This is an excellent analysis of the situation that Petraeus confronts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The original article at Japan Focus includes hyperlinks to all of the quoted material, as well as photographs and annotated maps of the region. The author, China Hand, runs the China Matters blog.
All parties agreed that the only solution to Afghanistan's conflict is through dialogue, not fighting.
It appears that the key job before General Petraeus will be to co-opt the regional impetus toward a negotiated settlement, prevent Saudi Arabia from mid-wifing a power-sharing arrangement favorable to the Taliban, assert American control and direction over the process to assure America's continued presence at the center of Afghan's security equation, and spike the loose cannons that threaten his plan.
"I'm more concerned in the long term about the results of the drug war in Afghanistan than I am about resurgent Taliban," said the NATO military commander. The government and its NATO allies have not lost the people yet, officials say. But it is getting close to that.
Carlotta Gall, reporting after the late 2006 peace deal:
Javed Iqbal, the newly appointed Pakistani secretary of the tribal areas, defended the North Waziristan accord:
"We have tried the coercive tactic, we did not achieve much. So what do you do? Engage."
Steve Coll, reporting shortly after Bhutto's death (also, audio):
I asked if the local Taliban played favorites at election time. “The Taliban have no part in politics,” Paracha answered emphatically. “They are totally against democracy and the ballot. They will decide everything under the Holy Koran or with the bullet.”
General Rashid Qureshi, Musharraf’s spokesman, said the notion that Pakistan might support the Taliban was “a ridiculous argument, really. We have lost over a tho... [ Read More (0.3k in body) ]
For three decades Vice President Dick Cheney conducted a secretive, behind-closed-doors campaign to give the president virtually unlimited wartime power. Finally, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Justice Department and the White House made a number of controversial legal decisions. Orchestrated by Cheney and his lawyer David Addington, the department interpreted executive power in an expansive and extraordinary way, granting President George W. Bush the power to detain, interrogate, torture, wiretap and spy -- without congressional approval or judicial review.
This essay is excellent and should be considered required reading. Now it is even more heartbreaking than it was last month, as two of its authors were KIA on Monday.
What soldiers call the “battle space”... is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army ...
In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear ...
Stratfor: Al'Q wins in London even though the attack was foiled.
Topic: War on Terrorism
10:13 am EDT, Aug 30, 2006
Follow through for the full text. Selected excerpts are provivded below for those too hurried or too afraid to click through.
Terrorism, at a deeper level, is about psychology and the "propaganda of the deed." And as far as al Qaeda is concerned, it is also about economic warfare: Osama bin Laden personally has stated that one of the group's strategic objectives is to "bleed America to the point of bankruptcy."
There is a similar economic angle to attempts at protection against cheap missiles.
Officials naturally want to be perceived as doing everything possible to prevent future acts of violence; therefore, every threat -- no matter how seemingly ridiculous -- is treated seriously. Overreaction becomes mandatory. Politicians and executives cannot afford to be perceived as doing nothing.
This powerful mandate on the defensive side is met, asymmetrically, on the offensive side by a force whose only requirements are to survive, issue threats and, occasionally, strike -- chiefly as a means of perpetuating its credibility.
Terrorist acts do not have to be tremendously successful (in terms of physical casualties or damage) in order to be terribly effective.
One wonders why they even bother with all of the conspiracy, training, and preparation.
Al Qaeda measures its progress in the war of attrition not only by the number of American servicemen killed, but in terms of American treasure expended in furtherance of the war. In essence, bin Laden and his planners adopted a concept that is familiar to Americans: "It's the economy, stupid!"
Al Qaeda long ago took the risk-aversion factor into account, as it embarked on its war of attrition against the West. In such a war, what matters most is not how many times a fighter is bloodied and knocked down, but how many times he picks himself up and returns to the fight. It is dogged determination not to lose that can lead to victory. This is, in essence, how the Mujahideen won against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and how al Qaeda views its contest against the United States today.
Stratfor seems to left out the part about how much the Mujahideen relied on us for financing and supplies. Today, Hezbollah is similarly reliant on its sponsors.
Conspiracy may be cheap, but waging a persistent, violent insurgency is generally not.
When we recognize the futility of a force-on-force battle against a certain class of threat, we will walk back the cat toward the state sponsors, because we think we know how to confront them (and have the tools to do so). Is this a successful strategy?
Civil Liberties and National Security By George Friedman Stratfor: Geopolitical Intelligence Report - May 16, 2006
USA Today published a story last week stating that U.S. telephone companies (Qwest excepted) had been handing over to the National Security Agency (NSA) logs of phone calls made by American citizens. This has, as one might expect, generated a fair bit of controversy -- with opinions ranging from "It's not only legal but a great idea" to "This proves that Bush arranged 9/11 so he could create a police state." A fine time is being had by all. Therefore, it would seem appropriate to pause and consider the matter.
Let's begin with an obvious question: How in God's name did USA Today find out about a program that had to have been among the most closely held secrets in the intelligence community -- not only because it would be embarrassing if discovered, but also because the entire program could work only if no one knew it was under way? No criticism of USA Today, but we would assume that the newspaper wasn't running covert operations against the NSA. Therefore, someone gave them the story, and whoever gave them the story had to be cleared to know about it. That means that someone with a high security clearance leaked an NSA secret.
Americans have become so numbed to leaks at this point that no one really has discussed the implications of what we are seeing: The intelligence community is hemorrhaging classified information. It's possible that this leak came from one of the few congressmen or senators or staffers on oversight committees who had been briefed on this material -- but either way, we are seeing an extraordinary breakdown among those with access to classified material.
The reason for this latest disclosure is obviously the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to be the head of the CIA. Before his appointment as deputy director of national intelligence, Hayden had been the head of the NSA, where he oversaw the collection and data-mining project involving private phone calls. Hayden's nomination to the CIA has come under heavy criticism from Democrats and Republicans, who argue that he is an inappropriate choice for director. The release of the data-mining story to USA Today obviously was intended as a means of shooting down his nomination -- which it might. But what is important here is not the fate of Hayden, but the fact that the Bush administration clearly has lost all control of the intelligence community -- extended to include congressional oversight processes. That is not a trivial point.
At the heart of the argument is not the current breakdown in Washington, but the more significant question of why the NSA was running such a collection program and whether the program represented a serious threat to liberty. The standard debate is divided into two schools: those who regard the threat to liberty as trivial when compared to the security it provides, and those who regard the security it ... [ Read More (1.8k in body) ]
To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.
Delta Force founder - 'our credibility is utterly zero'
Topic: War on Terrorism
5:33 am EST, Mar 28, 2006
We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.
Somebody's gonna have to clear up the aftermath ... It may be two or three generations in repairing.
Did you catch that?
... masters of diverting attention away from real issues and debating the silly ...
This last point is true, but he could be talking about almost anything in government.
Those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops. The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. There should be a ribbon for that.
I need to compile a database of sarcasm like this, along with the recent NYT essayist who wrote:
"I do not avoid books like "Accordion Man" or "Elwood's Blues" merely because I believe that life is too short. Even if life were not too short, it would still be too short to read anything by Dan Aykroyd.
For the record, I support the troops. And always remember, Everybody Loves Raymond.