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Thread: The War

  1. #31

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    Astralis Reply

    "...we -had- the opportunity to leave like this in 2004 or 2005. we just had to do what we're doing NOW with the ANA then... but we effectively sat around and screwed off until the insurgents rebuilt in late 2006 and 2007"

    No. We had a window of opportunity available IF exploited adroitly. There's a lot involved in getting there from here-starting with resources. Resourcing Afghanistan correctly back then, however distasteful or seemingly impossible given Iraq, was actually the easy part. We've since proven incapable of unlocking a policy pathway to some modicum of sustainable success. That ineptness has been at the fore throughout.

    "i'm saying is that i think the prospective costs for fighting it out two more years and building up the ANA will be a better option, for now, than getting out ASAP (which wouldn't be for at least 6-12 months anyway, just to move everything we've got out)."

    I've no faith that two more years will make any difference as matters are currently managed. It will be your way in any case and whatever is left behind will provide the foundation for the politicized spin which follows.

    "...we might not get the government part right but we can get the military part right..."

    Based upon what? Astralis, I'm just not seeing the rationalization of programs and policies to even do that modestly well. Even so, I'm not seeing an ANA that's a sustainable institution for the public good in the face of other institutions unable to use its promised cover to expand their reach.

    I'm a naysayer now. I've seen enough of our inabilities coupled with afghan inabilities to reach my conclusions. You haven't and continue to reach for a continuously re-defined brass ring-and shall have your way. We'll have a bevy of "peace with honor" platitudes issued as we depart the premises. Oh, and a few more dead troops to little justifiable purpose IMV.

    I deeply rue the loss of each one of those lads and lasses now. They're the instruments of mis-placed priorities and poorly-practiced policies.

    "...as long as a military and the military bureaucracy is there, by dint of organization, force, and money they will be a controlling force. the military, if nothing else, can act as a nationalizing institution in face of the internal fiefdoms. we saw some of this in iraq"

    There's more that the ANA must face besides competing fiefdoms and an inept corrupt nat'l gov't. There's the small matter of a taliban government and army awaiting in Pakistan. The taliban will eat out of that cadaver.

    Oh well. You see it one way. Based upon what preceding evidence, I don't know? I think the evidence of our performance to date strongly suggests otherwise but I don't make policy. You and others do. I've never disputed that Bush and Petraeus reversed a declining situation in Iraq and, indeed, I favored ratcheting upward our ante. In so doing we bought the time necessary for Iraq to have a fighting chance after a stumbling start. Nothing is etched in stone there, though. Still, a fighting chance is all anybody can best hope for anyway.

    I don't, however, see parallels here-not without an effort far greater than we're presently committed to make. It's a half-measure, at present and projected forward, leading nowhere. To that end, therefore, a waste of effort, money, and lives IMV.

    "as it is, your gamble pretty much acknowledges that afghanistan is going to break down into those fiefdoms, and have the surrounding nations deal with the mess as they see fit. well, perhaps..."

    Or the taliban begin their reconquest of Afghanistan incrementally. You also ignore how other regional powers will view matters in the present context and under different circumstances. Clearly, as a general example, Russia has changed. India? They've undergone some considerable change as well.

    "...but how does that differ from what we were doing re: afghanistan prior to 9/11/2001?"

    It ignores my intent to remain engaged in counter-terror operations on a sustained basis against Al Qaeda. None of that existed before. I believe we've the present operational and tactical acumen to insert forces as necessary in pursuit of discrete objectives and destroy those targets-whether by ground, air or both.

    It ignores the manifest message our combat operations in late 2001 sent to the taliban government about our capability to remove them from power. That remains a shining example of money well and efficiently spent. It also serves as a clear reminder of the consequences to any government that permits Al Qaeda an operational foothold sufficient to plan and conduct attacks against our nation.

    That military operation, btw, can be again conducted for a fraction of the cost we'll endure departing Afghanistan as presently configured.

    Most of all, our departure removes us from the cross-hairs of localized vulnerability and restores our strategic freedom of manuever WRT other nat'l entities in that neighborhood.
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  2. #32
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    S-2,

    No. We had a window of opportunity available IF exploited adroitly. There's a lot involved in getting there from here-starting with resources. Resourcing Afghanistan correctly back then, however distasteful or seemingly impossible given Iraq, was actually the easy part. We've since proven incapable of unlocking a policy pathway to some modicum of sustainable success. That ineptness has been at the fore throughout.
    think we're saying the same thing here. i'm more confident in the policy, objectives, and methods now than i was back then, though. they're not pie in the sky.

    I've no faith that two more years will make any difference as matters are currently managed. It will be your way in any case and whatever is left behind will provide the foundation for the politicized spin which follows.
    well, the ultimate test will be a relatively easy one to judge. if the afghan government collapses within 6 months of us leaving, you will be very unfortunately right. if not, then...

    Based upon what? Astralis, I'm just not seeing the rationalization of programs and policies to even do that modestly well
    based upon the metrics of the past year or two; and in any case, building up an armed force -isn't- new for us. we've done it before.

    you haven't and continue to reach for a continuously re-defined brass ring-and shall have your way.
    not sure where you get this. i have been inordinately doubtful of afghan political capability since 2001 and they've proven me right ever since. the ANA is a different beast, and i think i'm not exaggerating when i say the ANA of 2010 is far beyond the ANA of 2003, for instance.

    We'll have a bevy of "peace with honor" platitudes issued as we depart the premises. Oh, and a few more dead troops to little justifiable purpose IMV.
    if the afghan army and polity stands, then that's justification plenty. i'm not saying this lightly: i attend the wounded warrior welcome-homes at the pentagon. i KNOW and UNDERSTAND what it is my support of this policy will result in.

    I deeply rue the loss of each one of those lads and lasses now. They're the instruments of mis-placed priorities and poorly-practiced policies.
    same, but i would like to believe we've gotten it better now than we have in the past.

    The taliban will eat out of that cadaver.
    i don't think so. i have yet to see the taliban drive the ANA off the field.

    I don't, however, see parallels here-not without an effort far greater than we're presently committed to make. It's a half-measure, at present and projected forward, leading nowhere. To that end, therefore, a waste of effort, money, and lives IMV.
    if that's the case, i believe the current SECDEF has the moral courage to say otherwise. he's not. if it were JUST his say so (and it's not), i would believe him.

    our "surge" in afghanistan has had all the elements in place for what, five-six months. we've surged more than iraq in a place where the violence, both against civilian and soldier, never reached such proportions.

    Or the taliban begin their reconquest of Afghanistan incrementally. You also ignore how other regional powers will view matters in the present context and under different circumstances. Clearly, as a general example, Russia has changed. India? They've undergone some considerable change as well.
    i'm not ignoring them; i'm stating that your view is to hand off the consequences of a US withdrawal to those other actors. is that not right? as an american i personally don't care if china or russia now has a harder time, but i fear the potential propaganda hay that could be made by AQ by a pell-mell US withdrawal. like i said, it's one thing to withdraw when everyone knows you've already given your enemy a black eye; it's another thing altogether to drop everything and GO. perceptions matter, even if the result is the same.

    It ignores my intent to remain engaged in counter-terror operations on a sustained basis against Al Qaeda. None of that existed before. I believe we've the present operational and tactical acumen to insert forces as necessary in pursuit of discrete objectives and destroy those targets-whether by ground, air or both.
    it does't. recall that i argued with these same points when blues accused me of being in favor of a "cut and run" strategy in iraq. however, the US position in the ME was such that our presence was always going to be felt, whether we withdrew from iraq or not. it's not the same if we withdraw from afghanistan.

    ultimately, i think the perception that we're a continuous presence, a presence that won't be stopped by the efforts of the taliban or AQ, is our greatest shield. that's ultimately how insurgencies are broken, after all.
    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

  3. #33

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    Preliminary NIE Reports

    Here are some summaries from nat'l newspapers of the NIE's currently making congressional rounds.

    I've harped on the inviolability of Pakistani sanctuary for years and that we've enabled Pakistani ambivalence (if not outright support) for the Afghan taliban living in their midst. This makes impossible our objectives in Afghanistan.

    “'I’m not going to make any bones about it, they’ve got sanctuaries and they go back and forth across the border,' Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan, told reporters last week in the remote Kunar Province of Afghanistan. 'They’re financed better, they’re better trained, they’re the ones who bring in the higher-end I.E.D.’s.'”

    'They are not on the ground living it day in and day out like our forces are, so they don’t have the proximity and perspective', said a senior defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified while criticizing the intelligence agencies. The official said that the 30,000 additional troops that Mr. Obama ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 did not all arrive until September, meaning that the intelligence agencies had little time to judge the effects of the escalation."

    Huh? The final contingent arrived in September-not the entire increased augmentation. Both the schedule for deployment as well as the time-line for submitting the congressionally-mandated reports were known. Nothing is absolute and every agency operates on best available info at the time of submission. To suggest, however, that a sea-change has occurred in the last six weeks that's been missed as part of a broad assessment reaching far beyond simply tactical operations in Helmand and Kandahar is silly.

    The culture clash between our intelligence and military agencies, as suggested in the NYT report, is sadly amusing. The comments by un-named military personnel, about an absence of perspective among intel analysts in Washington ignores the long-standing presence of their operatives within Afghanistan. In short, the Pentagon disparages Langley. Both, however, are thousands of miles away from the battlefield and reliant upon those there to provide the foundation for our reports. Talk about shooting the messenger!

    Intelligence Reports Offer Dim Views Of Afghan War-NYT 15 Dec. 2010

    U.S. Intelligence Reports Cast Doubt On War Progress In Afghanistan-L.A. Times 15 Dec. 2010

    War Review Cites Strides, Is Less Confident Of Afghan Governence-WAPO 15 Dec. 2010
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  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    ultimately, i think the perception that we're a continuous presence, a presence that won't be stopped by the efforts of the taliban or AQ, is our greatest shield. that's ultimately how insurgencies are broken, after all.
    The A'stan insurgency is a small skirmish in a larger battlet; to establish the narrative of victory/defeat solely around it ignores this and is ultimately self-handicapping:

    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    Most of all, our departure removes us from the cross-hairs of localized vulnerability and restores our strategic freedom of manuever WRT other nat'l entities in that neighborhood.

  5. #35
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    A-stan is a small battle in a large war, from a material pov.However if material strength would be the sole factor,this war would have been finished long ago,with an overwhelming show of military might and a Genghis Khan style mop-up.The problem is that the essence of this conflict lies in the ''spiritual'' sphere (so far)and the military actions are to judged after the gains or losses in the ''soft'' war.In that matter A-stan is not a small battle is a major one and I dare say it's the decisive battle in the ''soft'' war.A-stan is a myth.It is the place that was never conquered(I know it's not true,but here we are operating under the average Abdul's mindset) and where the modern Jihhad started and spread around the world.Retreat before they are beaten and everybody in the loneliest tent in Sahara desert knows and admits that and you only have another great Satan that the holy Afghan mujaheedins sent home with a bloody nose.Heck,the Soviets were only one country,this time they'll win over the mightiest alliance in the western world. As long as A-stan remains undefeated,the Jihhad will have a base.
    The problem with my view is that the Afghan campaign seems almost lost and we're about to enter a new phase in a few years anyway.
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  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cactus View Post
    The A'stan insurgency is a small skirmish in a larger battlet; to establish the narrative of victory/defeat solely around it ignores this and is ultimately self-handicapping:
    It won't be seen that way across the border. It will be seen as the brave Afghan Taliban single handedly driving out a super-power. How much true that is won't matter. Isn't that the same propaganda used today? How the Mujahideen "single handedly" drove out the Soviets? Even though that is far from reality.. it doesn't matter to them..
    The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.

  7. #37

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    tronic Reply

    "It won't be seen that way across the border. It will be seen as the brave Afghan Taliban single handedly driving out a super-power. How much true that is won't matter."

    It might be peddled that way by the punjabis to the rest of Pakistan, particularly, the FATAville pathan locals but anybody that "knows" in Pakistan will rightfully see it as Pakistan playing the hand they were dealt adroitly to the point of having their cake and eating it too.

    NATO's eventual withdraw signals a Pakistani victory. That "victory" is a function of America allowing itself to be drawn into a dead-end social-cultural rehabilitation program by the rest of the west in exchange for the dubious benefits of their participation. Whether it's a victory Pakistan can live with is another matter.

    Had we kept our eye on the prize and maintained a strict counter-terror focus while refusing to acknowledge Pakistani borders as inviolate events would be different and our wallet considerably fatter.

    The business at hand was and remains the destruction of any capacity by internat'l-minded jihadists to attack the west. To imagine that we might morph that singular, crystalline mission into social welfare flights-of-fancy was the height of folly. The available human talent both in Afghanistan and the west has proven entirely incapable of performing such a transformation.
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  8. #38
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    S-2, et al,

    Well, I have to agree

    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    ... ... ...
    Huh? The final contingent arrived in September-not the entire increased augmentation. Both the schedule for deployment as well as the time-line for submitting the congressionally-mandated reports were known. Nothing is absolute and every agency operates on best available info at the time of submission. To suggest, however, that a sea-change has occurred in the last six weeks that's been missed as part of a broad assessment reaching far beyond simply tactical operations in Helmand and Kandahar is silly.
    ... ... ...
    (COMMENT)

    This is not unusual. It is the same thing GEN Petraeus said in the post "Surge" assessment used in Iraq. It is an attempt to counter and discredit an opposing view.

    It remains to be seen who is right. But GEN Petraeus is an "ICON" and a greatly heralded counter-insurgency expert. Everyone will, eventually fall inline behind him, whether they discuss the defense against the "Exiled Government" (The Taliban), or the "International Terrorist Threat" (al-Qaeda).

    I don't want to minimize the recent achievements in the Afghan Provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. These are real. I give them their due. And very recent announcements suggest that "there is (now) a fully funded and resourced strategy" to work with in Afghanistan. I have two concerns about this:

    • First: No one has actually said, what that strategy is, what the goals might be, or how we are approaching the solution. (No metrics by which the American people can compare to the outcomes.) Other than:

      Over the next year, serious attention must be paid to developing a political strategy for Afghanistan that will clarify the minimum conditions necessary to prevent the return of al Qaeda and establish a stable Afghan state that can sustain itself without extensive international intervention. Accordingly, more work must be done to develop an inclusive political process that accounts for a range of legitimate political interests within Afghanistan beyond those of President Hamid Karzai.
    • Second: It suggest that this concept is a newly formed strategy (18 months old) with a 2014 (four more years) at $100B/yr.


    The (White House) spokesman said the results will include "important progress in halting the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan ... success at degrading senior al-Qaida leaders, and ... greater cooperation over the course of the past 18 months with the Pakistani government."

    Many have questioned whether clear-cut conditions were articulated that would signal the execution of an order exit, and whether in fact, and Exit Strategy is in hand.

    But al-Qaeda is now decentralized. There is no credible intelligence being developed that suggest that al-Qaeda Senior Leadership in AFPAK is behind any of the recent attacks, attempted attacks, or current threats.

    It is important to remember that, without the metrics, one cannot objectively evaluate the success and achievements. The other aspect is that we can't determine if the 2014 timetable is realistic as compared to the expectations.

    Most Respectfully,
    R

  9. #39

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    An ABC snapshot of the public's view-

    ABC/WAPO U.S. Poll Of Afghan War Summary-Dec. 16, 2010

    Here's the actual poll questionaire and results-

    Poll Results ABC/WAPO Dec. 16, 2010
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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  10. #40

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    Some Perspective

    For some perspective, let's step back a bit to the spring of 2006 and remember the debates held in the parliaments of Canada, United Kingdom and the Netherlands about the advisability of commiting troops to Afghanistan.

    How was it peddled by the politicos to their publics? Most can recall John Reid's comment-

    “We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot”

    Yet Christina Lamb was already on the ground before the troops arrived. What did she see? Refresh yourselves and ask whether the British (and other) intelligence services were clueless or something more disingenuous was at play in the public presentations made then.

    Bandits Wait For The British-Christina Lamb Sunday Times Jan. 29, 2006

    True to her prediction-

    Have You Ever Used A Pistol?-Christina Lamb Sunday Times 2 July 2006

    Sometimes it's good to remember. I'm glad things seem improved in Helmand.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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  11. #41

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    RoccoR Reply

    "First: No one has actually said, what that strategy is, what the goals might be, or how we are approaching the solution. (No metrics by which the American people can compare to the outcomes.) Other than:

    Over the next year, serious attention must be paid to developing a political strategy for Afghanistan that will clarify the minimum conditions necessary to prevent the return of al Qaeda and establish a stable Afghan state that can sustain itself without extensive international intervention. Accordingly, more work must be done to develop an inclusive political process that accounts for a range of legitimate political interests within Afghanistan beyond those of President Hamid Karzai."


    Seems you've answered your own question. The strategy is to apply "serious attention" and "more work". The goal? A sustainable and durable Afghan State, inclusive in its polity and needing little outside intervention. Pardon my disdain but...fat chance.

    "Second: It suggest that this concept is a newly formed strategy (18 months old) with a 2014 (four more years) at $100B/yr.

    The (White House) spokesman said the results will include 'important progress in halting the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan ... success at degrading senior al-Qaida leaders, and ... greater cooperation over the course of the past 18 months with the Pakistani government.'

    Many have questioned whether clear-cut conditions were articulated that would signal the execution of an order exit, and whether in fact, and Exit Strategy is in hand'.


    But al-Qaeda is now decentralized. There is no credible intelligence being developed that suggest that al-Qaeda Senior Leadership in AFPAK is behind any of the recent attacks, attempted attacks, or current threats.

    It is important to remember that, without the metrics, one cannot objectively evaluate the success and achievements. The other aspect is that we can't determine if the 2014 timetable is realistic as compared to the expectations."


    I'm sure there are metrics that'll be, alternatively, publically lauded or privately denigrated depending upon outcomes. Disclosure of these classified NIEs regarding Afghanistan are currently "close-hold" and available only to select audiences requesting briefings.

    I remain unconvinced that an Afghan nat'l government can be created with sufficient inclusiveness to ward off external attack by the exiled Afghan taliban government. I'm equally unconvinced that the ANA can be raised forth to become an institution which can anchor the broader architecture of governance around it. The issues run too deeply, the time too short and the solutions too haphazardly applied and adhered.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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  12. #42

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    Here's the White House overview of the Afghan assessment-

    White House Overview

    Alan Greenblatt of NPR weighs in on what's notably absent or marginalized by the report-

    Five Things The Afghan War Review Didn't Say-Alan Greenblatt NPR Dec. 17, 2010
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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  13. #43

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    The NYT Editorial Board weighs in on the assessment and its very notable flaws-

    The Afghanistan Review-NYT Dec. 16, 2010

    "...But we worry that the Pentagon is increasingly resigned to Pakistan’s inaction. American drone strikes may be inflicting real pain on Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but likely not enough. Pakistan’s army needs to do more to stop insurgents from crossing into Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s intelligence service must end its support and protection for the extremists."

    Ya think?

    "Unlike Mr. Obama’s speech last December — when he said 'the days of providing a blank check are over' — there wasn’t even an implicit warning to Mr. Karzai...

    ...We know the administration got nowhere trying to bully Mr. Karzai. But private cajoling doesn’t appear to be any better. What is President Obama’s strategy for handling the Afghan president, or for empowering other more credible regional and local leaders?"


    What's the president's strategy? More enabling.

    A supporting editorial by the NYT Editorial Board-

    On Borrowed Time-NYT Dec. 16, 2010
    Last edited by S2; 18 Dec 10, at 07:42.
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  14. #44

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    Five Ways To Win The War

    Andrew Exum is a former serving officer, civilian advisor to Gen. Petraeus' Afghanistan transition team in 2009 and a senior fellow at the Center For New American Security (CNAS). He offers his recipe for winning the Afghan war here-

    Five Ways To Win The War In Afghanistan-Foreign Policy Dec. 15, 2010

    I'm opposed to our presently-configured commitment. I also realize it's unlikely to change anything about that commitment. Exum's thoughts, however, bridge the gap to the essential problems at hand, 1.)inept afghan governance that's corrupt and enabled and, 2.) Pakistan's sanctuaries.

    "...we should be prepared to leave behind 25,000 to 35,000 special operations forces and trainers beyond 2014. Afghan leaders, including President Hamid Karzai, have long desired a concrete U.S. security commitment to Afghanistan. Such a residual force will both protect U.S. interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia after the departure of the bulk of U.S. and NATO troops, and will also signal to Pakistan that their strategy of employing hard-to-control violent extremist groups poses a larger long-term threat to Pakistan's stability than it does to the government in Kabul."

    What's appealing to me here is the greatly reduced presence of troops following our general withdrawal but, also, the emphasis upon ANA trainers and counter-terror operations via the SOF stay-behind contingents he proposes. There are numerous possible peripheral benefits as well-assurance of our presence to the afghan people being foremost.

    This is a short read and well-worth consideration as a broad framework for implementation within Afghanistan both now and later.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    Here's my gambit-accelerate our departure. Allocate monies to expedite the removal of our troops. Allocate resources to assure our residual abilities to detect and attack our true enemies when and wherever they appear. Accelerate the decision processes and sharpen the thinking of an afghan government forced to create new regional alliances with Iran, Russia and India as a bulwark against their external threat. Don't discourage this but, conversely, encourage it.

    It's a good thing in my view. Regional powers with the greatest to lose have for too long piggy-backed on our efforts at little nat'l cost to themselves and at marginally beneficial results to us. Russia worried about drugs? Iran worried about shia suppression/domination? India worried about strategic depth? They've a key role to play that heretofore hasn't been necessary by our presence.

    That should change.
    Iran's concerns with regards to Pakistan are much more substantive. Like Russia, Iran's primary concerns are with drug smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism - the latter may seem like an irony when talking about the concerns of a regime like the Islamic Republic (and it is one) but nevertheless, it is a sore-point for Iran's leaders, and a very real threat, with many in the Iranian establishment itching to intervene against terrorist sanctuaries within Pakistan's borders, by force.

    Fars News Agency :: Senior MP Calls on Pakistan to Wipe Out Terrorist Hubs Dec. 19, 2010
    Fars News Agency :: MP Cautions Pakistan about Consequences of Failure in War on Terrorism Dec. 17, 2010
    Fars News Agency :: Minister: Chabahar's Bombers Trained in Pakistan Dec. 16, 2010

    Given that Iran's southeast has now without a doubt been drawn into the broader 'war theatre' of Islamist terrorism and given the continued presence of terrorist safe havens and training camps within FATA and Baluchestan, many of which are tolerated and even facilitated by the Pakistani establishment, it seems that the 'gambit' which you propose has a good prospect of becoming a reality. I for one, hope that Iran and Russia take a more active role in Afghanistan and against Pakistani terrorists sooner rather than later.

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