Showing posts with label Pakistan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pakistan. Show all posts

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Commentary on Pakistan's Role in Afghanistan

Pakistan has been in the news the past few weeks. Afghanistan conflict observers are noting the 4,000 increase in U.S. personnel and a few more thousand from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the strategy review being undertaken by the U.S. Department of Defense (with a little help from the White House?). A question many raise is what will be the outcome of this increase in troop levels. Certainly it will help in the train, advise, and assist effort and in an incremental fashion raise the effectiveness of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) . . . but . . .

The primary factors of the Taliban's effectiveness against the ANDSF is not the lack of advisors. It has more to do with a corrupt and ineffective Afghan government (at all levels), security institutions with inept and corrupt senior leadership, and insurgents with support from and sanctuary in Pakistan. Many observers look to this last point (Pakistan) as the primary factor in the continuance of this long conflict. Listed below is some recent analysis and commentary on the Pakistan issue from the past week.

"Pakistan's Proxy Strategy". Daniel Markey - Academic Director, Global Policy Program at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies - provides his perspective in "Pakistan's Proxy Strategy Principal Cause of Mistrust for U.S.", The Cipher Brief, July 6, 2017.

Pakistan - Key to Winning in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban leadership lives in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar. Financial incentives from the United States to Pakistan have done little to change Pakistan's support of the Taliban. The incentive-based approach is not working. Read more in an article by Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington. He was also Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011. "To Win Afghanistan, Get Tough on Pakistan"The New York Times, July 6, 2017.

One-Time Ally. Pakistan, at one time, was a key ally in the fight against the Soviet occupation and later - after 9/11 - in the fight against terrorism. But . . . the times have changed. Amid accusations that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban the country is moving closer to China and Russia. Read more in "Once a US ally, Pakistan Now Looks to China, Russia", Voice of America, July 8, 2017.

Pakistan as a Counter-Terrorist Ally? Hmmmm. Bennett Seftel writes about the misgivings Afghan War observers have about Pakistan. Read more in "Murky U.S.-Pakistan Relationship Defined by Afghan War"The Cipher Brief, July 6, 2017.

Pakistan - Not an Ally. Robert Cassidy, a retired U.S. Army officer with four tours in Afghanistan, provides his perspective of the Afghan conflict. Pakistan comes under his scrutiny in this article. Read "DoD Report: Pakistan is Reason for Afghanistan Stalemate"Real Clear Defense, July 3,2017.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Update on Afghan Refugees and Migrants

Many of the migrants and refugees that have left Afghanistan are now returning. A significant number of these people heading back to Afghanistan are being forced to return. Some will be returned involuntarily by Europe (a result of a side agreement made at the Brussels Conference). However, most migrants and refugees will return from the countries of Iran and Pakistan. Many of these refugees and migrants have lived outside of Afghanistan for decades - some documented as refugees by international organizations but others without passports or visas. The numbers of returning migrants and refugees is compounded by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from strife-ridden parts of Afghanistan (Kunduz, Helmand, etc.). Life in Afghanistan for these returnees will be very bleak; especially for those who are being returned as winter approaches. The Afghan government and international aid groups are unprepared for a large influx of returnees.

Read more:

"Afghanistan Itself Is Now Taking In the Most Afghan Migrants", The New York Times, November 4, 2016.

A report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is posted by ReliefWeb entitled Fragility and Population Movement in Afghanistan, November 1, 2016.

Erin Cunningham, a correspondent for The Washington Post writes "A humanitarian crisis looms in Afghanistan as the number of displaced climbs", November 2, 2016.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Heart of Asia Conference - Dec 2016

The Heart of Asia (HoA) conference will be held in December. Over 14 nations across the Central and South Asian region will participate. This conference is of extreme importance to Afghanistan - a nation struggling with a downturn of its economy, development challenges, and deteriorating security situation. Central to the conference will be the extent to which India will continue to increase its economic aid to Afghanistan . . . and, of course, how many obstacles Pakistan will place in the way of real progress. Read more in "Why India must go all out for a stable Kabul", Observer Research Foundation, October 28, 2016.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Haqqani Network and Pakistan

General John Nicholson, the commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said recently in a news conference that the Haqqani Network poses a significant threat to Coalition forces. In addition, he stated that Pakistan has not done enough to curtail the Haqqani Networks activities within Pakistan. Afghan authorities have accused Pakistan of providing covert support to the Haqqani Network. Read more in "Pakistan Not Doing Enough Against Haqqani Network, US General Says", Voice of America,September 24, 2016.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Peace Talks

Taliban Reluctant to Join Peace Talks. Despite lots of optimism by the U.S. State Department (publicly at least) and the Afghan government it appears that the Taliban are not all the eager to join in on peace talks. Read more in "Road to Quadrilateral-Backed Peace Talks Uncertain as Taliban Refuse to Participate", The Diplomat, March 7, 2016.

Accusations of Interference. Former Minister of Interior (MoI) Daudzai slams Pakistan for its interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and its sabotage of the Afghan-Taliban peace negotiations in recent news report. (Tolo News, Mar 12, 2016).

Podcast - History of Peace Talks. Task & Purpose Radio have aired an episode that discusses Beau Bergdahl's role in negotiating peace talks with the Taliban in "The Complex History of the Taliban Peace Talks", March 8, 2016.

Peace Talks Failure - Plan B? Michael Kugelman presents the obstacles to concrete progress in the Afghan / Taliban peace talks that are (or are not) about to take place over the next several months. He asks "If Reconciliation Fails in Afghanistan, What's Plan B?", War on the Rocks, March 10, 2016. (CAUTION: He offers no Plan B . . .  ).

Bloody Summer? The rejection of peace talks by the Taliban has dire implications for the coming fighting season. Read more in "Afghanistan braces for bloody summer as Taliban reject peace talks with government", Washington Times, March 7, 2016.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Security News

Gen Austin - Spinning the Narrative.  The commander of U.S. Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, says that Afghan military is making progress - saying "The Afghans are very capable . . ." Um, okay. If you say so. Read more in "Afghanistan's Security Forces Making Progress, Centcom Says", U.S. DoD, March 2, 2016.

Another Deployment for 3rd Cav. About 1,000 Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment will deploy to Afghanistan in the spring of 2016. The Fort Hood Soldiers will be part of a regular rotation of forces in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Read more in a news report (Military Times, March 2, 2016).

Two Turks Killed. Two Turkish nationals were killed Saturday in a shooting in Kabul. The police are investigating.

Anniversary of Operation Anaconda. In March 2002 U.S. forces in Afghanistan launched Operation Anaconda to attack al-Qaeda and Taliban forces located in a mountain valley in eastern Afghanistan. Several U.S. servicemen were lost in the battle.

Pakistan Harboring Taliban Leaders? The Pakistani prime minister's adviser on foreign affairs has indicated that the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is living in Pakistan. A bold admission of something that many have accused Pakistan of doing for many years. Read more in "Why did Pakistan admit to hosting the Afghan Taliban?", BBC News, March 3, 2016. Read a related article entitled "Diminishing Control Motivates Pakistan to Assert Taliban Influence", Gandhara Blog, March 3, 2016.

Indian Consulate Attacked. A consulate in Nangarhar was attacked and several militants were killed. Read more in "Afghanistan militants dead in Jalalabad attack", BBC News, March 2, 2016. Civilians were killed and wounded in the attack as well.

Gen Dunford Says . . . . that the Afghans are applying security lessons learned in 2015. (DoD News,  Mar 4, 2016). Dunford was the commander for the International Security Force Afghanistan (ISAF) in 2013-2014. He is now the Chief of the Joint Staff and recently visited Afghanistan for the change of command ceremony for Resolute Support.

Lots of Hats. A recent news article contemplates the different types of hats found among the coalition forces at the Resolute Support base in Kabul. A stroll around the compound will find many styles and colors of berets, Australian bush hats with their unique chin strap, French hats with colorful feathers, and more. Then of course, there is the disconcerting habit of British military of not wearing any hat at all that throws U.S. SGMs into a significant panic attack. Read more in "Hats Point to Diversity, Size of Coalition in Afghanistan", DoDLive, March 3, 2016.

Former Governor Freed. The former governor of Herat province was abducted in Pakistan last month by gunmen and was released by security forces. It seems that the captors were transporting him by auto and they were stopped at a checkpoint. Read more in this news story by Kidnap and Ransom Magazine, February 29, 2016.

Badakhshan Opn Soon? There are news reports saying that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) will soon be mounting an offensive to clear insurgents out of parts of Badakhshan province. Read more in a news report by Tolo News, March 5, 2016.

Afghan Army Logistics. Philip Lere examines the good and bad of Afghan Army logistics system in "The Coalition, Scarcity and the Afghan Army Logistics System", Small Wars Journal, March 3, 2016.

CIVCAS in Paktia Province? The ANDSF recently (Jan 2016) conducted a multi-agency operation in Zurmat that seems to have caused some civilian casualties. Read more in "The ANSF's Zurmat Operation: Abuses against local civilians", Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN),  March 4, 2016.

Districts Handed to Taliban by Govt? Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah has dismissed speculations about the planned hand over of certain districts to the anti-government armed militant groups. Some districts across the country have been abandoned by the ANDSF and that has led to speculation. Read more in "Abdullah dismiss speculations about planned hand over of districts to militants", Khaama Press, March 3, 2016.

District Falls to Govt Troops. The Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) has retaken a district that had been under Taliban control for some time. Operations were launched to retake Dand-e-Ghori district of Baghlan province in late January. One of the side effects of the Taliban occupation of the district was the cutting of power lines providing electricity to Kabul. Read more in "Afghan forces take full control of Dand-e-Ghori in Baghlan from Taliban", Khaama Press, March 3, 2016.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


"What was the point?" Nick Paton Walsh, a CNN correspondent, comments on the current situation in Afghanistan in a recent news report. A pessimist gets even more pessimistic. Read "Afghanistan war: Just what was the point?", CNN, February 25, 2016.

On "Strategic Withdrawal" from Musa Qala. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have pulled out of two districts in Helmand province - one of them Musa Qala district. The power of the Afghan central government is on the decline and the Taliban is winning on the battlefield in many cases. Read "The retreat from Musa Qala is not 'strategic withdrawal'", Prospect Magazine, February 25, 2016.

Thoughts on U.S. Return to Helmand. One two-tour veteran of the Afghan conflict wants to know why we are putting 500 Soldiers back into a province that 10,000 Marines and others had great difficulty in security. Read "I see my old battalion assigned to Helmand again and I wonder: What is the point?", The Washington Post, February 27, 2016.

U.S. Options in Afghanistan. Anders Corr writes that America has three options in Afghanistan. Read his thoughts in "Afghanistan: Western Curse Worse Than Taliban Disease",, February 24, 2016.

How to Pack for Helmand Province. A Marine veteran who served in Helmand lays out his suggested packing list for those heading there for the first time in "5 Things To Pack If You're Deploying to Helmand", Task & Purpose, February 25, 2016.

Baluchistan. The low grade insurgency in of one of Pakistan's provinces (Baluchistan - just south of the Afghan border) has taken its toll on its residents. Read more in "Pakistan's Invisible Baluch Displacement Crisis", Gandhara Blog - Radio Free Europe, February 24, 2016.

Post Cards from Afghanistan. Showing the personal side of the Afghan conflict, Robert Cunningham, provides us with photos of the battlefield in a photo gallery by Foreign Affairs, February 24, 2016.

Pakistan Cooperative? Secretary of State John Kerry says that Pakistan has been 'very cooperative and very engaged in the fight against terrorism'. Ummmm. Okay, take that with a grain of salt. Kerry is either naive or thinks we are really stupid. Read more in an analysis by Bill Roggio of The Long War Journal (Feb 25, 2016).

Afghan Analysis by CSIS. Anthony Cordesman, one of the more astute observers of the long Afghan conflict, has updated his analysis of the security situation in "Afghanistan: The Uncertain Impact of a Year of Transition", Center for Strategic & International Studies, February 22, 2016.

"Where We Went Wrong". Mark Moyar tells us that when a military wins tactically then strategic failure is usually the result of poor civilian leadership. Read more in "Where We Went Wrong, From Afghanistan to ISIS", Newsweek, February 21, 2016.

Australia: No Afghan Strategy. According to former Army chief Peter Leahy, Australia had no strategy in  Afghanistan. The security situation is sliding backwards and the U.S.-led coalition is struggling to find an exit strategy. (The Sidney Morning Herald, Feb 23, 2016).

Australian Press and Armed Forces. A war correspondent, Thom Cookes, says that it is disingenuous of the ADF to claim the story of soldiers serving in Afghanistan is largely untold when it's the ADF that has kept journalists at bay. Read more in "Afghanistan: the war they hid for too long", The Age, February 26, 2016.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Talking about Peace Talks

On Monday, January 11th, the countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States and China gathered to discuss negotiations for future peace talks with the Taliban. These talks and a second round of talks to be held in Kabul on January 18th will lay the groundwork for future talks with the Taliban. Pakistan offered up a list of Taliban leaders who they say are willing to take part in peace negotiations. Any progress made will depend on Pakistan - as they support the Afghan Taliban and provide the group with sanctuaries from which to train, rest, refit, and plan operations. It is unknown what real progress has been made but the world is hopeful. One important person not attending the current round of peace talks is Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the current leader of the Afghan Taliban. (See article on Mansour by The Washington Post, Jan 10, 2016). The Embassy of Afghanistan (in D.C.) issued a joint press release about the outcome of the peace talks held in Islamabad on January 11th, 2016.

Key to Successful Peace Talks. The road to resolving the Afghan conflict through negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government lies with Pakistan's intentions. Is Pakistan sincere in wanting to bring stability and security to Afghanistan or are they more concerned with 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan and countering India's influence in the region. Read "The Key to Successful Afghan Peace Talks", SOFREP, January 14, 2016.

Involve Women in Peace Process. The Human Rights Watch organization wants the four countries engaged in talks to advance peace negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan to include women in the peace process. Read more in "Afghanistan: Set Out Concrete Plan to Involve Women"Human Rights Watch, January 12, 2016.

Differences an Obstacle to Talks. Officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan are publicly airing their differences even amidst the latest round of peace talks.(Voice of America, Jan 11, 2016).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Intelligence News

Logo of the NDS
An examination of the story behind the resignation in early December 2015 of the chief of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) will point to the discord found within the National Unity Government (NUG) and the divide between those who favor increased dialogue and reconciliation (some call it appeasement) with the Pakistan government and those who accuse Pakistan as the source of all problems with the insurgency (which, of course, they are!). The NDS chief resigned at the same time that President Ghani was in Islamabad attempting to reopen the dialogue with Pakistan and re-start the postponed peace talks that would resolve the conflict with the Taliban. Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) provides this analysis for us in Political Cleavages over Pakistan: The NDS chief's farewell, December 23, 2015.

CIA and Tora Bora 2001. Gary Berntsen, the CIA head of operations for eastern Afghanistan in 2001, recounts the battle of Tora Bora, missed opportunities, and inability of DoD to react to quick-changing situations. Read "Remembering the battle of Tora Bora in 2001", PRI, December 22, 2015.

CIA's Top Stories of 2015. The Central Intelligence Agency has listed its top stories for the past year. Jedburghs, Area 51, Saigon, William F. Buckley, research tools, and more.

Task Force Longhorn. A short article published on tells us about the success that the members of the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade has been having since they deployed to Afghanistan in September 2015. The Fort Hood Soldiers report to Task Force ODIN - a theater-wide military intelligence team supporting U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. The task force's multi-functional teams or MFTs help facilitate actionable intelligence at the lowest echelon. The MFTs are comprised of human intelligence, signal intelligence, and analysts that provide a multi-disciplined approach to intelligence exploitation. Read more in "Task force already successful in Afghanistan intel mission",, December 15, 2015.

Got a TS Clearance? The Chinese are the only ones that have you on a database. Doyle Quiggle gives us something to think about in "The Cognitive Delusions of a Top Secret Clearance", Small Wars Journal, December 26, 2015.

Russia & Taliban Sharing Info? A CNN report says that the Taliban and Russia are sharing intelligence about the Islamic State. Russia is worried about jihadists based in Russia's Caucasus region and former Soviet republics going off to fight in Syria . . . and then returning. The article explains the many reasons that (if true) Russia would cooperate with the Taliban. (CNN, Dec 25, 2015).

Security News

ANASF prepare for wpns training
Attack on Spanish Embassy Guesthouse. Some more fidelity on the attack on Friday, December 11th. The guesthouse, belonging occupied by Spanish Embassy personnel in the Sher Pur part of Kabul was attacked with a car bomb against the gate and the gunmen rushed inside. The event took place for many hours until the last gunman was killed.

India - Pak - Afg Meeting. Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah met with the Pakistan COAS Raheel Sharif in Kabul on Sunday, December 27th. This follows a flurry of meetings involving the head of the India government who first visted Kabul and then Islamabad. Are peace talks in the air? Maybe. But I doubt much will come of it. Read more on the recent meetings and prospects for peace in "The Observer view on India's role in bringing peace to Afghanistan", The Guardian, December 27, 2015.

French Restaurant Bombed. On January 1st a restaurant / guest house (Le Jardin) in Kabul's Qalai Fatullah area (Taimani PD4) was attacked; two people killed including a 10 year old child killed - about 15 others wounded It is in the vicinity of many foreign embassies and government buildings.

Bombers Experience a Premature Explosion. Three (maybe four) bombers had a bad day when their truck bomb blew up ahead of schedule in the Zer-e-Koh area of Herat on Saturday, January 2nd. (Khaama Press, Jan 2, 2016).

Child Suicide Bombers. "Terrorists in Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries are training children to blow themselves up in suicide bomb attacks. Minors are kidnapped or sold and then taken to terrorist training camps". Read more in "Children used as suicide bombers in Central Asia", Deutsche Welle, December 30, 2015.

Prisoners Freed by ANDSF. Afghan Special Forces freed dozens of prisoners (as many as 59) from a Taliban jail in Nahr-e-Saraj district, Helmand province the evening of January 1st. The freed were 37 soldiers, seven policemen, and the remainder were civilians. (Radio Free Europe, Jan 2, 2016).

Al-Qaeda Re-emerges. Al-Qaeda camps seem to be sprouting up in Afghanistan and there are worries that they will become breeding grounds for more attacks against the U.S. Read "As U.S. Focuses on ISIS and the Taliban, Al Qaeda Re-emerges", The New York Times, December 29, 2015. Read a history of U.S. action against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan over the years in "ISAF raids against al Qaeda and allies in Afghanistan 2007-2014", by Bill Roggio and Patrick Megahan, The Long War Journal, May 30, 2014.

Bagram Long-Term US Base? Some reports say that the Pentagon is looking to keep Bagram Air Field as a US base beyond 2017. This huge US base located 40 klics north of Kabul has been one of the principle transit hubs, logistical centers, and airfields (for air support) since 2002. The US Special Operations forces continue to operate from this base as well. Drones will likely be launched from here when Kandahar and Jalalabad shut down. (Tolo News, Dec 29, 2015).

Campbell: Delay Withdrawal. General Campbell, the commander of the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, would like to delay the US troop withdrawal for as long as possible. (The Hill Blog, Dec 30, 2015).

Canadian General (Rtd) Speaks Out. A retired Canadian general says the Taliban's recent victories in Afghanistan could reverse progress made by western armies during more than a decade of fighting. "We're all holding our breath". (Edmonton Sun, Dec 28, 2015).

ANA Cadets Graduate from Indian Military Academy. 31 Afghan Army cadets graduated from the Indian Military Academy in December. Training the Afghan Army cadets is part of India's rehabilitation support towards the Afghan security forces. (Khaama Press, Dec 13, 2015).

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Counter-IED Capabilities Need Investments. Over the last few years the U.S. military has attempted, unsuccessfully, to put Afghanistan and Iraq (and things like COIN, C-IED, JIEDDO, etc.) into the rear view mirror. Unfortunately conflicts like these will continue to pop up over the horizon and the use of IEDs by the combatants that we will oppose will stay just as prevalent as they were on the roads of Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more in "Growing Terrorist Threat Requires New U.S. Investments in Counter-IED Capabilities", by Daniel Goure, Real Clear Defense, November 30, 2015.

Deobandi Islam, Pashtunwali, and the Taliban. "The Taliban are arguably more powerful now than at any point since they were ousted in 2001." This power comes not just from the support the Pakistan state provides but from the civilian population of Afghanistan tired of an ineffective and corrupt national government. The Taliban's more moderate approach and ". . . increasingly resurgent narrative of stability through reverting to Afghanistan's past . . . " is generating ever-growing support from the rural Afghan population. Peter Storey provides us with his view of the Taliban in "The Roots of the Taliban", The Bridge, December 1, 2015.

Pivoting From Pakistan. When President Ghani took office he made a deliberate effort to revitalize the Afghan- Pakistan relationship . . . but it wasn't reciprocated. Now it would appear he is reaching out to India at the risk of weakening ties with Pakistan. Read more in "Ghani's Pivot Away From Pakistan", by Shawn Snow, Foreign Policy, November 25, 2015.

Fighting a War in a Land-Locked Country Like Afghanistan. A U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft commander provides his perspective on the difficulties of fighting a war in a country that is remote and bordered by less than reliable allies. His paper describes exactly how difficult it is to get the Pakistan government to stop its support of the Taliban given the overflight requirements needed to prosecute the war. "Pakistan Catch-22: The Trouble with Wars in Landlocked Countries", The Bridge, December 2, 2015.

Fractured Taliban? Tamim Hamid provides us with an explanation of the current state of the Taliban leadership in "A Divided Taliban Explained", Tolo News, December 3, 2015.

Corruption Hindering the Fight. Corruption in Afghanistan has had a corrosive impact on military operations. It undermines the legitimacy of the Afghan government, provides fodder for recruitment into the Taliban (and ISIS), and has rendered ineffective the Afghan National Police (and to a lesser degree the Afghan National Army). The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) undermined its own objective of creating security in the country with its initial inattention to the problem. Read "How Corruption Undermines NATO Operations", Defense One, December 2, 2015.

Kagan on Afghanistan. Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and a observer of the Afghan conflict provides his thoughts on what the US needs to do in Afghanistan. He sees the insurgent groups gaining more territory and capability as time goes on and a weak ANDSF that is seeing its international support slowly diminish. He advocates for more US troops and expanded authorities for those currently stationed there. He believes that the appropriate troop level is likely around 20,000 to 30,000. Read The Afghanistan Conundrum: How Should the US Approach the Rise of Insurgent Groups?, AEI, December 2, 2015.

French COIN. The vast majority of our senior level general officers would like to put the counterinsurgency years of Iraq and Afghanistan behind us - well, . . . they can't. COIN is not going away. While folks are painting the conflict in Syria and Iraq with ISIS as counterterrorism there is still many aspects of the fight that is a counterinsurgency. And in Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces are conducting counterinsurgency (while U.S. and NATO advisors busy themselves with advising the Afghan security institutions and corps-level organizations on 'systems', 'functions', and 'processes'). Many U.S. "COIN experts" draw upon the experiences of the French pacification of Algeria for 'lessons learned'. In particular, they read the tracts provided to us by two noted French officers - David Galula and Roger Trinquier. However, one student of French strategy suggests that a truer picture of the French COIN effort in Algeria can be gained by digging deeper into French military historical writings. Read "Myth-Busting French Counterinsurgency", by Terrence Peterson, War on the Rocks, December 3, 2015.

Is the U.S. Army's Personnel System Broke? YES! A 1LT who spent two years studying at Oxford instead of holding standard military jobs expected of junior officers was almost forced out of the Army. Besides being a Rhodes Scholar he was at the top of his ROTC class. And although over 90% of his peers were getting promoted he was being left behind. Read more about some of the systemic problems the Army's personnel bureaucracy is experiencing in "First Steps Towards the Force of the Future"War on the Rocks, December 1, 2015.

PowerPoint in Armored Vehicles - Really? OMG, so it finally happened. The Army's officers have figured out a way to display PowerPoint slides in an armored. Trust me - this is not a good thing. My experience with creating PowerPoint slides to convey a message to senior level officers is that the font type, size, and color is much more important than the content. Read "This armored vehicle lets you use PowerPoint on the battlefield"The Washington Post, December 1, 2015. For more info see "I Corps validates new mobile command post proof-of-concept", November 29, 2015.

All Military Occupations Open to Women - SECDEF. Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense, announced that beginning in January 2016, all military occupations and positions will be open to women, without exception. This includes all units and organizations in the infantry and in special operations. So far in 2015 two women passed the very tough Ranger Course at Fort Benning; perhaps we will see some women enter Special Forces training at Fort Bragg in 2016. Let's hope that a advance in "fairness" and "political correctness" will not result in the implementation of quotas, a lowering of standards, the erosion of unit cohesiveness, and a decrease in combat effectiveness. Read more in "Carter Opens all Military Occupations, Positions to Women", DoD News Release, December 3, 2015.

Women in the Marine Corps Infantry? RAND Corporation conducted a study for the U.S. Marine Corps that reviewed the literature on the integration of women in combat units, conducted interviews with members of organizations with physically demanding occupations, estimated the costs of potential initiatives to promote successful gender integration, and develop an approach for monitoring implementation of gender integration of the infantry. Read "Implications of Integrating Women into the Marine Corps Infantry", Rand Corporation, November 2015.

Women in Ground Combat Units? A doctor very familiar with sports science adds his voice to this topic. Read "Sports Science, Physiology, and the Debate over Women in Ground Combat Units", by Dr. Paul O. Davis, War on the Rocks, December 1, 2015.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


A writer, Vikrma Sood, has posted his views about the struggle for leadership of the Taliban, how Pakistan continues to support the various insurgent groups, and the 'blindness' of the United States in recognizing the true policy of Pakistan. "The takeaways from this are apparent. Afghanistan and India will continue to deal with a predatory neighbour who will change tactics and strategy but not policy. The US will continue its policy of profound ambivalence on matters terrorism (and even nuclear) when they concern Pakistan.". The article is posted here "Afghanistan's looming crisis", Observer Research Foundation (ORF), September 3, 2015.

Pakistan has announced that it conducted its first air strike using a domestically manufactured drone. The strike reportedly killed three militants in the Shawal Valley in North Wazaristan area. Read more in "Pakistan Says Its Drone Killed 3 Militants", The New York Times, September 7, 2015. See also "Pakistan: First Domestic Drone Strike", Foreign Policy, September 8, 2015.

Pakistan and LeT. Christine Fair tells us how Pakistan's intelligence agency created a pliant proxy and implacable foe of India in "The Lashkar's empire of jihad", India Today, September 11, 2015.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pakistan Update

Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The U.S. Congress is currently in deliberations on the last installment of its annual $1 billion aid package to Pakistan as part of the Coalition Support Fund or CSF. The last payment of $300 million could be withheld because Pakistan is not doing enough to combat the Haqqani Network (or should we really say they are doing too much to support it?).  This past week National Security Advisor Susan Rice visited with Pakistan's civilian and military leadership in Islamabad and the issue of the Haqqani Network was at the top of her agenda. May believe that the Haqqani Network is an informal extension of the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Read more in "US, Afghanistan Still Doubt Pakistan's Commitment in Fight Against Militants", Voice of America, August 31, 2015.

Politics of Military Aid. Stephen Tankel examines the topic of aid to Pakistan. "Ending U.S. reimbursements to Pakistan's military is not as simple as it sounds. The way Washington handles this delicate issue could have a big impact on Pakistan's behavior as well as on militant groups with American blood on their hands". Read more in "Is the United States Cutting Pakistan Off? The Politics of Military Aid.", War on the Rocks, August 31, 2015.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Riff. Pakistan's foreign minister will be trying to repair the relationship between the two countries. It seems that Pakistan can't understand why Afghanistan is pissed (U.S. terminology; not Brit terminology) that the Pakistani intelligence agency (ISI) is supporting the Haqqani Network (and other insurgent groups). Read more in "Senior Pakistani Official Looking to Restore Trust with Afghanistan", Gandhara Blog, September 3, 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pakistan: U.S. Finally Growing a Pair?

Various news reports indicate that the United States government will not certify Pakistan's counter-terrorism operations in North Wazirstan as damaging to the Haqqani Network. The DoD has reportedly notified the Pakistani embassy in D.C. This will block the release of funds for U.S. financial assistance for the Pakistani military. A couple of things come to mind. Apparently the bulk of our retrograde operations using the lines of communication (LOCs) across the Afghan border into Pakistan to seaports on the Indian Ocean has been completed (we were held hostage for quite awhile over this aspect of the war). In addition, we are finally doing something about the sanctuaries. One facet of counterinsurgency is that if the insurgents enjoy sanctuaries (and foreign support) across a border it will be almost impossible to defeat them - making for a very long war. This action by the U.S. has been a long time coming. Read more in "US Set to Suspend Military Aid to Pakistan", The Diplomat, August 21, 2015.

On a related note - the man known by many as the "Godfather of the Taliban" has died. Hamid Gul, the former head of the Pakistan ISI has died of a brain hemorrhage. He was an Islamist ideologue until his death and leaves behind a dangerous legacy. Afghans have called him "the butcher of the Afghans". Read more in a news report by Deutsche Welle dated August 21, 2015.

Pakistan Border Shelling. The artillery fire by Pakistani forces into Afghanistan continues. Afghanistan has summoned Pakistan's ambassador to explain a battle between the security forces of the two countries that killed up to eight Afghan border police. Read more in "Kabul Summons Pakistani Ambassador as Afghans Mark Independence Day"Radio Free Europe, August 19, 2015.

Cross-Border Ops? In a twist to the recent rise in tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan we learn that the Chief Executive Office (Afghanistan) has warned Pakistan that if it fails to dismantle terrorist sanctuaries that it will - with the help of the international community - directly hit militant hideouts on the other side of the Durand Line. This could make things interesting! Read more in "CEO's Office Warns Pakistan Against Protecting Insurgents", Tolo News, August 21, 2015.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Regional News and Issues

"Why Afghanistan Needs Pakistan". James Creighton, a former U.S. brigade commander (with two Afghan deployments) and currently the chief operating officer of the EastWest Institute, tells us why it is a good thing the Afghan president is reaching out to Pakistan. Read his June 22nd article in The Diplomat. Another "Afghan expert", Michael Kugelman - senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, sheds light in a 13-minute video on the 'false spring' between Pakistan and Afghanistan (The Diplomat, July 1, 2015). In addition, read "Ashraf Ghani's Pakistan Outreach: Fighting against the odds"United States Institute of Peace, June 29, 2015. A former U.S. envoy (Ryan Crocker) says that Pakistan needs to start cracking down on the Afghan Taliban (the "good Taliban) and to start a new cooperative relationship with Afghanistan. (Gandhara Blog, Jul 4, 2015).

Balochistan. Pakistan is not without its own insurgent problems - read about the Baloch insurgency south of Afghanistan's border (The Diplomat, Jun 24, 2015).

Christine Fair and Playing Make-Believe with Pakistani Military. Fair, a critic of the U.S. support of Pakistan, recounts her experiences with the Pakistani Army. (Defense One, Jul 2, 2015).

Charting Pakistan's Internal Security Policy. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has published a special report by Raza Rumi dated May 2015 worth reviewing.

Iran and the Taliban. There have been rumblings in the media that Iran has stepped up its ties with the Taliban. According to The Wall Street Journal the Shiite nation has quietly boosted ties with the Sunni militant group and is now recruiting and training its fighters. See a report by Margherita Stancati entitled "Iran Backs Taliban With Cash and Arms".

Role of China and India in Afghan Stability. The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) offers up research on the role to two major nations in Afghan regional stability. See a 24 June 2015 report. China is attempting to set up a mining operation in Logar province at the Mes Aynak mine but a 5,000-year-old Afghan historic site is there as well - holding up the progress (Newsweek, Jul 1, 2015). Karl Eikenberry (former cdr and ambassador in Afg) writes on the importance of China and the future of Afghanistan (Asia Foundation, Jul 8, 2015). Tini Tran also weighs in on the China factor (Asia Foundation, Jul 8, 2015).

TAPI Pipeline. The Silk Road Reporters newsletter provides an update on the TAPI pipeline that will transit central and south Asia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Inter-Twined Relationships for Afghanistan

Afghanistan has entered a new era. The United States and its allies are slowly departing and taking a lot of its financial aid with it. The country has a new president who will hopefully bring a more responsive and legitimate government to the forefront, eliminate corruption (a major source of discontent among the population and recruiting issue for the insurgency), reinvigorate the economy, and establish better security by defeating the Taliban.To accomplish this he needs the support and cooperation of competing regional powers - including Pakistan, India, and China.

The evolving relationship among the four countries of China, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan is interesting to watch. Afghanistan's shift in its relationship with Pakistan has caused a perceived move away from India and requires closer coordination with China (in hopes China can influence Pakistan). Read an article that explores the new relationships in "India should overcome hesitation to play greater role in Afghanistan", by Britta Petersen, Observer Research Foundation, April 27, 2015.

One analyst says that India must 'standby' while Kabul explores its new relationship with Pakistan. It is felt that the situation will play out and India can then re-engage in Afghanistan once again. Read "More modestly, with Kabul", by C. Raja Mohan, Observer Research Foundation, April 27, 2015.

Khalid Homayun Nadira examines Pakistan's policy towards Afghanistan in "Explaining Pakistan's Self-Defeating Afghanistan Policy", Lawfare Blog, April 26, 2015.

Shakti Sinha writes about policy options for India in regards to Afghanistan in an analysis posted in Eurasia Review, April 27, 2015.

Mustafa Sarwar writes about how Pakistan has failed to deliver in the aftermath of President Ghani's flirting with Pakistan. Read more in "Afghan Leader Knocks on India's Door After Pakistan Disappointment", Gandhara Blog - Radio Free Europe, April 27, 2015.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pakistan's "Deep State"

Understanding Pakistan helps us to understand the conflict in Afghanistan. There is a reason for the existence of the term AFPAK; the two countries are intertwined when it comes to security issues in South Asia. Christine Fair, a well-known expert on Pakistan, is interviewed by Aasim Zafar Kahn - a columnist with The News International - a widely read English daily in Pakistan. Christine says that the 'deep state' term is a way of describing how the Pakistan Army runs the country behind the scenes. She discounts the 'independence' of Pakistan's intelligence service from the Pakistan Army and provides us with her understanding of why Pakistan supports terrorist groups that attack India and the Afghan Taliban that are running amok in Afghanistan. Read the interview in "Pakistan Army continues to run and ruin the country: Fair",, April 19, 2015.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Trouble South of Border - Balochistan

Central and South Asia is a troubled region riddled with conflict. Not only does Afghanistan have its own internal insurgency but it's neighbors also have problems. Pakistan has a number of groups that oppose its government. One of these groups is the Balochs. The Balochs live in a large area of Pakistan just to the south of Afghanistan - called Balochistan. Baloch refugees are moving across the border into Afghanistan - many into Nimroz and Helmand provinces. The Balochs of this region are not numerous and the area is very poor (even though it is supposed to be rich in natural resources). There is a desire among many Balochs for independence but this is not going to happen as the Pakistani security forces have a good handle on the situation (thus far). Many reports indicate that the Pakistani forces are engaged in human rights violations. The situation is compounded with massive smuggling enterprises (including drug trafficking). Read more in "Pakistan: Baloch's Silent War - Analysis", Eurasia Review, March 19, 2015.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pakistan and Peace in Afghanistan

Pakistan is a major contributor to the insurgent problem in Afghanistan. Pakistan's viewpoint is that it is in perpetual war with India. Pakistan is very worried about a 'second front' developing in the rear so it wants to keep Afghanistan out of India's influence orbit and keep Afghanistan destabilized with the Pakistan proxies (Haqqani Network and other insurgent groups). President Ghani is trying to reassure Pakistan that its fears of a second front are exaggerated in hopes Pakistan will cease support to the Afghan insurgents and bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. There is very little hope in defeating an insurgency with sanctuary in a neighboring country and state sponsorship; so President Ghani's move to appease Pakistan has some merit. However, this approach by Ghani to Pakistan is getting lots of attention.

Pakistan and Peace Talks. The speaker of the upper house of parliament (Afghan), Fazil Hadi Muslimyar, warned President Ghani to be careful about relying on Pakistan to help broker peace talks with the Taliban. He says that he does not ". . . have much faith in Pakistan's honesty over peace talks". Read more in "Afghan lawmaker says wary of Pakistan role in Taliban peace moves"Reuters, March 9, 2015.

"Sliding Under the Pakistan Thumb". The former President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, also has concerns about Pakistan. The former President says he is worried over Afghanistan's tilt towards Pakistan and Ashraf Ghani's gamble on brokering a peace deal with the Taliban. Read more in "Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan in danger of sliding 'under thumb' of Pakistan"The Guardian, March 9, 2015.

Pakistan: From Meddling to Making Peace. All eyes seem to be watching Pakistan to see if they will stop supporting the Afghan Taliban and help in nudging them towards peace talks with Afghanistan. If anything can help out the beleagured Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police it would be Pakistan NOT providing sanctuary, money, intelligence, and other types of support to its "proxie" guerrillas attacking the ANSF. Read "Seize the day"The Economist, March 7, 2015.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Afghan Refugee Dilemma

In the last ten weeks almost 52,000 Afghans living in Pakistan have packed up their belongings and crossed the border into Afghanistan. There are two possible reasons for the exodus - 1) the Pakistan military is running operations against militants in the vicinity of refugee camps, 2) the Pakistan government has decided to conduct a repatriation campaign for Afghan refugees, and 3) time is running out for the validity of ID cards for registered refugees in Pakistan. A big problem for the refugees arriving in Afghanistan is the lack of an Afghan government program to receive and resettle refugees and diminished international humanitarian aid for arriving refugees. Christine Roehrs of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) has been looking into the current politics around the Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the fate that awaits the returnees in their home country of Afghanistan.

Read Christine's article in "The Refugee Dilemma: Afghans in Pakistan between expulsion and failing aid schemes", AAN, March 9, 2015.