The Great Debate UK

From afar, G8 seeks a handle on Afghanistan

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Luke Baker- Luke Baker is a political and general news correspondent at Reuters. -

The mountains and deserts of southern Afghanistan are far removed from the elegant charms of Trieste in northern Italy, but there will be a link between the two this weekend.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations meet in the Italian city on the Adriatic on Thursday for three days of talks, with the state of play in Afghanistan, as well as developments in Iran and the Middle East, front and centre of their agenda.

Nearly eight years and tens of billions of dollars on from the U.S.-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban, the United States and its allies appear no closer to bringing long-term stability to the country, with the Taliban resurgent throughout the south and west and the instability expanding across the border into Pakistan.

One of the major areas of unrest is Helmand, a vast desert and mountain province in the far south where around 8,000 British troops have been deployed for 3-1/2 years and 10,000 U.S. Marines are steadily being sent in as reinforcements.

Bagram lesser known – but more evil – twin of Guantanamo

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clara_gutteridge-Clara Gutteridge is renditions investigator at Reprieve. The opinions expressed are her own.-

The big surprise in Tuesday’s revelations of prisoner abuse at Bagram is how long these stories have taken to reach the international media, given the scale of the problem.

from The Great Debate:

U.S. military giant, diplomatic dwarf?

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

The U.S. armed forces, the world's most powerful, outnumber the country's diplomatic service and its major aid agency by a ratio of more than 180:1, vastly higher than in other Western democracies. Military giant, diplomatic dwarf?

from The Great Debate:

Obama honeymoon ends in Europe

Robin Shepherd

-- Robin Shepherd is Director, International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society. His areas of expertise are transatlantic relations, American foreign policy, Middle Eastern relations with the West, Russia, eastern Europe, NATO and the European Union. The views expressed are his own. --

It is to be hoped that President Obama has a developed sense of humour. The man heralded by many as the new Messiah of political renewal lands in London this week not to the chorus of approval he might have expected on his first official trip to Europe but to crowds roaring with anger and frustration at the global economic system which his country underpins.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Garrisons and force protection crowd out other objectives in Afghanistan

- 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 The Great Debate:

First 100 Days: Obama’s foreign policy challenges

Willis Sparks-- Willis Sparks is a Global Macro analyst at the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group. The views expressed are his own. --

Few things in life amused my dad more than a good karate movie. I once asked what he found so funny about Bruce Lee’s jaw-dropping display of poise and power. “Nice of the bad guys to attack him one at a time,” he said. In the real world, threats don’t arrive single-file, like jets lining up for takeoff.

from The Great Debate:

America’s long, long Afghan war

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

Twenty years ago this month, the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan after a disastrous war that lasted nine years, seven weeks and three days. Barring military and political miracles, the United States will stay longer in Afghanistan than the Soviets did. Considerably longer.

Present U.S. plans to reinforce troops fighting a war that is, by most accounts, going badly, provide for up to 30,000 additional soldiers to be deployed over the next 12 to 18 months. By that time, the U.S. presence will almost have matched the Soviets' stay and will exceed it by the end of 2010.

from The Great Debate:

Obama and the Afghan narco-state

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

To understand why the war in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, is not going well for the United States and its NATO allies, take a look at two statistics.

from The Great Debate:

Obama must redefine success in Afghanistan

Paul Taylor Great Debate-- Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Barack Obama says he will make Afghanistan the central front in his fight against terrorism but the incoming U.S. president will have to scale back the war aims he inherits from George W. Bush and redefine success.

Bush ordered the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 to oust a Taliban government that was harboring al Qaeda militants blamed for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

from The Great Debate:

Brace yourself: Political-market risks in 2009

prestonkeat-- Preston Keat is director of research at Eurasia Group, a global political risk consultancy, and author of the forthcoming book “The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investors” (with Ian Bremmer). Any views expressed are his own. For the related story, click here.

There are a number of macro risks that will continue to grab headlines in 2009, including the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, cross-border tensions and state instability in Pakistan, and Iran's 
ongoing quest to develop advanced nuclear technologies.

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