Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Afghan Journal:

Afghanistan: neither Vietnam nor Iraq, but closer home perhaps

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AFGHANISTAN/

[Women at a cemetery in Kabul, picture by Reuters' Ahmad Masood]

As U.S. President Barack Obama makes up his mind on comitting more troops to Afghanistan, the search for analogies continues. Clearly, Afghanistan cannot be compared with Vietnam or Iraq  beyond a point. The history, geography, the culture and the politics are just too different.

The best analogy to Afghanistan may well the very area in dispute - the rugged Pashtun lands straddling the border with Pakistan and where  the Pakistani army is in the middle of an offensive, argues William Tobey in a piece for Foreign Policy.

Tobey, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfar Center and who served on the National Security Council staff under three U.S. presidents, takes a walk down history to the 1936 uprising against British rule in Waziristan.

The rebels were driven by radical Islam, Pashtun nationalism and armed opportunism, much the same factors firing up the modern Taliban campaign.  

from Afghan Journal:

Denying Afghanistan to al Qaeda; is that really the key ?

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AFGHANISTAN/Much of the rationale for the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan has to do with making sure that it doesn't become a haven for militant groups once again. As President Barack Obama weighs U.S. and NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal's recommendation for 40,000 more troops at a time of fading public support for the war in Afghanistan, some people are questioning the basic premise that America must remain militarily committed there so that al Qaeda doesn't creep back under the protection of the Taliban.

Richard N.Haass, the president of the Council for Foreign Relations, kicked off the debate this month, arguing that al Qaeda didn't really "require Afghan real estate to constitute a regional or global threat". Terrorists head to areas of least resistance, and if it is not Afghanistan, they will choose other unstable countries such as Somalia or Yemen, if it hasn't  happened already, he argues. And the United States cannot conceivably secure all the terrorist havens in the world.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan, Pakistan and … all the other countries involved

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have questioned before the value of the "AfPak" label, which implies that an incredibly complicated situation involving many different countries can be reduced to a five-letter word.

Having spent the last couple of days trying to make sense of the suicide bomb attack in Iran which Tehran blamed on Jundollah, an ethnic Baluchi, Sunni insurgent group it says has bases in Pakistan,  I'm more inclined than ever to believe the "AfPak" label blinds us to the broader regional context. Analysts argue that Jundollah has been heavily influenced by hardline Sunni sectarian Islamist thinking within Pakistan which is itself the product of 30 years of proxy wars in the region dating back to the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan towards the end of the same year.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Attack in Iran: What are the links to Pakistan?

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A week after suspected Sunni Islamist insurgents attacked the headquarters of the Pakistan Army, a suicide bomber killed six senior Revolutionary Guards commanders and 25 other people in Shi'ite Iran in one of the deadliest attacks in years on the country's most powerful military institution.

Were these two events connected only by the loose network of Sunni insurgent groups based in and around Pakistan? Or are there other common threads that link the two?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

It’s still the economy, stupid, in Pakistan

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A few weeks ago I asked a Pakistani diplomat what was, among the multiple threats facing the country, the single biggest challenge?

It wasn't al Qaeda or the Taliban, it wasn't the United States as many Pakistanis believe. And it wasn't even India, for long the existential threat the military and succeeding generations of politicians have invested blood and treasure to checkmate.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Attack in Rawalpindi: are Pakistan’s militant groups uniting?

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An attack on the headquarters of the Pakistan Army in the city of Rawalpindi has highlighted the country's vulnerability to a backlash from Islamist militants in the Pakistani Taliban as it prepares an offensive against their stronghold in South Waziristan. It follows a suicide bombing in Peshawar which prompted Interior Minister Rehman Malik to say that "all roads are leading to South Waziristan."

But what is perhaps more troubling about the attack is not so much the backlash from the Pakistani Taliban (the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP)  holed up in the Waziristan tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, but rather suggestions of growing co-operation between al Qaeda-linked groups there and those based in Punjab, the heartland of Pakistan.

Southeast Asia’s Islamists try the domino theory

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Photo: Jihad book collection in Jakarta Sept.21, 2009. REUTERS/Supr

A half-century ago, Washington worried about Southeast Asian nations falling like dominoes to an international communist movement backed by Maoist China, and became bogged down in the Vietnam War.

Noordin Top, believed to be the mastermind behind most of the suicide bombings in Indonesia — including the July 17 attacks on two luxury Jakarta hotels — pronounced himself to be al Qaeda’s franchise in Southeast Asia.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan, still the new Vietnam ?

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Try hard as you can, there doesn't seem to be any escaping from comparing America's eight-year war in Afghanistan to the one it fought in Vietnam.

Every now and then, either when there is a fresh setback or a key moment in Afghanistan's turbulent history, like last week when it went to the polls to choose a president, the debate flares anew.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Targeted killings inside Pakistan — are they working?

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The death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a U.S. Predator strike last week - now considered a certainty by U.S. and Pakistani security officials - and subsequent reports of fighting among potential successors would seem to justify the strategy of taking out top insurgent leaders

The Taliban are looking in disarray and fighting among themselves to find a successor to Mehsud, the powerful leader of the Tehrik-e- Taliban  Pakistan, the umbrella group of militant groups in the northwest, if Pakistani intelligence reports are any indication. Top Taliban commanders have since sought to deny any rift, but they certainly look more on the defensive than at any time in recent months.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the domino theory

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In the eight years since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, political pundits have used, and largely overused, all the available historical references. We have had the comparisons to the British 19th century failures there, to the Great Game, and to the Soviet Union's disastrous experience in the 1980s. More recently, it has been labelled "Obama's Vietnam".

The latest leitmotif is the domino theory - the view that Vietnam had to be saved from communism or other Asian countries would go the same way.  In the case of Afghanistan, the argument is that if it falls to the Taliban, then Pakistan too might become vulnerable - an infinitely more dangerous proposition given that it is a country of some 170 million people with nuclear bombs.

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