Same as it ever was: Afghanistan edition

Sept. 20, 2011:

The Taliban have claimed credit for today’s suicide attack in Kabul that killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief of the Afghan High Peace Council and former president of Afghanistan. The suicide bomber killed Rabbani in his home and seriously wounded Masoom Stanekzai, the peace council’s secretary, after detonating an explosive device that was hidden in his turban.

Long War Journal

The ’80s:

The CIA’s leadership continued to regard Pakistani intelligence as the jihad’s main implementing agency, even as more and more American trainers arrived in Pakistan to teach new weapons and techniques. All this ensured that ISI’s Muslim Brotherhood-inspired clients – mainly Hekmatyar but also Sayyaf, Rabbani, and radical commanders who operated along the Pakistan border, such as Jallaladin Haqqanni – won the greatest share of support.
The rebels fashioned booby trapped bombs from gooey black contact explosives, supplied to Pakistani intelligence by the CIA, that could be molded into ordinary shapes or poured into innocent utensils. Russian soldiers began to find bombs made from pens, watches, cigarette lighters, and tape recorders.

– Steve Coll, Ghost Wars

Given our long and complicated history in that region, it is unclear to me why the American foreign policy establishment continues to believe that it can play “footsie” with favored groups and emerge entirely unscathed. It’s one thing to work with others toward immediate goals (where we have no good choice – such as the United States and the Pakistan Army working together on groups such as TTP) but quite another to fundamentally alter reality via just the correct mix of carrot and stick:

STEP 7 – RESOLVE either to remain engaged with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for a lengthy and challenging diplomatic-military process (including some level of non-trivial economic and military aid to both Afghanistan and Pakistan for some time); or, SUCCUMB to the personal frustrations of it all and quit the field, making room for the next nouveau American to start the process at STEP 1.

– Tom Lynch is a research fellow for South Asia & Near East at NDU. A retired Army Colonel, he was a special assistant focused on South Asian security for the CENTCOM Commander and later the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during 2004-2010. (guest blogging at Tom Rick’s Best Defense).

But maybe I misunderstood the point being made. The post at Best Defense is a good one and I encourage you to read it.

4 thoughts on “Same as it ever was: Afghanistan edition”

  1. The execution of OBL in Abbotabad has made the situation blindingly obvious. We are fighting a war created and run by Pakistan. There is no logical explanation for OBL being located next to their Military Academy. The war they have conducted through proxies and attacks elsewhere serves them well, it makes us need them, and it makes us sit on India to gain their cooperation so that we can continue to flop around in Afghanistan. We continue to send them money and hardware to gain their rather minimal cooperation.

    There are many questions. When did they begin? Did they send KSM to OBL? Or did he belong to another secret service. If you read Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower”, OBL was running the gang that couldn’t shoot straight before he got to Afghanistan and meet KSM. Was any other country involved? Laurie Milroie’s theories have been dismissed, but they would fill a number of gaps here. Why did they burn KSM? Did the Daniel Pearl murder make them think he had gone Col. Kurtz on them?

    Clearly we should get out of Afghanistan, we cannot win a war against Pakistan fighting in another country. Once out of Afghanistan, we should do what we can to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Further, we should openly work with India to cabin Pakistan.

  2. “Admiral Mullen: Pakistani ISI sponsoring Haqqani attacks” by Thomas Joscelyn in The Long War Journal on September 22, 2011.

    During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, highlighted the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency’s role in sponsoring the Haqqani Network – including attacks on American forces in Afghanistan.

    * * *

    While recognizing that progress has been made in Afghanistan, Mullen cautioned that Pakistan’s sponsorship of the insurgency may jeopardize the mission.

    * * *


  3. Honestly, Robert, I don’t know what to think anymore. That part of the world is a mess and we can’t fix it.

    India won’t help in any realistic way (her intelligence services are a mess and I think people resent it when Americans say we should use her to contain Pakistan. They do not view themselves as instruments of American foreign policy.

    I dunno :(

    – Madhu

  4. Madhu: The difference between the US and India is that the US can pull out of Afghanistan and drop a few bombs on Pakistan on our way home. India on the other hand will share a border with Pakistan, until such time as India solves the problem.

    Detailed Discussion:
    “Next: Drone Strikes on Pakistan’s ISI?” by Walter Russell Mead on September 23, 2011

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