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Possible Shifts in AfPak


On Pakistan policy, credit where credit is due: the Obama administration has found the stones to respond to evidence of systemic and brazen bad faith on the part of our Pakistani “allies” and show their displeasure by witholding $ 800 million dollars in aid from Islamabad. There are already squeals of Pakistani unhappiness at this modest decrease of aid that all too frequently gets diverted to preparing to make war on India or, for that matter, on American soldiers and Marines. Former dictator General Pervez Musharraf, who cannot go back home to Rawalpindi for fear his brother officers will assassinate him, told a well appointed crowd in Houston that the aid cut “will be disastrous….if Pakistan is weakened, how will it fight terrorism?“.

Cynics might note that we could replace “fight” with “fund” in the former Pakistani ruler’s question and achieve greater historical accuracy.

On Afghanistan, it might be advisable for the new American commander, Lieutenant General John Allen, in carrying out his extremely difficult mission of “Afghanization” and “punitive raiding” the Taliban, to first ponder history and  “Remember Herat“.

In 1979, before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the entire garrison of Soviet advisers in Herat was slaughtered, including the dependent women and children, by an angry mob that was aided by the local Afghan Communist Army units who, led by Ismail Khan, conveniently revolted and turned on their Russian allies. If British military history is more to Lt. General Allen’s taste, the Afghans massacred British garrisons in Kabul twice in the 19th century, Major Cavagnari’s in 1878 and that of Sir William McNaghten and Sir Alexander Burnes in 1841, though most of the British died to all but the last man on the retreat to Jalalabad in 1842.

The cape wearing, election-stealing, lotus-eater whom we thanklessly prop up, may be more incompetent than Nur Mohammed Taraki and less legitimate a client than Shah Shuja, but he has a demonstrated talent for inciting anti-western violence exceeded only by his enterprise in looting aid money. Is crazy Karzai above lighting a match to a tense situation the US military itself has already described as a “rapidly growing systemic threat“? Not in my view.

When the American drawdown begins in earnest, General Allen will need to watch the backs of his troops


Ahmed Wali Karzai, the notorious fixer and feared enforcer of the Afghan regime and the brother of President Hamid Karzai was assassinated today. The Taliban claimed credit, but AWK has too many enemies to be certain yet.

13 Responses to “Possible Shifts in AfPak”

  1. Mercutio Says:

    Rather than invade Iraq or conduct a "Global War on Terror," the American response to 9/11 should have focused directly and exclusively on Pakistan from the beginning.  IMHO, it is now far to late to correct this error.

  2. zen Says:

    Hi Mercutio,
    On your first part, agreed!
    On your second, better late than never. If nothing else, the USG needs to get off autopilot where aid money flows to Islamabad regards of what they do or don’t do.

  3. davidbfpo Says:

    On the historical aspects of ‘the Afghans massacred British garrisons in Kabul’ you are rather imprecise. In 1841 The garrison left Kabul after an agreement with the Afghan state, the tribes along the way didn’t agree and massacred the Imperial force. Best described in ‘Kabul Catastrophe; The Retreat of 1842’ by Patrick Macrory (Pub. OUP 1986). 
    In 1878 there was no British garrison in Kabul, it was a small diplomatic protection detachment for a British envoy (from the Guides Regiment) and was attacked after two Afghan Army regiments – from Herat – had not been paid and thought the envoy could pay them. Very short reference: http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/indiancampaigns/residency.htm

  4. davidbfpo Says:

    Adding the last link curtailed more text.
    What is fascinating and newly learnt was that the role of Herat regiments in 1878 and the possible continuity to the ‘massacre’ of Soviet advisers in 1979.
    To 1979 though, you cited ‘In 1979, before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the entire garrison of Soviet advisers in Herat was slaughtered, including the dependent women and children, by an angry mob that was aided by the local Afghan Communist Army units..’
    This massacre has been exaggerated and a respected UK diplomat has written recently:  Although the Western press and some Western historians continued to maintain that up to a hundred Soviet citizens were massacred, the total number of Soviet casualties in  Herat seems to have been no more than three. They appear to have had no influence on the decisions which the Soviet government then took.’
    Yes remember Herat and Afghan history. I think these observations improve the picture General Allen has to consider.


  5. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Mercutio, .Agree on Iraq (although there was more at play than the threat of terror). .I’m not sure how we cold have focused on Pakistan without including Afghanistan..Zen, I surely hope we don’t pursue a war in Pakistan—even though they are not our allies and have been repeatedly been duplicitous. To what end would such a war persist? Surely we have learned the cultural lesson in Afghanistan and tribal Iraq? The strategy and tactics required for victory would require a level of violence unpalatable to American sensibilities, for Wilf’s method is the only path I can see where victory could be assured.

  6. zen Says:

    Hi Davidbfpo,
    Much thx. I have to disagree with your British diplomat though. While I have found a range of estimates for Soviet dead at Herat ( I will try to find a scholarly est.), the event was discussed at the Politburo level in March during the revolt, while details were still sketchy. The Soviet leaders were clearly agitated in this transcript as well as lacking in confidence in the Afghan regime’s ability to view their situation realistically. 
    Subsequently a decision was made to instruct Taraki to identify the rebels as "agents of American imperialism, Zionism …etc." as part of a larger string of decisions related to Soviet Afghan policy in March and April of that year.
    Was Herat a proximate cause of the Soviet invasion? No, clearly not. That came much later in 1979 among an inner circle of the Politburo and was more deeply influenced by Soviet distrust of Hafiazullah Amin. But Herat was part of a context, including unending requests from the Afghan government for Soviet aid and assistance and infighting between the Parcham and Khalq factions, that led the USSR to deepen it’s intervention in Afghan affairs, upgrade the level of officials who had their hands on Afghan policy or supervised it, increase aid and military missions.

  7. zen Says:

    Hey Scott,
    Make war on Pakistan? No, but our policy needs a sharp reorientation toward empirical reality – we seem to be taking steps in that direction by routing more supplies from the North, envisioning a smaller footprint and this latest bit with aid. We have worked ourselves into quite a corner in the last ten years with Pakistan and extricating ourselves and is going to take time, probably years.

  8. YT Says:

    "Former dictator general pervez musharraf, who cannot go back home to rawalpindi for fear his brother officers will assassinate him, told a well appointed crowd in Houston"

  9. Lexington Green Says:

    I had this about the 1842 massacre:  http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/21903.htmlIt includes a link to Gen. Younghusband’s The Story of the Guides, including Ch. 7, "The Massacre of the Guides at Kabul."  It is always way, way easier to get into Afghanistan than it is to get out again.  I hope our people are being very, very careful.  

  10. Lexington Green Says:

    Here is that link again:  http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/21903.html   

  11. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Hey Zen, Concur. I wonder how long it will take the Paki’s to understand being friendly with us, beats having Red China "helping?" I have a couple of Pakistani acquaintances—who travel back once a year and usually stay home a month. One of these guys said the corruption and intrigue are pervasive—the rank-and-file—who don’t have ties to the military/intel community—pretty much hate political life there. Granted that is one data point, but I would be curious to know the impact of so many Paki’s being trained in the States in the last 20 years going home and taking the reins, as it were…more to come, I’m sure.

  12. Dave Schuler Says:

    I’m reminded of Pundita’s wisecrack to the effect that some morning the Pakistanis will wake up to learn, somewhat to their surprise, that they are and always have been Chinese. The problem with Mercutio’s suggestion, above, is the same as the problem posed by Iraq and Afghanistan:  so you overthrow their government.  Then what?  IMO there have always been three workable strategies:  punitive raids (as you suggested in an earlier post, Mark), isolating Afghanistan and Pakistan, and tightening our own security and calling it a day.  I favored the last on the grounds that the American people wouldn’t stomach neither a longterm occupation, repeated raids in force, nor the privations among Afghans and Pakistanis that isolating the countries would cause.  

  13. Eddie Says:

    If there is a significant terrorist attack in America with origins in Pakistan, especially if executed by a Pakistani-American, there will be hell to pay for Pakistan. Does anyone expect Obama not to be immediately pilloried as "palling around with terrorists" and face multiple hostile investigations from an already unhinged element of the GOP that is ascendant in the House? Or that Obama, who seems to have no qualms about civilian casualties in certain instances, would hesitate more than 24-48 hours to devastate the ISI and its allies in the military however he could?

    Along with the public outrage whipped up even further by a ratings-obsessed media, he would simply have no choice other than to retaliate strongly against a government that is hopelessly corrupted by AQ and like-minded elements. Strike One was Khan’s nuke smuggling, two was OBL chilling for a half-decade, and Strike Three would be the blood of American civilians all over a shopping mall or other public locale.

    What does that retaliation entail? I have no idea. I can guarantee it will happen though. Anything less and he would be impeached.

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