2007-11-15

Morning Report: November 15, 2007

Pashtunistan: South and Central Asia dominate today's report. But first, The Living Theatre takes Manhattan (or at least the Village) ...

Bhutto/Pakistan updates. Pakistan is the big story that's getting bigger. CNN reports Benazir Bhutto freed from house arrest: 'Hundreds of police who had lined up outside her home Friday left after the order was withdrawn. A smaller number of police who had previously been outside her home providing security remained. The lifting of the order came as Pakistan suffered its first deadly blast since a declaration of emergency by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The attack, possibly a suicide bomb, at the house of Amir Muqam, Minister for Political Affairs in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan killed four people Friday, police told CNN. The minister escaped unharmed.' MSNBC reports that Bhutto called Pakistan a "pressure cooker" and adds that 'a detention order against her was later lifted due in part to pressure from the United States, but when she tried on Saturday to visit Pakistan’s deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has been under house arrest for the past week, she was stopped from approaching his house.' The Belmont Club has some analysis of the Afghan/Pakistani theatre:
The center of gravity of the Afghan/Pakistani theater (which should conceptually be regarded as a single, complex battlefield) is now in Pakistan. The basic strategic dilemma of this theater is that a) US forces cannot directly attack the enemy center of gravity in Pakistan. They can only fight it indirectly from Afghanistan; but b) any reinforcement of Afghanistan enlarges the forces that have to be supplied through Pakistan. That in turn means more forces will be cut off if Pakistan is lost. Basically America is fighting an enemy which is in its logistical rear without really being able to fight it.

The obvious strategic choices that are open to the US are: a) to enlarge the battlefield to include the direct military occupation of Pakistan; b) to limit operations in Afghanistan to forces which can be realistically supplied in the event of Pakistan's loss. My guess is that the Option B is the only realistically available option. This means that Afghanistan will only ever be a holding action. It will never become the decisive area of operations. That dubious honor is reserved for Pakistan, where the battle against al-Qaeda will have to be prosecuted by indirect means. This implies a greater covert, diplomatic and advisory effort in an unstable country which possess nuclear weapons.

Wretchard goes on to address ways of dealing with this "inoperable cancer".

ITM: Ba'ath holds the white flag. Iraq the Model:
Saddam accepted dialogue and negotiations only after he had met defeat. Power always came first in the ideology of the Baath and the cruelty with which Saddam oppressed his domestic adversaries reminds us that searching for negotiations means that the regime, or those who represent its way of thinking, are incapable of sustaining meaningful resistance.

The call for negotiations reflects the failure of the Baath's military option. This failure can be attributed to a number of reasons, the most significant of which is the determination of the Iraqi people and American administration to continue the march in spite of the pain involved in doing so. It became evident with time for the "resistance" that for the average Iraqis, going back to totalitarian rule is not an option and that an American pullout is not visible in the horizon.

Add to that the growing split between the two main current wings of the Baath; the more Islamist one led by Izzat Dori and the secular nationalist one led by Mahmoud Younis al-Ahmed and the deep conflict of interests between al-Qaeda and several Sunni militant groups. More important are the blows the joint troops dealt al-Qaeda and other extremists. For a long time the figures seemed inconclusive but now it seems obvious that the cumulative effect of their losses has made them hold the white flag.

Meanwhile, troops and locals stop twenty car bombs and Iraq the Model celebrates four years. Congratulations to the brothers from Baghdad, and many thanks.

Foreign workers outnumber citizens in UAE. Or Does It Explode notes that foreign workers - many of them domestic helpers - outnumber Emirati citizens in the Emirates by a wide margin.

"Because we want to re-capture New York from the Americans!" Jeremayakovka takes an affectionate look at The Living Theatre, celebrating its 60th anniversary:
Almost 20 years ago on 3rd & C in the East Village, in a cabaret-style, black box basement storefront, I caught the Living's enthusiastic production of Else Lasker-Schüler's anti-Nazi allegory I and I. It was a night to remember. A high school friend, back from his first semester at Harvard, sporting sideburns and smoking Marlboro reds, joined me again in our native Manhattan. Whereas I'd bused in from Berkeley (3 days nonstop by Greyhound), having recently bought a $99 black motorcycle jacket and sticking by a still-pending "not guilty" plea for a minor charge incurred several weeks previously for civil disobedience. For two otherwise untested liberal New York Jewish teenagers to whom anti-Nazism was the lone inherited pose of anti-fascism, I and I was, or seemed, just what die Frau des Doktors ordered. ...

Go to the link for the rest, and a video.

Commentary. Here's The Middle Ground on al-Qaeda's last stand:
As Iraq cools down, Afghanistan heats up. Al Qaeda and it's Islamic terrorist affiliates are being pushed back on many fronts including the destruction of Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, MILF and Abu Sayaf in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines among the many places. It has sought to expand into the contested territories in the Caucuses including places like Ingushetia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and the like.

Al Qaeda has begun to concentrate foreign fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan as this represents their last, best hopes for establishing a long term and protected base from where they can launch attacks and, hopefully, from where they can establish and expand the planned for caliphate. Their current plan is focusing on controlling the area referred to as "Pashtunistan": the traditional tribal lands of the ethnic Pashtun that spans both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Kat goes on to spell out a number of reasons why the challenge facing us in Afghanistan is greater than - and qualitatively different from - Iraq:
Afghanistan, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing issues that allows the Taliban and Al Qaeda to continue to use it for a base, not the least of which is the protected base it has established in Waziristan, Pakistan. From there, the highest echelon of the Taliban and Al Qaida issue orders, train forces, obtain money and arms. They easily transit the area through the Paktika and Paktia provinces on the Afghan/Pakistan border.

Afghanistan, like Iraq, has both rural and urban populations. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan's populations, though still close to urban areas, are more rural in situation and tradition. Kandahar, Jalalabad, Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-sharif do not hold a quarter or more of the population of the nation as Baghdad, Fallujah, Basrah, Mosul, Tall Afar, Najaf and other notable cities do in Iraq. This means that the problem areas and reconstruction efforts are spread out into the countryside, making security for the population difficult to manage. It also means that reconstruction efforts, such as new hydro-electric dams or irrigation canals, will have a more localized and limited effect, are difficult to manage and secure over the long distances between the capitol and main security forces.

Afghanistan's physical and cultural terrain is a lot different from Iraq's:
In Afghanistan, the tribes are much more isolated from each other by geography and equally isolated by lack of infrastructure and shared interests with other tribes. It is much more ethnically diverse. While Iraq had two main ethnicities, Kurds and Arabs, though complicated by religious and political affiliation, language is not a barrier. Afghanistan has at least eleven ethnicities with diverging ethno-politico-religious affiliations, separated by language, customs, and economic interests.

These ethno-politico-religious affiliations do not simply or easily breakdown into "Sunni/Shia" or "Fundamentalist/Moderate" or even "Democrats/Royalists/Kalahfistas". The needs and beliefs of these tribes are more likely to be insular and limited. It is one reason that the centralized government in Kabul does not easily translate into projected power or control in these areas. Additionally, it is one of the reasons that the centralized government is hard pressed to respond to the needs of the people in these areas, leaving them exposed to the mercies of either the resurgent Taliban or the established warlords.

As far as the tribes are concerned, even though many of the leaders and elders were invited into the central government, Karzai's government is the government of Kabul and Kandahar. That government has little capacity to shape politics or provide necessities within these regions, much less project military or other authoritative power. ...

Afghanistan lacks Iraq's infrastructure, particularly roads:
Without a road, goods and foods cannot be delivered to national markets or even international markets. Without a road, resources cannot be delivered to manufacturing centers that create textiles and other products. Without a road, security forces cannot provide the cover necessary to secure the population. However, roads also make it easier for enemy forces to travel to areas of concentration as well as warlords to extend their control over their areas. Proliferation of opium and its export can also be tied to the new roads.

Following a detailed report on the security situation, Kat notes that:
Economically, Afghanistan is a train wreck that will take many years to improve. It needs an influx of forces to reduce Taliban re-appearance in key areas, beef up over all security, assist with developing better and more representative governance at the local level and improve the economic connectivity and future of Afghanistan. Until Afghanis feel they have an ability to seek and obtain redress for corruption and crimes, Warlords will continue their behavior which is contrary to the US mission. Afghanis will continue to fluctuate between supporting the Taliban, thus al Qaida, as some sort of force against crime. Poppy money will still fuel the insurgency and keep all other legitimate business from making any significant difference or leading people away from criminal, Taliban or Al Qaida related enterprises.

Go to the link for the conclusion.