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)


Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 11:29am

This book is very interesting and has application to many topics discussed at this site, especially given our latest Iraq campaigns:

<em>The Greater Middle East and the Cold War: Us Foreign Policy under Eisenhower</em> by Roby C. Barrett:

<blockquote>London also worried that all the historical good will between Pakistan and Britain was potentially at risk due to instability and lack of progress on Kashmir. In April 1958, the CRO official in Karachi, Sir Alexander Symon, stated that the perceived lack of clear-cut Anglo-American support for Pakistan with regard to Kashmir undermined relations. He worried that faltering economic development would combine with estrangement from <strong>the Muslim world</strong> and further aggravate these problems.</blockquote> page 98

Somewhere in this book, I think it says that they wanted the Americans to pay for all of this, too. We pay to keep people in our camp, and the military eagerly parrots this thinking. Mil-mil relationships are fine, but only if viewed reasonably. Peter J. Munson had a nice article on this at War on the Rocks some time back.

Blogger Pundita once said on her blog that Americans often forget where their foreign policy shibboleths come from, the forget how something is established and then it becomes for of like a foreign policy "law," as if foreign policy is the same as the mathematical laws of gravity.

And the Indians are always sure the British are trying to use the American relationship to screw with them for their own minorities and internal diaspora politics.

While some of this is true, and there are Indian-American lobbies too, and quite different from British Asian in terms of demographics (I mean British-Indian, this matters), I think Americans and British are stuck. We and the British are mentally stuck in the paradigms of our "year zero" of 1945 and so on.

We are having trouble making transitions. This quote is also quite good at examining when looking at our larger Middle East policies and military attitudes, "the Muslim world" is perceived as one, a monolith, and that we must placate this world for larger objectives. This attitude has long emotional and institutional roots, and much of this placation has only hurt us both. Yet it remains a bedrock of Western thinking.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 10:51am

An intellectual project on narratives.

1. Write down one sentence that you think represents Afghan, Pakistani or Indian narratives toward Afghanistan. Overly simplistic because all nations are complicated collections of people, but this is simply an intellectual exercises as are most of my comments here.

As I once told Grant Martin in comments here, there is a culture clash between the likes of me and the likes of you, and we frequently misunderstand one another.

2. Go to the USIP website, or the website of any American military journal. Plug in Afghanistan or Pakistan or India into the search engine.

3. Write down the titles--merely the titles--of the articles that come up. As you scan the titles, what do you see? Which narratives match foreign narratives?

USIP almost consistently focuses on normalization of relationships between Indians and Pakistanis and on Kashmir. The normalization is presented in an equivalent way (both parties should follow the American lead, and there is an equivalence between the two in terms of establishing contacts between societies). Which narrative does this parallel more closely? It's quite striking.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 10:31am

From Sandy Gall's <em>War Against the Taliban: Why it all went wrong in Afghanistan</em>, page 11 (I personally don't think it ALL went wrong, but that is a different conversation):

<blockquote>We met colonel Faison (a codename) and his three NCOs when we left Islamalbad two days later. Faison told me he had been trained at the American Special Forces headquarters at <strong>Fort Bragg</strong>, although the idea of the four-man team--one officer and three NCOs--is based on the <strong>SAS</strong> model.</blockquote>

The point of the quote is to underscore how closely related our (US, Australia, UK, Pakistan) various systems have been, the common intellectual, doctrinal and training roots, and that for all that is written about Special Forces these days--the public fascination is vast, you sell books and movies and games, you just SELL well all around--there remain areas that are not as well studied as others.

And now we add training or relationships with the Indians--and of course so many others. What happens emotionally when you work a long time with other groups, how do your professional and personal friendships affect your understanding of conflict, what is the good, and what is the bad of it all? A complicated topic.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 10:00am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

While I'm at it, Alana Goodman of Washington Free Beacon and Commentary, is it?, no one comes out looking good on the subject of lobbying and "South Asia,". After all, Charlie Wilson lobbied for the Pakistanis big time.

And why does Max Boot's big guerrilla book show such little interest in Indian insurgencies, at least, outside of the context of his fascination with the British Raj? Will you please tell him that it is 2014, almost 2015, and we've been in Afghanistan a long time. Too long to excuse this lack of intellectual interest in the complicated nature of the internationalization of internal conflicts, a process which should be of interest to Eastern Europeans. Remember, some of your NATO friends are more interested in punishing Russia than helping you, and flooding you with weapons and turning you into Afghanistan isn't exactly the best way to make life better for ordinary Ukrainians.

I wonder if certain racial or ethnic attitudes prevent such countries from looking at other examples outside of a Western perspective?

Younger military members, those that have a main experience in Afghanistan, are too young to remember how much members of the American military once hated the Indians--and the Indians hated them back--and how much got into our system that was incorrect intellectually because of those old Cold War hatreds. They are no longer active, but their must have been some mirroring between Americans and Pakistanis of a certain age and generation very early on in the Afghan campaign, a mirroring either side may not entirely be aware of on a conscious level.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 9:48am

From a recent article in the Washington Free Beacon on the investigation into Pakistan expert Robin Raphel:

<blockquote>“I would be flabbergasted beyond belief if she did anything deliberately and knowingly that is illegal,” said C. Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University and a South Asia policy expert. “I’m appalled by the allegations that have been flung at her without evidence. </blockquote>

Understood, Dr. Fair, but nothing that the investigation turns up will make the following look good, innocent or no:

<blockquote>Cassidy & Associates waited barely one month after Raphel left the firm before lobbying their former employee on Pakistan issues, meeting with her on Sept. 2, Sept. 26 and Sept. 27 of 2009, as well as several times in November.

According to disclosure records, Cassidy & Associates lobbyists had conversations with Raphel about the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act and “aid priorities and funding mechanisms for development in Pakistan.”</blockquote>

Raphel supposedly moved in glittering circles in Islamabad, and must have met many people with an interest in big aid contracts, the sort of big contracts DC insiders tend to favor in that part of the world over the smaller projects that internal Pakistani aid consultants prefer. Nancy Birdsall comes to mind, and didn't she brief the Pentagon during Mullen's tenure?

Those big aid contracts, for things like dams and the like, are good for both DC contractors and certain Pakistani elite, military or civilian.

No matter how sincere and honest Raphel may have been in the best scenarios, this sort of revolving door isn't good. It happens for everything in DC but somehow the "South Asian Analyst" community and its habits has tended to fly under the radar for years because bigger lobbies are more likely to be in the news.

As for being a supposed "Pak lover?" What I have been trying to show here, often unsuccessfully given how other commenters don't seem to follow, is that Pakistani narratives have until recently been the dominant DC narrative and that this is a complicated process that goes back to our very early dealings with Pakistan, and also to the early nature of the Anglo-American relationship in the Middle East and South or West Asia.

It takes little intellectual work to showcase American narratives over the years and show they tend to be closer to Pakistani narratives than Indian narratives regarding disorder emanating from the region. The prominence of Kashmir in almost all DC policy and fashionable South Asian scholarship is a glaring example.…

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 11:01am

Why do so many contemporary foreign policy problems have first term Clinton marks all over them? Of course, it' s not fair to blame any one group, we really have made unforced error after unforced error post Cold war, from the 90's on, and Iraq post 9-11 was the biggest. But none of our political parties or Presidents have done well. But from Sandy Berger "China" issues, to NATO expansion, to involvement with various opposition political parties here, there and everywhere, it's as if their particular brand of naivety, provincialism and hardball moneymaking is still infecting the political establishment. And where they go, the fashions of the military intellectual world seem to fall in line, too, time and time again. So strange. But the neoconservatives and their ilk are no better, whether it's Chalabi or the Syrian opposition or Kashmiri opposition groups or trying to finesse some moderate Taliban diplomatic maneuvering, it just turns to intellectual mush. I suppose you can't really get a job at the top, military or civilian, if you don't either buy into it or pretend to do so.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:31am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Come on Mid-Day, this is standard "democracy promotion" USIP-type stuff, filtering itself out into the 21st century world, I think, Cold Warrior attitudes unsuited to this particular age, an age where we Americans are so easily manipulated even as we try and manipulate others, that it's scary.

The Indian and Pakistani media need to stop paying attention to this stuff and start understanding how the DC muddle works, how the Washington Consensus views itself, as manipulators of the highest order, as supermen and women capable of running the world through their enlightened management. It's none of the stuff in your article, whatever happens to Raphel.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:22am

Oh, for heaven's sake. This is just silly and naive, but the media in India is as hyperventilating as the media in the US:

<blockquote>Raphel’s pathological anti-India moves continued through her career right till last week when her State department privileges were taken away pending results of the espionage enquiry. Raphel is the Godmother of the Hurriyat Conference. To provide a political face to Kashmiri militancy, she got the Hurriyat together and gave them international ‘legitimacy’. She gave birth to the term ‘disputed territory’ for Kashmir and harmed India’s interest like no other US official has ever done. Every Indian diplomat or civil servant who has worked on the Americas, UN, Kashmir, or internal security desk in the New Delhi has a Robin Raphel story to tell – of how she vitiated India-US relations, how she added fuel to fire in Kashmir in the 1990s, and how she played the Pakistan card openly, even when she was posted in India as a US representative. Was it just loyalty and love for Pakistan or something more? As per reports, the ongoing US investigation will ascertain if she was on a foreign government payroll when serving her country in official capacity. Who turned her in? There is a lot of speculation with a number of theories being floated around. Whoever did, a huge Thank You from India! </blockquote>

So, something political that helps the Americans and Indians with their electorates back home, all while sending other signals abroad. Or just nothing that is being over interpreted.

What a silly column and article. The point is that we Americans (and not just us, lots of other outsiders) like to meddle in the internal affairs of other nations, telling ourselves it is democracy promotion or that we will move forward some policy goal, and then it blows up in our faces because we get ourselves trapped in silly political positions, allow unsavory characters to game us, tell ourselves that military aid will solve the problem, whatever.

It's American silliness and skulking and thinking we are going to manipulate things to our advantage when others usually get the better of it, or we make people angry.

The Indians are buying this stuff? Why? And the Pakistanis think Indians have something to do with this, but on reading the Pakistani papers all I could think was, "but you made lots of enemies in the past decades. And the Chinese have their access to central asia now, why do they need you so much?" Good strategy, jeez, can anyone anywhere do strategy at all?…

Forget Clausewitz and doctrine, start reading all the diaspora papers you can for every part of the world, and start becoming familiar with narrative and counter narrative....actually, that is pretty Clausewitzian, but theory takes practice to implement, I guess.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:03am

I've been thinking where should this comment go, and I think it goes here along with the other things I've posted below about Robin Raphel and the Clinton era policy of engaging political opposition figures in Kashmir in order to broker some outcome for the US (paralleled with what happened with Victoria Nuland and Ukraine . The Ukranians should look at what happened to the Kashmiris and be very careful of what outsiders will do to their country, Russians, Poles, Americans, et al, yet they seem not to have seen the warning signs. Why? Why not? Why don't they see them? Missiles in urban areas and training a guerrilla force when you didn't protect your borders or have a healthy political process for all parties? And now everyone is interested in walls and border controls, what changed? ):

Anyway, forget the ramble, here is the real comment:

I went to a talk about Afghanistan, an author presenting a book, and in the question and answer session, a nice young PhD, South Asian looking, all in a nice suit, young, gets up and asks, "Is the key to Afghanistan India and Pakistan or Kashmir?)

All I did was shake my head sitting in the back of the room and yet everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, in the room turned their heads sharply and looked at me. I looked down, shy, I didn't say anything, didn't raise my hand, just forgot about it, you know? I go to lots of talks for everything, usually the arts. No big deal.The guys that looked like they had been to Afghanistan, young American military veterans, wanted to talk counterinsurgency and religion, no one much paid attention, everyone went back to political science and religion and all the rest of it.

This might be crazy on my part but I still think this latest incident with Raphel has to do with internal DC politics somehow, but it's just an intuition.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 9:44am

I found this when the story about Raphel was first reported:

No. 25 December 1995

You can find these for any ethnic or diaspora group in the US, small groups, legit, well-meaning, interesting in some cause "back home" and, as you would expect for any political group, they connect with politicals or officials when and how they are able. Yet I am always suspicious of this because the American mind often wants to believe wholeheartedly in one group over the other, and tends to discount groups that don't fit a preexisting bias toward a region:

<blockquote>POLITICS 101

When Omar Farooq and Muzafar Jan Pandit, along with G.N. Fai, visited Ms. Robin Raphel at the U.S. Department of State in early October, they expected an easy time. After all. Ms. Raphel is known for her pro-Pakistan leanings, and even in earlier meetings with us clearly came out in support of "the third option". So why were the visitors visibly shaken up when they came out of the meeting? Indeed, the fall out from the meeting was a flurry of phone calls to their associates in the U.S. and elsewhere and a visible change in their strategy.
As narrated to me by an official of the State Department who participated in the talks, Ms. Raphel was very critical of the Hurriyat, not for their misguided goals, but for their lack of political finesse. She called them politically naive because they lacked a proactive agenda. She told them that by only cursing India and engaging in India bashing, Hurriyat leaders were coming across as rabble rousers and not as reasoned politicians. She told them that the West, and particularly the U.S., does not take rabble rousers seriously. She advised them to improve their image, act as reasoned politicians, create a proactive agenda, and finally engage in a meaningful dialogue with India.

Hurriyat is in the same predicament that all Kashmiri's, including the KPs, are in. That is every Kashmiri finds it more convenient to bash India or Pakistan or other sections of the Kashmiri people than engaging in policies for constructive change. A pro-bashing agenda allows the speaker to maintain a purist approach and exhibit a holier - than - thou attitude. It is a win - win situation for the speaker - he gets to clear his chest while not saying anything that will that will harm his standing in his community. But does it help his community? Hurriyat, it seems, got its wake up call in their meeting with Ms. Raphel.

For Hurriyat to engage in a meaningful dialogue with anyone, much less India, is a painful exercise. After all what can a Mullah-packed fanatic bunch have in common with Indian goals and ideals? But they have made a start and opened an office in Delhi (besides offices in Leh and Jammu), and are indeed finding that political engagement does not mean political compromise.</blockquote>

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 9:41am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

On Raphel:

But the most interesting story isn't about Raphel, she may be completely innocent, she may be caught up in something much larger, how can outsiders know?

The most interesting thing is the way in which policy and intelligence matters were conceived regarding South Asia during the 90's. Did the same thing happen as happened with Ukraine, we told ourselves we were meeting with opposition figures to channel a political deal that we thought would work for us, and it blew up in our faces? None of this means other countries are off the hook, it's just the nature of DC.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 9:35am

Where do my comments go? Is it a glitch in the system? Things disappear, not here I mean, but on the internet. When the Raphel story first broke I searched for things and found some obscure diaspora articles on Kashmir and meetings between Raphel and American diaspora groups--small articles, the kind of immigrant news magazines you always find for everyone, advice she have Kashmiri groups to make them more professional, political--and now those stories are gone, at least, they don't show up on searches at the top of search engines anymore. And I don't always save things because this isn't my job.

As for Raphel, the theories I've gleaned:

1. This is nothing. Bureaucratic silliness.
2. Fai made a deal.
3. A sop to the Indians who don't like Raphel.
4. A signal to the Indians, we Americans are changing.
5. A signal to the Pakistanis.
6. A way to get rid of an embarrassing colleague.
7. Clintonistas walling themselves off, and protecting themselves.
8. State/DOD or factions within feuding.
9. Business as usual.


Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:55pm

For the third time, without the link. Let's see if this works:

For Rant:


<blockquote>By JOHN H. CUSHMAN Jr.
Published: January 17, 1988

WHAT the longbow was to English yeomen and the V-2 rocket was to the Germans in World War II, the Stinger antiaircraft missile is to today's American-backed guerrilla fighters.

As Soviet leaders talk publicly about withdrawing their army from Afghanistan, military analysts increasingly cite the role of the Stinger weapon, provided covertly by the United States to Afghan guerillas, in influencing the Russians' decision to seek a way out of their eight-year-old war in Afghanistan.</blockquote>

When you read the NYT archives on this subject, and you try and look at through the lens of American or Western propaganda (what was the relationship between journalists and intelligence agencies and White House officials, as is the question today?) you start to see different patterns.

For Military Review, I have read all the articles on so called South Asia from the 60s period. There isn't much, it doesn't take long. The language used is identical to much of the language used in this period coming out of the American military. Almost word for word, at least from certain periods in our Afghan campaign. It's striking.

A good project, young students lurking and reading....

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:36pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Why suspect?

Why not study and use appropriate materials to underscore the intuition?

Concerns over India is not the only postulated motivator of behavior, and this has been richly explored by a wide variety of academics, including Pakistanis.

Pakistani civilians and civil society exist, and they are robust and strong. Stronger than they are given credit for. I have not often appreciated that enough around here.

This is simply an academic discussion, no more, no less. The world is complicated and no society is a monolith, there are many competing sources of power with often contradictory impulses that guide actions.

Anyway, it seems Dr. Fair (I don't actually pay that much attention to twitter but sometime check in with Omar Ali and Dr. Fair, they are entertaining) is being harassed on this subject. That happens a lot with some areas of study, not just this subject. American academics have had books banned in India and faced harassment, if you study Iran or Israel, Russia, whatever, good luck.

Actually, this might be the perfect time for me to STFU on these subjects. I've been looking for an off-ramp that my intellectual OCD will allow, this is getting ridiculous and over the top on my part. Move Forward had a point.

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 8:17am

I suspect that Pakistan conducts UW FOR Pakistan, rather than AGAINST Afghanistan. Perhaps a subtle distinction, but I think an important one having much more to do with concerns over India than with Afghanistan.


Wed, 10/22/2014 - 11:54am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)


Essentially the Soviets lost for the simple reason that the nature of the war that the Red Army was told they were embarking upon – i.e. preventing the CIA allied counter-revolutionary fascists destroying the Afghan workers revolution - was a sham. Even the most naive Soviet conscript soon realized the absurdity of the entire fiasco.

Measured against the ramifications of this profound Soviet mistake the presence of Pakistani personnel was as irrelevant as the presence of CIA personnel. I would remind you that the CIA is not the only organization that conducts covert ops.

Some folks argue that the Soviet Politburo was motivated by the threat posed by Khomeini’s Iran and the possibility that an Iranian victory in the Iran-Iraq War could be countered by the threat of a second front on Iran’s extensive Afghan border. Certainly the dates correlate with the announcement of the Soviet withdrawal and the Iranian surrender. It is one of the few suggestions that make some sense to many Soviet veterans.

This possible explanation throws up interesting questions as to a meeting of Soviet-Western minds. If you remember Iraq was the great stalwart for the West during this period. Even to the extent that Iraqi/Kuwaiti oil tankers were re-flagged as US registered ships. But that is something only a few surviving politburo members could provide a meaningful answer.

However I seriously doubt any soundly reasoned strategic Realpolitik could have reconciled the dysfunctional premise under which the Soviet’s had propagated the invasion.

Some technology obsessives like to cite the introduction of the Stinger as a key element in ending the war. This is something I have always found astounding and is contradicted by the USAF. USAF personnel were at pains to point out you couldn't use the FIM-92 at night and its sensors could not differentiate between the signature of ground clutter and a helicopter’s heat signature if you launched from above. After a pregnant silence some of the trainees pointed out they had never experienced a Spetnaz raid that wasn't at night and they had never heard of a defensible position in Afghanistan that didn't occupy a mountain-top at least 500 meters above that occupied by the enemy – in fact the better ones were few kilometers above the enemy position.

General Dynamics had salesmen running around Peshawar handing out colored brochures to rectify these and any other unfortunate facts pointed out by the US military. When the rate of Soviet aircraft losses began to decline and Stinger-laden supply caravans were aggressively attacked in Spetnaz raids it became obvious that the book wasn't worth the candle.

Much to General Dynamic’s displeasure it was suggested the somewhat perilous donkey-powered logistics chain might be better employed transporting rice, sturdy boots and heavy machine-gun ammo rather than their new-fangled, clumsy, fragile and very heavy ‘fire-sticks’.

Regardless, as history shows the Stinger proved to be a roaring success……...for General Dynamics.


Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 10:52am

On the NYT article that everyone is talking about:

<blockquote>That covert war was successful without C.I.A. officers in Afghanistan, the report found, largely because there were Pakistani intelligence officers working with the rebels in Afghanistan.</blockquote>…

Whenever an article appears in the Washington Post or NYT about any of these subjects, you have to ask yourself, who are the someone or someone's wanting certain information out, and who are the target audiences?

I remain skeptical about the success of the CIA and its campaign in the 80s in Afghanistan, I still think it is a more complicated story than simply "success or no", and I'm not talking about blowback.

Does someone in DC want to work explicitly through someone else's intelligence agency or other parties in Syria and is setting the stage for that, or is the usual DC crew uncomfortable with a closer examination of what happened in Afghanistan during the 80s, or is this about the CIA versus military institutionally and Right vs. Left American proxies, and what each wants to do in AfPak versus the Mid East?

What is going on, and what message is intended?

Or am I completely off-base on all of this, and going semi-nuts again? People make fun of conspiracy theorists in that part of the world, but I half understand it. You go down this rabbit hole in any way your own 'kink' demands, and it does not engender trust in institutions.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:41pm

I have a lot more to add, but what I want to say for now is that the American Army and military needs to rediscover its China-India-Burma theater. So much of what we did in AfPak--and continue to do--is based on this CENTCOM sweeping up of Pakistan into the Mideast to protect Western interests (Iran, what have you), or to thwart Russia, something we inherited from the British and expanded on during the Cold War. That pattern remained until fairly recently when our interest is beginning to be divided between those that think the US should continue in the old post-colonial interest in shoring up the soft underbelly of Europe (the MidEast) or its Eastern neighbor (Russia), and those that wish us to be a Pacific nation again.

You don't have to agree with a militarized pivot to see that it is time to go back to a period of our own history that has traditionally been neglected compared to others, and that we have within our own system a way to create more narratives, narratives that expand upon the status quo, yet remain faithful to our own sense of ourselves and respectful to others.

That's kind of where I am at now. Also, reading through old papers and comparing those attitudes toward current American attitudes and policy making or doctrine building is quite fascinating.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:32pm

Not a novel observation, but the American system has often mirrored various radical groups by perceived a homogenous Muslim world which must be understood or molded or formed by the West:

The following excerpt is from <em>THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN DEFENSE POLICY TOWARD PAKISTAN, 1947-1954</em>

by Devin T. Hagerty (Fletcher Forum, 1986):

<blockquote>This was a backdrop for the "Pentagon Talks" of 1947, a series of discussions between the British and the Americans regarding, among other subjects, the defense of former British possessions."' Although Britain had insisted, prior to the talks, that "in the East they consider that the discussions should cover countries up to and including Afghanistan, but not India or Pakistan," it was inevitable that one could not speak of Afghanistan in this context without mentioning at least Pakistan, which had inherited Britain's concerns regarding the Durand Line:

<blockquote>Recognizing the strategic importance of Pakistan, the British Government entertains hopes of arriving at a common defense agreement with the Dominion of Pakistan as well as with the Dominion of India. The apparently favorable disposition of the people of Pakistan holds the prospect not only of a close understanding between the United Kingdom and Pakistan but also an effective contribution by Pakistan to the stability of the Muslim world.</blockquote></blockquote>

Is it Justin Logan of CATO or Barry Posen of MIT that makes the point that we often talk about oil as the overriding policy concern in the Middle East, but we don't really talk about what exactly is is about oil that we need, what is the minimum? So much of our interest in the region becomes mixed up in attitudes which our DC Foreign Policy consensus doesn't examine. While academics do know this, somehow, when some South Asian academics become policy pronents, the attitude of jollying along an entire "world" remains, and that the Muslim world is a monolith and that it is our duty to tend it. I can't say I find the Left to be much better than the Right because the desires are often to mold regions via civilian versus military aid.

The US and British often competed for influence in this period, and this was paralleled in AfPak by the British trying to push the idea that they could perhaps deliver moderate Taliban. At least, I think that is one aspect of what happened but I could be wrong. The British are not an American vassal state so that I can't be angry if they did do this although I tend to think that sort of thing doesn't work, not everything is Northern Ireland.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:11pm

The following review of Carlotta Gall's book in <strong>Open Letters Monthly</strong> by Greg Waldmann is so much of a piece of very firmly embedded American attitudes toward Pakistan, versus India or Afghanistan or Iran, that it bears highlighting.

Again, I am not interested in making any nation an enemy and agree firmly with the author on that point, but it's a very common pattern in American and British discourse that the Indians and others are generally responsible and so should be responsible for everything (be the bigger guy on Kashmir, Modi is responsible for Gujurat, Karzai for Afghanistan) but that the Pakistanis are not really responsible for anything that happens in their own nation. Elites mirror one another on this.

This attitude is even different than toward Saudi Arabia because then it becomes sort of resigned, we have no choice because of oil, and so on. But the emotional roots for the other attitude seem to me to be within an unexamined American "place."
Both American right and left, interventionist and non-interventionist (less so) do this, and there is more than one Pakistani commentator that perceives this as condescending and racist, (although why different opinions to different West or South Asian nations if racist? But condescending I understand), the idea that little brown people can't have agency, they certainly can't really have any responsibility over what has happened in their own nation, and so should have no part in any solution:

<blockquote>In a sense, these ‘rogue’ elements in the military and the ISI are more firmly rooted in Pakistan’s historic geopolitical aims than their more moderate adversaries. They seem to be engaged in a quiet war against everyone, including their own civilian government, which in turn is trying desperately to placate everyone, including the rogue elements. It is a horribly complex and seemingly intractable situation. That is why it is so difficult to speak with any confidence about the “right” and “wrong” enemies.</blockquote>

But these things didn't just happen in a passive sense, choices were made. For the situation to be improved, this must be understood and we don't help by encouraging an attitude of helplessness. This is not about enemies or the making of them, I agree, but this is a common attitude of Americans, and the British before us, toward any region or factions that has historically been a client.

Focus on the Americans and the West and various Western attitudes of a kind of paternalism, or is it simply sympathy? The more you are deserving of sympathy, the more the Western mind must find a way to be understanding and a savior?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:01pm

(I posted this comment under the review to Leon Panetta's book, <em>Worthy Fights</em>, and then thought it belonged here too:)

How do they do it? The long-term DC insider survivors? Whether intentional or not, the misdirection is always there , isn't it? And so the conversation continues, on drones, on torture, on COIN, etc., all very important conversations, but not the only conversations of importance.

The Army gets all the attention (well, some within asked for it quite explicitly, and so institutional fortunes rise and fall with the attention) but the CIA always gets more money, and officials keep official-ing....

<blockquote>Former CIA officials said in the rush to close the secret prisons, the U.S. was looking for ways to get rid of some of the remaining two dozen or so detainees in the agency's now-defunct interrogation and detention program. With Pakistan offering to take Ghul, U.S. officials figured they could also build some good will by giving him back, and the CIA had the ISI's pledge that he wouldn't go free.</blockquote>
Forget any one specific country and think about the CIA, its institutional habits, and what is rewarded monetarily:

<blockquote>I’m betting that as soon as we get the first account of a Haqqani network figure killed by Pakistan’s armed forces, the US will open the floodgates and Pakistan will find itself awash in counterterrorism funds. And a cute little clone of Brennan’s National Counterterrorism Center will be fully funded in Islamabad.</blockquote>
That part of the world has always been very good for various DC institutions, military or non-military, civilian aid and military aid, retired lobbyists, and both American right and left are so busy with their own preferred narratives that anything that skips between the two is down-played. I remain fascinated by what must have happened between the Kabul side and the Islamabad side for our own western intelligence agencies. The bigger institutional fish--and the long-time connections, for better or for worse--is always on one side versus the other?

I remain a skeptic of drones, but not for the reasons most give to be skeptical, it's too close to the patterns of our support for the Mujahideen in the 80's, the play and counter play of poorly understood factors, the working at odds within the soup of various intelligence agencies, the different American factions grand-standing for and against for many personal reasons (it's good funding for lots of people, both pro and anti drone), the press for enlarging the program in order to remain relevant and funded, the neglect of the Afghan side in order to pursue the Pakistan side in "AfPak." All the same patterns, again and again.

What happened in those early years on the Kabul side and how did the CIA itself view that institutional "fish" versus the traditionally more lucrative one on the other side of the border? I always get the idea that there was tremendous frustration on the Kabul side, but my imagination is a vivid one and I don't really know what it is that I am looking for:

The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service By Henry A. Crumpton

Perhaps I am looking for a novel way to look at the roots of insurgency and options in counterinsurgency, on the nature of building state institutions, or the emotional and intellectual support (and, well, clientelism) that comes from being attached to a particular country or capital.
Panetta had his earliest roots in the Nixon administration, and I've noticed that all former Nixon officials carry a certain reflexive attitude toward South Asia, one in which the only options to work through are almost always the same old-same old from the period, and even if there is an interest to expand those options, the patterns remain weirdly the same.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 10/11/2014 - 2:24pm

From Ralph Peters 1996 article in PARAMETERS that apparently led to this site eventually :)

<blockquote>Consider just a few of the potential trouble spots where US military intervention or assistance could prove necessary in the next century: Mexico, Egypt, the sub-continent with an <strong>expansionist India</strong>, the Arabian Peninsula, Brazil, or the urbanizing Pacific Rim.</blockquote>“the-mout-homepage”-which-became-the-“urban-opera

This language, as far as I can tell, of Indian expansionism, is all over the American Cold War literature, and it retained its pull in 90s era literature too, and in some of the books that are on American military lists relating to the very early period of our campaign in Afghanistan. Well, it's a theory of mine. Don't know if it would pan out.

The language, as far as I can tell, has its roots in different narratives:

1. American Cold War attitudes toward India. It was India that was expansionist.
2. The Indian left that felt the state was imperialist and therefore expansionist.
3. Chinese attitudes toward India; both accuse the other of expansionism.
4. Local regional attitudes by many neighbors toward Indian regional power and perceived hegemony.

Interesting to read 90s era writing on the region, and compare to what eventually panned out. Also, expansionism may be used toward Afghanistan, depending on your DC kink, if you are mostly concerned with Russia or Iran, China or trade, etc.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 10/11/2014 - 2:35pm

I was looking for something else in the archives of the NYT and accidentally discovered this:

<em>"Re ''Redefining Pakistan'' (editorial, Jan. 15):

President Pervez Musharraf is engaged in removing terrorist groups from Pakistan because they are a threat to the security and stability of Pakistan and all of South Asia. India must also play its role in making South Asia a terrorist-free zone by ridding these groups of their rallying cause: the denial of self-determination for the people of Kashmir.

For more than 50 years, the Indian government has refused to deliver on its promise to enable Kashmiris to choose by plebiscite whether they want to join India or Pakistan or become an independent nation.

India's continued occupation of Kashmir and its brutal human rights record serves as a stain on the record of the world's largest democracy.

India must now work with Pakistan to bring Kashmir back to continuity with its history of being an abode of peace and religious tolerance.


Is this the same Arif Rafiq from the John Batchelor show? I enjoy listening to him. Nothing special in that letter, fairly standard narrative from a Pakistani point of view, and of course, the usual Indian (or Kashmiri, depending) retort is that Pakistan occupies Kashmir too:

<blockquote>On 24 May 2007, Baroness Emma Nicholson's amended "Report on Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects" was passed by an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The Report criticizes Pakistan for human rights violation in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and, while appreciating India's position on Jammu and Kashmir, urges it to prevent custodial killings and fake encounters in the state. Why has Pakistan's response to the Report been negative? Is it because the Report weakens its image, or because it seems pro-Indian or pro-Kashmiri?

The EU Report highlights comprehensive differences on political, economic and human rights issues between the two parts of Kashmir and recommends that India and Pakistan deepen their dialogue. It is an unbiased survey. Hence, to categorize it as Pakistan or India bashing is excessive. First, it notes that India is the world's largest secular democracy (though with irregularities in practice), but is skeptical about democracy in PoK, saying that democratic structures do not exist in Gilgit and Baltistan. This view accords with the judgment of the Pakistan Supreme Court that, on 28 May 1999, asked the Government to ensure fundamental rights and provide access to justice to people in Gilgit and Baltistan. After the EU Report was passed, Sardar Attiq Khan, Prime Minister of 'Azad Kashmir,' repudiated its finding of democracy being absent in the region. However, the ongoing judicial crisis in Pakistan that has turned into a campaign for restoring democratic rule validates the Report's assertion.</blockquote>…

From an American point of view, I have never understood how it became, until fairly recently, a consensus that the US could serve as an "honest" broker when we underwrite the security of one state, and are eagerly selling weapons to another in this dance.

Well, I know how it came about because of the Cold War and our relationships with NATO and Saudi Arabia, and so forth, I just never understood how little maneuver room there was on this in terms of American scholarship.

Didn't Baroness Nicholson complain that she was harassed?

How is it that the American South Asian analyst community allowed Kashmir to become synonymous with only one side of the occupation or administration?

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 10/04/2014 - 3:32pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

It's one thing to read about this stuff second hand, it's quite another on an intellectual level to read it all first hand for yourself:

<blockquote>Milbus justifies its commercial empire by disparaging civilians as incompetent and corrupt and insisting that the military alone promote national development. Just such a developmental apology for Pakistan’s military rule was echoed in American academic and policy circles throughout the cold war.</blockquote>

I am more interested in how "echoes" develop within American circles. Same too with the situation in Ukraine and the US Eastern European (and Russian) diaspora. We cannot blame others for this.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 10/04/2014 - 3:03pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Apologies, 1 and 2 are explicitly points made in the paper, three is an off-shoot of my own reading.

Another paper I would like to read:…

<em>Military Nation-Building in Pakistan and India</em> by the same author (1969). I'd like to do very close line by line readings with comparison to today's public policy pronouncements, so I don't know when I can get to all of this.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 10/04/2014 - 1:59pm

In the June 1969 volume of <em>Military Review</em>, there is an article that is fascinating to examine in both historical terms, and how it reflects on the steadiness of American attitudes toward the region.

<em>The Pakistan Army and Nationbuilding</em>, Raymond A. Moore, Jr. (page 35)

From the 1969 article from the American military journal, I find the following (the article views all of the Army programs as excellent, and the Pakistani Army as a model modernizing force):

<blockquote>Certainly, it is the largest and probably one of the three most important of the modernizing elite groups--the others are the civil service and the planning commission.</blockquote>

Back to modernization, and western attempts to modernize other nations.

Note that while the Bush administration continued the tradition of viewing the Army as a modernizing force, the Obama administration (and advisors such as Hussain Haqqani and Vali Nasr, and the Clinton and Kerry State Depts.) continued to push the idea of modernizing Pakistan through its civilian institutions, so that neither administration advanced much beyond a 1950s/1960s understanding of the region.

Every line in this 1969 article raises important questions about the American military and the American South Asian analyst, pundit and scholarly community, at least, its most "politically" and policy-active sections. It is an extraordinary document when examined in that way.

Points made in the article and worth reflection on in terms of how the American Army has viewed the region, and how those institutional "feelings" may have arisen:

<strong>1. The Pakistani Army was not a revolutionary army and had it roots in the British Army.</strong>

Given the Cold War context, the Pakistani Army's origins are contrasted to revolutionary communist armies. Did some of this attitude remain in the American Army as cultural mythology outside of the Coindinista fascination with the British Army, as an almost unexplored or unexamined attitude? Did the British roots mean that for the American Army, it was always a redeemable and Western institution. Did American military officers over the years feel sympathy for the Pakistan Army due to its strong position in society, given the sometimes unhappiness of American military with the American civilian public?

2. <strong>The Pakistan Army used national funds (some funds with institutional roots in the old British Indian Army) to grant former Army officers land, especially in Sind and the border with India.</strong>

Did desire for land contribute to some of the expansionary attitudes of the Pakistan Army toward Indian-occupied or administered Kashmir, namely, that if Indian-administered Kashmir was to become Pakistani, would the land go preferentially to Army officers and their retired officers? Same too with attitudes toward Afghanistan and strategic depth. Weak neighbors allows a stronger hand in business dealings.

3. <strong>Did American investment begin to outshine British investment at this point, and did this contribute to close relationships between the American Army, the DC consensus, and the Pakistan Army?</strong>

We know of many studies reviewing the business relationships of the Pakistan Army and its retired officers, but what about American, British, Australian, Canadian, Saudi, Gulf, etc., business relationships with Pakistan's intelligence services and Army?

The paper is unabashed in its admiration for modernization and the modernizing attitudes of the Army. Yet those that wish simply to trade one modernizing institution for another (as outside aid-givers) make the same errors today, in my opinion.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:57pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

One thing I did learn from that military physician is that we in the US who have never been in a war zone can't understand what it is like viscerally, some of the things show on battlefield injuries, and, in particular, the setting, were so otherworldly, so awful, so like the gates of hell being opened up, that it made our civilian keyboard experience of the world with YouTube videos seem like an insult to anyone that has been at war.

That's what that talk felt like, afterwards the military medical students stayed to talk to the physician but I went back to my office. "Aren't you going to stay for lunch," he said, but I couldn't wait to get back to the office. I felt like an intruder even if they were welcoming. So many civilian advisors, so very delusional, so very undereducated and ambitious.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 1:47pm

Looking over the comments, I can't quite think of any "concluding remarks" on this thread :)

Sorry, I know that's annoying.

The only thing I can think is that there must be many people within the system (military and civilian) that feel cheated by many analysts and by DC consensus opinion. As you reflect on your experiences, many must sense a gap between what you were asked to study or follow, and what you saw, and that too outside the COIN discussion.

I don't know how an institution deals with this except to develop its own think tanks which you seem to have in your Army strategists and the like. And yet, as my examples have shown, you get infiltrated too, intellectually and otherwise.

Maybe the best thing about reading this paper and this thread is for people to learn "how" to read critically? Especially in this area, I'd question anything put forth. How was the information collected? Why is THIS person highlighting THIS area? How did it come about that X is viewed as critical? Who agrees? Who disagrees?

Some of the papers written by your own students and analysts linked here are top notch.

But then, as one goes up the food chain of rank, it all becomes mixed up with what the larger political world is saying and retired military analysts with outmoded or dated thinking seem to predominate in the larger public discussion.

For a time, I tried to look up Fort Bragg and the various American and British military connections to the Pakistani military but it all became a bit repetitive. We train people and they return and then our retired officials and military have a variety of consulting gigs based on the connections, and, well, it just got repetitive.

Did you think that you'd face the very tactics you'd trained people on? But you must have. See, this is where I need help. It is above my head to understand. It is very hard for civilians to understand tactical discussions. I once went to a talk by a physician in the military and it was a blaze of power point and acronyms and he sounded so confident, he looked so confident in his uniform, it was an amazing talk.

But when it was over, I wondered what I had learned and felt embarrassed that I hadn't followed it, really.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:41pm

I finally started that thread that I promised which will be about more than this topic:

I will try and move as many of the references mentioned in the comments section here to that thread as I find the time to do so.

In my previous comment, I forgot to highlight the following:

<blockquote>8.It is difficult to present a representative Kashmiri view with any degree of certainty since the Indian government has not published any open polls on either accession or independence conducted in Jammu and Kashmir. The authors thank Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri American Council and other Kashmiris for sharing their scholarship and views.</blockquote>

Of interest:

<blockquote>WASHINGTON—Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, a U.S. citizen and resident of Fairfax, Va., pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and tax violations in connection with a decades-long scheme to conceal the transfer of at least $3.5 million from the government of Pakistan to fund his lobbying efforts in America related to Kashmir.</blockquote>…

Not to be too hard on the author of that Military Review paper, but it has historically been difficult to get at Pakistan-administered Kashmir, even harder than Indian-administered Kashmir, for scholars, so that, over the years, somehow the issue of Kashmir and its autonomy of freedom because synonymous with Indian-administered Kashmir as opposed to focusing on the entire state equally.


An important implication for human rights activists is that in order to try and remain neutral, it's better to be as holistic in one's approach as possible.

I don't like the way Narendra Modi responded to what happened in Gujurat (it happened under your watch, Mr. Administrator. No remorse, no "what could have been done better"?).

But I understand that the Indian Congress party and outsiders played politics with the thing and lots of misinformation made its way into the public via all camps, Modi's camp and its critics.

The denial of his visa by the US seems not only to be a way to show the US cared about Muslims, even as we occupied Muslim countries, but had its start by well-meaning people wanting to highlight minority religious oppression in various countries, including the oppression of Christians.That became too difficult politically so oppression by Hindus was picked as a relatively "easier" sell and a "no-name" official singled out, a no-name that turned out to be the future Prime Minister. That says more about the disorganized nature of DC and its strange interest groups than anything else.

This process hurts Human Rights activists because by not being neutral and highlighting as much oppression as equally as one can, you inadvertently become a tool of outside interests.

The temptation for activists is always to become involved with power to move one's interests, but that very process then taints the activists. It's not that they weren't correct to question what happened in Gujurat, but the way in which it happened tainted their activism.

Activists must strive to remain neutral and that is what happened to the Kashmir movement over the years, its highjacking by various groups for various reasons left the Kashmiri people as a pawn. To be fair, many mistakes were made by Kashmiri politicians and diaspora themselves.

Something to be careful about when looking at the glowing coverage of Modi. He is the leader of a state and a very popular one, he is not the unchallenged leader of some ethnic group or diaspora, and shouldn't be presented as a community leader but as a popular politician. Western press tends to do this. It is the same process with Indian Americans today that they once did with Sikhs in Canada or Pakistanis in the UK.

The US made a huge error with Modi because basically it doesn't operate on principle but would like, at times, to pretend that it does. This never works. Human Rights activism must be neutral to be effective in the long term. With India and Gujurat and Kashmir, too many well-meaning western Human Rights activists inadvertently mixed themselves up with things they didn't understand.

So too with Ukraine or democracy activism in Russia. Too many in the West ally themselves with one faction within rather than try and serve as fair outside observers. There is more to understanding the world than retweeting Gary Kasparov.

Pro and anti-NATO camps in particular seem, well, let's just say that going down that route and their connections to the DC consensus is like looking in a sewer of influence peddling.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:55pm

This from the late 90s Military Review by Lester Grau is interesting in terms of its insight into certain American attitudes from the time which view the region through:

1. The equating of Indian and Pakistani action.
2. The "nuclear flashpoint" as the main lens through which to view the region.
3. The belief that outsiders are critical to solving the crisis.
4. The centrality of Kashmir.

All those 90's based ideas-in-the-air contributed to first the Bush campaign, then the Obama campaign in AfPak until most recently when the US South Asian analyst community has been undergoing an intellectual change, although the basic attitudes remain the same. The US desires its client states and that its money making for officials (and power relationships) remain the same, regardless.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:58pm

RantCorp asked further down in the thread about spying.

The Congressional Task Force testimony I mentioned further down in the thread also talks about KGB-KhAD deception efforts in fracturing the resistance efforts on the ground in Afghanistan, while the CIA took its cue from the ISI, and this flawed interaction fed Washington incorrect information because the ISI wanted money for both personal and institutional reasons. The flawed past interaction has then been exacerbated by the creation of success mythologies by retired intelligence and military officials, or, its opposite in theories of blow back. But the manipulation of information and the difference between what happened on the ground and what was reported seems interesting to me given our most recent efforts in so-called AfPak and with the Syrian opposition. I don't believe a word of this vetting nonsense.

(Unheeded Warnings: The Lost Reports of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare (Crossbow books).)

The other stuff I mentioned, the Sibel Edmonds stuff? I hate reading about it because it just makes me even more, well, depressed isn't the right word because I believe ultimately in our nation, but it does make me less and less interested in anything coming out of official Washington or its neutered press or the sort of military themed intellectual that doesn't like digging deep and prefers staying on the glittering surface.

Again, for me personally, reading congressional testimony about South Asia from the 90s has been more illuminating that almost anything I've come across. The same names, the same politicians, the same officials- soon to be lobbyists for foreign nations, the entire spectrum of the past 13 odd years is right there there. I also have no doubt no one will be interested aside from people like the author of this piece.

Also illuminating is to read American South Asian analysts from, say, the 2003 period and compare their writing to today. Almost a complete 180 but without any explanation of the change, why promote one policy one year, then change almost overnight.

Even I know when to raise the white flag, intellectually speaking. You have won within the Army, classic counterinsurgency types. Completely and utterly, the Army is transformed, and its future budgets secured with its focus on the Mid East. You have cracked the code: keep it small, keep it AVF, keep it contractors, start slow so that politicians feel the need to escalate, slowly but surely, and, always, always avoid the lessons that might really illuminate because that would throw everything we think and do into confusion. Witness the lack of interesting in the missing 28 pages about Saudi Arabia in the 9-11 report versus interest in Benghazi.

I vacillate on starting the South Asia and American council thread because maybe the better part of valor is to read books like the following:…

I don't know. Like all good South Asia 'analysts', even rotten comment section types like me, I write one thing one day, and its opposite the next. Must be something in the water. And Kenneth Pollack thinks we should nation build in Syria. It's awfully convenient that all that urban warfare stuff you've been asked to read will need to be contracted out in some fashion to the same intellectuals pushing the stuff. If the British vote to follow us, they are very foolish creatures indeed.

Machiavellian wouldn't begin to describe it. Too bad the same attitude is never applied to enemies, only maneuvering within the Beltway.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 1:55pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Still can't log into the Council, but, here is a link that shows that State does it too. Everyone seems to do it and I've noticed that my whole life, trying to balance two cultures. South Asia, India and Pakistan in particular, must be viewed through whatever your own kink is: caste, religion, the Cold War, romantic dreams of an Imperial past, whatever American progressives or conservatives think should be the main focus, becomes the only focus.…

Okay, that's not entirely fair, some things do seem remarkable, and are remarkable, to outsiders. But beware romanticizing the far away. A lot of immigrants do this and create an unreal dream world of "back home."

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 12:53pm

It may have been the site "Pak Tea House" that I ran across discussion of the "Khyber Rifles" phenomenon, but I can't remember now where I first read of it. But it definitely came from a site that was read by a certain type of diaspora, one that is very aware of a sort of signaling that goes on between societies.

In this interview, what is interesting is the question coming from Diane Sawyer <em>and</em> the site I found the interview is transcribed:

<blockquote>Gen. McChrystal: Yeah, we don’t have personal conversations, we haven’t recently, but we’ve just been through the Christmas holiday. So I feel pretty comfortable over here. – [Talking to Afghan forces] This is an important country –

In theDiane Sawyer: The other pillars of change a ground level effort and a real conversation with the afghan people. In one day out, the general tackles congestion, convenience, corruption, the Khyber Pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan, tea with the border police, tea with the Khyber rifle unit. Non-stop questions, famously no rest or lunch. He eats one meal a day, dinner. It’s not about samurai discipline. </blockquote>…

I can't log into the Council right now but when I can, the plan is to call the new thread "American attitudes and South Asia," which, ideally, ought to include some arguments for and against the thoroughly American term, "South Asia".

Most of my comments here probably go under "Psychological Preparation," from the article, except I don't think it's such a conspiracy or one sided, I simply think it's the way states and their employees and populations deal with one another. Unfortunately, many of the books people are asked to read, like the Schaeffers of Brookings, are rife with the same societal biases even as they serve to instruct Americans how to act. It must be amusing to many in that region that such books are considered as the be-all-and-end-all of expertise....

(I was surprised when I read the late Michael Hastings book, very surprised at how much I liked "the Operators" from its portrait, even as I cringed at a sort of American--or, surprisingly, British!-- naiveté about contemporary "South Asia". But Hastings made that point in the book, that dedicated people who are very skilled are bound to create loyalties and admiration, but that is not the same as a good reckoning of how much they understand a system. To be fair, State probably gave them the basic idea of the whole "South Asian" layout and State has been getting that part of the world wrong for ages.)

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 10:48am

From <em>The Lives and Loves of a United States Naval Officer</em> by Captain Harry Carter (page 190):

<blockquote>The dinner party dress was "mess kit", which is the equivalent of civilian black tie. When Ellie and I arrived, most everyone was already there. I suppose they had been given time to arrive almost a half hour earlier than was on our invitation. As we entered, all we could see was a sea of white and gold on officers and a beautiful rainbow of silk sarees on display by their ladies.</blockquote>

The impressions of a naval attaché to Pakistan during the late 60s, and the impressions of his visits to India and Afghanistan..

If Omar Ali is lurking, the obligatory Khyber Rifles visit with all the show that is put on for Western visitors, apparently, and the sense of nostalgia for a kind of colonial past.. There is a funny passage where the author says that as far as he can see, none of the senior officers seemed personally upset that the US cut off aid during the war between India and Pakistan. Maybe some elite civilians made remarks, so he was always "careful" in who he invited to functions.

It seems the creation of a bit of a bubble, but very sweet in its personal remembrances.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 12:20pm

If I continue to add to this thread, I will do it as a new thread in the Council. I was surprised that Move Forward interpreted my comments as being anti-Pakistani, but, on reflection, putting them here under the article was a mistake. The vast majority of my comments have more to do with western delusions about India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and more properly should have been in a Council section labeled as such; Western Attitudes toward South Asia or something like that. For now:

<blockquote>Islamabad was surprised at the accuracy of its own anticipation of the US reaction and the typical incentives that Talbott and his team would offer to Pakistan. Since early 1994, Islamabad's considered policy had been to refuse any carrots for an exchange that affected nuclear force goals.</blockquote>

Feroz Khan, <em>Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb</em>

Pakistani elites are generally better at reading Americans than vice versa, which is not a novel observation. You can read this observation in diplomatic writing from the fifties.

And neither India nor Pakistan have budged from what they consider (or the factions that control foreign policy in terms of Pakistan) to be their main existential threats. Yet time and again, American experts make the case that these states can be fundamentally "turned."

I am often accused of being too negative around here, so I will add the following:

The generation who have come of age in the military during the last 13 years have, in their shared experiences, a realistic sense of the complexity of the world that will help in understanding a multipolar world in an age of flux. I think what some of these young people will do as they mature within the military--and within our larger American and Western societies-- will be very exciting to watch. Kissinger recently wrote an op-ed about the need to think through a new order. Ideology won't help and clinging to structures built for a 20th century post WWII order won't work either. So, I look forward to what some of you will do. Many of you have done so much already.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 11:32am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Blogger Pundita made similar points about process:

<blockquote>The Cold War era is littered with so many ill-conceived and counterproductive U.S. initiatives it's hard to pick out representative examples. Indeed, one way to describe U.S. efforts to be clever in regions they knew nothing about is to say they were a caricature of the Tourist from Hell.

The CIA's heavy reliance on the ISI to put al Qaeda out of business in South Asia suggests that my government didn't even squeeze bitter wisdom from mistakes during the Cold War. Or if the wisdom was there, it retired with the graying of the Cold War generation of spies, foreign service officers, and military commanders.

Taken together the reports by Greg Miller and Mark Mazzetti point up the tripwires in the clever idea of outsourcing al Qaeda-hunting to the ISI. A former CIA official who worked with the ISI told Miller, "They gave us 600 to 700 people captured or dead. Getting these guys off the street was a good thing, and it was a big savings to [U.S.] taxpayers."

Another CIA official who worked in Islamabad chipped in, "There were a lot of people I had never heard of, and they were good for $1 million or more" in payments from the CIA's slush fund.

But you can see the downside here: if you're blindly paying a spy agency that's desperate for huge amounts of cash to also play bounty hunter -- bring 'em in dead or alive -- then you have no way of knowing whether all the dead prizes were your enemy or the spy agency's.

So it's small wonder that as the ISI continued playing assassin for the USA in Pakistan you could trace a rising curve of violence against U.S. forces in Afghanistan emanating from Pakistan's tribes -- a curve that extended to the Pakistan side of the Durand Line.</blockquote>…

What is interesting is that many liberal Pakistanis and Pakistani diaspora are essentially pro drone, and that is likely because of the Code Pink-like misinformation out there. Dr. C. Christine Fair has found doing surveys that people on the ground are not so anti-drone.

Yet the nature of our targeting--whatever, shall we use the terrible and bloodless word vehicle?--is not answered by surveys. Once we get involved in a place, it is very hard to know exactly what we are doing which is why metrics are so popular. Yet metrics often provide false comfort.

I am becoming more and more convinced that we just shouldn't get involved in the first place. Yet our system cannot help itself and part of the reason is domestic politics.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 11:02am

An interesting comment in the comments section at Sic Semper Tyrannis (on a post about TE Lawrence):

<blockquote>Yes, ISI. I changed it. I supplied just about all the combat intelligence that ISI gave the non Sayyaf mujahid groups for operations since CIA was incapable of it. This was for actual operations against Soviet 40th Army. In that period CIA DO was dominated bu former US Armed Forces NCO case officers like Anderson and Bearden. I could name quite a few more but they have not given me obvious offense . They had succeeded the Ivy WASP aristos who created the CIA after service in OSS. The last thing these ex-enlisted and minimally educated people wanted was interference from professional military officers. This got really rough at times. A number of retired officers of my acquaintance tried to join the DO and were warned off through threats of "referral" to DoJ for "war crimes" in VN. Strangely, no such "referrals" occurred after these officers stopped trying to join CIA. So, the US support to ISI for the mujahid war against the Soviets was run by ignorant grasping fools. This all occurred because the armed forces were barred from covert ops in a situation short of war. Much the same crew have made a lot of money as CIA and DoD contractors in the recent wars. pl</blockquote>…

I had posted the following earlier:

<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

Process interests me, and always has. I note that RantCorp made similar comments to those of the Task Force earlier down in the thread and corrected some of my misunderstandings about the CIA. I had postulated that maybe the CIA wasn't being upfront about who they had trained back in the 80's but perhaps the better understanding is lack of oversight. A question that remains pertinent.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 1:46pm

In reply to by Move Forward

I forgot to add one thing. People always assume Indian Americans and Pakistani Americans hate each other but that is not true. I don't know the situation for British Asians.

In fact, in many places, especially when immigration was small in numbers, we hung out with each other, socialized, were-and are-actually quite friendly, especially among physicians. Dating, intermarriages, and the like. It never occurs to some people that the suspicions we have come from our Pakistani friends. Omar Ali is harder on the Pakistani Army and intelligence agencies than I ever have been.

In fact, the Congressional Task Force I have quoted and linked, it said that some in the CIA always assumed information from the Indians was only to embarrass Pakistan--and so ignored it. Perhaps we go too far in the other direction these days, especially between India and China. I would be careful with this same phenomenon and India and China. We tend to listen to the people that tell us what we want to hear anyway.

Why do people always make this error? A few shouters don't represent the vast majority of people who live quietly and mean no harm.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 11:43am

In reply to by Move Forward

No, naiveté is being unaware of the history of what we have done in that part of the world and what the outcomes were.

Neither our civilian nor military aid has never worked in that part of the world. There are voluminous--and I mean VOLUMINOUS--studies. Look them up.

From the first military planner in 1947, people have been warning the American Army that it didn't have South Asia right. You can look those VOLUMINOUS studies up too.

For the rest, fair enough. I had some real out there comments at LoD. Pretty embarrassing in retrospect.

My point is that even good well-meaning people develop group think. The Borg is meant to refer to the group think aspect.

Move Forward

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 11:27am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The Borg huh (from another one of your posts in these comments):

<blockquote>I often call the Washington Consensus "the Borg" and by that I mean the strange bubble created by people who seem to live in their own world, unrelated to anything approaching a ground reality. And that world punishes dissenters, punishes truth tellers.

At any rate, for an example of the closed loop nature of the Borg, look at the following:</blockquote>

<blockquote>General Hayden has devoted his life to public service, serving as Director of the CIA (2006-09), Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (2005-06), and Director of the NSA (1999-2005). He retired from the US Air Force as a four-star general in 2008 after nearly 39 years of active-duty military service, serving in various capacities including Commander of the Air Intelligence Agency and Director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center. Currently, he is a Principal of the Chertoff Group and Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University. He appears regularly on national news media to comment on a range of national security and intelligence issues.

Recent recipients of the Benjamin Franklin Award include Henry A. Kissinger, Gen. James Mattis, Robert D. Kaplan, Walter Russell Mead, and the late Fouad Ajami.</blockquote>

What was your point?

Perhaps the idea of a U.S. assisted entry into Pakistan followed by a ground assault up the Iranian coast to seize and secure land across from the Straits of Hormuz was not one of my finer moments. Other expressed "outside the box" ideas have involved getting the Saudis and Turks to mount simultaneous ground assaults into west Iraq and north Syria, supported by U.S. air, to seize and split up areas controlled by ISIS. These areas could expand the borders of Turkey and KSM under more moderate control while allowing Shiite Iraq and Kurdistan to exist separately. The mooring of a decommissioned carrier in the South China Sea was another idea. The Joint Access Vehicle was still another. If nothing else, I'm not shy about offering actual potential (if not always realistic) solutions rather than just constantly complaining.

Nevertheless, all have a basis in sound military strategy. I'm also proud to have contributed to training Army unmanned aircraft operators over the past 5 1/2 years and have been an advocate for such aircraft over the past 30 years.

In contrast, comparing a U.S. Air Force leader who has done so much to secure U.S. security to "The Borg" can't get much more out there. They don't know me from Adam, but three of my classmates are 4-star Generals and a fourth who was in my West Point company a year ahead of me now runs all U.S. operations in Afghanistan. I'm proud of the many accomplishments of all my classmates and Soldier leaders in keeping casualty rates low in Desert Storm and these wars compared to those of years past. To believe that tougher military actions, sanctions, or just plain <strong>doing something</strong> won't work is the height of naivete.

We don't live in a utopian world of wishful thinking that international problems will work themselves out on their own and we'll all eventually sing Kumbaya together if we just bide our time. But just as one Presidential college professor who taught constitutional law can't seem to abide by it, perhaps living in the world of medical academia is a guarantee that one will think they know it all, when they actually have few real world answers to problems outside their field of expertise.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 10:45am

In reply to by Move Forward

You are only making points that I have made a million times before, MF. Did it ever occur to you that because of the corruption in medicine, I am more likely to focus on it in other professions? And no profession or industry is exempt. I don't understand the thin skin.

I don't hate Pakistan and I don't hate Pakistanis. Nothing I say here isn't being written about by Pakistanis themselves. Have you never read any of them? I am deeply suspicious of its intelligence services, and, also, of the close relationship between its intelligence and various western intelligence agencies. Anyone with the tiniest bit of knowledge in this area knows that is a real concern.

I HAVE NEVER supported tougher action because it won't work, and because it is wrong. Sanctions are a waste of time and hurt innocent people, more violence in that part of the world will only make the violence worse, and we are essentially running in circles.

I simply want us to try and stop buying love or attempting to coerce it. The minimum relations necessary for normal diplomacy and trade, and practical, as opposed to scheming, mil-mil relationships, with, hopefully, less naive military officers. The scholarship and reporting can improve too. Nothing controversial about that, even journalists and academics say the same.

I have nothing against everyday retired military guys supplementing retirement income, but making millions off of insider knowledge and contacts, and making war more likely in order to extend conflict, is not anything I can respect.

Your reasoning is full of non-sequitors, jumps, fits and starts. I still remember when you came up with a plan at Line of Departure in which the US and Pakistani armies would invade Iran through Baluchistan. You were, apparently, serious. This is fantasy, a fantastical and completely unserious idea.

There are both good and bad reasons to have relations with Saudi Arabia, but quite a lot of bad seeps into our relations because of the money spread around. Many, many, many others have attempted to document this phenomenon. It's not a small subject of inquiry.

I've been saying for years that military manufacturing in the US has its prominence partly because we stupidly destroyed our own manufacturing to send it overseas.

Move Forward

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 12:54am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)


Did you perchance read the Wikipedia about this Patrick Cockburn journalist? If Wikipedia is correct, both his parents were Irish socialists, he works for a publication I never heard of, and the blurb at the end of his article fails to note two key books he wrote. One was written in 2006 called "The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq." The other book was titled "Muqutada: Muqutada al-Sadr, The Shia Revival." He also wrote a book titled "Getting Russia Wrong: The End of Kremlinology."

Do those book titles sound like an objective body of work favorable to the west considering that he called our stability operations "The Occupation" in 2006 prior to the Surge and Anbar Awakening? Did Iraq, Maliki, and the coalition not suppress and defeat al-Sadr and the Shiite militias? Was training of the Iraq military still on-going? Are current shortcomings of the Iraq military traceable to Maliki firing competent Sunni generals and sending a Sunni Vice President into exile, failing to offer any accommodation to Sunnis? Would President Bush who implemented the Surge or a Republican President or Hillary Clinton have withdrawn all U.S. forces prematurely or worked harder to get a SOFA?

He attributes the failures in the war on terror to failures to address not only Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but also Sunni insurgents in Syria thus allowing them sanctuary. Didn't that occur under President Obama? Would it have occurred under a Republican or Hillary Clinton administration? He and you also should read the recent Wall Street Journal article that contends that Assad purposely laid off of ISIS to let them build strength and battle both Iraq and more moderate Sunni groups. Google "Assad Policies Aided Rise of Islamic State Militant Group" that also would be behind a firewall if linked.

Now lets look at what you chose to focus on:

<blockquote>The “war on terror” has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The U.S. did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon.</blockquote>

The rest of the article does not claim the monarchy of Saudi Arabia supported jihadism against the U.S./Israel or supported al Qaeda. It mentions that rich monarch relatives and businessmen may have supported them, but does it make sense that the monarchy itself would support radicals who would like to overthrow the monarchy? Would the U.S. recently sell the Saudis $60 billion in military equipment if it believed it would end up in jihadi hands? Can you not comprehend a need to balance Saudi and GCC defenses with those of a rising Iran?

Now look at that $60 billion in Saudi foreign military sales that goes to U.S. companies that employ hundreds of thousands of Americans in some of the last vestiges of STEM-based U.S. manufacturing that simultaneously reduces prices of equipment we purchase and sell other allies. Contrast that with this article where an estimated $58 billion in Medicare fraud occurred in 2013 and similar amounts annually with less than $3 billion recovered that year. Go to Google News and enter this:

"How Agents Hunt for Fraud in Trove of Medicare Data: Law-Enforcement Officials Estimate Fraud Accounts for as Much as 10% of Medicare's Yearly Spending"

So to put it in perspective, the $58 billion lost to Medicare fraud in <strong>2013 alone</strong> could have purchased nearly our entire inventory of F-22 Raptors which we were forced to cut short in the 180s due to budget concerns. The Saudis effectively contributed to our GDP in purchasing $60 billion in arms from us that effectively went down the drain due to Medicare fraud. We won't mention that Medicare probably pays far too much for <strong>non-fraud</strong> Medicare bills as do those over 65 who must ante up for Medicare Part B payments to keep from going broke.

Your anti-Pakistan feelings as an Indian-American are understandable if not justified. Can you understand a U.S. desire to keep nuclear weapons out of Pakistan jihadist group hands...something likely to occur if we engaged Pakistan directly? I just wish you were more balanced in your proclamations about screwed up this-and-that foreign and military policy and backed them up with more credible or at least explained author backgrounds. In addition, please refrain or at least balance your criticisms of ex-military Generals and countless others who make a living after they retire contributing to our nations defenses as contractors. The vast bulk of them and us have little job security and never make the millions or even the 6-figures that some doctors line their pockets with defrauding Medicare and Medicaid.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 08/23/2014 - 11:44am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Note that the Washington Establishment and the State Department don't mind pushing the envelope with a nuclear powered Russia, although I think they should be very careful there and are flirting with danger. But to save the lives of their own, they couldn't dig deeper than the status quo.

We are dealing with a deeply disordered American Foreign Policy apparatus and I no longer have patience with commentators or analysts that try to hide that fact, particularly through the bullying of critics, or marginalization and ignoring of analysis that doesn't fit the template. Much of American journalism has sunk to a particularly low depth at this time, too. Sad, because there are true journalistic heroes out there.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 08/23/2014 - 11:05am

Patrick Cockburn writes (and this is linked in the Council):

<blockquote>The “war on terror” has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The U.S. did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the <strong>Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment</strong>. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and <strong>a military with close links to the Pentagon.</strong></blockquote>

Emphasis mine. There are many complicated connections between the two states and the US and our allies. Historians, journalists, and retired military especially, will, I think, mine this subject in future studies.…

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 9:36am

In reply to by RantCorp

When was the last time I mentioned what?

Maybe it was: "....with close links to the Pentagon." Or the bit about the Saudis?

'Who's Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?'

Aw, I'm just playing around. I am more curious to hear what others think on this subject, so thanks for that comment. The part about the strategic shift is interesting. (I think I'll wait for the inevitable future FBI, intelligence and military whistleblowers--to be crushed by the Borg, I am sure--and what those poor souls might have to say. It's been an education watching different reactions to the subject of whistle blowing or counterintelligence on intelligence related sites versus those that are military in orientation. Commenters on military sites seem to take deep umbrage at the thought that any alliance or relationship might be less than honorable. But you are right, there seems to be a deep uncomfortableness with the subject, the same discomfort expressed when it comes to discussing whether certain private money-making ventures are, perhaps, unseemly. All of human nature, all of the human domain, filled with every human frailty. Easier to talk about process and funding, about interagency and cooperation and alliances and theory, and I am no different :) ).


Tue, 08/26/2014 - 4:54pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)


The problem was the strategic shift in the region when it became obvious that the Soviet Union had no intention of breaking thru to the Indian Ocean. From the time of the initial invasion in Dec 1979 to mid-1985 the Pak’s feared the possibility of a war on two fronts. The Red Army from the west and the Indian Army from the east. This possibility made the support of the US, China and the Gulf States vital to Pakistan and ensured, at the very least, the US got a vote.

Come 1986 the Soviets let it be known they were leaving. This understanding herald the return of the traditional animosity/paranoia of the Punjabi political and military leadership towards Pushtoonistan and the Afghan resistance movement was dismantled. The ISI began the creation of the Taliban at this time and got the lunatic Hekmatyar to bombard Kabul and any other structure that had managed to survive the Soviet War.

After much of the remaining infrastructure was reduced to rubble the ISI unleashed the Taliban to make certain the Pathans remained ungoverned and ungovernable. At the time the USG failed to recognize/understand this paradigm shift in the strategic grounding of the conflict. IMHO it has been struggling to come to terms with the reality on the ground ever since.

IMO it is pointless to blame the Paks. They fight their corner as they see fit thru the lens of their national interest. But that doesn’t mean they should have got a pass. The USG should have let them know that turning against a mutual ally was not in our (nor the Afghans) strategic interest and what we intended to do about it.

A reasoned compromise at the time would have prevented most of the waste and misery that has ensued over the last 30 years. The USG was certainly told that they were being blind-sided and the threat posed by OBL, AaZ et al and the folly of PK UW scorched-earth campaign in AF but the powers to be thought otherwise.

The main reasons for this disaster haven’t changed one bit since 1985. I would argue they haven’t changed since Ia Drang in 1965.

1: We still have this stupefying habit of deploying folks for such short tours. For anyone who has worked for an extended period in Asia it is painfully obvious that a tour should be five years. Two years to ‘get it’. Two years to make a difference and a year to transition out. Longevity of reliable people in sufficient numbers gives gravitas to AAR that careerists and card-punching O6s find hard to bury or distort for self- aggrandizement.

As in VN this toxicity was sorely obvious in Af/Pak during the Soviet War. Not surprisingly because we have failed to embrace a Mission Command solution the efforts of tens of thousands of US personnel in the region (where once there were only dozens) are rendered costly and meaningless.

2: War is not a business. It requires a great deal of resources and materials from business but it is not a business. Decision- making that benefits a business has little in common with decision-making that wins wars. In fact I would go far as to suggest the avaricious narcissist, who is vital to success in business, is the nemesis of the war-fighting decision-maker.

The last 14 years have been an unprecedented bonanza for the defense and security industries. Look what 5 trillion dollars of great business has done for defense and security shareholders and executive pay and then look at the images coming from the ground in Iraq. I realize it is overly simplistic but ponder the fate of Jim Foley and the other hostages and the fortunes of those luxuriating on war profits in the Beltway?

3: Much in the same way war leadership may be political but it is not politics. The attributes that determine the success of a strategic decision-maker in the politics of Boston, Houston or Chicago are by nature (if not character) very different to the political instincts needed for success in fighting wars in Cuba, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. IMHO the military has to train people to fill this void.

4. The second oldest profession is alive and well. A considerable number of people on the ground during the Soviet occupation of AF were convinced the KGB had penetrated the CIA & DIA back home. Certainly it was an explanation that made a great deal of sense for those observing matters on the ground. It got so bad that if you held back and over- watched the designated time and place your patience was often rewarded with the ISI/KGB/Khad operatives breaking cover. Occasionally the would-be ambushers became the ambushed.

I read with keen interest the efforts to catch Ames, Walker et al and the revelations of Statsi spies and NATO War Plans. The mole team (Vertefeuille, Grimes, Redmond et al ) who tracked Ames down were convinced there were more traitors in their midst but the politicians had no more stomach for scandal. No doubt the excuse was the Soviets were pulling out and it was a historical problem and best leave sleeping dogs lie.

One important lesson to come from their efforts was that in every government department whether it be in DC, London, Paris, Islamabad, Berlin, Istanbul etc. there is always someone, with access to all the secrets, who is for sale. As often their currency is not colored by ideology. Much like the makeup of an insurgent the motivation is a devil’s brew of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy & gluttony.

The second oldest profession is rarely mentioned when attempting to explain why so much has gone wrong. By contrast the oldest profession is rarely not in the frame when we ponder our tale of woe. Obviously the answer is probably a mixture but I found it odd the simplest reason is rarely if ever mentioned.

I mean Madhu when did you last mention a spy?

By contrast witness the attitude to our opponents in Gaza, Syria and Iraq. The fruitcake are often convinced traitors are the only reason they suffer setbacks.



Move Forward

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 12:56am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I don't understand your point in the quoted section. You realize this was about CIA and other efforts to create a jihadist insurgency against the Soviets in the 80s, correct? Are you claiming it did not succeed and the Soviets just withdrew on their own? Do you believe that the Cold War and Afghanistan had nothing to do with the demise of the Soviet Union?

Suspect Rant Corp would have something to say about CIA efforts being "inflated" against the Soviets in the 80s. You do realize since you mentioned him elsewhere that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar actually fought with jihadists we supported against the Soviets right? You do know that he was typical of many Afghan warlords insofar as he sought power in the 90s, killed 50,000 in Kabul by shelling it indiscriminately, and was temporarily the prime minister of Afghanistan before the Taliban caused him to flee. He formed and continues to lead HiG not truly as part of the Taliban but as his own personal hissy fit for not having a role in Afghan governance. Fortunately Hekmatyar is 67 and al-Zawahiri is just 4 years younger. A remotely piloted aircraft attack won't be necessary in a few more years.

Pakistan probably would have problems regardless of what we do or did. Your unspecified suggestions for how to make it better are not included in any of your constant bashing. Your implied comments about NATO failings in Afghanistan and Europe are an example of how we could have screwed up even more by going it alone. Are you suggesting Afghanistan should not have been a coalition effort and NATO should just step aside and allow Russia to seize any territory it so chooses?

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 08/23/2014 - 11:10am

CIA triumphalism and the creation of 80's Proxy War Cold War Myths?

<blockquote>The CIA, lacking any independent verification capabilities on the ground, had to accept the ISI's reports at face value. <strong>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.</strong> 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>

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

How much of this mythology and behavior affected:

1. The Bush administration and its relationships with Musharraf, the Pakistan Army and the ISI?

2. The Obama administration and its drone program?

3. The belief of the CIA in the efficacy of its drone program?

4. NATO and its complicated relationships with the US, Pakistani and, other non-NATO but allied intelligence agencies?

5.The American military--in particular, the Army--given its long-standing historic relationship to the Pakistani Army and its intelligence agencies?

I also believe that support for Syrian rebels would have been negatively affected by this process so that any attempts to find and support moderates versus radicals would have been undercut by this long-standing phenomenon. It is a point that should be better explored and ignoring its exploration discredits the strong assertions made by some that earlier involvement would have turned the tide against Assad and undercut radicals.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 1:47am

The following (from the Congressional Warnings link I posted earlier in the thread) is basically the issue with everything we have done since WWII:

<blockquote>Viewed in this light, it is easy to see that the real sin of the CIA was its failure to obtain adequate oversight of the Afghan resistance, particularly in light of recurring reports of terrorist training by Mr.Hekmatiyar. In fact, the Agency was misdirected by the NSC to separate itself from the training, arming and operational assistance of the mujahideen as we all as the conduct of the war. Needless to say, this gave the ISI an open door through which to support the Afghan resistance commanders that would best serve Islamabad's interests. The end result of this situation was that while Islamabad and Moscow were fighting in Afghanistan an intense war-by-proxy focusing on South Asia, Washington remained preoccupied with a global "Big Picture" where such issues as arms control or trade with China had more impact on American's Afghan policies than the situation in Afghanistan itself.</blockquote>

Remind you of anything?

1. President Bush and the need to keep Pakistan within the get Iraq, get Iran, get Russia sphere.

2. Keeping Pakistan and Afghanistan within an American sphere of influence, and showing that the US was not at war "with Islam" by its relations with both nations.

3. President Obama and Vali Nasr and Richard Holbrooke and Hillary Clinton and the whole "solve Kashmir" crew.

4. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: The CIA's drone campaign. Is the CIA being outmaneuvered again? Dr. C. Christine Fair's surveys are quite good for pushing back at a kind of propaganda, but it doesn't tell us about the liaison relationship and whether our direct information trumps that. Just what are we really doing? Does anyone really know?

And so on. The actual needs of the war by proxy and the indigenous insurgency that we chose as a way to battle Al Qaeda only became hostage to our perceived global needs.

This always happens. And it's why we have trouble fighting these limited wars for limited aims. They become hostage to our larger pretentions.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 12:49am

Okay, so the following belongs here but I really wanted to use it to reflect on what is going on in Iraq right now. From Asia Times 2003:

<blockquote>Today the Taliban rebels are fragmented and without a chain of command. But when the Taliban came to prominence in 1995, it was also without a chain of command; in fact, the group never really developed into a battle-fit militia that could take on a disciplined military. It was Pakistani regulars, and the indoctrinated Taliban militia under the watchful eyes of former Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence officials Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul and Lieutenant-General Javed Nasir, that made the Taliban into a well-knit fighting group. The failure of the Taliban to put up an adequate resistance against the advancing US-led troops, heavily manned by the Northern Alliance militia, in the fall of 2001 underscores the point: without the Pakistani army support, the Taliban never was and never could be a force to reckon with.

Today's situation is somewhat different: the Taliban's relative political isolation forces it to fight as a guerrilla outfit. Remember, the Taliban is not only an enemy of the Americans and other foreigners protecting the Karzai government, but they are also at odds with the Iranians to the west and the Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara ethnic groups that form the core of the Northern Alliance. The Northern Alliance is militarily and materially backed by the Russians and Indians. Because its old protectors cannot openly operate with them in Afghanistan, the Taliban cannot possibly take on such an overwhelming opposition and expect to survive in frontal warfare. </blockquote>

The focus on 4GW or non-state actors--or even "stability"--seems to miss the connections and the connections between state and non-state are, to me, the most interesting. Or am I getting that wrong?

The US and UK removes Saddam Hussain. The US stays for a bit, is intimately involved in governance decisions, plays a hand in quelling violence from an insurgency, and then leaves. But the US is still involved in its relationships with the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and behind the scenes in Syria. Weapons and training are seeping out in ways we can't control.

ISIS has military within its ranks, military members with training and experience from past state on state wars (Iraq and Iran).

Are these groups so strong if they didn't have the non-state to state connections? Special Forces are supposed to be the trainers, the ones who can knit together a disorganized indigenous force into something that is stronger. But when it falls apart this training, diffused out in various ways, only strengthens an opposition. What then? I know all of this is obvious and none of what I am saying is novel, but how do we deal with it?

The President doesn't have much maneuver room. The American public will accept air strikes or something fairly small (trainers). Anything larger plays into the hands of ISIS, just as we took the Al Qaeda bait when we went into Iraq. Al Q may not be what it once was, but they got their caliphate, didn't they?

And the American people are not so much tired of war, as wary that our involvement never brings the benefits promised. I am so tired of this blaming the American people for being tired when they are simply more resilient than they once were and are less likely to be railroaded into something rash.

If only the DC consensus were evolving.

I don't know. It all seems a very strange conversation to have so soon after the second war in Iraq. Are we now on our third? We will never leave Europe or the Middle East and will bleed our power away, won't we?

What if muddling through is the only option? Can the military think tactically in that realm? Well, you can, but is it futile?