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27 June 2010


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I'm puzzling over the beautiful graphic (allah el akbar). Obviously pl has a nice sense of irony or something.

As for American interests, this should be a VERY short thread. America's main interest is making sure that India and Pakistan do not nuke each other. But who's paying attention to that issue these days, when there's money to be made?

eagle in the mountains

The National article linked to in a recent thread had some interesting approaches to just this issue in the experts' comments.

One big issue is what is the proper frame of reference--just AFPAK, or should people be looking at the 'Stans as an integrated whole and doing their AFPAK analysis in the context of the 'Stans as a whole?

One of the issues that always seems to be underexamined is the role of China in AFPAK. For example, we often see analyses of Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan from the point of view of it's conflict with India. Often there are suggestions that the solution is to arrange a rapprochement, say over Kashmir. However no one ever says that China is Pakistan's ally and India's enemy, that it borders on Afghanistan and has serious interests in the 'Stans. Surely an analysis should take into account the reality of Chinese involvement in the region and its interests, and also actual American security attitudes towards China vis a vis the region.

Ditto Russia's interests in the region. The events unfolding in Kyrgyzstan are very ambiguous as to who's doing what and why. Why for example Russia doesn't want to intervene.

As for American interests in AFPAK. One question would be, what does the NSC think are America's interests--what is their frame of reference and/or analysis for the conflict? Surely al Qaeda is part of it, but is it the only thing they think about?

Other possible interests: Pakistani nukes, Indian nukes, Iran (nukes?), petroleum, minerals, geographical location of AfPAK with regard to interests of Russia and China, possible stray Russian tac nukes in the region.

N M Salamon

It is hard to get a good answer to this question, for:

1.,The economy of Pakistan is on verge of collapse {IMF], yet'

The USA managed to talk the country into purchasing F-16 planes for $1.6 billion, and a service contract of $1.2 billion [the # might be reversed] THIS DOES NOT SEEM TO BE helping the HEARTS AND MINDS of the citizens.

2.,.While the "new" Pakistani government is not quite the satrap of M, the Previous President; the constant DRONE ATTACKS [permitted or otherwise] do not seem to help the HEARTS AND MINDS of the citizens [or those who disagree with this form of wanton murder].

3., Poll results indicate that Anti-americanism is rising, yet the USA has not implemented any positive to counter-balaces to this issue.

4.,The Idea that the Pakistani Government should continue with attacking citizens, causing millions of displaced persons is a non-winner for the USA, as far as stability of Pakistan is concerned.

5.,As Gen MacChrystal clearly demostrated as per The Independent, there is no military solution in Afganistan short of GENOCIDAL BOMBING, thus, best to leave Afganistan, thus no need for further issues on the federfal areas

6., The USA and World has interest in ensuring that the WMD of Pakistan stays SAFE, which requires that PAKISTAN Governmant has a low risk of collapse, which the USA can assure [with possible help of other major powers] by eleminating as many as possible of the destabilization measures.


No single purpose, but first and foremost is American prestige, this umbrella issue unites most of the groups involved from everday Joes on the couch to the highest levels of government, the Pentagon, and certain multinational corporations. Most of the other concerns have some element of worry about the loss of American prestige.

Internationalists of the Clintonian variety like Samantha Powers and Madeline Albright, not to mention Hillary herself, are worried that a "defeat" in Afghanistan will weaken their chances for interventionism and hegemonic and nosy behavior abroad for the next several election cycles.

The Clintonians near cousins the Neocons are likewise worried. They are breathing somewhat easier about Iraq, but are still nervous. If both situations worsen it might put the nail in the coffin for them. People might finally realize that being an expert of Leo Straussian sophistry and the wars of the Ancient Greeks doesn't make one a good resource for understanding the Dar al Islam.

Neocons brings us to Israel and the fear that the Muslims will go completely nuts if they "win" and launch a new Holocaust. This is a fear shared with the neocons' Christian dispensationalist fellow travellers (think John Hagee). Of course the fear of giving Islamic confidence a big boost didn't occur to them in the 1980s during the fight with the USSR.

Multinationals, particularly certain industries make billions off the logistics of Americans abroad. This is cash that stands to be lost if America "loses heart" and goes "isolationist;" i.e. goes realpolitik of the Robert Taft variety.

Everything mentioned before is an elite or intellectual concern. Now we come to the masses.

First we have, American "patriots" and the Sean Hannity-ites. I say "patriots" because what they feel resembles patriotism in the way an aged lady of the night resembles a respectable matron somewhat. If their respected leaders say we won, then, like the good authoritarians that they are, they will cheer. But if we "lose" they won't forgive for the next 100 years. Watch out Clintonians!

As pathetic as they are, I've even more contempt for the Starbucks crowd. You know the sorts that want someone to kill those scary swarthy Taliban men, but not themselves, and just so they don't have to hear about it themselves. Within this group we find the Soccer moms and Regis Philbin. This group basically went all chicken little post 9/11. They just want to be "safe" but don't want to pay for it.

Now, based on my above post one might gripe I left out the "left." The issue is the left, who are honestly far too willing to apologize for savagery provided a political movement is not-European or non-Western affiliated, are powerless. They are a non-entity.

I left off the military angle because there are other, better commentators to speak to this. Needless to say morale for the force as a whole is a huge issue, and for some, careers are riding on this (Coindenestas) and there are internal budgetary concerns.

N M Salamon

One wonders what pearls of wisdom has Admiral Mullen transmitted to the IDF in his short visit while worrying about AfPak and the collapsing USA Citizens' support for the wars?



Georgia (John McCain: "We are all Georgians now.") is an Israeli client of the first order.

Here we go.

Pakistan? Well, wounded and dying Iranian Shiites fleeing across the border into Pakistan surely will calm the anti-American sentiment there. Won't it?


Please forgive the double post.

Is there anyone who is qualified to discuss the effect of the season of the year on an attack on Iran?

Is summer better than any other time?

Patrick Lang


"in the same way as France or the UK does, or perhaps better than the US can (given the illegal immigration problem)"

Ahem --- Scotland, Corsica ... pl


Given cost, US politics, other interests in the region and the world, and a war weary american public, there is no good season for an attack on Iran.



The Washington Villagers on the “Inside Washington” TV show were awkwardly trying to understand why the hoi polloi were after the heads of incumbent politicians. They don’t have a clue.

No one mentioned that not one CEO from Wall Street or from BP has taken a Perp Walk, though crimes obviously took place. No one mentioned the corruption of the Forever Wars. Not one mentioned troopers being either deployed or waiting to be deployed in never ending cycles. Not one mentioned raising taxes to pay for the war or to get the 20% unemployed back to work.

From Sunday’s Washington Post article “Endless war, a recipe for four-star arrogance"; The responsibility facing the American people is clear. They need to reclaim ownership of their army. They need to give their soldiers respite, by insisting that Washington abandon its de facto policy of perpetual war. Or, alternatively, the United States should become a nation truly "at" war, with all that implies in terms of civic obligation, fiscal policies and domestic priorities.

The federal government has forgotten it citizens and only the needs of Corporate Stakeholders and the Wealthy are met. For the foreseeable future, the United States will keep killing its way to Peace. Something will inevitably collapse in America and the wars will end. One can desperately hope that Containment which worked so well with the Soviet Union will return as America’s guiding principle and the forces of law, peace and modernity will wither radical Islam at it roots in the Hindu Kush Mountains.


Hello, Sir:

Since you declared this an open thread, I thought that I would start with a slightly off-topic link:


The title of the article is somewhat misleading and the content dovetails nicely with other active threads that you have started.

The link to this open thread is not tenuous in my opinion. The US has had an active military presence for quite some time in the region, and I have to wonder out loud if the current conceptualized view of the military as a *profession* can be reconciled with its role as an instrument of statecraft during wartime.

The thing that seems to be missing is the ability of the general staff to adequately advise the state because they reached their position during peacetime (as I should think everyone would wish to be true).

I guess that what I'm trying to arrive at is how to apply lessons learned more effectively when one has the unavoidable burden of an entrenched bureaucracy in a professional fighting force. It seems that one modus operandi does not fit both peacetime and wartime.

I fully recognize that, as someone who has never served, I am casting things in a simplistic light and would be happy to be pointed to better commentaries than mine on the subject.


Adam L. Silverman

Eagle in the Mountains:

Here are the links to the current US strategy for Af/Pak. They were issued in FEB 2009:
The first link has links to a pdf that has the actual strategy papers.

Patrick Lang

What would you suggest as an alternative? pl

Patrick Lang


But, is it any good? pl


By our actions it would seem that we are an empire, and a very unusual one at that: an empire that delivers tribute instead of receiving it.

We are experiencing the worst of a multitude of worlds.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, hopes and dreams, etc., may be, we can't go on like we are much longer, nor should we.

William R. Cumming

What worries me is not the US interests in Afghanistan but what the polity of the US thinks the decade long intervention accomplished of any last significance to either the people of Afghanistan or the people of the US! In other words who or which group learned the most about the other? This assumes that both groups and all entities involved will be dealing with each other in the future since the lesson of past interventions should always be that yes life will go on and their will be a future whether we (US) likes it or not.
Not sure this comment makes sense but perhaps I can focus it a bit by stating the question as exemplified by Viet Nam--Does today's Viet Nam--still a Communist dictatorship--represent an adquate return on the "investment" made by the US between 1962 and 1975? I would argue NO but many seem to now argue YES!


Juan Cole lays out what is clearly not known to nearly anyone in the United States, taxpayers whose lives are being destroyed to pay for this war.



To any of you who believe that Debkafile is not an organ of Israeli propaganda, I call your attention to this article which attempts to turn the Dubai murder into a humanitarian mission.


There is just one problem. The drug given to their victim was succinyl choline. Unless the perpetrators intended to carry their victim out of the hotel intubated and attached to a mechanical ventilator, they were there simply to kill him.

What bullshit.



Neocons brings us to Israel and the fear that the Muslims will go completely nuts if they "win" and launch a new Holocaust. This is a fear shared with the neocons' Christian dispensationalist fellow travellers (think John Hagee). Of course the fear of giving Islamic confidence a big boost didn't occur to them in the 1980s during the fight with the USSR.
Probably the standard reply to that is that only after 9/11 Americans eventually understood the true extent of the threat Islam poses to the world at large. *sarcasm*

There is no point in pointing out errors, wild fantasies, misperceptions, distortions, blatant bigotry or equally blatant double standards to these people because they only speak to themselves anyway. Especially on the Christian fundamentalist side they firmly know which side they're on - that is a matter of faith - and they will not fall for your foul attempts to tempt them to stray from the True Path. They are not interested in debating you.

Brian Hart

When no one can define a mission in achievable terms with the time and resources at hand, perhaps we need to revisit the mission itself.

I would put it simply:

1. Prevent AF/PAK from being a haven for al Qaeda to launch attacks on North America.

2. Beyond that, we should be on the side of promoting good government, economic and social development by non-coercive means within those provinces of AF/PAK that welcome this.

If this mission is accepted then several things happen:
1. We drastically reduce our troop presence.
2. We increase our intel, covert and surgical strike capabilities.
3. We probably focus more on the non-Pashtun areas and urban areas.
4. We invest efficiently in ANA, ANP training, schools, hospitals, small electrical projects along the Japanese model - again in areas that welcome this.
5. We do not try to conquer 14 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan alone. We do not subsidize a corrupt and broken central government, we do not encourage or subsidize narcotics trafficking.
6. we spend a lot less in AF/PAK (currently a couple of months US spending equals the entire GDP of the region - this is just stupid).
7. We consequently reduce our logistical blackmail payments to the PAK Taliban.
8. We make it evident to Karzai that if he doesn't get on the side of the people in Afghanistan they are likely to having him hanging from a light pole in short order.


NSM, Interesting read in Theran. Thanks for the link.
Arbogast. Is that the same carrier task force the Isreali's have one of thier submarines following? Guess who will be blamed if they shoot first? Guess who gets to keep them from getting sunk? And who's going to re-fuel and replenish them? What time on station will they (the IDN) have without our help - 30 days or so? Tick, tick, tick………
I've seen the centurion quoted before: "We had been told, on leaving our native soil," wrote the centurion Marcus Flavius to a cousin back in Rome, "that we were going to defend the sacred rights conferred on us by so many of our citizens [and to aid] populations in need of our assistance and our civilization."

Yes, and our politician's now believe the same, namely that our rights as Americans are no longer inherint, they come from 'our citizens' or more correctly our elected politicians. Just look at the great victory at Guantanamo Bay for proof. Land of the free, home of the brave, indeed.


Given that our ability to meaningfully influence (short of massive arms infusions) events and peoples in that part of globe is severely limited; and given our understanding of the region even less than our influence, our interests there are to have as few interests as possible.

Sure, the 'loose nukes' issue matters; how best to prevent their spread is little understood by us. So it is one of those things one has to say, without knowing how to really effect the matter. Like god bless when someone sneezes. 'Stop the spread of loose nukes!'

As to war between India and Pakistan. I wish all well but I don't give a damn, in the long run. That is their business. If China were to invade India it might become our business. But only "might". All the talk of natural resources and oil pipeline routes are nonsense. Ideas sold to clueless people who get their history from Sylvester Stallone movies about the region.

So in the end, the interests? Harass AQ, and AQ like, base camps, try and keep some useful allies in the area. If that proves possible. Other than that....the hell with. We'll survive. And prosper better than if we sink our blood and money, and soul. And Republic in the area. And wish them all the best of luck.

N M Salamon


Your ideas are nice, but a Q remains:

Where do you get the money for these grandiose plans? someone's granddaughter in the middle of this century? or printing and Weimar Republic type HYPERINFLATION?

Your answer would be appreciated ASAP!

Adam L. Silverman


Its better than the previous one issued, if I recall correctly back in 2006 or 2007, under the Bush Administration, but I still don't think its what is needed. As we've all discussed here, as was discussed at the NYU COIN Conference, and as many others have discussed: having a policy and course of action that requires a third party to create legitimacy and effectiveness for a government in the eyes of its populace is exceedingly hard to do. I would argue that its even harder in Afghanistan as the central government has never had that type of effectiveness and its perception as legitimate has always run the gamut from accepted to tolerated to ignored.

I think too much of the strategy is based on section and subject headings in FM 3-24 and this still held over notion that democratic and liberal states can be created through external force, in places with little or no history of any of the necessary preconditions for this development, in fairly short periods of time, largely by soldiers because we don't have a civilian capability to do this stuff. Moreover, the reason for this is based on the absolutely discredited democratic peace theory, based on a misreading of Emanuel Kant, which asserts that democratic states are less likely to fight with each other (its been discredited because several researchers demonstrated that their was a Soviet/Communist peace equivalent, which sent everyone scrambling for a new explanation for the data..). And, of course, we have our usual war on insert drug of choice here boilerplate thrown in as well.

Given the task orders that were handed down to produce this policy, the time it was produced (very shortly after transition), and the mess that is our interagency process it isn't bad, but I don't think its going to get us any success in Afghanistan.

Adam L. Silverman

Mr. Salomon:

I don't want to answer for Mr. Hart, but in regards to concerns over Weimar style hyperinflation: there is absolutely NO threat of that in the US for the foreseeable future. The best explanations for why this are so lie with folks like Professor Delong, Mr. Ritholz, Professor Johnson, and Professor Krugman. Essentially, as I understand it from reading the econ blogs (I dabble...) the rate for US TBonds is so low, now under 3.5%, and the demand so high as they're perceived as a safe place for money to flee, indicates that it is very, very, very cheap for the government to finance all sorts of things right now, including more military stuff. Now not to get into the various political arguments over if we should spend more, if so where and on what and at what level, suffice it to say that inflation, let alone hyperinflation is not a problem. Moreover, the empirical evidence from looking at market responses, not that those are particularly that rational anyway (sorry U of Chicago folks, your utility maximization theory doesn't really model reality very well and reality is not longer modeling your model well either...), to proposed or enacted austerity measures (the most commonly used comparison I've seen is Ireland versus Portugal) seems to indicated that sooner and more drastic austerity doesn't make the markets happy either. So the argument that the markets are screaming for austerity, deficit reduction, etc seems to be something of a red herring produced for other political and economic reasons and many of the best economists are all stating that going that route will allow the US, and other places, to model Japan's lost decade in real time if not put is smack dab into a repeat of the late 19th Century Long Depression.

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