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14 December 2010


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Retired (once-Serving)Patriot


These varying narratives are probably mutually exclusive...

I'd argue that there is no "probably" about it.

Few, if any, in the business of determining strategy in Central Asia understand what you are saying. And we both know that even if they did understand the impossible mission, nary a one would speak against it publicly or privately. A lawful order must and will be followed - even to the ultimate detriment of the troops, the service or the nation. If those voices of dissent exist, you be sure that they are squashed, silenced and hidden in the Bagram shacks or Pentagon closets.

And Brenner's entry?! Holy moly!!! I don't know how both you and Prof Brenner continue to get to participate in that forum. But I am glad that your voices are there. Even if no one in power cares to hear them, much less seek them.

Will Holbrooke's "dying words" be heeded? Will they really even be heard? I strongly suspect that they will - as another escalation to "win it for Dick"!!! And despite the public disapproval, no one will stop it. None, but those vilified as disloyal traitors and non-supporters of the troops, will even say anything about it.

Thanks for being a voice out there. One that can still be heard by those willing to listen. Your example gives me some hope for our collective futures.


Adam L Silverman

Sir: the new Afghanistan and Pakistan NIE has made it's way into the LA Times:

Needless to say someone wanted to get their point across.

As to your remarks at the National Journal blog, they're spot on, and I spent a bit of time yesterday basically saying the same thing to the other attendees of a conference I'm at. You'd be amazed at the looks when you phrase it as: "why yes, we are trying to following an ethnocentric policy of imposing and reshaping Afghanistan into something much more in our image, because that's what's been determined to be in our national image, now do I think it'll work, that's a discussion for another day...". And mention that we're caught in an Indo-Pakistani regional dispute and you either see the lights go on or you see a brown out depending on who processes the information and in what way.


I read the NYT's coverage of the NIE. The only people objecting to the negative summary of the situation were those in Afghanistan, who have a more direct stake in claiming success. Several cited progress over the last six weeks, after the report's cut-off date, but don't we always do better in the winter, when the Taliban hole up?


To further complicate matters Pakistan and India are fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan.

What is the list of Indian actions that comprise the "proxy war"? e.g., does building of roads count?

Roy G.

Nice post Col., and I also liked Brennan's arch take on The Great Hero, Petraeus.

Anybody care to comment on this Wired article reporting that Petraeus has tripled the air war, and that COIN is being deprecated?


Patrick Lang


Roads? Sure, as well as many other things. you should be proud of the skill with which they are playing. pl


Col Lang: in the Wikileaks so far, we have Pakistan only accusing Afghanistan, e.g., http://cablesearch.org/cable/view.php?id=07ISLAMABAD31 2007-01-03

Quote: "Having outlined Pakistan’s efforts to enhance security in the border regions, President Musharraf told GEN Schoomaker that he is deeply frustrated that the Government of Afghanistan has not been responsive to greater bilateral cooperation. In fact, Musharraf argued, Afghanistan is supporting terrorist, specifically the violent Baloch nationalist insurgency led by Brahamdagh Bugti, who Musharraf claims shifts between Kabul and Kandahar. Pakistan cannot tolerate the increase in terrorist attacks seen in Balochistan over recent months. Despite pressing President Karzai directly for assistance in repatriating Bugti to face charges in Pakistan and sharing Pakistan’s frustration over Bugti’s apparent safe haven in Afghanistan with a parade of international officials (ISAF GEN Richards, A/S Boucher, etc.), Musharraf said, nothing is being done to address the problem. Pakistan supports its allies in the fight against terrorism and expects the same support when it comes to apprehending terrorists who target Pakistan."


Similarly there are no other cables (yet - we've a long way to go) that outline American conclusions about Indian activities.

Further, destabilizing Pakistani Balochistan would have spillover destabilizing effects on Iranian Sistan-Balochistan (there was a bomb blast there today that killed 39). Perhaps there is an American wink-wink-nod-nod, who knows. On the other hand, would India want to annoy Iran?

Anyway, the question still remains, "skill with which they are playing" dodges the question, which is what are the specific activities that India is doing, by being in Pakistan, to support Baloch separatists in Pakistan?

Patrick Lang


You do not have the privilege of making accusatory implications toward me here. Do you understand? pl


I should say - what activities is India performing in Afghanistan that leads to the death of Pakistani civilians or soldiers, or Pakistani proxies for that matter, to justify the statement of "proxy war"?

Patrick Lang

Ssurely you are not so primitive as to think that "wars" are always fought with guns. any more of this and i will ban you. pl

Charles I

There was some reporting about year or so ago in Asia times online about feverish Indian consular office construction in half a dozen remote Afghan regions, none of which I recall in detail. Much was cast entirely in the context of the Indo-Pakistani conflict.

Including Pakistani difficulties in meeting perceived troop requirements on the Indian border in light of the campaigns in Waziristan, NWFP, etc, as well as concerns over both legal and illegal commercial interests naturally active on the Afghan border.

Charles I

ps Brenner was fantastic this week.

Sad its such a treat.

John Waring

We are just as alien to the Afghans as the Russians were. And we think our outcome will be better?


Dear Col. Lang,

Your blog, do as you please.

We know - from American sources - that the ISI had a hand in bombing the Indian Embassy in Kabul. So Pakistan IS waging a hot war against India in Afghanistan. My question which troubles you so much is about the other way - is it a covert "hot war" or is it a "cold war"?


Most pertinently, assuming India is busy in counteracting ISI agents in Afghanistan, in propping up the Afghan govt., in undermining the Taliban - in which ways is India acting detrimentally to US interests?????

Patrick Lang


I don't think of international relations and the struggle between countries as being described adequately as "cold war" or "hot war." Such struggle is conducted in many ways simultaneously. pl



India is pursuing its own interests as it sees them. Its spooks and its dips are about with bags of cash and whispers in ears and useful "friendships" with northern alliance warlords, many of whose massacres with the help of Indian (and Iranian! and US!) military aid are still in living memory for the pashtuns.

The Pakistanis have counter-moves of various kinds in defense of their interests. And so the game goes on.

If by "counteracting" the Taliban India somehow draws dangerous and hard to control reactions out of Pakistan (for instance, just wildly imagining here for your benefit), that would not be in US interests at all.

India doesn't care about US interests. Nor does Pakistan. Neither really cares about "afghan" interests either. This is just part of the problem and the war being fought.

As is the irrational hatred and fear of Pakistan by India, and vice versa.


I don't know why Arun is being so dense. Pakistan naturally wants a compliant client state on its NW border. India doesn't have to actually put any fighting forces in Afghanistan to spook Pakistan, only exert enough influence to make Pakistan doubt Afghanistan's intentions. If a couple of highways and a cultural center is all it takes to make Afghanistan friends with India, then that's all they'll use.

To use an example from a book I just finished, the Allies were able to attack a relatively poorly-defended Sicily because Germany diverted armored divisions to Greece in anticipation of an attack that never occured. The Allies didn't have to attack in Greece, only to make Hitler fear that they would.

Charles I

Arun, I'm holding in my hand a printout of "On New Warfare" by Col. Qiao Liang, as he then was, of the Chinese Air force. Haven't the foggiest where I got it or a proper cite.

A professor and political officer, he caused quite a stir with its publication, around the time 4G War was making the rounds.

Really, at the end of the day, its The Art of War, war is all about everything but the fighting, that's a detail. Technology, globalization, vulnerability, whole new domains of existential, non-kinetic warfare

Really worth a read.



Your comments are behind times and you and your ilk cannot understand why the Afghan war is being extended.

You are stuck in the 1970s and 80s when there was some equivalence between India and Pakistan.

One country is a net contributor to the global economy and another cannot survive a week without foreign aid and contributes nothing to the outside world except being a threat.

The level of irrationality in Pakistan's amorphous "fear" of India is orders of magnitude more than any irrationality on the other side.

If there is any irrationality in Indian policy, it may be with China, but not with a failing Pakistan.

Despite numerous terror attacks from Pakistani jihadists based in Nepal or Sri Lanka, India does not blow up Pakistani embassies in those countries.

Pakistan is addicted to jihad. India is but a convenient excuse for their addiction.

This jihad addiction is a threat to the whole world because the Pakistanis cannot keep their proxies from solely killing Indians or Afghans.

As long as Cold Warriors such as yourself keep up this "India - Pakistan" equivalence, you will never understand why post 1990s US governments are doing things that you cannot explain.

Fossil anyone?



I don't think Arun is necessarily denying the existence of a power projection competition between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan, but he's perhaps questioning the use of the phrase "proxy war". Potato-PotAAto?

The question for you is how you deal with this in the context of US interests in Afghanistan.

One way is to throw up your hands and walk away. But that's not going to remove the threat you face - of another 9/11 originating from the region.

Another way to deal with it is to have enough presence in the country to be able to mitigate the 9/11 risk. In doing so, if the unthinkable happens, you can use all your leverage to convince Pakistan that no matter what their fears of India are, Pakistan has to make a choice - "Either they give up using proxies which tend to cause things to go boom all over the world or they stand to lose all the aid, multilateral loans and the general diplomatic cache that allows them to distinguish themselves from the likes of more brazen blackmailers such as North Korea"

There are other options within these two extremes but I hope you get the picture.

It is not the proxy war, but the irresponsible use of specific dangerous proxies by one of the parties.

Patrick Lang


Don't quibble with me over semantics. pl

Fabius Maximus

Awesome! One of the best articles I've seen in a long time about our wars. Ditto for Brenner's.

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