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Ed Webb

Mali Is Not a Stan - By Laura Seay | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • It wasn't until Jan. 11, when France began bombing the Islamists to stop their advance on Mali's government-held south, that the rest of the world snapped to attention. And that's when the trouble began: the terrible headlines, the misleading cover art, and the bad analysis.
  • African affairs are generally a low foreign-policy priority for the United States. As such, the American foreign policy establishment is not well known for its expertise on West African security crises. But France's sudden and deep engagement in Mali -- and limited U.S. support for the operation -- left most media outlets and think tanks in need of immediate explanations. Not surprisingly, this state of affairs led to a sudden proliferation of Mali "experts" pontificating on the airways and in print about a country most could not have located with ease on a map two weeks before. False claims based on limited contextual knowledge have since abounded, including one widely repeated claim that this crisis is largely a result of the Libya intervention (it's not; this happened due to domestic political crises in Mali).
  • Remember all those comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam? The historical analogy had only very limited utility because the former's history and context had almost nothing in common with the latter's. Likewise, Mali's uniqueness means that outcomes in that country -- as well as the depth and breadth of French engagement -- will no doubt be very different.
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  • France's engagement in Mali is also unlike U.S. engagement in Afghanistan in that, because of their colonial history, the French know what they are getting into. There are decades of outstanding French scholarship on Mali; France is practically drowning in Mali experts in government, academia, and the private sector. This is more important than many realize; having deep cultural and historical knowledge and a shared language (most educated Malians still speak French) makes it much easier for French forces to relate to average Malians and build friendships with key local leaders whose support will be necessary for long-term success.
Ed Webb

Face the Music: We Will Lose in Iraq and Afghanistan | Stephen M. Walt - 0 views

  • The truth is that the United States and its allies lost the war in Iraq and are going to lose the war in Afghanistan. There: I said it. By "lose," I mean we will eventually withdraw our military forces without having achieved our core political objectives, and with our overall strategic position weakened. We did get Osama bin Laden -- finally -- but that was the result of more energetic intelligence and counter-terrorism work in Pakistan itself and had nothing to do with the counterinsurgency we are fighting next door. U.S. troops have fought courageously and with dedication, and the American people have supported the effort for many years. But we will still have failed because our objectives were ill-chosen from the start, and because the national leadership (and especially the Bush administration) made some horrendous strategic judgments along the way.
  • these wars were lost because there is an enormous difference between defeating a third-rate conventional army (which is what Saddam had) and governing a restive, deeply-divided, and well-armed population with a long-standing aversion to all forms of foreign interference. There was no way to "win" either war without creating effective local institutions that could actually run the place (so that we could leave), but that was the one thing we did not know how to do. Not only did we not know who to put in charge, but once we backed anybody, their legitimacy automatically declined. And so did our leverage over them, as people like President Karzai understood that our prestige was now on the line and we could not afford to let him fail.
  • both of these wars show that the United States is actually willing to fight for a long time under difficult conditions. Thus, the mere fact that we failed in Iraq and Afghanistan does not by itself herald further U.S. decline, provided we make better decisions going forward
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  • Since 1992, the United States has squandered some of its margin of superiority by mismanaging its own economy, by allowing 9/11 to cloud its strategic judgment, and by indulging in precisely the sort of hubris that the ancient Greeks warned against. The main question is whether we will learn from these mistakes, and start basing national security policy on hard-headed realism rather than either neo-conservative fantasies or overly enthusiastic liberal interventionism
Ed Webb

Asia Times Online :: SCO steps out of Central Asia - 0 views

  • Several new trends stand out as the SCO steps out of its infancy and adolescence. From a regional organization limited to Central Asia and its environs, SCO may well become the leading integration process over the entire Eurasian landmass, of which 40% still stands outside the ambit of the organization. Prior to his arrival in Astana to attend the summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Ukraine. Equally, Belarus has been admitted as a "dialogue partner".

    Most certainly, SCO realizes that Central Asian and South Asian security are indivisible. Integration of two major South Asian countries - India and Pakistan - is in the cards - the summit finalized their membership norms and negotiations. Indian officials exude optimism.
  • for India and Pakistan, too, which have traditionally had strong strategic ties with the United States, this process becomes a leap of faith. They are quite aware that they are joining an organization that implicitly aims at keeping the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from establishing a permanent military presence in the region
  • the SCO continues to insist that it does not aspire to be a "NATO of the East" or a military alliance. On the other hand, it is set on making NATO (and Pax Americana) simply irrelevant to an entire landmass, which with the induction of India and Pakistan will account for more than half of mankind
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  • China's trade with SCO member countries shot up from US$12.1 billion to around $90 billion during the past 10 years, but if the $60 billion Sino-Russian trade volume is kept out, what emerges is that the track record on trade and economic cooperation has been far below its potential. The SCO plans to have a free-trade area by 2020.
  • detailed discussions have been held behind the curtain between Karzai and the SCO leaders on the big questions of the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan. Kazakh President Nurusultan Nazarbayev gave a valuable clue to SCO thought processes when he openly anticipated, "It is possible that the SCO will assume responsibility for many issues in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014.
  • The implications are serious for the US's "containment strategy" toward China and Russia. Clearly, Russia and China are convinced that the US game plan is to deploy components of the missile defense system in Afghanistan. The Astana summit has reiterated its basic ideology that the countries of the region possess the genius and resources to solve their problems of development and security and outside intervention is unwarranted.
    Historically, though, the summit may have signified China's entry into the Eurasian landmass. As happened over Central Asia, China will take the utmost care to coordinate with Russia.
  • Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
Ed Webb

David Ignatius - Afghans want their country back - and Americans should listen - 1 views

  • In the region that was Osama bin Laden's stronghold, 81 percent say that al-Qaeda will come back if the Taliban returns to power, and 72 percent say that al-Qaeda will then use Afghanistan as a base for attacks against the West.
Ed Webb

Afghan LORD: 'Finish the job' but not so hastily - 1 views

  • the locals are 100 percent sure that foreign forces will leave the area sooner or later but the Taliban will be back
  • by increasing the ANA capabilities, the United States and its allies will be able to finish the job, but not so hastily.
Ed Webb

Pakistanis to Clinton: War on terror is not our war | McClatchy - 0 views

  • Prominent women and tribesmen from the North West Frontier Province delivered the same hostile message that she'd heard the two preceding days from students and journalists: Pakistanis aren't ready to endorse American friendship despite an eight-year-old anti-terrorism alliance between the countries and a multi-billion-dollar new U.S. aid package.
  • "We are fighting a war that is imposed on us. It's not our war. It is your war," journalist Asma Shirazi told Clinton during the women's meeting. "You had one 9-11. We are having daily 9-11s in Pakistan."
  • "The problem is that we want American dollars but we, as a country, hate Americans," Abida Hussain, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, told McClatchy. "We're not perfect, but we want the Americans to be perfect."
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  • Islamabad routinely protests the strikes, even though the Pakistani military secretly co-operates with them. Pakistani officials are unwilling to explain the rationale; the government here rarely defends the American relationship.
Ed Webb

Afghanistan's election: a first verdict | open Democracy News Analysis - 0 views

  • In terms of Kandaharis' experience, the saddest thing about all that I have described above was watching the faces of my friends - particularly Kandahar's young people - as they found out what was going on. A great sense of disappointment darkened most of my conversations during the last few hours of polling and during the evening and next day.

    People focused on some of the details, especially the non-indelible ink that had been promoted with such fanfare by the United Nations earlier that year.  People frequently blamed "the foreigners" for mismanaging things and allowing so much fraud and deception to take place.  Admittedly these days conspiracy theories about the invisible hand of "the foreigners" are omnipresent in southern Afghanistan, but "the farce of this year's election" (as one friend put it) struck a nerve among those people who did want to vote, who did want a change, who didn't have a direct stake in anyone's campaign.

  • it is a pity that the wishes of ordinary Afghans for a free and fair election were not heard.
  • In the coming days a highly dubious turnout will be announced by Hamid Karzai and the IEC. The final results will award Karzai victory with over 50% of the votes.  Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah will go into overdrive for a while, but slowly deals will start to be made behind the scenes
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  • Even if the internationals were to have a change of heart and get serious, they're already being blamed for the failure of this election.  But there won't be any serious outcry by the major voices of the international effort because too much is riding on this election passing, and passing without incident.
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