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from Expert Zone:

The crisis in Iraq and an Afghanistan prognosis

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has rampaged through western Iraq. A few thousand kilometres away in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is withdrawing, with Americans contemplating less than 10,000 troops on ground.

The Iraqi and Afghan landscapes have festering ethnic and sectarian divides in common. In Iraq, the ISIL has crafted one of the best success stories for radical Islamists in recent history. Is a similar manoeuvre on the cards in Afghanistan?

The genesis of the crisis in Iraq has its roots in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s reluctance in exercising inclusive governance. The Kurds, 17 percent of the population, remained at the periphery - only to become more and more assertive. Further, Maliki never really made the effort required to draw Sunnis, who make up approximately 30 percent of the population, into the fold.

In Afghanistan, ethnic faultlines have proven, historically, more difficult to negotiate than sectarian divides. However, the Afghan parliament has a fair representation of ethnic groups. The army, though dominated by the Pashtuns and Tajiks, is quite representative.

from Expert Zone:

An Indian pivot in Afghanistan after troop drawdown

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Notwithstanding Afghan President Hamid Karzai's disinclination to participate in talks, the Taliban retain the ability to calibrate violence levels in large parts of the country. But even if an understanding is reached with the Taliban, it does not hold the promise of lasting peace. Breakaway factions will find support and funding to continue bloodletting.

It is necessary to take stock of Kabul's problems and find strong regional partners as anchors in unison with the depleted NATO/American establishment after the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) drawdown. Kabul's foremost problem is fielding well-trained forces. The ISAF has apparently reached the numbers it had set as its target but the forces fail to inspire confidence. Continued intensive training is required.

from Expert Zone:

U.S.-Afghan agreement: Issues to be addressed

(The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The draft strategic partnership agreement between the U.S. and Kabul to address their relationship after the completion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdrawal in 2014 has been arrived at after negotiations. The draft addresses the issues for ten years beyond 2014. A scrutiny of Afghan forces and the challenges they face highlights issues that merit inclusion in the agreement.

from Afghan Journal:

U.S. troops walk a dangerous line in Arghandab

A member of the U.S. Army's explosive ordinance disposal unit scans the area around a burning M-ATV armored vehicle after it struck an improvised explosive device (IED) near Combat Outpost Nolen. Pic by Bob Strong, Reuters

A member of the U.S. Army's explosive ordinance disposal unit scans the area around a burning M-ATV armored vehicle after it struck an improvised explosive device (IED) near Combat Outpost Nolen. Pic by Bob Strong, Reuters

The walk to besieged U.S. Combat Outpost Nolen is only 700 metres in a straight line, but for the soldiers who walk it every day it is an extraordinary feat of fitness and defeating their own fear in one of Afghanistan’s riskiest front lines.

from Afghan Journal:

A view from the machine gun

(2nd Lt Matthew Bennet with U.S. C Troop 1-71 CAV chats with villagers during a night patrol in the village of Gorgan on June 25, 2010. Pic by Denis Sinyakov, Reuters)

(2nd Lt Matthew Bennet with U.S. C Troop 1-71 CAV chats with villagers during a night patrol in Gorgan on June 25, 2010. Pic by Denis Sinyakov, Reuters)

By Michael Georgy

An American Lieutenant was doing his best to reassure villagers in the Afghan heartland Taliban Province that U.S. soldiers would protect them from the Taliban, after a roadside bomb killed a father and son who were driving home on a motorcycle. On patrol he asked several people whether they felt safe, and said they should not hesitate to contact the Americans, located a few hundred metres away in their camp.

from Afghan Journal:

Reporting on the Afghan war: Lies and Truths

An U.S. Army soldier takes photos of the eyes of an Afghan man at a checkpoint near of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Tillman November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

A U.S. soldier takes photos of the eyes of an Afghan man at a checkpoint near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Tillman, Afghanistan, November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

"How can you live with your conscience reporting Taliban propaganda?"

This is what a senior German general for the NATO-led force asked my colleague at a recent meeting at the alliance's headquarters in Kabul, where a few journalists were invited to speak to top brass, including the overall commander, General Stanley McChrystal, about improving relations with the media. The question was echoed by others in the room.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan: the 20-year war?

America is in Afghanistan for the long haul and the sooner it tells its people the better it would be for its own sake, says top U.S. military scholar Anthony Cordesman in a study published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Warning that the United States faced a crisis in the field, Cordesman says Washington has no choice but to commit more troops, more resources and time to stop the haemorrhaging. And even if the Taliban/al Qaeda momentum is decisively reversed in 2009/2010, this is a war that will last into the next presidency.

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