of military-related resources, including light weapons (assault rifles, carbines, pistols, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades/boosters), ammunition, explosives, binoculars and night vision devices, communications equipment and uniforms.</blockquote> Sept. 2001! RAND link from Jane's.…

Okay, don't make fun of me for the very basic questions I am about to ask. Hey, if you were to ask me what a lymphocyte was, I wouldn't make fun of you for not having medical knowledge, would I? It's not that South Asia and narratives are so all important, it's just that I am not qualified to talk about anything else around here.

Here's the question: What about tactics? Early on, this blog used to argue a lot about tactics (and I know some things can't be discussed publicly) and the COIN conversation did argue tactics, that clear-hold-build wasn't the only way to think about tactics. And I know there was unhappiness with the idea of an inviolable border and the fact that drones were the only gig. How do you think about tactics for inside your border when you think about insurgencies and proxies?

Sorry if this is embarrassingly basic but it always worries me how easy it is to make a fool out of a civilian on these topics. It's just too easy to make a fool out of us, even if you don't mean it, and, unfortunately, some in the NatSec community DO mean to do that....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:36pm

This site really hates embedding links today :)

Anyway, the The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs that I linked earlier (a 1994 article on how American reporters were briefed on human rights on the Indian occupied side of Kashmir) is an interesting site. It has a very American Arabist Chas Freeman-y "isn't Prince Turki swell?" vibe to it but that might be me projecting.

When the Clinton State Departent went all "South Asian Desk!" in 1994, there was also a change in some ways in how that conflict was depicted in the US. Previously, human rights on the Indian side in Kashmir were subject to criticism because of their relationship with the Soviet Union (they deserved criticism on their own merits but in the case of the US there is always some foreign policy punishing twist to these things), so the pro-West Pakistan side of the conflict was underplayed.

After the fall of the Soviet Union this same pattern remained but for varied reasons, Kashmir was not a whole entity to be examined for its own people, but as one argument to be made to advance an interest as need be.

Same with Ukraine today and the various outside parties using the conflict to further agendas while the actual people on the ground suffer.

(The Los Angeles Times in 1994 dutifully wrote an article after being briefed as stated in the WRMEA link that I posted earlier. Oh, I have no doubt it was sincere but it was very much in keeping with journalism as passing of an activists press release rather than an entire careful study). PME is only going to work if the intellectual fashions of academics are understood as just that, an intellectual fashion belonging to an intellectual time and place).

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 11:36am

The Hudson Institute has a nice interview of T.V. Paul by Hussain Haqqani on Paul's book <em>The Warrior State: Pakistan In the Contemporary World</em>:

From the book:

<blockquote>If economic growth is rapid enough, it can to some extent provide an alternative to democracy as a source of legitimacy. Fast growth has taken place in "developmental" state," a category that includes non-democracies and democracies alike. Thus formerly authoritarian Korea and Taiwan and democratic Israel may have become strong states in the war-making context, but they are states that offer many public goods to the citizenry such as education, healthcare, near-universal employment, and a high standard of living.</blockquote>

The traditionally strong DC support for aid to Pakistan (military or civilian, even Kerry-Lugar-Berman with its good intentions) in DC likely taps into this history, that an authoritarian state can be made democratic and thus less threatening via development. Yet the history in this particular case has shown that the very internal reforms needed to move Pakistan forward won't happen because of the ratification of certain narratives by outsiders, a ratification that takes place via aid and the murmuring intellectual assent toward the very narratives that retard development.

So one of the great tragedies of South Asia is that the very best well-wishers of Pakistan-particularly American military-have only reinforced a rigid set of intellectual doctrines and internal reforms are not made. If you follow the same ideological security tenets decade after decade, regardless the changing outside situation, then you cannot make adjustments as needed.

William Easterly once made similar comments to Nancy Birdsall regarding the phenomenon of development aid preventing good governance in the comments section at the Guardian!

This matters for the situation in the Ukraine too because the West--and many of the most hawkish supporters of Ukraine--is now in the process of hurting Ukrainian economic development because it is caught in a security competition with Putin and that is hurting the developmental state to install a militarist strategy.

One of the best part of this interview is the defense Hussain Haqqani gives the Pakistan military, in that he says, some would like to change but simply don't know how.

In this space, the tradition of empathy that is at the corner stone of a certain idea of Special Forces eliteness is in one sense counterproductive, because the empathy only extends toward the security narrative and fails to take into account the larger societal picture. Mirroring, in short, mirroring that is one factor among many in preventing the needed reforms and rethinking that needs to take place.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 12:54pm

All right, last comment for a bit:

Interesting timing on the Robin Raphel story. Again, this is probably over interpreting, but with the Washington "State Department" Post and the New York "administration du jour/intelligence" Times, you can't help but wonder.

An article appears, an investigation is publicized, causes a brief stir, happiness and unhappiness in equal measure, and then....nothing much.

Was the story timed for something?

See? Too much commenting is not good for the soul.

<blockquote>Hospitality, including lavish meals and booze, English language skills and the liberal facade of the Islamabad-based coterie of analysts and the spooks who prop them up, has duped many a US diplomat. Even former CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote that he was impressed with then Director General Inter-Services Intelligence General Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s “moderation, sense of history and worldliness”. Mr Panetta writes in his recent book that General Pasha “inveighed against the number of madrassas (seminaries) in which poor Pakistani youth were being molded, and yearned to draw his country into the future. Yet for all of Pasha’s charm and sincerity [sic], what I did not know was how much he was willing to take on the militants within his own country.”</blockquote>…

Well, the Pakistanis have their own country and issues to worry about, I just never understand why we Americans think we are so clever at machinating when the evidence shows we are not so good at it....

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 11:42am

Going back to this actual article:

When the author writes

<blockquote>Why would Pakistan want to conduct UW against Afghanistan?</blockquote>

I thought I <em>was</em> discussing motivation in this thread (as well as American understandings of motivation), beyond even Pashtunistan. Robert made the good observation that one should use FOR as a well as AGAINST when thinking about narratives.

Anyway, here are the categories that I thought I was mining, but maybe it wasn't clear:

<blockquote>Haqqani depicted Musharraf as truly “on the American side,” in terms of resisting Islamic extremism, but, he said, “he doesn’t know how to be on the American side. The same guys in the I.S.I. who have done this in the last twenty years he expects to be his partners. These are people who’ve done nothing but covert operations: <strong>One, screw India. Two, deceive America. Three, expand Pakistan’s influence in the Islamic community. And, four, continue to spread nuclear technology.”</strong> He paused. “Musharraf is trying to put out the fire with the help of the people who started the fire,” he said.</blockquote>

Not just Musharraf, the CIA too. The American military has been publicly flogged for its COIN doctrine, yet the CIA through the NSA has been rewarded, likely because the drone debate has been framed in a way that doesn't get at the CIA's traditional failings in this region. As with Kashmir, the debate focuses on human rights when structural factors relating to conflict are important too.

Even if you take the Pakistani security establishment side in all this, the general categories of motivation are sound, although put differently, such as "we need parity with India because of their conventional strength." So, India is one category, but scholarship looks at other categories of motivation for the security state, including money, desire for power, wanting to be a religious leader, national cohesion, modernization, etc. A multifactorial study of theorized causation. Within the Pakistani community, then, these different categories are viewed, well, differently. It is too narrow a way study, to look at one category only, that of the security narratives that have developed via the long-term mil-mil relationships.

I thought this thread was standard academic jaw-boning and "research". Perhaps my comment style made that unclear. I certainly took that from the other commenters in this thread who have all made good points.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 11:05am

When I wrote this about Robert Kagan in a comment below:

<blockquote>Well, I am not a particularly nice person in this space, so I'll just say what everyone else is thinking: This is what happens when a man types words on paper for a living and doesn't have any sense of what it takes to actually to accomplish something not on paper.</blockquote>

Was I making the kind of remark that can be viewed in a negative way in terms of civilian and military relations? But I wasn't talking about civilian versus military, I just meant the difference between a person that lives in a world of ideas, and the person that has to take some idea and make it a reality. I took out a sentence in my comment about small businesses, scientists, artists, all the way up to American Presidents having to balance many, many factors when carrying out any action, any task.

Anyway, Robert Kagan is strange because he makes the case in that Washington Post article from some years ago that it ought to be easy with American aid to just pick another General that will do our bidding. This reflects on him in many ways:

1. He is clearly unaware of the complicated history of American policy in that region (I'm talking the stuff that standard DC analysts always get wrong) and how it backfires. Every time. Every single time. Go back even to Nimitz and a failed bid to mediate between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, and it is the same pattern OVER AND OVER.

2. He is clearly unaware of the voluminous research into the behavior of various communities and institutions in that region, and therefore is unaware that human motivation is complex (didn't Bhuttto come to regret putting Zia in charge? Human nature and future behavior is hard to judge).

3. He contradicts his own writing and scholarship in serious and under-cutting ways. He says often that American leadership is hard and that we frequently get things wrong. It's never been easy and we pretend the Cold War was clearer than it really was. Then he says it should be easy to run Pakistan from the top via our aid.

Which is it? Hard or easy? I suspect when he gets something wrong, like how easy Iraq would be, well, the world is a hard place, it's always tough, don't judge me losers, yet when he wants the US to do something muscular, it's all good, it's so easy, man, just go ahead and take my advice.

Such odd people within the DC Consensus. No one really challenges them within their own environments because of careerist sycophancy or the way in which debates are constructed, I think, so their intellectual muscles atrophy. A theory anyway, and we all know the importance of theory.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:11pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I note that the article I linked is from 1994, when the Clintons came into power--it always was the ClintonS, wasn't it?--and the era when Robin Raphel began her work on many things. All of this was the fashion of the day, and fashions are not always random, designers and publicists and marketers work hard to shape fashion. Like that speech in the movie The Devil Wears Prada:

<blockquote>'This... stuff'? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select... I don't know... that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent... wasn't it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.</blockquote>

A lot of fashion people complained about this speech because designers steal street fashion and two years later it's on the runway. But it's how it gets to the masses that is interesting.

Don't make fun of chick lit. A curious mind finds lessons anywhere and everywhere....

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:49am

On the nature of an idea, diasporas, communication, and journalism (and all other manner of idea-generating):

<blockquote>The moment of truth for Kashmir is nearing. Unless the international community, led by the United States, convinces India to end its brutal occupation of Kashmir, another war between Pakistan and India is inevitable, according to Sardar Qayyum Khan, prime minister of Azad (liberated) Kashmir. The 70-year-old leader of the Pakistani-occupied portion of Kashmir warned during a recent visit to California that a military solution to this problem that has festered for almost half a century could lead to a nuclear holocaust. Sardar Qayyum's visit was organized by the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), a grassroots national organization with chapters in 17 states, dedicated to increasing Muslim political participation in the American political system and to enhancing awareness among Americans of critical issues threatening world peace in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.

<strong>The prime minister visited nine California cities including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Berkeley, Union City and Sunnyvale, all of which have large Muslim communities. He met with concerned citizens and editorial boards of major newspapers</strong> and, in Los Angeles, he inaugurated a photo exhibition by free-lance journalist/photographer Martin Sugarman that provided wrenching evidence of the suffering of Kashmiri men, women and children.</blockquote>

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September/October 1994, Pages 49, 77-78…

You know my standard line: this goes on for everything, all the time, causes, movements, countries, legit, non-legit, a whole circling, whirling, mirrored world of, "what is so, and what is not so?"

DC is going to have you fight Assad and ISIS at the same time, and will want to remove Assad, and maybe will get themselves caught like Chalabi and others caught us, and then it's all, "Tell me how this ends?"

What are you all going to do? Will it be the WWII-era stabilization books this time? But it's not Europe and it's not Japan.

I suppose if Saudi is in a civil war, it's good to have the Pakistani army fight for the Saudi leadership, is that one reason the DC consensus Borg wants to keep the Pakistani army in its back pocket for a rainy day? Well, good for them maybe, heart break for us and others.

Didn't General Mattis want to build some kind of sea platform in the Gulf or whatever, a way to potentially project force without actually having stationed troops? Am I making that up?

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:32am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Fred Kagan has this YouTube interview where he talks about how it was the end of the Cold War and he had this BA in something like Russian history or Russian studies, and, like, the academy doesn't want some right winger interested in war, so he <em>had</em> to go the policy/DC route.

Yet Niall Ferguson made an academic career out of the good aspects of Empire....

Anyway, I thought it such an interesting interview, you know, I don't usually watch these things, I just listen while doing some other task, but I thought I heard his voice light up (can voices do that? I am such a terrible writer) when he talked about how regionalists should look to the study of the Western tradition and how much they miss.

Yet research is very much a part of the Western tradition, indeed, many other traditions too....

*People here might not care much, but this comment is such a nerd BURN. Nerds really are competitive freaks.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:04am



the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

investigate systematically.</em>

Ah, the Kagans and "research":

<blockquote>Today, Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf is playing the old game, as is Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, and it appears to be working. Substitute radical Islamists for communists, and the pitch is the same: Apr¿s moi, le d¿luge. If you force me out, the radical Islamists will win. And Musharraf is busily trying to ensure that this is the only option. He cracks down on moderates with good democratic credentials, and with far greater zeal than he has cracked down on al-Qaeda.
There are other generals. With all the billions of dollars in aid the United States provides to Pakistan, it ought to be possible to discuss with the Pakistani military alternatives to the man who so poorly serves their interests. Musharraf may be willing to lose American aid in order to remain in power, but that is unlikely to seem attractive to the men who work for him. It ought to be possible to find a general who is willing to let Pakistan return to a democratic path and meanwhile do a better job of fighting Pakistan's real enemies.</blockquote>…

It's just as easy as that, is it (never mind the spectacular immorality of the "but WE alone are the great exemplars of what is moral and true" brigade - the use of neoconservative is now considered rude, I suppose. It's okay. Actual names and actual quotes work much better to dissect intellectualisms)?

Well, I am not a particularly nice person in this space, so I'll just say what everyone else is thinking: This is what happens when a man types words on paper for a living and doesn't have any sense of what it takes to actually to accomplish something not on paper.

Yes, it's just as easy as that, get rid of one leader, Assad, Hussain, Putin, whatever, install your guy, and, there you go, ALL problems solved.

How is it that these people are listened to, and listened to so eagerly?

Being middle aged, I often spend time in book stores with paper books, 90s places like the still-standing Barnes and Noble. The military section is quite robust--it must sell well--and there are always middle-aged men (relax, that's not why I'm there) buying up every book, usually about WWII but often anything to do with the SEALS. Anything with Special in the title sells well, it appears. I buy many of those books too, so who am I to complain?

It reminds me of the 90s female fashion, or passion, for chick lit: escapism and fantasy, fantasy and escapism. At least chick lit markets itself honestly.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 1:00pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Another from that BBC link:

<blockquote>It was time Pakistan threw off the garments of dependence and assert itself as a power to be reckoned with. We had spoken with a loud clear voice and stopped Advani from "teaching Pakistan a lesson", whatever lesson that may have been.</blockquote>

What does it mean to be fighting FOR something in Afghanistan, again?

The Chinese respond to we Americans, the Indians respond to the Chinese, and then the Pakistanis think it is about them because there is both pleasure and pain in contemplating that the Indians are not really thinking about them at all....

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:48pm

Pakistanis of all kinds are human beings, after all, and take national pride in many things, the way in which Afghans or Americans or British or Canadians or Indians do. Perhaps being a life-long novel reader with an interest in human nature isn't such a bad thing when examining military doctrine or theory:

<blockquote>On 28 May 1998, I was at the site of an under-construction Electrical Substation in Khafji, a small town in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

One Pakistani Pathan driver, who was out to bring some construction material returned to site with a red hot face and sparkling eyes. He was near to burst out of his skin. I asked him what extra had happened. With a glittering pride, he broke the news of Pakistan's nuclear explosions, which spread in no time within all Pakistani workers, present on that site.

Their immense joy and cheer could not be well described in words. I too shared the magic moment with them. The common point of that pleasure and pride was that Pakistan retaliated India, in a spright tone and tune.</blockquote>…

Traditionally, Americans look only at the "Pakistan retaliated India" part and forget the pride part of it....perhaps not scholars of the subcontinent. Human beings are complex. What part is pride and what part is retaliation, and what is retaliation if not pride, at least, in some measure? And this is a British site, so the other motivating factors are a bit buried in various reports. No desis, it's not prejudice, it's just habit, I think.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:19pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Of course, if a state is perceived as security seeking, then selling them weapons makes sense and those are good manufacturing jobs for the Department of Foreign Military Sales, I mean Defense.

They are good jobs. I don't mean to make fun entirely, manufacturing jobs are important.

Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail (!) is it?, says that if the UK wants to sell weapons to Saudia Arabia, fine, those are good British jobs, but the the UK makes enemies as it tries to play the liberal interventionist human rights and regime-change card too. He says, better to make the weapons and be less "regime-changy" and hypocritical but I suppose we in America are having the same problem. Want to have our cake and eat it too.

Well, there is no one so Anglophilic as a suspicious 'British-bashing' 'South-Asian' American. Oh, it makes sense, believe me, it's one of those human contradictions that just IS....

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:03pm

Robert Jones wrote, further down in the thread, "I suspect that Pakistan conducts UW FOR Pakistan, rather than AGAINST Afghanistan.

This is a good point in terms of different narrative framing, although it represents only one frame-of-mind among many. I disagree with Robert about many, many things, but I think that much of his writing in this forum is downright brilliant. I come to a different conclusion on certain matters but he challenges me intellectually and forces me to think about things that I don't want to consider. This is good for me, whether I like it or not.

What does it mean to do something FOR, as opposed to against? John J. Mearsheimer (I am just starting this book) in <em>The Tragedy of Great Power Politics</em>writes:

<blockquote>Great powers are determined largely on the basis of their relative military capability. To qualify as a great power, a state must have sufficient military assets to put up a serious fight in an all-out conventional war against the most powerful state in the world. The candidate need not have the capability to defeat the leading state, but it must have have some reasonable prospect of turning the conflict into a war of attrition that leaves the dominant state seriously weakened, even if that dominant state ultimately wins the war.</blockquote>, page 5.

Historically, the US and the UK have viewed actions by Pakistan in Afghanistan as those of a fearful, security-seeking state. Recent work by Dr. C. Christine Fair and others have come up with a different theory, that the state is not security seeking. I too think we are dealing in the realm of power, of the desire to be a great power, and to show that the Pakistani military is powerful and a force to be dealt with regionally, and internationally. To fight FOR something can also mean the desire to be a great power.

This is very human and doesn't make the Pakistanis outliers compared to other states. States crave power. Humans often crave power. To follow this line of logic is to humanize the Pakistanis, not patronize them. To patronize them is to see them as weak when they have many strengths.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 11:44am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

"....under Eisenhower and Kennedy."

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 11:32am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

One of the American military journals-and I can't find it now--talked about how Pakistan had an identity that could be, essentially, untied from its subcontinental identity and folded into a larger Middle Eastern identity. It is not just the Saudis that pushed this process, Americans once viewed this as a good thing and encouraged it. When Modi talks about Indian Muslims being willing to die for India as Indian patriots, he is doing what Arab nationalists once did. For American South Asian analysts, Arab nationalism isn't so bad, but Indian nationalism always is....