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.