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Thread: We're losing in Afghanistan too

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    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    We're losing in Afghanistan too

    We're losing in Afghanistan too


    Contra Donald Rumsfeld's rosy assessment, the country looks a lot like it did on Sept. 10, 2001.

    By John Kiriakou and Richard Klein
    September 13, 2007

    Former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld says in the current edition of GQ magazine that the war in Afghanistan has been "a big success," with people living in freedom and life "improved on the streets."

    To anyone working in the country, there is only one possible, informed response: What Afghanistan is the man talking about?

    In reality, Afghanistan -- former Taliban stronghold, Al Qaeda haven and warlord-***-heroin-smuggler finishing school -- feels more and more like Sept. 10, 2001, than a victory in the U.S. war on terrorism.


    The country is, plain and simple, a mess. Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies have quietly regained territory, rendering wide swaths of the country off-limits to U.S. and Afghan forces, international aid workers and even journalists. Violent attacks against Western interests are routine. Even Kabul, which the White House has held up as a postcard for what is possible in Afghanistan, has become so dangerous that foreign embassies are in states of lockdown, diplomats do not leave their offices, and venturing beyond security perimeters requires daylight-only travel, armored vehicles, Kevlar and armed escorts.

    Fear reigns among average Afghans in Kabul. Street crime, virtually unheard of in Afghan culture, has increased dramatically over the last three years as angry, unemployed and often radicalized young men settle scores with members of other tribes and clans, steal and rob to feed their families and vent their frustration with a government that appears powerless to help them. Taking a chance by eating in one of Kabul's handful of restaurants or going shopping in one of the few markets left is a new version of Russian roulette.

    For U.S. officials and diplomats, Kabul is simply a prison. Embassies are completely closed to vehicular and even foot traffic. Indeed, at the American Embassy, the consular section issues visas only to Afghan government officials. If an average Afghan wants a visa to the U.S., he or she must travel to Islamabad, Pakistan, to apply. To allow Afghans to stand in line for visas at the embassy in Kabul would invite terrorist attacks or attract suicide bombers.

    Consider that an American Embassy staffer going to the U.S. Agency for International Development office across the street is required to use an underground tunnel that links the two compounds. Even though the street is closed to all traffic other than official U.S. or U.N. vehicles and is patrolled and guarded by armored personnel carriers, tanks and Kalashnikov-carrying security personnel with a safety perimeter of several blocks, the risk from snipers, mortars or grenades is ever present.

    Working in Supermax Afghanistan makes the USAID's performance all the more heroic. Since 2003, the agency has overseen the investment of more than $4 billion in Afghanistan, has built more than 500 schools and an equal number of clinics and has paved more than 1,000 miles of roads, all while suffering about 130 casualties at the hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

    By some measures, Afghanistan should be a feel-good story by now -- the Taliban is, officially at least, out of power, Al Qaeda has been chased to the wilds of the Afghan-Pakistani border and U.S. forces are on hand to consolidate and solidify a peaceful new order.

    But the truth is very different. By any measure, this remains a "hot" war with a well-armed, motivated and organized enemy. Village by village, tribe by tribe and province by province, Al Qaeda is coming back, enforcing a form of Islamic life and faith rooted in the 12th century, intimidating reformers, exacting revenge and funding itself with dollars from massive poppy cultivation and heroin smuggling. As Al Qaeda reestablishes itself, Osama bin Laden remains free to send video messages and serve as an ideological beacon to jihadis worldwide. The country's president, Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, is in effect little more than the mayor of Kabul.

    The war in Afghanistan is a political and military one-step-forward-two-steps-back exercise. The work there isn't just unfinished, it is more dangerous and less certain than policymakers in Washington and talking heads in New York studios can imagine. Those suggesting otherwise are either naive or flacking a political agenda.

    John Kiriakou, now in the private sector, served as a CIA counter-terrorism official from 1998 to 2004 and recently returned from Afghanistan. Richard Klein, a former State Department official, is managing director for the Middle East and Arabian Gulf at Kissinger McLarty Associates in Washington.

    We're losing in Afghanistan too - Los Angeles Times
    A very pessimistic view because not much has changed in Afghanistan ever since the Mujhs and the Taliban wreaked havoc on the country's social, political and economic infrastructure.

    In an insurgency, which the journalist possibly does not understand, life is not normal and one cannot walk around as if he is promenading on the Pennsylvania Avenue! Even if the situation is normal, one has to move around with security.

    Yes, it is true that Afghanistan is not as yet a terrorist free country.

    Will it be a terrorist free country? That is hard to tell because unless the fundamentalist attitude of Islamist radicals is not abated, nothing can be foretold.

    The Pakistani elections will play a major role since the new PM has to be aligned to the War on Terror or else the whole situation will merely flare up and Pakistan would have to be taken to task, given that the US is not partial to having its soldier killed wantonly!
    Last edited by Ray; 14 Sep 07, at 19:48.


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    Field mechanik Senior Contributor omon's Avatar
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    i doubt very much there was any social, political and economic infrastructure, to begin with, all they had was drug trade, and war lords, taliban controled regions. it still holds true today. just replace taliban control for partial allys forces control, the rest is the same. imo
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" B. Franklin

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    i wonder why the US couldn't just encourage the afghan poppy growers to grow wheat or something else instead, and offer them amazingly lucrative prices for it (say, 2x the price of opium). we'd absorb the economic loss, which would probably be negligible anyways.

    we'd win over the farmers, and if the taliban gets pissed off, what are they gonna do- they're gonna burn down the farmers' fields, which would most certainly piss the hell outta the countryside against them.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Field mechanik Senior Contributor omon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    we'd win over the farmers, and if the taliban gets pissed off, what are they gonna do- they're gonna burn down the farmers' fields, which would most certainly piss the hell outta the countryside against them.
    they would kill farmers and their family in very groosome maner, and burn their house, they wouldn,t make farmers pissed off, they will make farmers scared shitless, it happend before,
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" B. Franklin

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    Senior Contributor HKDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by omon View Post
    they would kill farmers and their family in very groosome maner, and burn their house, they wouldn,t make farmers pissed off, they will make farmers scared shitless, it happend before,
    Those scared farmers never had the NATO option in the past. The real reason that Afghanistan is still struggling to show progress is Pakistan. Afghanistan is a country with major problems, but the internal security situation would not be nearly as serious as it is today without the malign influence of Pakistan. I agree with Ray that Pakistani politics is where we will see the battle for future of Afghanistan.

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    Administrator Tarek Morgen's Avatar
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    Why the hell do we try to prevent them to grow opium? We could solve the drug problem much simpler..opium is not only used for heroin but also for medicine like morphine. There are many countries where opium is grown legally and sold for complete legal purposes (I think some of the world largest supplier of "legal opium" are Turkey and India who are selling theirs to the western world which uses it to create medicine. Now we would have a new, much cheaper source for this if we would simply use it. This would help Afghanistan, turn "criminals" (farmer who try to feed their families) into legal citizins with a honest business, and it would help to reduce the price of the morphinem to which most people in poorer countries have no access at all (or alterntave medicines)

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    Strategic Depth Intersects w/Terror

    The ISI's pursuit of strategic "depth" otherwise lacking in Pakistan's continuing cold war w/India has long been a prime contributor to Afghanistan's ills.

    Here's an analysis of the emerging primacy of the taliban and al Qaeda inside FATA-

    washingtonpost.com

    The supplanting of the traditional tribal "maliki" system with an radical, al Qaeda endorsed mullocracy rings of the AQI alienation of the tribal system in Iraq's al-Anbar. I wonder if a backlash may also ensue here?

    HKDan says-

    "I agree with Ray that Pakistani politics is where we will see the battle for future of Afghanistan."

    Then also include Indian politics, wouldn't you agree? Until an accord is reached between these two nations, Afghanistan will have a long road to sovereignty.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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    Field mechanik Senior Contributor omon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HKDan View Post
    Those scared farmers never had the NATO option in the past. .
    nato won,t stop taliban or aq fighters come at night and slit everyone in the house troat open.
    the same way police won,t help you if you are assulted inside the staircase bank of a building.
    Last edited by omon; 15 Sep 07, at 20:08.
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" B. Franklin

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    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    Then also include Indian politics, wouldn't you agree? Until an accord is reached between these two nations, Afghanistan will have a long road to sovereignty.
    Pakistan claims that it requires Afghanistan as its 'strategic depth'.

    Even if there was perfect relations between India and India, the genie for pan Islamic movement has been uncorked and Pakistan will go whole hog to ensure that there are no infidel political or military influences in an Islamic Afghanistan!

    The case of Afghanistan has little to do with India. India has no military presence. It is more to do with the US and NATO since it is they who are in Afghanistan fighting the Islamists who are backed by Pakistan or Pakistani majority.

    It is not that Musharraf is making any great moves to stop the fundamentalists in Pakistan. The the simple reason is - he can't; as the majority are for the Islamic fundamentalists. That is why they could do what they wanted in the Lal Mazjid and also using an alleged Officer of the Pak Army to bomb an Officers Mess in the SSG Brigade HQ in a high security military zone, where CIA operatives were also dining !
    Last edited by Ray; 15 Sep 07, at 20:44.


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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    Ray Reply

    "The case of Afghanistan has little to do with India."

    Brigadier,

    I disagree. Pakistan's perceived need for strategic depth in Afghanistan is a direct consequence of Indo-Pak relations, or lack thereof. Further, as the economic and military gap expands between India and Pakistan, the resulting institutional paranoia compels the Pakistani military to continue its perfidious meddling in Afghan affairs.

    "...the genie for pan Islamic movement has been uncorked and Pakistan will go whole hog to ensure that there are no infidel political or military influences in an Islamic Afghanistan!"

    Both Kashmir and the Punjab have been bones of contention between Pakistan and India since partition. This condition seems as much a function of neighboring nation-state relations as it is an emerging islamist-based ideological struggle.

    The most certain proof, of course, would be the condition of Afghanistan were the Pakistanis able to release their congenital fear and insecurity about Indian ambitions. It's continued ill-health, were that to transpire, would satisfy my curiousity about Indian influence on Pakistan's need for strategic depth.

    At this point, Brigadier, I'm simply uncertain as to who is puppet and who's the puppet-master!
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    The ISI's pursuit of strategic "depth" otherwise lacking in Pakistan's continuing cold war w/India has long been a prime contributor to Afghanistan's ills.
    S-2,

    The concept of "strategic depth" in this context is largely a product of Pakistani Air Force's imagination, supported by some elements of their Armored Corps - not just the claptrap of an ideologically fanatic rogue agency, Hollywood-style. As I understand it, the ISI is primarily a military intelligence agency that also engages in industrial and political espionage only because the Pakistani military dominates Pakistani industry and politics. Its efforts in the direction of achieving "strategic depth" is on directives issued by flyboys used to travelling at 1200 miles an hour and some tankies with Rommel Complex. If the world were to pressure Pakistan to abolish ISI tomorrow, the functions will simply land on DMI's desk an hour later. Would you agree that in this context, it is not just ISI's pursuit?

    The primary supporters of the Northern Alliance included not just India, but Russia and CIS, Iran and Turkey; the Tali-Tubbies were backed not just by Pakistan, but also Saudi Arabia, UAE and PRC. The complex relations between all these players implies that the issue is not just an India-Pakistan one. Iranians and Russians had way more influence on the Northern Alliance than India did. The Saudis provided funds far beyond what Pakistan could ever afford for its "strategic depth". Unless you can show me that sudden love has sprung up between Tehran and Riyadh, I would consider that rivalry to be the Numero Uno foreign contributor to Afghanistan's ills. Look at it objectively and you will find India had, has and will have negligible influence in Afghanistan (on its own) compared to hundreds of factors riding in Pakistan's favor; Iranians and Saudis are evenly matched and all set to pile on Afghanistan's heap of troubles, as in Iraq.

    Finally we have to consider the complex relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan itself. The most apt analogy I can think of is that Afghanistan is like a man who has taken employment with his unscrupulous brother-in-law, Pakistan. Further the man has left his children in their uncle's hands as well, As in case of Afghanistan with millions of refugees and fellow-tribesmen on Pakistani side of the border. Oh, and he has sold the front yard of his house to the brother-in-law and can't get out into the world without passing through that driveway (landlocked). As in individual lives, it is a miserable existence indeed, isn't it? Now the brother-in-law is busy tutoring one of the man's sons to turn against him, as Pakistanis are doing with the nomadic Ghilzai Pathans (most of the Tali-Tubbies come from that tribe). In such a situation, how much respite does the brother-in-law's truce with a business rival (India) bring to the man?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarek Morgen View Post
    Why the hell do we try to prevent them to grow opium? We could solve the drug problem much simpler..opium is not only used for heroin but also for medicine like morphine. There are many countries where opium is grown legally and sold for complete legal purposes (I think some of the world largest supplier of "legal opium" are Turkey and India who are selling theirs to the western world which uses it to create medicine. Now we would have a new, much cheaper source for this if we would simply use it. This would help Afghanistan, turn "criminals" (farmer who try to feed their families) into legal citizins with a honest business, and it would help to reduce the price of the morphinem to which most people in poorer countries have no access at all (or alterntave medicines)
    Not good enough quality. Plus India has a huge domestic legal pharmaceutical industry, and Turkey has access to outside world.

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    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    Strategic depth in Afghanistan

    By V. R. Raghavan

    THE GAINING of strategic depth in Afghanistan has been a major objective of Pakistan's policy. Islamabad's anxieties about its northern neighbour commenced almost immediately after Independence. The combination of Pashtun ambitions in Pakistan, the uncertain status of the Durand Line, memories of long military campaigns in the North West Frontier Agency and the fierce independence of Afghanistan under King Zahir Shah had made Pakistan anxious. A strong military sense of geo-politics among its largely military rulers also led to the need to gain control over Afghanistan. The notion of strategic depth emerged even stronger after the socialist revolution in Afghanistan and became an obsession after the Soviet intervention in the country.


    In the early years of its history, Field Marshal Ayub Khan was credited for having said that the defence of East Pakistan was best obtained in the west. This was attempted to be done by forcing India to concentrate its military deployment against West Pakistan. [COLOR="Blue"In later decades, the militancy in Punjab was seen as providing depth to Pakistan from an Indian military offensive through the State. [/COLOR]]This also applies to forcing a large Indian military presence in Jammu & Kashmir. On the Siachen dispute, arguments were advanced in Pakistan that the Indian occupation of the Saltoro mountain range was part of a Soviet- Indian pincer against Pakistan.

    There was much talk in Pakistan's military establishment on the double jeopardy of a Russian-Indian pincer from the north and east. Pakistan's media and strategic analysts also developed the argument in favour of strategic depth. The phrase received its official seal when General Mirza Afzal Beg used it during his military manoeuvres called Zarb-i-Momin. Pakistan's search for strategic depth against India had been a continuous one since its military rulers took power.

    In military terms, strategic depth has some meaning if it refers to a region that provides safety and resources to an army or a country. A buffer zone could be a strategic depth in politico- military terms. Hitler's attempts to gain the oil-rich and grain- filled parts of Russia could be said to seek strategic depth. The NATO's eastward expansion can be said to offer strategic depth both to western Europe and to the erstwhile Soviet states. The Golan Heights offers the same to Israel. After the Cold War, strategic depth is better obtained by shaping relations through engagement and by adding depth to a country's economic capacity. In Pakistan's case, none of these requirements were capable of being met in Afghanistan.

    Pakistan's beliefs in the value of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan were influenced by two factors. The support it received from the U.S. in waging an armed response against the Soviet occupation triggered the belief. The success of that endeavour with no apparent costs to itself, gave Islamabad the illusion of being able to play a major role in the geo-politics of Central Asia. This more than anything else led to the belief that Afghanistan provided the strategic leverage Pakistan had long been seeking. The energy-rich Muslim states of Central Asia beckoned both Pakistan and the energy-seeking multi-nationals. Iran's standing up to western pressures was proving an obstacle to long-term plans for energy extraction from the region. Afghanistan offered both shorter energy routing and political control through Pakistan.

    Unfortunately, Pakistan's attempts to control Afghanistan's post- Soviet rulers proved far more difficult than getting the Soviets out of that country. Pakistan tried various groups including those led by Hekmatyar. When these attempts failed, the Taliban was backed up by military hardware and technical support, to gain control over much of Afghanistan. In the process, Pakistan was permeated with the `Afghan condition', marked by extreme sectarian violence, and vitiation of political culture through narcotics. It also found it could not prevent fundamentalist Islamic groups taking root on its political soil. The military, known in its earliest years in politics as a reformist and liberal entity, itself came under such influences. To make matters worse, the political and military establishments lost control over the strategic partner, the Taliban. When the latter came under the influence of Arab fundamentalists of the Osama bin Laden kind, the situation was lost for Pakistan. After September 11, there is little to choose between Pakistan's strategic depth in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the strategic depth of the Taliban. The quest for strategic depth in Afghanistan has led to a strategic disaster for Pakistan's military rulers.

    The warning signs about the impact on Pakistan by the choice of strategic depth were not lost on some. Ms. Benazir Bhutto had cautioned against it in 1998. In her opinion, it was the Zia-ul- Haq constituency which had dreamed of strategic depth. She herself did not see how a land- locked Afghanistan could provide strategic depth. She felt strategic depth would be better obtained through Iran, which could be of assistance if Pakistan was blockaded. Others have called strategic depth an albatross round Pakistan's neck.

    Pakistan has had to pay a heavy price for the chimera of strategic depth in Afghanistan. Nearly 60,000 Pakistanis have died in Afghanistan. It has had to pay heavily for sustaining the Taliban leadership and its economic ineptitude. At least for ten years if not more, every policy, Ministry and Pakistan's polity have been held hostage by the Taliban. Pakistan's economic revival has been hampered more by Afghanistan than by any other factor. In the process, Afghan society has been deprived of its moorings and the world alienated from the country. Iran's relations with Pakistan have been badly affected by the Afghan factor. The Central Asian Republics also view Pakistani policies with apprehension. Pakistan finds itself unwelcome and viewed with suspicion in most international fora. The price paid by its people is incalculable in terms of lost opportunities for political and economic stability. Investing for strategic depth in Afghanistan's unstable polity, has been a strategic folly in political, economic and social terms.

    In the war now being waged in Afghanistan, Pakistan is doing its utmost to retain control over a future political outcome. This is understandable in view of the costs to Islamabad in any future outcome. The Talibanisation of Pakistan will produce an internal impact irrespective of the militia being in or out of power in Afghanistan.

    If the Taliban continues to hold power, however tenuously, it will be Pakistan's burden to bear. If the former is out of power, the impact on Pakistani polity through internal upheavals will be long lasting. Either way, Pakistan will continue to pay a large price. Its compulsion to ensure the Taliban's representation in the future governance of Afghanistan, stems from the belief that it can retain a modicum of control in its strategic depth.

    The explanation for Pakistan's dilemmas on Afghanistan is to be found in the military leadership's convictions. Strategic depth is a relational concept. Such depth is to be sought as protection against an adversary. Pakistan's search for strategic depth was to be a hedge against India. Neither Afghanistan nor the Central Asian states, nor for that matter Iran, posed a threat to Pakistan. The notion of strategic depth for Pakistan, combined in it a territorial base for terrorism and a proxy war against India, with the alibi of Pakistan not being directly involved. The failure of its policy lay in its inability to see the link between its needs of terrorism against India, and the price to be paid for its strategic depth spawning global terrorism.

    The Hindu : Strategic depth in Afghanistan
    An explanation of the Paksitani 'strategic depth"

    This has been written by my ex GOC and Director General of Military Operations, Lt Gen VR Raghavan.
    Last edited by Ray; 16 Sep 07, at 07:45.


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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    Cactus Reply

    "Would you agree that in this context, it is not just ISI's pursuit?"

    Cactus,

    Of course I agree. Nowhere did I indicate that the ISI was acting as some Hollywood-inspired rogue intelligence agency with a decided ideological bent. Whether a portion (or more) of the ISI has been politically mobilized by radical islamism is irrelevant. The pursuit of strategic depth in Afghanistan is a function of Pakistani state policy. As such, the ISI is the prime executor of this policy, if I'm not mistaken. It is a policy that is driven by Pakistan's perceived security requirements in light of the longstanding disputes and recent significant changes in the correlation of national power with India.

    "Look at it objectively and you will find India had, has and will have negligible influence in Afghanistan (on its own) compared to hundreds of factors riding in Pakistan's favor"

    My objective view suggests that Pakistan's pursuit of strategic depth in Afghanistan is de-stabilizing. This objective is a direct function of Pakistani insecurity about India. No nation is more significant to the de-stabilization of Afghanistan than Pakistan. Nothing drives this Pakistani objective more than strategic depth against India.

    "Finally we have to consider the complex relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan itself...In such a situation, how much respite does the brother-in-law's truce with a business rival (India) bring to the man?"

    We won't know until that occurs. If you're suggesting that Pakistan's meddling may continue absent justification presented by an Indian threat, certainly. However, one step at a time, don't you think? Were it to prove that Pakistan might continue to meddle in the affairs of Afghanistan even with an accord between Pakistan and India, the benefits to both nations would still be profound and worth pursuit. I can only presume under such a condition that continued Pakistani interference would be difficult and potentially embarassing.

    "...I would consider that rivalry to be the Numero Uno foreign contributor to Afghanistan's ills."

    You're welcome to expand upon the reasons for this comment, but until I see something more substantive than the threat which eminates from FATA/Waziristan, etc. with the complicity of the Pakistani government, I'd respectfully disagree.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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    Ray Reply

    Brigadier,

    Thank you for the excellent article by Lt. Gen. Raghavan.

    Sir, I have to modestly say that I see little from General Raghavan that contradicts my basic position. Earlier, I said this-

    "At this point, Brigadier, I'm simply uncertain as to who is puppet and who's the puppet-master!"

    General Raghavan said-

    "After September 11, there is little to choose between Pakistan's strategic depth in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the strategic depth of the Taliban."

    General Raghavan began his essay with this comment-

    "THE GAINING of strategic depth in Afghanistan has been a major objective of Pakistan's policy."

    Followed later by this-

    "Pakistan's search for strategic depth was to be a hedge against India."

    He makes clear throughout his essay that the acquisition of "strategic depth" is directly related to the perception of a hostile India. Hence my point- Decisions made by the Indian government will continue to dramatically impact/influence the actions of Pakistan. Afghanistan is the greatest example of this effect in Pakistan's foreign and national security policy (along with A.Q. Khan's pursuit of nuclear weapons- in response to a perceived INDIAN threat!).

    Brigadier, here's how our discussion began-

    "Then also include Indian politics, wouldn't you agree? Until an accord is reached between these two nations, Afghanistan will have a long road to sovereignty."

    I believe that a strategic rapproachment between India and Pakistan would benefit the political and security condition within Afghanistan.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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