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17 January 2011


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Pat Lang, you write, “Since the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan could also create problems, the purpose of Biden's recent trip to the region was to smooth over friction points with them.” It strikes me odd to think Biden is going to solve this issue that has gone on for millennia, in just one visit. To me, governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan need to think about some other questions. 1) What is the benefit to either Afghanistan or Pakistan to do such a thing? 2) What are the consequences to either or both of these countries, if they chose such a path? 3) Could the US take the same approach, of being a trouble maker? In my humble opinion it would be a smarter choice for these countries to work together with the US, for peace. Only history will be the true judge of this time.

Sean McBride

Regarding this:


The State Dept is now largely out of the picture in future policy. Even when their point man, the late Richard Holbrooke, was around, he was largely marginalized (that is probably why he was reduced to daydreaming about a repeat of Dayton, with him bullying and browbeating Karzai and Mullah Omar into an agreement). The neocons, who engineered the Afghan and Iraq conflicts and pushed the ‘surges’ there, are also now reduced to singing the praises of COIN, and the virtues of resolve, from the outside in newspaper columns. Even more marginalized are the American people, who want the whole mess to just end. None of these interests can compete against the powerful players who have taken over the game and are pushing it towards their own objectives.


Which powerful players and which objectives? Can you be specific?



It seems a complex situation with so many agendas.

Have you factored in the consideration of Obama's political opponent in 2012 who will also have an amplified megaphone? He/she will be making the point that Obama is cutting and running and Osama will be at our door step in short order? And, the "endless warriors" would not give up without a fight. So, we may actually just get the kabuki of withdrawal.


Mr. Ben Ali's wife shouldn't have tried to take any gold from Tunisia, in a year she can sell her French properties to Karzai's family, he'll need a safe place to spend all that American money he's not spending on his country.

FB Ali

Sean McBride,

The "powerful players" are the ones I referred to earlier: Pres Obama and Gen Petraeus. Their "objectives" were also specified previously: re-election in 2012, and 'doing an Iraq' here, too, and getting out in good time.

FB Ali


It seems to me that the WH figures that a substantial troop withdrawal ("because our strategy is working") before the elections would be a plus factor. There is also the issue of money. Building up Afghan forces without reducing US troops will increase the costs of the war considerably. With the outlook of a tepid economy, high unemployment, and budget-cutting, they probably think saving money here would be useful.

What actually happens is quite a different matter.

Sean McBride

FB Ali,

Ah, I see. In the big scheme of things I don't see Barack Obama and David Petraeus as being very powerful -- just tools in the hands of powerful interests -- especially the neoconservative and neoliberal wings of the Israel lobby, which dominate, respectively, the Republican and Democratic Parties.

The only conceivable reason I can imagine for continuing to wage these losing and costly wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to pursue to the bitter end the Long War and Clash of Civilizations script cooked up by the PNAC, JINSA, AEI, CSP, FDD, FPI and a dozen or so other neocon policy outfits. From an American cost/benefit analysis these wars are sheer madness -- they make no sense at all. Promoters of these wars are not able to offer any rational defense of them.

FB Ali

Sean McBride,

I think when their personal interests/future are involved Obama and Petraeus will follow them. Whether they succeed in achieving their ends is another matter.

William R. Cumming

I think that the Islamic "Bomb" is now driving all US policy, not terrorism or AQ. But because the US has been the leading proliferator over the years and turned a blind eye to proliferation issues it will now be left for others to resolve. The destruction of ACDA-Arms Control and Disarmament Agency--was the tell-tale. And of course the US would never consider the medicine it prescribes for others.

Sean McBride

FB Ali,

I think Obama and Petraeus have been made to understand that it is in their personal interest to do whatever the Israel lobby tells them to do, and that it is very much not in their personal interest to do otherwise.

When Obama tried to challenge Netanyahu and Lieberman on Israeli settlements, he was piled on and threatened by powerful neocons and Likud ops within his own party. Since that moment he has become perfectly obedient to the wishes of the lobby -- and especially to the neocon wing of the lobby, which is continuing to drive the United States into a grand conflagration with the entire Muslim world -- in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Israel continues to build settlements in the occupied territories with barely a peep from the Obama administration.

It's not too difficult to see where all this is going.

Charles I

Hi FB.

Former Afghan security chief Umrullah Saleh 2004-2010 was on Charlie Rose last night calling for major bombing attacks in Pakistan to physically destroy the Taliban, fighters, havens, madrassas and protectors, really the physical reduction of Pakistan as an Afghan factor as the only solution.

FB Ali


If I recall correctly, he was a 'Northerner'. They would be happy to have the US bomb the hell out of Pakistan. That's one reason why Pakistan wants to make sure these guys don't come into power after the West leaves.

different clue

Perhaps building up a Northern Groups Army is a recognition that the Pashtun regions will never be fully de-Talibanized anyway and is therefor meant to achieve the lesser objective of leaving behind a Northern Alliancestan which can never be conquered by the Taliban either. Such a Northern Alliancestan might offer minimal bases to either American or any of the Shanghai Cooperation Council
neighbors which might be genuinely concerned with the restoration of jihadi training camps in the Taliban areas. Such bases might be used to break up such training camps and nothing more. Might that be part of what Obama and Biden are thinking?

In the wider scope, American voters can't vote for a Truce Of Civilizations if no office-seekers are running on a Truce Of Civilizations. Microscopically marginal third parties would run on such a thing, but what hope do they have to attract millions of disaffected Democratic voters?

The only hope I can see lies in the Republicans nominating a noncrazy realist for President and Vice President both. That way many Democrats would be relieved of their fear of a President Palin/Huckabee/Moore/JeBush/etc. That would free those voters to vote for the third party of their choice.
How might millions of disaffected Democrats get such a Republican ticket? Perhaps by invading the Republican primaries and voting for the most plausible non-maniac.


Interview with Pervez Hoodbhoy

"Of course I would love to see the Americans out of Afghanistan. The sooner they can withdraw – without precipitating a 1996 style Taliban massacre – the better. But let’s realize that US withdrawal will not end Pakistan’s problems. Those fighting the Americans aren’t exactly Vietnamese-type socialists or nationalists. The Taliban-types want a full cultural revolution: beards, burqas, 5 daily prayers, no music, no art, no entertainment, and no contact with modernity except for getting its weapons."


FB Ali,

What do you know regarding the death of BGen Sultan Amir Tarar?

Some are now saying the group that was responsible organized by the substantial Israeli/Indian operational forces in Afghanistan, the Mossad/RAW. There are claims that these groups organize terrorism inside Pakistan, working to destabilize Pakistan, and they also support the heroin trade in Afghanistan and simulate “Al Qaeda” terrorists when needed.

Clifford Kiracofe

1. "Washington finds Karzai increasingly acting as an Afghan nationalist rather than as a US surrogate. What is at issue is how to secure a long-term US military presence in Afghanistan....Any US-India axis in Afghanistan can only be tactical, but it will nonetheless be seen as high provocation by Pakistan and Iran (possibly, also by Russia and China). Pakistan will feel more justified than ever to have placed such irrevocable faith in the Taliban as its "strategic asset".

The US will eventually realize that it is skating on thin ice. There are half-a-dozen very good reasons why Pakistan remains and will continue to remain central to any durable Afghan settlement. Karzai will prove to be as tough as a nail. Thus, in many ways, the US proxy war in Kabul promises to be a defining moment." http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/MA25Df02.html

This is an interesting analysis by a retired Indian diplomat.

2. some "facts on the ground":

"WASHINGTON — A major US plan to build outposts for Afghan forces has been dogged by delays and shoddy management, jeopardizing plans to bolster the country's army and police, a top official said Monday.

The stark warning came from the outgoing inspector general for reconstruction in Afghanistan, Arnold Fields, who said the base-building effort was well off-course despite billions of dollars in funding.

Building is so behind schedule it is "questionable" if the work will be finished when US-led forces supposedly start winding down their mission in about two years time, Fields said."


Sidney O. Smith III

General Ali

You may find of interest an essay in the Guardian by Seema Jilani who is of Pakistani origins. The title of the essay is "Deep Prejudice about the deep South". It was a welcome sight to my eyes. I was absolutely astounded when I read this article.


All that said, I have deep concerns about trends in the South and elsewhere.. But, remarkably, she sees the flaw in the American ethos as well. God bless her.

FB Ali


I was away on a week's holiday, and saw your post almost by chance after my return.

Thanks for the link; I enjoyed reading it. That is something that makes me sad: there are so many talented young people from Pakistan, but they have to go elsewhere to shine. Their own country doesn't provide much opportunity for that.

To avoid what nearly happened, I suggest you use my email address whenever appropriate: fbali2@gmail.com.

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