Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

“Vietnam the war” back in the frame after Afghanistan

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 For many, Vietnam has always been two things – a war and a country. Since probably the mid-1990s, though, when Washington and Hanoi established diplomatic relations, the balance — in terms of headlines at least — started to tip decisively toward “Vietnam the country”.

 

Vietnam’s economic transition and integration with the world has, indeed, made for some decent reading. So it’s been interesting to note since moving to Hanoi a few months ago the strong comeback that “Vietnam the war” has made in the form of articles about Afghanistan and the Obama presidency.

 

 In February, Newsweek ran a cover story called Afghanistan “Obama’s Vietnam“. Other examples are plentiful.

 

This is not a new phenomenon. Pundits slapped the Vietnam label on the Soviet Union’s fateful foray into Afghanistan in the 1970s and 80s. The Wall Street Journal recently (and with some sarcasm, one suspects) labeled it “reductio ad Vietnam” – “That’s the view that every U.S. military action lasting more than the flight time of a cruise missile is likely to descend into a bloody, stalemated, morally and politically intolerable Sartrean nightmare”.

Keeping an eye on the Taliban

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By Jonathon Burch
 
“Contact at Woqab. They’ve made contact,” says Devos calmly before running to the edge of the rooftop to have a better look into the distance with his binoculars.

“What do you mean they’ve made “contact”?” I ask, trying to see where his binoculars are pointed. “Small arms fire at Woqab,” he says pointing beyond a line of trees in the distance. Suddenly I feel exposed, standing in the open, three storeys off the ground.
 
The place is Musa Qala in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province and Devos is a 26-year-old soldier from Nepal serving in the British Army’s 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles. His job is to man the lookout on top of the British base inside the district centre, about a 30-minute helicopter flight across the desert from Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

How will Obama tackle militants in Pakistan?

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Read President Barack Obama's speech on his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and compare it to what he said a year ago and it's hard to see how much further forward we are in understanding exactly how he intends to uproot Islamist militants inside Pakistan.

Last year, Obama said that "If we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot." Last week, he said that, "Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders.  And we will insist that action be taken -- one way or another -- when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama takes Afghan war to Pakistan

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U.S. President Barack Obama set out his strategy to fight the war in Afghanistan on Friday, committing 4,000 military trainers and many more civillian personnel to the country, increasing military and financial aid to stabilise Pakistan and signalling that the door for reconciliation was open in Afghanistan for those who had taken to arms because of coercion or for a price.

He said the situation was increasingly perilous, with 2008 the bloodiest year for American forces in Afghanistan. But the United States  was determined to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan", he said, warning that attacks on the United States were being plotted even now.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Garrisons and force protection crowd out other objectives in Afghanistan

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- Joshua Foust is a defense consultant who has just spent the last 10 weeks embedded with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He also blogs at Registan.net. Any opinions expressed are his own. -

It is a cliché that, in counterinsurgency, one must be among "the people". In Iraq, the U.S. Army did this to great effect under the leadership of General David Petraeus, moving large numbers of soldiers off the enormous bases and into smaller, community-oriented security outposts. As a result, in densely populated urban areas like Baghdad, an active presence of troops played a significant role in calming the worst of the violence. The Western Coalition forces in Afghanistan, however, face an altogether different problem. Kabul is not Baghdad - far less of Afghanistan's population lives there than in Iraq, and the insurgency is concentrated outside the country's largest urban areas. In many urban areas-Herat in the west, Jalalabad in the east, Mazar-i Sharif in the north-a westerner is far safer in the city itself than out in the countryside.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Talking to the Taliban and the last man standing

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The debate about whether the United States should open talks with Afghan insurgents appears to be gathering momentum -- so much so that it is beginning to acquire an air of inevitability, without there ever being a specific policy announcement.

The U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, became the latest to call for talks when he told France's Le Monde newspaper that reconciliation was an essential element.  "But it is important to talk to the people who count," he said. "A fragmented approach to the insurgency will not work. You need to be ambitious and include all the Taliban movement."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Has Pakistan become the central front?

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In a report released late last month, the U.S. Atlantic Council think tank warned that the ramifications of state failure in Pakistan would be far graver than those in Afghanistan, with regional and global impact. "With nuclear weapons and a huge army, a population over five times that of Afghanistan and with an influential diaspora, Pakistan now seems less able, without outside help, to muddle through its challenges than at any time since its war with India in 1971."

The report, co-sponsored by Senator John Kerry and urging greater U.S. aid, said time was running out to stabilise Pakistan, with action required within months. It's not even been two weeks since that report was released, and already events in Pakistan have taken a dramatic turn for the worse - from the confrontation between President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to Tuesday's attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan under siege: cricket becomes a target

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"Everything is officially going to hell." The verdict of a reader quoted by All Things Pakistan said perhaps better than anyone else why the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore marked a defining moment in Pakistan's agonising descent into chaos.

Six Sri Lankan cricketers and their British assistant coach were wounded when gunmen attacked their bus as it drove under police escort to the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore.  Five policemen were killed.

Best reads of February

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Exotic animals trapped in net of Mexican drug trade - From the live snakes that smugglers stuff with packets of cocaine to the white tigers drug lords keep as exotic pets, rare animals are being increasingly sucked into Mexico’s deadly narcotics trade.

End of an era for the Amazon’s turbulent priests - They avoid taking buses, make sure friends know their schedules, and rarely go out when it’s dark. For the three foreign-born Roman Catholic bishops under death threat in Brazil’s northeastern state of Para, speaking out against social ills that plague this often-lawless area at the Amazon River’s mouth has come at a price.

Colombia – a model for U.S. dealings wtih Afghanistan?

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After more than seven years of U.S.-financed fumigation and eradication, Colombia is still producing at least 600 tonnes of cocaine a year. The U.N. estimated this month that coca leaf used to produce the drug covered 27 percent more land in 2007 than a year earlier. Violence from Colombia’s guerrilla war may have fallen sharply thanks to Washington’s funds, but the success of the anti-narcotics portion of the U.S. program is far less clear.

Now U.S. officials are touting their lessons in dealing with Colombian guerrillas as a possible model for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and the poppy harvests and opium that help fuel that conflict.  Can the U.S. really claim success against Colombia’s coca trade and what if anything from Colombia can be applied to Afghanistan’s war?

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