Afghanistan

Post-Kristof Monday Links

by on 2014-02-24- 1 Comment

Good morning Ducks, here are your links from South Asia... (I am not even going to pretend I know what's going on in the Ukraine, Syria, Somalia, or Venezuela.  I'll stick to what I sort of know...).

  • Vasundhara Sirnate at The Hindu writes passionately in defence of the offensive. While Indian liberals will (rightfully) continue to be upset at Penguin India's capitulation to the so called "offended" feelings of a small and obscure group of Hindu fanatics, the liberals fail to realize that the increasing pressure to censor and protect the sentiments of various religious communities is actually just an extension of the dominant state ideology, what Manjari Chatterjee Miller labelled as "Post-Imperial Ideology" in her recent book Wronged by Empire.  Miller argues that Indian prickliness (in international relations) toward perceived slights in status and Indians' desire to consistently frame relations in terms of victimizers and victims is a major legacy of the trauma of colonialism.   So perhaps it should not surprise us that in the domestic arena, the work of a brilliant (foreign) scholar of Hinduism can be painted as little more than an attempt to humiliate and offend pious Hindus.  India will need to change more than its censorship policies (which are actually pointless in a digital age), it will need to change its hegemonic ideology -- which is of course highly unlikely.  In the meantime, the lesson for foreign scholars and foreign diplomats is clear: speaking boldly in India will result in little more than squabbles in which the foreigner is accused of deliberately seeking to humiliate the Indian state or people.

  • Arwin Rahi at the Diplomat argues that Afghanistan must recognize the Durand Line as its permanent border with Pakistan.  Rahi is at least correct that Afghanistan needs to come to terms with this boundary -- because for better or worse South Asia has inherited Westphalian definitions of statehood, but if anyone thinks that Afghan recognition of the border will end Pakistani efforts at influencing the character of the regime in Afghanistan, they are forgetting the broader strategic orientation of the Pakistani military.
  • Javid Husain at the Nation (Pakistan) calls for national reconciliation in Afghanistan to avoid a civil war. Unsurprisingly, he claims that the Afghan Constitution should be modified to meet the "reasonable" demands of the Taliban. Umm... right.  Moving on...  He also says that Karzai has displayed a "belated eagerness" to reach a deal with the Taliban, which indicates that the author was mentally on hiatus for the last decade.   Despite the howlers, the article may indicate that there is at least a faction in Pakistan that would settle for using the Taliban as a kind of veto player (as opposed to seeking outright hegemony) in post-Karzai Afghanistan.

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Hard to Say I’m Sorry

by on 2013-11-20- Leave a reply

The reports about the bilateral agreement between the US and Afghanistan that would allow American troops (and other western countries essentially) have suggested that President Hamid Karzai would support the agreement if President Obama apologized or admitted mistakes in the conduct of the war.

This, of course, has produced a reaction or two, given that President Karzai might have a lot of gall to be asking of this given that more than three thousand outsiders (Americans, Danes, Canadians, etc) gave their lives to help the Afghan government.  On the other hand, Obama just apologized for Obamacare's rollout which has yet to produce any real collateral damage, unlike the American and ISAF efforts in Afghanistan.

So, should Obama admit the US made mistakes in Afghanistan?  Well, did the US make mistakes in Afghanistan?  Here are some that might come up?

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Monday Morning Linkage

by on 2013-03-18- 1 Comment

sitting ducksGood mornin' duck fans! Let's start the week by revisiting last week's firestorm in ...

Afghanistan

  • Hamid Karzai has become a bewildering enigma for many Americans as he launched yet another verbal tirade against the US last week.  This time he recklessly accused the US of colluding with the Taliban.  The NY Times speculates that Karzai is keen to shape his legacy given the ultimate fate of Mohammed Najibullah and many other Afghan leaders who came before him.  This is certainly plausible, but hardly the whole story.  Unfortunately, the article also condescendingly implies that the Afghan head of state simply "does not understand" that his government is totally dependent on international funding.  Karzai understands; everyone in Afghanistan knows who is paying the bills.
  • President Karzai's accusation that the Americans are currently colluding with the Taliban is extremely implausible and completely unsubstantiated.  However, me thinks some Americans doth protest too much.  Beneath all of the American outrage and bluster, it is important to remember that the US engaged and supported the Taliban regime after they took Kabul in 1996.  Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush sought to work with the Taliban.  Bush even invited the Taliban to his Texas ranch in 1997.  The US was perfectly aware of the Taliban's treatment of women and their general abuse of human rights from early 1996.  Moreover, in recent years the US has negotiated with representatives of "the" Taliban (as if the Taliban were still just one organization) without involving Karzai - although there is no evidence that the US is currently negotiating with Taliban members as Karzai claims.

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Winding Down in Afghanistan?

by on 2012-11-26- 3 Comments

US "combat operations" in Afghanistan are officially scheduled to wind down in 2014.  And media attention is now turning toward speculating (i.e. relaying contending institutional preferences between the White House and the Pentagon) on the level of US troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014.  Current estimates, in case you still care, are that US troop levels will be roughly around 10,000 assisted by a couple thousand NATO troops -- assuming, of course, that President Karzai agrees to prolong the suspension of his country's full sovereignty.  For next year, however, it is likely that at least 60,000 US troops will remain through the fighting season.

The notion that "combat operations" will be wrapped up by 2014 while US forces shift toward an advisory "support role" reflects a typically deceptive use of an innocuous sounding phrase like "support role" that the public has come to accept uncritically from our military leaders and policymakers.  Regardless of what US troops actually do in their "support" capacity, it is clear that the narrative arc -- despite the salacious demise of one of the story's chief architects and protagonists -- is still oriented toward reassuring Americans that the decade long war is nearly over and that Afghanistan has been miraculously stabilized.  This noble lie may be necessary for extricating the bulk of US/NATO/ISAF forces from this war, but it is also dangerous given the way that myths about the successful use of force create their own reality over time.
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The Trafficker-Terrorist Myth

by on 2012-05-07- Leave a reply

Another Sunday, another military puff-piece from the NY Times. Yesterday's issue promoted the idea that America is threatened by a drug trafficker-terrorist network emanating from
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The Civil-Military Relations of Footwear

by on 2012-04-25- Leave a reply

I have never really paid attention to shoes, my own or those of the opposite sex.  But the past year has taught me that one
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The Monopoly

by on 2012-03-04- Leave a reply

Why should academics and policymakers prioritize a state's acquistion of  "... the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory"? Obviously,
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Kajaki and Power Politics

by on 2011-12-13- Leave a reply

Like the ancient Greco-Buddhist colossi of Bamiyan, the High-Modernist era Kajaki dam is a product of foreign influences and has been a mute witness as well
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Transitioning Toward Anarchy

by on 2011-12-04- Leave a reply

The second phase of the transition of security responsibility from ISAF/NATO to Afghan Security Forces has begun (the first phase began in July 2011).  This means that
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Words are Wind?

by on 2011-12-02- Leave a reply

 In the fifth book of the Game of Thrones series, it seems like every character at some point says: "Words are Wind."  This means that
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Comprehending Gingrich

by on 2011-11-30- Leave a reply

Born Newton Leroy McPherson, the man now simply known as "Newt Gingrich" has been surging in the latest opinion polls asking Republican voters to identify
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Jirgamandering

by on 2011-11-17- Leave a reply

President Hamid Karzai has called another jirga (assembly) to attempt to gain support for the creation of a long-term defensive pact with the United States.
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Pondering Failure in Afghanistan

by on 2011-10-11- Leave a reply

 Colonel Gian Gentle, a confirmed counterinsurgency [COIN] skeptic, raises questions for Col. Paul Yingling about the role of generals as COIN seems to be falling
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Mortenson declines Education Grawemeyer

by on 2011-09-19- 1 Comment

In addition to filling an open faculty line in international relations (IR), I was hired in 1991 by the University of Louisville with the idea
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Yes, Steve, Kyrgyzstan is Important

by on 2011-07-05- Leave a reply

Is it crazy to think that "the situation in Kyrgyzstan has a critical bearing on US national security?" Steve Walt thinks so:The first sentence of
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Kicking the Can Down the Ring Road

by on 2011-05-20- Leave a reply

How is it that time and time again we are persuaded to hang on for another year in Afghanistan with the mantra that counterinsurgency (a.k.a.
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The Door is Over There

by on 2011-05-19- Leave a reply

I took part in a panel on Peacebuilding yesterday at the Center for International Governance Innovation [CIGI], which was part of the larger Canadian Political
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A Good Storyline Won’t Win a War – Did the Taliban out-communicate our Generals?

by on 2011-05-14- Leave a reply

(Written with Alister Miskimmon) Following the death of Osama bin Laden, political pressure is mounting for an early scaling down of British military troops presence in
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Blegging: Did no one complain about the Soviet Use of landmines in Afghanistan from 1979-1989?

by on 2011-05-06- Leave a reply

I am trying to find examples of humanitarian organizations that spoke out against the use of landmines by the Soviet Union during its invasion of
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Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice

by on 2011-04-26- Leave a reply

I would like to be as snarky as Brian, but paying attention to Afghanistan is pretty darned depressing.  In the aftermath of the second (yes,
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