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26 October 2010


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FB Ali


Russia's renewed interest in Afghanistan is a result of their recognition that the post-war Afghan power game is about to begin. They want to play, too.

The headline on the piece is misleading. This what the NATO spokesman said:

"There are no plans to reintroduce Russian soldiers into Afghanistan – [it's] not part of Russia's intent, not Afghan, and not ours. Russians may get involved in training helicopter pilots if they provide some helicopters, but not in Afghanistan itself. In the past, Russians have collaborated on training counter-narcotics police outside of country. None of the initiatives on the table involve Russian troops in Afghanistan."

The 1980s Russian misadventure in Afghanistan is going to be a big handicap for them in the future Great Game. They'll probably safeguard their strategic interests by using the various 'stans bordering Afghanistan as proxies.


Maybe "Slow Trot Thomas" could have solved the Afghan military situation, but he has long been unavailable and no "West Pointer" today can match his methodical use of strategy and logistics.

FB Ali, great post especially the last sentence.

As Obama says,"The cancer is in pakistan" - jaffar khan

Do you really think you would like anything that follows the current Pakistan government?

different clue

FB Ali,

I re-read your post as well as your summary and I am working to understand what you have actually said as against where I may have outrun what you are actually saying. In briefest, do I correctly understand you to be saying that everyone knows that America is leaving Afghanistan and everyone knows that American control will disappear along with the American presence. In the unfolding power struggle over who controls Afghanistan after that, Pakistan will make sure that no anti-Pakistani adversary, expecially India, will have any influence in the eventual Afghanistan which emerges. The Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network are the groups Pakistan mosts trusts and values to work with to prevent any Indian influence from lingering or emerging in Afghanistan. Pakistan will therefor not permit America to degrade or weaken those two groups to the point where they cannot assure zero Indian influence in Afghanistan at the end of the coming power struggle in Afghanistan. Based on my briefest re-summary, have I understood what you wrote? If I have, then I have something more to say of a hopefully helpful nature. If my re-summary still shows lack of understanding what you wrote, then I am probably better off saying nothing further.


An interesting development: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11625216

BBC says that the Pakistani army is blockading the Shia Turri tribe, because they do not offer passage to the Haqqani group over their land.

But the government decision to block this route, too, places the Turis under an economic stranglehold, says our correspondent.

Haqqani network members last week held talks with Turi leaders in Islamabad about striking a deal for access to Kurram.

In return, the Taliban is thought to be offering safe passage for Turis travelling overland from Kurram to Peshawar.

But the Turis reportedly rejected the Taliban approach - for at least the fourth time since 2008.

In the meantime Pakistan's Federal Investigative Agency has concluded that the TTP was behind Ms Bhutto's assassination.



Let me see if I am getting this right, so please correct me if I am wrong. The Taliban were basically religious isolationist. AQ took advantage of this lack of internationalism and so UBL plotted and attack the US. I personally believe we had our head up our butts and stove piped the detailed to intercept the 911 terrorists. I strongly believe Able Danger "identified" Atta and the domestic cell and the powers to be did not pass the data onto the FBI for what ever reason. The Bush Administration was asleep under Condi Rice as National Security Advisor.

But when we gave the Taliban the ultimatum the answer actually came back from the ISI because the Taliban was internationally politically clueless and of course the ISI was locked a dual with Indian Intelligence over Afghanistan.

Speaking of nukes. We really need to FORCE the NPT issue with both Pakistan and India. Iran is a secondary issue ...

Retired (once-Serving)Patriot

@FB Ali - thanks again for a great, explicative post and commentary. Believe it or not, there are many inside the policymaking process who do get it - wand what you write. Sadly, these are written off as heretics, cranks and otherwise "ill-informed" due to their lowly stature in the bureaucracy. I have little doubt that the troops on the ground in Afghanistan get it - again, no one really "listens" to what they are saying.

@VV - The war has continued for 10 years because most Americans have no involvement. The war is the only stimulus that Democrats and Republicans can agree on and it keeps their cash contributors in the money. However, a Crash is coming. In the next two years, after the GOP takes control of Congress, the Federal Government will shut down. When the Social Security and military pension checks stop coming, the USA will be out of Afghanistan in a flash. And thus, Bin Laden proves his point and validates the strategy he set in motion before 11 Sept 2001. Amazing isn't it? After all, we've become bogged down in an unwinnable, bankrupting Afghan war - something thoughtful pundits warned against and even the Pentagon feared (and thus limited its initial force levels accordingly).

and @AJ Brickmeier, failure to avoid the quagmire is exactly WHY Haqqani & Omar remain so strongly tied to Bin Ladenism. After all, hasn't the Emir been proven right? Why should they change horses now - especially when (in the Haqqani case), the Predators make special effort to wipe you out? Sadly, the complex and delicate balances in the region, before and after 2001, needed a deft touch. And when was the last time the US wielded such a touch? Ever?


Patrick Lang

SP (now retired)

A minor point but, as you know, you and I do not receive military "pension checks." We receive retired pay because we are still serving. pl

FB Ali

AJ Brickmeier,

The first, and basic, point is that the al Qaeda that the US went to war against in Afghanistan is now just a few score people hiding in remote areas in FATA. It is not an operational jihadi group. Instead, it has become a franchise that jihadis around the world have picked as their brand name. AQ in FATA exercises very little if any operational direction of these groups; all it does is provide them with ideological exhortation. Its main operational significance is in the money it can still raise in the ME.

In the above context it is meaningless to speak of the Haqqanis being “organically tied” to AQ; they merely share the same political Islamist ideology. But their circumstances are vastly different, and these determine how each applies this ideology. For the Haqqanis the main goal is to establish a power base in Afghanistan. To do this they will have to compete for many years with different power groups there, including the Taliban. During this long struggle they are not going to think of launching attacks on ‘infidels’, as you seem to fear. They will also be on their best behaviour towards Pakistan, since they will need its support.

You say: no US administration will allow either Haqqani or Mullah Omar even an iota of a stake in Afghanistan. I seriously doubt if the US is going to retain the power to determine who plays or does not play in post-war Afghanistan; the initial set-up after negotiations will merely be a prelude to the real game later.

Yes, the US has threatened Pakistan that it has “a set of 150 targets” that it will bomb in FATA if an attack on the US emanates from there. The danger of this happening does not arise from the foreigners (including Afghans) in FATA, it is from the Punjabi jihadis who have joined up with the TTP. The Haqqanis are helping Pakistan control these elements.

FB Ali

Different Clue,

You have it exactly right!

Retired (once-Serving)Patriot


We receive retired pay because we are still serving. Yes, you're right. Thanks for reminding me!


FB Ali


But when we gave the Taliban the ultimatum the answer actually came back from the ISI because the Taliban was internationally politically clueless and of course the ISI was locked a dual with Indian Intelligence over Afghanistan.

I believe you've got it wrong there. Pakistan (not the ISI, which doesn't operate on its own!) tried hard to persuade the Taliban to give the US enough to avoid an attack, but Mullah Omar stuck to his principles.


Dear FBAli,

Okay - in the traditions of strategic myth making - let us put aside the question of whether Pakistan's Afghanistan strategy is a key driver in its internal unrest.

It seems to me that Pakistan has a pretty good deal here.

Between the "good behaviour" baksheesh from the Allies and the Kabul Badshah, and the payment from the Americans for letting their resupply convoys through - Pakistan is making a tidy sum of money.

Perhaps the amount is less than what could be made by Pakistanis if they completely controlled the revenue stream from the opiate economy - but I think there is a black to white conversion cost that they would incur and that cost is difficult to quantify.

By contrast all the money made currently from the transit trade and baksheesh is totally white.

In any case money itself is largely meaningless - what matters is where and how you reinvest it.

All that remains to be done now is reinvest the money into the development of water management resources (dams, desalination plants, borewell drilling equipment etc...) and Pakistan's future will be secure for the next one hundred years.

As long as the Americans are in Afghanistan, interest in energy pipelines through the region will remain high. The Americans are the only ones with the technology to reliably pump ONG over those size scales unless you want to deal with the Russians or the Chinese. You can ask the Iranians how that is working out for them.

If the Americans leave the region. Interest in pipelines will decline and the prospect of Pakistan making money from the energy transit fees will vanish.

If the Americans leave - what little positive media coverage there is of Pakistan will leave with them. Pakistan will have to pay through its nose to improve its media image. Without a positive media image, no one will want to invest in anything Pakistani.

Why kill the chicken that lays golden eggs? Does the Pakistani Army want to do business or commit suicide? - I am very confused.

I know that eyes light up when words like "subconventional" or "low intensity" or "subthreshold" are thrown about in the chai stall outside Aabpara Chowk - but it is foolish to ignore the sizable economic dimension here.

I don't know how anyone in Pindi can forget that trying to muscle into Kabul during the 90s only increased Pakistan's international isolation.

It it that hard to be constructive in ones approach to Kabul?

Or does everything always have to be about sparking insurgencies and subconventional wars in neighboring states?

Can foreign policy aims be achieved without constantly getting into bed with extremists and malcontents?


Story repeats itself, until somebody wises up.

Declassified papers from the National Archives, at G.W. University; titled "The Taliban File".

Quoting the summary there:

The first document dates from November 1994, one month after the Taliban took the strategic post of Spin Boldak on the Afghan-Pakistan border, allegedly with cover fire provided by Pakistani Frontier Corps (see document 5). With that victory, the Taliban, who were being championed by a fellow Pashtun, Pakistani Interior Minister Nasrullah Babar (see document 4), began to make a name for themselves, and also gained a significant amount of military supplies. Pakistan supported the Taliban, not just to restore order to Afghan roads, which would open the way for a possible Trans-Afghan gas pipeline (TAP), but because they also saw the Taliban as a faction that they might have considerable influence over, and who might provide in Afghanistan, a strategic lever for Pakistan against India.

As the documents and history show, Pakistani authorities discovered they had made a blunder. The Taliban were not only uncontrollable, but unpredictable as well. In certain instances the Taliban would declare their desire for peace, willingness to work with the UN, and desire for a non-military solution for Afghanistan, then state that "anyone who gets in our way will be crushed."

The documents also show that the U.S. made tremendous efforts to obtain a political solution for Afghanistan, not just because of the desire for American companies to take advantage of business opportunities (see document 16) with the TAP, but also due to other key concerns: human rights, narcotics, and terrorism (see document 17). In many instances, American officials pressed the Taliban on their counternarcotics strategy, their treatment of women, and on allowing Afghanistan to be used as a base for terrorist operations and home for Osama Bin Laden.

The cable traffic shows the difficulty the U.S. had negotiating with Taliban representatives in all these areas. Cultural and political miscommunication was rampant (see document 18). In one meeting, Ambassador Thomas W. Simons Jr., the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan -who also had responsibility for Afghanistan- attempted to find common ground with Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Ghaus, explaining that "Americans are the most religious people in the Western world."

It soon became clear that Taliban rule was detrimental to Afghan and international security, as evidenced by their sanctioning of continuing narcotics production -despite its un-Islamic quality- and shelter for al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Acting Secretary Strobe Talbott described the danger of the Taliban in a February 1996 meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Assef Ali when he drew an analogy between Pakistani support for the Taliban in Afghanistan and the militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Talbott stated that while such support was undertaken to serve Pakistani interests, there were unintended consequences contrary to Pakistan's and the region's larger interests. These consequences became shockingly clear two years ago, on September 11, 2001.


Strobe Talbott's warning in 1996 to now in 2010 - Pakistan's security has not improved one bit. The intervening events were the nuclear tests in India and Pakistan, the Kargil war, 9/11, the upsurge of Taliban and sectarian warfare in Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan and its spillover into Pakistan.


General and Colonel,

Last month is the 39th anniversary of my discharge from the US Army. Time distorts memories. But, I do know I am becoming a rare breed, one who was drafted and went to war. Yet, when I hear talk of attacking Iran or War with Pakistan, the pundits pushing hatred, I fear that it is I who is labeled as crazy, not the War Mongers.

What ever happened to diplomacy, containment and the bright shining city on the hill?

AJ Brickmeier

Brig. Ali,

A few rejoinders for your consideration.

1. Your claim that the Haqqanis have no global attack aspirations is belied by the fact that the CIA Khost attack, the Faisal Shahzad attack, the numerous thwarted attacks in the UK (Rashid Rauf anyone?), the Denmark aborted attack by Ilyas Kashmiri and the latest Europe "Mumbai 2" plans were ALL planned and trained for in Haqqani controlled areas.

2. The Haqqanis are the Afghan group that is most closely tied to Bin Laden and Zawahiri. After evicted from Sudan, Bin Laden and Z first went to the senior Haqqani and settled in his area (Khost, Paktia and Paktika) and only later did they reach out to Mullah Omar. Since then the two groups have been inseperable

3. Virtually every one of the Arab or Uzbek or non-South Asian jihadi leader or Al Qaeda commander killed in drone attacks recently has been in Haqqani areas like Miranshah and Mir Ali.

4. Sirajuddin Haqqani himself has given numerous interviews praising his Arab mentors and stating the view that the Al Qaeda transnational jihadists have been instrumental in teaching his group the suicide bombings and beheading type tactics that have led to his group's success. He has reiterated that he will always shelter the "guest mujahideen" regardless of their global aspirations

All of the above clearly suggest that:

(A) Rather than "controlling" the Punjabi jihadis, the Haqqanis have been giving them and other global jihadis support for their international plans

(B) Even if the Haqqanis themselves are Afghan centric, they will continue to shelter Arabs, Uzbeks and others of their ilk

Tell me please, are we supposed to disregard the material evidence of the Haqqanis' support for global jihadists and merely take comfort in the words of Pakistani COAS that the Haqqanis are harmless?

If Faisal Shahzad had built a half-decent trigger, we'd not be having this discussion, would we?

AJ Brickmeier

Re Jake's post, Brig. Ali, he might be referring to the reports (from Pakistan) that then ISI chief Mahmoud Ahmed actually advised Mullah Omar to not give in to Americans rather than the other way.

It was widely reported that this was the reason for his forced retirement by Musharraf.



The ISI is the Pakistani Government I understand. Here is the part I am confused on.. "Mullah Omar stuck to his principles".... Principles? Which were those? Protecting UBL/AQ or survival?

I am sure General Musharraf wanted to avoid a US attack or rather total US involvement in the region. But the US was going to get everything it wanted no matter what Pakistan or General Musharraf pushed Omar for. It was blood the American public was calling for.

So I am also sure that the Paki's and/or the ISI understood this.

No matter the principles of Omar or anyone else. Now the Indians were already in position to capitalize on a US attack and Indian Intelligence was already on the ground in the North. It is well known that Indian Intelligence was waiting for Karazi's entrance and ran around Kabul at will....

So where did this leave actually leave the ISI/GOP?



Basically what I am saying is that the Paki's were talking out of both sides of their mouths. Just as we do and protecting "all" of their interests at the same time... The kobayashi maru no win scenario....

AJ Brickmeier


You may not be aware of this but "Paki" is an offensive term for most Pakistanis. Please use the full word or "Pak" as an short form. Let's keep this civil, shall we?

Patrick Lang


I am the only censor here. pl

FB Ali

AJ Brickmeier, Jake,

My piece was an attempt to present how I see the situation in Afghanistan unfolding in the near term. I did not discuss past history, which is what many of the issues you have raised relate to. I do not think it would be productive to get involved in such a discussion, especially here. However, I will clarify a couple of points you have mentioned.

Jake, the principle that I believe Mullah Omar was upholding is the old Pakhtun tradition (sanctified by Islamic tradition) of not betraying a guest. My understanding is that he did offer to produce ObL in a Saudi Islamic court before which the US could present its evidence against him.

AJB, my estimate of likely Haqqani actions in Afghanistan during the post-war period was based on their likely adherence to their principal goal (establishing as strong a base as possible). I did not say anything about Gen Kayani’s “assurances” (I doubt very much that he would ever plead their case to the US).

K. Hussan Zia

There is also a more sinister aspect to the issue. After the fall of the Taliban regime the continued occupation of Afghanistan has had little to do with fighting terrorism or emancipation of its people.

Anyone who understands anything about the country knows that the future of Afghanistan can only be decided by the Afghans themselves and in their own way. All it requires is for the occupation troops to withdraw and hand over the country to the UN. The fact that this eminently common-sense solution is never mentioned, let aside seriously considered,is an indication that the motive is not to bring peace to the country but to perpetuate the occupation in some form. Continuation of the strife also serves an important secondary purpose ---- destruction of Pakistan's economy and internal cohesion, making it easier at a later stage to do away with her nuclear capability.

Both these objectives are serious and unwise gambles and carry within them inherent risk of unmanageable destabilisation --- an area where angels would fear to tread.


Speaking of Afghanistan...The devil is always in the details...


Sarah Godil

US should remove forces from Afghanistan and it will be peace all over the world


nice article nice sharing

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