November 14th, 2008

Afghanization or Escalation?
Escalation => War in Pakistan?

Ed Note:  See comments below to follow this question thru time as Obama takes office if not control.  And see here for more recent background re troubled US-Pakistan relations.

These reputable talking heads neatly outline the Afghan question:  Princeton, escalation.  Harvard, Afghanization.

I vote Hahvud.

But it seems the owner-operators are Black and Orange — real Tigers — and that Obama is in their stands.

See the 2nd comment below re CIA director Hayden’s shocking speech yesterday.  It clarifies things.  (Unless, err … it muddies the waters.)

In particular:  The reality of the coming “Afghan Surge” — which both Obama and McCain sold throughout the campaign — seems a big western ground war in the Tribal Areas of northwest Pakistan early next year.

This will be the most distracting and dangerous thing on BHO’s plate.

The JFK precedent in wild, blasted bloom?  See the 3rd comment below.

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  1. ed says:

    1. Here is Robert Fisk of The Independent (who lives sympathetically in Lebanon) on the intractability of the violence in Afghanistan.  From accounts of cruelty, he proceeds to the current question — observing that:

    the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 were supposed to end the mass destruction of human life. And President Bush has torn them up. …

    There’s something very preachy about the post-war conventions. But apart from the precedents of international law, it’s all we’ve got. Maybe a million Pushtu-language editions should be handed out to the Taliban and their followers as well as to the Nato combatants whom Barack Obama absurdly believes will win the Afghan war.

    I guess that’s a vote for the Harvard plan.

    2.  And here’s birdshot in the backside from CNN:

    Obama plans to send more troops into Afghanistan to push back the growing Taliban insurgency, but experts warn there could be severe consequences.

    “The president is going to inherit the problem the Soviets had roughly 15 years ago during the Soviet jihad. You cannot tame the people in the North-West Frontier Province and on the border in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said Dalton Fury, the commander of special operations at Tora Bora.

    “The only army that has been successful has been Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde. They cut off heads and killed everyone in the villages, and since we have self-imposed rules of warfare, we are not going to do what they did.”

    Cooperation from Pakistan’s military has been touchy, and most experts agree finding bin Laden is not a priority for Pakistan’s troops.

    But bin Laden, he probly dead

    And the “Taliban insurgency” in and of itself seems of minor concern to the western powers.

    November 14th, 2008 at 11:01 pm

  2. ed says:

    CIA director General Michael Hayden was sent out to talk at length in public Thursday (the 13th) — and everything, despite appearances, is suddenly becoming clear.

    I doubt Hayden has said so much so loudly since moving his things from Fort Meade.  He seems to be clearing the decks for the incoming regime:

    –  He assured the world that the Pakistan government (like Brownie) is doing a great job in the War on Terror.

    – But also noted that US intelligence just recently disrupted an attack that “would have rivaled the destruction of 9/11.”

    – And paused to emphasize,  “Let me be very clear: Today, virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the [Pakistan] tribal areas. Whether it’s command and control, training, direction, money, capabilities, there is a connection to the FATA.” (The Federally Administered Tribal Areas.)

    – And yet: “If there is a major attack on this country it will bear the fingerprints of al-Qaeda.”

    – And, Yes, Virginia, Osama is alive (he’s under your bed) but Captain America remains very serious about putting his ropehead butt in a sling.

    What could be clearer?

    A NATO (at least the letterhead) ground war in northwest Pakistan is on the books for early next year.  To Cleanse the Tribal Areas of the Pashtun-Angry Arab culture of Terror.

    CNN segment signage:  The Hunt for Osama!

    Clearly: Obama and McCain were briefed some time ago.  Both were calling for this second Surge throughout the campaign. The apparat’s Briefers (they who more or less control foreign policy) got their ducks in line.

    Everything is now clear.  Unless clear as mud.

    November 15th, 2008 at 3:39 am

  3. ed says:

    Obama’s had this bee in his bonnet — Get Osama!  Attack at will into Pakistan! — for a long time.

    And while McCain did chide him for speaking of such things aloud (shades of Nixon-JFK re Cuba in the 1960 debates), McCain shared the view.

    I wonder where/who it came from.

    Hayden’s speech (above) crystallized all sorts of wonderings wondering along for months.  Pinch me, but this still seems the best solution to the puzzle: Obama and McCain, once it was clear they were the candidates, were Briefed and given to understand that a big ground war was advisable next year, to clean out the Pashtun terrorists and their angry guests once and for all. On both sides of the rather insignificant if himalyan border.

    I don’t see how else to understand Obama’s consistent, persistent rhetoric on the point — Get Osama! Into the Khyber Pass! — so distinctive for being so particular and concrete amid the otherwise elusive abstractions of his speech

    In 1960 the brass & spooks (the latter despite a dust-up over the failed CIA invasion of Indonesia in 1958) were tight with Nixon: as Vice President he had been Eisenhower’s point man on covert ops. Nixon (but not Eisenhower) in 1960 supported a Bay of Pigs invasion much larger than the one eventually enacted — and the brass & spooks expected him to be president when the balloon went up.

    The BoP planners were disappointed that November, by a very slim margin. Then scrambled and began to set the callow new president up for bamboozlement. He was in office two months when the raid (no longer a large-scale invasion) came off.

    But JFK was sharp enough to have banned direct involvement of US military forces — and then exceedingly sharp, as the CIA invasion floundered, to refuse to rescue it with Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines — which rescue, by the time the operation was launched, had become the entire point of the affair for its planners, who had realized it had a snowball’s chance in hell on its own.

    Something similar happened at the conclusion of the Gulf War, when Bush-Scowcroft stopped chasing the Republican Guard north, leaving Saddam’s government intact — and infuriating the Likud Lobbyists and other purist Hawks, who had helped put the machinery in place and thought it would carry of its own momentum to the conclusion they sought in Baghdad.

    Is it clear what happened in Cuba in 1961? The Bay of Pigs morphed during its 14 months of planning from a true invasion to a provocation, arranged and expected to flounder by the incumbent brass and spooks, with which they tried to lure the callow new president into a full-scale US invasion of Cuba — which both he and precedessor Eisenhower had rejected out of hand.

    There and then began the contest of the JFK years over who would control American foreign policy. Thirty months later Kennedy lost in Dallas.

    Perhaps something similar is in the works now — although I imagine less devious, and more transparent from where Obama sits.

    I mean that I guess that a critical mass of owner-operators have decided that Pakistan is so complicated and so dangerous that a subtle approach is way too subtle. And Obama was aprised, and committed to the vision. No grand illusions or deception.

    But with how much insight into the implications and innards of the machine did Obama commit? With how much clarity as to what will follow the first step and be sold as necessity? Insofar as his insight is/was insufficient, the adventure in Pakghanistan may become his Bay of Pigs.

    JFK inherited a Pentagon frustrated with Eisenhower’s Crusade for Peace, and particularly intent on provoking war with China, first in Laos, then in Vietnam — to resume the war that Eisenhower had frozen with the Korean armistice.

    Might hidden yet necessary steps subsequent to the step into Pakistan involve Iran, China or Russia? Have the colonels who Briefed Obama (and McCain) of the Apparat’s consensus on Pakghanistan have other undisclosed aims? Who were those colonels, pets of which generals and admirals and lobbyists and spooks?

    Perhaps the new president will change his mind. Disappointing his brassy sponsors. Like JFK.

    November 15th, 2008 at 4:08 am

  4. ed says:

    Provoked perhaps by CIA Hayden’s report (see 2nd comment above) of having recently snuffed a major terror strike, stories are pouring out on both sides of the pond:

    “Barack Obama is warned to beware of a “huge threat” from al-Qaeda

    Security officials fear a “spectacular” attack during the transition period

    Lord West of Spithead, the Home Office Security Minister, spoke recently of a “huge threat,” saying: “There is another great plot building up again and we are monitoring this.”

    November 15th, 2008 at 6:26 am

  5. ed says:

    Al Qaeda’s leading thinker, Ayman al-Zawahri, often referred to as Number Two but perhaps best thought of as its true leader (even before bin Laden’s death), released a video referring to Obama as a “house slave” (translated as “house negro” in accompanying English transcript).

    The main point of the piece seems to be to argue against the Afghan Surge.  But insulting Obama seems a doubtful way to do it.

    Maybe the point is to encourage the Surge.  Cheese on a mouse trap.

    November 21st, 2008 at 1:29 pm

  6. ed says:

    American drone attack in Pakistan kills a Brit said to be high in Al Qaeda.

    November 22nd, 2008 at 11:50 am

  7. ed says:

    Aha. A high profile Opinion piece in the Times about the disaster that is Pakistan.

    War drums.

    November 22nd, 2008 at 11:41 pm

  8. ed says:

    And here’s a story about fears of Pakistan being dismembered — specifically, of losing the Tribal Areas to Afghanistan — fears stoked by plans circulated by the Likud Lobby (according to the story).


    “One of the biggest fears of the Pakistani military planners is the collaboration between India and Afghanistan to destroy Pakistan,” said a senior Pakistani government official involved in strategic planning, who insisted on anonymity as per diplomatic custom. “Some people feel the United States is colluding in this.”  UNQUOTE

    If this story is more than agitprop (see last para below), it may perhaps dovetail with the prospect of enlarged NATO ground war action there next year.

    And if indeed the Likud Lobby is the author of the plan to dismember Pakistan, then perhaps that’s a partial answer to the thoughts in comment three above about who was whispering in Obama’s ear.

    Note that Jane Perlez is the author of the Times piece. She’s as suspect as Judith Miller (fired in scandal over selling the Iraq war) was and Elaine Sciolino is. The three of them constitute(d) something like a Mossad publicity office at the Times.

    We shall see what we shall see.

    November 23rd, 2008 at 1:56 am

  9. ed says:

    The Bombay attacks were sold from day one by anonymous voices within the American apparat as casus belli for war on Pakistan.

    The first NY Times story headlined to place the blame on Paki terrorist quoted in the first paragraph an anonymous Pentagon source naming a particular Kashmir-concerned Paki group.

    Then in the fifth paragrah came a one-liner that the group denied responsibility for the attacks.

    Today’s version is more declarative but no less anonymous.

    I don’t mean that Paki people are not involved. Just murmurring about the salesmanship, in the context of an American apparat, which now includes Team Obama, gearing up for big war in a place where war makes little sense, regardless of how fine the casus belli may be.

    December 3rd, 2008 at 5:15 pm

  10. ed says:

    And here is the Pakistan president, Zardari, making his case for a focused reaction to the Bombay attacks.

    December 9th, 2008 at 11:41 pm

  11. ed says:

    Here at the NY Review of Books is a thoughtful discussion about the Pakghanistan problem, fueled by a new book by Ahmed Rashid.

    January 23rd, 2009 at 3:10 pm

  12. ed says:

    This overview by the Independent suggests:

    – the coming Surge in Afghanistan is indeed a policy Obama is rubber-stamping rather than leading.

    – Obama will withdraw support from the Afghan leader more or less appointed by the Likud Lobby leadership under early Bush-Cheney, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun and one-time CIA affiliate.

    January 23rd, 2009 at 4:36 pm

  13. ed says:

    Aha. US missiles today fell on Pakistan, killing at least twenty, for the first time under President Obama.

    January 23rd, 2009 at 3:59 pm

  14. ed says:

    Robert Gibbs, the Obama press man, was asked today by Helen Thomas, the Ancient, why President Obama wants to send more troops “to Afghanistan to kill people.”

    Gibbs tried to dodge her, then, rather ridiculously, cited 9/11, saying that people like the people who attacked us back then reside in Afghanistan.

    This might as well be Bush-Cheney or McCain. The Pentagon is running foreign policy.

    There is nothing to win over there.  Helen is right.  Obama wrong to along.

    January 26th, 2009 at 8:14 pm

  15. ed says:

    I followed Richard Holbroke closely in Yugoslavia during hte 90s, having been there myself a number of times.

    I confess myself mystified as to why Obama/Clinton have appointed him special envoy to Pakghanistan.  George Mitchell for Israel makes sense, in that diplomacy is the only non-catastrophic solution of the Israel problem.  But farther east it seems clear that the Pentagon intends to fight a big war and that Obama (and McCain) said okay many months ago.

    January 26th, 2009 at 8:19 pm

  16. ed says:

    And here is the Times, with what it bills as a roundtable discussion of “Why Pakghanistan?”

    But all five contributors are Military Industrial Complex minions.

    January 26th, 2009 at 8:16 pm

  17. ed says:

    Here is a GREAT OVERVIEW by Juan Cole (always worth reading), wondering if Pakghanistan will be Obama’s Vietnam.

    January 27th, 2009 at 10:32 am

  18. ed says:

    NATO out?

    This Guardian piece suggests that Obama will have to go it alone with his escalation in Pakghanistan as the NATO allies say Goodbye to all that.

    January 27th, 2009 at 10:29 pm

  19. ed says:


    Another Guardian piece — this one focused on the Pashtun people — all 40 million of them — who inhabit a sweeping crescent of the earth widely overlapping a good deal of Afghanistan’s borders, including that with Pakistan.

    The piece also focuses on Obama’s new envoy to the area, Richard Holbrooke (whom I’ve chatted with a few times, in old Yugoslavia and New York).  I don’t yet understand what he’s been sent to accomplish (nor it seems does the author of the Guardian piece, although he does his best to explain).

    If one knew what the Americans (led by Gates and Mullen at the Pentagon) “war aims” were, one might begin to get a handle.  But no one ever, ever discusses the point.  Instead we get (from the current piece) the likes of this:


    “The immediate problem is to stop the bleeding. The 30,000 troops is a tourniquet … [but] that is all we have,” he said. “If Obama is a two-term president then by the end of his time in office there may only be marine embassy guards in Iraq. But there will still be tens of thousands of US troops in Afghanistan.”  END QUOTE

    Okay, I guess. We gonna be there til the cows come home. That’s apparently been decided by the Decider whoever that might be.

    But why we gonna be there?  Spilling a lot of words, nobody can quite say:


    Call it the central front of the global “war on terror”, the fulcrum of the “arc of crisis”, “Pashtunistan” or simply, in the most recent neologism, “AfPak”, no one doubts that this is the biggest foreign policy headache for Obama’s new team.  END QUOTE

    “No one doubts.”  Nobody knows — but neither does anybody doubts.


    “The situation there grows more perilous every day,” Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the American joint chiefs of staff, told journalists earlier this month. Holbrooke reaches for the ultimate comparison: “It’s tougher than Iraq.”

    First, there is the local situation. Since launching an offensive in 2006 the shifting alliance of insurgents which make up the Taliban in Afghanistan have established control — or at least denied government authority — over a large part of southern and eastern Afghanistan. British foreign secretary David Miliband last week spoke of a “stalemate” — something senior generals and security officials have known for some time.  END QUOTE

    Kudos for the candidness to note, in print, that the Taliban barely exists as an organization worthy of a name.  Rather, a “shifting alliance of insurgents.”

    So when the Pentagon defeats the Taliban … It shifts.  Never goes away.  But never quite exists.


    Local Afghan forces are still far from able to take on the insurgents without assistance from the 73,000 Nato troops now in country.  The government is corrupt and ineffective. Opium production has exploded. Across the border in Pakistan, despite continuing military operations, authorities seem unable to push the Islamic militants on to the defensive. And somewhere in the mess is al-Qaida, though few can say exactly where.  END QUOTE

    Ah, the Pentagon’s other enemy.  Where are they?  Nobody knows.  Not clear it quite seem to exist either.   Al Qaeda was basically Osama Bin Laden’s $250 million dollars.  And that’s gone.  Today …

    The author goes on to describe the regional problem:  old tensions between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But doesn’t say a word about what Holbrooke or the Pentagon aim to do about them.

    Then circles back to note the global problem:  The Pashtun — who have barely made it into the industrial age — as font of global islamic terrorism.  But again, the author provides no sentences describing specific diplomatic and/or military aims.

    Then of all things we have Steve Cohen, Likud Lobbyist, who helped sell the IRaq war and is now (our author suggests) working for Obama, waxing:


    White House strategists believe it will hold up much better than the conflict in Iraq.

    “The polling has been very supportive. Iraq was a phony war but al-Qaida really is in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said Cohen.  That makes the job of persuading Americans that the war needs to be fought much easier.

    It is not hard to point out the genuine threats of a region where there are thousands of Islamic militants, nuclear weapons and where the 9/11 plot was hatched.

    “The main task will be to persuade the allies, especially the Europeans,” said Cohen.


    !?!?!  He was central to helping Wolfowitz and Feith sell the Iraq war — but now, selling a new one, says the Iraq war was phony.  Slays me.


    “We have certainly pulled back from the aims of a nice, happy, Scandinavian-style democracy,’ said Steve Cohen, at the Brookings Institution policy research centre, Washington.

    The priority now is stabilisation. “There is a recognition that before… nation building, you have to clear the ground,” said Seth Jones, of the US-based Rand Corporation thinktank.


    An implication that we are fighting something like a war, and intend doing so beyond the eight years that Obama may be in office, to clear the ground for democracy in Afghanistan ?!?  Something that has never been and for which the sociological and demographic substratum likely never will?

    There is nothing else in the entire piece to suggest an aim for American involvement.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so emtpy and insane. The rationale for Vietnam was well and deeply discussed and thought out in comparison.  There is almost nothing in the public discourse to justify our presence over there, where history shouts no one has ever been able to Win anything.

    February 15th, 2009 at 8:41 pm

  20. ed says:

    Click here to continue following this mad, mad, mad, mad, mad war under Obama.

    February 21st, 2009 at 1:47 am

  21. Conversation » Obamarama: Pakghanistan policy coming to a head? says:

    [...] the american National Security Apparat and press have been working to remove Karzai since former CIA director Hayden’s declaration of war on Pakistan last [...]

    June 28th, 2010 at 10:14 am

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