Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’
Here are some news stories that deserve more main stream coverage.
[The Financial Times] termed the actions of the Chinese warship as the latest example of Beijing’s assertiveness which had irked India and Vietnam. China claims South China Sea in its entirety, rejecting claims by other nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan over the resource rich region.
Maritime disputes between the world’s two most populous countries are a growing concern, especially as China grows more confident in its military capabilities.
At one unguarded facility, empty packing crates and documents reveal that 482 sophisticated Russian SA-24 missiles were shipped to Libya in 2004, and now are gone. With a range of 11,000 feet, the SA-24 is Moscow’s modern version of the American “stinger,” which in the 1980s helped the US-backed Afghan mujahideen turn their war against the Soviet Union.
Though Libya’s SA-24s are reportedly the variant without the “gripstick,” which means they cannot be man portable and shoulder fired, they are still a major air defense weapon. In in the wrong hands they could be used as an offensive capability by guerrilla fighters or terrorists. The small arms and light weaponry looted from Libyan stockpiles is a growing security concern, especially with regards to the missing remnants of Qaddafi’s chemical weapons program. John Brennan worries that Libya could become an “arms bazaar” for terrorist organizations.
“Currently, the situation is so-called post-Gaddafi. And it is not NATO’s intention to stay on top of this situation. The UN should take the reins in its hands, and we are ready to support it, should we receive such a request,” NATO Assistant Secretary General Dirk Brengelmann told reporters.
The UN and NATO are likely to have a major hand in the development of post-Qaddafi Libya. Yet, there has not been an established framework on how they are going to conduct state building in the country and help Libyan rebels create viable governing institutions. Sooner rather than later this needs to be addressed by all the interested parties.
Afghan and NATO officials have long struggled to entice young men in the heavily Pashtun south — the Taliban heartland — to join the Afghan Army. Despite years of efforts to increase the enlistment of southern Pashtuns, an analysis of recruitment patterns by The New York Times shows that the number of them joining the army remains relatively minuscule, reflecting a deep and lingering fear of the insurgents, or sympathy for them, as well as doubts about the stability and integrity of the central government in Kabul, the capital.
Building a professional and representative Afghan National Army is one of the top priorities of America’s strategy in Afghanistan. However, serious problems remain regarding professionalism, recruitment of quality soldiers, and abuses by ANA personnel such as thievery. Many parts of Afghanistan are skeptical of the rank and file ANA because they are viewed as miscreants from across the country who are sent into the army by tribal leaders tired of having them in their village.
I had set out yesterday to write a post about the General McChrystal fallout but at-once decided against it. Mainly because I felt there was nothing I could say that other news agencies weren’t already saying. But also because it was a frustrating ordeal. I put a lot of faith in the U.S. government to make reasoned decisions. This may be a little naive but I like to think the country’s leadership are professional civil servants.
That’s why the Rolling Stone article and the debacle that followed was so disheartening. For one, I have already voice my opinions about President Obama’s reluctance to make hard choices about the Afghan war. Last November at the conclusion of his strategy review, President Obama opted for a middle-of-the-road approach, which was neither a small-scale counter-terrorism mission or a large-scale counter-insurgency operation. This was regarded by most as a bad approach that would only postpone the inevitable while putting U.S. service men and women at risk. I felt it was the most irresponsible decision of his presidency.
Now comes the recent McChrystal news. Sadly, this is just another in a long line of poor decisions and irresponsible behavior by the civil servants in charge of this war.
To illustrate, through this blog’s series on the 8 best generals of the industrial warfare era (see parts I, II, III, and IV), we have begun to identify some running themes which contribute to successful war effort. 1) is the knowledge of key intelligence and the ability to understand the context and circumstances in which you fight – to take the “big picture” view; 2) the ability to mobilize the nation’s resources for the war front. And 3) a strong relationship and shared vision between the political leadership and military leadership.
But none of these exist in America’s Afghan campaign.
You would think $1 trillion worth of minerals would not go unnoticed for so long. But apparently, the Pentagon believes it just “discovered” a vast wealth of minerals in Afghanistan which could be the treasure chest needed to fund the Afghan treasury (something the U.S. currently does). Sounding more like a marketing agency, the Pentagon revealed in an internal memo that the minerals offered so much potential that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium.”
Altogether this hoopla is reminiscent to Paul Wolfowitz’s proclamations at the beginning of the Iraq War that oil revenues would cover the costs of occupation and fund the transitional government. But really, everybody knows that it would take years, if not decades, to develop Afghanistan’s mines. And even by then, the likely beneficiaries of those mines will be Afghan power-brokers (not the people) and unscrupulous investors (such as in the Chinese-Aynak copper deal).
For further reading: This subject was broached in “Who competes over failed states?“
Life’s been hectic the past month or so. But after last week’s graduation from The Fletcher School (congrats fellow neo-alumni!), my schedule is starting to clear up. Now free from classes, I can concentrate on those other things that make me miserable, i.e. job searching and FINISHING MY THESIS. But in the meantime, why not do some learning through blogging.
I’ll start my return with a quick post about interesting news items and hopefully pick up a steady schedule of 1 or 2 posts a week. My focus, for those unfamiliar, is on geopolitical issues, American defense and national security, and odd international news (the kind that makes foreign policy more interesting than domestic policy).
So here we go…
News on Korea
The Cheonan Report has been out for more than a week now (text can be found here: ROK Cheonan report 5-20-10). In it overwhelming evidence reveals that North Korea sunk the ROK warship Cheonan with a torpedo. Since then concern has been that Kim Jong-il approved of the strike personally, while some speculate it was an act of insubordination. What could the analysis be if either of these scenarios are the case? If Kim approved of the attack is this a plea cloaked by a dagger? Or is Kim signaling back off or else? If the act was an insubordinate action by a rogue commander, does this mean Kim is losing control of his regime with power going to the military? Something not unlikely in a country about to be taken over by third generation 27-year old heir apparent. These are points up for discussion.
More related news: there is some confusion about the level of technological advancement in North Korea’s submarine fleet. And South Korea has lost track of four North Korean subs. Here’s some insight courtesy of the Cheonan Report – The North Korean military is in possession of a fleet of about 70 submarines, comprised of approximately 20 Romeo class submarines (1,800 tons), 40 Sango class submarines (300 tons) and 10 midget submarines including the Yeono class (130 tons).
Oddly related news: Zimbabwe’s reprobate president Robert Mugabe is sending an il-conceived gift (get the pun) of wild animals to North Korea, apparently as a token of friendship.
News on National Debt
It soars past $13 trillion, or 13000000000000.
- “The New Guns Versus Butter Debate,” Todd Harrison, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
- “We’re too broke to be this stupid,” Mark Steyn, MacLeans
- “Bill on jobless benefits, state financial help scaled back,” Lori Montgomery, Washington Post
News on Security Strategy
General McChrystal called Marjah a “bleeding ulcer.” Something you don’t want to hear about a campaign that is supposed to be the blueprint for the coalition’s plans in Kandahar. Meanwhile, Obama reveals his National Security Strategy in which he admits our “military is overstretched.”
So that’s most of the latest. There is, of course, an ongoing oil spill that everyone is well aware of. But BP is on the case with its poorly named “Top Kill” attempt to stop the ongoing oiling of the Gulf.
General McChrystal wants to close down the Burger Kings in Afghanistan. Known for his Spartan ways, General McChrystal believes that the Burger Kings are not essential to keeping up troop moral. And, I for one, agree with him. Troops shouldn’t give a damn about Burger King in a combat zone. Moreover (actually the most important issue) the goods required to run a Burger King in the middle of Afghanistan have to be transported there. Meaning, the more you transport to and through Afghanistan the more you put at risk to attack those convoys who have to supply Burger King. Even if it is for a delicious grande royal with cheese, they need to be shut down.
Joshua Foust from Registran.net writes in the NYTimes and World Politics Review that the best way to push out militants and establish effective governance in Marjeh is to establish a working tax and property rights system run by the Afghan government. Foust believes the Taliban’s system of taxation should be mimicked by ISAF. Foust writes that this approach can be more effective in winning the population over than just simply establishing rule of law through government in a box:
This presents an incredible opportunity for the newly installed government to establish a sustainable set of governance institutions. Rather than following the established ISAF model of focusing on law-and-order, which has at best a mixed record, Haji Zahir and his ISAF sponsors should focus first and foremost on establishing a stable tax regime, including checks and balances necessary to minimize the predatory behavior that ruined the previous government’s reputation.
I only have one comment to this proposal (which isn’t wrong in its own right but still will not work): Taxing Marjeh might sound like a great idea but it is just another great idea in many that can only postpone the inevitable. Whether it’s establishing rule of law, a tax system, alternative crops, building roads, etc etc… the only way out of this is to compromise on what’s not essential (governing Afghanistan) and focus on what is essential (separating the Taliban from al Qaeda).
This comment was posted to Foust’s Registran blog here.
Iconic Photos posted this photo, reportedly of Mullah Omar wrapping himself in the Prophet Mohammed’s cloak. In total there are only a couple pictures of the Taliban leader available to the public, so it is hard to decipher if this one is legitimate. But if true, this photo depicts one of the most interesting acts conducted by Omar: the ceremony in which he proclaimed himself Amir-ul Momineen (“Leader of the Faithful”) by donning a nearly 1400 year old sacred cloak.