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01 January 2009


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Colonel Lang,

Appreciate and reluctantly concur with your take on the spilt within the coming admininstration regarding our relationship with Israel and subsequently overall ME policy. Obama's choices for Chief of Staff and SecState particularly worrying in this regard as it appears that the AIPAC/AEI crew may be in the catbird seat. Can only hope that he is bright and perceptive enough not to be as thoroughly conned as his predecessor was (and still is) and carve s new path here. Think he might well be but only time will tell.

Thank you as always for your wonderfully informative blog and taking the time to share your thinking with us.

Happy New Year!

Duncan Kinder
Would it not be better to use guile rather that brute force?

The Odyssey rather than the Iliad should be our template.

John Howley

"For the moment, however, the offensive in Gaza is proving popular with Israelis, and Livni and Barak are reaping the benefits. Recent polls show them closing the gap with Likud party leader Netanyahu, who had opened up a wide lead based on his promise to take a hard line against Israel's main adversaries -- Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran." WaPo 12/31/08

'Nuff said...

Old Bogus

"There appears to be a major cleavage within the incoming Obama Administration between those who wish to continue to accept what amounts to Israeli tutelage in US Middle East policy and those who do not. "

While I hadn't heard this expressed explicitly, it IS an improvement. O'Bama may get his first ulcer with his "Cabinet of Rivals" and their differences. Hardly like West Wing!

Mad Dogs

Gaza - I still think that any move by IDF ground forces into Gaza will only be as bait to draw out some of the Hamas foot soldiers and reduce their numbers by a tiny fraction.

This the IDF can do. That the Israelis would consider this as restoring their image says a great deal about just how far the Israelis' own self-image has fallen.

Tanks, artillery pieces, APCs, and helicopter gunships overhead arrayed against "shoot and scoot" bands of irregulars whose transportation has devolved down to donkeys, armed with small arms, RPGs and satchel explosives is not much of a fight.

This is an indicator of Israel's strategic weakness, not strength. Their strategic desperation, not confidence.

Notice who the Israelis aren't picking on (in order of magnitude):

1. Hezbollah.
2. Syria.
3. Iran.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Afghanistan - I'm still questioning just who the US and its NATO allies want to fight, and then why?

Al Qaeda? Yes, indeed!

The folks on the ground and in the hills who the US and its NATO allies have all-encompassingly labeled "Taliban"?

This doesn't pass the smell test.

Yes, I ken the understandable reflexive nature of wanting to shoot back at folks who are shooting at you.

But that doesn't pass muster as Strategy.

General Petraeus has been reported in the MSM to be reviewing the Afghanistan situation with any eye to duplicating some aspects of his Iraq COIN strategy; notably the "buy and divide" effort used in Iraq's Sunni Awakening:

...General David Petraeus, who as U.S. Central Command Chief now oversees American operations in Afghanistan, has indicated he favors pursuing an Afghan government-led reconciliation effort with the Taliban. Such a move would include reconciliation with Taliban insurgents both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A report in the Washington Post says U.S. military officials believe renegade Afghan commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and other rebel leaders might be persuaded to stop fighting in exchange for money and greater political influence. Such tactics were used with some success in Iraq, and the report says the U.S. military is considering doing the same in Afghanistan..."

But, that report also says this:

"...But the Taliban has said repeatedly it will not talk with the Afghan government until all foreign troops leave the country.

Also, Pakistani newspapers have recently quoted hard-line Taliban leaders as warning that Washington is trying to divide them. They reportedly have vowed never to break up their alliance with al-Qaida.

Stephen Cohen at the Brookings Institution says there should be no reconciliation talks unless this alliance is severed -- though he acknowledges such a move is unlikely..."

I'm less sanguine about whether buying folks in Afghanistan, or for that matter, in Iraq, makes for long-term buddies, but I guess we'll see.

Perhaps in both cases, it might be enough to allow us to vamoose out of Dodge, but it provides no certainty regarding the stability left behind.

Lastly regarding Afghanistan, from what I read, it seems a core component of General Petraeus's pacification strategy depends on a whole lot (20,000-30,000?) additional troops of whom a large contingent would be Special Operations Forces.

I'd assume that the SOF responsibilities would be similar to the Colonel's oft-lamented previously traditional duties of working, training and living with the locals, rather than the New Age Hunter/Killer elite-style tough guys so the rage these days in Spec Ops Command.

And whither will the US and its NATO allies find the raft of SF folks necessary to fill these billets? I sure don't know.

"Parle vous EspaƱol" ain't gonna cut it.


"There appears to be a major cleavage within the incoming Obama Administration between those who wish to continue to accept what amounts to Israeli tutelage in US Middle East policy and those who do not."

Col Lang,

Who would you consider to be on the 'who do not' side?

WRT Iran, in addition to those forces pushing for confrontation on Israel's behalf, there is probably an anti-detente faction based on the premise that security in the Persian Gulf should be strictly determined by the U.S. and not be a matter of consultation with a regional power.

Honestly, this is typical of American policy elsewhere. For example, the U.S. does not want to share security decisions in the Baltic, the Balkans, the Black Sea or Central Asia with Russia. This was no less true during the Clinton administration. If the U.S. is unwilling to compromise with a power like Russia (unless, perhaps, absolutely compelled to do so) then I doubt Iran can aspire to that kind of detente. Clearly it would be in Iran's interests, but I'm not sure the option exists. I suspect many in the old and new admins believe the current Iranian government is temporary and with enough patience will fall and be replaced with one more to their liking.

Instead, the real story is behind the Gaza massacre. It is, in Israel's mind, an attempt to commit the U.S. to their policy of rolling back Iranian influence. If they succeed in Gaza, the up coming Netanyahu government (he's going to win anyway) will then try this on Lebanon again and "defeat" Hizbollah and try to neuter Iran.

That's the plan, anyway. Failure at any step will be costly.


PL: Hertzog indicate that Israel's goals in Gaza are essentially psychological in that they seek to demonstrate to all the Israeli capability and willingness to inflict great damage and numerous casualties in pursuit of a position of dominance in the ME region

"essentially psychological": Are there any points of similarity between the methods used by the Wehrmacht and the Israelis?




The Israelis, I am betting, will not launch a full scale invasion. Pictures of IDF infantraymen in body bags wont sell in an election cycle. There will only be a full scale invasion if premliminary incursion go really really well. And if they do go that well, this will mean that either Hamas has really been beaten or that they are trying to lure the Israelis in.

I would seriously doubt any Hamas offensive actions on the ground before the Israelis try to go in to Gaza. The border region is too open to give them any advatage.

Statements by Livni and Brigadier (Ret.) Hertzog indicate that Israel's goals in Gaza are essentially psychological in that they seek to demonstrate to all the Israeli capability and willingness to inflict great damage and numerous casualties in pursuit of a position of dominance in the ME region?

Perhaps they missed it in '06 and maybe they will get it this time but their ability to inflict great damage and huge casulties no longer scares the populations of their neigbours. And Israel has gone from a nation that can defeat multiple nations at once to one that cannot even take on any kind of well organised and trained militia.

The psychological damage done by the '06 war is to be repaired by attacking people who have had little or no access to mostly anything for the better part of 2 years?

So what happens to the psychological war if Hamas is still firing its rockets on the last day of this war?

"The belief persists in Israel that enemies can be made into clients through intimidation"

If it really does, then they are trully finished, because it means they are no longer willing to learn from or even accept what is going on around them. Their "clients", or clients by proxy have hardly prospered in the West Bank or Lebanon and their clients in Jordan and Egypt are in very precarious postions.

If, as I expect, the Israelis start making some "accidental" bomb drops resulting in large scale civilian casulties (such as on a hospital for example) then I would expect the Egyptian street and, maybe even the Jordanian one, to get louder. As it is, the response from these two groups especially as been beneath contempt.

US/Israeli Relations

If there is a single iota of change towards the Palestinians I will buy a hat and eat it ungarnished.


Ms Marvi Memon is a (junior) Pakistan Muslim League Member of the National Assembly with a blog. This entry of her meeting with Senator John Kerry may be of interest.



Senators Bond and Kerry just concluded a long visit to Afghanistan and have issued a report and a bunch of recommendations. An outline and executive summary (in PDF) is available at http://bond.senate.gov/public . The URLs for the documents are really long so not including them here.

According to the report the coordination between nations and even between US agencies is lacking; moreover Afghanistan cannot be approached as a single country problem. They want a Special Coordinator, with more authority than a deputy National Security Advisor, actively backed by the President. Details in the document you can find above.


The significance of Iran to the US should be about central Asia.

China will not allowed so much of middle eastern oil controlled by the US. And Russia will not accept more US central asia encroachment. China and Russia both will keep supplying Iran with advance technology to balance US in the middle east.

Israel of course is freaking out. (Since by now Iran has S-300 SAM, much more accurate mid range ballistic missile, and self sufficient nuke program.)

I don't think Obama can negotiate Iran to get rid of their nuke. Bush has destroyed any leverage left (time). Probably more trade sanction, but that doesn't seem to work.

I can't see Israel has too many options either.They can do expensive ground invasion and reoccupation. (which then will be very expensive in term of cost and Israel international image) Or keep bombing, not very effective beyond loud TV news) US public will not accept sharp escalation, not with the troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan. I simply can't imagine Obama sending troop into Gaza or Lebanon. His number will plummet before he even begin difficult domestic policy push.

So Israel is in a pickle.

(I don't buy the idea that Hamas will cave on some psychological game. They've been talking about starving Gaza and make Hamas collapse wince 2 years ago. But hamas is still operating.)

It will be interesting if West bank will flip. Fatah can't control west bank anymore (riot in the months)

William R. Cumming

Again PL your premises are based on the US controlling events. Suggest 2009 will end that fantasy.

Ken Roberts

Thanks to Arun for the website reference - it looks like good info.

There is a tendency in much media coverage of Pakistani motivations to simplify and stereotype (not at SST, thankfully), and that is risky as it can set up for policy stampeding.

Pakistan is a great country with a long tradition of serious intellectual thought and verbal art. Nuance is beneficial.

Re another comment, the Odyssey is indeed a better model.


I hear rumours that the Indian Army (through back channels) are preparing an offer of up to 120,000 troops for Afghanistan.

These units are specifically mentioned.

"Lt. General Bikram Singh as Force Commander (tentative)

HQ III Corps or HQ XXI Corps

4th Infantry Division

6th Mountain Division

23rd Infantry Division

36th RAPID Division

30+ Rashtriya Rifles CI battalions

2 Reconnaissance and Observation squadrons (Army Aviation)

1 Il-76 squadron

2 An-32 squadrons

4+ Mi-17 helicopter units

1 UAV squadron

2 fighter squadrons

Undetermined number of paramilitary security battalions


HQ III Corps is the counter-insurgency corps in Eastern Command, it is dual-tasked to the western front. In exercises and on operations it has functioned, on different occasions, in three different sectors. HQ XXI Corps is the third Indian strike corps, but is not as critical as the other two strike corps and is dual-tasked as India's intervention force corps. So there's good reasons to take either.

The infantry divisions include a tank battalion. 36th Division has one tank and two infantry brigades. All four divisions are part of strike corps and so are not deployed on the front, but India will give up its ability to sustain a major offensive against Pakistan if these divisions are overseas.

The only thing that needs explanation for our non-Indian readers is the Rashtriya Rifles. These are specialized for counter-insurgency and have six rifle companies vs the usual Indian infantry battalion's four. CI is, after all, a manpower intensive business. The troops are all regular Army and do a 3-year rotation with the RR from their affiliated regiments with the RR. Each Army regimental center has 3 or more RR battalions affiliated.

Because the Indians tend to bulk up their divisions with extra brigades and their brigades with extra infantry battalions when on CI, its probably reasonable to assume the four divisions will have 50 battalions with them (including corps independent brigades). With the RR, that's 380 rifle companies, or the equivalent of nine US divisions. (We count the US brigade as having 10 companies, because the cavalry squadron in the brigade is very manpower short. We're sure it's all well and fine in the type of high-tech/sensor dense environment for which it is designed, but we're talking CI here."

from Orbat.com

Pakistan already has the Indian Army on it's west Flank... If that offer by India is made and accepted (And if made it will be accepted) Pakistan will have another Indian army on it's East flank.

Interesting times.


Bill W, NH, USA

In spite of their huge propaganda machine, Israel has soundly lost the propaganda war. Will this soldier be punished appropriately, I kinda doubt it.




There will be no Indian troops deployed to Afghanistan. The idea is a complete fantasy. Even if the Karzai government and the US agreed to such an offer (and neither is that dumb), India has no supply line to Afghanistan, much less the logistical capacity to support an expeditionary force anywhere near that size.

Leila Abu-Saba

" their ability to inflict great damage and huge casulties no longer scares the populations of their neigbours. "

That is what I saw in South Lebanon this fall. People talked, when asked directly, of the war of 2006. But they don't look scared. They've figured out what they will do in case of attack, and they will all do it. Anybody who is really scared has already left the area. Everybody remaining seems to walk this Zen-like balance between enjoying life and being prepared for all-out destruction.



How are the Indians going to support this force? The shortest way for supply is though Pakistan, and well, the Pakistanis may not be too keen on an Indian Corps dropped in their backyard.

Michael Chevalier

Someone please tell me that this wouldn't be sheer madness! Is the force India is proposing not going to be primarily Hindu? In a Muslim nation? In the middle of other Muslim nations? I mean, I love the manpower commitment and India gets some first class combat experience but will this actually work on a geopolitical level? And, do they have to go THROUGH Pakistan to get there? How the hell is that going to work?

I always thought that Joe Biden's test was going to come between India and Pakistan or some combination of them. I was hoping it wasn't going to involve mushroom clouds.



"there is only one lord of the ring
only one who can bend it to his will. and he does not share power" - Tolkien

We need to know know who our true master is and soon, because IMHO, events are currently not evolving in America's best interest.

The Col. asked, in earlier post, what Hamas interest really where and we all assumed it was to stand up to Israel and win the support of the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic "street".

What if Hamas had a grandeur ambitions?



Is the force India is proposing not going to be primarily Hindu?

No. That would require a rather different course of Indian history over the last 300 or so years.

Obviously this won't happen, and if anyone is suggesting it, it's to annoy the Pakistanis. It is, however, a better way to express Indian anger than increasing IAF Southwestern or Western Command alert conditions, which would actually be dangerous.


Ah, the Dilaram-Zaranj road is completed:



Here is some good background on the sequence of events in Gaza. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01/roy_01_.html


Any logistical support to Indian troops in Afghanistan must flow through Iran, and thus Iran will need to be on board.

Look up Chabahar, Zaranj, Dilaram.

Or this from 2003 -

It would depend on the state of construction - this from 2007:


FYI - Senator Bond's report talks about the narcotics problem; and while proposing alternative crops, notes that Afghanistan sells India 50,000 tons of pomegranates a year - the Indian market could easily absorb a million tons they say.

Such increases in trade will only increase Indian influence in Afghanistan, which Pakistan is unequivocally against. The US is going to have figure out how much of its problem is really Pakistan not Afghanistan.

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