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Pakistan: Diplomacy vs. Giving It All Away

3:01 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

How are we going to deal with Pakistan when they’re openly flaunting their proxy war against the United States? How should we respond when they say stuff like "we know where the [Taliban] shadow government is"? Or this:

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.

Again, "we protect the Taliban." Pakistan protects the Taliban. That’s in addition to them training and equipping various Taliban militias and even funding suicide attacks and IEDs against American troops. We, as in you the American tax payer, give Pakistan billions of dollars in aid and weaponry, including directly reimbursing them for their army operations (down to paying for the bullets fired). And yet they’re killing our troops and protecting insurgents/terrorists.

Our relationship with Pakistan is deeply, deeply flawed. How do we fix this?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

General Kayani’s “Silent Coup” in Pakistan: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Pakistan’s General Kayani, the man our leaders in Washington fawn over and who sits atop the intensely destabilizing "Strategic Depth" networks in Afghanistan, has just been handed a three year extension of his term as Chief of Army Staff by Prime Minister Gilani:

The Pakistani government on Thursday gave the country’s top military official, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, another three years in his post, a move that analysts said would bolster Pakistan’s anti-terrorism fight and cement its role in neighboring Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced the extension in a late-night televised address to the nation. "To ensure the success of these [counter-terrorism] operations, it is the need of the hour that the continuity of military leadership should be maintained," he said.

The impact on our war in Afghanistan is obvious, as both McClatchy and I included it in the lede; Call it "strategic depth" or "cementing its role," it all adds up to influence on Afghan President Karzai’s government, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Al-Qa’eda, and the future of all of these players in Afghanistan.

The short of it is that Kayani’s extension is bad news for us, due to his cozy relationship with militants and terrorist organizations, as well as his undermining of the democratically elected civilian government. But the details are important, especially as they could mean the difference between uncontrolled escalation and our planned military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

For the complete picture, we’ll take a look at what a few experts (read: bloggers) are saying to determine the good, the bad, and the ugly ramifications Kayani’s extension has on the US war in Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry →

Rethink Afghanistan: What does it mean to be less safe?

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

In our latest video from Rethink Afghanistan, we hear a tale of the deadly consequences of war directly from those most affected by it, the Afghans themselves. Zaitullah Ghiasi Wardak describes a special forces night raid which resulted in the death of his 92 year-old father, allegedly shot 25 times as he lay in his bed. It’s a disturbing and gripping story that exposes what Nick Turse calls "real war."

Few Americans born after the Civil War know much about war. Real war. War that seeks you out. War that arrives on your doorstep—not once in a blue moon, but once a month or a week or a day. The ever-present fear that just when you’re at the furthest point in your fields, just when you’re most exposed, most alone, most vulnerable, it will come roaring into your world.

Here was a man who had lived 92 years, surviving kings and communists and criminal despots just to eke out a small living for his family in eastern Afghanistan, and we ended it at all with one botched night raid, one piece of bad intelligence, one misstep in our "population-centric" counterinsurgency campaign and targeted counter-terrorism operations.

Now we could waste our time endlessly debating the finer points of COIN doctrine, the motivations of the special forces, whether it was deliberate or accidental, a war crime or a tragic error, but that doesn’t really get us anywhere. The sundry fallacies of COIN have already been thoroughly exposed, here and elsewhere, and the really pressing questions about this specific event in Wardak province can only be answered with a thorough investigation of government and military officials.

Instead we should see this as an example of what those who oppose the war are talking about when they say it isn’t making us any safer. Both presidents Bush and Obama framed the war in terms of national security, keeping America safe, and so it only follows that as the facts of our occupation come to light, we reach the conclusion that the war isn’t making us safer. In fact, it is making us less safe.

But what exactly does that mean, to be less safe? This video is the perfect answer. Read the rest of this entry →

Election 2010: Media Marching Orders on Afghanistan

1:57 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Congratulations media, you’ve had a very successful couple of weeks. Your control over the public discourse is strong. Rand Paul’s cretaceous values are balanced and justified by saying there’s not a lot of black folks in Kentucky. A former Navy admiral and current US congressman is a Washington outsider. And to complete the hat trick, you scored the complete partisan insurgency narrative. That means you get to trash both parties as going through some kind of ideological purge. Too progressive! Not conservative enough! What does that mean, and what does it have to do with actual issues and real policy? Who cares, right? Bor-ing! You completely blocked the issue of the war in Afghanistan.

Now this is a big accomplishment, for sure. But you’ve made a lot of good people fighting for real change look like jerks for carrying water for your narrative, so you’re going to want to protect it very carefully. Accordingly, here are a couple things you should avoid in your narrative. Moving forward with the idea that the war supporting candidates you choose to cover are somehow against the status quo is going to be very tricky, so make sure to follow these instructions explicitly. We can’t blow the whole operation and have everybody actually engaged in civics, Western Civilization would collapse. With that, here are your marching orders: Read the rest of this entry →

Debating Real Issues, Not The “Long War”

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Over the weekend, Tom Hayden had a great opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times where he pretty much destroys the whole idea of a "Long War" against global terrorism. Check this out:

Consider the audacity of such an idea. An 80-year undeclared war would entangle 20 future presidential terms stretching far into the future of voters not yet born. The American death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan now approaches 5,000, with the number of wounded a multiple many times greater. Including the American dead from 9/11, that’s 8,000 dead so far in the first decade of the Long War. And if the American armed forces are stretched thin today, try to conceive of seven more decades of combat.

The costs are unimaginable too. According to economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, Iraq alone will be a $3-trillion war. Those costs, and the other deficit spending of recent years, yield "virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors," according to a New York Times budget analysis in February. Continued deficit financing for the Long War will rob today’s younger generation of resources for their future.

No doubt after that: The Long War is all kinds of crazy and absurd. Nobody wants a forever war with "unimaginable" costs, a collapse of the domestic political agenda, and untold thousands of dead. It’s definitely disturbing that some in the Pentagon and their "fellow travelers" subscribe to such a loony doctrine, but not altogether surprising. After all, Neoconservatives dominated the Washington elite for 8 years of the Bush administration, it shouldn’t shock anyone that they’re still out there somewhere peddling their nonsense.

But Hayden isn’t only out to show us how stupid the Long War is. He’s got a plan: Read the rest of this entry →