Afghanistan: Land Of The Proxy

My old farts that visit IST will remember the days of yore, 1979, when the USSR entered Afghanistan…..I use “old farts” because few seem to want to remember that we have been doing “business” in Afghanistan for over 25 years.

The USSR entered neighboring Afghanistan in 1979, attempting to shore up the newly-established pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. In short order, nearly 100,000 Soviet soldiers took control of major cities and highways. Rebellion was swift and broad, and the Soviets dealt harshly with the Mujahideen rebels and those who supported them, leveling entire villages to deny safe havens to their enemy. Foreign support propped up the diverse group of rebels, pouring in from Iran, Pakistan, China, and the United States.

It was a proxy war between the USSR and the US and the people of Afghanistan were caught in the middle of the 9 years of death and destruction……The US armed the opposition to the Russian occupation and today it appears that Russia is arming the opposition to the American occupation…..

The Afghan War is going extremely poorly, 16 years in, and the US military needs someone to blame for its failures. The first choice among a lot of top military figures seems to be Russia, and while they offer no evidence to back up their claims, several have alleged that Russia might conceivably be arming the Taliban.

US commandeer Gen. John Nicholson appeared to be joining that camp today during comments in Kabul, complaining about the “malign influence” of Russia in the country, and insisting that he was “not refuting” allegations of Russia shipping weapons to the Taliban.

(antiwar.com)

I bring all this up because there seems to be another proxy war between Russia and the US brewing…..and yes Afghanistan will be caught in the middle once again.

If recent developments are any indication, Russia is becoming increasingly focused on and active in Afghanistan. The Russian government has held several consultations with Tajikistan on expanding security cooperation on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and has explored increasing the scope of its Central Asian military bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It has also increased its diplomatic engagement with the Taliban and, according to Afghan and U.S. officials, may even be providing security assistance to the group. Long a consideration for Russia, Afghanistan is growing in importance to Moscow at both the tactical and strategic levels. And as it does, it is becoming an increasingly important theater for the U.S.-Russia competition.

Source: Afghanistan: The Next Big U.S.-Russia Proxy Battle | RealClearDefense

This is what the US and Russia are very good at doing……using proxies so they do not have to get their hands dirty….as it were……

Russia is a great power that retains muscle memory (and a strategic arsenal) from its past superpowerdom. In the Ukraine and Syria, Russia has challenged the United States—its former peer and a hesitant hegemon in decline—through direct military interventions. Additionally, Moscow has impressively deployed hybrid warfare tactics to create the perception that it has influenced the U.S. presidential election and forged a rift between the incoming commander-in-chief and elements of the U.S. intelligence community.

Surprisingly, Afghanistan is emerging as another arena in which Moscow is pointedly working at odds with Washington’s interests. Indeed, recent moves by Russia now represent a pivot toward Afghanistan, posing a set of challenges that have been unanticipated by U.S. observers of the region. The incoming Trump Administration ought to be aware of Russia’s newfound assertiveness vis-à-vis Afghanistan, both in the threats it poses as well as the potential opportunities it may present.

Source: Russia Returns to Afghanistan | The National Interest

What is left to say….some tactics never change….and that could very well be the problem.

There is one more thing to say…..

Mattis did meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and offered the same assessment that US officials have been offering on the Afghan War for the past 16 years, that it’s “going to be a tough year” in Afghanistan, and that the US appreciates the major problems facing the country.

There you have same song, different year.

After I wrote this draft another Afghan story came to my attention……

The use of a large conventional bomb against an Afghan tunnel complex occupied by Islamic State militants recently captured the media’s imagination. Talking heads rushed to discern the meaning of the decision. Was it President Donald Trump sending a message to North Korea? Was the president even involved in the decision? It turns out that he wasn’t.

The U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, says he ordered the use of the MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Burst Bomb, known colloquially as the “mother of all bombs”) for purely tactical reasons: “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles.” The jubilation expressed by U.S. media in purely tactical destruction, however, sent a strategic message to some Afghans: that the United States considers their country a collection of targets to destroy rather than a country with a history and, hopefully, a future. A senior pro-government political analyst in Kabul whom I have known for decades points out that even if the Islamic State flees the area, the government’s weakness means the Taliban, who pose a greater threat to the government, will fill the vacuum.

Source: It’s Much Bigger Than Afghanistan: U.S. Strategy for a Transformed Region

The song is FAR from over!

It’s Looking A Lot Like “Groundhog Day”

I am referring to our wars of conquest of those barbaric groups AQ and ISIS…..

We have been fighting one or the other for about 20 years…the other is a fairly recent add to the War on Terror…..

The problem is that we keep doing the same thing over and over and spinning our wheels in the process….kinda like the movie “Ground Hog Day”…..only with guns, bombs, death and destruction.

The current situation in Syria reminds us again that we are failing in our post-9/11 wars. We have accomplished neither the strategic objectives set forth by the Bush administration nor those of the Obama administration. Both administrations have had notable successes and achieved periodic tactical and operational progress, but neither created sustained strategic success. The jury on the current administration is still out, but on the campaign trail the President suggested we can defeat ISIS with military force alone—bombing the *@#! out of them. To put it kindly, this approach misses the mark. America has led a concerted leadership decapitation campaign against both al Qaeda and ISIS for a decade and a half. Such a campaign is necessary, but not sufficient. How much longer will we take this approach before we learn that we are waking up to the same day over and over again?

Source: U.S. Strategy for al Qaeda and ISIS: It’s Groundhog Day | RealClearDefense

I keep waiting for all those brilliant minds in the government to come up with something new and innovative…..so far there is NOTHING new under the table at the Pentagon.

And this new administration is definitely not the group to end this war with a victory….they, like their predecessors, are nothing more the hammer to help the M-IC nail down massive profits with NO intention of ever ending this gravy train.

Political Ignorance Or “Axis Of Adults”?

During the 2016 campaign I will admit that there were some issues that Trump voiced that I could get behind…not to the point that I would have ever considered voting for him…..but he did have a few stands that I liked…..such as staying out of Syria with ground forces…..a possible overhaul of NATO….and his idea to keep America safe without intervention.

The problem is when he got elected and began to put together a cabinet I was concerned because he was appointing many generals to positions of power.  Trump was avoiding the use of real diplomats in positions of diplomacy…to me this was a force of ignorance that would lead to a path of destruction……

The truth is the Trump was in no more position of knowledge than the last couple of presidents…but his predecessors at least attempted to find people with the knowledge to run the foreign policy of the US…Trump not so much…..

It is what we might call ‘the consensus judgment’ that President Trump is a deeply ignorant man and perhaps a profoundly ignorant President. But it is worth stepping back and considering just what this means, the different kinds of ignorance that exist and how they differ.

Without making a direct comparison, it is worth remembering that each of the last three Presidents came to office with a steep learning curve about the modalities of the presidency and many aspects of the challenges and issues they would face. Clinton, Bush and Obama were each, in different ways, pretty green. Bush’s father, since he had served in Congress, as head of the CIA and especially because he had served as a fairly active Vice President for the previous eight years, came in knowing quite a lot about the specifics of the Presidency.

Source: Trump and The Problem of Militant Ignorance

Then the Syrian situation presented itself and after a couple of missiles and a bomb the media is starting to take a more positive look at the foreign policy of Trump…..

There’s a new band in town that’s guiding national security by quietly tutoring the most powerful man in America. Never-Trump Republicans who’d been apprehensive about President Donald Trump are celebrating the trio’s influence, calling Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Homeland Secretary John Kelly the “Axis of Adults.”

Through near daily contact with the trio, as well as Trump’s National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and CIA director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s world view appears to be morphing more closely to match hawkish conservatives of the Bush administration.

Source: New Power Center in Trumpland: The ‘Axis of Adults’ – The Daily Beast

While the MSM may have a positive attitude toward Trump…I do not…..his reaction and those of his subordinates is nothing new…..his reaction to the situation was the same as Obama and Baby Bush…..the neocons win…..

Donald Trump won the 2016 nomination and general election largely because he was able to pose as a populist and anti-interventionist “America Firster.”

Barack Obama won the 2008 election in good part because he promised “hope and change” and because he gave a speech years earlier against the then-impending invasion of Iraq.

Short of disclosure of diaries or other documents from these politicians, we won’t know for certain if Obama and Trump planned on reversing much of what they promised or if the political establishment compelled them to change. Either way, they both perpetrated massive political fraud. And what is perhaps most striking is how quickly each of them backtracked on their winning core campaign messages, particularly since they were both proclaimed as representing “movements” meant to shake up the system.

Source: Deceivers in Chief: How Donald Trump and Barack Obama Are Alike – Truthdig

Amazing how all this works out….when it comes to foreign policy then campaign promises mean nothing.

STOP! Treating War As Entertainment

From time to time I will post a petition that I think is worth my readers attention and this is one of those petitions…..

Tell traditional corporate media outlets: Stop glorifying war

“I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.”

That is the Leonard Cohen quote that MSNBC’s Brian Williams used last week to wax poetic about Donald Trump’s decision to illegally drop dozens of Tomahawk missiles on Syria.1 He described the “beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments” that were emerging of the strike with reverence and awe, demonstrating the horrifying and dangerous attitude that traditional corporate media outlets too-often take when reporting on war.2

War is not beautiful. Military action should be taken as a last resort and recognized for the sacrifice and loss that comes with it. It is a problem when the people and institutions tasked with keeping the general public informed of our actions in the world hide behind flowery language and lies to keep from having to report on the reality of war.

Source: Tell traditional corporate media outlets: Stop glorifying war | CREDO Action

Please consider the possibility of adding your name to those that oppose war…..especially when it seen as entertainment..

Thank you for your time and consideration.

The Mother Of Intervention

The US has been in the intervention business for many years and it only gets worse with each passing year.  But the problem is that this country has learned very little with each intervention……and we blunder off into yet another quagmire.

There are some simple rules for intervention and I mean a successful intervention….something the US has yet to master.

These rules were recently published in the American Conservative…….

After trillions of dollars spent, thousands of dead and wounded, and the creation of myriad new terrorist enemies, Washington could learn a few lessons when considering future interventions.

1. Do not attempt to establish multi-ethnic democracies in nations with no traditions of limited government. Each faction believes that “an alien master is worst of all” and dreads the certain prospect of total subordination to the election victors. Do not foster electoral ceremonies where freedom from fear and the rule of law are absent: they beget, at best, the democratic centralism of Lenin. Never propagate civil wars: the revenge killings last for a hundred years.

Read on…..

Source: 17 Rules for Foreign Interventions | The American Conservative

These are some simple rules that should be taught at the War College…after all it is they that carry out all the orders to intervene….

What is it that Einstein had to say about doing things?

Can A “Smoke Screen” Be Effective Policy?

As someone who spends his time analyzing and researching foreign policy I am a bit taken back by the new kid in town, DC that is……

During his run up to his election as president I was in Trump’s corner on some, and I repeat SOME, of his foreign policy statements.  I did not care much for his domestic rhetoric but some of his rhetoric on international situations were spot on…..you will notice that I use the word “were”…..his actions speak nothing to his rhetoric.

But since he has taken the helm of this nation and its foreign policy I have been trying to get a handle on just what it is that he wants to accomplish internationally.

He, Trump, has gutted our diplomatic corps which in my opinion does little to protect Americans worldwide.  How does he hope to formulate a policy when he is missing those people that are “experts” on the many different regions?

At best his foreign policy has been hit and miss loaded with bravado and out right bullshit.  Not much makes sense….most of it sounds like a third grader taunting a playground rival.

Basically, to me his words and his pseudo policies are nothing but a smoke screen for is impotency in the foreign policy arena.

North Korea and Syria are prime examples…….

So far President Trump’s foreign policy has been nearly impossible to predict.  As we saw this past week, some of the President’s choices, particularly the decision to strike the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have created strange bedfellows among America’s foreign policy watchers.  Traditional foreign policy thinkers on the right and left, the so-called “Establishment,” publicly lauded the strikes, albeit for somewhat different reasons.  Meanwhile, Trump’s core supporters, who rallied around his isolationist campaign promises, have been sharply denouncing the strikes as warmongering.  Everyone in Washington appears to have been caught off-guard by the President’s decision to intervene in the world’s most protracted conflict, while analysts, journalists, and policymakers are scrambling to determine what it all means.  The President’s speech after the strike, as well as statements from the White House, argue this decision was tied to Syrian regime use of chemical weapons late last month.

Source: Strategies, Diversions, and Trump’s Smoke-Screen Policy | RealClearDefense

His staff is not much better although there are a few that could formulate an adequate policy……but Trump seems to want it his way and his thoughts….I am hoping that someone with an adult brain will finally assert themselves and a true foreign policy will emerge.

The big question is…..will it emerge?

The Institute of Defense Studies published a paper asking if Trump’s foreign policy was shaping up?

April has been an eventful month geopolitically so far. President Trump carried out a much-trumpeted-about Tomahawk missile strike at the Syrian regime, held responsible by him for a nerve-agent attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, a province largely held by rebels. Trump has changed his mind on China, which he previously accused as a ‘currency manipulator’. He has also changed his mind on ‘resetting’ relations with Putin and US-Russia relations are at their ‘lowest point’ in years. Trump has issued a harsh warning to North Korea to stop missile and nuclear tests. There are signals that Trump would scale up the US military engagement in Afghanistan. Trump has congratulated, with alacrity, Turkey’s President Erdogan on his referendum victory. Are all these developments related to one another?

Source: Is President Trump’s Foreign Policy Shaping Up? | Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

All we can do is hope…..before it is too late.

Isolationism: What’s It Good For?

During the run up to the election of 2016 there was a call for the US to revert back to a policy of isolationism…..

But first let’s look at isolationism as it pertains to foreign policy….

National policy of avoiding political or economic entanglements with other countries. Isolationism has been a recurrent theme in U.S. history. It was given expression in the Farewell Address of Pres. George Washington and in the early 19th-century Monroe Doctrine. The term is most often applied to the political atmosphere in the U.S. in the 1930s. The failure of Pres. Woodrow Wilson’s internationalism, liberal opposition to war as an instrument of policy, and the rigours of the Great Depression were among the reasons for Americans’ reluctance to concern themselves with the growth of fascism in Europe. The Johnson Act (1934) and the Neutrality acts (1935) effectively prevented economic or military aid to any country involved in the European disputes that were to escalate into World War II. U.S. isolationism encouraged the British in their policy of appeasement and contributed to French paralysis in the face of the growing threat posed by Nazi Germany.

(britannica.com)

But those days are long one.  The US cannot revert into isolationism….not in the global economy we have today….it is a myth…..

The American Conservative had a brilliant take on this issue……

For reasons unknown, and if revealed unlikely to be reassuring, my hometown newspaper, the Boston Globe, regularly provides space on its opinion page to the novelist Richard North Patterson. As a manufacturer of pulp fiction, Patterson has achieved spectacular success, churning out bestsellers with titles like The Devil’s Light and Loss of Innocence. If my own books sold a tenth as many copies, I’d retire to a baronial estate in Scotland and spend my remaining days fishing for trout, sipping single-malt whiskey, and reading potboilers by the likes of Richard North Patterson.

So as a spinner of fictional yarns, Patterson is a master of his craft. Unfortunately, when commenting on events of the day, that penchant for fiction persists.

Source: The Fiction of U.S. Isolationism | The American Conservative

The US cannot hide within its borders…..it must engage the world….but through the use of force is not the way to engage.  Diplomacy is a better weapon than a bomb.