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, 08/20/2014 - 2:43pm

Further down in the thread, there was a conversation about the information getting out to the West during the 80s about Afghanistan and, also, how the Afghans looked at western reporting, especially from the BBC (and, hey, I prefer the BBC to American news channels which are embarrassingly terrible):

From 1982, Christian Science Monitor:

<blockquote>Dispatches from the resistance, visiting journalists, or doctors working for long periods inside Afghanistan that might help provide a more balanced picture often take days if not weeks to reach Pakistan. But as with the diplomatic reports from Kabul, much of what emerges from resistance sources in Afghanistan must be interpreted with a great deal of caution.

Over the past two years, however, an increasing number of guerrilla leaders, realizing that inflated or nonexistent triumphs over communist forces do not necessarily help their cause, have begun to adopt a more credible stance in their reporting. This is enhanced by the simple but highly effective communications network elaborated by the resistance, which involves carrying written dispatches from one part of the country to another. Unless considered secret, they are read aloud at village meetings or chaikhanas along the way. Local commanders then add their own comments and the messenger continues his journey.</blockquote>

To be honest, my interests have morphed a bit away from this topic to the following:

1. How information was manipulated during the 80s with regard to the anti-Soviet activities in Afghanistan, and....

2. How that sort of mythology has come down to today, and how the same sorts of things continue to be a problem, for instance, with ISIS and Iraq and Syria.

Information, information, information. The Julie Sirrs interview makes that point, and, what I find interesting, is, again, the focus on high tech and cyberwarfare and drones and the whole Air Force/CIA targeting mash-up, the whole liaison thing which can't be avoided. And yet....

Doesn't the information operations against the Soviets by the "resistance" remind you of the way in which the Taliban has approached information, motivational songs, etc? What was once used against others, at our instigation, is what we faced, and still face....? Yes? I need help with the tactical stuff, I cannot understand it.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 1:53pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

<blockquote>This week, the Taliban officially rejected a Saudi Arabian-British backdoor initiative to strike peace deals with the militants. The charm of Islamabad's old comrades (veteran jihadis) and official handlers (secret agents) no longer works with the Taliban.</blockquote> 2008, Asia Times

This is not specific for AfPak, but I have noticed that things in DC date and stay within that dated framework. I have noticed that older analysts with roots in the 80's toward that region, and their contacts in the region, seem to view the world through a lens that is no longer valid. The world has changed. I feel like that whenever I read something by Milton Bearden, etc. Plus I remain suspicious, and by that I mean, how much is so of the old anti-Soviet Afghan plan and how much is a mythology believed--or put out--by the more political types of the CIA? There is such a radio silence on the tactics we trained others in and how those tactics might have evolved within the crucible of war that we in the West have insisted on, so that we are hardening our own opponents.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 1:46pm

The following has been mentioned around here before, but after that Julie Sirrs interview I posted, I wanted to look through them again, but more about the context of what is going on in Iraq, actually. I find it particularly painful that the logistical and other unconventional aspects tying Kashmir and Punjab together--and their outside support and manipulation, even presentation within the Western media and manipulation there-- were ignored while the conversation turned to "traditional lessons of classic COIN." You faced all the same things, at all the levels of UW discussed in this article. And those that served in Afghanistan knew it, too. It was at the political level, political military and civilian level....

<em>Unheeded Warnings: The Lost Reports of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare Volume 1: Islamic Terrorism and the West Paperback</em> – 1 Jan 2010 by Richard J. Leitner…

But the problem is that, it is the politicians and the more politicized think tankers that always needed to read this stuff carefully. Reading congressional testimony on the nature of the political realm in Afghanistan/Pakistan and India is particularly painful. How much misinformation and bad education is displayed by many congressionals and their favored scholars, etc.

And why can't Justin Raimondo and the others at Anti War see that some of the protests in Pakistan today follow their precious, "oh my god, The Color Revolution" models too? Or might, partly, anyway. The American scene is just too stereotyped: the non-interventionists, neoconservatives, conservative hawks, liberal interventionists, libertarians, progressives, all have their standard tropes and each misses something because heaven forbid you look at the world outside your favorite theory or ideology. Okay, some are better than others, but it's still a world view approach as opposed to a discovering approach.

Back to the original point, this stuff is still helpful when thinking about the serial errors on Syria and Iraq. Just look at Patrick Cockburn's writing and some of the points he has made.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/17/2014 - 4:57pm

RantCorp is correct in his comments further down in this thread; this is one of the more interesting and creative papers on this site, whether one agrees or disagrees. At least it is an attempt at fresh thinking and one doesn't need to single out Pakistan, in fact, we Americans don't come across terribly well from any of this. It's really a joint elite NATO/American/Pakistani mash-up. From 2003:

<blockquote>Fresh from his meeting with President Bush at Camp David, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sat down with ABCNEWS' Ted Koppel to recount the day's events and to discuss, among other things, possible Pakistani involvement in Iraq. Following is a transcript of the interview.

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

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

MR. KOPPEL: How many would you send if you send them and what purpose would they serve?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: Two brigades have been asked till now.</blockquote>

I am very interested to see what a generation of younger scholars will do with all of this as time and distance create different vantage points.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/17/2014 - 3:54pm

Prince Bandar vs. Julie Sirrs:

<blockquote>DIANE SAWYER:

And Julie Sirrs joins us now. And we should point out that the Defense Intelligence Agency says that she didn't follow procedures for traveling overseas and that the US government had specifically banned travel to Afghanistan because it was too dangerous. It's good to have you with us...


Thank you.


...Ms. Sirrs. Let me just start with a big question because the CIA director has testified that this was not a massive intelligence failure. Yes, no?


I guess I would disagree with that not only because just the fact that it happened indicates that it was a failure, unless it was something that we wanted, which I certainly don't believe. I would say not only--well in two parts. In some ways it is an intelligence failure in terms of a missed interpretation. Basically, the impression I think a lot of US intelligence officials gave prior to September 11th was that we had bin Laden under control; `In a box' was one of the phrases used.



...and the Taliban were in extricable, and that the idea that you have bin Laden under control...




...was loony?


<strong>It was loony certainly as long as had you the Taliban in Afghanistan not only secure but actually gaining territory and that bin Laden was very helpful for them in that.</strong></blockquote>

Now, forget the conspiratorial stuff, focus on PROCESS. Gaining territory and the uses of outsiders, and how this process of gaining territory occurs.

Now do you understand why I roll my eyes at Galula? If you wanted to stop the gain of territory, why wouldn't you examine how it had been done before in this very region?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/17/2014 - 3:36pm

Good old Prince Bandar. Such touching concern for the Taliban and their incidental connections to "unconventional forces". And he did such a good job recently for us in Syria. Bravo, sir.

From a 2001 CNN transcript:

<blockquote>PRINCE BANDAR: Our position on this issue was we are with you to get to the perpetrators of this cowardly attack, find and who supports them, and who shelters them. That is -- and we have no reservation on that.

As far as Taliban is concerned, I think the loudest answer I can give you is we broke the diplomatic relationship with them, because we do not approve of their behavior sheltering such terrorists.

KING: There is a lot of sentiment in the Arab world that maybe because the peace never came about, the Israel peace with the Palestinians, led to some of this. Do you think that's true?

PRINCE BANDAR: As a cause of it, I don't think so. Those people hated not just the United States. People in America ask, "Why do they hate us?" The truth of the matter, they hate you, they hate us, they hate the rest of the civilized world.

Our religious people have condemned them and have issued a statement that those cannot be Muslims nor their behavior is Muslim.

Any time you commit aggression and terrorism against civilians, regardless of who, that is unacceptable.

So in my judgment, those people, with what they have done, just cannot be acceptable to any civilized...</blockquote>

Well, I imagine quite a lot of people don't care for policy toward Saudi Arabia or the stationing of troops but why bring up such inconvenient messages in the aftermath of such an event? Good old Prince Bandar, and aren't we lucky, all of our DC connections, and the way in which Generals and retired military and retired diplomats and out of work politicians and think tank denizens and journalists-on-junkets band together in such touching ways?

Yet, this is the world in which your doctrine must be written. You don't control policy. But you can understand that the military mustn't make the negative effects of these connections worse.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/17/2014 - 3:16pm

It occurs to me that my comments could fall under their own SWJ post, and that post would be called, "exasperated with the Americans," for Pakistanis have as much right to complain about us, as we Americans might about anyone in that part of the world. Various western capitals have always tried to leverage different factions inside that world and it almost always comes back to haunt us, and others.

Yet, the error of our respective elites are the same in one sense, we both think we can control the forces of chaos once unleashed, whether our past use of proxies during the Cold War, or whatever we in the West are trying to do in Ukraine. Add Putin or the Ukrainian leadership to that too. Once chaos is unleashed, good luck with that....

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>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>

<blockquote>FPRI trustee Raza Bokhari was profiled this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He spoke with the reporter about a range of issues including US- Pakistan relations, discrimination in United States, rising extremism in Pakistan, and his ties with General Pervez Musharraf, the former President of Pakistan. You can read it here. </blockquote>…

Readers, you can do this for anything, I am not making a point specific to those I've linked above, look up any American official, any crisis situation today from Ukraine to Iraq onwards, you can do this for USIP, State, DOD, contractors based in DC, Brussels, and all the rest of it.

A group of people who seem to think that their own small closed world IS the world and must think, somehow, they are masters of all of it. And yet, reality on the ground is not so amenable to the fantasies of the Beltway Bubble or the machinations of any other capital, East to West.

If you want to understand my serial deterioration as a commenter, first on Abu Muqawama, to Ink Spots, to Zenpundit, to here at Small Wars Journal, understand that I really was such an innocent, I bought many fictions, and still wonder how it is that I was so stupid. And I am not saying that any of the above were purposefully peddling fictions, just that as an outsider I don't really know what went on behind the scenes.

Omar Ali once said around here that he bet the American Military and Foreign Policy Apparatus was borderline "racial" in its attitudes toward Pakistanis, and probably viewed them as unreformed brown fellows that required only contact with superior Americans in order to reform.

It is another form of the fiction that we are peddling as exceptionalism has morphed from creating a shining city on a hill toward crusading social engineers.

Or maybe our respective elites live in such a closed world they cannot imagine anything outside of their papers and products, half of which are meant to fool everyday citizens. And then they start to believe their own press.

I cannot know as an outsider but why on earth did we embark on all of this, and so naively too?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 11:37am

I posted this under the Cautious Optimism article here at SWJ too. Many thanks to Omar Ali for the link (his twitter feed):…

<blockquote>US has done a great service to Afghanistan by intervening at this juncture. In Democratic Politics such compromises are normal. Look at Pakistan, why MQM is being wooed by all governments whether it was PPP or now PMLN. They don’t need their votes n center or Sindh but still neither removed MQM governor, Why? The alternate was a civil war. The compromise that US has brokered is not ideal but is much better than the alternate which would have been a Civil War in Afghanistan. Some Governors of Abdullah Camp had announced they would forcibly take over Presidential Palace. This is not good but democracy will come slowly and gradually. More than Ashraf Ghani or Abdullah, Afghanistan needs a peaceful transfer of power and continuation of the democratic system. Opposing something just because Americans have done it, is not a very mature approach. Even in Pakistan Saudi Arabia is known to broker deals when there is apolitical impasse. A Stable Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakhtuns everywhere. Any way its not a Pakhtun versus Non Pakhtun issue in Afghanistan as is portrayed by certain circles in Pakistan and elsewhere. Abdullah has Pakhtun supporters and Ashraf Ghani has even more non Pakhtun supporters, Rasheed Dostum and Ahmad Shah Masood's family stands by Ashraf Ghani while Zalmay Rasul stands by Abdullah.</blockquote>

If this is all correct (combine with the previous linked article I mentioned) than we are simply undoing--and the Afghans especially--certain critical initial errors. We shall see.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 07/27/2014 - 2:03pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

<blockquote>Privately, Pakistani diplomats admit that they feel betrayed by their new allies in Washington, who failed to halt the alliance's advance.</blockquote>

Plant a seed, plant an idea, create a sense of obligation, it's only the advisors to the second President Bush, those Nixon admin veterans stuck in 1971, they cannot be shaped or manipulated, men of steel, I tell you! Tough old Cold Warriors. Grrr!!!!

Remember, the neocons, fascinated by the possibility of sneak attacks, totally predicted Abbottabad because they are so well read on South Asian Issues and, gosh, if you look at their writing circa 2000, they mention, well, they never mention anything like that. Team B never cared for any South Asian languages, eh?

But Kagan still peddles his "the other guys missed 9-11" schtick in WaPo and the kinda guys who teach at West Point or whatever and recommend Kagan never seem to go back and look at his writing and see if he ever mentioned the training camps next to military installations in good ole whereveristan which is a pattern in that part of the world for years and years and years, big tough CIA!!!!

Bestest researchers ever....

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 07/27/2014 - 1:33pm

<blockquote>‘Pashtunistan’ or ‘Pashtun nation’ is a wretched tale drawn from the imaginations of Pashtun expatriates, ethno-nationalists, irredentists, etc. The ‘Pashtunistan crisis’ (1961–1963) was Pashtunistan's apogee. This is a dead issue – except for an ethno-nationalist émigré22 clique in Kabul. The émigrés' memories and politics were frozen at 1978–1979 (when they fled), whereas the Afghans who suffered together became closer and moved forward.</blockquote>…

Well, I wouldn't know but it is interesting to look at things in a novel way and Pashtunistan has been treated in such a Holy Grail way, it's a bit weird. And given the history of American South Asian analysis and diplomacy it all requires questioning whether one ends up at the same place or not....

Wonder what happened in those early planning meetings in Centcom between Islamabad and the CIA with its favorite liaison relationship in South Asia? Didn't Hank Crumpton complain about this regarding Richard Grenier?

Forever drone wars between liaisons are good for budgets, CIA and otherwise, eh?

<blockquote>Earlier, Pakistan's foreign affairs spokesman, Aziz Ahmad Khan, said no single group could bring peace to Afghanistan, and a broad-based multi-ethnic government should take over as soon as possible. "Pakistan holds to the view that the Northern Alliance forces must not occupy Kabul."

The Northern Alliance has made little secret of its hostility to Pakistan's military regime, which until two months ago was the Taliban's most crucial ally. Over the past five years Pakistan's powerful ISI intelligence agency has secretly given the Taliban vital military support and advice.

Gen Musharraf dumped the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks. In a visit to New York on Monday, he urged President Bush not to allow the Northern Alliance to seize Kabul, a strategy swept away by events. Privately, Pakistani diplomats admit that they feel betrayed by their new allies in Washington, who failed to halt the alliance's advance.

Gen Musharraf yesterday pointed to the alliance's barbarous record during its last stint in power in Kabul between 1992-94. He is deeply concerned that unless members of the Pashtun ethnic majority play a leading role in government Pakistan faces the prospect of a hostile neighbour. "Pashtun representation is important," he said in Istanbul last night, before flying back to Islamabad for talks with senior advisers.</blockquote>

Golly gee, it all looks very different 13 years on. Remember, we beat the Taliban and they melted away into the sunset across the border.

Unless, we never really beat them at all to begin with, on any level, militarily or within government.

As usual, it's the American system that fascinates and amuses me. Other nations will do what they will and as they see fit.

No need to worry about Ukraine, I'm sure no one is massaging NATO generals on anything, those steady, steady folk....

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 1:56pm

As long as I'm at it, do the reports coming out of India and Modi's behavior seem like anything you could have anticipated from American reporting and punditing, whether of the left or right, progressive or libertarian commentary, in general? Why is this? It's all cows, caste and rapes when it comes to reporting on India, just like Pakistan and China and Russia are reduced to a few topics. I have no problem with the reporting on cows, caste and rapes, especially the violence toward women and minorities which should be covered. But how are the American people to think about statecraft when American reporting is nothing more than advocacy for causes, albeit good causes?

Why can't we look at things just to study and try an understand them in complete way?

This comment belongs here because movement is beginning in the region to finally undo the sweeping into the Mideast of some parts of West Asia, and now the movement is East.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 1:50pm

An article at War On The Rocks references this SWJ article by Douglas Livermore. The WOR link:

There are good corrections in the comments, but I like the framing of the article. It makes me think of the Kerry and Brown investigation into BCCI. From the BCCI wiki:

<blockquote>The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was a major international bank founded in 1972 by Agha Hasan Abedi, a Pakistani financier.[1] The Bank was registered in Luxembourg with head offices in Karachi and London. Within a decade BCCI touched its peak. It operated in 78 countries, had over 400 branches, and had assets in excess of US$20 billion, making it the 7th largest private bank in the world by assets.[2][3]

BCCI came under the scrutiny of numerous financial regulators and intelligence agencies in the 1980s due to concerns that it was poorly regulated. Subsequent investigations revealed that it was involved in massive money laundering and other financial crimes, and illegally gained controlling interest in a major American bank. BCCI became the focus of a massive regulatory battle in 1991 and on 5 July of that year customs and bank regulators in seven countries raided and locked down records of its branch offices.[4]</blockquote>

The report is online too. I've always wondered about this period and how it may have affected Sec. State Kerry and his attitudes toward Kerry-Lugar-Berman. Was the idea that this time we would get it right in terms of putting money into that system, that we had learned what "worked", the main lesson was getting the right wording in a Senate document, that sort of thing. I tend to go back and look at original materials now (the Senate report is online) because I find it to be useful. How did this 1992 transition period reflect in Bush and Obama era policies? Why did people think money could be successfully tracked? Did this experience reflect on the writing of the bill, and American military thinking? In terms of how we might deal with Afghan financing?

I wish journalists or policy analysts or pundits would ask questions like this. I can't be the first person who has notices that the 1992 period is insufficiently discussed in this way.

PS: I took out a whining bit about writing up papers. Of course, I will go try and write something. How do I get myself into these intellectual messes....

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 3:09pm

I suppose everyone has seen articles like the following (can't embed links again, hmm, I always wonder if it's me but then I see others have this issue from time to time?):

<blockquote>(Reuters) - India has signed an agreement under which it will pay Russia to supply arms and equipment to the Afghan military as foreign combat troops prepare to leave the country, in a move that risks infuriating Pakistan.

Under the deal, smaller arms such as light artillery and mortars will be sourced from Russia and moved to Afghanistan.

But it could eventually involve the transfer of heavy artillery, tanks and even combat helicopters that the Afghans have been asking India for since last year.

India has already been training military officers from Afghanistan, hosted a 60-member Special Forces group last year in the deserts of Rajasthan and supplied equipment such as combat vehicles and field medical support facilities.</blockquote>

So this is what I was saying earlier in the thread, that if we focused solely on the Taliban insurgency, then we missed counteractions like this.

I suppose the question all comes down to disarmament and how and when that occurs and how people view it.

One side here says if we included the Taliban leadership within the government so that it wasn't felt left out, it would cause them to lay down their arms.

Another side here says that with external support and funding, at least on so-called Taliban faction would remain armed and see no reason to put down arms.

It's the same problem always, how internal struggles are fed by outside powers and grievances so that what might be a reasonable internal solution cannot find itself.

At any rate, even if the Taliban insurgency was undercut by being included in the government, as long as some potential relationship remained between some and transnational groups or outside governments, it would cause a reaction?

So what are we currently doing? CIA wants to keep only a presence in Kabul and continue its ISI liaison relationship in Pakistan. The military is waiting for signals as to how many troops will stay to train local forces? And everyone else outside is continuing its own behavior.

During the 90's we had no one in the region, so I suppose even a small group attached with the embassy might had been enough had the will been there to go after bin Laden which isn't so easy when looked at during the lens of that time?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 1:36pm

As an exercise, take this article from FPRI on Putin's New Warfare:

and compare it to this discussion of unconventional warfare.

Now look again at Rakesh Ankit's work on the early internationalization of the Kashmir conflict. This is particularly useful when looking at Ukraine and its internal struggles becoming internationalized.

It really has hurt "the system" that this sort of work is unpopular.

Look too at Anglo-American Cold War propaganda and the SA region. An Amazon book search is instructive. Lots of good titles.

What do you all see?

I suppose I should attempt to write some sort of short post or paper on this, but, hey, there are so many other tasks to accomplish.

I have a lot more "notes" on this subject, though. That I can post as time permits.

PS: None of this works if you don't also look at the economic warfare the US, EU and NATO attempted in Afghanistan AND Ukraine. For analysis, we cannot look at only one half of the system and expect to make choices that work, IMO. We were constrained in Afghanistan by our ties to the UK, NATO and Saudi Arabia. Within the framework of a campaign, various camps worked at odds in order to preserve their best interests. The US too. This is my theory. If I didn't have the doc day job, or didn't have mild MS, I might actually work on some of these theories. Shame some rich guy don't fund a think tank that is more about quality than any ideological bent. Yet, there are so many excellent papers written within your system by your own Army strategists. What happens?

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/30/2014 - 2:16pm

From a Pakistani narrative of outsider interference:

<blockquote>The aid establishment has grown on the basis of two assumptions: i) that there is a capital shortage in poor countries; and ii) that these countries lack the ability to make policy either because of knowledge or information shortfalls.

The world has changed and these two assumptions are now untenable. Capital markets are flush with cash and they are eager to push it on to poor countries. The internet and globalisation have made knowledge easily accessible to all. Most countries now have all manner of expertise. They are all exporting experts to the west.

<strong>Despite these developments aid continues to grow. Financial flows are small. Now aid establishment is retailing policy advice, capacity building and technical assistance.

While reports and consultants are surrounding policymakers from poor countries making them feel good, talent from those countries is being released to do outstanding work in the west. Yet their governments would rather have aid than bring back talent. And aid seems to be set to facilitate flight of human capital.

The aid establishment is now huge. Bilaterals and multilaterals included we are talking of about 30 offices in Islamabad. All of them have officials who need to justify their presence. For that they have to show an agenda and work. They are playing to their bosses out there and have only a limited interest in the welfare of Pakistan. They have large sums at their disposal and agendas.</strong>

Meanwhile, our government’s human resource policies are such that no competent well-educated Pakistani can find gainful, responsible and respectable employment at home. The only option for such talented people is to leave the country. Those who for personal reasons are compelled to stay in the country, have to be employed by the aid establishment, reporting to junior aid officials and following their agendas.

We all agree that governance is one of the biggest problems in Pakistan. Yet this system of aid perpetuates poor governance. Ministers are treated like royalty by the aid establishment. They are addressed as ‘excellencies’ and given a lot of courtly ceremony. They are wined and dined on international trips that can hardly stand the test of scrutiny. They are invited as chief guests to conference/ceremonies. They are given the pulpit at various events to make empty repetitive speeches. In short, ministers are distracted from their real work and rewarded for maintaining the status quo.</blockquote> - The problem with aid, Nadeem Ul-Haque

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 2:19pm

This is printed in the Telegraph so it's okay to post here but I still won't link it. This stuff is everywhere, though, and can't be wished away:

<blockquote>After Edelman outlined current U.S. thinking on Pakistan, Bowen described Pakistan as "vital strategic ground" for the UK, both for Pakistan's influence in the region and on the nearly one million Britons of Pakistani descent. Bowen outlined the MOD's four aims for Pakistan: 1) a partner in counter-terrorism; 2) economic self-sustainability, including food security and infrastructure development; 3) putting the Pakistani military "in the right place" as a force of stability; and, 4) a strong partner in democracy.</blockquote>

<blockquote>In describing its experiences with on-going COIN training, the UK said the Pakistani army should re-structure in light of its new and changing internal threats, but "all talk of transformation falls on deaf ears." The challenge is how to <strong>allow the Pakistani military to maintain focus on India</strong>, while making the army COIN capable. The Frontier Corps is the Pakistani-designated method of dealing with the problems in the FATA. The UK is trying to work within that framework, limited as it may be, to preserve and build Pakistani buy-in.</blockquote>

<em>Edelman and MOD hold Pakistan roundtable.</em>

And then some have the nerve to criticize the Afghans, Indians, some Pakistani factions for their complete distrust and turning inward or toward the BRICS.

You bought this stuff, too, a whole lot of you. How can you not see how this works? And not just in AfPak. Everyone knows the American need to placate and think our allies are something other than what they are is a weak spot, especially psychologically the American military.

Nothing new, nothing everyone doesn't already know, nothing that isn't accepted by an establishment that long ago prioritized process and collecting and placating allies over discerning true American interests. (There is an article in The National Interest about this.)

I don't quite know what to do with myself. I clearly don't belong here and have alienated others. I am completely jaded. I find the 'running away from the world as it is' American military and FP-elite fantasy to be emotionally and intellectually infuriating.

How do some of you stand it? Just accept it? How do you learn to do that? It doesn't even work. That's the thing I don't get. Most of what you do doesn't even work.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 9:46pm

<blockquote>It was made clear to the new president, Bill Clinton, that US policy on Pakistan had failed. The US had provided Islamabad with a nuclear bomb and had no leverage to stop the country's leaders from using it. When he was contacted by lawyers for Barlow, Clinton was shocked both by the treatment Barlow had received, and the implications for US policy on Pakistan. He signed off $1m in compensation. But Barlow never received it as the deal had to be ratified by Congress and, falling foul of procedural hurdles, it was kicked into the Court of Federal Claims to be reviewed as Clinton left office.

When the George Bush came to power, his administration quashed the case. CIA director George Tenet and Michael Hayden, director of the National Security Agency, asserted "state secrets privilege" over Barlow's entire legal claim. With no evidence to offer, the claim collapsed. Destroyed and penniless, the former CIA golden boy spent his last savings on a second-hand silver Avion trailer, packed up his life and drove off to Bear Canyon campground in Bozeman, Montana, where he still lives today.</blockquote>

I have posted this article before but I would like to add that Gen. Hayden signed the 'Open Letter to President Obama' regarding Crimea. I'm not sure what a whistle blower is supposed to do in this day and age.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 1:23pm

Allright, the Schake/Bernier paper "Dealing with Rogue States" talks about different strategies including various countries and various forms of engagement.

What is interesting is if you go to the National Security Archive of GW, you can find some record of Colin Powell talking about mil-mil engagement with the Pakistan Army prior to 9-11, apparently a priority for the Bush administration.

From then on, bureaucracy does its thing and you have two bureaucracies meeting from time to time while their men fight each other in proxy. Much to be unsettled about whether a NATO military member or Pakistani.

So this is fighting a war to our American leadership and its generals. Meetings a reality and not what is on the ground!

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 5:09pm

I screwed up. The adapted table in the book is not the same as in the Schake paper. Will link it with notes when I get a chance. The discussion is fairly typical, though. India/Pakistan, Kashmir, nuclear proliferation and China, etc.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 10:12pm

In <em>Hitting First: Preventive Force in U.S. Security Strategy</em> edited by William Keller and Gordon Mitchell, there is a reference to a paper by Kori Schake who was a special assistant to President Bush's National Security Council. The list of rogue or terror sponsoring states developed in that paper (prior to 9-11) doesn't seem to have included Pakistan? Am I correct on that? The paper is called "Dealing with Rogue States." What I would like to know is what you all learned at various military educational institutions about the topics I discuss in this thread? I mean, prior to 9-11. Did anyone discuss any of the things in this paper or any of my references with you all? Were you asked to critically look at South Asian analysts and the troublesome history of American south asian analysis?

What did you learn at West Point prior to 9-11 on the topic of South Asian analysis? Did you get anything? How about after? How is that sort of thing handled? Do you have regionally oriented history classes? Just curious. I am not calling anyone out!

To my dismay, even the council members still don't get it.

The same papers and reporters are being referenced, the same people that gave the advice that got us into trouble. I don't get it.

I AM not being accusatory toward anyone. This is a difficult area as far as I can see because there is so little interest in the topics I discuss and the way in which I question the standard DC approach toward American South Asian analysis. It's just an area where no one seems to want to look critically at how the area developed and its gaps and the problem with the Anglo-American alliance on this topic.

PS: Who were Bush's primary South Asian analysts and advisors? Centcom during the surge? This is tricky because I don't want to call people out--academic freedom is important--but the analysis is often a bit strange as I've pointed out in this thread.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 1:17pm


No. I was making a much more embarrassing admission than talking about being an intellectual or being an autodidact. What I was saying is that I was attracted to powerful people within the academic environment, even if the powerful and famous only meant 'within the "Give a talk at TED about my research" realm.'

The intellectual feeder class I am talking about has all sorts of personal fetishes because it is human to be this way. The Human Domain includes the nature and character and habit of the decision making class and its advisors and the beauracracies that exist regardless of decision-maker.

Unconventional warfare is also about connections and the creation of appearances.

For instance, a NYT article some time ago talked about the threats some journalists face in the US if they talk about certain issues, such as POK or human rights abuses in "AfPak", etc. Harvard conferences were supposedly filmed by foreign intelligence agencies according to the NYT article and foreign diaspora know this. When our military officers are sent off to get fancy degrees at fancy places, do they know what is real about what they see and hear? Does anybody?

None of the topics in this article or the subsequent discussion is new to me. How can it be new to anyone that has been following this issue for years? I have been talking about this for years, here and elsewhere, including on blogs where you and I have interacted such as Line of Departure! :) The wrong conflicts were studied in the wrong way. Everyone now knows this.

Ned McDonnell III

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 7:45pm

In reply to by carl

I could not agree with you more. I often suspect that many armed insurgencies (the I.R.A., P.L.O., etc.) drag their feet or undermine peace efforts because they want to keep their power over the supposed beneficiaries as well as to keep the guns and keep getting the money.

Thanks again for a very pointed comment.


Sun, 03/23/2014 - 4:29pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Ned McConnell III:

I used to wonder if the ISI was rogue too. I didn't wonder anymore when I saw where their officers come from and that Kayani went from being head of the ISI to head of the Pak Army and military.

The Pak Army/ISI obsession with India has to do with power and privilege. If India were to stop being the boogey bear, what need would Pakistan have for the huge army? None. As long as they keep things hot with India the money will flow and the power will remain.

Ned McDonnell III

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 4:13pm

Makes me wonder if the I.S.I. is a rogue sovereignty inside of Pakistan. I am not sure I understand Pakistan's obsession with India. Additionally, I cannot imagine that India would have any interest in invading and conquering as troubled a place as Pakistan. Doing so would be a tremendous drain of resources devoted to the conquest and an albatross economically in the longer term.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 11:23pm

The following link could go in any thread on Crimea--the article is concerned with Russia--and it belongs here too. Think about the sun-in-the-sky report.

"Only connect", I suppose.

<blockquote>There is more to the offshore story than the tale of the City of London. It now involves China, Saudi Arabia and others as well. But London’s role is key, so much so that the financial crisis the United States is still digging its way out of can fairly be traced back to the City as well. It is therefore essential for Americans to understand better what the City of London is, how and why Britain developed its network of tax havens and the mentality of a tax haven itself, and how the all-embracing City Consensus has captured the British establishment, along with much of the UK media, and even British society at large.</blockquote> - The Much-Too-Special Relationship, Nicholas Shaxon, The American Interest

You will see many articles about India's failing to fall in line with the "West" on sanctions. But India is not one of the European or NATO allies that depends on American hard power. During the Cold War, favored European nations always got special deals while America looked the other way even as we guaranteed our hard power toward NATO. So, once again, we kind of paid for "both sides."

I am not criticizing and I mean that seriously. National interests differ. Yet, I imagine this phenomenon is painful to many Britons, and, especially, its military given the circumstances.

And IMO it's good for a nervous nuclear State like Russia to have some sort of "pressure release" for its pressure cooker given the escalatory nature of its invasion which is destabilizing. Even at the height of the Cold War, the great Cold Warriors of the past recognized certain red lines.

And they are rich, a lot of NATO these days is simply a giveaway from the American tax payer to US arms sellers.

Tread carefully. Only connect.

A twentieth century NATOist understanding to the world won't help Europe, the US, anyone. Sometimes the changes matter.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 10:42pm

<blockquote><strong>One of the themes of the book is the misplaced faith that Britain and America had in Pakistan, whose intelligence services seem, in your reading, to have been supporting the Taliban throughout?</strong>

Several military figures told me we had the wrong mindset in our approach to Pakistan. The Foreign Office seemed to see Pakistan as an old ally; it's a post-colonial legacy, perhaps. If the Americans had ever cut off money to Pakistan the thing might have been over in months.</blockquote> - Sandy Gall, The Guardian Observer, Jan. 28 2012

It's important to note that the interview ends on a positive note toward Pakistan. There is no need to go out of the way to make things worse. It's just that we can't help if we don't understand how our system and our alliances support very dark things abroad.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 11:29pm

On the Carlotta Gall NYT article, blogger Pundita and I had an email conversation. This is a comment that she made and I have permission to post it here in comments:

<blockquote>Of course there are rhymes and reasons, it's just that they weren't explained to the American soldiers -- or British ones. The Saudis have long been holding the line for the U.S. dollar at OPEC, and the Saudis want control of Afghanistan through the use of Pakistan as their proxy.

And the Saudis own much of London, the financial establishment there; without them and the other Gulf Oil Arabs, the UK would have tanked long ago. So for their own reasons, and also to placate their large Pakistani heritage population, the UK wanted the US to look the other way about Pakistan's involvement in fighting NATO troops in Afghanistan.

And there is the Russian angle -- the Pakistani military is seen by UK and US as an offset to Russian influence in Afghanistan. And Indian, simply because of Indian friendless with Russia.

The OPEC reason -- to prop up the U.S. dollar -- is based on a myth or a situation that stopped holding true many years ago. Either way, the reason went out the window after the 2008 financial crash, which demonstrated that the dollar's resiliance wasn't dependent on oil payments.

But it's all boxes inside boxes, going back to the Cold War. Humans used as chessboard pieces....</blockquote>

As you read some of the "replies" and responses to the article, remember whistle blower Robert Barlow and the way in which he was hounded in the 80's for speaking the truth on nuclear proliferation. Iraq, Iran-Contra, 'Afpak', the lot. A lot of the same crowd. Careful, careful. This is an area where there are so many skeletons in the closet I wonder if most of what we are doing is covering up for the skeletons. I personally wouldn't trust anyone.

The following comment appeared in the Onviolence blog today. The comment had to do with Lone Survivor. It is very pertinent to Mr. Livermore's article.

"The Taliban actually videotaped the fight with Seal Team 10 that day. I saw it in 2007 when I was there. It was obviously a controlled item and required a clearance to view. The main reason for viewing it was that after the fight, when the fighters are going through discarded equipment, they find the Panasonic Toughbook laptop the team was carrying. One of the fighters came up with some equipment and was able to actually “map” the hard drive. This demonstrated the presence of those trained or employed by Pakistan’s intelligence service(ISI). But with regard to the fight, from the first shot to the last was less than two minutes. How long did it appear to last in the book and film?"

Classic UW perpetrated upon us by the Pak Army/ISI. You can chose to believe the commenter or not. I do. Everything seems to fit with what we have learned over the past more than a decade, including being lied to on a grand scale by the multi-stars.

(It is the very last comment, posted today.)

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 12:38am

From the paper "United States Cold War Strategy in South Asia: Making a Military Commitment to Pakistan, 1947-1954" by Robert J McMahon (1988):

<blockquote>A focus on the consequences of the American military commitment to Pakistanhas deflected attention from the causes and origins of that policy. A close investigation of this subject can serve as an instructive case study in the globalization and militarization of American diplomacy during the early postwar era.</blockquote>

What is interesting is that you can use this same lens to examine the situation in the Ukraine today and the expansion of NATO. Peripheral states, NATO, the habits of elites in the American foreign policy and military intellectual classes can have a greater affect on American behavior than is often realized. A good area of study, at any rate because a lot of study seems to go in the other direction, how a stronger power affects weaker states but weaker states can exert a pull on stronger states too.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 12:17am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

There is a reply to THIS letter by the then Pakistani Ambassador and I'll post it when I get a chance. It's an interesting series of letters to read in a row, especially in retrospect.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 12:16am

On narratives: Another perspective and reply to the earlier letter I posted in comments (New York Times, DEc. 19, 1987):

<blockquote>To the Editor:

Representative Bill McCollum's views of India and Pakistan (Op-Ed, Dec. 5) are distortions that fail to understand the relationship between the two countries and will only worsen Indian-American relations. Pakistan is not America's ally against Communism as Mr. McCollum claims; it never was. Nor is India an ''almost Soviet surrogate''; it never was.

Pakistan joined the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization and Central Treaty Organization alliance in the 1950's, not to advance American strategic objectives against what was seen as a monolithic Chinese-Soviet Communist threat, but to deal with India. After the 1962 Chinese-Indian war, when the Kennedy Administration sought to provide India with arms, Pakistan not only thwarted these efforts but also joined China in a military alliance against India. American arms to Pakistan were used against India in the wars of 1965 and 1971. Not a single Pakistani shot was fired at a Communist country.

United States arming of Pakistan in the late 50's forced India to purchase at considerable cost arms from Britain and France. Only after American denial of arms to India in 1963 did India begin greater military cooperation with the Soviet Union. Even here, India has sought to balance military dependence on the Soviet Union with expensive military purchases from Western Europe.

India's nuclear dilemma began when China conducted an atomic test in 1964 - two years after China's war with India and the forging of the unholy Chinese-Pakistani military alliance. While China, then as now, continued to build its nuclear capability, India refrained from pursuing nuclear weapons until 1972. However, the Indian nuclear dilemma became more acute after the Nixon-Kissinger tilt toward Pakistan during the critical Bangladesh crisis of 1971. This was also a time when the United States was pursuing rapprochement with Communist China, the other archenemy of India and ally of Pakistan. Under these circumstances, nuclear guarantees on behalf of India against China became dubious, and the nuclear question was reopened.


The image of Pakistan as the heroic ally of the United States is a fantasy, which right-wing Communist-baiting and India-hating Americans continue to believe steadfastly. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has enabled Pakistan to acquire sophisticated American arms intended mainly for use against India and to scoff at the Symington Amendment with impunity. Likewise, it is important for the American right to distort the Indian-Soviet military relationship to justify a new round of United States arms to Pakistan, forgetting that Indian military dependence on the Soviet Union was created by American arms to Pakistan. Meanwhile, massive economic aid for Pakistan - the third largest per capita foreign aid the United States gives to any country after Israel and Egypt - has enabled it to enjoy the highest economic growth rate in South Asia. It is no wonder Pakistan is not serious about resolving the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.


- RAJU G. C. THOMAS Professor of Political Science Marquette University Milwaukee, Dec. 7, 1987

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 12:09am

On narratives: A 1980's American perspective toward a Cold War ally:

<blockquote>The United States, to its own embarrassment and to its allies' dread, seems to have contracted a rare policy disorder, Acute Selective Moral Outrage.

The disorder, which manifests itself through hypocrisy and faithlessness toward certain allies, usually takes the form of sudden seizures (beginning with uncontrollable jerking motions of the right or left knee). The victim will assail an ally with sanctimonious and moralistic condemnations of the same conduct the victim has tolerated from other allies and from enemies. This form of Acute Selected Moral Outrage, however, can also be accompanied by other syndromes - sanctions, for example, and withholding of aid. Characteristic of all its symptoms is the commitment, self-righteousness and sense of purpose the victim feels even in the complete absence of any rationality.

Look at how our disorder may affect Pakistan. On a continent dominated by the Soviet Union and China, surrounded by Afghanistan (a Soviet surrogate), India (almost a Soviet surrogate) and the ocean, Pakistan nevertheless aligned itself with the United States - and, in fact, joins with American efforts to assist the Afghan rebels. In turn, we provide Pakistan with economic and military assistance, although never, of course, enough military assistance to even approach military parity with India.

So far, very good - even rational. But, in the most recent surrender to Outrage, several Senators and Representatives have berated and chastised the Pakistanis for failing to sign a nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Further, they are moving feverishly toward reducing aid to Pakistan and toward applying conditions and restrictions to what we do give.</blockquote>

- The New York Times, December 5, 1987, Representative Bill McCollum

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 11:44pm

More on Richard Nixon and Afghanistan:

<em>I asked him what he would do in the face of the Soviet attack on Afghanistan. Here he was at his most disappointing. He had no specific ideas as distinct from a general diatribe about appearing weak and an exhortation to stand up to the Russians who were 'a) liars and b) only understand strength.' </em>

Sound familiar? The Nixonite Neocons and the current Ukraine situation. A familiar attitude of American elites?

- "Mandarin: The Diaries of an Ambassador" (Nicholas Henderson)

Sometimes I cherry pick, sometimes I read all the way through. This one I'm reading all the way through. I've got quotes that fit several threads around here.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 12:45am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Blogger Pundita has posted this in the comments around here some years ago:

<blockquote>I also think it's playing ostrich at this point to argue the questions of whether the U.S. can achieve victory in Afghanistan and what victory might look like. That's because it's obvious by now that until the Pakistan military's modus operandi in Afghanistan is halted NATO is trying to empty the ocean with a sieve and making it impossible for Afghan self-governance.

Just to review: the MO is to use proxies to assassinate or intimidate every Afghan they can manage to neutralize who shows intelligence and skill as an administrator, and who's not corrupt.

That's the same MO the Pakistani military used in East Pakistan and in Kashmir. It's the same MO they used in Baluchistan. It's the same MO they used in Afghanistan after the Russian pullout.

In fact it's the same MO they use against their 'own' people in the Punjab and Sindh who would seriously challenge the power of the country's largest landholders.

So I don't want to hear at this point about paths to victory in Afghanistan and nation building. First replace a sieve with a bucket. </blockquote>

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 12:01am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

When it comes to Kashmir, there are so many narratives, so many points of view, it has a complexity that is often missing from some contemporary analyses. Human rights abuses occur on both sides but the reporting tends to focus on some aspects versus others.

<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?</blockquote>

- Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, P. Andley

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 11:53pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The RAND quote above is by Peter Chalk, forgot to mention that.

Ever wonder why Americans always refer to Indian occupied Kashmir as "the Kashmir" and the writing by South Asian analysts seems to completely ignore this aspect when considering policy? Unconventional psychological warfare and opinion shaping, indeed. Disappointing that so few around here have picked up on it. Perhaps because during the Cold War, the West (meaning the British and the Americans) sometimes helped to create this impression too. Some of it is just muddle, and some of it is carelessness, and some of it is opinion shaping. To put it mildly.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 11:35pm

From the Introduction to "Proxy Warfare" by Andrew Rumford:

<em>Proxy conflict represents a perennial strand in the history of warfare. The appeal of 'warfare on the cheap' has proved an irresistible strategic allure for nations through the centuries. However, proxy wars remain a missing link in contemporary and security studies. They are historically ubiquitous yet chronically under-analysed. This book attempts to rectify this situation by assessing the dynamics and lineage of proxy warfare from the Cold War to the War on Terror, and analyzing them within a conceptual framework to help us explain their appeal.</em>

Yeah, some of us have noticed the lack of interest when compared to pop-intellectual theorizing about contemporary warfare.

Proxy wars in Afghanistan; the EU, US, and Russia in Ukraine; China's salami-slicing- what shall we call this multipolar jostling with its great power competition around the periphery and around the edges? A mix of proxy warfare, subversion, boots that march in the night, nuclear deterrents, the whole-of-it?

From the RAND website, a commentary from Jane's Intelligence Review that first appeared on <strong>Sept. 1, 2001</strong>

<blockquote>The nature of the support

Pakistani assistance to Kashmiri insurgents covers the ambit of training, logistical, financial and doctrinal support.

At least 91 insurgent training camps have been identified in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), the bulk of which lie contiguous to the Indian districts of Kupwara, Baramulla, Poonch, Rajauri and Jammu. Basic courses run for between three and four months, focusing on weapons handling, demolitions and urban sabotage. Training for the more able recruits lasts somewhat longer and typically emphasises additional, specialised skills in areas such as heavy arms, reconnaissance and sniper assaults.

Responsibility for managing these courses falls to the ISI's Operations Branch and tends to be conducted through two sub-divisions: Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous (JIM) and Joint Intelligence North (JIN). Islamist-oriented military officers are also believed to periodically 'moonlight' from their regular duties to supplement ISI instructors and help provide critical training in the fundamentals of guerrilla/jungle warfare and escape and evasion techniques.

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

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 10:44pm

Dick Cheney, meet Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon, meet Dick Cheney.

Or proposed "surge" number one?

"Seize the Moment, Avoid a New Vietnam," Richard Nixon, Los Angeles Times, 1990

<blockquote>Resistance forces have had some difficulty making the transition from guerrilla combat to conventional warfare and have suffered from infighting. But the main reason for the current stalemate has been the failure of the United States and other supporters to equip the resistance adequately.

Moreover, the United States and other supporters of the resistance have failed to adjust our assistance to fit the new conventional phase of the war. The equipment appropriate to hit-and-run attacks and ambushes will not meet the requirements of set-piece battles and siege warfare.

To overcome our failures, we must first be clear about our goals. We have had two objectives: the removal of all Soviet forces and self-determination for the Afghan people. The first goal has largely been achieved. But the second depends on removing the Soviet-imposed Najibullah government. To do so, the United States must launch a political and military offensive.

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. There can be no compromise with the communists. 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 dunno. I really need to stop. We are at zero option, basically. I know some reading won't be happy with me but it's been obvious for some time, IMO. How does this work out of the embassy?

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 10:26pm

"The administration shrugged off the <strong>shrill</strong> Indian reaction to American supply of sophisticated military equipment that the Pakistanis <strong>could use much more readily against them</strong> on the plains of Punjab and in the Arabian sea than against potential Soviet aggression through the Kyber Pass." - How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States: Riding the Roller Coaster, Howard B. Schaffer, Teresita C. Schaffer.

Nope, no blind spots there. Sorry, I find this stuff hilarious. I'm sure the Pakistanis can find just as much that irritates them as the Indians.

Co-dependent much? And in a book on how to handle the situation as an American!

Afghans must find AfPak to be an excruciating formulation.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 10:28pm

This is it for now, I can't believe how many things I've looked up. I'll have to add them slowly.

From "America's Strategy in Southest Asia: From Cold War to Terror War," by James A. Tyner

footnote 98. Malik, "Dragon on Terrorism," 278-79. Other "consequences" include the Bush administrations' linkage of China with members of the "Axis of Evil"; China's identification as part of a "Gang of Seven" in which American officials prepared contingency plans for preemptive strikes against seven countries (Russia, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lybia, and China); America's own unilateralism in foreign affairs and the simultaneous sidelining of China's multilateralism; and the United States increased ties with Russia and Pakistan, at the expense of China."

The "Dragon" book has a lot of interesting stuff about China and the Taliban and I guess it's a War College book? Didn't look to see if it's referenced here.

But if this is correct, this follows into the strategic balancer theme of American strategy which seems to run through the Cold War and into the post Cold War period to the neoconservatives.

A very "Nixonian" approach to the region with roots in the old British view of regional balancing?


"Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Teresita Schaffer, testimony before House subcommittee, 2 August 1989:

`None of the F-16's Pakistan already owns or is about to purchase is configured for nuclear delivery . . . a Pakistan with a credible conventional deterrent will be less motivated to purchase a nuclear weapons capability.' "

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 9:45pm

From the Pakistani paper, "How we turned a Cold War into a hot potato":

<blockquote>Rakesh Ankit, who studied history at Delhi and Oxford, has culled out enough recently declassified British government papers to reassemble a useful picture of Kashmir's emergence as a key plank in the geographical architecture conceived and planned by colonialism and handed over to the Cold War. 1948 The crucial year in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, published in the current issue of Economic and Political Weekly, could prove to be a seminal work as it seeks to guide us to the roots of the problem and its many lingering shadows from the past that may yet decide its future.

Initially, according to Ankit, the British didn't want the Kashmir conflict at all for two reasons. First, their military minds held that they needed both India and Pakistan to secure “the peace, welfare and security...from the Mediterranean to the China Sea” and to confront the “intrigue from Sinkiang and intervention from north” with “implications far beyond Kashmir”. They now had to choose one of the two.

Second, they had been worried about the weakening strategic hold in Palestine and Greece, unhappy with the increasingly autonomous and assertive American involvement there “without due regard to British interests”, anxious about Egypt and Iraq and arguing for “...a pan-Islamic federation/Arab thwart Russia”. Against this backdrop, the Kashmir conflict made them concerned about losing control of Pakistan as well.

Losing Pakistan was not an option for London, says Ankit. The British chief of staff (COS) had underlined this five times between May 1945 - when Pakistan was but an idea of a few - and July 1947, when it was about to be a reality for all. They had first reported to Winston Churchill that Britain must retain its military connection with India in view of the “Soviet menace” for India was a valuable base for force deployment, a transit point for air and sea communications, a large reserve of manpower. Moreover, it had air bases in the north-west (now in Pakistan) from which Britain could threaten Soviet military installations. They repeated to Clement Attlee the importance of these north-west airfields.</blockquote>

This isn't about blame, the situation was and is a mess. Nobody looks good. It's about a narrative that doesn't seem to get much traction traditionally in American pundit writing, IMO.

And, you know, everyone does this sort of thing. The Indians clearly pressured we Americans to go after the Taliban and were interested in using our presence in Afghanistan to deflect from Kashmir.

Still, I remain shocked that it became conventional wisdom that the Americans or others can mediate without bringing up this history.

One can also see parallels to the way in which American strategists have viewed the region and how it fits into the Mid East, Centcom, etc. Geography and habit are what they are.

PS: The Rise of Neoconservatism: Intellectuals and Foreign Affairs 1945-1994, page 78:

"Moynihan accepted, was confirmed by the Senate, and arrived in New Delhi in February 1973. His assignment was to improve Indian-U.S. relations, which were still poor as a result of the tilt and a legacy of Indian distrust of the United States."

The legacy of distrust includes the claims about Kashmir and claims of defacto--and not so defacto-- Anglo-American support for the Punjab insurgency which, again, seem to get short shrift compared to the "tilt."

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 9:08pm

On narratives:

Afghan: outsider meddling and unconventional warfare directed against it.

Pakistan: encirclement by India and insecurity over the Durand Line.

India: distrust of the international community because of the early internationalization of the Kashmir dispute within the Cold War and other regional calculus of the Americans and the British. From "Seize the Day," Lester B. Pearson, page 53:

<blockquote>But Pearson rejected <strong>a plea from the British to support Pakistan's case</strong> while he was in New Delhi. An American attempt to do so had aroused "a violent reaction in New Dehli," and it was not in his nature to take sides in a dispute when passion and anger dominated reason.</blockquote>

For some reason, many analysts of South Asia dismiss this early history and the subsequent history of Indian insecurity vis-a-vis Kashmir. Particularly American analysts. It is the most extraordinary blind spot. I've mentioned the scholar Rakesh Ankit around here before. He has looked at recently declassified documents from the period and has attempted to show that there were attempts, once it looked like the Indians wouldn't accommodate certain requests, to placate Pakistan over Kashmir in order to retain some "base" within the region.

This is frequently overlooked in the "how can outsiders help India and Pakistan." They can't if they are not honest about their prior partisanship and involvement. A recent article at War on the Rocks presents a very SAIS-Brookings point of view and misses this newer scholarship which really can be got at by looking at the memoirs of many involved early on in the dispute (particularly Australian and Canadian literature.)

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 03/08/2014 - 8:51pm

The next series of comments is basically a "data dump". I don't know what to do with all this stuff I've collected.

<blockquote>Meetings became more frequent and more tense. We were troubled by the complex questions that the conflict raised. No such doubts seemed to cross the mind of Chuck Yeager. I remember one occasion on which the ambassador asked Yeager for his assessment of how long the Pakistani forces in the East could withstand an all-out attack by India. "We could hold them off for maybe a month," he replied, "but beyond that we wouldn't have a chance without help from outside." It took the rest of us a moment to fathom what he was saying, not realising at first that "we" was West Pakistan, not the United States."
Clearly, Yeager appeared blithely indifferent to the Pakistani killing machine which was mowing down around 10,000 Bengalis daily from 1970 to 1971.
After the meeting, Ingraham requested Yeager to be be a little more even-handed in his comments. Yeager gave him a withering glance. "Goddamn it, we're assigned to Pakistan,” he said. "What's wrong with being loyal?!”</blockquote> - from (How India brought down the US' supersonic man)

Omar Ali's twitter feed reminded me of this incident; I've posted on it before I think. Well, he's an American hero and I don't want him brought down. This is merely for discussion.

I posted the following in another thread:

Foreign Service Journal (2013) - page 21

"Diplomats can overcome suspicions of clientitis by addressing local concerns in terms of U.S. interests and opportunities. It also is wise to be careful with wording, making sure "we" always refers to America, not the other country."

The Cold War really seemed to bring out some serious clientitis, didn't it? At any rate, this is a common joke among South Asian blogs that I follow.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/02/2014 - 7:00pm

The other thing that irritates me is the Dalyrymple and other Brookings wallahs India-Pakistan dichotomy when it's Russia, Iran, India, China, Pakistan, the Saudis and their rivalry with Iran.

For sure someone in the Saudi camp whispered in ears right after 9-11 to make sure their proxies were protected vs. Iran. And what makes me wonder is who in the US system thought the same thing, maybe a little Taliban isn't so bad as long as its directed toward the right nation....

Anyway, knowledge is power (sometimes) and isn't one form of counter-unconventional "warfare" shining a light on the world? Sunshine as the best disinfectant? There is no beginning, there is no end, there is no end, there is no beginning....

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/02/2014 - 6:59pm

From The Diplomat, "Could Iran and India be Afghanistan's "Plan B":

<blockquote>Take Karzai’s trips to India and Iran in December last year. Both visits came after the BSA was passed by a loya jirga and, interestingly, shortly after Iran and the U.S.-led P5+1 had signed an interim deal on the Iran nuclear issue. While in Iran, Karzai found support when President Hassan Rouhani declared, “We are concerned about the tensions arising from the presence of foreign forces in the region and believe that all foreign forces should exit the region and Afghanistan’s security should be ceded to the people of that country.” Coming from Iran at that juncture, it was a major show of support for Karzai. The two countries also agreed to sign a “pact of friendship and cooperation,” which could include aspects of political, security cooperation and economic development. This would complement a separate border and security agreement signed earlier in August.

Karzai’s visit to India immediately after this, on December 13, was aimed not only at consolidating support but also at pleading for increased military assistance. In his previous visit to New Delhi in May 2013, he had handed over a wish list of lethal and non-lethal military aid from India that included artillery guns, helicopters and armored tanks. In his December trip, he not only reiterated his requests but is reported to have asked India for a more proactive involvement in getting the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) ready to take on the Taliban post 2014. India confirmed its commitment to deepening defense and security cooperation, through enhancements in training, meeting the equipment and infrastructure needs of ANSF and opportunities for higher military education in India for Afghan officers. While emphasizing the need to sign the BSA, India refrained from putting any overt pressure on Karzai, stating that it shared his wish to have the BSA, but will not be “prescriptive, intrusive or judgmental.”</blockquote>

This is what I meant further down in the thread when I said that if you viewed everything through the lens of a Pashtun insurgency you might just trade in one insurgency for another because people would "resist" and that includes Afghans that are unhappy at the unconventional warfare aspect of it and outsider meddling. It's not possible to balance these interests because the cultivation of non-state actors will never allow some to feel secure. There's no "win" for us here.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/02/2014 - 6:07pm

The following is from India Today, Feb. 15 1989:

The main point is its level of detail and how others watch and gauge the US system.

Now, go back and think about all the analyst papers you were asked to read. Do you see why I have always had such a disconnect? It's not the specifics of this particular piece, it is the level of detail and the granular reality of it all compared to airy-fairy dreamy think tank or foreign policy DC theorizing....

And Vali Nasr or Holbrooke or the State Department were going to move the entire region as envoys or whatever? Fantasy.

<blockquote>But now the changed situation in the subcontinent helps Solarz maintain a more balanced stance. Says he: "The return of democracy to Pakistan is fortuitous. If only two years ago someone had told me that by this time democracy would have returned and that the Soviets would be leaving Afghanistan, I would have thought he was a candidate for an insane asylum. Now the situation is much more promising and productive." So it was a hopeful Solarz who hopped between Dhaka, New Delhi and Islamabad, hogging attention as one of the most important American visitors in recent times.

And since he is so influential in shaping US policy in South Asia, each country seized the opportunity to send signals to the new administration in Washington D.C. Said a senior South Block official: "This Solarz visit was special. The change in Pakistan makes his position on Capitol Hill more credible. It also gives his voice more weight."

Perhaps it was such reasoning that prompted India to make a rare gesture by allowing him to visit Amritsar and meet middle-ground Sikh leaders. Solarz said he had gone to Punjab as a "helping hand to find a solution and not as a foreign hand to exacerbate the problem". He added: "I did not go there as a one-man court of inquiry. My understanding is that the real problem in Punjab has been caused by terrorism in countering which certain excesses may have been committed." Indian officials believe permitting Solarz to go to Punjab was a shrewd move as his office is often besieged by Khalistani groups in the US bringing exaggerated accounts of the situation in Punjab.

In New Delhi, Solarz showed enthusiasm about the new relationships being established with Beijing and Islamabad. On the rapport between Benazir and Rajiv, he said: "Born in the post-Partition period the two have developed a warm personal relationship. I am deeply impressed by their commitment to the future rather than the past. Let me quote what Winston Churchill said after El Alamein: 'This is not the end or even the beginning of the end. This is the end of the beginning.'"</blockquote>…

During the Cold War everyone was screwing around with everyone else in the "subcontinent." There are even claims that the CIA and other Western intelligence turned a blind eye toward outside support for the Punjab insurgency in order to pay back the Indians for Soviet support in Afghanistan. And don't even get me started on the Kashmir claims by all sides....

I trust nothing and I trust no one on South Asia....Sorry, that's just what I learned watching things from afar....

A lot of the stuff you were told to read was, well, frankly childish IMO.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/02/2014 - 5:48pm

<blockquote>I am sorry to play wet blanket but I’ve become quite the curmudgeon since I noticed that only the bad guys are allowed anymore to try and achieve victory in war, which is how the IDF has been repeatedly flummoxed by terrorists who got tactical training from the IRGC and the U.S. military has been repeatedly outwitted by Pakistani military officers who got tactical training in the U.S.
As to how nation-states are to survive when their best military tacticians are quashed by politicians trying to stay on the right side of their most powerful constituents and foreign allies — somehow I don’t think von Clausewitz had an answer for that.
So I really wonder if "Alice in Wonderland" is the most apt metaphor for this slow suicide of civilization. I’d say "The Emperor’s New Clothes" comes closer because it graphically illustrates what can happen when large numbers of people prefer to lie in their teeth rather than identify what’s in front of them.</blockquote> - commenter Pundita on a Zenpundit blogpost, "Alice's Wonderland Battlespace."

Ahmed Rashid, Descent Into Chaos:

<blockquote> Musharraf trained at Fort Bragg in the United States and led SSG in joint exercises with U.S. Special Forces. He later attended a military course in Britain.</blockquote>

But in Sean Naylor's "Not a Good Day to Die" (I didn't read the whole thing, too confusing for me, who was in charge exactly, anyway?) it says that at least one group studied the Mujahideen cases studies of Lester Grau, is it?

Bureaucracy does its thing, with NATO thrown into the mix? Policy confusion and Iraq and a military that didn't quite know what it was doing as a collective and so went this way and that?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/02/2014 - 5:39pm

Here is an example from a Pakistani paper. Americans sometimes don't realize how closely everyone watches everything:

<blockquote>Syed Abid Hussain Imam, son of politicians Abida Hussain and Fakhr Imam, married Farah Pervez, daughter of Sabiha Qasim and Sir Anwar Pervez, the billionaire British-Pakistani retail tycoon.

The wedding ceremony held in the grand setting of the Natural History Museum was attended by key figures from British public and social life as well as notable Pakistanis, many of them close relatives of the groom who had travelled from Pakistan especially for the wedding.

Guests, many of them Pakistani politicians and businessmen, mingled freely at the champagne reception and enjoyed light banter, not omitting to talk about Pakistani politics.

Former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Zameer Chaudhry, Dawood Pervez, Sanam Bhutto, Anatol Leiven, ambassador Dennis Kux, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Vali Nasr and many British parliamentarians attended the reception.

Farah Pervez is a graduate from Britain’s Oxford University while Abid Imam is a Yale graduate, now teaching at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).</blockquote> The International News

You see? Everything is so connected. The idea that the US is going to fundamentally change things via a militarized approach is fantasy.

I'm not such a COINTRA blog groupie as I have the reputation for being, okay? I am kind of sensitive about that, to be honest.

I used to argue with Carl Prine on the old Line of Departure all the time. Gian Gentile's writing is interesting in that that I thought his way of focusing on core interests kept the many connections from interfering with the ability of the military to at least achieve <em>something</em>, you know?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/02/2014 - 5:26pm

Lanny Davis and lobbying:

<blockquote>This is not Davis's first controversial client. He has been hired by the Honduran branch of CEAL (a pseudo-Chamber of Commerce in Latin America) to support the military removal of the country's democratically elected president. He also worked during the 1990s as a lobbyist for Patton Boggs, during which he successfully convinced the U.S. government to provide Pakistan a slate of F-16 jets the country had purchased but, because of its newly nuclear status, had not received.</blockquote> Huffington Post, 6/29/2010

It's interesting, if you go to 2011 and look at the slew of articles about what to do after the OBL raid, you find that the authors and their policy preferences entirely parallel the 2000 period that I mentioned earlier in the thread. So, you find lobbyists for India and Pakistan, arms sellers, those that think engagement is best, those that think sanctions or containment are best. It is almost entirely the same as that period, the names, what they suggest on how to deal with the situation. The personal and professional connections are dizzying.

PS: From "How the Pakistanis woo Hillary Clinton":

<blockquote>Many Pakistanis in America are convinced that Bill Clinton turned America's back on their country and openly sided with India during his recent visit to the subcontinent. But they also believe they are having their own sweet revenge.

The First Lady seems to be beholden to the Pakistanis in New York where she is fighting a very expensive Senate race. Each side is spending about $ 10 million.

Though she has attended several fund-raisers by Indian Americans like the one held by Sant Chatwal, owner of the Bombay Palace chain of restaurants, and is bound to attend a few more, she seems to be clearly enjoying the backing of Pakistanis.

Pakistanis, unlike Indians, are late comers to the money-raising scene but they are learning fast.

"If we are raising $ 50,000 for her cause," says an Indian businessman, "the Pakistanis surely want to raise three times the amount."

She has fallen for their goat curries, rice and endearment, many people believe.

Many Indian American community leaders admit that their community failed to take the initiative and organize a number of big fund-raisers for Hillary Clinton.

"We were too busy wooing Clinton and demanding that he should not go to Pakistan," the Indian businessman continued. "But our opponents quietly networked with the President's wife."

Some political observers believe that Hillary thinks Indians in New York state will vote for a Democratic candidate anyway, but she also wants the votes of Pakistanis. There could be about 50,000 votes at stake from Pakistanis and about 100,000 in the Indian community in New York State.

Her Pakistani supporters are also found in the neighboring states of Connecticut and New Jersey.

Former White House counsel Lanny Davis, who is now a Washington lobbyist and image builder for Pakistani government, has played an important role in bringing the First Lady and Pakistanis in New York closer. Many Pakistanis and Indians are convinced that a fund-raiser held for Hillary in New York by the Pakistanis a few days before her husband decided to have a whistle-stop visit to Pakistan, owes a lot to Davis.</blockquote>

So, this happens for everything and everyone and Afghan, Pakistani and Indian diaspora sites keep zealous track of these sorts of things. That is what I have been trying to say for many years on this blog, there is a disconnect between the way in which official DC talks about the world and the way many in the world perceive DC.

I don't know how the military should think about this, its place is not policy, obviously. But it sometimes seems that the analysts you rely on don't understand this fishbowl phenomenon, where everyone watches the Americans and, in some ways, everyday diasporans have very detailed knowledge.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 02/25/2014 - 12:41am

Aargh, I can't post this link. Let me try it again. I didn't understand what RC was saying earlier because I was thinking about the multifactorial desires to control or subordinate Afghanistan. I wasn't looking at it from the angle of firming up the Durand Line affecting those multiple desires.

There is an article in The Diplomat discussing this, "Why the Durand Line Matters." Even if the impulses are many, they are all affected by this. I just misunderstood and got it wrong.