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20 July 2010

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William R. Cumming

Hillary is very close to many high-ranking officials and businesspersons in India. Is it possible that US Afghanistan policy is being dictated by India? Just as US Iranian policy is dictated by Israel?

Fred

Hilary has proven far better as SOS than I expected. What a change from Condi. Given that, however, this quote ""I don't see an alternative…." just seems to prove that this is the administraion's policy. There's more than one way to skin a cat, there's certainly more than one way to find Bin Laden and counter jihadi's than what we are doing now.

JohnH

Hillary is starting to make the incomparably incompetent Condi look good...

crf

William, I don't think US policy in Afghanistan is being dictated by India.

The Afghanistan policy was cooked up on short notice as a result of the Sept 11. The initial ad-hoc response has still strongly influenced the present policy, even 8 years later, where there has been time to rationally (ha!) think it over. That initial response was one of REVENGE, and since revenge is a pretty base motive, and America had values, America was also going to do some nation building.

And a lot of somewhat different policies have been developed (How are we to prop up Karzai. Do we change the poppy economy, Yes or No? What sort of development? Try to kill the Taliban, or just hold some cities). But for all these policies, and the all the money and lives and limbs, hasn't it been obvious from the beginning that the US (with the rest of the world) was not going to invest the SUFFICIENT amounts needed in Afghanistan to eradicate the Taliban and build a stable Nation? To say nothing of America's heart being in Nation Building (Torture?).

Inertia explains much about Afghan policy. The policy is:

Nation building at a cost just enough to placate the country's desire to see America as a force for good.

Military work to stop Al Qaida's largest organisational capabilities and support whatever degree (it fluctuates) of nation building American politicians want.

Check and Check.

I just don't see outside interests having largely affected US policy in Afghanistan, at any stage in the conflict.

citizen

It's hard to not feel some empathy for Clinton, she's basically been handed a near impossible task. Was this intended?

Regarding nation-building in Afghanistan, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is the degradation of Afghanistan's farm-land, forests, and water supply. Mineral resources might be a source of revenue, provided they can be extracted. Meanwhile, however, these environmental problems worsen. Even in a rich nation like the US these concerns are pretty serious.
Because many of these problems are shared by Afghanistan's neighbors, it seems unlikely that meaningful help will come from those directions. Will the UAE or the Saudis help out? They might send some charity money, but one must consider that the UAE and Saudi infrastructure is largely dependent on Westerners and South Asians, so I don't see large numbers of Saudi or Emirati engineers descending on Afghanistan anytime soon. The coming human tragedy in Afghanistan is going to be bigger than people think, I believe, and not for the reasons commonly cited. I might not be reading the right news sources, but it seems that nobody is talking much about this environmental stuff.

Ken Hoop

Well, Tom Barnett periodically fumes that US Afghan policy is controlled by Pakistan whereas it should be controlled by (prioritizing) India.
Not that his counsel is
ever advisable, except perhaps when he's criticising neocons.

FB Ali

For an excellent report on the actual situation on the ground in Afghanistan at present, see Ann Jones's article at:

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175269/

SD

I often wonder how the strategic landscape would be if not for the detour into Iraq.

----
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/spy-boss-uk-terror-threat-surged-after-iraq-war-2030681.html

"She said the decision to go to war in Iraq meant that insufficient attention was paid to Afghanistan.

"By focusing on Iraq we reduced the focus on the al Qaida threat in Afghanistan. I think that was a long-term major and strategic problem," she said.
-----

Rumsfeld and Cheney could not wait to get into Iraq.
And here we are today.

Cloned Poster

clinton is part of the war machine, qed

N M Salamon

Mrs Clinton has an unenviable job explaiing the non-functional USA foreign policy in Muslim lands.
Her failing stems from 2 sources, one the confused issue of neo-con opposition to Nr. Obama, and her own personal conviction that Israel is RIGHT in all cases, which belief is counterproductive in Asia, or Latin America, and, indeed, in large segments of Africa [discounting Mr Mubarak and similar satraps of the USA].

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Lang, in my opinion Mrs Clinton's words are discounted, due to their inherent lack in reflecting reality, in rising economies, eg. Brasil, China, etc; and as such, she is not a good representative of USA interest -the real ones, not the political spin!

jr786

Her successes are lost one me, although my attention is focused on only one area.

This bothers me:"I don't see an alternative"

Really? I'm sure that's rhetorical on her part but it reeks of domestic politics influencing alternatives - "Who lost Af?" etc?

Whatever, I'm sure she'll land on her feet.

Pepe

You honestly think that Clinton would have a different Afghanistan policy were she POTUS?

walrus

Off Topic, but the death a few days ago of General Marcel Bigeard, a major participant in Two wars of counter insurgency should be noted.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/19/world/europe/19bigeard.html

Fred

FB Ali,

Thanks for the link. Depressing but not surprising. What is the enemy strategy, certainly a good question. As to Karzai's consolidating power, how so? Unless he thinks he won't have to move to Geneva to be closer to his money not too many years after the US leaves?

different clue

If "stay the course smarter" is the policy, how can a Secretary of State oppose or denigrate it? Obama, Clinton, and all of us are inheriting the stale rancid gruel left after 8 years of willful distakes and malignant neglect by the Bush Administration of our people in the field and their fought-for purpose there. She is doing her best to choke the bowl down.
Could anyone else do better?
I don't know how we go back eight years and do the Great Jirga over and allow the Afghan groups to decide whatever they wanted to decide under a Zahir Shah caretaker transition government . . . this time around.

She also believes in protecting womens' rights, including the few hard-won minimmal basic womens' rights now existing in Afghanistan. She may well sincerely want us to stay and fight for as long as it takes to keep womens' rights secure againts a resurgent Taliban. I am not
prepared to somehow dismiss the importance of womens' rights. I know I would want mens' rights protected if women ruled the earth.

But is that really something we should fight for in a very far away and difficult country?

I can think of a way to save womens' rights and the other good things in part of Afghanistan based on what Colonel Lang has written about the village and regional militias (and armies?) And that would be to help set these things up in the non Pashtun parts of the country without letting the Kabul government have any effective say or control in their training, arming, supply, etc. That way, when Kabul makes its peace with the Taliban; that peace will only cover the Pashtun areas anyway. The non Pashtun areas might still have a fighting chance to save some of the tenuous gains they have made; including limited womens' rights.

VietnamVet

FB Ali

Thank you so much for the link to the post by Ann Jones. Her summation of the war is the best I’ve read:

“It goes round and round, this inexorable machine, this elaborate construction of corporate capitalism at war, generating immense sums of money for relatively small numbers of people, immense debt for our nation, immense sacrifice from our combat soldiers, and for ordinary Afghans and those who have befriended them or been befriended by them, moments of promise and hope, moments of clarity and rage, and moments of dark laughter that sometimes cannot forestall the onset of despair.”

If the truth is hidden by corporate media, that does not make it less real.

FB Ali

VietnamVet,

Yes, that was a particularly good quote (out of many) that you picked. Another one that my friend, Ingolf, liked was: . . . the so-called defense intellectuals who live in an alternative Washington-based Afghanaland of their own creation.

Speaking of quotes, here’s another excellent one: When it comes to counterinsurgency, don’t do it (Tom Engelhardt).

This one is from yesterday’s post at: http://www.juancole.com/

citizen

FBAli,

You are correct, sir, that article was genius.

Ann Jones told one story about how easy it is to screw up in doing COIN. I'm referring to her story about the female soldiers, who were sent out to deal with Afghan women without training.

Jones said,

"As with so many innovative new plans in our counter-insurgency war, this one was cobbled together in a thoughtless way that risked lives and almost guaranteed failure. Commanders have casually sent non-combatant American women soldiers - supply clerks and radio operators - outside the wire, usually with little training, no clear mission and no follow up. Predictably, like their male counterparts, they have left a trail of good intentions and broken promises behind."

Jones encountered some very angry Afghan women waiting on some seeds. The lesson learned, if you interact with poor people who have existed hopelessly for years do not make a little promise and then not keep it. Those women probably thought the Americans were rich beyond belief and could do anything. Channeling said Afghan women further, they probably thought why didn't the Americans just give them the seeds?

This isn't just an Afghan trait, btw.

clifford kiracofe

Our longest war (with or without COIN) does not appear to have helped the situation for women in the target country.

Perhaps someone at State could translate for the Secretary the current report on women/Afghanistan at the German medicamondiale webiste below:

http://www.medicamondiale.org/home/single-artikel/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=54&cHash=1b377a7548

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