Friday, February 26, 2010

The Readers Get Pushy

So, I finally meet the legendary Doug Gibler at the ISA and he starts getting all pushy in my blog, asking for more analysis.  

Doug asked:
Do you think that US/NATO forces are pushing (or giving) enough to make the Taliban leadership consider talks? What kind of compromise would that look like? As for Pakistan, is it believable that a sweep is so easy and just a matter of willingness? What does this say about US leverage over Pakistan? Not enough compared to their worry about their border and possible insurgency from within?
  1. Too early for the Taliban to be convinced by one offensive that they should talk. They see the Dutch leaving, Canada close behind, and Karzai is still Karzai.  What you may see is them waiting til 2011 and then seeing if the US scales back.  These guys are patient.  Still, that would not be a bad thing for our side, as it would break the momentum and give the Afghan govt a chance to make progress--and fewer casualties would mean lower political costs back in the US, UK and elsewhere.  People forget there are still significant numbers of NATO troops in Kosovo, but no news is good news.
  2. Compromise?  I really don't see one right now.  Folks I have talked to mention a combination of decentralization--provinces rule, Kabul acts as intermediary with international community and Karzai gets a golden parachute and splits.  But the real compromise that might be imaginable is a split among the various folks that make up the opposition, with some taking $$$ and positions, leaving a smaller hard core of Taliban to fight.
  3. US has no leverage over Pakistan.  US history with Pakistan is one of endless frustration.  The US depends too much on Pakistan, and they know that.  What has changed is that more Pakistanis realize that the Taliban (Pakistan's Taliban) is a significant threat, and that the Afghan variant may not be quite as useful. 
    1. Still, Pakistani military officers see Afghanistan as strategic depth, which makes absolutely no sense to me.  In a war with India, how does influencing events in Afghanistan help? It is not like Pakistan would use Afghanistan as the Soviets used the territory east of the Urals during World War II.  This concept just eludes me.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that people keep saying Afghanistan is harder than Iraq because of Pakistan.  Well, Afghanistan is probably harder for a variety of reasons--landlocked, poppies versus oil as exports, etc.  But I am not so sure having Pakistan mess around with Afghanistan and truly provide strategic depth to the Taliban (see Idean Salehyan's work on rebels and bases beyond)  is actually any worse than the role of Iran in Iraq.  The big difference I see today is that there is a nationalist backlash brewing in Iraq, even among some Shia (as Marc Lynch's tweets and blog suggest).  Still, Pakistanis are not beloved in Afghanistan either.

Xenophobia is not just a problem for the west, but for interloping neighbors as well.  Once again, I find that xenophobia has a positive side.

So, Doug, does this meet the mail?

1 comment:

doug gibler said...

Steve-- thanks again for doing this. You're getting so good at blogging, that your readers want more and more! :)

Safe travels. Pack Men at Work and Natalie Imbruglia to ease the transition.


Ps Legendary? I won't ask...