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Old 06-23-2006, 01:52 PM   #1
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NATO's Afghan Strategy

Parts 1 & 2 of an interesting series currently running over at slate.com on the current status of the NATO campaign in Afghanistan. I chopped off quite a bit of the first article.
Quote:
Knitting Together an Afghan Strategy

By Fred Kaplan

KABUL, June 20, 2006--NATO, it turns out, does have a strategy for Afghanistan—an intriguing mix of military force, economic development, and political empowerment that combines classic counterinsurgency theory with high-tech communications and more than a dollop of precision air power.

...the Western campaign here is huge, much bigger than most press accounts indicate. The air base in Kandahar, an hour's flight south of Kabul and the center of constant clashes with Taliban insurgents, is breathtakingly enormous—a 9-mile perimeter holding 10,000 personnel, a 10,000-foot runway (in the process of being doubled in size), hangars and parking spaces for over 100 jets and helicopters, as well as a handful of Predator drones. The base is, as one British officer puts it, "one of the busiest military airfields in the world"—and it's getting busier and bigger all the time. Back in Kabul, an elaborate underground Command Joint Operations Center monitors and coordinates all military activity. Three enormous screens display detailed maps marking the location of U.S., NATO, and insurgent forces. Communications centers receive requests for air support—and transmit the orders to provide it. A bigger center is being constructed to link joint operations to a new joint intelligence command. The point is, NATO seems here to stay for a long time—or at least it wants to convey this impression to the Afghan government and people, to the Taliban insurgents, and, not least, to itself. The Afghan operation marks the first time NATO has led a major expeditionary combat force outside Europe, which is why the mission is regarded as a threshold—a test of whether alliances in general have a role in these sorts of conflicts and of whether this alliance in particular has any role in the post-Cold War world.

Problems have surfaced already. Spokesmen boast that 27 NATO nations are taking part in the operation. But, besides the United States, only four—Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, and Romania—have agreed to let their troops be stationed in Afghanistan's southern provinces, where almost all the fighting with insurgents is happening.

U.S. and NATO commanders have sent throughout the country 21 Provincial Reconstruction Teams—joint civil-military projects—to do reconstruction work. But then, starting a couple of months ago, the Taliban gummed up the works by going on the rampage after four years of relative calm. European politicians, who thought they'd voted to let their troops join NATO peacekeeping operations, suddenly found themselves in a shooting war. And the NATO commanders' subtle distinction between counterterrorism and counterinsurgency—with its implicit jab at the bomb-happy Americans vs. the civilized road-builders of the alliance—began to blur. Only a handful of PRTs have managed significant progress, and even their beneficiaries fear reversals if the security forces leave too early. In the PRT at Qalat, a town just north of Kandahar, the two U.S. Army companies are about to be replaced by two Romanian companies. Over the course of a 10-minute talk, the governor of Qalat told a group of foreign visitors three times, "Please don't let the Americans leave."

Even the headiest multilateralists are beginning to wonder if the transfer of authority, from the United States to NATO, might be premature. So, a division of labor is materializing. When the transfer takes place this fall, about 7,000 Americans will join the roughly 11,000 troops now under NATO command. But another 13,000 Americans based here will remain under separate U.S. command.

NATO officers don't like to spell out this distinction. They want to convey an impression of a coherent and unified command.
To a remarkable degree, they're succeeding. It's striking to see German, Dutch, British, and, yes, American officers working in the same room as if they were equals. But on a fundamental level, the Americans are still leading the pack, doing things that European politicians cannot agree among themselves to do. Quietly, many NATO officers prefer it this way. And this may be the best approach from an American standpoint as well. Better this, in any case, than having to pick up the entire burden, in cost, lives, and ill-fated stabs at legitimacy.

By the fall, the United States and NATO will have, all told, 33,000 troops in Afghanistan—only half of whom are currently permitted to go fight in the south. This is a big country. Just the dangerous southern provinces—Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, and Uruzgan—are, together, nearly as big as Germany. We may not have enough troops to control them.

There are three ways to expand troop levels. First, the Afghan national army could hold the lid on secured areas. Well, maybe some day. Judging from a quick tour of the ANA's training center in Kabul, this is as yet a nascent army: inexperienced, ill-equipped, able at best to fight alongside Western armies but not at all on its own. The Western governments have agreed to build up this army to 70,000 troops. (It currently totals 30,000.) But Gen. Mohammad Amin Wardaq, an Afghan army veteran and the commander of the training center, said that 70,000 "is a small number, a very small number." (Pentagon officials have recently said the number might shrink further, to 50,000.)

Second, there are the Afghan police, but they tend to be not just ill-equipped but incompetent and corrupt. One NATO officer notes: "They haven't been paid for three months—some not for six or seven months. How could they not be corrupt?" A reform campaign by President Hamid Karzai is improving things, but only slightly. Terence Jagger, Gen. Richards' political adviser, quoted one international study noting that of Karzai's 86 recent picks for chiefs of police, 13 are "corrupt, depraved, or both."

A third possibility is that the United States, NATO, or both will simply have to pour in more troops as their successes build. Is this likely? Much depends on whether there are successes—and whether they inspire Western nations to build on the achievements or declare victory and go home.
And here's Part 2:
Quote:
Can Freedom and Opium Coexist?

KABUL, June 21—A military aide at NATO's headquarters in Afghanistan told me a story that explains how hard it will be to win the war here: "An Afghan farmer stops growing poppies and shifts to wheat. But the Soviets destroyed the irrigation system 30 years ago, so he can't grow much. There are no good roads, so he can't deliver what he has grown to market. There's no money for silos, so he can't store the crop for another season. His drug dealer pays a visit, says he doesn't want wheat, and tells the farmer to pay him $3,000—the sum he would have made by selling opium from the poppies—or he'll kidnap the farmer's daughter. The farmer goes to the chief of police, who reminds him that the drug dealer is the regional governor's brother-in-law, and asks him, 'Where's the $500 you owe me for protecting your property this year?' "

It's the story, the aide said, of hundreds of farmers all over Afghanistan, and it's a story that is corrupting everything about Afghan life. Opium poppy production, which totals 4,100 metric tons a year, accounts for a huge share of the Afghan economy—and of the Taliban's operational fund. (If a drug dealer isn't one of the insurgents, he's often coerced into giving them a slice of his revenue.) In short, Afghan's security problem and its economic problem are interrelated.

More than 20,000 (soon more than 30,000) U.S. and NATO troops are in Afghanistan, trying to keep the country intact. A year or two ago, some military commanders, especially from the United States, Canada, and Britain, thought the best way to deal with the opium-Taliban nexus was simply to torch the poppy fields. But they—along with officers from most of the other NATO nations—soon realized that instant eradication was impractical and counterproductive. Poppy seeds are robust; they can be replanted quickly, require almost no water, last a long time, and are easy to transport. Meanwhile, the torching only alienated the farmers from the government (which was being propped up by those doing the torching) and drove them into the arms of the Taliban. "This is a counterinsurgency operation; we're trying to win hearts and minds," one high-ranking officer said during a NATO-sponsored visit to Kabul and Kandahar last week. "The last thing you want to do is deprive the farmers of their livelihood."

So, here's the task that NATO commanders now know they must perform: First, rout the Taliban, province by province. Then provide the farmers alternative livelihoods—and the infrastructure (roads, waterlines, and so forth) to sustain them. And they have to do this quickly, to show the people that they can turn to the Afghan government for basic needs—and that, therefore, they don't have to turn to the Taliban.

There's a further complication. The Afghan government isn't up to taking a lead or even providing much support. "There are one or two really able people in President [Hamid] Karzai's Cabinet," a NATO political adviser said, "but otherwise, the civil service is really weak." The army is still in formation. The Treasury's cupboard is bare. The Ministry of Interior has "remarkably little capacity to do anything." Local and regional governments are weaker still, mainly because they have such scant talent, so few resources, and thus so little power. Finally, there's the pervasiveness of the drug economy. An officer involved in coordinating counternarcotics policy estimated that a quarter-million Afghans are directly involved in poppy production. Worse still is the corruption that the trade has generated. "You won't find more than a handful of politicians in this country," the officer said, "who don't have some hand in the drug business."

One problem is that, in many areas, security doesn't allow much; life is too dangerous for development to take hold. (Several nonprofit organizations have pulled out after seeing too many of their specialists killed.) Another problem is that the operations are uneven and diffuse. A "provincial development center," which is supposed to set a common agenda for the PRTs, hasn't met since April. Money abounds, from governments and the private sector, but there's no mechanism for fast-track contracting. The PRTs themselves each combine a dozen or more entities with no clear hierarchy.

Still, Afghanistan is making "unspectacular progress," as one NATO political adviser put it, and that's good in two ways—the progress itself and the modesty of the claim. Unlike Iraq in the days just before and after Saddam fell, you don't hear wide-eyed officials singing prophecies of Afghan Jeffersons or de Tocquevilles. The writers and analysts who went on this NATO-sponsored trip last week were handed several "mission statements" by various officers. None of them put it quite so starkly, but they all boil down to this: Create an environment sufficiently secure to let the Afghan government muddle through. Gen. David Richards, NATO's commander in Afghanistan, was most direct. "Don't try to impose Western precepts on what is basically a post-medieval society," he said. "People here want basic things. They want them quickly. Go to places that need governance. Listen. Send in engineers. Within a week, send in bulldozers. Build roads. Don't talk about sophisticated structures of government or demands for gender equality." Put in these terms, if the West is willing to pour in a lot of money, materiel, and manpower (though far, far less than we've squandered in Iraq) and stays put for, say, a decade, the task is feasible.

Consider what's gone on here the last quarter-century. The United States helped the mujahideen kick out the Soviet invaders—then we abandoned the place; the Cold War was won, who cares about Afghanistan? The Taliban filled the vacuum and opened the gates to al-Qaida. After 9/11, the United States helped the Northern Alliance kick out the Taliban—then, remarkably, left the place once again, or at least the southern provinces. The Taliban once more moved in. (The surge of fighting in the south these last few months stems not so much from the Taliban's return—they came back a while ago—as from the West's return, prompting Taliban resistance.) [Last quarter-century? More like the last 24 centuries! Seriously, these have to be among the most battle-hardened people on the planet.--y.]

An anarchic Afghanistan is in nobody's interest. The country's poppy fields account for 87 percent of the world's opium and heroin supply. They also fill the Taliban's coffers. The return of Taliban rule will wreak havoc not only here but across the border in Pakistan and beyond—maybe, as before, far beyond. If the United States and NATO packed up tomorrow, the place would fall apart for sure. In the end, preventing that dim prospect is what this operation is all about.
Are there any lessons for Iraq to be learned from here? Or are the two situations just wholly different from the get-go? And how much is too much to spend--economically, militarily, timewise and otherwise--on rebuilding Afghanistan?

Interesting that he doesn't even touch on how relations with Pakistan fit into the whole picture.
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Old 06-23-2006, 03:44 PM   #2
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I saw opium poppies in Turkey--legal ones. They produce opium that's made for painkillers.
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Old 06-23-2006, 05:30 PM   #3
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Problems have surfaced already. Spokesmen boast that 27 NATO nations are taking part in the operation. But, besides the United States, only four—Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, and Romania—have agreed to let their troops be stationed in Afghanistan's southern provinces, where almost all the fighting with insurgents is happening.
I'd just like to point out that this is actually not true. My brother-in-law's brother's nephew (yes, I'm confused too) is in the Danish army and stationed in Kandahar.

I think this approach is probably going to work in the long run if NATO stays though it rankles that gender equality is specifically ignored. In Afghanistan it's not a question of equal pay for equal work and the like. It's a question of women being regarded as fully human.
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Old 08-30-2006, 12:32 PM   #4
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Originally posted by yolland
Interesting that he doesn't even touch on how relations with Pakistan fit into the whole picture.
Speaking of which...
Quote:
The bribe to exit Pakistan: 15 cents

By David Montero
The Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 30, 2006


CHAMAN, PAKISTAN--For a little more than the price of tea, Abdul Razzak, a trader, says he crosses illegally from Pakistan into Afghanistan every day. Mr. Razzak, who stood recently near the border, preparing to cross, has no passport or identification documents of any kind. But that doesn't matter: For only 10 rupees--about 15 cents--he bribes the border security forces to let him through. "I bargain for the price. All of these people," he says, indicating the throngs of pedestrians moving toward the border check post, "when crossing the border, don't have documents. They're all paying the Frontier Constabulary [the border security forces]."

Chaman, the main border crossing into Kandahar 60 miles away, is supposed to be a model of border security, symbolizing Pakistan's commitment to containing the Taliban surge. Instead, security measures are breached for mere pennies, bolstering the accusation that Taliban fighters based in Pakistan are infiltrating the volatile Afghan provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. That accusation was most recently leveled by Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the US Central Command. He told reporters at Bagram air base that militants are using Pakistan as a base from which to infiltrate into Afghanistan. He was quick to add, however, that he did not believe the Pakistani government is conspiring with them. "I think that Pakistan has done an awful lot in going after Al Qaeda and it's important that they don't let the Taliban groups be organized on the Pakistani side of the border," he told reporters.

The first step in preventing the Taliban from organizing in Pakistan is to impede their mobility to and from Afghanistan. In an effort to bring more military muscle to the border, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to a breakthrough deal last week. Under the agreement, Afghanistan and Pakistan's military forces--with participation from NATO troops--will conduct simultaneous patrols of the border, and may also begin using more high-tech equipment to communicate with one another. But the joint patrols--designed to bring some level of enforcement to the vast wilderness stretches of the 1,500-mile border--may not be effective if the official border crossing in Chaman remains so lax.

...Border guards do a quick pat down, and random searches of bags, but mostly the stream continues uninterrupted, pacing through metal detectors that do not beep or produce any sounds. Abdul Haleem, who was preparing to cross last week, says migrants can bypass even the occasional searches of pedestrians by paying 100 rupees (about $1.50) to hop on the back of a motorcycle. With young men perched on top, motorcycles roar through the checkpoint, seeming to stop for no one. As many as 4,000 motorcycles pass through Chaman every day, according to police sources. Mr. Haleem says many of them are illegally transporting people over the border.

Across town, local government officials laughed off the idea that motorcycles are taking people illegally into Afghanistan. "The motorcycle owner is just taking rent. If he is going illegally, he will be stopped," says Khan Gul, a station headquarters officer. But other local police, sitting in the border security area, say that none of the motorcycles passing through the gate are searched--a troubling claim, since in January a suicide bomber riding on a motorcycle, apparently from Pakistan, killed 23 people on the Afghan side of the border in Spin Boldak, just four miles from Chaman. Western media reports from Spin Boldak indicate that the same problems of corruption and lax security occur at the Afghan checkpoint there.
..................
The Frontier Constabulary, however, denies that the Taliban are easily moving in and out, and says it arrests about 35 to 40 people a day who lack documentation. "That's totally a wrong perception. We have our ways of checking," says the head of border security, who would give his name only as Colonel Raees. He added that all vehicles and goods are searched, and that no one without proper documentation can pass into or out of Pakistan. Minutes later, just feet from Colonel Raees's office, a man leading a group across from Afghanistan smiled sheepishly and shook his head when asked for his papers at the check post. He had none; but moments later, he and his companions passed into Pakistan, disappearing among the crowds headed for town.
The continuing riots in Pakistan's Balochistan province--where Chaman crossing is located--following last Friday's killing of the elderly Baloch rebel leader (and longtime Pakistani statesman) Akbar Bugti, by Pakistan Army commandos, further underscores the precariousness of Musharraf's ongoing balancing act. Unusually, few if any politically prominent Pakistanis--even from Musharraf's own party, the PML--have stepped forward to echo Musharraf's defense of the operation; the Indian government sharply criticized it (and the Indian press have been having a field day insinuating that perhaps Musharraf let all that praise from Scotland Yard go to his head); Hamid Karzai pointedly sent his regrets to Bugti's family; and local PML supporters attempting to attend Bugti's funeral were driven out. Meanwhile, Pakistan's campaign to flush pro-Taliban/al-Qaeda fighters out of neighboring Waziristan province appears to be stuck at a standstill, while from the other end India continues to accuse Pakistan of hosting Lashkar-e-Toiba militant camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

It's a rough neighborhood even to run an authoritarian regime in...let alone a democratic republic.
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:15 PM   #5
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Interesting that the number of "non-US troops" in Iraq is larger than the number of "non-US troops" in Afghanistan for an operation that supposedly everyone supports as opposed to the operation in Iraq which many claim was "unilateral".
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:20 PM   #6
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Originally posted by Maoilbheannacht
Interesting that the number of "non-US troops" in Iraq is larger than the number of "non-US troops" in Afghanistan for an operation that supposedly everyone supports as opposed to the operation in Iraq which many claim was "unilateral".



percentages. not numbers. how many American troops are in Iraq vs. how many are in Afghanistan.

and when you go in without any approval from the UN Security Council, after you tried to get it, and with the well-expressed disapproval of virtually every nation on earth and their populations, you have what's called a "unilateral" invasion.
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:23 PM   #7
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Are there any lessons for Iraq to be learned from here? Or are the two situations just wholly different from the get-go?
the truth:
completely different from the get-go


the other truth:
only the same in that they are Muslims that will burn in Hell unless we "good folk" help them with the "good news"

only the same in that they were topics nos. 1 and 2 in Dick Cheney's secret Energy planning meeting in the Spring of 2001
concerning "How do we create a scenario to get control of energy resources (gas pipeline and oil reserves)
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:29 PM   #8
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I don't think you can compare the two. Iraq, at one time had reasonably good infrastructure (by Middle East standards anyway), a decent higher education system and a functioning hierarchal government, which may have been oppressive but it was structured. Afghanistan is a completely different story, historically speaking, with no infrastructure to speak of, a huge illiteracy problem and tribal affiliations and alliances that can be bought and sold for petty cash.

I am kind of unsure of what the longterm plan in Afghanistan is, actually. To get rid of the Taliban entirely? There are still ways to go there. But then what? Force the tribes into a western-style democracy they've never had in the first place? Have a military junta maintain some sort of precarious security on the streets and in the southern provinces? The criminal element in Afghanistan has been flourishing for decades, and it will be really difficult, if not impossible to change that.

I don't feel positive about any of these countries in that region going anywhere good, quite frankly. Call it pessimism.
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:43 PM   #9
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Originally posted by Irvine511





percentages. not numbers. how many American troops are in Iraq vs. how many are in Afghanistan.

and when you go in without any approval from the UN Security Council, after you tried to get it, and with the well-expressed disapproval of virtually every nation on earth and their populations, you have what's called a "unilateral" invasion.
I believe "unilateral" means "one" and the United States is far from being the only country in Iraq. In terms of "numbers" there are more "non-US troops" in Iraq than in Afghanistan.

If everyone supports the internvention in Afghanistan, but no one supports the intervention in Iraq, why are there more "non-US troops" in Iraq than Afghanistan?
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:46 PM   #10
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I don't think you can compare the two. Iraq, at one time had reasonably good infrastructure (by Middle East standards anyway), a decent higher education system and a functioning hierarchal government, which may have been oppressive but it was structured. Afghanistan is a completely different story, historically speaking, with no infrastructure to speak of, a huge illiteracy problem and tribal affiliations and alliances that can be bought and sold for petty cash.

I am kind of unsure of what the longterm plan in Afghanistan is, actually. To get rid of the Taliban entirely? There are still ways to go there. But then what? Force the tribes into a western-style democracy they've never had in the first place? Have a military junta maintain some sort of precarious security on the streets and in the southern provinces? The criminal element in Afghanistan has been flourishing for decades, and it will be really difficult, if not impossible to change that.

I don't feel positive about any of these countries in that region going anywhere good, quite frankly. Call it pessimism.
Relatively speaking, Afghanistan is doing very well. The level of violence in the country has reached its lowest point since before the Soviet invasion in 1979. Much of it still lives in the 13th century which makes the accomplishments so far even more remarkable.
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:48 PM   #11
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Good grief.

There are far fewer troops in Afghanistan all around (this has been a huge criticism) so when your total number is reduced, then your fractions thereof are reduced too. What's so confusing about it?

For example, Canada, which did not support the war on Iraq, has troops in Afghanistan, but not in Iraq. And even so, we don't have huge numbers of troops there, because the entire NATO coalition present in Afghanistan is not that large.
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:49 PM   #12
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Originally posted by Maoilbheannacht


I believe "unilateral" means "one" and the United States is far from being the only country in Iraq. In terms of "numbers" there are more "non-US troops" in Iraq than in Afghanistan.

If everyone supports the internvention in Afghanistan, but no one supports the intervention in Iraq, why are there more "non-US troops" in Iraq than Afghanistan?
most would consider Hitlers rise and campaign to be unilateral

the plan was to stop Hitler/ Germany

without the U S pushing and leading the the Iraq War it would not have happened


why don't you give the percentage of non U S troops in each country?

your style is misleading
but the facts are not on your side
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:54 PM   #13
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Relatively speaking, Afghanistan is doing very well. The level of violence in the country has reached its lowest point since before the Soviet invasion in 1979. Much of it still lives in the 13th century which makes the accomplishments so far even more remarkable.


"Relatively speaking,"

yes, you must qualify before you try to mislead.
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Old 08-30-2006, 01:59 PM   #14
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Originally posted by Maoilbheannacht


I believe "unilateral" means "one" and the United States is far from being the only country in Iraq. In terms of "numbers" there are more "non-US troops" in Iraq than in Afghanistan.

If everyone supports the internvention in Afghanistan, but no one supports the intervention in Iraq, why are there more "non-US troops" in Iraq than Afghanistan?


if you're going to get into semantics, there's not going to be much of a point in playing along.

the US and the UK launched a unilateral invasion into Iraq that violated international law and disregarded the expressed will of the UN Security Council.

your second question -- one sentence has nothing to do with the left. it's as if you think opposition to Iraq is predicated upon total numbers of non-US soldiers as being equal to justification for the war.
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Old 08-30-2006, 02:34 PM   #15
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Originally posted by yolland

Speaking of which...

The continuing riots in Pakistan's Balochistan province--where Chaman crossing is located--following last Friday's killing of the elderly Baloch rebel leader (and longtime Pakistani statesman) Akbar Bugti, by Pakistan Army commandos, further underscores the precariousness of Musharraf's ongoing balancing act. Unusually, few if any politically prominent Pakistanis--even from Musharraf's own party, the PML--have stepped forward to echo Musharraf's defense of the operation; the Indian government sharply criticized it (and the Indian press have been having a field day insinuating that perhaps Musharraf let all that praise from Scotland Yard go to his head); Hamid Karzai pointedly sent his regrets to Bugti's family; and local PML supporters attempting to attend Bugti's funeral were driven out. Meanwhile, Pakistan's campaign to flush pro-Taliban/al-Qaeda fighters out of neighboring Waziristan province appears to be stuck at a standstill, while from the other end India continues to accuse Pakistan of hosting Lashkar-e-Toiba militant camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

It's a rough neighborhood even to run an authoritarian regime in...let alone a democratic republic.
Musharraf has a tough balancing act to maintain. Be seen to be cracking down on Islamist terrorist groups to appease the Americans and world opinion (so nailing the occasional Al-Qaeda most wanted is helpful); be seen to be taking a stand against Pakistan-based groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba who are terrorizing the Indians in Kashmir and India, but, in reality, allowing them to operate to appease the Islamic parties in Pakistan; violently suppressing the opposition in Balochistan (which is about Balochi autonomy and more control and equity from the province's energy resources) while painting it as part of the war on terrorism; all the while using all these issues and unrest as excuses to retain power and delay true democracy in Pakistan, while dodging being blown up by internal enemies.

Good luck, Pervez. Don't know why you want the job, but have fun.
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