Small Wars Journal

The Gentile-Yingling Dialogue: ISAF Exit Strategy - Neither International nor an Exit nor a Strategy

Sat, 10/15/2011 - 8:11am


Thanks for your insightful questions, and for your careful reading of "A Failure in Generalship."

If I may, I'd like to challenge the underlying premise of your questions. Your focus on strategy after 2009 presumes that Afghanistan was "winnable" at a politically acceptable cost.  I respectfully disagree.

The fiasco in Iraq (2003-2007) and the collapse of the US economy (2008-present) have exhausted the patience of the American people. Regrettably, a rigorous civil-military dialogue did not identify this limitation before the commitment of additional troops.

In Afghanistan, the die is cast.  In Pakistan, state failure looms darkly on the horizon.  It may be too late to change the former, but now is the time to address the latter.

I elaborate on these points below in "ISAF Exist Strategy: Neither International nor an Exit nor a Strategy."

I look forward to discussing these matters further and am grateful to SWJ and its readers for hosting this dialogue.

Best Regards,


SWJ Editor's Notes:

A Few Questions for Colonel Paul Yingling on Failures in Generalship - Small Wars Journal

A Failure in Generalship - Armed Forces Journal


ISAF Exit Strategy: Neither International nor an Exit nor a Strategy

Colonel Paul Yingling, U.S. Army

Based on remarks delivered at

International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan: 2001-2011-2014, the Roles and Capabilities of South-East Europe Countries

Zagreb, Croatia

October 12, 2011

Willy Brandt famously said of the former German Democratic Republic that it was neither German nor democratic nor a republic.  When I was asked to comment on the exit strategy of the International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan, I had a similar reaction.  The events of the next three years in Afghanistan cannot properly be described as international, an exit, or a strategy.  The so-called transition to Afghan lead by the end of 2014 is a timetable driven largely by American domestic politics. When this timetable is complete, Afghanistan will still be at war.

Before going further, a few caveats are in order.  First, I want to acknowledge that many countries have contributed blood and treasure to the war in Afghanistan, and that the Afghan people have suffered terribly during decades of nearly constant fighting.  My argument that American domestic politics will drive the events of the next few years should not be interpreted as minimizing the contributions of other ISAF nations or the sacrifices and suffering of the Afghan people.  Second, my argument is predictive, not normative.  I will not describe what should happen in the next few years, but what will.  What will happen in Afghanistan will largely be determined by ISAF’s largest contributing nation - the United States.  As I will demonstrate, we passed up “should” long ago.

My argument consists of three parts.  First, I will describe both the aims of American policy and its underlying rationale.  Second, I will review the competing but deeply flawed ways to achieve these aims – a fully resourced counterinsurgency effort and a more limited counter-terrorism approach.  Finally, I will describe the most likely outcome of events in Afghanistan and Pakistan beyond 2014.

The Aims of Policy

In December 2009, President Obama described both the ends of American policy in Afghanistan and the ways those ends would be achieved:

…to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future. 

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future.

The most striking feature of Obama Administration policy is the treatment of al Qaeda’s sanctuary in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a single and uniquely dangerous threat.  This region is not uniquely dangerous because it is an ungoverned space.  Large regions of Somalia and Yemen also fit this description.  This region is also not uniquely dangerous because the population has ideological sympathy for al Qaeda. Pockets of sympathy for al Qaeda can be found elsewhere, including in the West.  Finally, this region is not uniquely dangerous because it serves as a staging ground for attacks on the West.  Indeed, al Qaeda’s affiliates in the Islamic Magreb and the Arabian Peninsula have in recent years proven more lethal than the core of al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan.

This region is uniquely dangerous because of the confluence of the two most dangerous phenomena of the 21st century – radical ideology and nuclear weapons.  Pockets of radical ideology exist throughout the globe and at least nine states have nuclear weapons.  However, only in southern Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan do we find deep sympathy for al Qaeda’s radical ideology less than a day’s drive from the world’s least secure nuclear arsenal.  Moreover, sanctuary in Afghanistan is neither necessary nor sufficient for al Qaeda to achieve its goal of acquiring one or more nuclear weapons for use against the West.  Even if Afghanistan were perfectly stable, the danger of al Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons in Pakistan would remain.  Even if Afghanistan were to return to civil war or Taliban rule, these conditions alone do not pose a unique threat to the West.  Without the threat of nuclear terrorism, the insurgency in Afghanistan would be no more important to the West than similar threats Yemen or Somalia.

Competing and Equally Flawed Ways to Achieve These Ends

While the ends of American policy in Afghanistan have been remarkably consistent since 2001, the ways to achieve those ends have not. The strategic blunders of the Bush Administration from 2002-2008 are well documented and need no elaboration.  The first opportunity to reassess our strategy in Afghanistan occurred in the Obama Administration’s policy reviews of 2009. During this period, two broad strategies were considered.  The first was a fully resourced counterinsurgency strategy and the second was a more limited counter-terrorism strategy. 

The first approach was based on the tenets of COIN doctrine – protect the population, develop the capabilities of Afghan security forces and most importantly strengthen the legitimacy of the Afghan government by improving its capacity to provide security and other essential services to the population.  This approach would have required ISAF troop levels of approximately 140,000 or an increase of 40,000 over 2009 levels.  Most importantly, changes to future troop levels would be based on battlefield conditions.

This approach would have been a fine idea in 2001, but was politically infeasible by 2009.  Consider an ideal alternative history beginning in 2001.  With broad domestic and international support, a robust U.S.-led military coalition could have toppled the Taliban, captured or killed Osama bin Laden and other key al Qaeda leaders and provided post-conflict security to the Afghan people.  The U.S. military could have reformed its doctrine, organization, equipment and personnel policies to focus on irregular warfare, including the vital task of developing host nation security forces.  A robust civilian component could have assisted in the development of a legitimate Afghan government capable of providing essential services to the population. Skillful diplomacy could have convinced Pakistan that a stable Afghanistan was in its interests.  Enlightened security assistance could have assisted Pakistan in denying sanctuary in its northwest territories and discrediting extremist ideology nationwide.  Even in this ideal alternative history, denying sanctuary and support to al Qaeda and other extremist elements in Afghanistan and Pakistan would have been the work of a generation.

Alas, these events did not come to pass.  The U.S. low-balled troop estimates, allowing bin Laden and other key al Qaeda figures to escape to Pakistan and security within Afghanistan to deteriorate.  The U.S. squandered credibility at home and good will abroad with a disastrous unnecessary war in Iraq. The U.S. military failed to adapt to the challenges of irregular warfare until late 2006, and still does not devote adequate resources to security force development.  The civilian component to this day is unequal to the challenges of assisting in the development of a legitimate Afghan government.  Most importantly of all, elements within the Pakistani government continue to foster chaos in Afghanistan.

Those advocating a robust COIN effort in 2009 behaved as if these events either didn’t happen or don’t matter.  The reality is quite different; a decade’s worth of blunders and misrepresentations has exhausted the patience of the American people.  For nearly a decade, American political elites insisted that our Afghan policy was succeeding.  They did not ask the public to fight the war or pay for it, and did not tell the public of the deterioration in security on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.  The plausibility of these policies collapsed at approximately the same time as the global economy.  In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, unemployment is the public’s top policy concern. Even more importantly, public trust in the U.S. Government has all but evaporated. Devoting hundreds of billions of dollars into an open-ended conflict in Afghanistan would have been difficult even in 2001.  By 2009, such a policy was politically impossible.

However, the alternative counter-terrorism approach was scarcely better.  This approach called for an increased emphasis on capturing or killing key insurgent and terrorist leaders and accelerating the development of Afghan security forces.  However, this approach is better described as a collection of tactics to disrupt al Qaeda than a strategy to defeat it.  It does not address the corruption and incompetence of the Afghan Government or Pakistan’s explicit support for the Taliban or its tacit support for al Qaeda.  Worst of all, it does nothing to address the political conditions inside Pakistan that fuel the growth of extremist ideology.

The policy that emerged from the Obama Administration’s 2009 debate was worse than either of the alternatives proposed.  It increased troop levels through the summer of 2011, with a transition to Afghan lead set for the end of 2014.  It failed to take into account that al Qaeda was all but gone from Afghanistan, and that the overwhelming majority of those fighting ISAF in Afghanistan were locals with very limited ambitions beyond the country’s borders. Increased troop levels allowed for increased fighting but time limits prevented that fighting from producing enduring political results.  It left largely unchanged the military’s failure to focus on security force assistance and the civilian component’s inability to address the corruption and incompetence of the Karzai Government. It relied on drone strikes to disrupt al Qaeda in Pakistan but did not address the toxic political conditions within Pakistan that make it a danger not only to itself and its neighbors, but much of the world.

Of course, policy makers must set priorities in domestic and foreign affairs and evaluate military advice through the prism of domestic politics.  Effective civil-military dialogue assists in this process by identifying gaps between the ends of policy and the means available to achieve them.  Civilian leaders have the final say in this unequal dialogue, but the product of such dialogue must be a coherent strategy – one that reconciles ends, ways and means.  It’s unclear that such a dialogue took place during the policy reviews of 2009.  If our goal is to end the war and focus on domestic priorities, then no additional forces were needed in Afghanistan.  If our goal is to prevent the Taliban from seizing power in Afghanistan, then time limits on troop commitments undermine our efforts.  If our goal is to defeat al Qaeda, then we’re focusing our resources on the wrong country.

A Return to Strategic Thinking After 2014?

Over the next three years, the U.S. and other ISAF nations will continue to withdraw forces from Afghanistan.  This withdrawal will be driven largely by American domestic politics and fiscal constraints.  No matter which political party prevails in the 2012 U.S. elections, the domestic political calculus will be the same: spiraling costs for entitlements and interest on the debt, deep divisions about what mix of spending cuts and tax increases will solve the problem, heavy pressure to cut defense spending and foreign aid, and little political will to continue the war in Afghanistan beyond 2014.  The best case scenario is that ISAF’s transition to Afghan lead will occur according to the timetable ending in 2014.  However, another financial shock in the West or further political dysfunction in Washington could accelerate that timetable appreciably and unpredictably.

The war in Afghanistan will continue to rage long after 2014.  Combined security operations, drone strikes and special operations raids will continue to take their toll on insurgent and terrorist networks until then.  Afghan security forces can continue to fight even without foreign combat troops, but it’s uncertain how the Afghan government will pay for its army and police without substantial external assistance.  Other regional actors such as India and China will continue to jockey for influence in Afghanistan, but are unlikely to assist the Afghan government on the scale required. More importantly, the Afghan government is unlikely to address the incompetence and corruption that makes such assistance necessary.

Pakistan’s future is more difficult to predict.  It could limp along as a failing state indefinitely, or fail suddenly with little warning.  The West knows so little about Pakistan’s internal dynamics that virtually any significant change will come as a surprise.  The safest prediction is one that would eliminate the best case scenario – that Pakistan will develop into a functioning state that will deny sanctuary and support for extremist organizations. 

While the exact timing and extent of state failure in Pakistan is difficult to predict, the consequences of such failure are not.  Partial or total state failure of a nuclear Pakistan would pose a grave threat to the United States.  In such a scenario, the United States would not know who controlled Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  A nuclear armed al Qaeda, Lashkar e Taiba or another extremist group would be difficult if not impossible to deter.  The nightmare scenario of a nuclear armed terrorist group would be upon us.

When we ask about ISAF exit strategy, we are asking the wrong question.  ISAF’s exit from Afghanistan has much more to do with American domestic politics than coalition strategy. American fiscal constraints and political paralysis set this course in motion long ago and corrective measures are unlikely in the absence of a crisis.  ISAF will transfer the lead for security to Afghan security forces in 2014, on or ahead of the political timetable driving this outcome and with little regard for security conditions. 

However, the crisis of Pakistan as a failed nuclear state looms darkly on the horizon. Those of us charged with strategic thinking need not wait for a crisis to think clearly about this challenge. 

The example of the U.S. military in the 1920s provides a helpful example.  In the aftermath of World War I, military planners recognized that the U.S. lacked the capabilities to defend America’s possessions in the western Pacific.  Led by the Navy, the U.S. held wargames and constructed war plans to understand this challenge and the capabilities necessary to meet it.  Throughout the 1920s, the U.S. military had neither the equipment nor the money nor the manpower to solve this challenge.  Rather than prevent clear strategic thinking, these conditions enabled it.  When war in the Pacific came, the U.S. had already imagined the capabilities necessary for victory – including carrier aviation, amphibious assault, strategic bombing, and close air support for ground forces.  When the crisis came, these ideas needed only money and political will to become reality.

Those of us charged with strategic thinking ought to heed this example.  Imagine a failed Pakistan that results in a terrorist organization acquiring one or more nuclear weapons.  What would our response be in the aftermath of such a crisis?  What intelligence capabilities do we need to locate compromised nuclear materials?  What civil security and law enforcement measures might disrupt or minimize the impacts of such a threat?  What counter-proliferation capabilities are required to seize and render safe compromised nuclear weapons or materials?  Imagine further the capabilities required to avoid such a crisis.  What diplomatic measures might change the Pakistani strategic calculus that lends support to extremism?  What broader engagement with Pakistani civil society might render this troubled country less amenable to radical ideology?  Now imagine still further back to the institutional arrangements that generate national security capabilities.  Do we have the right priorities?  Are we buying the right equipment?  Are we selecting the right leaders?  Are we making the best use of increasingly scarce tax payer dollars?

Too often, what passes for strategic thought in the United States is actually a struggle among self-interested elites seeking political, commercial or bureaucratic advantage.  Such behavior is the privilege of a country that is both rich and safe.  However, a pattern of such behavior is self-correcting: no country that behaves this way will stay rich or safe for long.  Strategic thought will be in high demand in 2014 or upon the collapse of Pakistan, whichever comes first. 


Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/30/2015 - 3:28pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

So, they know. They know what was done to them from the very beginning, that Russia and Iran and Iraq were prioritized, that keeping Pakistan as a strategic asset was a priority, and that no one much thought about the betrayal aspect of it, that if it was so important, then don't put our men and women in the middle of it because we are paying for all sides.

Except, that is the way it is for everything, and even during the Cold War. The former Soviet Union sold gas to Western Europe and raised money for their military while we stood by NATO.

This never changes, and it never seems to sink in, this point. The craving for power within the Washington Consensus is confused for leadership.

And many a non-interventionist or progressive (paralleled with the Right) has strangely bigoted attitudes toward South Asia (Pakistani security elites) and excuses behavior it never would in any other situation, not with the Saudis or with anyone else. It is a form of bigotry. There is no other word for it. It is bigoted toward the Pakistanis (they are children that we can control) and bigoted toward the Indians and Afghans (their lives only matter in the way in which we prioritize as politically aware Americans, drones or COIN or whatever).

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/30/2015 - 3:21pm

From Pundita:

<strong>Pakistan and Afghanistan and the demise of NDN: Yeah, we sure taught Russia a lesson</strong>

As the US/NATO overland supply route to Afghanistan once again becomes fully reliant on Pakistan, sophisticated Taliban attacks against Afghan troops skyrocket ....

The problem with the discussion of Russia and Ukraine here is that it is the same problem as AfPak and if NATO couldn't figure it out there, how is it going to figure it out in Ukraine?

The figuring out being that our nation building efforts are embedded within complex regional and global power politics. Ukraine must govern well. We still don't really know what we want NATO to be. The same hangers-on (military industrial complex, ideologues and service rivalry types) are rushing to the cause for their own reasons. Russia has complicated relationships with the US, Europe, China and India. We have complicated relationships with Russia, Europe, China and India. And so on. The desire to make the conflict into a simple black-and-white picture does not help.

Yet, from some, there is no desire to describe reality, only to live in the world of Washington ideologues and influence agents.

This sort of thing never ends well.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/30/2015 - 3:15pm

I left an intemperate remark in the comments to this article (the comment was moderated and not approved, which is entirely correct. It's happened to me here too, comments removed by the owners of the site. Entirely correct in those instances, too):…

Philip Giraldi makes interesting points and he certainly got Iraq correct when I didn't so who am I to make intemperate remarks? Except that I will, I will fall off that wagon again and again, so there's no point in pretending I am capable of being good on this subject.

The Hersh article makes many claims, as his articles tend to do, they always make a multiple claims, each deserving to be dissected.

I was interested in other claims that Hersh makes, especially about the success of the US and Pakistan working together on counter-terrorism. Given that many on the left are skeptical of drones, the tribal response of some with automatic belief was interesting. Skepticism sometimes, automatic belief in other scenarios.

In the usual tribal way (and I responded the same, I was no better), Americans who pay attention (a small bunch) had the stereotypical responses of American Right and Left: Hersh is terrible, what does he know? No, no, say the other tribals, Hersh is a hero and all that he writes must be correct.

The usual score and I should know better than to take that bait. Gareth Porter tried to tackle the article and the way in which he approached it is a bit odd for he too used one source to key in on one point? The main point being that a retired Pakistani military officer interviewed people in Abbottabad and no one had heard of the ISI watching over the compound. That was one part of Porter's article.

That may very well be true but how do you feel about that as a rebuttal? If someone asked you such a question in that environment, how would you respond?

I like my method of looking at language of sources, how they talk about the world and what that says. In that sense, I don't worry as much about sources because I am looking at the Washington Consensus and how it views the world.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 10:47pm

From a comment I left at Robert Parry's Consortium News (on Seymour Hersh's article. No, it belongs here. Pay attention to the language that Americans use toward that region, the language that sets a basic mindset and cultural posture):

<blockquote>For instance, the following from the article:

“Despite their constant public feuding, American and Pakistani military and intelligence services have worked together closely for decades on counterterrorism in South Asia. ”

As in drones? And the bounty program where the CIA blindly paid the ISI for Al Qaeda “delivered”? No one is the least bit curious? Some of the retired intelligence officers defending this article full stop (as opposed to looking at different parts of it in different ways) have a curious history. Look up their public statements on, for instance, General Musharraf prior to the Abbottabad raid. Many are almost gaga over their man.

That the White House might have lied is important. But even more important is the decades long cover that the US has provided for Pakistani sponsored “non state” actors in its neighboring countries and in its own nation, against its own people.

Why are Americans so uninterested? And why is anyone giving the CIA a pass on this, because that is a very “clientitis” reading of the situation, that article. Was a CIA station chief in Islamabad one source? Is that why the Hersh article is so complimentary toward the CIA/ISI relationship? And the UK has a strange relationship with Pakistan. The LRB has a very interesting collective set of articles on Pakistan, very cleverly setting a narrative of covering for certain behaviors.

Saudi or Israeli behavior doesn’t get a pass, as least, in terms of American critics of American policy. But with Pakistan it’s as if the claims of American Indophobia and Afghanphobia have merit, just as Russophobia does. It is never a big deal that the US foreign policy community has a soft spot for Pakistani security elites or that our aid has increased the number of nuclear weapons, or that we just sold them planes that can drop nukes. This, somehow, just isn’t important.

The CIA always is made a fool of in that part of the world. That the WH might have gamed the story is one story, and not even the most disgusting when it comes to our policies and behavior in that region. I urge you to look at the comments of people complimenting the article, comments prior to Abbottabad. The praise of Musharraf by some retired CIA is off the charts. It’s their weak spot, and always has been.

Why? Why this soft almost bigotry regarding that region? What aspect of American culture is this? It is a phobia and it is a bigotry and two thoughts may be held at once, suspicion of more than one narrative, many questions unanswered. If the WH did make up this story, that still leaves us with the US covering up for a military and intelligence service that purposefully targets civilians as a matter of military and intelligence doctrine."</blockquote>

Our behavior isn't that of a nation that "has" to do something because it is afraid Pakistan might collapse or give nukes to the Saudis. Toward our "Sunni" allies, it is the behavior of a nation that wants to do things because it is afraid of being irrelevant in foreign affairs.

If we have lost credibility, or others are less inclined to seek our leadership, if they ever did, then it is likely because who could respect a nation that is incurious about what the Saudis knew about 9-11, completely incurious about "Sunni" allies, complete fakes on all of this? Why would anyone want to have anything to do with a nation like this?

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 4:22am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The Saudis can pummel Yemeni civilians, but this? No, it's just a question,
I know it's not the same, but the whole thing is confusing. Our relationships with our allies or supposed allies is so sick.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 4:15am

I don't know where to put this but what about all those exposed ISIS fighters in Ramadi? And no airstrikes? Afraid of a backlash or being drawn in too deeply? Allies that might complain?

It reminds me of Kabul 2001 and in that case the Taliban retreat with exposed fighters/tanks and no targetting? Or am I getting that wrong? I posted those articles elsewhere around here. I'll have to look them up again.

It's the same thing, just as the Pashtun angle was pushed in 2001 to placate the Saudis, now the focus seems again to be about Iranian expansionism rather than a clear focus on ISIS. The back and forth conversation that sets the narrative, I mean, and diffuses and confuses our purposes. It's the same trick as before by our purported allies in the region? We are hostage to their narratives rather than charting our own course. We are not the only ones with resources or airpower....well, maybe I am getting this wrong but it is perplexing.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 11:17am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Dear Isaac Chotiner, how does one raise jihadis and then serve as a bulwark against them? Even if you wanted to, can't work. Come on, press people in the right way :) Ask that question.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 11:14am

Oh for heaven's sake. Hersch wrote about Barlow in 1993 or so in the New Yorker. Of course, the people that want to quash his reporting can't go there either, if you see what I mean. Yeah, we've really worked well together on the whole nuke thing for 30 years, sure. Everyone gets gamed in SA. I mean, he reported himself on this stuff. The Saudis and others played propaganda games with Pressler, lobbied for it didn't they? Stay out of the bazaar and that includes clueless OMG lefty types as well as righty....

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 10:08am

Isaac Chotiner interviews Seymour Hersch in The New Republic. When the subject of joint work done by Americans and Pakistanis on securing nukes comes up Chotiner fails to mention Richard Barlow....come on. What have we learned about Americans and South Asia? Everyone gets it wrong all the time and no one can really be trusted. Hersch did work on Anna Chennault? From Anna Chennault to Abbottabad....but you have to go to non-American reporting to get what I am saying. No, Hersch makes some good points but he has forgotten his own reporting. The number of nukes have increased. Aid is fungible. And American commenters always miss the twists and turns because they still haven't grappled properly with their history in SA, whether Nation readers or National Review. Look to the Canadians or Australians or some British for better Anglosphere reporting. Trust nothing and no one on this subject but your own desire for the truth. Anna Chennault and Richard Barlow. Start there and do your own study.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 10:11pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I am never going to let it go, am I? Ignore the barking dogs of American partisan discourse....note to self....

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 9:37pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I don't really care about l or r anymore but the left in the US is funny. They care a lot about Saudi proxies but until very recently didn't care about Pakistani proxies all that much. They made excuses for them they never would for the Saudis. They have their favored browns and non favored browns....

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 9:32pm

I wonder if the same people that are all 'Carlotta Gall is corroborating some of Sy Hersch's article' want to rethink the 'it's just a localized insurgency' stuff? When it comes to that, then it is a different story. Then they made fun of her and Anand Gopal was the only one worth listening to. Just like Kashmir, Saudi and other influence agents made monkeys out of a certain percentage of the American left/right. That is why I do my own thing now and stay away from that whole scene now. Prefer non-American, especially non Western, analysis.

Using the Pashtun angle as a propaganda point becomes more and more interesting. Musharraf and Imran Khan bring it up all the time in old transcripts....well it' interesting to look up the quotes and rethink the whole thing....

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/09/2015 - 3:57pm

I posted this under another link and it belongs here too:

So, here it is:

<blockquote>April 8, 2015 -- Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work; Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Scher; Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth; National Intelligence Council Chairman Dr. Gregory Treverton; British Minister Steve McCarthy are among the experts to anchor discussions during the annual Strategy Conference at Carlisle.

Worldwide virtual participation is open to national security practitioners, academics, policy makers and opinion leaders -- to enhance the dialogue led by a roster of experts in defense strategy for the 2015 Army Strategy Conference, sponsored in its 26th year by the USAWC Strategic Studies Institute, April 7-9, at the U.S. Army War College, April 7-9. The conference will explore the fundamental question: In light of anticipated security conditions, and defense demands, what are the most relevant first principles for the next decade's defense stratetgy and planning?

<strong>This conference is co-sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Policy. Policy-relevant voices will include those representing OSD, RAND, Council on Foreign Relations, Center for a New American Security, Center for Strategy and Budgetary Assessments, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, US Air Force Academy, New America Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania.</strong></blockquote>

Emphasis mine. Can I get in trouble in any way for pointing any of this out? Why? No one is paying attention, look at the conversation present over the years here. In front of our very eyes.

And from <em>Known and Unknown: A Memoir</em> By Donald Rumsfeld, page 688, look for the various briefings circulated.

The Obama White Paper on AfPak isn't really all that different from the briefings and powerpoints floating around so the AfPak review/white paper from Hillary Clinton's State Department wasn't really so new, was it? And the FM 3-24 conference had more behind it than we've talked about here, Celebrity Generals and Malaya is only one part of it?

In terms of the basic set up? The basic strategic framework was the same, to which was added the need for more troops and to keep the focus on Iran and Russia and to ignore any relationship to current problems from our "Sunni Axis" allies?

Is this one reason the Northern Distribution Network took so long to set up? And Musharraf knew everything we were going to do because we told him and VP Cheney gave him whatever he wanted?

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 8:30pm

I posted this under another thread (Saudi Arabia and two counterterrorism strategies) and it belongs here too:

<blockquote>Uh, am I going to end up on some no-fly list because of my online search history or something? LOL:

So, I'm thinking:

1. The Saudi-Iranian rivalry added to Kashmir violence and insurgency back in the day.

2. I think how insistent so many people have been about how the key to Afghanistan is the PASHTUN insurgency and how it is imperative to negotiate with the Taliban (not saying that is wrong or a bad idea, just thinking in terms of the propaganda games everyone used to play with Kashmir, including the US and the UK in shielding their "sunni" allies when it came to sponsorship of terror. Including creating whole narratives that didn't fit the ground truth via media, a subtle manipulation, etc.)

I decide to search media appearances for different Saudi officials and diplomats right after 9-11 and look for anything with Pashtun. Well, right after 9-11 Saudi diplomats were all over the air waves and much of his commentary seems strange in retrospect, "it's about values, not policy," etc.
I randomly click on a link that catches my eye and I don't remember exactly what but it's in Arabic and English and someone is going on and on about how he supported the Muj in the 80s and now Karzai wants them to disarm in Afghanistan and the Pashtuns should fight back.
Was I on some recruting site or something? What was that about? The Saudis were opened their embassy in 2002 in Afghanistan, didn't they, and started doling out big cash.

Were they manipulating the Pashtun angle or something? I didn't really read more than a sentence or two, it's just on my mind these days.
Did the Saudis push to have their own sort of proxies in place and so stressed the Pashtun angle so that it became the main focus without people even realizing what else was going on besides a genuine concern for counterinsurgency?
What really happened out there in 2002 or so?</blockquote>

Is the Legatum Institute related to the Qataris? Isn't that funded by some rich New Zealand billionaire? Anyway, when I search google books for the "Pashtun question" I see that books on that topic are funded by the Legatum Institute among others. I mean, that's fine, it could be a genuine interest, I just find it strange, this reducing of the complicated dance between so many outsiders into how critical having Pashtun representation is. I know Sibel Edmonds and Kelley Vlahos have looked at the Afghan diaspora and corruption angle (and Sibel Edmonds is where I found the neocon connection, in addition to the Nixon stuff I've been following for a while, that goes back to reading Indian diaspora websites) but what about this angle?

Just what the heck went on back in 2002 or so?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 5:27pm

One more reference:

American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era, edited by Suzanne C. Nielsen, Don M. Snider

There is mention in a footnote about an unpublished briefing on Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction Operations by Andrew Krepinevich, Nadia Schadlow and Marin Strmecki.

So I wonder if I missed something that everyone else has been aware of and has been well-covered elsewhere? I was so busy with the Cointra/Coindinista back-and-forth that I missed another important conversation on the way in which stability operations were conceived and how it all relates to "big COIN" and its adoption by the military?

Qere outside parties with different agendas tuned into this intellectual conversation, perhaps even co-opted a little bit of it, so that even a well-meaning interest in stability operations played out in complex ways on the ground?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 5:17pm

Further down in the thread, I complained about The American Conservative, antiwardotcom,TomDispatch, Lobelog (?maybe not lobelog), etc., and it seems a bit mean-spirited.

I suppose it's a kind of hurt feelings. Why can I find certain narratives about AfPak and India so easily in Australian or Canadian--or even British--newspapers and articles but struggle with the US, even those that are dedicated to looking at US policy through the eyes of others? Then I wonder if the Indians have a point, there is a kind of lazy Indophobia on certain subjects that runs through the American scene, right and left, interventionist and non-interventionist. Then I realize that, no, it's just disinterest. The American scene has never really been interested in that part of the world apart from a few things, and, even today, mostly in the realm of selling things to a new market or worries about China.

So when I look at some American writing, I wonder, why those narratives can't be found, even if only to then dismiss them? That's all. A kind of silly, mild hurt.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 5:03pm

Anyway, to summarized my latest train of thought and add some titles that interest me (but I've not read):

Did the Marin Strmecki briefing given to Donald Rumsfeld represent one other factor in the generating of a conference on counterinsurgency, the conference that led to FM3-24? Nadia Schadlow's paper, "War and the Art of Governance," makes the point that there in no "true" victory if the government in place after regime change does not meet certain standards. How did this academic point make its way through the Washington world of think tanks and policy shops? To date, much of the discussion of FM 3-24 has taken place within a military discussion about colonial small wars tactics, American memories of Vietnam, and "celebrity" Generals. Is there another strand to this given the relationships of former Nixon aides to Afghan diaspora in
Washington, Nixon's past interest in the Afghan monarchy, and the various people involved in the 1980s in Afghanistan that remain in the Washington scene? Are we missing something?


1. The Afghanistan Wars: Second Edition by William Maley
2. Losing Hearts and Minds. Public Diplomacy and Strategic Influence in the Age of Terror, Carnes Lord

Just a few titles that have caught my eye but that I haven't read. I also don't mean to suggest anything other than ideological fashion. People believe what they believe.

It is interesting to read papers out of Heritage from the 80s and 90s and look for similar argumentation to the papers of the early 2000s that suggest the US needed to stay in Afghanistan and state/nation build. One wonders if the real reason to stay was to keep an eye on Russia and Iran, to compete with the Chinese, etc. Just a mix of rationales.

I have no idea where I am going with any of this except that I am curious about it. I may be way off base.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 05/03/2015 - 4:52pm

Sorry david, my last response to yours was a bit abrupt. I was in a hurry and trying to get out a bunch of thoughts.

All of your replies make perfect sense and seem right to me but I've learned over the years that sometimes people will take perfectly valid policy points and piggy-back a different agenda onto that original policy.

If you go to Google Books, you can find "The UK's Foreign Policy Approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan, House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee" (incidentally, War on the Rocks had a nice link to an article about reading original material, including reports like this).

The points you make are covered in that report including the strategic importance of Pakistan to Britain, bilateral trade issues, counterterrorism and the like.

But what happens in practice sometimes--for any nation, US included--is that in order to cultivate good relations in one area, eyes are turned away from negative behavior in another. And, sometimes, more than that. Arguments are promoted that have more to do with the cultivation of a perceived strategic asset than the argument being proper analytical work.

Like the relationships the US has cultivated with many nations in the Mid East (the UK has this problem with respect to Saudi Arabia too).

Everyone does this, the US and the UK are not the only ones, not by a long shot. The Indians clearly wanted the US to stay in Afghanistan and serve as a kind of proxy for a variety of interests. The Chinese likely didn't mind some aspects of Pakistani behavior as long as it pushed back their regional "rival", India. And so on.

At this point, I am interested in the Saudi-Iran competition in the background of the US and its relationship to NATO and NATO allies.

So, how can this language be perceived from an American point of view regarding Saudi involvement in Pakistani affairs? And so on.

Again, thanks for those nice replies. It makes sense to have good productive relationships with all nations in that part of the world and I know that some British parties would like a better and more complete relationship with the Indians too but Indian domestic politics and biases block this, at times.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/02/2015 - 12:48pm

One one more....the language in this Yingling paper, the language of worry, especially about Pakistan, can be found throughout Wester writing on South Asia, from sincere to placating due to the need to cultivate parties for another agenda. Look at CSPAN from the 80s....

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/02/2015 - 12:42pm

One more: what do you find when you search, say, Google Books for the 'Pashtun Question?'

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/02/2015 - 12:56pm

In reply to by davidbfpo


Those are standard answers but there are others. Such arguments are used to pursue other agendas and placate parties. Quid pro quo. For instance the saudis pushed the Pressler Amendment angle to satisfy certain Pakistani requests. I am looking for other agendas. Voting blocs in the US and UK request this language.


Sat, 05/02/2015 - 12:50pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)


My perspective is not American, but the UK has a long history with Pakistan.

So in reply to your two questions: (Quote)1. How has the language of Pakistan and its stability, its importance to the "West", evolved over the years. What patterns can be observed?
2. Why has the "Pashtun question" been of such importance and significance to policy makers, Western South Asian scholars, and analysts of a Western policy oriented bent? What are possible reasons for this emphasis?(Quote)

Pakistan has been important to the UK and some in Western Europe have an interest. Much of the interest has been due to concern, if not fear, that an Indo-Pak war would occur and potentially involve a nuclear exchange. Restraining Pakistan, if not India, is a constant feature.

Politics and strategy dominate. Trade and aid do feature, as does Pakistan's role in the global drug market. I am aware that the Dutch and Germans joined the UK in supporting counter-narcotic programmes.

In a "broad brush" I'd say there have been three periods. Post-1947 Independence till the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; then a shorter period 1980 to 9/11 (2001) and then pos-9/11 (which appears not to have ended yet).

Engagement with Pakistan has and remain primarily inter-state. Even though the UK has a large population (citizens and residents} with a Kashmiri or Pakistani heritage it APPEARS that they have very little impact on either state. Kashmir as an issue has steadily reduced here, a generational change and the jihad has emerged as a rival.

It is easy to say our relationship is of a perplexed, if not worried friend, who at times is very wary about developments. For example the murder of Benazir Bhutto, often portrayed here in glowing terms, bewildered many and the non-investigation can be cited as evidence of how bewildering the country can be.

The 'Pashtun Question' only features here as the Durand Line now marks out a zone of instability. Few understand Pakistan's security policy that Afghanistan offers "strategic depth", after all each country is very different and one has little to offer Pakistan "when the chips are down".

For the UK the Punjab is the province that matters politically and economically.

I think there is a nostalgia for the 'Pashtun Question', nothing less.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/02/2015 - 12:11pm

I have many, many references for this train of thought but I will leave it off at two for today. If interested in this train of thought, ask the following:

1. How has the language of Pakistan and its stability, its importance to the "West", evolved over the years. What patterns can be observed?
2. Why has the "Pashtun question" been of such importance and significance to policy makers, Western South Asian scholars, and analysts of a Western policy oriented bent? What are possible reasons for this emphasis?

People in DC often make arguments with other hidden agendas in mind, although they also seem to believe the theories they concoct. A riotous mess.

From WRMEA, a site quite congenial to certain Saudi narratives and interests:

<blockquote>Earlier, in October,<strong>when the Bush administration had begun to fear that its military campaign in Afghanistan was moving ahead of its political campaign,</strong> Ambassador James Dobbins was asked to fill the post of U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan. He immediately formed a coalition whose objective was to put together and install a new, broadly based, power-sharing government in Kabul. The seemingly daunting task was carried out with relative ease, Ambassador Dobbins said, thanks to Afghan national consciousness.</blockquote>

Military campaign moving ahead of its political campaign? Translation: what about Iran (or Russia, or others, depending, but in this context, 'what about Iran'?)

Something has been missed in the conversation so far it seems to me.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 05/02/2015 - 11:57am

From the Heritage think tank (1992):

<blockquote>Although Afghanistan has lost its Cold War importance as a cockpit for anti-Soviet struggle, this Texas-sized country remains a strategic crossroads that links Central Asia to the Persian Gulf region and the Indian subcontinent. Afghanistan looms large as a factor in the out- come of the intensifying political and ideological struggle for influence in Central Asia between Islamic fundamentalist <strong>Iran</strong> and secular democratic Turkey. If radical Muslim fundamentalists seize power, Afghan- istan could become an ally of anti-Western Iran, a base for international terrorism, and a dangerous source of instability in Central Asia and Pakistan. Restless Ethnic Minorities. Alternatively, a prolonged civil war that transformed Afghanistan into an- other Lebanon would generate destabilizing spillover effects that could harm neighboring Pakistan, a long- time American ally,<strong> while boosting the influence of another neighbor, Iran.</strong></blockquote>…

Emphasis mine.

This language is similar to the following entered into the congressional record:

[From the National Review, May 20, 2002]
(By Marin J. Strmecki)

The language in many of the references that I post follows similar narrative themes:

1. The importance of Pakistan toward regional stability.
2. Worries about Russia and Iran and their influence.
3. The importance of integrating Western Afghan diaspora as technocratic leaders, particularly from an ethnic Pashtun angle.
4. The key problem being the invitation of warlords into the system, and the exclusion of Taliban leaders.
5. The importance of stability, free markets, and a Western oriented government.

This is paralleled in the language from Thomas Ruttig in the following:…

So the claims by John Jennings that I mentioned earlier are very interesting, how much of the concern about warlords was perverted on the ground so that other agendas were pursued while the conversation took place about COIN, incorporating the Taliban within a governmental system, and so forth?

If you remove the most skilled opponents and fighters of the Taliban, then what? Because isn't that a hidden part to all of this, an agenda that can hide under other points?

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 10:46pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Michael Scheuer writes interesting things about Masood and Musharraf in his books from the early 2000s. Masood wily, Musharraf embattled and brave. It's as if the connections to Iran or Russia somehow completely tainted everything that came from the NA camp. This is why I sometimes become irritated with sites like Antiwardotcom or Tom Dispatch, etc. These attitudes show up in their pieces too, from time to time. A bit strange to complain about generic Russophobia and then not see that in Eric Margolis' early work after 9-11 or so. The usage of language teaches a lot about people's attitudes. It's as if distaste for Hindu nationalism (a distaste I share) somehow blinded certain authors to any other factors.

It's a bit rich for me to complain, considering they got Iraq correct, but it's a blind spot that causes problems.

I'm embarrassed that I missed this angle too. This is just how the Kashmir or Punjab game worked in the West during the 80s too. The thing is, if you a scholar or journalist that studies something--perfectly sincerely--and that something is useful, then that work is highlighted in various conferences, by introductions of 'activists' to journalists, human rights groups as third or fourth hand fronts, without the participants realizing it. The Saudis are particularly adept at this, and a lot of different sites have been covering this angle lately. The Gulfies and the Saudis are quite good at this.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 10:34pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I asked in the Tora Bora thread why before reaching Kabul and dealing with the Taliban, this sort of thing had to be dealt with? In the middle of a military campaign? At an acute moment? Again, I ask, are we so sure that Tora Bora is the biggest mistake of the campaign? Kabul brings together everything: Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, all the habits of mind of the DC consensus that propel those within. Habit.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 10:31pm

From <strong>Dec. 21, 2001</strong>, PBS NewsHour (interview transcript)

<blockquote>MARTIN STRMECKI: I would say that the most important thing that it has to do is to <strong>overcome some of the agreements in the Bonn Agreement</strong> to try and achieve a true sharing of power that can lead to a broad representative government that will take over at the end of the six months.

I think the Bonn Agreement left the Northern Alliance with a disproportionate share of power, so there is going to be a struggle of power during this six-month period to see who will be able to control the Loya Jirga that will appoint the transitional authority next year.


BARNETT RUBIN: Well, of course that is one challenge, but the fact that the Northern Alliance — and actually it’s not the Northern Alliance per se, <strong>it’s core of the Northern Alliance which is the group organized by Masood</strong>, which is often in competition with other parts of that alliance, does control as Marin said the power ministries. That’s not a result of the Bonn Agreement. It’s the result of the decision of the United States to <strong>bomb the front lines North of Kabul</sttong> before there was a political agreement and essentially let them into Kabul to control those ministries.</blockquote>

You'd think it was the Northern Alliance that hosted bin Laden.

Bin Laden still loose, the Taliban leadership still around, and the main issue is that the Northern Alliance has about half the seats? Again, look at the reporting from 2001 and the way Kabul was treated by many Western reporters. From day one, a certain narrative is presented, that the main issue is having the correct Pashtun representatives in place, the problem with warlords and the tainted nature of anyone that fought the Taliban at one time. Karzai wasn't good enough. He had tried to have some kind of ties to the Northern Alliance crowd too.

Russophobia, Indophobia and boxing in Iran. It all reads a bit differently at this point in time, doesn't it?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 10:09am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

One reason that I focus on things like this is that I can't know the reporting. If Robert Grenier or Anand Gopal or John Jennings or anyone else says, "hey I met with this person and I traveled here and this is what I saw," well, I have to take them on their word. I mean nothing by that, it's just that I can't know. I hate it when others just accept instead of including a disclaimer. Instead, they seize on the information that already supports their original thinking.

The old observation problem from the Agnostic warfare paper by Grant Martin.

Very good paper for thinking about how to think, whether you agree with the paper or not. How do we know what we know? The old problem for empiricists and post-modernists.

So when I read an article like that and add it to what happened subsequently, I feel that it is a stronger piece of information. OBL was found in Abbottabad. Still, what does this mean?

We should have left ages ago, but if we stayed because no one in DC or Western capitals wants a civil war, then basically we should just hang out and not do much. A lot of it is out of hands, depends on the Afghans and if they can keep a government. Everything else, we really shouldn't do much. When Bing West asks in another thread, hey, why didn't military intellectuals come up with better tactics? Well, who in the American system is going to say, "just hang out guys, maybe call in some air power from time to time, otherwise, don't do much."

But our system doesn't work like that, we will send guys out to do this and that, collect this or that metric, etc.

Once we are in, we never leave. It's just a problem.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 9:58am

A John Jennings letter to the London Review of books <strong>JUNE 7 2001</strong>

<blockquote>Jason Burke (LRB, 22 March) ignores the principal cause of the fighting in Afghanistan since 1992: Pakistan’s campaign to overthrow any Afghan authority unwilling to enforce its hegemony. Ever since the ‘wrong’ Afghans, led by Ahmad Shah Masood, toppled the Communist regime in 1992, Pakistan’s military has fielded a motley series of opposition militias to get rid of them. The Taliban are merely the most recent and successful of these groups. They are opposed by many Afghans not just on account of their brutality and obscurantism, but because they are quislings.

Burke cites a discreditable, poorly researched 1994 Amnesty International report. ‘For those who find it difficult to understand why there should be any sympathy for the Taliban the report makes challenging reading,’ he says. I had been reporting from Kabul for AP and the Economist for over two years when the Amnesty report came out. It painted an unrecognisable picture of life in Kabul, taking obvious cues from Pakistani propaganda. It was researched almost entirely in refugee camps in Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, where local authorities were known to be in league with Pakistani Intelligence. Amnesty glossed over profound distinctions between the brutal and unrepresentative factions besieging the capital on Pakistan’s behalf, and its much better behaved defenders led by Masood.


Burke speaks of unrest in the Taliban heartland over the militia’s press-gangs. But he ignores the factor that made volunteers scarce and press-gangs necessary: the battlefield reverses that Masood has inflicted on the Taliban. Independent reports suggest that one third of the Taliban’s foot-soldiers are Pakistani or Arab militants. Even apolitical Afghans understand that it’s not a civil war.</blockquote>

The contacts Masood and followers had with Russia and Iran really bothered many people in the think tank intelligentsia, State Department, DOD, all corners of the DC establishment.

For them, 9-11 was a blip and China is to be in a condominium with the US for the future (some NATOists, others want to oppose both Russia and China--they lack strategic ability), so it's forever NATO expansion and missiles in Eastern Europe.

If you want to be rid of the Taliban, but want someone to push back against Iran and Russia, then maybe you build a new sort of "Taliban" or Pashtun aristocracy to be a part of that containment or machinations.

This is why I sometimes complain about certain noninterventionist or progressives, along with interventionists (I am too hard). They inadvertently--by focusing on only the localized Taliban insurgency--gave succor to the old Nixon/Heritage/Pashtun aristocracy crowd, without meaning to. This same thing happened in Kashmir where a complicated process became reduced to the Valley and Indian occupation so that a genuine interest in human rights abuseswas manipulated by others with other agendas. And those 'others' included the Western Cold War alliances.

I'm still working it out. It's wheels within wheels Machiavellian and it seems the best play both the interventionists and non-interventionists.

The reporting on this is strange. The things I'd really like to know, there just isn't anything out there.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 10:09am

The Cointra versus Coindista conversation is important in Army circles because of the factional fighting but it is one small part of a larger fight that includes the other factors I discuss in my other comments.

In this way, Coindinistas both gamed the system--and were outmaneuvered and gamed by others within the Afghanistan context. Remember that famous Pundita (within COIN blogs of a certain type) post: "Stay Out of the Bazaar?"

Same goes true for Eastern Europe....tread carefully. There is more than one agenda and no one is better cultivated than a certain type of De oppresso liber type....

Forgive me, but it's true.

This took me all of five minutes to type up, so it's not a bother. Back to the little break :)

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 10:12am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I just thought of another agenda that can crawl in under Pashtun rights: a$$ covering for those that vouched for certain partners during our initial military campaign. Some in the military vouched for various regional and other partners, I am betting, might that be the case? Or usual military bickering and squabbling, a part of every campaign ever?

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 10:07am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Remember, a key aspect of Nixon realism was that China was a more important relationship, how we dealt with China would be the key 21st century relationship.

But within that argument were other various arguments about Europe and Russia.

If you have another agenda, you can piggy back on Nixonian realism to push those other agendas, from China trade of big business (being repeated with India) and Russian policy.

While we weren't looking....

So that realism on the ground is many things and if there is to be further research that is meaningful, it will be in the arena of the non-realism that accompanied Nixon realism.

Go to it students of history and policy and International Relations. I learned my lesson. Quality of content, not field of discipline.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 9:54am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

A nod to Rant Corp who explained to me so nicely about the propaganda surrounding Stingers in Afghanistan in the 80s:

How many people who pushed for more aid to Afghanistan, COIN, containing Iran and Russia, selling weapons to Pakistan, increasing CIA or SOF budgets, how many people are tied to that whole Heritage Stingers thing.

And the other side of the spectrum is Brezinzki and Strobe Talbott, who introduced Nixon into Time for those Russia articles and was with Clinton during the Rhodes scholar days?

So too Robin Raphel, the State Department official investigated for activities relating to Pakistan.

I always wondered if that was some sort of political hit, a way to insulate various parties from doing what she was accused of doing (still not a fan of the revolving door lobbying of Ms. Rahpel).

Also in that Talbott/Clinton crowd during Rhodes days?

And Nixon giving advice to Clinton on Russia and China, and the creation of a desk at State where Raphel basically undid decades of policy on India, Pakistan, the US and Kashmir?

The problem with the American discourse is that it becomes set in ways, between various camps, right and left, interventionist and interventionists, and then it doesn't seem to budge. It stays a static conversation.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 9:46am

The Kabul "double step" (keep reading the link to see what I mean): I talked about some of this on the Tora Bora thread.

<blockquote>Such portrayals merit special scrutiny because they mirror official statements by one of the country's main political factions - interim President Hamid Karzai and other returned exiles in his government, who have exploited the notion that Afghans are suffering under the iron grip of evil "warlords" to enlist foreign support for creating a strong presidential system of government. The draft constitution Karzai presented in November - dubbed a "a murky blueprint for a repressive state" by Paul Marshall, senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom[5] - gave the president sweeping powers to rule by decree. Although some minor changes were made during the recent loya jirga, Karzai largely succeeded in getting his way.</blockquote>

More than one thing can go on at the same time. It is possible to be both an Anand Gopal (localized insurgency) and a Carlotta Gall world (unconventional warfare).

To the other commenters that tire of my tangents, this is not a tangent.

How I got here:

A certain type of language shows up in this article regarding the larger strategic picture in so-called "AfPak" and it shows up everywhere from Tom Dispatch to The American Conservative to the Weekly Standard to National Review (in an American context). Yes, a certain militarized language shows up ALL ALONG THE AMERICAN SPECTRUM.

SWJ linked to a Small Wars and Insurgencies article by an author (I've forgotten the name of the author), that talked a little bit about other agendas that might crawl in under the discussion of Pashtun ethnic rights within a larger federal system.

How many different agendas can crawl under one argument, an argument that has merit but may be hijacked, depending on the constituency, the argument of Pashtun ethnic rights?

1. Those wanting a large federal government versus distributed power.
2. Elite Afghan-American diaspora looking for local control and outside patronage?
3. Both local warlords, <strong>and those accused of being warlords because are viewed as local power brokers that challenge federal authority?</strong>
4. Civilian and military contractors looking for contracts.
5. CIA and State and DOD looking for bigger budgets. (And Michael Scheuer certainly seemed to admire Musharraf, the CIA as an institution seems strangely attached to some of its liaison partners, from Saudi Arabia to others).
6. DOD looking to sell to weapons to the region, especially Pakistan. Pakistan and India, actually, we transferred so much manufacturing overseas during the 90s and now it is DC policy to encourage American manufacturing. What have we left? Some coming back, still in flux....
7. Pakistani factions looking to control Afghan politics.
8. NATO partners with their own domestic politics, especially relating to immigrant populations from West and South Asia, especially Pakistan.
9. NATO looking for relevance, especially in the early 2000s.
10. Placating Saudi Arabia.

And, back to Dr. Strmecki and the groups of people that came of age during the Nixon tilt, the Brezinzinski "bleed" Afghanistan campaign, and the Reagan era "bleed" Afghanistan campaign?

in his 2002 testimony, he talks about how initial help by Iran and Russia was fine, but now it was time to turn back to worrying about their influence in Afghanistan. If your main goal is a forever containment of Russia or Iran, for whatever reason, funding or ideological beliefs, then you go back to where you started, no matter how many hijackers on 9-11 were Saudi.

And if you are someone that wants something in Afghanistan, money or power, or a regional power that wishes to press on with your own agenda, why not pile on to certain other agendas? Why not say you are afraid or that you worry about the Taliban not having a say, or focusing the entire attention of others on one aspect of a larger complicated conflict?

Everyone gaming everyone, everyone fooled, and everyone a loser, except those that always find a way to make money by placing bets ALL ALONG THE AMERICAN SPECTRUM, right and left.

No wonder some people like to focus on one enemy. It's just easier, but it is not reality as another article around here states.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 04/03/2015 - 11:04am

A friend suggests a SWJ time out for me which is a fair comment. But before a little break, I'll just post this:

<blockquote><strong>Marvin Kalb<strong>, a former correspondent for CBS and NBC and now head of the Barone Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School, has contributed an interesting chapter to the tale of Richard Nixon's ceaseless quest for respectability. But that is the minor theme of this book, for Kalb has raised the more important question of the media's role and responsibility in public policy questions. In fact, Kalb offers a sad, critical story of media gullibility and irresponsibility.

In early 1991, a Harvard professor and a Russian economist proposed a bold plan for American economic aid to Russia. They linked aid to Soviet performance, including dismantling the central authority of Moscow and the Communist Party, democratization and free markets. The payoff would be the eventual elimination of any Soviet military threat. The press dubbed the plan "a grand bargain."

Richard Nixon, ever in search of the limelight, charaqcteristically assaulted the scheme in a Washington Post op-ed piece in June 1991 as a "Western bailout"; rather than being a grand bargain, "a `grand con job' sounds like a more appropriate term," he concluded. <strong>But following the collapse of communism Nixon conveniently switched sides and became a vocal supporter for massive aid.</strong></blockquote>

Chicago Tribune, 1992, Nixon 1 Press 0.

And Nixon visits to Russia at that time, including meeting with Russian opposition figures. Writing about and visiting Ukraine, suggesting that at some point we would have to choose between Russia and Ukraine and that massive aid should come with the things that Western aid comes with, etc.

To this I'd add Sibel Edmonds writing about the elite Afghan-American "carpetbaggers," although, the other questions I asked are pertinent too, beyond the Afghan-American elite questions.

The Marin Strmecki stuff is also similar to some of the recommendations in the Warrior Diplomat book and that author was in Cheney's office?

Jack Keane and Brzezinski associated with Smith Richardson? And the Nixon aid suggestions in the early 90s is also related to the Shock Therapy?

I listen to a lot of online talks, it's my self-created NPR radio, and I like to listen to the questions a lot of young people studying history or policy or international relations ask. I like to think that they lurk too, and that we are learning together, the cranky middle aged lady and all those young people that deserve a chance.

An affectation, I know.

Time out to begin now.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:32am

Did the so-called COINDINISTAS get played, or, given the 2002 or so testimony by Dr. Strmecki, was all this in the air in Washington and this was another background to the FM3-24 conference? Did some get played and some play out what they saw, for whatever reason?

Well! I am such a fool. Begin at the beginning, stupid creature (talking to myself, here....)

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:08am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

That Nixon editorial from 1990 should be read along with this New York Times article from 1994:…

What advice did Nixon give Clinton on China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia? A forever European-centric world?

That doesn't seem very 2015 realist.

Mark my words, one day, some of this will undergo a rethink....from a REALIST and an INTERVENTIONIST perspective.

Just wait.

Think some camps in the realist and noninterventionist world have missed something. The very things that could help even in Eastern Europe.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:18am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Borders, governance, sanctuary, power politics.

1. Power politics: cutting deals when appropriate.
2. Governance must be suited to the particular situation, not something airbrushed ideologically from outsiders.
3. Disaffected populations and majority populations have to find a way, however imperfectly, to hold hands against outsiders, those that want to help and those that want to do the opposite.
4. Border work which is difficult because borders are complicated: military issues and diplomatic/governance/illicit trade issues are intertwined.

For instance, the same people worried about Russian borders trade with them and have to because it's a good chunk of their economies. There is no EAST-WEST world when borders are intertwined this way. Some aggression must be countered by slow, patient, internal work by internal parties.

We can help by not egging on the situation for our own ideology, arms sales, trade bloc competitions, etc.

The best counter to propaganda is, yes, honesty, but those wanting to counter propaganda have to actually be interested in honesty.

All this 'Gene Sharp shaping' business is not helping.

Easier said than done. There are no magic bullets.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:01am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Nation building in Afghanistan didn't begin with the so-called Coindinistas, it began, this latest iteration at any rate, in a sense, with Nixon and his various aides that remain within the DC consensus, especially those that were initially as interested in Iranian and Russian influence in Afghanistan as in pursuing Al Qaeda, likely more so, because that was our ticket to central Asia and permanent bases for what really mattered.

And Nixon gave Clinton advice, early on, Strobe Talbottian expand NATO Clintons?

How sad that the Eastern Europeans don't see how the particular way NATO was expanded hurt them.

And if anyone has the right to join NATO, why not the EU? That's different, eh?

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 10:54am


I've posted this article in another thread. Marin Strmecki was an aide to Nixon? And at the Smith Richardson Foundation?

And there is an article in War on the Rocks today by Nadia Schadlow, also of the Smith Richardson foundation.

How cruel are the fates of war. The problem in Afghanistan, and for Eastern Europeans, is that the best way to look at this is to look at things through the eyes of those that suffered at the hands of NATO proxies, or NATO allies whose proxy wars were overlooked because the harm they caused didn't matter.

Until, one clear sunny day, years ago, it did....

We did not abandon Afghanistan after the Soviets left. We continued to aid the resistance without understanding what we really did on the ground, push aside nationalists for radicals and called them the resistance.

<blockquote>Some observers claim that only a political solution is possible. I disagree. If the United States wants to achieve a political solution that safeguards our interests and those of the Afghan people, we must give the resistance the capability to turn up the heat on the Kabul regime.
To be acceptable, a political solution must measure up on three counts. First, it must involve the decapitation of the Kabul regime. <strong>There can be no compromise with the communists.</strong> Second, it must provide for the creation of a broad-based transition government, headed by former King Zahir Shah, who enjoys more popular support than any other political figure, and staffed at the cabinet level by prominent figures from the resistance, from the traditional elites of Afghan society, and from the many patriotic non-communists who remained in the communist-controlled cities during the war. Third, it must stipulate that the transition government quickly call for a national tribal council or elections for an assembly to draft a constitution for the permanent government.</blockquote>

I'm always looking for scheming but people believe what they believe, and, now, in Afghanistan and in Eastern Europe questions of identity, nationalism, governance, porous borders, disaffected populations, outside proxy support to separatists, is shoved into one category: aggression and how to counter it.

Governance, sanctuary, and outside power politics.

Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Punjab, all the things that I have been talking about.

Yet, interesting, neither interventionist nor a certain type of non-nterventionist gets it consistently, in one arena they look at one thing, and in another arena, another.

A point of discussion.

Yes, this is very interesting.

And realism is more than one thing, isn't it, from James Baker's Saudi Arabia, to, say, something Leon Hadar might right.


The interventionists and NATOists really believe the nation building stuff, don't they, and, as in Afghanistan, it is hurting the very people they are trying to help in Ukraine, Baltics, etc.

Are racial or cultural attitudes holding some people back?

Not with younger folk, no, they seem to understand, at, least, when our media allows it, you hear those voices from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, etc.

I have more, much more on this. Pages and pages, but begin with congressional testimony in 2002 or so by Dr. Strmecki.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 10:42am

deleted (double post, sorry)

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:59pm

The testimony was posted here, wasn't it? But it isn't new, none of it is. It's the same old using a corner of South Asia (if not India, then the newly created Pakistan) to serve as a security force within the Mid East and shoring up first anti-Soviet, then anti-Russia, policies, for a Europe whose security goals are not necessarily overlapping with American goals.

Except where the gullible can be made to think American power is enhanced by all of this. (And, yes, Americans push on this stuff too for different reasons. I think it actually helps that I have no formal training in all of this, no bad intellectual habits to wash away, except my own difficult personality. Which, to be honest, is not so unhelpful in staying with a "story"....)

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:41pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Donald Rumsfeld mentions the Strmecki report in his memoir. Well, I'll be. He is an incurious type, he probably thought it sounded good, he probably really didn't have the knowledge to understand what was wrong. The look on his face when Greta Van Sustern pushed him hard right after the Abbottabad raid.

Sadly, probably a fair number of Boomer-aged Cold War American Generals, too.

Robert Gates couldn't have been so gullible, though. And he "stayed on". Huh.

We are repeating this nonsense with Saudi Arabia and in Yemen, again, and have been for some time, eh?

Stay free, young people. I mean, play the game a little, of course, but where it really counts, stay intellectually free.

It is beautiful, this American experiment. It's worth it.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:31pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

If you really want to go back to the beginning, look up "Yankee India" and, well, this will take me a little time.

But I might actually do this because it is fascinating from a purely tracing memes and ideas vantage point.

For some in the DC consensus, American History begins with the end of WWII. There seems to be nothing else. Strange attitude for Americans to take but we are human creatures and why shouldn't that be the case? It's the nature of the things that are taught in the policy world, isn't it? Like a military intellectual peering into doctrine as a first stop intellectually.

Don't forget stories, just add to them....

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:17pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I doubt anyone really knowledgeable believed this (or did some of the more naive Coindinistas--and, sadly, some non-interventionists--believe this?)

How odd. And not surprising that a "NATOist" would be interested in keeping the old gang together, just in case.

Well, I'll be. This really is going to be fun for me, all the digging in this direction.

Silly creatures.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:15pm

Why, this article is just restating the Strmecki "geopolitical psychiatry" stuff, isn't it? Is it possible that in the bubble of American security, er, discourse, this sort of thing was taken seriously? It must have been. And all along, the history of the American Army, the American military, from the very beginning, from, yes, the joint work done with allies in the C-B-I theater and subsequent Army papers on South Asian security within the context of the Cold War, should have laid bare the problems with all of this. Also, common sense, but I digress:

<blockquote>It would seem Pakistan, elevated to "major non-NATO ally" by President Bush, needs a geopolitical psychiatrist, a role now assigned to Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke. Meanwhile, Strmecki says a key objective should be to draw out from Pakistani military and intelligence leaders what their strategic concerns are and to advance discussion between the two sides about how these might be addressed in a manner consistent with a strong and stable Afghanistan. His five-part psychotherapy:</blockquote>

UPI, March 18, 2009, Arnaud de Borchgrave, Geopolitical Psychiatry

The Defence Policy Board? The Defense Secretary's think tank? Well, I'll be.

Okay. This, this I can work with for argumentation's sake.

How did so many come to fall for this, or to think that this would serve as a cover (for those who weren't so gullible? A cover for what? I am making things up again but that is truly a hilarious article. Who can have believed any of it? And why?)

Fascinating, bubble DC-NATO security world.

This is going to be fun. Geopolitical psychiatry.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 2:26pm

I'm sorry about spelling Husain Haqqani's name wrong so many times in this thread. Weirdly--and I am too hard on him around here--the very introduction of his book Magnificent Delusions has him asking the question, "how did other nations use" US to rise. I'm paraphrasing but that is what I got out of it and what set me off.

Sadly, the big aid-diplomacy Holbrooke/Nasr crowd made the same error as the old Nixon "work the the Army" crowd; that we can fundamentally reengineer the situation as an outsider.

Read Kerry Lugar Berman and pay attention to the language. It's all a kind of soft sociology nonsense words. Yes, there is good sociology, but it's not in the language of that bill. And that bill is the reflection of the "we can aid our way to creating a liberal democracy in an illiberal democracy" ethos of DC.

All of DC needs an intellectual enema. All the old crap needs to be cleared away.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 11:22pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I wonder if people got that I was talking about the nervousness of neoconservatives and the like on Iran? They now seem to understand that the arguments they used in the past to make the case for certain alliances will now be used against them, for instance in Syria or Iraq.