Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
In a report this month calling for faster progress on a political settlement on Afghanistan, the influential UK parliamentary foreign affairs committee was unusually critical of the dominance of the military in setting Afghan policy.
"We conclude that there are grounds for concern over the relationship between the military and politicians. We further conclude that this relationship has, over a number of years, gone awry and needs to be re-calibrated ... we believe that problems in Afghanistan highlight the need for a corresponding cultural shift within Whitehall to ensure that those charged with taking foreign policy decisions and providing vitally important political leadership are able to question and appraise military advice with appropriate vigour," it said.
During its enquiries, based on interviews with regional experts and officials, "we gained the impression that the sheer size and power of the U.S. military ensured that the U.S. military remained largely in control of U.S. Afghan policy," it added.
It also quoted former UK special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, as saying that conversations between the U.S. and British military “end up with things being pre-cooked between the U.S. and the UK militaries before they are subject to political approval back in London ..."
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Buried in the Washington Post story on Marc Grossman taking over as the new U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan are some interesting references to the possible departure of U.S. commander General David Petraeus.
"... virtually the entire U.S. civilian and military leadership in Afghanistan is expected to leave in the coming months, including Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and the embassy's other four most senior officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S.-led international coalition, and Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day-to-day military operations there," it says.
The United States is introducing tanks into the fight against the Taliban in the Afghan south for the first time since 2001, but the logic behind the move is still being hotly debated.
One of the reasons advanced is that the arrival of the M1 Abrams tank, propelled by a jet engine and armed with a 120mm gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away, is going to shake up the battlefield. “The tanks bring awe, shock and firepower,” The Washington Post quoted a senior U.S. officer based in Afghanistan as saying. “It’s pretty significant.”
from Tales from the Trail:
President Barack Obama managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
In a surprise move, he chose superstar General David Petraeus to replace General Stanley McChrystal, whose team had badmouthed just about every top civilian adviser to Obama on Afghanistan in a Rolling Stone magazine article.
And with that one decision he managed to wipe away any impression that as commander-in-chief he would allow insubordination, and he preempted any criticism that he would allow the war in Afghanistan to be without competent leadership for reasons of politics and vanity.