Sunday, February 8, 2009




How Long Before A "Surge" Drives Them All Back Into The Arms Of The Taliban?

A surge is what Dubya's advisers, er, I mean Obama's advisers, er, oh, well, they're the same people, pretty much, and they're recommending the same thing they recommended in Iraq. Iraq, now there's a model to emulate. Recent elections showed a trend toward just what we were warned about, before we went in there: Fragmentation of Iraq into three rump States: One controlled by Iran, one in a perpetual destabilizing war with Turkey, and, caught in the middle, one mightily pissed off and oil-free home base for Sunni terrorism, like Al Qaida. That's pretty much how the election results played out this week.

Afghanistan could be split in nine ethnic pieces: Aimaq, Baluch, Hazara, Kirghiz, Nuristani, Pashtun, Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek. There's no oil there, so you think there'd be less to squabble about. But there may be a pipeline from the Caucasus running through Afhganistan to the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean off Pakistan someday. That's why we're there, according to some people. The pipeline can't be built until it's safe enough to carry out a massive construction project, though. So we're going to be there for quite a while. We might even end up catching Osama, if he doesn't die of old age first. But that's kind of a side effect.



Things have not been going all that well in Afghanistan. You've gotta wonder how they managed to conduct an opinion survey in a place like Afghanistan in the middle of a war. Did they round up the usual suspects and have them fill out questionnaires? Go from bread line to bomb shelter to refugee camp asking questions in five different languages while under heavy guard? Did they ask women, or only men? Wait till they hear that we may be working with the Russians now. Poll that. Ah, Afghanistan!

"Election results spur threats and infighting in Iraq"
So, the surge is working, hunh? Define "working."

' RAMADI, Iraq: The post-election curfew has been lifted and the threats of violence have been muted after the intervention of envoys from the Iraqi Army, the central government and the U.S. Marines. A cacophonous bustle has returned to the filthy, shattered streets of this provincial capital, once a base of the Sunni insurgency. And still Faris Taha, one of the election's victors, according to preliminary results, is too fearful to return to the region he will soon represent. "I cannot go back," he said, having retreated from his hometown east of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, to a hotel in Baghdad's Green Zone. "I am afraid." '

"Partition in Iraq: A Serious Problem With Biden as VP?"
A "secret plan for peace" in a divided Iraq?
' When Biden, who initially supported the war, was running for president, he repeatedly insisted he was the only candidate with a workable plan for ending it. His campaign created a video, featured in the YouTube debate, that said, "Joe Biden is the only one with the experience and the plan to end this war responsibly so our children don't have to go back." That plan was widely seen as calling for the partition of Iraq. It read, in part, "The United States should actively support a political settlement in Iraq based on the final provisions of the Constitution that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions, consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their leaders." Despite Biden's occasional objections, that wording was read by other politicians and the media as calling for the division of Iraq into three regions, one for Sunnis, one for Shiites, and one for Kurds. For that perception, Biden has himself to blame. An op-ed Biden wrote in 2006 described his plan this way: "The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group -- Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab -- room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.... The first [point of the plan] is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues." The Biden Plan, as it was called, proved remarkably popular in the Senate — in September 2007 it faced a Senate vote and passed with the support of 75 senators, including 26 Republicans. The non-binding measure did not compel the President to act, only expressed the will of the Senate. Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd voted with Biden; Obama and McCain did not vote at all. '

"Survey: US, allies losing ground in Afghanistan"
Change they can believe in? Not so much.
' A survey among Afghans indicates support is plummeting for the Kabul government and the United States and European troops trying to bolster it against insurgents, according to a report Monday. The decline is striking particularly in the last year, the poll shows, even as the Obama administration and NATO allies weigh moves to strengthen forces in the struggle with Taliban and other radical groups. President Barack Obama has assigned high priority to the conflict, and the administration is weighing whether to send another 30,000 U.S. troops, almost doubling the 32,000 present. Few Afghans felt encouraged by Obama's election, however: Two in 10 said they thought he would make things better for the Afghan people, and nearly as many said they thought he would make things worse. The rest either expected no change or were waiting to see. The poll — commissioned by ABC News, the BBC and ARD German TV — found that the number of Afghans who say their country is headed in the right direction has dropped to 40 percent, from 77 percent in 1995 when the survey was first conducted. '

"Angry civilians protest civilian deaths in Afghanistan"
Maybe this has something to do with those poll numbers.
' Angry civilians in Laghman are protesting military operations that resulted in civilian deaths. The protestors are demonstrating against the deaths of 21 civilans killed in a U.S. air strike on Jan. 23. The U.S. military refused responsibility for the bombing and claimed that it did not target civilians. However, 15 insurgents may have been killed during the attack. Many Afghan civilians and the government condemn what they consider the indiscriminate use of arms by the allied forces. '

"Afghan official beheaded by 'guests' "
Another way of taking a head count.
' The Taliban, who control several districts of Helmand, have previously beheaded other people, including hostages, in a campaign of intimidation and fear that targets Afghans working for the government or international groups. Ethnic and tribal rivalries and crime, including that associated with Helmand's booming opium trade, also play a part in the wave of violence that has engulfed the country. '

"US supply routes in Afghanistan squeezed 2 ways"
Bit of a cock-up in the Khyber, I'm afraid...
' U.S. troops in Afghanistan saw their supply lines squeezed from the north and east Tuesday after militants blew up a bridge in Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan's government said it would end American use of a key air base following Russia's announcement of new aid. Securing efficient and safe supply routes into Afghanistan has become a top priority for U.S. officials as the Pentagon prepares to send in up to 30,000 more American soldiers this year. Some 75 percent of U.S. supplies travel through Pakistan, where militants have stepped up attacks on truck convoys destined for U.S. bases. Attackers on Tuesday blew up a bridge in northwestern Pakistan in a fresh salvo in an escalating campaign seeking to cripple Washington's war effort in Afghanistan. Islamist militants blew up a bridge in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, cutting a major supply line for Western troops in Afghanistan in the latest in a series of attacks on the Khyber Pass by insurgents seeking to hamper the U.S.-led mission against the Taliban. A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan confirmed that supplies along the route had been halted "for the time being," but stressed the alliance was in no danger of running out of food, equipment or fuel. The U.S. and NATO fly ammunition, weapons and other sensitive supplies into Afghanistan, but it would be too costly to ship everything that way. '

"Kyrgyzstan cites slaying, finances in closing of U.S. base"
Gee, wonder how this happened?
' U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the decision to close Manas Air Base "regrettable." Just a few weeks ago, during a visit to the region, Gen. David Petraeus -- who oversees U.S. operations in the Middle East and Central Asia -- talked about how important the base is. Closing Manas base would not affect only the United States. Petraeus said the site "plays an important role" in the deployment of Spanish and French soldiers into Afghanistan, in addition to U.S. troops. Sultangaziev rejected any suggestions that Russia may have pushed for the closure of the U.S. base. He said the announcement of Russia's aid package was a coincidence. The mountainous former Soviet republic is Central Asia's second poorest country. The U.S. base has been in operation since December 2001 under a U.N. mandate. Kyrgyzstan also is home to a Russian military base, at Kant, that officially opened in 2003. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Tuesday that Russia would offer Kyrgyzstan a $300 million, 40-year loan at an annual interest rate of 0.75 percent and write off $180 million of Kyrgyzstan's debt. Clinton said Thursday, "It's regrettable that this is under consideration by the government of Kyrgyzstan, and we hope to have further discussions with them. But we will proceed in a very effective manner no matter what the outcome of the Kyrgyzstan government's deliberations might be." '

"Russia denies influencing Kyrgyzstan on US base"
So, the Russians had nothing to do with it... ?
' A senior Russian envoy says Moscow did not influence Kyrgyzstan's decision to end American access to a base used to resupply U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The decision was announced several days ago as Kyrgyzstan's president was visiting Moscow after securing more than $2 billion in loans and aid from Russia. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov says "there is no correlation" between the Russian aid offer and the Kyrgyz decision. '

"U.S. diplomat holds Afghan supply talks in Moscow"
Suddenly, Russia to the rescue. Well played, Vladi!
' A senior U.S. diplomat will hold talks with Russian officials on Tuesday about opening up new supply routes across Russian territory to NATO forces in Afghanistan, the U.S. embassy said. The talks come less than a week after Kyrgyzstan announced it will close a U.S. airbase on its territory that provides logistical support by air to U.S. troops fighting the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan. Russia has signalled readiness to expand cooperation in supplying non-military equipment to U.S. forces and other NATO contingents in Afghanistan. Such shipments would also have to pass through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to reach the conflict zone. Supply routes through Pakistan have become increasingly vulnerable to militant attacks over the last year. '

"Beware of energy’s robber barons"
Russia, India, the U.S. This is getting complicated.
' In early January, Russia’s giant energy company Gazprom suddenly cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine. As a result, much of Europe shivered without heat because pipelines through Ukraine supply most of their gas. Moscow exercised its gas clout in 2008 as well, ostensibly over pricing and transit fees, but more likely as an assertion of its readiness to wield energy as a weapon. The Russian act has implications for two gas pipelines that concern India: TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India).
At issue is the stranglehold both monopoly suppliers and transiting countries may have over energy security. Given that TAPI and IPI would transit through rough terrain with restive populations such as Afghanistan and Baluchistan, the chances of disruption are high, whether via blackmail by the Pakistani government or due to physical damage by insurgents. '

"Provinces of Afghanistan"
On the road to Kabul.
' Interactive Map: Badakhsan - Badghis - Baghlan - Balkh - Bamian - Farah - Faryab - Ghazni - Ghowr - Herat - Helmand - Jowzjan - Kabul - Kapisa - Konar - Kondoz - Laghman - Logar - Nangarhar - Nemroz - Oruzgan - Paktia - Paktika - Parwan - Qandahar - Samangan - Sar-e-pul - Takhar - Wardak - Zabol '

"Interactive Map: Afghanistan's Ethnic Groups"
The many tribes of Afghanistan.
' Map: Afghanistan's Ethnic Groups - In-depth Coverage of Afghanistan and the War on Terror by the Online NewsHour. '

(Cross-posted at blog me no blogs.)