Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Negotiating (or not) with the Taliban (whoever they are)

A minor kerfuffle of sorts occurred earlier this week when the Financial Times reported that the Karzai government was engaged in Saudi-brokered peace negotiations with representatives of the Taliban (ed: Which Taliban? More on that later). CNN took the story one further by alleging that “Taliban leaders are holding Saudi-brokered talks with the Afghan government to end the country’s bloody conflict — and are severing their ties with al Qaeda.”

The Afghan government has denied that such negotiations have taken place, but expressed hope for peace talks with the insurgents. Contradicting suggestions made earlier in the year that the Taliban could co-operate with the Afghan government, spokesman Mullah Brother vehemently rejected the idea of negotiations with Kabul and there is no supporting evidence that Mullah Omar has broken with Al-Qaeda. (Given that Saudi money and madrasahs were a major source of the early Talib, their position as an honest broker leaves much to be desired.)

Interestingly, these stories emerged around the same time that the Senior British commander in Afghanistan, UN envoy Kai Eide and the U.S. Secretary of Defense have been arguing that the only resolution in Afghanistan will come with a settlement that includes the Taliban.

Troy assumes that the Afghan government has some form of on-going negotiations with various insurgent groups. Insurgencies are hardly monolithic, both among the support base and active guerrillas, one can typically find a variety of motivating issues and relative levels of commitment. Moreover, like any organization, insurgent movements can be rife with internal tensions and competing sources of power. The historical record suggests that through accommodation, many insurgents can be politically swayed or economically induced to rally to the government’s side. Although the goals of insurgent leaders cannot always be accommodated, the concrete grievances that motivate both the rank-and-file insurgents and their supporters frequently can be met.

Although subsequent reporting by the BBC suggests there may be less to the negotiation story that first reported, the event does raise some questions:

Who among the insurgents can be negotiated with? Haqqani? The Quetta Shura? Militants like Hekmatyar? Is it reasonable to think that any of them could be co-opted by/brought into the Afghan government?

If such an agreement could be reached, who would guarantee it? Troy seriously doubts that the Saudis would be in a position to oversee the Afghan government and prevent Taliban “backsliding”

How secure are the Afghan Taliban at present? An unnamed senior diplomat in Kabul told the Financial Times that the Taliban “are desperate to [negotiate]…they have had seven years of suffering severe losses on the battlefield and they know that it is not sustainable.” Yet, Carlton-Smith warns ““We’re not going to win this war. It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that’s not a strategic threat…” The Taliban have been losing some of their leaders to American military action, but at the same time, Karzi’s position is not appreciably better than it was in 2002. Which side would be negotiating from the position of strength?

Secretary Gates’ comments aside, most stories reporting this news emphasize that the U.S. opposes negotiations. What SHOULD the American position on negotiation with the Taliban be? Should they offer the Talibs the same deal they did pre-OEF? (i.e. handover UBL and the senior AQ leaders and we’ll talk) As Troy recalls, Afghanistan was about eliminating ungoverned space/terrorist sanctuary. I will defer to AM on the finer points of this, but the U.S. and Europe has found a way to live with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah in control of quasi-states. Hardly a desirable outcome in Afghanistan, but how does it compare to the British Ambassador’s suggestion that the best possible outcome is to install an “acceptable dictator in Kabul”?

Discuss...

45 comments:

terry.tucker said...

This particular post, along with many others on the web like it offers no particular insight. It is easy to ask questions and snipe, yet where are the constructive suggestions? Those that offer criticism without offering solutions have given the problem no thought. Or perhaps, this particular problem is deeply complex and one does not truly understand the politics or dynamics, so, resorts to the easy road of criticism and can quite effectively distance themselves from the issue by not participating in the decision making process and administration of the solution.

Are you aware that domestic politics are important? Had it occurred to you that the issue of disassociation and denial is usually the first step toward negotiating a power sharing agreement? Are you truly aware of what the judicial meaning of the Tribal Areas in Afghanistan actually mean? Have you REALLY done your historical homework on the region? Your commentary would indicate complete ignorance of the history of the region and geopolitics.

The seven tribal agencies are constitutionally independent states and are co-equal with Pakistan, not component parts of Pakistan. Their status was negotiated by formal state-to-state treaties.

The agreement that the United Kingdom reached with the tribes it could not conquer was a grant of total internal government autonomy. Defense and foreign affairs however would be managed by the central government.

Pakistan as the power that inherited the rights and obligations of these British brokered treaties wisely chose to honor the agreements. The tribes are under no obligation to respect the Afghanistan border, according to the Pakistan constitution, and also are exempt from border controls and taxation, except as they prescribe for themselves.

Law enforcement and border enforcement are the responsibility of the tribal agencies. This means the Frontier Corps and Constabulary and the tribal lashkars, all are locally recruited in all seven agencies.

The Pakistan Army has no legal basis for operating in the tribal agencies, except in support of the Frontier Corps. The Army’s sole constitutionally authorized mission is to defend the agencies from outside aggression, not invade or occupy them or to enforce Pakistan’s laws and orders. Juridically, the seven agencies are sovereign.

As for law and local practices, Afghan governments have accepted in practice the cross-border trade and movements of the Pashtuns in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal agencies. This is, in part, an acknowledgement of a lack of Afghan capability to enforce border controls. However, long before a modern state emerged, governments in Kabul tolerated Pashtun customs that ignored colonial artifices, namely the Durand Line, which Sir Mortimer Durand drew on a map in London in 1893. This remains contested, controversial and never accepted by either modern Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Modern international law, such as the theory of national control, is fundamentally irrelevant to the solution to the Afghanistan and the Pakistan border security problems. Moreover, cross border trade and smuggling have benefited both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Under Pakistan’s constitution, the Pakistan Army has no legal authority to operate in the tribal agencies, which are de jure independent states within the Pakistan federation.

Lastly, for power sharing to work in Afghanistan a decentralized government is essential and critical to success so the central government is not constantly blamed for every failure.

In 1991, Louis Dupree wrote that Afghanistan required a decentralized, or federal, government system. It has never been clear who decided that Afghanistan should be a unitary state after the overthrow of the Taliban, but no expert on Afghanistan considered that to be a modern choice, but rather an ill-informed backwards move in the direction of the Sultanates.

Considering both the current performance and past history my suggestion is to implement the Sir Robert G. Sandeman system. I will not make it easy for you; do your homework to discover what made his approach successful.

So…Abu, tell me, besides offering a lot of sniping and distancing yourself from any possible blame buy not actually offering solutions to complex and dynamic problems what is your solution to all this???

Anonymous said...

terry tucker
where are your constructive suggestions?

terry.tucker said...

Anonymous, evidently you did not read the entire post, because i gave my suggestion.

TCHe said...

If the US/the West decided to revert to the pre-OEF deal or even installed an acceptable dictator in Kabul they would lose their last remains of credibility in the region.

IMHO, that or any other form of early retreat from the country would especially embolden a certain subset of the insurgency there: the internationalist Islamists.

Their feeling is that they've defeated one super power in AFG (the USSR) and they'd likely consider this the defeat of the other super power by their hands.

I don't think that's a good option.

terry.tucker said...

We had a small window of opportunity several years ago and we blew it. If the current military and civilian leadership could at least understand the cultural and political nuances then there is a chance that a SUCCESSFUL strategy MIGHT now be developed and implemented. If we think that there will be anything that resembles peace regardless of the outcome, we are deluding ourselves. Even if the outcome is favorable and decentralized the level of "noise" between factions and tribes would at least be such that some semblance of normalcy will return. IF SOMEHOW, we can manage to keep the support and attention of the general US Public and SOMEHOW manage to improve our relationship in and out of the Middle East then we might stand some chance of success if success is defined in terms other than "western" notions.

I have been on the ground in Afghanistan 2 years now and before that have spent 10 years in the Middle East in conflict related work with the Dept of Def. This is not about cut and run it is about "saving" some amount of respect and face in accordance with Middle East standards of what that means.

Knee jerk reactions and half baked strategies with no understanding of the culture and past will only add another story to the list of historical lessons past that ended in misadventure.

Every possible chance I get I argue against a central govt; Afghanistan needs a model of Gov't that is highly decentralized. The Afghan's consider Mahmud of Ghazni the model of governance. despite the debate and controversy of his dynasty, his system, along with that of Sir Robert G. Sandeman are a couple of examples of how success can be earned. We still have a chance at success if we understand this.

Bill Keller said...

Our objective must remain the absolute destruction of Bin Laden, enablers and organization. Our means shall be restricted by our ethics and Constitution only.

Political palaver is of no use outside of the Goebbel's inspired political campaign of McCain and the spokesmen of a declining discredited Administration.

terry.tucker said...

Politics is a necessary evil. NOT ONE counterinsurgency was successful without a successful political arrangement.
I agree that our laws, values, ethics and mores should be our guiding light. And, as we say in Texas; Some folks just need killin' definately applies in COIN as well.
But to believe that all of this will be strictly reconciled by JUST the application of the use of force is to completley NOT understand insurgency and counterinsurgency.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Terry, it was Troy who wrote this, not Abu M...

Rob said...

Responding to the following point:

"I will defer to AM on the finer points of this, but the U.S. and Europe has found a way to live with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah in control of quasi-states. Hardly a desirable outcome in Afghanistan, but how does it compare to the British Ambassador’s suggestion that the best possible outcome is to install an “acceptable dictator in Kabul”?

Excuse me, but why wouldn't the US and Europe come to live with Hamas and Hezbollah taking control? Have those groups ever targetted the US? The answer is no. Does Israel have a problem with them? Yes. But there is no reason why the US would care- those groups are concerned with local Islamic rule.

In this sense, like HAmas or Hezbollah, the Taliban is an unsophisticated Islamist movement whose primary (or only) goal is local rule in Afghanistan. This is in contrast to Al-Qaeda, whose members are from coutnries thousands of miles away, and is a global organization. The Taliban can be compared to HAMAS in this sense. Yes, the Taliban let Al-Qaeda use its territory, but they are not natural allies, and they did so in a pure "cost-benefit" analysis rationale. What Al-Qaeda could give them was important enough that it outweighed any negative implications.

So I see no reason, the US, or perhaps Saudi Arabia, could split the Taliban away from al-Qaeda. If the Taliban had it spelled out to them VERY CLEARLY we'll let you rule your backwards Islamic state in Afghanistan- as long as you completely sever your ties with Al-Qaeda, I see no reason why this couldn't work.

Thats my first constructive suggestion. Here's my second, adopt the approach Christopher Hitches takes to dealing with the Opium trade:

http://www.slate.com/id/2201622/

Buying and burning Afghanistan's opium would be a far more effective strategy than the current one.

terry.tucker said...

Abu, my apologies for the false indictment, Troy, you have not escaped, what are your solutions?

Rob, points well addressed. the primary point in this is to address the politics. Unless a satisfactory political arrangement is agreed to by the parties then there can be no success in COIN.

The caveat: the political relationships must be carefully watched, all the time for the cracks and fissures that will surely result.

Regarding the opium, why dont we buy it and build Pharmaceutical plants, teach the Afghans a skill and then sell the drugs to the UN, Hospitals, NGO'S or whoever else needs opium based drugs and then burn rest? Portions of the profit could be used to "buy" down US Largess and nation building, a litle at a time or re-invested in other industries and education

Kilo said...

Quoting Ackerman's piece:
Petraeus pointed to efforts by Hamid Karzai’s government to negotiate a deal with the Taliban that would potentially bring some Taliban members back to power, saying that if they are “willing to reconcile,” it would be “a positive step.”

Kilo said...

TT:Lastly, for power sharing to work in Afghanistan a decentralized government is essential and critical to success so the central government is not constantly blamed for every failure.

See, I've thought this for a long time, but have NFI what that is supposed to look like or how it is supposed to work.
What country has this working now ?

I mean semi-independant regional governance with national representation by design, not a central govt where some semi-autonomous region is left to it's own devices.

What's *a* model rather than *the* model ?

Anonymous said...

Rob-
The Marines might take issue with your remark that Hez has never targeted Americans..

terry.tucker said...

Kilo, I am not going to do your homework for you. My suggestion on a highly decentralized gov't looks like the kind that Sir Robert G. Sandeman implemented in Balouchistan during the British Colonial era and or it looks like the kind of gov't that Mahmud of Ghazni implemented during his reign in power. It is up to you now to do the research to see what made them successful. I gave hints throughout this entire blog. Is it "a" model or "the" model is not relevant. What is relevant is: is it appropriate to the COIN your fighting? does it fit with the culture and society? In the history of Afghanistan, the emperors (khan) rule does and did not extend beyond the gates of the palace. The legitimacy and rule of the Emperor(khan)comes from those in power at the province and district. The Afghans understand the principle of Aql and Tura. Once again, do your homework i am not going to make it easy for you by just giving you the answers. in COIN that is called "overpartnering" and the guy you are training to stand alone never really learns to figure it out because you have done it all for him.

Anonymous said...

How decentralized of a government are we talking about? Where the focal points of power? Regions, citystates, or every town a nation?
BTW Terry Tucker sometimes the gang here at AM do not have any solutions, but post items in hope of learning a thing or two from the comments of the peanut galley.

Anonymous said...

TT Some times the partner has to go to his or her mind numbing job and needs something to chew on all day so cough up the frickking answers that we crave if you truly do have an understanding

Internet Erhabi said...

"Excuse me, but why wouldn't the US and Europe come to live with Hamas and Hezbollah taking control? Have those groups ever targetted the US? The answer is no. Does Israel have a problem with them? Yes. But there is no reason why the US would care- those groups are concerned with local Islamic rule."

Hezbollah targeted the US military in Lebanon back in the 80's.

One Hezbollah's first attacks included the blowing up of a USMC barracks in Lebanon that killed over 200 of them in one day.

Also, Hezbollah doesn't want to turn Lebanon into an Islamic state.

"In this sense, like HAmas or Hezbollah, the Taliban is an unsophisticated Islamist movement whose primary (or only) goal is local rule in Afghanistan."

Hezbollah and HAMAS are "unsophisticated" Islamist movements?

Internet Erhabi said...

P.S. I'm not saying that Hezbollah currently wants to target US interests.

I'm just saying the assertion that it never has is false (at least according to those who blame the barracks bombings on a then-nascent Hezbollah).

So, it has attacked US interests, but only when the US military was in Lebanon.

terry.tucker said...

Anonymous, since you asked so nicely!!

The answer is that the power is at the district and province. Yes, it will be highly focused at a lower level.
a good analogy would be either the type of federal-state gov't relationship that existed within the US model in 1780'S Where States Rights reigned supreme. Another analogy is the Ottoman Empire in the 1870'S.

The central government, if that is what we will call it, provides the foreign policy, external defense, by providing a standing Army and it provides and wields the carrots and sticks in terms of finance, products and service to the districts and provinces.
Decisions are by "loya Jirga" loosley translated from the Dari as Council.Which includes the key leaders from that district province.

It is a very loose and sloppy method but it works well for the tribes because there is no one "master". Like the 7 seven tribal agencies along the Paki-Afghan border they have a very high level of self regulation, determination and autonomy. They regulate and tax and provide for there own level of security with some help from the gov't.

JHM said...

(Written before 12:07PM when Dr. Poster relented)


There's whole lot of unilateral preëmptin’ goin’ on here: if you can't recite on the local colour, kindly shut up! If you can recite on the local colour, but you would rather ask questions than impose solutions, please have the decency to drop dead!

Nobody has reached Dr. Poster’s third hurdle yet, even to flub it, but if anybody should make it that far, I daresay to suggest imposition of a wrong solution will not obtain a passing grade either. Well, my arthritis would rule me out of the gymkhana in any case, so I'll go back to hurdle two and sit down beside the fast track on a dunghill weaving straws into my hair, staws like for example, "Do either the Tálebán or M. Kharzá’í aim at a hypercantonalised neo-Khorasán?"

(( For that matter, could either crew of indig contenders pass a snap quiz about Colonel Sir Robert Groves Sandeman ? [*] Though that is a very minor and silly straw indeed. ))

M. Kharzá’í seems pretty westoxicated to this keyboard. Might he not complain that he does not mean to become the first Lycurgus or Numa or Pinochet or al-Málikí ever to found a "failed state" on purpose? Furthermore, both Crawfordites and Natoholics take quite a high degree of centralisation and unification for granted. Actual imposition must fall to them, but will they consent to impose a scheme that strikes them as somewhat excessively eleventh-century? (Have they ever heard of this scheme, by the way, either down at the ranch or over in Brussels?)

The Tálebán would not mind Century V/XI in itself, or Century XI/XVI either, but on the other hand they may reserve the right to pick and choose their neo-mediaevalisms for themselves. Wouldn't you want to do so?

Dr. Poster has already insisted to one dissatisfied customer that he made a definite suggestion, and so he seems to have done, although it takes a bit of disentangling to isolate it. The ideal content of (paleface) imposition would evidently be to erase the Durand line: no more NWF, no more ‘Afghanistan’ except as a loose geographical expression -- like ‘Italy’. But let us call the conjoined political vacuum "Neo-Khorasán" to avoid confusion. And let us very hastily skate over the thin ice that this new flavour of Peruna is not likely to go down well at Islamabad.

Here we undoubtedly find a "particular insight," as Dr. Poster complains of the lack of from others, but do we find "constructive suggestion"? Perhaps not, inasmuch as vacua are not usually said to have been "constructed." And it is the vacuousness of Neo-Khorasán that will chiefly distinguish it from the Pol. Sci. point of view. It will not be properly a "failed state" because it won't be any kind of state at all. In fact, Neo-Khorasán ought to prove rather like a political black hole. Doubtless there will be some sort of political activity going on in there, human beings simply cannot help themselves in that department, but the human events will go on beyond an eternally inaccessible event horizon. [**]

The astronomical parallel is, however, imperfect. That is where Sir Robert comes in. A few supermen, most likely from Old Caledonia, possessing "plenty of good sense, patience, bonhomie, and dash" shall be able to transit the human-event horizon and report back from Neo-Khorasán. They shall successfully endeavour "to obtain influence with the tribes and to learn their feelings and prejudices." They shall "form decided views of frontier management," in conjunction with which they must "prefer democratic measures." "One tribe shall be reconciled with another, and all with their lord paramount." [***] They shall "administer with prudence and success, and in hearty sympathy with the Patàn races ... maintaining peace and order; dispensing justice promptly, with as little interference as possible with native usages; associating chiefs and tribesmen ... in the work of government; improving communications, promoting trade, providing medical aid for the people, developing irrigation, preserving forests." Their system shall be "patriarchal; they will dislike lawyers and will have none of them in their courts." [****]

And so on.

Do you suppose somebody could talk Ollie North into takin’ a whack at it? ("How's that, constructive-suggestionwise?", jested Pilate.)

Happy days.


___

[*] "[T]he exceptional position claimed for him by part of the Anglo-Indian press cannot be admitted, for he was neither a great soldier nor a great statesman."

Hmmm. Could I have googled up the wrong guy?


[**] A really mean-spirited critic might wonder at this point whether M. Ahmadí-Nezhád is not vaguely pertinent, for Neo-Khorasán might almost as well have been "wiped off the map."


[***] "With their WHO?"


[****] This point is a bit precarious. The Vita Sancti Sandemanni continues "but doubtless they [lawyers] will soon appear with other advantages of civilization." And God knows best about that.

Snowden said...

Wow, some long posts here. A few questions:

1.) From my admittedly limited understanding of Afghanistan, the tribes, while essential to the nature of Afghanistan, aren't necessarily stable. It seems to me that the inherent instability of autonomous tribes, however big or small it might be, is only augmented by modernization. Back in Sandeman-Balouchistan days, they didn't have to worry about one tribe, through foreign funds, acquiring shoulder-launched missiles. How would those who suggest decentralized government answer the charge of "what happens if some Mehsud type character starts executing rivals and building a large army? Who's to stop him?"

2.) It's worth mentioning that the Articles of Confederation were found ineffective, both by Founding Fathers and later historians.

3.) This might piggy back off #1, but what would be the difference between a decentralized Afghanistan and what is currently happening in Pakistan, where the central government is practically at war with one of its own regions?

4.) In re: Troy's first question, I think right now that Fick and Singh's recommendation of talking/welcoming recalcitrant Taliban makes the most sense.

*I'm really not trying to be rhetorical/snarky/passive-aggressive with my questions. I'm asking in a desire to learn. If I'm being an ignorant ass, criticize away, but I don't think I'm alone in saying that I have more questions than answers.

Rob said...

Internet Erhabi,

its not historically accurate to say that "Hezbollah" targetted the Marines in Lebanon in the early 1980s.
Radical Shia targetted the Marines. So some radical Shia targetted the Marines- but does that mean the group we know today as Hezbollah can be blamed for the killings? Hezbollah was not even officially announced until 1985.

Secondly, why were the Marines in their for the first place? I am not trying to justify any killings. But why were the Marines there in the firs place? Were they neutral peacekeepers? Or were they trying to prop up a right-wing Christian government that had the support of a small portion of the Lebanese population, that was compliant with Sharon's plan to kick the Pals out of Lebanon as part of the 1982 invasion? If I remember correctly the USS New Jersey lobbed 200 pound shells all over Mount Lebanon as part of this effort to keep peace. From the perspective of the majority of people in the Middle East, the Marines were not neutral but merely serving to implement the Sharon plan. Not only is it not accurate to say that "Hezbollah" attacked the US. Its also historically questionable whether the Marines were non-partisan peacekeepers, but just another party to the Lebanese mealstrom, especially after the USS New Jersey gets involved.

We shouldnt have been there in the first place. But when someone jumps in the fray of a bar fight and takes sides they cant say they were "attacked" when someone hits them back as part of the bigger chaos.

Internet Erhabi said...

Rob, I understand that not everyone thinks that members of what we now know as "Hezbollah" planned and carried out the bombing. I said that in my second post.

I also wasn't trying say that the bombing was either just or unjust (which I also pointed out in my second post).

Rob said...

internet erhabi,
oh ok, i guess i didnt read your second post closely enough.

by the way I meant that I think the Taliban is clearly an unsophisticated movement but that might have more to do with their surroundings than anything.
Hamas the jury is still out. Hezbollah perhaps is the most sophistictaed of the three.

Anonymous said...

Defending Hezbollahs deadly and cruel attack on USM barracks in Beirut by questioning the american peacekeaping presence there is an islamistic foliohat excuse for terrorism.
Furthermore Hezbollahs guilt in blowing up the israeli embassy and the jewish-argentinian AMIA in 1992and 1994, proved, above all doubt, that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.

Anonymous said...

Good post everyone
TT
Thanks for the elaboration on the decentralization of power, my asking nicely was pre caffine.
If you ask the saltiest of salty dogs whom were in the corps at the time of the barracks bombing, there is no love lost with hezbolah, but Reagan is were they will direct their wrath, as they all knew they had no business in lebanon in the first place.
Anon 10:47

Anonymous said...

And if you really want to see one of those salty dogs become irate ask them about the rules of engagment imposed on them that allowed the barracks bombing to happen, you cant balme your enemies for trying to kill you , but you can blame your own side for not letting you protect yourself.

anon 10:47

Kilo said...

terry.tucker said...
Kilo, I am not going to do your homework for you ... I gave hints throughout this entire blog ... Once again, do your homework i am not going to make it easy for you by just giving you the answers. in COIN that is called "overpartnering" and the guy you are training to stand alone never really learns to figure it out because you have done it all for him.

I asked could someone name a nation. ie Write less letters than you just wrote lines of text.
Look at what you've written in response as though you've been doing my science homework for me all year. Settle down pal.

terry.tucker said...

Interesting comments and dialog;
Snowden, the beauty of the Sir Robert G Sandeman system was its policy of "masterly inactivity", that is what the colonilas called it. let me sum up the major points

1.you mad friends with the tribes.
2. you dealt with them through their chiefs.
3.you paid them to patrol your LOC’s (Lines of Communication).
4.you adhered to tribal custom and settled disputes by Jurga.
5.and kept a constant military presence.

Lastly, we all have recognize that the amount of so called peace and stbility that will result is, without being cliche, relative. You will still have some kind of daily noise of shooting, robbery, corruption and bombing. Instead of perhaps 15 or 20 incidents a day in your district, there may now be 4
In essence you might say that the living environment will still be dangerous. It has been so long since i have been back in the US on any extended period that i am not sure which city or city now has the distinction of having the most crime. Use that as the analogy. Pick the worst city somewhere and you are now in the heart of that downtown district. You go no where unless you are aligned with a tribe or clan and provide mutual service to each other in some fashion. Here are several Pashtu/ Afghan proverbs i have acumulated by way of my terp that might help put this in perspective.

1.A Pathan’s heart hammers harder with a gun in his hand than a women
2. We are Content with Discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood, we will never be content with a master

“American’s may have all the wrist watches, we have all the time”

“A shot fired in Anger echo’s for a hundred years”

“it took me 100 years to exact my revenge and regain my family honor, my only regret is I acted in Haste”

“He who cannot protect the integrity of his family, can not protect anything”

Basically it boils down to this.
SOME kind of Political arrangement is necessary
We must lower our expectations of what a government in afghanistan looks like in terms of how afghans would describe success.
Remember, this is Islamic year 1387 in Afghanistan!
I hope this helps

terry.tucker said...

Anonymous, I understand completely.
I frustrated with our leadership, our hesco attitude, the ROE and the living conditions. The few and far between good days generally make up for most of the BS. but i am getting to a point that now, after 6 years, we are relearning the same lessons from 6 years ago. We can actually win this if we got a few people in the chain of command below Petreaus that could inculcate the climate down. I wont say where I am at, but we recently had a change of command and the new Commander "Gets it" and our "Effects Cell" is doing great stuff without the Kinetics. Even the Afghan Army is starting to "get it" Unfortunately, no on has really bothered to work with the police and they are a real weakness

Joshua Foust said...

Terry Tucker, it's worth noting that the British found "masterly inacvity" controversial in general (re: Hopkirk's long disposition on it as a guiding principle for an age of the Great Game), and specifically inappropriate to the Pashtuns. The Sandeman system works best in a segmentary and hierarchical tribal system. The Pashtuns are neither, at least not with enough stability to allow consistent partnering with an effective executive agent. In his history of the Frontier Scouts, Charles Chenevix Trench offered the following anecdote:

""Neither the Amir of Afghanistan, nor the Sikhs, nor the British wanted more than spheres of influence in the mountains [of FATA]… In Baluchistan, further south, Robert Sandeman had found it possible to establish some degree of control through tribal leaders. But the Mahsuds and Wazirs are quite different from Baluchi tribes, replied those expert in the ways of the Pathans; they have no tribal leaders in that sense and do no man’s bidding.""

Here's my minor thought: Afghan society in general is intensely personal, and relationship-based. We do not deploy long enough to build relationships, though we do enough to establish (not always good) reputations. Perhaps addressing that flaw would open some other doors.

Joshua Foust said...

Also Ghosts of Alexander wrote a top-notch post about the problems with negotiating with the Taliban.

terry.tucker said...

JHM,
I just an infantry guy, i had to read your post a couple of times to get it. You are absolutley Hilarous!! I loved it. i have taken the liberty of pasting some of your remarks below, in my opinion, critical elements that offer insight and, in my humble opinion, help clarify what i was trying to convey. Thank you.

"but will they consent to impose a scheme that strikes them as somewhat excessively eleventh-century?"
This is the real issue and no, the western powers may not unless public uproar is such that causes them to change.

But let us call the conjoined political vacuum "Neo-Khorasán" to avoid confusion.

this is very apropo, as the Afghans are closer to the Iranians/ Persians than anyone really cares to admit

but do we find "constructive suggestion"? Perhaps not, inasmuch as vacua are not usually said to have been "constructed." And it is the vacuousness of Neo-Khorasán that will chiefly distinguish it from the Pol. Sci. point of view.

We will undoudtedly rather continue down the path of the view of political science rather than recognize the "actual" reality of what is on the ground. One can not imagine how true all this is unless one has spent some serious time in the Middle East or the Golden Crescent outside of the major rural area's to fully understand.

No, Sir R.G. Sandeman was not highly decorated or recognized. The Brits attempted to replicate his success in other parts, but to no avail because the local administrator/Govn'r did not have the temperment to deal with the tribe or prefered the "pol Sci" approach over the reality of the situation.

terry.tucker said...

Joshua,

you are absolutely correct. Relationships are really very personal and the length of depoyment and continuity in positions would help that. On the other hand, if we abandoned the hesco's and the big army went Native early and quick, the relationships would cultivate quicker as well as the results. Currently, unless out on operations, the OMLT's and ETT's hardly spend 4 hours a day, at best with there counterparts. and that is a crime!!

terry.tucker said...

As i mentioned earlier in the post, my suggestions for the 2 possible methods of success for Afghanistan are Sir R.G. Sandeman and or Mahmud of Ghazni.

Any system developed and employed will be controversial. but the litmus test is: Is it Afghan? Did they buy into it and develop it or was it imposed?

Anonymous said...

TT-Thanks for the history reminder. I had never looked very closely at Sandeman. Joshua expresses my concerns well. Can we really treat each of the large tribal areas of Afghanistan the same and expect similar results? Where would we find someone agile enough to cope with the differences? How would we keep them in that position? Could Sandeman's approach work only with a Sandeman running it?

The British approached the problem in the context of running a colonials empire. I dont think the US/NATO has the mindset/abilities to indirectly manage internal politics very well in Afghanistan (or anywhere else for that matter). Just as an example, where will we find a career diplomat with the skills and willingness to go live there for 20 years? The lack of a working model anywhere else in the world that I can think of, causes me to doubt.

Steve

fnord said...

Brilliant thread. As far as I can extrapolate the consensus here, its that either we need to sit down and reconsider the whole framework we have built in Afghanistan again, or we let it go? Because how do you get the various warlords & druggies out of power once we let them in?

T. Tucker: "We had a small window of opportunity several years ago and we blew it. "

Yes. But what I seem to get out of your suggestion is that the US starts emulating the british empire and establish a permanent colonial army a la the raj? Is that politically doable?

BR said...

Anyone who knows what degree of control the former royal govenments of Afghanistan were able to exercise outside Kabul? In the southern part of the country in particular.

Snowden said...

TT, Joshua, et. al:

Great, thanks for the answers and clarifications. If I could follow up:

- TT makes a very convincing case for tribal-handling as a primary military/political tactic. Reading his points, however, gave me a feeling of intense, long-term pessimism.

In other words, if we use the Sandeman system, how is there any chance for any modernizing in the region, and what proof do we have we won't be fighting the same battles of 2002 in fifty years? It might be too neo-con/old-school-liberal of me, but I definitely think there is a place for forces to provide a "modernizing escape valve", where Afghanis can pursue more Western values (i.e. more equal rights for women, toleration for homosexuality or minority religions, increased technological advancement, &c.) The "masterful inactivity" seems too static, too unwilling to even contemplate reformation of the tribes.

Maybe Sandeman/TT's realism is warranted. Maybe the proud people of Afghanistan will follow their traditions unto the end of the earth's days. I'd like to think, though, that we'll be able to see some small movement toward modernity in the future Afghanistan. I know that comparing different cultures is like comparing apples with lightsabers, but I can't help thinking that many people 100 years ago felt that China would be "backwards" forever.

I guess I'm asking: "Am I wrong to have some form of classical-liberal hope for Afghanistan's future?"

elf2006real said...

I haven't been to Afghanistan, and am no expert. But shouldn't we be focused on defending our interests above all, as opposed to a (futile IMO) goal of modernizing Afghanistan under a centralized Western government? Is it possible to go back to pre-1978?

And how does a power sharing arrangement with Warlords and drug growers help us? Why wouldn't they continue to support their brothers in A.Q, and keep using opium to finance it?

Let's remember how important an Islamic State is to A.Q, how much they need it for prestige, maybe more than a safe haven.

Speaking of which, why would the Talib abandon their stated goal of getting their hands on the nukes next door, or establishing an Islamic state in Pakistan.

We went in out of self defense, after suffering a terrible attack staged from this very region. And the attacks never stopped.

Perhaps the paleo conservative position of leaving that part of the world alone except for terribly punitive responses if we are attacked is correct.

Anonymous said...

We must lower our expectations of what a government in afghanistan looks like in terms of how afghans would describe success.

how about this?

Like the 7 seven tribal agencies along the Paki-Afghan border they have a very high level of self regulation, determination and autonomy. They regulate and tax and provide for there own level of security with some help from the gov't.

sounds good to me.

elf
Perhaps the paleo conservative position of leaving that part of the world alone except for terribly punitive responses if we are attacked is correct.


hear hear! could we actually agree on something? however this is not to be. what is missing from this post/thread is why we have a geopolitical interest in the region.

China is developing the port of Gwader in Baluchistan on the south coast of Pakistan and transport routes from there into its mainland. The port will allow energy flow from Africa and the Middle East to China without Indian naval interference.

The United States is still dreaming of a gas pipeline from the Turkmenistan south through Afghanistan and Baluchistan to the Arabian see. Long term troop stationing in landlocked Afghanistan will also demand a safe line of communication to a seaport.


cough

This is not about cut and run it is about "saving" some amount of respect and face in accordance with Middle East standards of what that means.

oh please, spare us the song and dance.

ie, I'm not saying that Hezbollah currently wants to target US interests.

I'm just saying the assertion that it never has is false


to be fair this wasn't the assertion. nobody said US interests, they said Have those groups ever targetted the US? . there is a difference. the answer is no, they have not.

Anonymous said...

troy, wrt the Taliban (whoever they are)

i am providing this OT link for you to review the 11 news sources (scroll)w/links. it may shed light on determining who they are, or who's interests they may represent.

fnord said...

I see ISAF decided to let district commanders act against drug-growers at their own discretion today. Interesting move, sounds really strange at first glance because it will become a matter of relative strength who can grow poppies and who can not. Resistance will pay more.

Jay@Soob said...

A fascinating string of commentary. Most refreshing, the term "democracy" is wholly absent from the discussion.

elf2006real, re: Taliban support of AQ. As was mentioned afore, the ideologies of Mullah Omar et. al and AQ weren't exactly congruent. Omar, looking at what bin Laden had brought to Sudan was likely expecting a rich sheikh ready to bolster the Taliban's decidedly, erm, dicey financial situation in return for a safe haven. What he got was a nearly broke bin Laden and an increasingly irritated Saudi financial benefactor. If I have my facts straight, the more vocal bin Laden became (that whole declaration of war on America, television interviews, etc.) the more aggravated the Saudi's became until Prince Turki Al Faisal (intelligence minister? don't recall his title but that seems fitting) paid Omar a visit, demanded and got an agreement where bin Laden would be handed over.
Additionally a good portion of the talibs were a bit annoyed at both the negative attention bin Laden was bringing them (despite being officially recognized by only the UAE they had some positive mojo from the American's at the time) and this whole concept of declaring war on a country that had enabled the Afghan muj against the Soviets.

With this in mind (and if my understanding of the history is incorrect I welcome correction) what common bond would the Taliban hold with AQ within the context of Terry Tucker's rather classical republican (would tomorrow bring Jefferson back from the dead and forced pistol to head into the position of defense secretary he'd likely applaud and back this solution) strategy?

Terry Tucker, given that the Taliban was as much a manifestation of both Benazir Bhutto and the ISI with Kashmir and India in mind, how might Pakistan react to such a tribal federation that would exist beyond their control?

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

AOG can be Taliban, criminal gangs who cooperate with the Taliban, rent-a-Taliban (mostly teenage boys who need money and adventure) or militas controlled by warlords. Every armed group has its own agenda and few cooperate with each other. This is their principal weakness -the inability to operate with unity of command or purpose. Our big weakness is that we cannot take advantage of their weakness because most of our military is confined to large bases and have no idea what is happening just outside their wire fences let alone the rest of the country.

Talking with the AOG by Tim Lynch, somebody you should know.