(A protester outside the White House in Washington dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Photo by Kevin Lamarque)
The United States is considering a proposal to hold foreign terrorism suspects at the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported this week, a new Guantanamo Bay just as it is trying to close down the original facility in Cuba.
Early this month Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered what military experts are saying was the final nail in the coffin of the Powell doctrine, a set of principles that General Colin Powell during his tenure as chairman laid out for the use of military force. A key element was that the military plan should employ decisive and overwhelming force in order to achieve a rapid result. A clear exit strategy must be thought through right from the beginning and the use of force must only be a last resort, Powell said, the experience of Vietnam clearly weighing on him.
U.S. military involvement overseas has deviated far from those principles since then but Mullen finally finished it off, according to Robert Haddick in this piece for Foreign Policy. The United States is faced with low-level warfare and the public must accept it as a way of life. The question no longer is whether to use military force; America’s enemies whether in Afghanistan or Iraq or Yemen have settled that issue, ensuring it remains engaged in conflict. The question is how should it use its vast power.
Gallup has a new poll out testing the mood inside Afghanistan and Pakistan and it remains downbeat. Roughly half of those surveyed in both countries said their governments were not doing enough to fight terrorism, despite the infusion of troops in Afghanistan and military offensives in Pakistan.
The dissatisfaction is even more pronounced the closer you are to the trouble spots. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed in Pakistan’s northwest, which is really the ground zero of the war against militant groups, were unhappy with the government’s efforts. Afghans were even more impatient, with some 67 percent in the east which faces Pakistan’s troubled northwest, registering their disappointment.
For those pushing for high-level political negotiations with the Afghan Taliban to bring to an end to the eight-year war, two U.S. scholars in separate pieces are suggesting a walk through recent history The United States has gone down the path of dialogue with the group before and suffered for it, believing against its own better judgement in the Taliban’s promises until it ended up with the September 11, 2001 attacks, says Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute in this article in Commentary.
Rubin, who is completing a history of U.S. engagement with rogue regimes, says unclassified U.S. State Department documents show that America opened talks with the Taliban soon after the group emerged as a powerful force in Kandahar in 1994 and well over a year before they took over Kabul. From then on it was a story of diplomats doing everything possible to remain engaged with the Taliban in the hope it would modify their behaviour, and that they would be persuaded to expel Osama bin Laden who had by then relocated from Sudan. The Taliban, on the other hand, in their meetings with U.S. diplomats, would stonewall on terrorism but would also dangle just enough hope to keep the officials calling and forestall punitive strategies.
If you have been reading news reports and blogs in recent weeks on Pakistan’s Afghanistan strategy, you would think Islamabad has emerged at the top of the heap, holding all the cards to a possible endgame. Its close ties to the Afghan Taliban put Islamabad in a unique position for a negotiated settlement to the eight-year-war, with little place for arch rival India which has been trying to muscle into its sphere of influence.
But Pakistan must not be taken in by all the hype; it has neither delivered a strategic coup nor has it fully secured its interests, argue two experts in separate pieces that seem to cut through all the noise.