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from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: the missing piece in the Afghan jigsaw

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One year ago, I asked whether then President-elect Barack Obama's plans for Afghanistan still made sense after the Mumbai attacks torpedoed hopes of a regional settlement involving Pakistan and India. The argument, much touted during Obama's election campaign, was that a peace deal with India would convince Pakistan to turn decisively on Islamist militants, thereby bolstering the United States flagging campaign in Afghanistan.

As I wrote at the time, it had always been an ambitious plan to convince India and Pakistan to put behind them 60 years of bitter struggle over Kashmir as part of a regional solution to many complex problems in Afghanistan.  Had the Mumbai attacks pushed it out of reach? And if so, what was the fall-back plan?

One year on, there is as yet still no sign of a fall-back plan for Afghanistan and the tense relationship between India and Pakistan remains the elusive piece of the jigsaw.

After some attempts at peace-making which culminated in a meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in July, and despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's own determination to try to repair relations, the two countries have descended into mutual recrimination.

from The Great Debate:

America’s perennial Vietnam syndrome

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cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpg --  Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Prophetic words they were not. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all...The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula."

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s good war goes bad

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Bernd DebusmannIn the protracted Washington debate over the war in Afghanistan, the most concise analysis so far has come from America's top soldier: "If we don't get a level of legitimacy and governance (there), then all the troops in the world aren't going to make any difference."

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was speaking two days after Hamid Karzai was declared the winner, by default, in August elections so massively rigged that a U.N.-backed electoral complaints committee threw out about a million Karzai votes. That forced a run-off from which his challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah withdrew, saying the second round would be just as fraudulent as the first.

from UK News:

Drawing the line against the Taliban

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afghan1Fight them there or fight them here?

Former Foreign Office minister Kim Howells poses the question in the Guardian in a piece made grimly relevant by Wednesday's shooting dead of  five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman.

Howells says troops should be brought back from Afghanistan and that the billions of pounds saved should be used to beef up homeland security in Britain -- drawing the front line against al Qaeda around the UK rather than thousands of miles away in Helmand province.

from Tales from the Trail:

Victory for Karzai, minefield for Obama?

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Former President George W. Bush used to talk about the "soft bigotry of low expectations." He was talking about education in the United States.

But these days, that phrase could easily refer to the U.S. government's attitudes towards Afghanistan. Just look at the following phrases from American officials this year.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Attacking women in Pakistan

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Back in the spring, when the Pakistani Taliban still controlled the Swat valley, video footage of a girl being flogged became one of the most powerful images of their rule. The footage, shot on a mobile phone and circulated on YouTube, turned public opinion against the Taliban and helped lay the groundwork for a military offensive there.

In the latest spate of bombings sweeping Pakistan, women have again become targets.  First came the twin suicide bombing on the International Islamic University in Islamabad which included an attack on the women's canteen.  Then last week, more than 100 people were killed in the car bombing of a bazaar in Peshawar which was frequented largely by women.

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 The Great Debate:

Obama in the footsteps of George W. Bush

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Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Words of wisdom from an American leader: "The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.

from The Great Debate:

Catch-22 and the long war in Afghanistan

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Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Listening to the protracted Washington debate over the war in Afghanistan, the phrase Catch-22 comes to mind. It was the title of a best-selling 1961 satirical novel on World War II by Joseph Heller and entered the popular lexicon to denote a conundrum without a winning solution.

from Commentaries:

Shelved missile shield tests NATO unity

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foghAfter just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration's decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The shield, energetically promoted by former President George W. Bush, was designed to intercept a small number of missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue state". But Russia saw it as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent and NATO's new east European members saw it as a useful deterrent against Russian bullying, by putting U.S. strategic assets on their soil.

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