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Talibanistan
September 5, 2008 10:45 PM   Subscribe

Right at the Edge. "The Taliban and Al Qaeda have established a haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border. This is where the war on terror wil be fought – and possibly lost."
posted by homunculus (62 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 


never get involved in a land war in asia
posted by b1tr0t at 10:58 PM on September 5, 2008 [4 favorites]




Clearly Bush and the neo-cons in general are the greatest thing that ever happened to the so-called "extreme Islamicists" so it does worry me that they may try to influence the upcoming US election to get some more hot-headed Christian crusaders in office as a recruiting tool.
posted by Rumple at 11:26 PM on September 5, 2008


OMG!!! My chocolate ration is up to 20 grams!!!111!!!

Anyone else notice?
posted by sourwookie at 11:44 PM on September 5, 2008


This has been the case since 2002. The American Military carried out many joint operations in Pakistan with local forces, as well as many "covert" actions, which Musharraf was more than happy to take credit for, when they were successful.

Lately the operations in Pakistan have been much more frequent than they were for a while. Simultaneously, the US seems to be doing a worse and worse job of keeping the "collateral damage" down, and they are killing a lot of families. This is probably all in an effort to generate some good news for the War on Terror before November, but they could also be trying to do as much as they can before the new government gets settled in and kicks the US out of Pakistan all together, as they may well decide to do.

Frontline did a decent episode on all of this a while back, I think it was this one, but I can't double check that right now.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:36 AM on September 6, 2008


It certainly seems like someone here has no respect for state integrity and international borders. I've heard that's not the way to deal in the 21st century.
posted by Free word order! at 2:15 AM on September 6, 2008


Mr 10%' prepares for power.
Zadari and the House of Graft. But its all OK as Zadari and Washington have had a little unauthorised communication.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry has not yet been reinstated.
posted by adamvasco at 3:29 AM on September 6, 2008




The game could well change now. Zardari has just won a land-slide victory for president, despite being dogged by corruption allegations in the past (Mr 10%). He managed to oust Musharraf by doing a power share deal with his rivals, and forcing him out peacefully with threat of impeachment - no minor achievement.

Zardari has no love for the militants - they murdered his wife Benazir Bhutto after all, and his best bet for keeping the south on his side is big slices of American money. Keeping the army onside and out of politics is also going to involve giving them lots of money to persue the militants too, and actually achieving it - India is watching.

There's no doubt that there's corruption and people playing the double game in the pakistan military; they're no different than the rest of the country (or indeed, pretty much anywhere).

The question is - can the army effectively take back control of the taliban regions with US assistance; will Zardari give them enough backing; and will the general anti-americanism in the country and the military allow them to succeed?
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:14 AM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


State integrity is wonderful...but when it houses in its tribal areas guys who move into Afghanistan to reinsert the Taliban--the govt that gave shelter and training facilities to Al Qaeda--then we are dealing with the globalization of a new form of war. Pakistan is very unstable and has of course nukes, but thus far the army has maintained a form of temperance, not trying a takeover and supporting whatever govt is in power. But the tribal regions are a law unto themselves.

I much prefer to keep my eyes on what may be going on with Iran, the Straits of Harmoz, and the huge buildup of the Am. navy in that area..if there is to be an Oct surprise it will be there and not in Pakistan/Afghanistan. risky. sure. crazy? sure. But then we did have the invasion of Iraq based on.....?
posted by Postroad at 5:04 AM on September 6, 2008


Pakistan blocks fuel to US troops

Pakistan has reportedly blocked a major fuel supply route for Western forces in Afghanistan in response to a raid by US forces in northwest Pakistan earlier this week, the defence minister said.

US forces attacked suspected fighter groups inside Pakistani territory on Wednesday, killing 20 people including women and children, Pakistani officials said, drawing a furious response from the Pakistani government.

posted by paisley henosis at 5:41 AM on September 6, 2008




Important to note in the NY Times piece that there is sympathy for the Taliban from within Pakistan because of an anti-India hatred, and that the Taliban/Al Qaeda, like Hamas, does social good works to win over support.

In passing, we have allowed the poppies to flourish in Afghanistan. I wonder, though, where that stuff gets shipped when it goes for worldwide distribution...Pakistan would seem the natural spot for this.
posted by Postroad at 6:50 AM on September 6, 2008


Drug Trafficking routes out of Afghanistan from the excellent IRIN.
posted by adamvasco at 8:07 AM on September 6, 2008


I think winning Afghani hearts and minds is going to take less war and more peacekeeping. I also think successfully tracking down Al Queda members in tribal Pakistan is going to require more smarts and less smart bombs.

I hate to say it, because it would probably involve the at times stunningly incompetent CIA, but what's really needed is spy-mastery. Quit infiltrating peacenik organizations in San Francisco, and start infiltrating terrorist networks in the Pakistani border region.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:29 AM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think winning Afghani hearts and minds is going to take less war and more peacekeeping.

Bingo. The art of COIN is simple -- you have to get the population on your side. This means that you have to keep them safe, and you have to not do things like bomb villages, shoot up weedings, kill their livestock, etc.

You have to make them as safe as possible, and make sure that everyone sees that it is the Insurgency that's harming them, not the peacekeepers.

If you do this, the hidden support network of the Insurgency collapses. They lose supplies, safe houses, and most importnatly, intelligence.

If you don't, the people you are "protecting" start leaving food about for the insurgents, telling them where you are patrolling, and the most angry ones down tools and join the insurgency.

How do you, as a peace keeper, make an insurgent? Fastest way is to set someone's daughter on fire. It is critical to avoid such incidents. "Destroying the village in order to save it" makes an enemy of everyone who survived.

It's a job for cops, not infantrymen. If you can get a batch of insurgents in the open, that's when you want the infantry. But one of the best ways to win hearts and minds? Bring insurgents back -- not in bodybags, but in handcuffs. A dead man can be a martyr -- esp. if you killed a bunch of innocents getting that body. A guy in cuffs is just another crook, and more importantly, it tells the people you are protecting that you *could* have killed him -- but you didn't. You're better than that.

The USMC, by and large, gets this. They didn't in Vietnam, but they learned. I've found that, tactically and strategically, the Marines are very good at learning from their mistakes. I guess the fact that they're almost always the sharp end of the stick encourages that.

The Army, however, really doesn't -- they're not trained to do that. They're combat specialists -- get it, take the objective, hold until relieved, get out. When you forget that last step, they do poorly, because their mindset is "We shoot problems." So, when the insurgency starts, they're response is to armor up and shoot back. When there isn't a clear demarcation between civilian and insurgent, they assume everyone is an insurgent. From there, it gets ugly.

Of course, the real answer is Sun Tzu's. "There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. "
posted by eriko at 9:02 AM on September 6, 2008 [6 favorites]


A Shell Game?
posted by homunculus at 9:17 AM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


IMO it's important for voters to consider what kind of war they wish to have in the next four years. McCain clearly has an Army shoot-em-up mentality. I suspect Obama has the ability to use a more subtle approach, though I'm not sure he's talked much about how he'd actually deal.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:19 AM on September 6, 2008


I think winning Afghani hearts and minds is going to take less war and more peacekeeping.

In what way are Afghani hearts or minds unique in this regard?
posted by rokusan at 9:49 AM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Afghans fed up with government, US
posted by homunculus at 10:11 AM on September 6, 2008


I think Eriko has it right. I'm from the so called "tribal lands" and have witnessed firsthand the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan. The last time I was there (last year), the change was so marked from my previous visit 5 years before. The Talib ride out freely in their jeeps, armed to the teeth. The area is resource rich and cash poor. The other longstanding factors have to do with the centralization of power in the hands of the Punjabis and Sindhis. The entire region sits on top of sizable reserves of natural gas. Gas that is making others in Pakistan rich. People have been living in medieval squalor for decades. Also add in factors of ethnic and religious rivalry (the area is predominately populated by Pashtuns and other Afghan tribes). Many people believe to this day that the Pakistani control of that area is illegal. The Afghans believe The Durand Line expired post-Partition since it was a treaty negotiated with the British Raj. Accordingly, there has been a decades-long movement for a free Pashtunistan. My father, an educated, pacific person is one of the believers.

So combine a general distrust of what is considered a foreign, greedy government in cahoots with another foreign ever greedier government, decades of poverty and strife and you've got people longing for something different. Americans have a hard time understanding that these beleaguered people will look to whoever provides them with what they are seeking, especially when it comes backed by religious belief. Afghans are known for being extremely devout. The hearts and minds of the people can only be reached by not demonizing Islam because that is all they hear about Westerners.
posted by nikitabot at 10:32 AM on September 6, 2008 [8 favorites]


The UK + USA are at a disagreement about policy in Afghanistan. Government issued notice to stop Afghanistan reports The first comment sums it all up: -
"The occupying forces of the West, including America may try to sweeten every aspect of Afghanis' life but they will never succeed wining over these people.
Reason?
They are invaders. And crusaders.
The Afghanistan government are the collaborators.
The Afghanis are resisting the invaders.
"
posted by adamvasco at 10:43 AM on September 6, 2008


Well there's your 100 more years of war right there, people! USA! USA! USA!
posted by briank at 10:44 AM on September 6, 2008


not do things like bomb villages, shoot up weedings, kill their livestock, etc.

They were good people who were happiest in their garden ... it's just a shame that that's where they died, gunned down in mid-hoe
posted by mannequito at 11:00 AM on September 6, 2008


We need to buy the Afghans out. Lock stock and barrel. Buy all the poppies, but anything and everything they produce. Make it so they can't produce enough. Don't be stupid, pay rational prices, but don't stop buying. Goats, shawls, rocks, whatever the hell they have, buy it.

I guarantee you it would be cheaper by half than what we are spending now. And 100 times as effective. Foreign Aid is worthless because the cash just gets embezzled. Killing them is dumb for obvious reasons.

But buying goods? Especially if you get out and buy from the producers directly, not from national commodities or brokerages that will conspire to drive prices up, you put money in the hands of people who want to be appreciated for their labor. Plus, you keep em busy.

A billion dollars won't go far in the military industrial machine. It will buy a lot in Afghanistan.

Butter > guns.
posted by Xoebe at 3:11 PM on September 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


You mean to tell me that Al Qaeda is not located at the Gates of Hell? Somebody needs to inform John McCain.
posted by jonp72 at 8:07 PM on September 6, 2008


it would probably involve the at times stunningly incompetent CIA, but what's really needed is spy-mastery. Quit infiltrating peacenik organizations in San Francisco, and start infiltrating terrorist networks in the Pakistani border region

and

We need to buy the Afghans out. Lock stock and barrel. Buy all the poppies, but anything and everything they produce. Make it so they can't produce enough. Don't be stupid, pay rational prices, but don't stop buying. Goats, shawls, rocks, whatever the hell they have, buy it.

See, it's complicated.

The CIA is already there. Helping the distribution of opium, which is the main crop in Afghanistan: geopolitics of opium 2007, buying them out of that.

The CIA created Talabanistan on the Afghani/Pakistani border with the opium/heroin biz from the early 1980's, right after the Russians invaded Afghanistan.

Comments about this situation when Benazir was assassinated: one, two, three.

If a tenth of the billions and billions of dollars the USA sunk into Afghanistan/Pakistan over the last two decades for arms/armaments were put into creating Afghani/Pakistani business along wholesome lines, in any non-military aspect, computers, clothing, outsourcing, and/or into schools, hospitals and administrative/civil infrastructure, there would be no Talibanistan, both Afghanistan and Pakistan would be totally different.

But if the countries were more civilized, more powerful, they might want to deal more with Russia.

Fundamentalism is fed by poverty, fear, sexism, censorship, superstition, child abuse and lack of education. And that's a lot of what is at the core of life in rural Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Keeping Talabanistan in existence is obviously what the CIA/US government wants because that way it keeps Afghanistan/Pakistan under their thumb in order to prevent the Russians from having access to the Arabian Sea. It's just another aspect of US oil greed, the way the fiasco in Iraq is about the same thing.

The problem is that Pakistanis have nuclear arms (that the US sold them).

In 2006, the United States signed arms transfer agreements with Pakistan in excess of $3.5 billion, ranking Pakistan first among all arms clients of the United States during
that calendar year.

Rogue distribution of these nuclear arms in a country as politically chaotic and corrupt as Pakistan is, imo, a terrifying situation, which the US government has, in effect, arranged to take place.
posted by nickyskye at 8:21 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, it'll take about 10-15 years or more to re-balance the Afghani environment (irrigation, soil cultivation, agrarian logistics, etc - they used to have great fruit trees) so people can make a living off of something other than opium.

I don't believe anyone (that is - the U.S.) has really started doing that in earnest.

Special Ops have been running around in Pakistan for some time. It's a big backyard. Mostly recon obviously.

"I hate to say it, because it would probably involve the at times stunningly incompetent CIA, but what's really needed is spy-mastery."

Part of the problem is there's this reciprocating system where if you want to go into the private sector you have to suck up to the politicians. Even if you don't, your boss might, and then you have to go do crap work for whatever administration or agenda, etc., so the agency seems like it has (and indeed does have organizationally) schizophrenia. And that seems to permeate the intelligence community as a whole (the whole 'Aquarius' vs. 'Com-12' thing from a conspiracy theory perspective). But it is sort of at war with itself.

Not to mention there's still this cold-war mentality which seems to get bashed by some folks who have issues with information compartmentalization. And certainly there's an argument there for efficiency of response. But then you have a whole can of worms with respecting certain limits and leaks and other issues.

All that to say - even a casual observer like myself (I've been saying OMFG! Pakistan!!! for years) who has a decent thumbnail of where resources should be spent seems to know better than some folks. But, as I said, competing interests.

I'm sure someone in Bushco is now saying "Well, gee, how were we to know we should have acted before now? How were we to know Musharraf would resignation under pressure? How were we to know Shaikh Rashid and the Muslim League would..."

And some company guy is taking off his glasses, holding the bridge of his nose and saying "We fucking TOLD you. Do you even READ the ...oh, that's right you don't"

It's completely the wrong move politically right now(that is, in terms of serving. y'know, a foreign policy agenda - getting McCain elected, maybe a different story)

So we're going to risk pissing off Bhutto's husband? A guy with loads of clout, a dead martyred wife, who's on the ball enough to form four disparate political entities into a unified coalition to foment a soft (relatively) bloodless coup, who currently has emergency powers as the head of a state with nuclear weaponry - that's the guy we're saying "fuck you" to?

Say what you will about the CIA, they've done some really bad, nasty stuff, but they're not actively looking to end the world.

Some of the folks in high places in politics, I'm not so sure.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:59 PM on September 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


So we're going to risk pissing off Bhutto's husband? A guy with loads of clout, a dead martyred wife, who's on the ball enough to form four disparate political entities into a unified coalition to foment a soft (relatively) bloodless coup, who currently has emergency powers as the head of a state with nuclear weaponry - that's the guy we're saying "fuck you" to?

I think you're giving Zardari too much credit, this is a guy who is, after all, frighteningly corrupt and spent time in jail. He's not called "Mr. 10%" for nothing. He's riding a wave of sympathy and emotional voting on the part of people who were sick of the military.

One of Pakistan's biggest political problems are the vestiges of feudalism, by that I mean, this continuing cult of nepotism. You can't rise to any degree of power without being from a family with money and land. There is still an existing aristocracy, and, while they might not hold titles anymore, their family names are well known. These people make a point of distancing themselves from "commoners". And commoners don't rise to power unless they take it by force. Things will get even worse because Zardari doesn't have the necessary brains or experience -- I wonder who his handlers are? He is the epitome of the classic lazy rich man's son (see GWB).
posted by nikitabot at 7:58 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]






Suspected aerial drones bombed a house and seminary At least 14 people have been killed and 15 injured in a suspected US missile strike in Pakistan's border region, witnesses and officials say.
posted by adamvasco at 9:20 AM on September 8, 2008




“frighteningly corrupt and spent time in jail. He's not called "Mr. 10%" for nothing. He's riding a wave of sympathy and emotional voting on the part of people who were sick of the military...Zardari doesn't have the necessary brains or experience ”

Agreed. That’s my point tho’, I’m not giving him too much credit, but let’s face it, he’s currently got positional power. We can argue whether he deserves to be there or not (I wouldn’t), but the fact of the matter is - he’s there. The fact that he’ll probably screw the pooch makes it all the worse. And all those factors you mention (which, again, I agree with your observation) are all multipliers in terms of instability.

Is he going to exploit his position using the sympathy? Is there going to be giveback from the military? Just who the hell are the interests behind him and what is their agenda? Is he going to hire a cigar smoking monkey with a gun to head up security? Who knows?

So right now - especially right now - it’s really a crap shoot. Pakistan’s zeitgeist, their current mindset is such that they want a guy like that in office as a symbol. Clearly, they’ve got a huge chip on their shoulder right now and they’re feeling like they’ve been getting pushed around too much. And they’ve just forced out the guy who, while a bastard, was more or less OUR bastard.

So the solution there is not to start running high viz ops and forcing the pressure to build by leaving egg on the country’s face.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:59 AM on September 8, 2008


Pakistan is now refusing to supply NATO troops in Afghanistan apparently in reaction to this raid.
posted by CCBC at 2:05 AM on September 9, 2008


In Pursuit of Osama Bin Laden
posted by homunculus at 8:49 AM on September 9, 2008


Pakistan has now re-opened the border in exchange for a pay-off of $365M.

Incidentally, the Afghan-born US ambassador to the UN (and former ambassdor to Iraq), Zalway Khalilzad, has hinted that he might run against Karzai for the presidency. Khalilzad has been reprimanded by the State Department for unauthorized contacts with Zardari. He acted as go-between with Unocal and the Taliban in the 90s and suggested negotiating with Taliban leadership. Whether Kalilzad runs or not, the idea of negotiating with the Taliban is definitely being floated.
posted by CCBC at 1:26 PM on September 10, 2008


Uh-oh, I just came across this: Khalilizad on MeFi.
posted by CCBC at 1:42 PM on September 10, 2008






I should hope Bush gave the order. Or, rather, approved the order. One doesn't want one's military invading other country's borders without executive permission.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:19 PM on September 11, 2008








Pakistan’s Dangerous Double Game
posted by homunculus at 1:05 PM on September 14, 2008


Pakistani troops foil US raid

Firing by Pakistani troops have forced US military helicopters to turn back to Afghanistan after they crossed into Pakistani territory, Pakistani security officials said.

The incident early on Monday took place near Angoorada, a village in the tribal region of South Waziristan, amid growing anger in Pakistan over US strikes on Pakistani soil.

At least 20 people, including women and children, were killed in a US strike earlier this month, sparking outrage and prompting a diplomatic protest.

General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistani army chief, said last week that Pakistan would not allow foreign troops on its soil and Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be defended at all cost.

South Waziristan, in the southern part of the country bordering Afghanistan, is seen by the US as a safe haven for supporters of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

*low whistle*
posted by paisley henosis at 3:24 AM on September 15, 2008








"*low whistle*"

Yeah. This is my shocked face.

Gosh. Who could have seen this comi...oh, yeah, me, Joe Schumuckatelli on the internet, years ago. (It ain't 'cos I'm too smart either).

"However, some analysts forecast that the consequences of alienating the United States would stay the army's hand.

"If an American soldier were to die because of Pakistani military firing that would damage the Pakistani-American relationship for years to come," said Craig Cohen, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The threat "might stir nationalist sentiment in Pakistan and play well politically, but it's just not realistic," he said."

Stop! You filthy horde! I am a Roman!

Nice analysis there Craig. 'Zat your dad's tie?*

Nationalist sentiment is what they've got right now. All they've got. Why else would they put Zardari in office? They're looking for a martyr moment. Just itching for someone to call them out so they don't have to think about their internal instability. It's fortunate (for us) there's a few cracks in their coalition now. But nothing unites people faster than an external enemy.

I don't much like backing off. But then, I don't go kicking wasps nests either.

*Ah, I shouldn't give him crap, he's on most of the time. He just comes from an NGO background and irrational actors don't fit in to the thinking in those folks' world view. I think they'd shoot themselves in the foot right now, just as long as they get to shoot someone else in the ass.
And there's no reason for India not to enjoy us and them fighting (oh, sorry - India link here) what with all the arms and such.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:39 PM on September 16, 2008


Y'know, if only we played cricket, I'd bet we'd get along better. Didn't Zardari go to the U.K. just recently and ask them to ask the U.S. to back off?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:41 PM on September 16, 2008


Tariq Ali: The American War Moves to Pakistan
posted by homunculus at 9:24 PM on September 17, 2008










An October Surprise in Pakistan?
posted by homunculus at 8:55 PM on September 23, 2008




Well, this thread is still hanging on, so:
Britain Trains Taliban Fighters
Taliban Leader Refuses Negotiations
And another US drone has killed five or nine or how many ever in Pakistan. Did I mention that the US has agreed to allow India to develop all the nukes it wants? And Pakistan has responded, "Us, too!"
Sometimes I think things are as bad as can be, no US government could let them get worse. Then I chuckle, slap myself upside the head, obtain some reason, and go converse with John Jameson (Ireland's greatest poet).
posted by CCBC at 7:21 PM on October 3, 2008






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