The roots of Obama’s Af-Pak predicament

US power is bound to decline if it continues to rely on a trans-Atlantic alliance

Henry Kissinger injects a strong dose of strategic wisdom into the squabbly-wobble that is being passed off as an Afghanistan policy review on by the Obama adminstration.

Concurrently, a serious diplomatic effort is needed to address the major anomaly of the Afghan war. In all previous American ground-combat efforts, once the decision was taken, there was no alternative to America’s leading the effort; no other country had the combination of resources or national interest required. The special aspect of Afghanistan is that it has powerful neighbors or near neighbors—Pakistan, India, China, Russia, Iran. Each is threatened in one way or another and, in many respects, more than we are by the emergence of a base for international terrorism…Each has substantial capacities for defending its interests. Each has chosen, so far, to stand more or less aloof.

The summit of neighboring (or near-neighboring) countries proposed by the secretary of state could, together with NATO allies, begin to deal with this anomaly. It should seek an international commitment to an enforced nonterrorist Afghanistan, much as countries were neutralized by international agreement when Europe dominated world affairs…If cooperation cannot be achieved, the United States may have no choice but to reconsider its options and to gear its role in Afghanistan to goals directly relevant to threats to American security. In that eventuality, it will do so not as an abdication but as a strategic judgment. But it is premature to reach such a conclusion on present evidence. [Newsweek, emphasis added]

Dr Kissinger highlights one manifestation of the broader issue: across the world, the United States is attempting to solve twenty-first century problems relying on a twentieth-century alliance of nineteenth-century powers.

The Atlantic alliance—between the United States and Western Europe—might have been useful (see tailpiece) to deal with the mainly Europe-centric conflicts (the two ‘world wars’ and the Cold War) of the last century, but it has proved to be rather useless in addressing the emerging security challenges of this century: the rise of China, the growth of international jihadi terrorism, nuclear proliferation and environmental/natural disasters.

Accusations of an arrogant Washington apart, it is also true that the European states were more interested in showing their flag in Afghanistan than to actually do the fighting. Unwilling to take casualties towards a cause they see as remote, Europe has been looking for a flight out of Afghanistan for a good part of the last eight years. Moreover European states have a vastly different strategic perspective as far as jihadi terrorism goes—they have the luxury of believing that by appeasing them at home, they can escape being targeted.

The Obama administration would do well to heed Dr Kissinger’s advice. One reason Washington’s Af-Pak strategy is in such a rut is because it has neglected exploring options that would leverage the interests of Afghanistan-Pakistan’s neighbours. As long as it tries what is effectively a unilateral route (the European & international component of the coalition being negligible) the United States will find its policy options restricted to withdrawal, attrition or escalation. A new partnership—that weaves regional powers into a co-operative framework—would change the rules of the game. If it is an extraordinary challenge, then in Richard Holbrooke, Mr Obama has the extraordinary man to handle it.

Tailpiece: The much celebrated Anglo-American alliance that won the Second World War had as many as 2.5 million Indian troops fighting on its side.

18 thoughts on “The roots of Obama’s Af-Pak predicament”

  1. “Each has chosen, so far, to stand more or less aloof.”

    Do we have a choice? Our ‘soft’ efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan are met with suspicion and downright condemnation by the Pakistani authorities. If it weren’t for the US giving Pakistan the benefit of whatever doubt they have with regard to the credibility of Pakistan’s military/intelligence authroties, India would have been engaged more robustly in Aghanistan. Maybe not to the extent that it should/could be (as is evidenced by the lack of any debate over the consequences of the US pulling out) but nevertheless more involved.

    As a sidenote, India’s decisions to pull out from naval exercises with the US in recent months are reflective of the skepticism that we are developing over the US’s policy reviews. In all fairness to the defence minister, his decision to pull out is well reasoned. With the US pulling out of exercises in Siachen and neglecting to pursue previously agreed upon joint search missions in Arunachal – due to its efforts not to tread into what is perceives as sensitive issues for Pak/China (nevermind that in doing so they cast aspersions upon our territorial integrity), it seems to be conveying to us to take a hike.

  2. Henry Kissinger quote:
    “The special aspect of Afghanistan is that it has powerful neighbors or near neighbors—Pakistan, India, China, Russia, Iran. Each is threatened in one way or another and, in many respects, more than we are by the emergence of a base for international terrorism”

    Note that HK is listing pakistan as part of the solution instead of the problem — he is not talking about neighbours of “Af-Pak”, only neighbours of Afghanisthan, including Pakistan. Any “solution” to Afghanisthan that includes the Pakistani Army and focuses on Afghanisthan rather than Pakistan is bound to fail — this is because Pakistan has all the jihad training facilities required to train terrorists, not Afghanisthan.

  3. For better or worse, does anyone actually think that deeper involvement by India in Afghanistan would be met by anything other than greater Pakistani hostility? I hate to say it, but I think the “regionalization” approach must inevitably include a lesser role for India than for the neighboring states (i.e. contiguous). That does not mean that India should abandon a role altogether, but simply that India may be better able to contribute by indirectly influencing Astan through neighbors (Iran, Russia etc). By my reading deeper Indian involvement will only raise the stakes for Pakistan and force them to “double down” on the Taliban and LeT.

  4. If Afghanistan was viewed as re-living Vietnam, Pakistan is sure to take the U.S. beyond the “Vietnam Experience”.
    Even with all possible rhetorical evasions, the U.S. has practically opened a war front in Pakistan. The current U.S. strategy in Pakistan bears an uncanny resemblance to the military offensive in Afghanistan started eight years ago. The fanfare and public declarations may be missing but the U.S. is at war with the ‘rogue’ elements within Pakistan. Given the strategic and technological innovations it is possible to say that the U.S. is ‘fighting’ the Taliban in Pakistan without stationing ground troops in the country. The only difference is that taking clues from the Afghanistan experience, military operations have been undertaken in concurrence with civilian efforts at ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of the local population.
    Vietnam imbroglio allowed the U.S. to withdraw forces in the face of military reversals. In Pakistan the mirage of victory will be so achievable that the U.S. would be compelled to commit ‘some more’ resources to emerge victorious. Withdrawal in the face of opposition is better than chasing a mirage. Achievement of U.S. objectives in Pakistan is a mirage. Involvement in Pakistan will show the U.S. that something more painful exists beyond the Vietnam withdrawal syndrome.

  5. Alex, The attitude of western experts and analysts such as yourselves, where Pakistan’s use of terrorism as state policy is considere quite alright, mainly because it is only directed against India (which is apparently legitimate according you “because those two have past history”).

    Pakistan has become less and less stable over the years thanks to the surfeit of radical madrassas and govt.-sponsored terrorist radical groups, directed both at Afghanisthan and India.

    Given all this, your solution to increase Pakistan’s presence in Afghanisthan instead of India is based exactly on what logic?
    India has spent significant amount of resources building roads and schools in afghanisthan while Pakistan sends in terrorist groups, which is the current history of the involvement of these two countries in AFghanisthan. What kind of analyst would take a look at this data and conclude that Pakistan’s involvement will stabilize afghanisthan but India’s involvement will destabilize Afghanisthan? (that’s just a rhetorical question, though if one is searching for an answer, “an american analyst” would fit). Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanisthan will not increase the stability of either state, and the region will remain unstable as long as there are people in this world who think that official support for terrorism by the Pakistani government is all fine as long as such terrorism is only committed against Indians, and that building roads etc. has nothing to do with bringing in stability to Afghanisthan.

    And by the way, India does have a border with Afghanisthan in Jammu and Kashmir State — it is another matter that Pakistan is currently illegally occupying that territory.

  6. @ SR Murthy

    Let us discuss the situation “as it is” rather than “as we would like it to be.”

    Regarding your last point. Until India is able to wrest control of the PoK (not any time soon) your assertion has little practical relevance and no bearing on the discussion (though it is a nice rhetorical flourish that exposes your own biases as an analyst). Even were India in control of the “Northern Areas” there is no infrastructure linking India to the Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan and virtually no infrastructure linking the Wakhan corridor to any area of significance in Afghanistan. In short, India has virtually no capacity to provide logistical support for operations in Afghanistan. Without a transit agreement with Pakistan (when hell freezes over) India will be limited to the route from Chabahar and/or airlift. In all honesty I don’t think India really has the capability for either (India currently lacks a genuine expeditionary capability).

    As to whether I, as an American, care about Pakistan’s support for militant groups that target India, I can tell you that care deeply about the matter. It is precisely why I believe it is so important for ISAF to “succeed” in Afghanistan. US abandonment would be much more damaging to the national security of India than to the United States. It is precisely the prospect of greater geopolitical instability in South Asia that I believe necessitates continued US engagement. In short, I believe that the damage withdrawal would to South Asian stability is a greater threat to US national security than the the threat of transnational terrorism directed at the US.

    This of course raises the question of how the US should proceed in Afghanistan. In my view Afghanistan has been in a state of civil/regional regional war for more than 30 years. What is clear is that no single faction (or its foreign backer) has sufficient power to dominate the others. The only solution therefore (and in the long-run) is some kind of “national unity/ power sharing” arrangement with a good deal of federalism (and probably armed regional/ethnic militias for some time to come).

    External powers that think their faction can gain a monopoly on power to the exclusion of others will ultimately fail. Thus, in the immediate future the US must increase its troops levels and redeploy to population centers and away from the South/East and toward the North. The goals must be to consolidate and provide stability to at least non-Pashtun dominated areas (and populations centers). Pursuing an “ink spot” strategy and building stability where it is possible while launching drone strikes and SOP raids where and when necessary in the Pashtun belt (and on both sides of the border).

    Simultaneously the US must convene an international conference (or work through private bilateral consultations) with neighbors to develop a strategy for stabilizing the Northern provinces and developing indigenous military capabilities among anti-Taliban factions. The overriding message and strategy must be to communicate to the Taliban (and their Pakistani backers) that the Taliban will never be allowed to take control of Kabul or to gain a monopoly on power in Afghanistan. If this message is deemed to be ‘credible” in Islamabad/Quetta then perhaps the Generals will begin to admit to themselves that the Taliban “hedge” against a Western withdrawal is not viable and begin to reign them in. Perhaps even some Pashtun groups will similarly “see the light?” The US and Afghanistan’s neighbors must convince Pakistan that only through compromise with other factions in Afghanistan (and their foreign backers) can their own “proxies” gain a seat at the table in Kabul, and that attempts to use the Taliban to gain a monopoly on power in Afghanistan through military force will be met with force–and besides, the Taliban will only further destabilize Pakistan itself.

    Simultaneously the US and India must work to strengthen civilian leadership in Pakistan and pressure Pakistan to prosecute the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

    As to India’s role in Afghanistan. I am not saying India should not be involved. I absolutely think India should be. The work that India has been doing in Afghanistan is great and should be expanded (and probably wink-wink, nod-nod) some additional covert support to northern factions (perhaps funneled through contiguous neighbors) would also be helpful.

    My point–beside the fact that an Indian military deployment to Afghanistan of any size to be effective is beyond the capabilities of India’s armed forces–is that such a deployment would make it difficult to persuade Pakistan to stop hedging. A small deployment (largely symbolic) will have little effect on the balance of force but will carry with it political costs (both at home and abroad). Furthermore, too deep an engagement by India would provide a strategic window for long term rivals to take advantage of at precisely the time India ought to be husbanding her resources for intensifying long-term competition.

    Lastly, an Indian deployment to Afghanistan would heighten the prospects for a direct conflict between India and Pakistan (as it would almost certainly result in more terrorist attacks inside India which would necessitate a response on India’s part).

    But, then again, as your last comment above suggests this is precisely what you seem to seek in the first place. Just one question? Why deploy to Afghanistan to eliminate the terrorist threat to India and/or start a war with Pakistan? Why not just strike Kashmir itself? At least the latter is within India’s current capabilities.

  7. Alex,

    >>Let us discuss the situation “as it is” rather than “as we would like it to be.”

    Let me state out front that your opinions on Pakistan are not based any ground realities and is a regurgitation of the usual twaddle one is used to from American analysts. Any avid Pakistan watcher can say with confidence quaint notions of coopting the Pakistani army to bring peace in the region is laughable. Any serious watcher of Pakistan would know that Pakistan is the epicenter of all terrorist activity in the region, and this overflows into Afghanisthan and India. These are the key elements of instability in the region at this time, not India’s wish to add to Afghanisthan’s stability.

    People actually get killed in these attacks, so anyone claiming to be an analyst worth his/her salt should quit pretending that these Pakistan-based terrorists making daily forays into India and Afghanisthan have no bearing on the situation when they do.

    The fact that you refuse to recognize this well-established fact says a lot about your analytical skills. I will say no more.

    “In my view Afghanistan has been in a state of civil/regional regional war for more than 30 years. ”

    That’s like saying, in my view tomorrow is a friday…do you really need to do any analysis to state the obvious? Perhaps in the interest of truth and probity, I should add that the USA and Pakistan are responsible for Afghanisthan’s current state in a big way, while India has borne the brunt of both their actions, and you have the audacity to come here and glibly tell Indians that they should all just suck up to Pakistani terrorism for the sake of the USA’s project of stabilizing Afghanisthan? What kind of nonsense is this kind of behaviour?

    As for India “Working with the USA to stabilize afghanisthan”, why would you think India has an abiding interest in stabilizing a country like Pakistan that is sending terrorists to India as we speak? I notice that you have conveniently ignored the point that analysts you are basically winking at terrorism in the region against India, while simultaneously pretending that short of helping the US and bending to Pakistan’s wishes, India has no other options. You are free to believe that even if it is not true.

    So yes, let us talk about “how it is” and not “how it should be”, but if your notion of “how it is” includes ideas like “give more control to the Pakistani army to stabilize the region”, then it would indicate a miserable failure in the “how it is” departhment.

  8. Alex,

    “Let us discuss the situation “as it is” rather than “as we would like it to be.”

    Yes, let us do that, and let me add that your view of “as it is” is not based on facts or if we consider the past history of the behaviour of the various entities in Pakistan on whom you seem to have a lot of faith in Pakistan’s ability to deliver to the US (in the same manner as they have done since 9/11, goes without saying).

    Until the Pakistani army is actually under the control of civilian govt. rather than the other way around, all these rosy predictions of a democratic Pakistan will come to nought.

    “Regarding your last point. Until India is able to wrest control of the PoK (not any time soon) your assertion has little practical relevance and no bearing on the discussion”

    My response was to your earlier comment that India has no say in Afghanisthan as it is not a neighbour, and my response was to tell you that you were incorrect. Your above response is irrelevant to what I stated — India has a very good case for not wanting instability in the long-term because India also borders afghanisthan in some sense. I mean, if the US can pretend to have an abiding interest in Afghanisthan without having any boundaries with Afghanisthan, India has a far better case to make for itself in Afghanisthan. That is my point.

    “Lastly, an Indian deployment to Afghanistan would heighten the prospects for a direct conflict between India and Pakistan (as it would almost certainly result in more terrorist attacks inside India which would necessitate a response on India’s part).”

    And that is different from today how? Pak-watchers in India have already started the clock on Pakistan committing a terrorist attack to distract from the intense pressure to perform from US/NATO. Pakistan is about to commit another terrorist attack on India in the next couple of months — the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul is but a precursor to a terrorist attack in India.

    Surely, one can make a good case that India should be fighting pakistani terrorists “over there in Afghanisthan” instead of inside Indian territory… that is after all the US’s logic for invading “Al Qaeda” in Iraq, was it not?

    “Why deploy to Afghanistan to eliminate the terrorist threat to India and/or start a war with Pakistan? Why not just strike Kashmir itself? At least the latter is within India’s current capabilities.”

    In case you had not paid attention, Kashmir border is currently being kept tranquil with substantial force reduction to reduce “the Indian threat to Pakistan” a few months ago. So, yes, India is already doing favours to US/NATO by keeping the temperature down along the Line of Control, though it is clearly not being acknowledged.

    Maybe that is just an indicator that it is time for India to stop doing favours to the US/NATO crowd in Afghanisthan until they get their head set straight about Pakistan’s place in the problem/solution space. In fact, this is precisely what the Indian govt. seems to be doing in its Afghan policy.

  9. @SR Murthy,

    Allow me for a moment to quote Raja Mohan who I think makes an excellent (albeit unfortunate) point about India’s strategic culture: “India, as a collective, in contrast, talks loudly, non-stop, and carries a small stick.”
    You have studiously avoided any discussion of what is my central point: India lacks the CAPABILITY for a large scale deployment beyond its borders. Much as you or I would like it to be otherwise, this is “the way it is.” If you read what I say carefully, I actually say India ought to focus on acquiring a “big stick” that will in the future enable it project the power in pursuit of its interests that you (prematurely) seek to wield. As to your other points:

    “Any avid Pakistan watcher can say with confidence quaint notions of coopting the Pakistani army to bring peace in the region is laughable.”
    My point is that any durable solution in Afghanistan (aside from indefinite warfare) must inevitably have the assent of Afghanistan’s neighbors—including Pakistan—because each neighbor has legitimate national security interests at stake. As I alluded to in my post this will almost certainly also require civilian control over the military.

    “Any serious watcher of Pakistan would know that Pakistan is the epicenter of all terrorist activity in the region, and this overflows into Afghanisthan and India. These are the key elements of instability in the region at this time, not India’s wish to add to Afghanisthan’s stability.”

    I agree. My point is that heightened competition between India and Pakistan in an Afghan theater will INCREASE terrorist activity emanating from Pakistan above and beyond already high (and unacceptable levels). I wish it were otherwise, but…
    “People actually get killed in these attacks, so anyone claiming to be an analyst worth his/her salt should quit pretending that these Pakistan-based terrorists making daily forays into India and Afghanisthan have no bearing on the situation when they do.”

    This barely deserves a response. Nothing in what I have said suggests that I do not think Pakistani terrorism and the loss of life it results in has no bearing on the situation. I am deeply saddened by the killing of innocent civilians no matter the nationality of the victim or the perpetrator.

    “In my view Afghanistan has been in a state of civil/regional regional war for more than 30 years.”That’s like saying, in my view tomorrow is a friday…do you really need to do any analysis to state the obvious?
    My point is that it is clear from 3 decades of continuous warfare that the balance of forces is roughly in a stalemate and that durable peace will only come when each of the combatants recognize that they cannot monopolize political power or impose a military solution on the other factions. Nor should external powers labor under the illusion that they can impose a military or political solution on Afghans. The truly tragic result is that this leaves Afghanistan in a state of perpetual bloodshed until the combatants exhaust themselves. It essentially leaves external powers in the position of backing various factions so as to ensure a rough “balance of forces” while pushing all factions to negotiate a settlement.

    “Perhaps in the interest of truth and probity, I should add that the USA and Pakistan are responsible for Afghanisthan’s current state in a big way, while India has borne the brunt of both their actions, and you have the audacity to come here and glibly tell Indians that they should all just suck up to Pakistani terrorism for the sake of the USA’s project of stabilizing Afghanisthan? What kind of nonsense is this kind of behaviour?”

    I recognize the historical role played by both the United States and Pakistan in Afghanistan. I also recognize that this has had serious negative consequences for India. I would disagree that India has “borne the brunt of both their actions.” I think Afghan society has that dubious distinction.

    I am not glibly telling Indians to do anything. I am not a US official. I am merely offering my analysis on specific strategic/policy question. The GOI and Indian analysts will reach their own independent conclusions on what policy makes strategic sense for India.

    “As for India “Working with the USA to stabilize afghanisthan”, why would you think India has an abiding interest in stabilizing a country like Pakistan that is sending terrorists to India as we speak? I notice that you have conveniently ignored the point that analysts you are basically winking at terrorism in the region against India, while simultaneously pretending that short of helping the US and bending to Pakistan’s wishes, India has no other options. You are free to believe that even if it is not true.”

    I think India does have an interest in Pakistani stability. More instability in Pakistan is detrimental to the national security of India as it heightens the prospect for cross border terrorism, nuclear proliferation and uncertainty regarding nuclear stability during crisis, All of which damages India’s ability to emerge as a stable and prosperous major power.

    I have criticized US policy on numerous occasions for not taking a harder line on Pakistan’s support for anti-India groups. As I said in my post, the US and India should put more pressure on Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice. I notice you studiously avoided that part of my analysis as well as my assertion that greater civilian control is also desirable. I support the conditionality within the Kerry-Lugar bill for precisely these reasons. As to India’s other options. I never said India has no other options. I said that I think the option of India deploying troops to Afghanistan—or becoming too overtly involved there—does not make strategic sense. In my view the potential downside costs do not outweigh the potential gains.

    “Yes, let us do that, and let me add that your view of “as it is” is not based on facts or if we consider the past history of the behaviour of the various entities in Pakistan on whom you seem to have a lot of faith in Pakistan’s ability to deliver to the US (in the same manner as they have done since 9/11, goes without saying). Until the Pakistani army is actually under the control of civilian govt. rather than the other way around, all these rosy predictions of a democratic Pakistan will come to nought.”

    As I said, greater civilian control is desirable and the US, India, and the international donor community should try to encourage that outcome. I am not sanguine about the prospects for greater Pakistani cooperation than has thus far been forthcoming. It is clear to me that they are sticking with a hedging strategy as the proposed offensive into Waziristan will not fundamentally alter the dynamics of FATA. 28,000 troops is nowhere near enough to secure that territory. Furthermore, Obama’s failure to exercise strong leadership on the strategy/force level question contributes to Pakistan’s sense of an impending US withdrawal. But again, my point is that greater Indian involvement in Afghanistan will “justify” (note the quotation marks) both the hedging strategy AND continued military dominance of the civil society.

    “My response was to your earlier comment that India has no say in Afghanisthan as it is not a neighbour, and my response was to tell you that you were incorrect.”

    I never said that India has “no say” in Afghanistan. I said that India probably has a “lesser role” than contiguous states. In fact I explicitly said “That does not mean that India should abandon a role altogether” and “I am not saying India should not be involved. I absolutely think India should be.” Rather than “glibly” trying to paint me as some kind of Indo-phobe why don’t you actually read what I said. What we are debating is the nature of that role as well as its extent.

    “And that is different from today how? Pak-watchers in India have already started the clock on Pakistan committing a terrorist attack to distract from the intense pressure to perform from US/NATO. Pakistan is about to commit another terrorist attack on India in the next couple of months — the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul is but a precursor to a terrorist attack in India.”

    I agree the clock is ticking. The day before the embassy bombing I said as much on the blog “Pakistan Now or Never.” The only difference from how things are today is that I think a greater Indian involvement—especially military involvement—will INCREASE risk (above the currently unacceptably high level) of cross border terrorism as well as conventional war.

    I would be curious to get your response to the following questions (as I think considering the “hard case” is instructive for thinking about other measures as well):

    1. Does India have the capability to deploy forces to Afghanistan?
    2. Would the deployment of forces to Afghanistan increase/decrease Pakistan’s support for the Taliban and other militant groups? Would it increase/decrease the likelihood of terrorist attacks inside India? Would it increase/decrease the power of civil society verses the military?
    3. What are the opportunity costs to India of becoming further engaged in Afghanistan and or the ensuing/likely conflict with Pakistan? What other strategic goals might India have to give up?
    Again, I suggest that we should strive to deal with the facts as they are rather than the way would like them to be.

  10. Alex, Excuse me if I chortle at Rajamohan and his worthless analytical skills. The man is a loser and has been prescribing terrible “policy prescriptions” for India…If India had actually followed Rajamohan’s advice that he generously doles out in his colums on various matters, India would be in a lot more trouble than it currently is, and that is the truth. I would grant that Rajamohan unabashedly speaks for US interests all the time, even if his prescriptions could damage Indian interests irrepairably.

  11. Alex,

    Before we get all analytical, consider these facts:

    1. Islamic theologians and madrassas hold all political power in Pakistan (every political party is affiliated to some set of clerics)

    2. The Pakistani army is the only other pole of power that works hand in glove with terrorist groups and the clerics alike, plays them against each other and against the US in order to maintain its primacy

    3. Every side is heavily armed, including civilian groups

    4. The army has more guns than the rest of them.

    last but not least,

    5. Political activity is largely based on violence and physical coercion…even the level of democratic behaviour in Afghanisthan cannot be repeated in Pakistan.

    These are the facts that you are ignoring or are ignorant of, and unless you comprehend that the Pakistani army will easily counter any moves by civilians to get the army under civilian control. Benazir Bhutto was the latest person to get heady with US support and challenge the army before getting a bullet in her neck from the Pakistani army.

    I will read your long post carefully before writing a response.

  12. Last paragraph mangled…I meant to say:

    These are the facts that you are ignoring or are ignorant of, and unless you comprehend that the Pakistani army will easily counter any moves by civilians to get the army under civilian control by just shooting the civilian. Benazir Bhutto was the latest person to get heady with US support and challenge the army before getting a bullet in her neck from the Pakistani army.

  13. Alex writes:

    “You have studiously avoided any discussion of what is my central point: India lacks the CAPABILITY for a large scale deployment beyond its borders. Much as you or I would like it to be otherwise, this is “the way it is.” ”

    Let me point out that you are conveniently ignore the point I raised about Pakistan’s terrorist groups being central to Instability in the region.

    Let me spell it out to you another way:

    1. The US funds the Pakistani army with funds every ear, and a good chunk of that money is stolen by the Pakistani army to fund its terrorist campaigns against neighbours.

    2. The Pakistani army also has its hands in heroin smuggling in the region.

    3. if this money were not available to the pakistani army so easily thanks to the USA and its other benefactors, all the terrorist activity in Afghanisthan would cease almost immediately.

    The implication of the above points is that Pakistan threatening war against India is just a bluff used to raise the bar for Pakistan doing anything at all against terrorism.

    Unless you are telling me that when Pakistan is pacified about the ephemeral “Indian threat”, the region will become more peaceful, Indian capabilities in Afghanisthan are irrelevant to the discussion at hand. India needs to do nothing for Pakistan to claim it is being provoked, understand? So it would a good idea to stop raising a red herring of how “India and Pakistan will go to war if India steps into the vaccum in Afghanisthan.

    All your comments basically boil down to kowtowing to the Pakistani army under a lot of verbiage.

    Let me address your questions:

    >1. Does India have the capability to deploy forces to Afghanistan?

    That is not relevant to whether the Indian presence in afghanisthan is “destabilizing” as the word seems to be in DC nowadays.

    >2. Would the deployment of forces to Afghanistan increase/decrease >Pakistan’s support for the Taliban and other militant groups?

    Let me just ask in response: “Would India not deploying forces in afghanisthan increase/decrease pakistan’s support for Taliban? “. Clearly, the answer is that the issues are irrelevant to each other. Pakistan has its finger on the terrorism valve that it adjusts according to how much money is available to it from its generous donors USA, UK, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.

    The standard response of Pakistan to any “strategic threat” (which changes by the minute) is to threaten terrorist attacks, and western analysts have long pretended that all of this has nothing to do with the war on terror…just like this conversation is headed.

    So the question we should be asking is: Is it in the long-term interest of any country in the world to allow PAkistani army to retain control of their terrorist groups by generously donating to the Pakistani army to achieve its ends of keeping terrorism alive in the region?

    >” Would it increase/decrease the likelihood of terrorist attacks insde India?”

    The oncoming winter will decrease terrorists infiltrating into India. Terrorist attacks have been happening in India for about 35 years now, and Indian security people have a handle on the sleeper cells in India. It is a given that Pakistan will make attempts to set off attacks in India, so it is amusing that you focus on pakistan committing terror in India, while ignoring pakistani “capabilities” to cause mayhem that is root cause of the region’s instability.

    “Would it increase/decrease the power of civil society verses the military?”

    Pakistani civil society has power today in your reality, eh? Interesting. What was that you were saying about considering reality “as it is” and not “As it should be”?

    “3. What are the opportunity costs to India of becoming further engaged in Afghanistan and or the ensuing/likely conflict with Pakistan? What other strategic goals might India have to give up?”

    Why should India give up any “strategic goals” (a.k.a. handing PoK to Pakistan) for Pakistan? What kind of a loaded question is this? Afghanisthan is going to remain right next to India for the next 10,000 years, so there is no question of “oppurtunity costs” arising here.

    As an analogy, an equally ridiculous question would be: What are the oppurtunity costs for a person to clear his/her front yard of drug dealers and pimps and murderers? Assume that “moving elsewhere” is not an option. The threat of the status quo overrides considerations of “oppurtunity costs” to conclude that it is not a battle worth fighting. Without a peaceful neighbourhood, India cannot realize its goals of long-term stability in the region, and in that task, the Pakistani army and its paymasters in the USA, UK, Saudi Arabia are the main impediment to peace in India neighbourhood.

    “Again, I suggest that we should strive to deal with the facts as they are rather than the way would like them to be.”

    If the facts are reality-challenged, no amount of “dealing with the facts as they are” will do anyone a damn bit of good.

  14. the following sentence was missing a crucial “not”.

    “Unless you are telling me that when Pakistan is pacified about the ephemeral “Indian threat”, the region will become more peaceful, Indian capabilities in Afghanisthan are NOT irrelevant to the discussion at hand.”

  15. The reason why the Americans have a problem in Af-Pak is that are unable to reconcile with two different goals: they want to retain the capability of the Pakistani rentier Army and its terrorist groups as a lever against India and Indians and other countries in the region; yet they do not want these terrorist groups to commit another 9/11 once the US moves on to other things and, more importantly, they do not want these pakistani-army trained and funded terrorist groups to target western countries or interests.

    So the real US concern is to create a situation where the Pakistani army is able to control their terrorist groups with more finesse such that it is targeted against India, rather than eliminate terrorism’s sources in the region, especially training and funding capabilities that support terrorism and mostly under the control of Pakistanis (army and civilian).

    India’s interests are to ensure that all people in the region are not a threat to peace and prosperity in the region as they currently are — this includes Afghanisthan and Pakistan. All of this cannot be achieved as long as the Pakistanis are openly funding and running terrorist camps, and heavily armed, trained and funded terrorist gangs and drug runners control significant amounts of power in Pakistan.

    All of this is the very different from the US’s goals for the region, which wants the Pakistani army to retain these terrorist groups around, though in control and targeted only on India, which needs a strong Pakistani Army. Not to mention, other than the Pak. Army, no one else in the region rents out their country for low hourly rates to foreign powers).

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