The missile shield and the “grand bargain” on Afghanistan and Pakistan

September 17, 2009

Back in 2008, even before Barack Obama was elected, Washington pundits were urging him to adopt a new regional approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan involving Russia, India, China, Saudi Arabia and even Iran. The basic argument was that more troops alone would not solve the problems, and that the new U.S administration needed to subsume other foreign policy goals to the interests of winning a regional consensus on stabilising Afghanistan.

It would be simplistic to suggest that the Obama administration’s decision to cancel plans to build a missile-shield in eastern Europe was motivated purely — or even primarily — by a need to seek Russian help in Afghanistan. But it certainly serves as a powerful reminder about how far that need to seek a “grand bargain” on Afghanistan may be reshaping and influencing policy decisions around the world.

“Securing Afghanistan and its region will require an international presence for many years, but only a regional diplomatic initiative that creates a consensus to place stabilizing Afghanistan ahead of other objectives could make a long-term international deployment possible,” Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid argued in their much-cited 2008 policy paper titled “From Great Game to Grand Bargain”. (pdf document).

Many of those arguments reappeared in a more recent report by the Asia Society (pdf document) — formerly chaired by U.S special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke – so they are worth studying closely.

The ideas were ambitious and far-reaching, from remapping relations between Russia and the United States, prodding India and Pakistan towards a peace deal on Kashmir, seeking help from Iran and drawing in China and Saudi Arabia.  Some of those ideas were blown off course by the financial crisis, by the row in Iran over its disputed election, and by last November’s attack on Mumbai which undermined U.S. attempts to steer India and Pakistan towards a peace deal.

And recently, they had been almost completely drowned by the media focus on military tactics and the merits of sending more troops to Afghanistan. With the U.S. decision to cancel the missile shield, one of those ideas — about seeking Russian help in Afghanistan — may have finally managed to break above the surface again.

In the case of Russia, the question was always about what price the United States was willing to pay to win Moscow’s help in Afghanistan, possibly through less ardent support for NATO aspirants Ukraine and Georgia and a review of the missile shield due to be set up in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Obama already moved to try to assuage fears in Moscow and elsewhere that the United States might be seeking a permanent military presence in Afghanistan, a long-standing concern in Russia wary of having U.S. troops in what it sees as its backyard. “Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there,” Obama said in his speech in Cairo in June

But it has been unclear how much further he might be willing to compromise to win Russia’s support for what has become widely known as “Obama’s war” in Afghanistan.

As discussed in this post, the Moscow Times spelled out what it saw as the price of Russian cooperation in Afghanistan in an op-ed published before Obama’s inauguration:

“Afghanistan may well define your foreign policy legacy the way Iraq defined Bush’s,” it said. “You will need all the support you can muster, including from Iran. You will also need Russia’s support. Moscow understands that the stability of its southern flank will hugely depend on what happens on the Hindu Kush mountain range in eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. But Moscow is torn between giving support to the West and preparing for the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The latter would mean cutting deals with the Taliban locally and relying on China strategically. You can help Russia make the right choice.”

Of course, there are many other reasons for, and consequences of, the U.S. decision on the missile shield, as discussed here and here.

But if anyone wants a steer on the likely direction of U.S. foreign policy, and its implications globally, it’s probably worth rereading Barnett Rubin’s “grand bargain” proposal from last year. Diplomacy is the art of the possible, and nobody expects the recommendations to be followed to the letter. But with Obama a considerably more cerebral president than his predecessor, the old “Read my Lips” slogan probably needs to be replaced with a new one: “Read the pdf.”

(You can also find regular updates on the progress in relations between India and Pakistan – one of the key themes of that report — on “Pakistan:Now or Never”, most recently in this post)

(Reuters photos: Girl in Afghanistan; Holbrooke, Obama)

Comments

Rajeev
This sure is Obama’s war, it is very difficult and unfortunate that Obama have to own this war. The challenge there is massive no doubt about it. Read the article below by veteran journalist Eric S. Margolis:

The Vietnam Syndrome in Afghanistan
http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArtic leNew.asp?xfile=/data/opinion/2009/Septe mber/opinion_September104.xml&section=op inion
21 SEPT 2009 KHALEEJ TIMES
” Shades of Vietnam-style ‘mission creep.’ America’s NATO allies have seen the writing on the wall in Kabul and are trying to disengage their troop contingents without infuriating Washington.”

-Rajeev, the US is loosing support, Russia is resorting to brinkmanship and the US cannot expect Russia to be a staunch ally on Afghanistan. Obama is trying level best to secure whatever logistical and political support is possible from Russia over Afghanistan. I think the US is ignoring the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. Remember controlling the cities in Afghanistan means nothing, most of the country is rural. The minorities like Uzbek, Tajik, Hazara collaborate with the US, while the Pashtuns are at war against the American might, Gen. Stanley McChrystal in a recent 66 page report argues without another 40,000 troops US will loose the war in Afghanistan. British commander has already categorically stated that the Afghan war is not winnable, it is just controllable.

“I do not see your wishes that US leave happening anytime soon nor it is advisable. They are going to train the Afghan soldiers this time to defend any unwanted foreign powers that may be drooling over Afghnaistan.
What do you think will happen to the Af-Pak region, if US leave soon?”

-I will quote the answer to your above question from Eric Margolis’s article above:
“Any student of Imperialism 101 knows that after invading a resource-rich or strategic nation you immediately put a local stooge in power, use disaffected minorities to run the government (divide and conquer), and build a native mercenary army. Such troops, commanded by white officers, were called “sepoys” in the British Indian Army and “askaris” in British ?East Africa.

America’s attempts to build an Afghan sepoy army of 250,000 have failed miserably. The 80,000 men raised to date are 95 per cent illiterate and only on the job for money to feed their families. They have no loyalty to the corrupt Western-installed government in Kabul. CIA’s 74,000 “contractors” (read mercenaries) in Afghanistan are ?more reliable.

But the biggest problem in Afghanistan, as always, is tribalism. Many of the US-raised Afghan army troops are minority Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazara who used to collaborate with the Soviets. They are scorned by the majority Pashtun tribes as enemies and traitors. These US-paid troops also know they will face death when the US and its western allies eventually ?quit Afghanistan.”

Now Rajeev your last question:
“What do you think will happen to the Af-Pak region, if US leave soon?”

-I would rather rephrase and answer your question differently. US needs a regional approach, bringing in muslim countries from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to Turkey. US needs inputs and political capital from these muslim nations rather than more troops and fire power from european allies. Unless we get to the root of the problem in Afghanistan there will be no solution. The US must give a timetable of withdrawal, reconcile the Taliban and bring them into mainstream. Now where does Pakistan stand, well in my opinion Pakistan is the wild card to stabilize Afghanistan. The world now is a global village, Indo-Pak relations affect the situation in Afghanistan too. Only a better India-Pak relationship along with a regional approach will work in Afghanistan. The situation is complex but all we need to do is to get back to basics. Understand the Afghan and muslim culture, forge better relations, help end the conflict. Leave it to muslim nations, sent in UN peacekeepers, US minimize its presence, Pakistan be taken onboard and the situation can be turned around in Afghanistan.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive
 

It is not entirely accurate to say that US is abandoning the star wars program. In fact, the US is heavily funding the Israeli “Arrow” program to build a missile shield against potential threats from Iran. Not only that, there is a growing US-India-Israel axis collaborating on such a effort. This US-Israel-India axis represents a strategic threat to not only Iran but also Pakistan if India succeeds in building a missile shield. Any success by India will force Pakistan to respond with either a missile shield of its own or to considerably enlarge missile its deployment to overwhelm Indian defenses.

 

So as I had mentioned earlier, reality is beginning to dawn. The telescope is turning towards Pakistan. Soon drones will be zeroing in on Pakistani targets to destroy Al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts. The US has openly agreed that these two organizations are not in Afghanistan, but Pakistan. I am hoping that they knock out LeT and JUD leaders as well in the bargain. The mighty Pakistani military will be holding the torch for the American drones to hit the targets.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32952295/ns/ world_news-south_and_central_asia/

India should request the US to help clean up the terrorist elements inside Pakistan. The US would not want these elements to slip into India and hurt its business interests.

 

U.S. says Pakistan, Iran helping Taliban

Remarks from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, are the first in months on the sensitive issue.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/ world/la-fg-afghan-spies22-2009sep22,0,3 144734.story

Posted by ANdy | Report as abusive
 

The U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says he has evidence that factions of Pakistani and Iranian spy services are supporting insurgent groups that carry out attacks on coalition troops.

McChrystal went on to single out Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency as well as the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as contributing to the external forces working to undermine U.S. interests and destabilize the government in Kabul.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/ world/la-fg-afghan-spies22-2009sep22,0,3 144734.story

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive
 

US eyes more drone hits on terror havens in Pakistan

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/arti cle/ALeqM5iqyaFh_efr-brDq0rMLF1hkop0tgD9 ARVHGO0

Posted by ANdy | Report as abusive
 

Guys,
Could we (world) expect a peace from such a state… lol now its India and Afghanistan who created Taliban… hmmm why is pakistan still alive, if so !!!!

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn -content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/13+i ndia+afghanistan+supporting+militants+in +pakistan-za-03

Posted by raagzy | Report as abusive
 

@Myra,

Andy said

“US eyes more drone hits on terror havens in Pakistan

The U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says he has evidence that factions of Pakistani and Iranian spy services are supporting insurgent groups that carry out attacks on coalition troops.

McChrystal went on to single out Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency as well as the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as contributing to the external forces working to undermine U.S. interests and destabilize the government in Kabul.

- Posted by ANdy ”

–>It seems that the U.S. is being lied to and played like a fiddle by Pak State Agencies again, and again and again… I personally predicted this months and weeks ago on numerous posts. How can dialogue be possible with a neighbor that keeps lying through its teeth Myra? Pakistan is incapable of being sincere on following through with peace. Pakistan only intends to use “peace” as a means to siphon more cash and AID to build its weapons complex.

Sure Pakistan wants “peace” and it will use peace to keep upgrading its nukes and fueling jihadi’s to cross the LOC into India and foment agitation in Kashmir.

General McChrystal also exposes the Iranian government trying to undermine the U.S. mission.

It is absolutely critical that the U.S. and allies greatly increase the troop levels in Afghanistan and now is the time to bring Russia into the picture, since they helped create this mess, they should commit troops to rectify it and the European missile shield should be taken away from Easter Block countries and pointed towards Iran and other terrorist rogue nations.

Starting relations again with Pakistan of any kind are not in the interest of India as India has nothing to gain and Pakistan repeatedly uses the guise of “peace” talks as a means to stall and inflict more damage on the U.S. mission and India.

The U.S. should start to single out and possible even drone the so-called “lower-level” Pak State Agency operatives who operate in the shadows and are subverting the Af-Pak mission. As in any situation, the so-called lower levels are always blamed and even sacrificed, when in fact the trail always leads to the top.

Myra, mark my words. While you suggest reconciliation and friendship on all levels, to wash away the angst of the past between India and Pakistan, I will be right again and again and Pakistan will continually disappoint, come short and never hold its end of the bargain. Every kind or peaceful overture act by India will be reciprocated with more Mumbai’s and no good deed goes unpunished.

As long as the Pak Army has the grip on Pakistan and the civilian population, peace and reconciliation with Pakistan will never be possible, not in a million years.

The citizens of Pakistan themselves, must remove the Army from power, through democratic means, or their own will. The Pak Army is not serving the citizens of Pakistan, but its own selfish interests. The U.S. has continually failed to realize this and keeps getting lied to in return and U.S. soldiers keep dying.

It is time for a huge Military strategy shift from Afghanistan towards Pakistan and physically corner Pakistan’s Rogue State Agencies and those who give them orders.

State of Pakistan is and will always be complicit with terrorism, in its current form and structure.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive
 
 

Umair:
@Unless we get to the root of the problem in Afghanistan there will be no solution.
—true.

@ I would rather rephrase and answer your question differently. US needs a regional approach, bringing in muslim countries from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to Turkey. US needs inputs and political capital from these muslim nations rather than more troops and fire power from european allies.
– “regional approach” –YES. muslim countries?—NO. same mistake as imposing American democracy in Afghanistan.
Turkey: not even a Muslim nation; it is a secular democracy like India. Pakistan: yet to settle down on a political system—democracy/dictatorship cycle. Saudis: No one’s role model, if you check with regional experts—they are good when one needs money in exchange of wahhabism, so alien to Afghnistan. Also, Iran and Turkey both are in a different group than Saudis/Pakistan—supporting Northern Alliance. The need is to listen to the scholars/experts of the region —those who know the culture of Afghanistan and the local leaders of Afgh/warlords. All the neighboring countries of Afghanistan need to sit down over this. Also will be involved countries like India who have been and have been rebuilding Afghanistan.

Muslim card played by Zia in 1979-89 anti-Soviet campaign is the reason for today’s problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Zia forbade support to any Afghan nationalist groups and gave support only to those fighting in the name of Allah only. Since these Mujahideens could be switched on by the call of Jihad, they were brught under “Taliban” label (B Bhuuto time)which for short-term was good to control the civil war; but in long-term has been a disaster for everyone after alliance with terrorists. The sponsors of the Taliban and benefiters were Muslim nations Pakistan/Saudis/UAE.

@The US must give a timetable of withdrawal, reconcile the Taliban and bring them into mainstream.”
–Time is not ripe for giving a timetable. Who are Taliban? The staunch supporters of Mullah Omar tribe are not fit for rehabilitation and they need to be blown away like Budha statues. Then there are Pashtuns who need money or are forced by Taliban—they need to be turned into Lashkars (danger though). How to decide good and bad guys is always a problem.

@Now where does Pakistan stand, well in my opinion Pakistan is the wild card to stabilize Afghanistan.”
–If history is the proof, Pakistan has destabilized Afghanistan. I am talking about ISI-Taliban/Taliban hosting A-Q times and terrorist camps running and ISI having gala time. Pakistani paranoia of India at that time was the reason for promoting Taliban as foreign policy tools, and the paranoia has not gone away, so why would Pakistan quit the old strategies is unknown.

@“Leave it to muslim nations, sent in UN peacekeepers, US minimize its presence, Pakistan be taken onboard and the situation can be turned around in Afghanistan.”
–Leaving to Muslim nations is a bad idea, as I said. Country’s survival is at stake, not Islam’s. Scholars/analysts who know Afghanistan culture are needed—Muslim or not. US stays, UN peacekeepers come in to engage the Afghans, get the big guys and process continues. US/Brits with help from Russia—all 3 with experience in the region will be helpful. Afghans people are to be taken in confidence and that will come with visible rebuilding and other strategies–rebuilding the country, schools etc—something for the common man is the way to go. Pakistan is onboard since 9/11.
@ America’s attempts to build an Afghan sepoy army of 250,000 have failed miserably…..95 per cent illiterate and only on the job for money to feed their families. They have no loyalty to the corrupt Western-installed government in Kabul.”
–This is not over yet. It is asking too much/too early in that region. US had no option–except to install a govt or else a dictator—people are not in the picture in either case—it takes time—Pakistan knows it. Corruption is omnipresent and does not bring down a country. Elections failure is no surprise, the efforts will continue and one must expect that most will fail and some succeed; Karzai’s history and the choices he made over last 30yrs tell that he is not a puppet; it takes time there cannot be a perfect system in place; he is not someone who lived in the West and implanted here. He has lived among people at the worst times and is good for reconciliation, which he did with Northern Alliance before 9/11 to get several pashtun groups/Northern Alliance together working against barbaric Anti-taliban—all collapsed after NA chief Ahmed Mahsoud was assassinated by Taliban/A-Q. Karzai was given the choice to represent Taliban abroad—essentially be a puppet– by ISI/Taliban during the peak of Taliban, which he ridiculed since Taliban at that time was synonym with Al-qaida not a genuine Pashtun version.

Despite all the regional, tribal culture, a national level govt is needed—whatever form. Representation if all is needed. The Jirga culture and local committees can continue where they could be, Times have changed and so will Afghanistan has to.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

kp singh said:

“So as I had mentioned earlier, reality is beginning to dawn. The telescope is turning towards Pakistan. Soon drones will be zeroing in on Pakistani targets to destroy Al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts. The US has openly agreed that these two organizations are not in Afghanistan, but Pakistan. I am hoping that they knock out LeT and JUD leaders as well in the bargain. The mighty Pakistani military will be holding the torch for the American drones to hit the targets.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32952295/ns/ world_news-south_and_central_asia/

India should request the US to help clean up the terrorist elements inside Pakistan. The US would not want these elements to slip into India and hurt its business interests.
- Posted by kp singh :

–>The civilized world hopes that the U.S smashes every inch of ground in Pakistan that houses terrorism and soil that is used for Proxy Army terrorism against India.

Let not one inch of Pak Soil be unscathed, scorched or undroned, where it be militants, their trainers, supporters and nurturers.

Posted by G Lobal Wa tcher | Report as abusive
 

“Leave it to muslim nations, sent in UN peacekeepers, US minimize its presence, Pakistan be taken onboard and the situation can be turned around in Afghanistan.”

–>The entire civilized world is doomed, if we leave things to anybody other than democratic nations. Pakistan is the reason that Afghanistan has stayed so behind the Taliban, who the U.S. is fighting right now.

Posted by Globa L Watcher | Report as abusive
 

Pak blogger:

“Unless we get to the root of the problem in Afghanistan there will be no solution. ”

–>The root of the problem is a repressive, expansionist Sunni Wahhabi and the double dealing lying Pak Punjabi Mafia. These two things mixed with tribal life, creates the problems we have today. But one has to remember, tribalism was always there.

The Saudi masters give money to build madrassas in pakistan and all over Europe, you Punjabi’s give training, support and weapons to build proxy armies like Taliban and Kashmir proxy armies.

Pak’s can’t keep blaming the war on communism for militantism, that war only lasted 8 years. Pakistan state agencies kept on weaponizing Jihadi armies for almost 21 years after the Soviets left, so that soviet/communism/america excuse is a hollow and useless one, and it does not wash any more.

The rest of the democratic societies want to live in peace, co-operate and pursue happiness in the manner that suites them the best in a manner that is non-religiously motivated, as this creates the greatest human harmony and peace amongst people of different races and religions.

The basic things that ALL societies enjoy today, farming methods, access to medicine and vaccines, cars, airplanes, computers and engineering and science that improve everyday life..all of these things in every country have been conceived by democratic, secular and plural societies.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive
 

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery “Responsibility for our
Common Future” Address to the United Nations General Assembly
President Barack Obama
New York, NY
September 23, 2009

http://www.unausa.org/Document.Doc?id=47 1

“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, we – and many nations here – are helping those governments develop the capacity to take the lead in this effort, while working to
advance opportunity and security for their people.”
“We will stand by our friends on the front
lines, as we and many nations will do in pledging support for the Pakistani people
tomorrow.”

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive
 

India should allow US/Israel/Russia to build and operate bases from India so peace loving world can be ready for a third world war possibility from rogue nations like Pakistan, Iran, leaders with nations not recognized by UN like SWAT Valley of Taliban, FATA of AlQuaeda, PoK of LeT, N Korea, Bangladesh etc. I hope world leaders read my suggestion and act accordingly. Are you listening Mr Putin, Mr Obama, Mr Peres. Would you fulfill your duty as leaders of today’s world?

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive
 

Sammer

Pakistan is going after wrong terrorists: US

Don’t you find it amusing. Now we have right terrorist and wrong terrorist.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive
 

Rohit, you said:

“India should allow US/Israel/Russia to build and operate bases from India so peace loving world can be ready for a third world war possibility from rogue nations like Pakistan, Iran, leaders with nations not recognized by UN like SWAT Valley of Taliban, FATA of AlQuaeda, PoK of LeT, N Korea, Bangladesh etc. I hope world leaders read my suggestion and act accordingly. Are you listening Mr Putin, Mr Obama, Mr Peres. Would you fulfill your duty as leaders of today’s world?
- Posted by Rohit ”

–>Rohit, you are completely right. Misuse of the good religion of Islam by Pak Army for political reasons and to justify attrocities was responsible for genocides against Hindus during partition, proxy wars against India and Genocide of 3 million Bengalis.

Hypothetically, if Pakistan ever got Indian Kashmir, the Pak Army would surely continue its slaughterous genocide against millions of more hindus there, to ethnically cleanse it for muslims only. Hindus were extreminated there like cockroaches. They won’t stop there, they will continue on a rampage for all of northern India, that was Gen. Niazi, the 1971 Pak generals’s plan all along, to Genocide dozens of Millions, of Hindus to make room for muslims. Pakistan has no plan for real lasting peace with anybody.

It is not just for that reason, but for 911, Mumbai and the GLobal terrorism in all civilized western nations that Israel, Russia, U.S. and India must form a solid security pact and a unified military response plan to police and school rogue nations in proper behavior.

With regards to WWIII, I hope that never arrives. It will surely start with Pakistan. Pakistan will start WWIII and attempt to take India by surprise. Many military experts and analysts have forcasted that Pak establishment may have plans to do that at some point, given their past military history and subsequent failures. They started all past 3 wars, are still unrepentant for them, yet have the gall to want to even the score with India.

Many think a nuclear Iran is a threat to the world, perhaps it is, especially to Israel, the much bigger threat to the security of the world is Pakistan, because its establishment from the top down, cannot be trusted, as it has shown time and time against to be liars, double dealers, and following their own agenda to continually weaponize gainst India, using International Aid, Military Aid and IMF funds, while the average Pakistani starves.

On that basis, Pakistan should be put in the same category as North Korea.

The superpowers have to put their differences aside and do the right thing with regards to North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.

India is busy putting probes into the moon and Pakistan is busy wasting their energy strategizing more terrorism against India and how to fool the western powers.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive
 

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