Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pakistan - Afghanistan Predictions

It is a bit disturbing to realize that I can take Ian Bremmer's December 2007 comments on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and reproduce them right here verbatim and they apply just as much to what to expect in 2009 as they accurately anticipated what played out in 2008:

"The bigger related problem is actually in Afghanistan, where existing international forces will prove incapable of doing much more than maintaining the security of president Hamid Karzai and a select number of additional government forces. Tribal leaders in both Pakistan and Afghanistan will quickly learn that the calculus for their political advantage is solidly on the side of Islamic radicals. Short of significant additional NATO funding and troop commitments on the ground by spring--when the snow clears and mountain passes are again traversable--that will lead to a significant spike in terrorist violence both in Afghani and Pakistani urban centers and, longer term, internationally."

I'll leave it at that. TWR readers are invited to read other posts in the December 2007 archive and test the veracity of the predictions against events.

Nicholas Gvosdev,

Your scepticism about the 'league of democracies' idea looked cogent a year ago, and looks just as cogent now.

It has also become increasingly plain that attempting to place too much reliance on traditional democratic allies actually threatens relations with those allies.

Quite patently, senior British military as well as diplomatic figures do not share Osama's relative optimism about Afghanistan -- any more than does British opinion in general. So the British authorities face a quandary.

It is very difficult for them to justify to a sceptical public the sight of more body bags coming back from Afghanistan in a war in they do not themselves believe: but they are terrified that refusing U.S. requests for additional help and a more aggressive treatment of the Taliban will call into question for what for most of them is the holy of holies -- the Atlantic Alliance.

Having lucidly outlined the problem in a recent article, the veteran commentator Max Hastings, who has excellent military contacts, concluded glumly:

'US pressure on Gordon Brown is likely to be increased by the fact that most Nato leaders will reject Obama's appeals for extra troops. Because the British are engaged more deeply than any other ally, the new president will expect correspondingly more from us.

'We cannot walk off the set unless we wish to pay the price of being seen by the American people, as well as by their government, to betray the Atlantic alliance. Only if or when Obama decides that the game is not worth the candle will the boys come home.'


But the likely effect of this situation, over time, will be to make more and more people in the U.S. disposed to think that the U.K. is an unreliable ally; and make more and more people in the U.K. disposed to think heretical thoughts about the actual worth to us of the so-called 'special relationship'.

All this could be avoided if American policymakers built on the simple fact that a whole range of regimes they may not particularly like have common interests with the U.S. over Afghanistan. In particular, both the Putin/Medvedev regime in Russia and that of the Shiite clerics in Tehran have every possible reason not to want to see Afghanistan and the tribal areas on the borders between it and Pakistan become a safe haven for Sunni jihadists.
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