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21 May 2009

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Allen Thomson


> The most controversial offer of help came from Iran which has agreed to let the United States Air Base at Al-Udeid in Qatar be the chief base from which U.S. materiel would be flown across Iran into Afghanistan,

A quick check on Google Earth shows the one-way trip, making a slight northward jog to avoid Pakistan, is about 1600 km, 1000 miles. Pretty attractive. Of course, you'd then be dealing with the chess masters.

Jose

Wouldn't it be easier to cut a deal with the Iranians and use the the deep water port being built by the Indians in Eastern Iran/Baluchistan?

Mad Dogs

Ok Pat, now that Richard has named you, what have you got to say for yourself? *g*

Spill it all! It will be good for your soul! *g*

Seriously, I, and most other denizens here at SST, would much appreciate hearing more gory details about the Iranian transit deal.

We are all ears eyes as we await your unveiling.

steve

I wonder how long before the use of those supply lines become festering domestic political problems for those nations?

Yohan

Wouldn't such trips through Iran present opportunities for spying?

Diversity is good, wouldn't want to give any one state, much less Iran, the ability to hold our mission in Afghanistan hostage.

We also need to focus more on conservation and efficiency in Afghanistan, not schlepping in stuff we don't absolutely need.

Clifford Kiracofe

Per the Iran sea-land route:

As I noted in a posting several months back, the linkage to Afghanistan from Chabahar runs north by road in Iran then cuts into Afghanistan where India has been helping modernize road infrastructure. I spoke with very knowlegeable Indians on this matter when I was in Delhi over Christmas. They thought it a good idea if the US would consider this route.

Would it be a surprise if the Israelis and their assets, fellow travelers, etal. in the US would pressure the Obama Administration not to explore this option?

Does anyone seriously believe the regional situation can be addressed without a robust diplomatic effort directed toward ALL regional powers and stakeholders such as Iran, India, China, Russia for example?

It should be evident that there are factions both in the US and in Iran who oppose the concept of a so-called "Grand Bargain" with Iran. On this US side, it is the pro-Israel lobby. As Iran is somewhat opaque, it is not so easy to ascertain the factions and the appropriate moves for the US and so on. But the openness toward constructive engagement which President Obama indicated during his campaign is a good place to start to try to sort out the relationship.

We have had commercial and cultural relations with Iran/Persia since the early 1800s. Our diplomatic relations were intitiated before our Civil War/War Between the States. So it is not as if we do not have any experience out that way. We don't need the Israelis as coaches, advisers, "strategic partners," middlemen, marriage brokers, and so on in the endeavor. We can deal directly on a bilateral basis in the American national interest.

Highlander

This all just shows how logistically exposed our expeditionary force in Afghanistan is. You cannot maintain this number of troops by air alone. It's not even close.

None of these regime's we are forced to do business with in order to secure supply routes are particularly stable and or dependable.

It's time to get our troops out of this particular "barbarian hell hole", while the getting is still good.

Slowly but surely Obama is taking over ownership of Bush's screw ups.

William R. Cumming

Just out of curiousity is the logistics supply system to AF-PAK military or civilian? Percentages? Contact dollars? What do we know about the Taliban's logistics?

Fred

A logistics route through Iran. Bibi and co. would finally get the message that in this instance they are a hinderance to America's national interest.

JohnH

The supply routes into Afghanistan are increasingly precarious. The US appears to be digging itself into a hole.

So what if Afghanistan's neighbors are interested not just in "increasing their international profile?" What if they're cheering us on--"Dig, baby, dig!"

Nothing would please the Russians and Iranians more than to have the US dependent on them for survival in Afghanistan.

curious

Does anyone seriously believe the regional situation can be addressed without a robust diplomatic effort directed toward ALL regional powers and stakeholders such as Iran, India, China, Russia for example?

Posted by: Clifford Kiracofe | 22 May 2009 at 06:56 AM

no. But the lesson hasn't hit the power that be yet. because a) nobody serious is attacking us. bumbling around is still an option. b) nobody reads history or even open the map on civilian side, while pentagon side is all map and history but don't understand the social economic aspect of the conflict.

This is not some extraordinary conflict. It's basic a dime a dozen small arm clash.

Could one imagine is some player starts supplying taliban with modern weapons. (rpg-29, rpg-32, FN-6 manpad, strela, igla, russian landmine, armor piercing bullets, etc) All those are the low ends toys. Add GPS jammer, military grade radio, intel information, trade war and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. then what?

China already won that hypothetical afghanistan proxy war, nevermind Russia.

It's amazing really to think that anybody can make claim about preparing the military to win 2 fronts war. This is the result of 2 decades preparation? ...whatever...

( mister pentagon brass dude, you are driving the country to the ground, busting budget. All these against taliban? Bunch of religious guerilla warlords that we supported and supplied 20 yrs ago? Main weapons are light machine gun and improvised explosive.)

How about basic light infantry campaign first?

transformational force my foot.

The next guy doing powerpoint presentation about the need for advance robotic sensor in future combat device, will get a whacking upside the head.

Ian

Even if Pakistan remains friendly, reliance on the Khyber pass as a supply route has always made me rather nervous. The Taliban is well aware of our vulnerability there. It's hard to believe, but they were able to stop traffic completely five times between September 2008 and February of this year. (Sept. 6, Nov. 16, Dec. 7, Jan. 15, Feb. 4. More since?)

The December raid was particularly startling. 200-300 Taliban fighters hit a supply depot which was apparently almost undefended. They torched ~160 of our supply trucks. Check out the pictures -- they turned it into a junkyard.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1092769/Military-vehicles-destroyed-Taliban-raid-NATOs-supply-line-Afghanistan.html

That's not to mention the smaller raids which are a regular occurrence. For example, two attacks that I've heard about in the past two weeks. (May 13, May 19).

So yeah, getting an alternate supply route is a very good idea. Getting a supply route through Iran would require the most impressive achievement in American diplomacy since Nixon went to China. One can only hope.

Don Bacon

This movement into the 'Stans is not recent, it is standing US policy of at least ten years.

The Silk Road Strategy Act of 1999 (S. 579), updated 2006 (S. 2749) "sets an over-arching policy for the United States in the South Caucasus and Central Asia which involves the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

"Goals of the Silk Road Strategy Act include strengthening democratic government, resolving regional conflicts, promoting friendly relations with the United States, advancing market reforms, developing economic infrastructure between states in the region and supporting U.S. business interests and investments."

harper

After hearing a briefing earlier this week at the Atlantic Council, given by author Gretchen Peters, I am now more convinced than ever that one of the most essential features of any successful counterinsurgency operation in Afpak is to break the bonds between the insurgents and the drug cartels. Peters, a former AP bureau chief in Pakistan, has pulled together a very detailed picture of the hard-wiring of the drug and insurgent apparatus. It is a transformed situation. Drug proceeds to Taliban and the related Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan alone total over a billion dollars a year, and growing. While we have no secure logistical routes through Pakistan into Afghanistan, the dope trafficking cartels, fully allied with the insurgents, have multiple supply routes that work flawlessly. I was particularly stunned to find that 75 percent of the opium and heroin flow to Russia and Europe is handled through the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which operates out of Central Asia, northern Afghanistan and the NWFP of Pakistan.

The Afghan opium production is 95 percent of the entire world production of heroin and opium, and the global annual value of this trade is upward of $200 billion. The money is laundered through banks in Dubai, and those same banks also launder "charitable gifts" to Taliban and allies, from rich princes and businessmen in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and elsewhere.

On the ground in Afghanistan, under the division of labor, worked out when NATO first took over the mission in Afghanistan at the Bonn conference, the British are in charge of opium eradication, and they are AWOL. Gen. McCaffrey reported late last year that the British argument is that you wipe out the insurgents first, and then go after the opium lords. Gen. Craddock, the outgoing head of NATO testified last week about the same exact problem. When the London Economist publishes a cover story, arguing that all illicit drugs should be legalized and taxed, to deal with the global economic crisis, you cannot feel confident that the Brits are going to seriously "lead" the effort to wipe out the financial and logistical base of the Taliban.

The Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley, as Craddock confirmed to me in a discussion last week, was all about securing drug routes through Pakistan, bypassing the Baluchi rivals. Taliban commanders routinely take their "R&R" in Dubai, where they drink single malt, screw high-class whores, and behave more like Tony Soprano than Mullah Omar and the fundamentalist stoics.

So, the picture here is not what is appears to be, if you read the newspaper accounts. Our strategy, especially the new counterinsurgency thrust coming in with McChrystal and Rodriguez, must either take this reality into account, or we are doomed to fail, bigtime! We might do more to curb the Afpak mess by cracking down on bank accounts in Dubai, than by sending SWAT teams into Helmand and Kandahar.

arbogast

Look, unless I'm just completely off-base, I'm under the impression that guns are used to kill people.

I know that in Hopalong Cassidy, the bad guys usually just get winged and have to drop their guns, but out there in the real world I think most of the guns are used for attempted murder...though, of course, it's impossible to murder anyone in a "war"...we are at war in Afghanistan, aren't we?

Well, anyway, by either killing people or threatening to kill people in Afghanistan, we intend to accomplish what?

Kill every last Taliban?

Intimidate the Taliban we don't kill into giving up?

Achieve a stalemate?

Provide a distraction from financial fraud on Wall Street?

This is all ridiculous. This makes Vietnam look like a masterstroke of foreign policy.

Is there anyone on earth who thinks we are not making the situation worse in Pakistan with all our killing in Afghanistan...unless of course our troops don't kill people?

Cloned Poster

Democracy ha fucking ha.

This is a double up end game for USA

curious

I am now more convinced than ever that one of the most essential features of any successful counterinsurgency operation in Afpak is to break the bonds between the insurgents and the drug cartels.
Posted by: harper | 22 May 2009 at 04:55 PM

It is the entire ecosystem.

1. The drug money supplies
2. the weapon bazaar
3. The religious school, refugee, high unemployment (exploding demographic)
4. the old warlords/mujahedin leaders.
5. Pakistan kashmir war
5. Pakistan-afghanistan border dynamic (Pashtun, etc)
6. Afghanistan power vacuum.
7. Pakistan politics
8. all the big power interest in the area.

-------

People still don't want to face the fact that afghanistan is nation building.

If not careful, afghanistan will develop into a black hole. ala Burma's jungle (golden triangle, British supported insurgency + opium sale that self sustained long after British give up the operation. Somalia, a botch regime change operation that is now a sanctuary for terror group in north africa. Or something like Columbia/latin america failed state. Botched regime change. constant civil war, narco state.)

that's a baseline scenario as corruption start eating everything in afganistan and the huge number of black operation turn into narco trafficking. (cia, Pakistan, afghanistan, warlords, etc)

in less than a decade, as population of afghanistan exploded, combined with corruption, and constant war (plus various competing regional interest) afghanistan basically turn into everybody's worst nightmare. It will overwhelmed Pakistan as well. (narco trafficking, corruption, bombing, refugee, etc.)


Somebody has to come down hard and stop the clown show. very hard. Current afghanistan conflict will become long term chronic problem if not handled properly.


with the way things are trending. afghanistan will turn into big nightmare in 10 years. population explosion. corrupt narco state. Constant war. US-Russia, Iran-Israel, pakistan-India-China tugs of war.

afghanistan-pakistan then both becoming one giant decaying state. problems are feeding into each other.

The solutions are there. this isn't rocket science. But a lot of work and political willingness.

Eric Dönges

JohnH,

Nothing would please the Russians and Iranians more than to have the US dependent on them for survival in Afghanistan.

Actually, I think nothing would please the Iranians more than having the U.S. remove the Taliban for them. You see, the Taliban don't like Shiites, at all ("not like" as in "kill"). Their Pakistani ISI enablers aren't terribly fond of Iran either. And having their neighbor Afghanistan be the world's largest opium producer is probably just as desirable for Iran as living next to a crack house would be for you and me.

In my opinion, this is a case where the national interests of Iran and the U.S. closely match, making a mutually beneficial deal possible - if both sides could stop posturing for a moment.

Babak Makkinejad

curious:

There is no nation in Afghanistan to build.

There is a rickety state that may, in principle and after several decades of effort, be restoired to what it was in 1975.

Babak Makkinejad

Eric Dönges:

I agree with you but I do not think that the drug war it worth that much to either Iran or US.

In fact, I think the drug issue is more iimportant to EU. But EU is in the process of sanctioning herself out of influence with Iran - just like US.

harper:

Yes, very true.

But the logistics still will be a problem; drugs have to be shipped through Iran and through Northern Afghnaistan into CIS territories. A North African route or one through the Arabian penninsula is not feasible, in my opinion.

Ian

Nothing would please the Russians and Iranians more than to have the US dependent on them for survival in Afghanistan.

Actually, I think nothing would please the Iranians more than having the U.S. remove the Taliban for them.

I think nothing would please the Iranians more than reducing the number of countries that are publicly debating the merits of bombing Iran. Working with the US on a mutually beneficial project might be thought to do just that, dialing down the tension a bit. Being friendly sometimes makes sense even from the most cynical point of view.

Making this gesture also works as a test of American intentions. They might reasonably interpret American unwillingness to try sending even a token amount of supplies by this route as an indication that the US will not reward cooperation. Not, I think, a good signal to send.

curious

There is no nation in Afghanistan to build.

There is a rickety state that may, in principle and after several decades of effort, be restoired to what it was in 1975.

Posted by: Babak Makkinejad | 23 May 2009 at 10:28 AM

maybe there is or isn't an "afghanistan". But the area existed and the problem is spilling over to surrounding nations.

Like I said. It's an ancient place. Major power have been battling in that place since the beginning of history.

It can quickly become a 'free for all' arena once again. Iran isn't going to win in that situation, even after building "buffer" in the western afghanistan. What has Iran accomplished during the 80's and 90's there? not much.

So want to turn afghanistan into narco-state combined with decaying pakistan? Pakistan is now entering the urban guerilla state. Every cities are now a bombing target. These easily shave 0.1-0.2% GDP, not to mention tasking the pakistani army to the limit.

US involvement in Afghanistan will last much shorter than taliban/warlords ability to hang around, if afghanistan central government is not formed.

Babak Makkinejad

curious:

The Iranian policy in Afghanistan in 1980s was predicated on the opposition to USSR's presence in Afghanistan.

That policy was successful in getting USSR out if Afghanistan.

The policy after that could be criticized, but only in the hind-sight.

Even if Iran had elected to support Dr. Najib's government, would US, Saudi Arabia, EU, and Pakistan gone along with that? Or would not that have been yet another area of confrontation?

Yes, the area has to be administered and on that I agree with you.

curious

after the collapse of Najibullah gov. Throughout the mid 90's. If Iran want to do something meaningful that would be the time.

And looking at current event. Soon this all will turn into Khalilzad vs. Karzai debacle, followed by very shaky Pakistan government. Then situation will get hairy because all logistic route are closed.

but before that point. Iran shouldn't make any move. And let things be.


http://www.afghan-web.com/history/chron/index4.html

1992--

* April 15--The Mujahideen take Kabul and liberate Afghanistan, Najibullah is protected by UN.
* The Mujahideen form an Islamic State--Islamic Jihad Council--elections.
* Iranian and Pakistani interference increases--more fighting--
* Professor Burhannudin Rabbani is elected President.

1994--

* The Taliban militia are born, and advance rapidly against the Rabbani government.
* Dostum and Hekmatyar continued to clash against Rabbani's government, and as a result Kabul is reduced to rubble.

1995--

* Massive gains by the Taliban.
* Increased Pakistani and Iranian interference.

curious

btw, Kazakhstan is going to be the next Georgia. That place will explode in regime change soon.

Russia isn't going to be happy about all this

---------

Israel opens 3 new diplomatic missions

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1242212438291&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


uranium mining scandal
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1242212417040&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


Kazakhstan has the third biggest uranium deposit in the world. After Oz, Canada.

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