Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Planning to Fail Win in Afghanistan, pt 10: 10 Days in, 10 Years Late


When I heard about the changing of the guard in Afghanistan, I wrote that one metric that would be important in determining whether or not the situation could be turned around would be how General Petraeus handled Pakistani meddling in Afghan affairs:

Let's see, however, how Petraeus deals with Pakistan. The good general has a reputation of being a amiable guy and with a great sense for PR - I found him to be both a great public speaker and legitimately funny guy when I saw him speak last year - but he's also a stone cold soldier, and his surge in Iraq included both "soft" elements of population security and hard core kinetics, like tracking down and killing AQI and Iranian special groups operating inside Iraq. So it'll be interesting to see how Petraeus might handle Pakistani or Iranian assets he catches in country - I'd not want to cross the border if I were a soldier in either of those countries armies right now, BTW.

Now, about 10 days after taking command, a picture seems to be emerging. Petraeus is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore:

General Petraeus introduced the idea of blacklisting the group, known as the Haqqani network, late last week in discussions with President Obama’s senior advisers on Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to several administration officials, who said it was being seriously considered.
Such a move could risk antagonizing Pakistan, a critical partner in the war effort, but one that is closely tied to the Haqqani network. It could also frustrate the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who is pressing to reconcile with all the insurgent groups as a way to end the nine-year-old war and consolidate his own grip on power.

A Strategic Asset No More 

General Kayani apparently once referred to the Haqqani network as a "strategic asset"  and there is every indication that the ISI has an all-too-close relationship with Haqqani, so listing them as a terrorist organization, while somewhat symbolic, is still important when, in the years to come, we decide to start considering Pakistan a state-sponsor of terrorism - which they are.

Meanwhile, on the other side of that hundred miles of rocks and dirt that has been responsible for most of our problems for the last ten years, my nominee for the next permanent member of the U.N. security council is making some pretty serious allegations about the ISI:

India has accused Pakistani intelligence services of overseeing the 2008 militant attacks on Mumbai, a report said Wednesday ahead of a major meeting between the rival nations.
Home Secretary G. K. Pillai told the Indian Express newspaper that the level of involvement of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had become clear through recent questioning of David Headley, a suspect under arrest in the United States.
"The real sense that has come out from Headley?s interrogation is that the ISI has had a much more significant role to play (than was earlier thought)," Pillai said.

Uh-Oh. Yeah, that whole Mumbai thing was sort, kind of an act of war, and I'm sure the U.S. has been trying to hold India back. Maybe no more. Hopefully this is all part of a broader strategy, with Petraeus traveling to Islamabad and playing good cop to India's bad cop and telling the Pakistanis that there is only so much America can do to hold the Indians back, so they better start dissolving their relationships with terrorists organizations, like the ISI.

On the ground in Afghanistan, Petraeus appears to be taking the advice offered in by numerous sources last year and standing up local security militias to augment the police and military:

KABUL, Afghanistan — After intensive discussions with NATO military commanders, the Afghan government on Wednesday approved a program to establish local defense forces around the country, with the potential to help remote areas thwart attacks by Taliban insurgents.
The NATO-backed program, which will be supervised by the Interior Ministry, will pay salaries to the members of these new forces, an inducement that could generate widespread recruitment, although Afghan aides have said they prefer to keep the program small.
A Fine Line Between Militias and Warlords 

 Johnson and Mason (2009) writing in military review last year were skeptical of the tribal militia idea (I referenced their work in Moral Warfare in Southwest Asia) and Malkasian and Meyerle (2009) point out that Afghanistan has a long history of warlordism whereas Iraq had almost no history of militias and warlords run a muck. It's worth considering that one of the QST's primary arguments when they were sweeping the country from 1994-96 was that the warlords and local militias (almost all old Mujihadeen commanders) were too corrupt and did not protect the people. Would these new militias be different? Will they be loyal to Kabul? Will they self finance with graft and drug dealing? Do we want them to be loyal to Kabul - given the corruption of Karzai and his band of merry men? Is this part of Bing West's "mushroom" (keep them in the dark and feed them shit) strategy WRT to Kabul?

I think all of these questions need to be answered if the ISAF is going to get in the business of supporting local militias. Ironically, critic of president Bush's Afghan policy, such as Ahmed Rashid, often suggest that is was the reliance on former Northern Alliance commanders - acting as warlords - that helped fuel the rise of the neo-Taliban throughout 2002-06.

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