US withdrawal from Korengal Valley a 'Taliban propaganda coup'


The recent US withdrawal from the Korengal Valley in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan has provided the Taliban with yet another "Taliban propaganda coup," as a video released shows enemy fighters in charge of the former US outposts.

In the video, the Taliban claim to have taken control of the Korengal Valley, while conducting a guided tour of an abandoned US outpost with an Al Jazeera reporter. Taliban fighters are seen walking through the base, which just days ago was occupied by US forces until they withdrew to comply with "the requirements of the new population-centric counterinsurgency strategy," according to Lieutenant General David Rodriguez, ISAF's Joint Command commander.

The Taliban are seen walking through the rows of intact HESCO barriers, the makeshift wire and mesh walls filled with earth that surround the outpost. US forces appeared to have left hastily, abandoning equipment and leaving fighting positions intact, with air conditioning units, unused HESCOs, razor wire, fuel jerry cans, furniture, and other items in full view.

The Taliban claimed that US forces left behind boxes of ammunition and plenty of fuel. The video shows ammunition boxes but it is not clear if the boxes are full or empty.

"There is a lot of ammunition left behind - mortars, rockets, and missiles," a local Taliban commander named Anwar told Al Jazeera. "This, God willing, we will [use] against them."

The US military said the fuel was left behind for civilians to use, and claimed fighting positions were destroyed and munitions were removed.

The Taliban are now claiming to be in full control of the Korengal Valley and admitted that "a number of Arab fighters have moved into the area," the term used for al Qaeda.

US move feeds the Taiban propaganda mill

Late last year, the Taliban produced a similar video and made similar claims after US forces withdrew from isolated combat outposts in the neighboring province of Nuristan. The Taliban were seen ranging through a combat outpost in the remote district of Kamdish that just days before had been nearly overrun during an enemy assault. Within a month after the US withdrawal, the Taliban began openly governing in Kamdish.

While the US pullback from the remote outposts in Kunar and Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan may make sense from a tactical perspective, the moves are serving to embolden the Taliban and hurt the Coalition's strategic message, several senior US military officers who wish to remain anonymous due to the controversy over this issue told The Long War Journal.

"There is truth that these outposts are hard to defend and are tough on resources, tough to resuppply," A senior military officer said. "And the return in terms of counterinsurgency success may be low, as we're not winning many people over. But look at what we have signaled to the Afghan people: we will leave you if it becomes too difficult."

"We are giving the Taliban propaganda on a silver platter," another officer said. "Note how Al Jazeera was on tap for this pullout. We can dismiss this all we want, but the reality is this is another Taliban propaganda coup. The message may be lost on those in ISAF but it isn't lost on the Afghan people, many whom already think we have one foot out the door."

"We tell ourselves much of this battle is a battle for perceptions, yet we often refuse to manage those perceptions," the officer continued. "We are having it handed to us when it comes to the information war, it is that simple."

Another officer said the withdrawals from Nuristan and Kunar can hinder efforts to sell an operation to Afghans in Kandahar.

"We're going to them to tell them we're here to protect them, but they can see we haven't kept our promises in the east," the officer said. "And then we wonder why they sit on the fence."


Al Jazeera video of Taliban roaming a US base in Korengal



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READER COMMENTS: "US withdrawal from Korengal Valley a 'Taliban propaganda coup'"

Posted by BraddS at April 20, 2010 3:19 PM ET:

And we didn't booby-trap these why? Oh that's right, we play by the rules...

Posted by Mr T at April 20, 2010 3:20 PM ET:

Ok, So now we have pictures of these guys. When do we roll into town and pick these guys up? Uniform or no uniform, we know who they are now.

Posted by ArneFufkin at April 20, 2010 4:01 PM ET:

From what I've heard from Mullen/Petraeus/McChrystal et al keeping troops in these desolate areas makes no sense vis a vis the mission.

Posted by Mr T at April 20, 2010 6:10 PM ET:

The problem I have with the we don't need them there strategy is it indicates to me a lack of coherent overall strategy.

If they are not needed there, then it was a waste of time to put them there and it gives the enemy a propaganda victory when we leave. It also leaves the locals who helped us in the lurch.

That combination adds up to stupidity which may also help explain why we have lost half the country back to these idiots over the last 9 years.

Do we have it right now?

Posted by James at April 20, 2010 6:51 PM ET:

There is no doubt in my mind that had we not have gotten sidetracked in Iraq, we would have won this thing in Afghanistan ten times over.

If it had been up to me, I would have left behind one of the biggest craters on the planet.

Let US take the good news (from Iraq) in context with the bad. Hopefully, with the hard-earned gains we've gotten from Iraq, AND the sacrifices, we will now apply them to Afghanistan.

What the Taliban have achieved is indeed a propaganda coup. But, there are ups and downs in any war.

Posted by Armchair Warlord at April 20, 2010 6:53 PM ET:

When three successive commanders come to the conclusion that they're fighting wildly xenophobic locals with only a handful of foreign fighters or Taliban from outside the area one has to wonder why we bothered to extend the mission in the Korengal for so long. Given the relative lack of enemy activity there over the last unit's tour (grand total of one American soldier killed by enemy action) and our pressing need for troops elsewhere it seems that even the justification for keeping the base in the Korengal going as a "blocking position" had become a nonstarter. As it has a relatively interior location in Afghanistan, the idea that it'll suddenly become a major Taliban base of operations or an Al Qaeda haven is similarly improbable.

The Korengal will have to be integrated into the Afghan state through external development. Given a few years we will be able to march an ANA battalion into the valley and set up local government without firing a shot, but there doesn't appear to be any pressing reason to keep an infantry company in the area marking time and skirmishing with the locals until then. If Osama wants to make his home there we have Predators and Special Forces for that.

Posted by DickF at April 20, 2010 8:02 PM ET:

May I ask the most obvious of questions? After we withdrew from those positions, why did we not keep an eye on them (Predator/Reaper,etc), wait for the Talibs to show up (with their AK47s, RPGs and other weapons plainly visible) and then put a couple of Mk. 82s or Hellfires on them?

That the Talibs would make propaganda use of those places after we left could have been predicted by any intelligent observer. Our failure to capitalize on this kind of opportunity makes me wonder if the people running the campaign in Afghanistan have any tactical sense at all.

Does anyone here have a reasonable explanation for our clumsiness and lack of foresight in this affair?

Posted by HN at April 20, 2010 8:42 PM ET:

Maybe once we secure these 10 population centers that McChrystal is focusing on ISAF forces will return to these desolate areas to flush out Taliban and AQ fighters.

Posted by Paul at April 20, 2010 9:22 PM ET:

The brain trust is not winning this war smartly at all. I guess they never
read Sun Tzu.
We are going to lose this war just like Vietnam. No clear strategy and we
are handcuffed again fighting a cheating dirty enemy that knows it. I feel
sorry for the men & women putting in the time over there. In 5 years once
Obama pulls us out this war will be a huge waste of lives & money. And
thanks for telling the enemy we are coming to kandahar in 3 months. Plenty
of time to get ready. Have we lost our smarts and war making ability?

Posted by T Ruth at April 20, 2010 9:30 PM ET:

"Do we have it right now?"


We'll soon find out, since the countdown has begun...14, 13, 12, .........months to go....

Posted by T Ruth at April 20, 2010 9:40 PM ET:

DickF, i had the same questions, ie drones, run through my head while i watched the video tape link by Bill.

The answer may lie in Armchair's comment above.

Also, interestingly one doesn't hear much about drone activity in Afghanistan....anyone, why?

Posted by Minnor at April 20, 2010 11:23 PM ET:

Move on.
Kunar is better place now as adjacent Bajaur in Pak is cleared and declared conflict free zone. We cant fear propaganda as much as IEDs, mind you the continuing casualties in Af. Dealing taliban in pak is easier though very slow, first things first.

Posted by Civy at April 21, 2010 2:54 AM ET:

While no one likes the waste a new strategy can bring, it seems to me this same criticism could have been leveled at the WW-II Island Hopping Campaign.

In the end though, it proved to be a much more efficient and effective strategy - so much so that MacArthur took a lot of heat for what was almost certainly an unnecessary war for the Philippines, resulting in 10s of thousands of lives lost to no obvious military benefit.

Even if we never got around to cleaning out a few sparsely populated provinces, if the rest of the country can be stabilized and begin to prosper, the Taliban will eventually look like the guards at the wall in East Berlin to those trapped under their old, ugly, violent boot-heels.

As the Soviets proved, people eventually wise up and realize that their aspirations for their lives passed them by while they were listening to the siren song of self-sacrifice, mindless dogma, and nihilism. The Taliban make an even weaker case than the Soviets. Unless we give the Afghans a reason to hate us, I say we'll prevail. Time will tell.

Posted by Bill Hocter at April 21, 2010 8:28 AM ET:

I think if we're going to wage counterinsurgency, we have to get over worrying so much about this or that piece of land , but work on aiding/protecting populations. How many times have the Taliban withdrawn from a place? Is their credibility always on the line? I don't think so.

Posted by Render at April 21, 2010 9:13 AM ET:

The clock on that 2011 timetable is ticking down very quickly...

===

I believe that the Korengal Valley is the next "usable" border transit valley to the north of the Khyber Pass. This might explain at least some of the strategic thought behind its previous occupation by elements of the 10th Mtn. Div.

But it does not explain why those same elements of 10th Mtn are now on their way to Kandahar.

Obviously Korengal Valley was not "cleared" and nobody (from our side) is "holding" it. Just because a strategic area is "quiet" does not mean the enemy has gone away or isn't paying attention. See Battle of the Bulge for prime example.

Note the brand new sneakers being worn by the Talib inspection crew seen on the video? Those are not locals.

===

I'm positive that at least some drone strikes have taken place within Afghanistan, (and other nations besides Pakistan as well). However I believe the idea is to use the unmanned aircraft primarily over Pakistan while using manned aircraft with heavier and larger weapons load outs over Afghanistan. This to also reduce the chances of an American pilot having to do the escape & evasion drill inside supposedly friendly Pakistan should a manned strike aircraft be lost there for whatever reason.

Pakistan has some fairly powerful Chinese air defense radars in operation, the drones are much harder to spot on radar and a lot less threatening appearing then the larger manned aircraft, especially when they launch from inside Pakistan itself.

Nobody expects the drone inquisition...

===

Those who think that the US 3rd, 4th Mech, 1st Arm, or 1st Cav Divisions were or are logistically supportable inside Afghanistan generally do not have any concept of geography or logistics. At one point 3rd Mech alone was using over a million gallons of fuel a day in Iraq. There is a valid reason why there are currently no (that's zero) US Army heavy armor or mech infantry Brigades in Afghanistan.

HELLFIRES
FROM
HEAVEN,
R

Posted by Solomon2 at April 21, 2010 11:13 AM ET:

Reminds me of why Churchill insisted that D-Day be delayed until the Allies could deploy with staying power rather than a mere raid: to ensure that territory once seized wouldn't have to be yielded to the Germans and the French populace be subject to German reprisals. He knew the French wouldn't trust the Allies otherwise.

(Odd that the French trusted the Americans - who sought a lower-manpower strategy - rather than the Brits.)

Posted by Mr T at April 21, 2010 11:27 AM ET:

Moving into the main population centers and leaving the sparsely populated countryside alone may be an effective strategy. I think what they want to do is maintain security in the cities and then begin to branch out from there.

There is some logic in that but if the Taliban are gathering only miles from the urban center, it seems they could launch endless attacks on the urban centers and there would never be any real security.

This really sounds like a band aid strategy that we are forced into because we do not have the troop levels available for clear and hold. The hold needs to be Afghans. There are not enough of them and they seem to be corrupt and carry petty tribal grudges against one another. The people there have been warring for a long time. Thats one thing they know.

I would rather see the strategy of overwhelming force with the entire world involved. 500 Taliban will take on 5000 troops even though they will suffer casualties, many will run and hide to return later.

What if 500,000 troops came knocking? Most armies would realize they have no hope with those odds and will give up. They could not just move to the next province as troops would be there also. A large force would stay as support to the Afghan Army until they get their hold strategy in place and would always be a threat to come back if the Taliban reared its ugly head there again.

The same force could go to Somalia, Yemen, Chechnya, and so on. I am talking about a force so large there would be very little fighting. It would be clear to the enemy they can not win. Right now, they think they are winning as they roam freely in large parts of the country and fight small units of NATO that venture outside the wire.

In Al Qaim Iraq, we took a census of the people in the village. We stayed with them in their homes at night. Guess who would come knocking in the middle of the night for shelter? Yep, Al Qaeda recruits transiting from Syria into Bahgdad. The locals were semi happy we were there. Al Qaeda did not treat them nicely. They took what they wanted.

We knew who was supposed to be in that town and more importantly, who wasn't. Sand berms around the town also helped keep infiltrators out but it was knowledge of the people that was key.

We should have the world finance a large force and then have Afghans move in and know the people so the Taliban & Al Qaeda can not come back. This large force may also be used in countries like PAkistan even if they do not want them there. The world needs to tell them too bad. Fix it or we will fix it for you.

Lets show we mean business and end this thing.

Posted by Zeissa at April 21, 2010 12:24 PM ET:

I don't think Obama will be moving all the surge troops or more out of Afghanistan. Not if he wants a good number of center-right votes in 2013.

Certainly he's commited himself to a drawdown, but the situation will take the size of his drawdown hostage. Methinks he is hoping for an improved situation whose momentum he can steal by snapping out surge troops as the new Afghan batallions come online.

Posted by ArneFufkin at April 21, 2010 1:25 PM ET:

You can't blanket a rugged country the size of Texas with only 120,000 Coalition troops and an Afghan Army/National Police that is still a work in progress. Tradeoffs are a fact of life and it is obvious that Korengal was a tradeoff deemed worthy by those commanders tasked to successfully execute this mission. Resources are always moved like chess pieces in complex and actively contested endeavors and as is always the case - only time will tell whether this "victory" by the Taliban is meaningful or another fleeting fart in the wind.

Posted by Scott Dellos at April 21, 2010 4:34 PM ET:

It seems Crazy that if the Taliban Plans to use this post ...hmmm what we dont know the Grid Coodinates of the base anymore. Can we say Predator. Come on folks take care of business.

Posted by T Ruth at April 21, 2010 9:35 PM ET:

Render,
Thank you for your insights.

Posted by Armchair Warlord at April 21, 2010 9:40 PM ET:

To extend my earlier comment - as a propaganda "coup" for the Taliban this is a singularly lacking event. An Al-Jazeera video where the most incendiary and anti-American part is snide commentary from the English-speaking anchor is not going to move jihadists. The actual Taliban propaganda content is about as bland as a Department of Agriculture press release, the fighters look exhausted and despite obviously trying the Al-Jazeera team was apparently unable to get anyone to say anything bad about the US on camera.

What kind of message does it send to a young would-be jihadist when the Taliban's latest and greatest triumph is the US uneventfully shutting down a base on what appear to be remarkably amicable terms with the xenophobic, fundamentalist locals and repositioning the troops there to a more important area?

Maybe that he's on the wrong side of history?

Posted by gerald at April 22, 2010 8:39 AM ET:

its a trap. korengal is going to be the fall back position for when they get kicked out of kandahar .a nice isolated valley that the americans have been glassing for two and half years.target practice anyone?

Posted by ArneFufkin at April 22, 2010 9:59 AM ET:

@Armchair Warlord

Don't be ripping on Department of Agriculture Reports:

http://www.theonion.com/video/usda-official-takes-courageous-stand-against-inter,14293/

Posted by Spooky at April 22, 2010 9:02 PM ET:

This doesn't bug me in the slightest. We have to lose some to gain some, and gains we are doing. No need to accentuate the negative, considering the war here is finally on the move again after being forgotten because of Iraq.

What does worry me is the Pakistan side of the equation. They're facing riots due to increased power outages and that might eventually distract the government and military if things get nasty, especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (NWFP's new name), where the recent renaming now has Hazara against Pashtun. That might create an "innocent" path toward radicalization for Pashtun nationalism, something that the Taliban are trying to tap into lately.

Posted by Civy at April 23, 2010 2:24 AM ET:

Render,

Tnx for the reminder of logistical problems. For those who think numbers, and not time, are the solution, perhaps you will tell us how all of the material to sustain such a campaign would be moved when Afghanistan has ZERO ports, and a whopping 18 miles of railroad, connected only to a former Russian satellite country.

You have to fly almost everything into that theater, so strategies with a heavy foot print are doomed. They would also bankrupt the US. It is also why PGMs are preferred over arty, less fixed cost.

Sometimes war is abstract. I doubt one single Aussie complained that the war for Australia wasn't fought in Australia, but in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands at Guadalcanal. Not much damage to be done to a big pile of jungle. Much better for the Aussies. Too bad we threw that playbook out to salve MacArthur's gigantic ego. Bad for the Philippines.

In my opinion, the real reason we invaded Iraq in 2003 was under the assumption that wherever we chose to give battle, Al Queda would follow, and Iraq was vastly more tenable as a logistics problem than Afghanistan. It didn't hurt that Iraq was also a modern, secular state well past 3rd world status. In the end, the Iraqi people didn't want to live in the 8th century, and turned on Al Queda.

Posted by T Ruth at April 23, 2010 9:53 AM ET:

Civy,
"In my opinion, the real reason we invaded Iraq in 2003 was under the assumption that wherever we chose to give battle, Al Queda would follow, and Iraq was vastly more tenable as a logistics problem than Afghanistan."

That's a very interesting re-write of history!

Posted by Render at April 23, 2010 11:08 AM ET:

MrT: There will be no branching out from the population centers, the timetable doesn't allow for it. But you're probably correct in your band-aid premise. Frankly some of these moves look more like early preparations for an evacuation. All of the major "urban" centers (Kandahar, Helmand/Leatherneck, Kabul) that are being moved into are also locations where there are large enough airstrips to handle C-5's. 500,000 troops are not going to come knocking in Afghanistan, even if we had a real wartime commander-in-chief. There simply are not enough transport aircraft in the entire US inventory to support that many troops in that theater.

Zeissa: Honestly I don't think Obama gives a fig about the center or the right or any combination of the two. He seems quite convinced that more then half of all voting Americans are on the left. President Obama's West Point deadline coincides very nicely with the start of the next US presidential campaign season. Remember, one of Obama's campaign promises was to "end the war," but he never said anything about winning it. That promise was clearly made for the benefit of the left because the bulk of the center-right still wants to win it.

Arne: Ever heard of the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team, the lawmen)? They have a total of 134 men to patrol the entire state (and Chuck Norris is fictionally on their side). Small groups of dedicated Americans have a historical habit of performing oversized deeds in bad locations.

T: I'm running as fast as I can, am I catching up?

ArmchairWarlord: I'm not sure what it that you think is lacking from that video. It is what it is and it speaks for itself, even with the sound muted. The Talib now own that firebase and we don't and that is all that the average young jihadi is going to see or hear about it. The local villagers in sandals in that video do indeed look a bit tired, but the armed Talib in sneakers do not. Although some of them could be forgiven if they did, humping a 20lb belt-fed light machinegun with another 20 to 30lbs of ammo up and down those mountains cannot be an easy task.

Spooky: You've been around here (LWJ) long enough to know that the Afghan theater was not forgotten by anybody beyond the mass media, certain left-leaning politicians, and the voting block that supports them. The gains, if any, (in Kandahar) are yet to be seen, the losses in Konar (and Nangahar) are visible for all to see. You're quite correct in your apprehensions regarding the Pakistani side of the border/equation.

Civy: My pleasure. Carry on 

T (again): My brother, that's actually not a re-write. It was in fact one of several strategic considerations openly discussed in the US media and on-line prior to the opening of OIF (Iraq as a honey trap). Also mentioned were the obvious yet unspoken implications of Iran suddenly facing US military forces (regardless of size) on two of its borders. All strategies, (at least all good strategies) should have multiple reasons for being implemented. I think there might be a Sun Tzuism on that point, but it escapes me at the moment (lunch is served!)

ZAT
FIT?,
R

Posted by T Ruth at April 23, 2010 11:10 AM ET:

Spooky.
"What does worry me is the Pakistan side of the equation. They're facing riots due to increased power outages and that might eventually distract the government and military if things get nasty, especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (NWFP's new name), where the recent renaming now has Hazara against Pashtun."

Actually i'm delighted that the power crisis that Pakistan faces has the potential to fuel the country's descent into chaos.

At the outset, i commiserate with the ordinary Pakistani who has to face the burden of daily life without electricity.

However, sooner or later, they have to get real on how they now find themselves in this mess. Its your years and years of pathetic governance, mostly military but also other, and your obsession with looking over your shoulder at India combined with your essential belief in violence, psychologically and physically, internally and externally.

I maintain that the Pak army has been so the root of the problems, that i simply cannot envisage a paradigm where it will suddenly become part of the solution. It remains today a part of the problem, within Pakistan and without. The break up of Pakistan is the only solution that can save the people of Pakistan.

The power crisis is here to stay for sometime, because no one in The Establishment can pull a rabbit out of a hat on this one and the lack of power can be easily be measured and is not susceptible to propagandist manipulation like CIA-Mossad-Raw instigating aliens to suck out their electricity.

Life is a great leveller.

While the rest of Asia has been forging ahead economically, Pakistan has remained tragically lost in its machinations. The cheek of Gilani to go around saying he wants trade and not aid. Thats the pitiable level of their ingenuity.

Pakistan may beleive in the 'good' Taliban, but unfortunately, there is no good solution left for Pakistan.

Posted by Mr T at April 23, 2010 11:42 AM ET:

Al Qaeda did move large forces to Iraq. Those same people would have been fighting in Afghanistan.

Iraq was a better battlefield than Afghanistan for the US. How many foreign jihadis came to Iraq? Hundreds, Thousands, Tens of Thousands. The real problem was locals who fought not for Al Qaeda but for their country. They were egged on by anti Bush rhetoric that was inconveniently started right here at home for political gain. They finally came to their senses and realized we were there to help them. Once the locals joined up, the foreigners were not that welcome and the tide began to turn.

Once we began to kick their tails in Iraq, the "jihadis" started coming to Pakistan. The Pak govt did not do what they needed to do to stop it so a buildup took place. These recruits do go where they are needed even to certain death.

For those who think a large buildup would bankrupt the US. Does 10+ years of fighting war not create even larger costs? Pay now or pay more later in both money and lives.

Posted by Civy at April 23, 2010 3:05 PM ET:

Ruth,

Dick Cheney is just the kind of man that would make that cold calculus. He was also very qualified and in a position to make the call. The famous "Hail Mary" strategy of ODS, for example, wasn't Schwarzkopf at all, it was Cheney's by way of John Boyd, who dubbed the original, very uncreative approach, "Hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle".

Boyd was a fascinating personality. After revolutionizing fighter aircraft, and their tactics, he went on to revolutionize the entire basis for the USMCs approach to battle with the OODA decision loop. To Render's point, sometimes a few good men can make a huge difference.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_%28military_strategist%29

Interestingly, I read 'It doesn't take a hero" cover to cover and not a word about Boyd's rewriting Schwarzkopf's battle plan. It changed my opinion of the latter enormously. Vanity is never a pretty thing.

Posted by Spooky at April 24, 2010 2:31 AM ET:

Render-

No, people forgot. Not because they didn't care, but out of general ignorance of what happens outside the borders as well as being beaten into our heads by Iraq, which we were until 2007. Has nothing to do with left-leaning politicians or voting blocks. Right-leaning ones and their blocks were just as forgetful, just for different reasons.

T Ruth-

"Your"? I assume you aren't speaking to me, right? Because I'm not Pakistani.

Chaos isn't a good thing for the region. Now, granted, I agree with the break up of Pakistan, but not by going the way of Somalia. Not to the detriment of the people, who really don't have much say in the government, despite the rioting and whatnot against the central government in Islamabad.

Only way to take care of Pakistan is to strengthen Afghanistan to the point of the Pashtuns of Pakistan to want to unify again (the movement died when the Communists came to power, followed by the civil war). Balochistan is already ready to secede, and the newly amended constitution will only delay the action.

Posted by John Keyne at April 24, 2010 7:28 AM ET:

The best way for the US out of Afghanistan is to bomb the ISI offices in Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore, stop arm and money supplies to the Pakistanis and the narcotics trade in Afghanistan. This war is a bottom less pit.

Posted by T Ruth at April 24, 2010 12:09 PM ET:

Civy,
Thanks I live and learn. Have to admit i wasn't that close to the military deliberations in DC at the time.

Render, my good friend, fits well and thank you too--lets hope the critical threshold being crossed in Iraq sustains, so that there is total focus in Afghanistan.

Spooky, nope that was definitely not intended to be personal to you.

Now the path to breakup you envisage is an ideal that could involve a few light years. Unfortunately i don't see that Pakistan has either the luxury of light or years.

The collective Pakistani psyche is in dire need to see the light, its not going to be pretty or comfortable. The riots now are just the tip of the sand-dune and they are misdirected to the central govt in Islamabad. If anything, they should be directed towards GHQ in Rawalpindi.

Chaos only descends as a result of disorder. Any order in Pakistan is not natural or authentic for it is in a constant cycle of denial and machination. Also any order there is, flows from guns (the military) not from butter (the economy). Its a hard place.

Posted by Spooky at April 24, 2010 2:37 PM ET:

Perhaps so, but to allow it to precipitously collapse or to think that is somehow a wanted solution, even if it is faster, does not take into account the region.

Now granted, my own solution was idealistic. I knew it was. But the solution of Somali-style collapse would do more harm than good. Because then both India and China will play for Kashmir. China because it wants that Karakoram highway to the Arabian Sea and India for its claims on Kashmir. Then you have Iran which would try to take Balochistan both for its resources as well as to partially satisfy the seperatist movement in Iranian Balochistan by unifying the Baloch lands, just under Tehran's flag. The total lack of authority in KP and northern Balochistan would make worse an already bad situation at the Durand Line. Millions would flee across the International Border into India proper as well and THAT won't go well.

And of course one must remember that, even if the state falls to ashes, the Army would still remain. One could only speculate what might come from that.

As for blaming the Pakistani citizens, being a feudal society, I can't say they really had that much say to be honest.

And as for why they are attacking Islamabad rather than Rawalpindi...to the average Pakistani, the two are one and the same. Islamabad is a neighborhood of Rawalpindi just as the civillian government is a department of the Army.

Posted by T Ruth at April 25, 2010 5:30 AM ET:

It is for the people of Pakistan to determine their fate. They need to wake up and see they have been and still are being mislead. It is for them to tell their Govt that they want more electrical power, more butter. It is for them to tell their army to go after the Taliban seriously, concertedly, meaningfully and to stay out of politics and governance, land deals and manufacturing cornflakes.

They can take a tip or two from from the red shirts in Bangkok on how to protest (no other parallel implied here). Or they can sit back and watch their slow descent into chaos. There is a major issue here in that they are not organised and lack leadership.

As for the region, i doubt India wants a sq inch of Pak Kashmir, possibly other than certain unpopulated strategic military heights. I doubt very much they want they want to add any more muslims to their Kashmiri population, jihadi or not.

Although difficult to predict i would question whether this would create refugee spillover into India--its not as if there are Hindus who would naturally rush to safety to India.

I also question whether as is suggested, the Pak Army will remain in its present recognisable form. As it is, they have their own internal cracks, ethnic, jihadi/non-jihadi, internal politics.

As i simply do not see the possibility, given the collective Pak macho ego,of any kind of organised and managed devolvement, the multitude of internal conflicts and pressures could well lead to an implosion.

Posted by Spooky at April 26, 2010 2:00 AM ET:

I hate to say this, but you haven't a clue how Pakistani society actually is to simply say the people have to "wake up" and this that and the other thing. The people ARE asking for power and food and everything else. They don't WANT to fight. They're just as likely to fight a different ethnic group than the Indians. You are equating the ruling class and the hardliners with the entire population of a country. So I reject your lecturing to a people who actually do try with their riots and protests. They just fail because the United States and China pumps up the Pak army to ridiculous levels.

For all the cracks in the Army that people have been saying, I have yet to see evidence. They're all the same, just some more militant than the others. Nothing enough to destroy the military's cohesion.

India wants Kashmir BECAUSE it is muslim. They want more muslims because they (the mainstream I mean) wish to create a secular society of mutual respect, which is mostly is. Not a Hindu state as is often erroneously claimed. They won't give up Kashmir (as in the entirety of the erstwhile princely state) because the Indian arguement is that it legally belongs to them when the leader acceded after Pakistan tried to invade it in 1948. So doubt it all you want, but that doubt doesn't match the reality that has lasted for the greater part of a century.

Pakistan's dissolution must not happen in a way that causes all the other states in the area to go the same way. It must happen of course, as its very existance causes problems for everyone, but Somali-style collapse helps no one.

Posted by T Ruth at April 26, 2010 1:05 PM ET:

Spooky i'll address your points in the descending order of their relative ignorance and/or your lack of comprehension:
Kashmir--
"India wants Kashmir BECAUSE it is muslim. They want more muslims because they (the mainstream I mean) wish to create a secular society of mutual respect, which is mostly is."

I said in my last post, "As for the region, i doubt India wants a sq inch of Pak Kashmir, possibly other than certain unpopulated strategic military heights. I doubt very much they want they want to add any more muslims to their Kashmiri population, jihadi or not."

To suggest that India wants all of Pak Kashmir "BECAUSE it is Muslim" is laughable! For India to be a secular state is not some distant aspiration--it ACTUALLY is one now, not perfect but in the main IT IS SO. As such, India does not have a strategic or tactical imperative as you suggest 'lets go get some more millions of muslims for the 110 million we already have is not enough to make a secular state'.

Nowhere did i suggest for one nanosecond that India was about to give up on Indian Kashmir for any reason whatsoever, including the fact that the insurgency has meant that millions of Hindu Kashmiris (of which the Maharaja was one) have migrated away from that State. As a result of that exodus, the Muslim-Hindu ratio has skewed to a point where it in fact makes the Indians uncomfortable about the nature of its secularity in that area. This is exacerbated by the fact that Kashmir has special status within India and its not easy for non-Kashmiri Indians to migrate there, buy property etc. If anything they want more Hindus in Kashmir, not more muslims. So yes, I seriously doubt wheter India wants one sq inch of Pak-held Kashmir and to take on the added headache of inheriting the undemocratic, unruly mess created in Pak Kashmir over the greater part of the last century through to the present.
------
Pak Army cohesion--
"For all the cracks in the Army that people have been saying, I have yet to see evidence. They're all the same, just some more militant than the others. Nothing enough to destroy the military's cohesion."

You also said earier "And of course one must remember that, even if the state falls to ashes, the Army would still remain." What a joke! It has been said that most countries have an army, however, the Pak Army has a country. If you think the country as we know it disintegrates, but the Pak army keeps marching on, then dream on. Or if you think that they will somehow preclude themselves from the fight and sit sequestered in their barracks, and somehow come out whole.....

As for present cracks, to know that there are loads of personnel sympathetic to the jihadis, the Taliban while the Army is supposed to be fighting the Taliban is evidence in itself. One can argue that the Army even organizationally is schizophrenic, a double personality. Thats enough for me.

Further, i'm not aware of many military environments where recently retd Generals get put to death by bullets. You may want to delve into the case of Gen Ameer Faisal Alavi. He had an ucanny sense of what was coming which he shared with a Brit journalist.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ameer_Faisal_Alavi

What about the case Gen Zia ul-Haq? Or was that a show of unity between the US and India and perhaps the Russians?!

I mean in how many national military environments does that kind of stuff happen in? Believe what you want, the Pak army is internally conflicted, and it will play out when push comes to shove--after all they are human beings.
---------
Pak society--
"I hate to say this, but you haven't a clue how Pakistani society actually is to simply say the people have to "wake up" and this that and the other thing. The people ARE asking for power and food and everything else."

That is exactly my point--they should not be asking for power and food. Instead, after the global prosperity of the last 15-20 yrs, they should have much more than they do (eg China, India, Indonesia and so on). They need to draw breath and see that despite the billions pumped in by the US and China, they don't have it. They have been taken for a ride. Their military is the root cause and even if they don't want to protest, they would do well to abhor the way their military does business--from their foreign policy to land deals to cornflakes to their utilisation of their million man army.

So rest assured, i know my onions and my curries and biryanis but i have also had time to smell the roses. Unless Pak society, that includes their govt and army, gets real, nothing will change.

I don't visit here to "lecture", I visit here to learn from others, as is evident from this thread itself, and share my observations. I'm not hung up on Somalia and believe your comparison is false. I have no prescription for Pakistan's dissolution--not my job thankfully--I am not even prescribing it as a solution. Life may or may not make that happen, but it is a great leveller. What i do know is that Pakistan is a hard place and it needs to be sorted, first and foremost for the Pakistani people, not with the help of their army but despite it.


Posted by Spooky at April 26, 2010 6:44 PM ET:

Indian Kashmir is ALL of Kashmir. Look at a map drawn by the Indian government and you will see POK as part of it, along with the Chinese occupied regions. India will not give up on it for reasons of secularity. Are they secular now? Yes, but they want a muslim majority region apart of them too, not just a minority spread out and a minority everywhere. If they didn't want it, there would not be a conflict.

Now, does that mean they wouldn't accept the state being split along teh line of control? No, out of pragmatism of not wanting a war, they would allow for it, but if Pakistan ever collapsed, they would take the remainder of Kashmir. It gives them strategic positions and a border with Afghanistan, which helps local markets. Currently India has to go through Iran to get anything done in Afghanistan with regards to commerce.

And the problems of demographics in the state are due to the war. Initially, there was no problem. To change their minds now that things have changed would invite seperatism in previously pacified regions. The special nature of Kashmir within India's constitution would not have even happened.

India doesn't allow ANYONE to move to Kashmir, because they DON'T want more Hindus there, lest they be accused of ethnic cleansing. Hindu Kashmiris have been chased out of the state, but non-Kashmiris have not entered the state.

So your doubts are founded on present realities without understanding their cause. The problem is this conflict isn't about the present or India would have given up in the valley long ago.

As for the Pakistan Army, they would continue without the state. I never said anyone other than them would call them an Army or that they would not change at all. But I DO say they would survive beyond the formal state.

And you still haven't told me how their doublegame constitutes as cracks in their foundation. Playing America for a fool while serving their own interests and one faction believing in their fight in Afghanistan while another is helping the Taliban are two different things. The Pakistan Army remains a cohesive organism in terms of outlook and goal. Only personal extremism for said causes differ.

As for the individual cases you bring up, individuals do not equal factions. Especially in military environments. Now if any of those guys had seperate factions under them working for different causes from the main army, then you might have had something. Even our government shuts individual people up for going against the tune. Does that mean our military is conflicted too? To the point of breaking into factionalism I mean? Pakistan just does it in a more violent and direct manner. Individual dissent is NOT the same as factionalism.

You aren't seeing my point. They have ALREADY woken up to these realities. They already know their government sucks. But they also don't want anarchy, especially for what they see as a foreign power's interests. The idea of American imperialism is ingrained in their minds, even if China is doing it too. So long as our drones kill their people, or they get the impression that the government and military are nothing more than western puppets, they'll feel their government is just whenever we get screwed over by their actions.

In short, they feel no need to take on or support their government because either way they get screwed in the end. They hate the army getting into politics, but they love their army. Nationalism is potent thanks to the Kashmir conflict.

As for you not liking to lecture, I beg to differ, especially with the rude and patronizing tone you have done with me. You have seen me on here long enough to know I don't talk out of hand.

You think Somalia is a false comparison? A state that is brimming with ethnic and religious conflict and you do not think it would devolve? Just presuming only the central government collapses, you would still have the four provinces going at each other similar to Yugoslavia's wars, and that is bad enough. But thats just assuming its only Islamabad. If there is something approaching total collapse, you'd have to add in the minority ethnic groups and religions. Class warfare is also inevitable due to the feudal nature of society.

Pakistan goes, it will have Nepalese Civil War's class conflict, Yugoslav wars and Sri Lankan civil war's ethnic conflict and Somalia's anarchy to deal with all at once.

And it may not be your department, but feeling you have the need to condemn a whole people, you can have the need to see an actual way through as well.

You can reply if you want, but I won't respond. I only responded this time out of shock you would belittle me just because I had a differing opinion from you.

Posted by T Ruth at April 27, 2010 3:34 PM ET:

Spooky, the trail of the thread is here for you to re-view.

It was out of court for you to suggest that I "haven't a clue how Pakistani society actually is to simply say the people have to "wake up" and this that and the other thing." That was a personal attack, period.

Further, " So I reject your lecturing to a people who actually do try with their riots and protests." You can reject anything i say or all of it, but to define my comments/observations as lecturing was entirely uncalled for.

So, i'm surprised (not shocked, for it takes a lot more for me to be shocked) that you feel shocked if we had a certain amount of verbal-sparring.

At any rate, now you know, that if you're gonna dish stuff out on me, because you don't like my opinion, it would be wise to stay with the intellectual argument. I am at least as free as you are and i don't like people talking down to me. You may not have noticed it so i'm holding the irror up for you.

Hopefully this clears the air. And on the intellectual arguments particularly about Kashmir and the Pakistani's "love" for their army, possibly we will have another opportunity to engage on this, so that we can now give this thread a decent burial.

Most importantly, i'm glad we agree on "Pakistan's dissolution.......................................... must happen of course, as its very existance causes problems for everyone,............". The rest are details, for now at least.

With respect.

Posted by Paul Knox at December 12, 2010 5:47 AM ET:

IMHO the real reasons we(the west) invaded IRAQ is

1. The west is not currently at the technological level to exist let alone grow( mainly tecnologically let alone economically), without oil... period.

2. IRAQ was either definitely going to or threatened too many times to or variations of this theme to price its oil in Euros, this would obviously have meant the end of the U.S. dollar. (An addendum: If IRAN takes the same path with its new oil exchange expect another 911 (perhaps a biological theme this time.) and then another invasion.

In any case in the move to a civilisation level 1 (use the local sun as the main charatersitic) (we are currently a level 0 since we are still using fossil fuels being the main charateristic) U.S. citizens in particular should watch out for the increased use of technology to control both the essential and non-essential populations.

Good night and good luck to the U.S. citizens in the Petri dish.

Posted by Dr. Sanford Aranoff at May 29, 2011 7:47 PM ET:

If we say Iraq was invaded because they wanted oil to be paid in Euros, then this explains Libya. They are discussing payment in a new African currency based upon gold.

Why are people so very irrational? See the new book, Rational Thinking, Government Policies, Science, and Living. Rational thinking starts with clearly stated principles, continues with logical deductions, and then examines empirical evidence to possibly modify the principles. We discuss foreign policy and wars but ignore historical evidence supporting or not our ideas.

Posted by Zak at June 6, 2011 8:09 PM ET:

Out of all the weapons we left behind we couldn't of set a trap? maybe we could of put a tracking device on them and then we would know where the Taliban is or are going. there goes our tax money...