US Global Strategy and Allied Issues

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  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    America vs Al-Qaida: the Widening War

    12 November 2010
    America vs Al-Qaida

    The signals of growing turbulence in a range of military environments - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and beyond - send a worrying message to Washington.

    By Paul Rogers for openDemocracy

    The month of October 2010 saw a notable change in the Pentagon’s mood in three of its areas of central strategic concern: the conflict with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the pursuit of the al-Qaida leadership in western Pakistan, and the progressive military disengagement from Iraq. In all these areas, there was at the beginning of the month a certain cautious optimism. Now, in the second week of November, things look very different.

    In Afghanistan, the surge in United States troop numbers had by October long reached its peak, bringing the total contingent of foreign soldiers in the country to over 140,000. The senior commander General David H Petraeus was deploying many of them in Kandahar province, especially in night-raids led by special forces. These operations were having some impact on the Taliban and other armed groups, allowing in turn for planned reintegration programmes to take their course. It could plausibly be argued that the core US tactical objective of negotiating from a position of military superiority was starting to work, thus holding out the promise of an eventual withdrawal of most foreign forces from the country (see The Battle for Afghanistan: Militancy and Conflict in Kandahar, New America Foundation, 1 November 2010).

    In western Pakistan there had been a huge increase in unmanned armed-drone attacks, so that they had become an almost daily occurrence. There was mounting evidence that these had killed or at least dispersed much of the al-Qaida movement’s middle leadership and some key Taliban personnel.

    In Iraq, the US military withdrawal was proceeding more or less as planned, alongside some continuing special-forces operations. There was also limited progress towards the formation of a government after nearly eight months of post-election stalemate.

    The dark side

    The Barack Obama administration was prepared to give these already hopeful trends an even more optimistic spin as the mid-term congressional elections on 2 November 2010 approached. In the event this was barely needed, as the elections were fought exclusively on local issues (see Helene Cooper, “In 2010 Campaign, War is Rarely Mentioned", International Herald Tribune, 28 October 2010). That political neglect may not long survive the Democrats’ reversal in the vote; for there are indications that international-security issues are poised to emerge as a major factor in a changed domestic scene.

    In Afghanistan, the night-raids may have reached the limit of their utility as Taliban paramilitaries use their own intelligence and communications systems to deflect their impact (see Jon Boone, “Taliban claims success against Nato night raids”, Guardian, 1 November 2010). A series of attacks across the country on 10 November in which both Nato and Afghan service personnel were killed shows the vigour of current Taliban operations.

    Moreover, the flaws in the reintegration policy are exposed by recent incidents where local Taliban groups have integrated police into their movement rather than the other way round; for example, nineteen on-duty police officers abandoned their police station in Khomeini, southwest of Kabul, and defected - along with their vehicles and weapons - to the Taliban (see Dexter Filkins & Sharifullah Sahak, “Afghan Police Unit Defects to Taliban...”, New York Times, 3 November 2010).

    There are persistent reports of negotiations with Taliban elements, but without evidence of real progress (see Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Taliban peace talks come to a halt”, Asia Times, 3 November 2010). The Saudi decision to withdraw from a mediating role in talks between Hamid Karzai's government and the Taliban, announced on 7 November, is a further setback to such efforts.

    The US is in parallel preparing the ground for $2 billion worth of military assistance to the Pakistani army, designed to aid the latter’s destruction of al-Qaida units in western Pakistan. At the same time, President Obama’s implied concerns about Pakistan during his high-profile tour of India reveals the tensions in his administration’s policy towards Islamabad.

    In Iraq, the breaking of the post-election deadlock is likely to be followed by a Shi'a-dominated government in Baghdad that is heavily influenced by Iran (see Patrick Cockburn, "Sun sets on US influence in Iraq as deal on new government looms", Independent, 11 November 2010). The marginalisation of the Sunni minority will provoke more radical groups to launch operations; a fresh bombing campaign, and a wave of attacks on Christians (including the bloody siege of a church in Baghdad and the personalised targeting of known Christian families), may in part reflect this.

    A worsening security situation in Iraq makes it more likely that US regular forces will once again become involved in consolidating the state. The US defence secretary Robert Gates stated on 9 November that these forces could stay in Iraq past the agreed date of final withdrawal in 2011. Such developments would arouse great concern in Washington as the new Congress takes shape.

    The long view

    These trends in the long-term heartlands of the “war on terror” have tended to be overshadowed by the drama surrounding the discovery in Dubai and England of explosives primed by a Yemen-based group to detonate on US-bound cargo and passenger planes. But there is also a connection between the various theatres: al-Qaida’s response to proposed Pakistani army assaults is reported to include encouraging units elsewhere in the world (not least Yemen) to ignite local actions, and the group’s leadership appears to have put in charge of international operations a figure (the Egyptian, Saiful Adil [Saif al-Adel]) who favours numerous small operations rather than spectacular atrocities such as 9/11 (see Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Parcel bombs point to al-Qaeda switch”, Asia Times, 3 November 2010).

    The Yemeni-sourced bomb plot failed, but the sophisticated technologies involved demonstrate the way in which paramilitary groups have adapted their skills over a decade of war almost as fast as coalition forces, with their hugely more expensive military machines, are able to do.

    These advances coincide with the accumulated experience of many thousands of young paramilitaries from across the region who have gained combat experience against well-trained and heavily armed US troops in the urban environment of the Iraq war. This experience is far more relevant to the second decade of the 21st century than was the training environment of their predecessors, namely the war against Soviet conscripts in Afghanistan in the 1980s. This new generation is now dispersed across the middle east and southwest Asia; it may turn out to be the most potent legacy of the Iraq war.

    To this hardened group must be added the radicalisation of young British Muslim men and women such as Roshonara Choudhry. This intelligent student was sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to kill a British politician, Stephen Timms, an act by her own account prompted by the parliamentarian’s support for the Iraq war but also linked to her online viewing of radical Islamist preachers.

    The case, unusual as it may be, is a useful reminder that non-western media outlets such as the al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya news-channels continue widely to report civilian suffering in the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (especially via drone attacks), and that this can have a profound impact on people such as Roshonara Choudhry.

    This combination of circumstances - setbacks in “AfPak”, dispersal of the al-Qaida threat, near-miss mid-air operations, individual radicalisation, the spreading out of young paramilitaries trained in Iraq - again points to a long war (see “The thirty-year war” [4 April 2003] and "The thirty-year war, revisited" [30 July 2008]). Afghanistan and Iraq played little part in the United States’s mid-term elections, but they may have a much greater influence on the presidential election in 2012. Indeed, as George W Bush returns to the stage with his political memoir, it is appropriate to suggest that these wars could still turn out to be the most toxic of all the legacies left by this former US president to his successor.

    Dr Paul Rogers is Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University. He has been writing a weekly column on global security for openDemocracy since 26 September 2001 and writes an international-security monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group.

    US and the Al Qaeda

    George Bush's War on Terror has got the US in a bind. In the process, it has opened up a Pandora's box that is becoming difficult to close.

    To add to the US' woe, Bush also embarked on aggressive action on countries that he dubbed as 'axis of evil'.

    US has inherited this and mounted this tiger and is at a loss as to how to dismount.

    What started as an exercise to topple the regime in Iraq, has snowballed into a nemesis. Iraq to Afghanistan to Sudan to Yemen and it is cropping up in all directions!

    Obama's reaching out to the Muslim world won't win friends in the US where the Rednecks and hillbillies and Joe the Plumber are the deciding factors, not to forget the 'educated' politicians like Sarah Palin, {who sees Russia from her window. People have misunderstood her. She keeps the globe (the educational artefact that has has the map of the world and which rotates) on her window sill and the map of Russia faces towards the inside of her room apparently so that she sees it outside her window!!}

    Bush's strategy was shaped on D*ick Cheney's paper on Defence Policy Guidelines where he had enunciated that the US has to position adequate troops in the 'hot areas' so that the US reaction was quick (which was not feasible from CONUS) and ensure that the US writ ran. That policy apparently cannot be abandoned and so while a large part of the US Force may drawdown, yet a sizeable presence would manifest itself in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Notwithstanding, the fact is indisputable that it is only the US which has the wherewithal to combat the Al Qaeda and akin non state actors. The European countries are not very responsive.

    For India, while not directly affected by the AQ, yet AQ backed terrorism emanating from Pakistan, which Pakistan government backing and orchestration, is affecting India. It has also surfaced and broken the shackles of the autocratic regime of China, in Xinjiang and is still going strong.

    What is the answer to solve this issue and what should be the US policy towards this end?
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative Policy Paper
    Counterterrorism Paper

    The Battle for Afghanistan

    Militancy and Conflict in Kandahar

    Anand Gopal, November 2010

    As Afghanistan’s cultural and political heartland, Kandahar is a province of key strategic importance for foreign forces, the Afghan government, and the insurgency.

    Executive Summary

    As Afghanistan’s cultural and political heartland, Kandahar is a province of key strategic importance for foreign forces, the Afghan government, and the insurgency. A sizable chunk of the Taliban’s senior leadership hails from the province, and the cultural and political dynamics of rural
    Kandahar shape aspects of the movement’s character to this day. This study attempts to understand the Taliban of Kandahar by looking at the factors that spurred their rise and the networks and structures through which they operate. The findings include:

    • The Taliban’s resurgence in Kandahar post-2001 was not inevitable or preordained. The Taliban—from senior leadership levels down to the rank and file—by and large surrendered to the new government and retired to their homes. But in the early years after 2001, there was a lack of a genuine, broad-based reconciliation process in which the Taliban leadership would be allowed to surrender in exchange for amnesty and protection from persecution.

    Rather, foreign forces and their proxies pursued an unrelenting drive against former regime members, driving many of them to flee to Pakistan and launch an insurgency.

    Once the Taliban leadership decided to stand against the Afghan government and its foreign backers, they were able to take advantage of growing disillusionment in the countryside. In particular, the dominance of one particular set of tribes caused members of other, marginalized tribes to look to the insurgency as a source of protection and access to resources. The weakness of the judiciary and police forced many to turn to the Taliban’s provision of law and order, while widespread torture and abuse at the hands of pro-government strongmen eroded government support. At the same
    time, the heavy-handed tactics of U.S. forces turned many against the foreign presence.

    • Despite popular belief, the Taliban in Kandahar cannot easily be divided into an “ideological core” and rank-and file fighters motivated mainly by material concerns. After 2001, most senior Taliban leaders in the province had accepted the new government, or at least rejected it but
    declined to fight against it. Most did not invoke the notion of jihad as an immediate reaction to the new government. Rather, only after a protracted campaign against former Taliban did many of them feel they had no place in the new state of affairs and began to see the presence of the government and foreign fighters as necessitating jihad. And after the emergence of the insurgency, there were a number of attempts by senior
    leaders to come to terms with the Afghan government, yet at the same time there were very few attempts to do so by rank-and-file field commanders.

    • The Taliban have developed an intricate shadow government apparatus. At the top is the shadow governor, who works closely with a body called the
    Military Commission. In theory, the governor directs strategy, coordinates with leadership in Pakistan, and liaises with other actors in the province, while the Military Commission adjudicates disputes and serves in an advisory role. There is also a detailed district-level apparatus, including shadow district governors and, in some districts police chiefs and district shuras.

    • Parallel to this formal structure are numerous informal networks through which the Taliban make decisions and propagate influence. Although there are detailed mechanisms in place, involving the provincial shadow
    apparatus, to deal with battlefield strategy or intra- Taliban disputes, many times strategic decisions or
    punitive actions are taken through informal means. These include cases where senior leaders in Pakistan
    direct operations through their network of commanders in Kandahar.

    • Contrary to popular perception, the Taliban in Kandahar do not appear to receive regular salaries. Rather, each commander is responsible for raising funds for his group, which is typically done through capturing spoils in operations or collecting (sometimes forcefully) local taxes. Some funding also comes from external sources, such as merchants in Pakistan and wealthy donors in the Persian Gulf states.

    • In addition to winning support from marginalized communities and offering law and order, the Taliban
    were able to gain influence through severe intimidation and widespread human rights abuses. Moreover, a brutal assassination campaign against anyone even remotely connected to the government—tribal elders, government officials, aid workers, religious clerics, and others— succeeded in widening the gap between the local communities and the government.

    • The Taliban’s rise in Kandahar after 2001 can be divided into four periods. From 2001 to 2004, the group was involved in reorganizing itself, resuscitating old networks, and forging new connections. Between 2004
    and 2006, the burgeoning movement was focused on consolidating itself, while winning rank-and-file recruits
    outside those who had worked with the Taliban in the 1990s; it began to amass members in large numbers. A turning point came in the western part of the province in 2006, when the Taliban suffered a major battlefield loss against foreign forces in Operation Medusa. This was one factor that spurred the next phase, asymmetric warfare, between 2006 and 2009. These years were marked by the increased use of suicide bombings and roadside attacks. The year 2010 marks a new phase in the struggle. While the insurgents are still relying heavily on suicide attacks and roadside bombs, foreign troops are giving unprecedented attention to the province, and violence has escalated to levels not previously seen in this war.

    More at:

    US War in Afghanistan and Kandahar

    This paper is a must for those who wish to have a greater insight into the happenings in Afghanistan.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2010
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Insurgent attacks ripple across Afghanistan

    A suicide bomber kills 10 in the north while gunmen launch an assault on a coalition base in the east, before a NATO summit to plot its future mission in the country.
    November 14, 2010|By Laura King, Los Angeles Times

    Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Violence hopscotched across Afghanistan on Saturday, as a bombing killed 10 people in a northern province and coalition troops repelled an assault by a squad of gunmen and suicide bombers on a base in the country's eastern region.

    In Afghanistan's south, North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces reported the deaths of three service members in an insurgent attack. It did not provide details or release the nationalities of those killed, but most of the troops serving in the south are Americans.

    The heightened tempo of attacks comes days before NATO nations gather for a summit to consider the course of the alliance's Afghan mission.

    The insurgents appear eager to demonstrate that setbacks in the south, where the U.S. military has claimed major progress in breaking the Taliban's grip on districts surrounding Kandahar city, will not hinder them from regrouping elsewhere.

    U.S. Marines have also been suffering significant casualties in recent weeks as they stage an aggressive push in Helmand province, which neighbors Kandahar.

    This has been the deadliest year of the nine-year war for Western soldiers and Afghan civilians alike. The NATO force also says that over the last several months it has wiped out many mid-level insurgent commanders and foot soldiers in pinpoint raids targeting both the Taliban and a virulent offshoot known as the Haqqani network.

    The early morning attack Saturday on an observation post on the edge of the main NATO air base in the eastern city of Jalalabad left six insurgents dead, Western military officials said. The failed attempt to storm the installation set off fighting that lasted two hours, with the NATO force calling in air support.

    No fatalities were reported among coalition forces.

    The attack fit a pattern of multipronged assaults by insurgents seeking to exploit any potential lapse in security at Western installations. Insurgents last month lost dozens of fighters when they tried to overrun a U.S. outpost in Paktia province.

    As in previous attacks, at least some of the assailants wore Afghan army uniforms, a tactic meant to at least momentarily confuse the defenders.

    The Taliban painted the assault in Jalalabad as a success, claiming to have killed dozens of coalition troops. Such exaggerations are routine, but the insurgents reap propaganda value merely by demonstrating the ability carry out such assaults.

    Their calculations appear to take into account the likelihood of heavy insurgent casualties, because even briefly penetrating a well-defended Western installation would represent a major coup.

    In Afghanistan's increasingly restive north, a bomb planted on a motorbike blew up in a busy market area in the district of Imam Sahib, a longtime trouble spot in Kunduz province. Three children were among the dead, the Interior Ministry said. Also killed was a senior police official who may have been the target of the blast.

    Until about a year ago, the north was relatively calm, but the Taliban and other groups have made major inroads in a swath of provinces, threatening a major NATO supply route and taxing Western resources amid the military push in the south.

    [email protected]

    The Latest

    The Taliban acting up?
     
  5. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    This is an excellent paper overall. Anand Gopal really knows what he is talking about and I must say his analysis on why the Taliban returned seems to make so much more sense. Maybe this should be a seperate thread all in itself to discuss the dynamics of post 2001- Afghanistan

    On side note, you have to hand it to the New America Foundation for bringing out some excellent research and then putting it on in the public forum. Hope many Indian think tanks follow this path
     
  6. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Through all the maze of commentaries on Afghanistan, I found this very interesting.

    It clarifies many an issue and also indicates why and how things are going not the way desired.
     
  7. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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