“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What is Going on in Afghanistan?

The former United Nations High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered his dire prediction after being proposed as a new "super envoy" role in Afghanistan.

Lord Ashdown said: "We have lost, I think, and success is now unlikely."

The main reason for this lack of progress is the continuing failure of many Nato states to provide sufficient numbers of combat troops.

As Robert Gates, the American Defence Secretary, remarked recently, the alliance has more than two million soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen at its disposal, but only a fraction of that number is available to participate in the most important mission in Nato's history because of the national caveats that the governments of many member states have imposed on their forces deploying to areas where they might be in danger of suffering casualties.

Not surprisingly, this issue tops the agenda at this week's meeting of Nato ministers in the Netherlands, which is also discussing the crisis over Turkey's threat to invade northern Iraq.

Afghanistan is lost, says Lord Ashdown
By Tom Coghlan Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:50am BST 25/10/2007

Nato has "lost in Afghanistan" and its failure to bring stability there could provoke a regional sectarian war "on a grand scale", according to Lord Ashdown.

The former United Nations High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered his dire prediction after being proposed as a new "super envoy" role in Afghanistan.

Lord Ashdown said: "We have lost, I think, and success is now unlikely."

The assessment will be considered extreme by some diplomats but timely by those pressing for more resources for Nato operations.

Lord Ashdown added: "I believe losing in Afghanistan is worse than losing in Iraq. It will mean that Pakistan will fall and it will have serious implications internally for the security of our own countries and will instigate a wider Shiite [Shia], Sunni regional war on a grand scale.

"Some people refer to the First and Second World Wars as European civil wars and I think a similar regional civil war could be initiated by this [failure] to match this magnitude."

Lord Ashdown, 66, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, was speaking in advance of a Nato summit in the Dutch town of Noordwijk yesterday.

Britain and the US infuriated by the lack of assistance granted by allies to those countries with forces operating in Afghanistan.

The tensions are particularly acute given that members pledged a year ago that they would do everything within their power to ensure "success" in the country.

With a growing sense in Kabul that the reconstruction and military efforts are lacking focus, Britain and the US are pushing for the creation of a super envoy and are looking for a political heavyweight to fill the role.

Both countries consider that Tom Koenigs, the current UN special representative to Kabul who is a former regional politician in Germany, lacks the international standing to fulfil such a role. He will complete his posting by Christmas.

It is understood that the super envoy would have the existing duties of the UN representative but also greater powers to co-ordinate the rebuilding of the country after decades of war. Progress in reconstruction and development - especially in the violent south - has been sporadic and considered largely unsatisfactory by the international community.

However, there remains widespread discussion over the precise remit that the new figure would have, particularly in relation to any oversight they might have of Nato operations and Operation Enduring Freedom, the US's separate mission.

A spokesman at the British Embassy in Kabul told The Daily Telegraph: "There is an important role for the United Nations to play in co-ordinating efforts in Afghanistan and we would like to see the international effort better co-ordinated."

A senior diplomat who declined to be named said: "The overall leadership here is that of President Karzai.

"So whoever takes on this role needs to be able to co-ordinate the international community but also serve the interests and structures of a sovereign state."

Apart from Lord Ashdown, candidates under consideration for the new enhanced role include Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, the serving French foreign minister, and Jaroslav Kaczynski, the former Polish prime minister who lost Sunday's general election.


  1. Why does the list of candidates have to be made up of a bunch of losers? I thought the complaint was that we're losing. Why not put some winners on that list to choose from.

  2. Maybe they can cut a deal on the Russian support aircaraft NATO needs to rent, for the Afghan mission.

    Now here is a bit of news that sets the tone of that NATO Ministers meeting

    The French News Agency, AFP, reports France will send 50 troops to southern Afghanistan as trainers. Secretary Gates would not confirm that, but said any increased French involvement would be "most welcome." Another U.S. official said such a move would be "a big strategic shift."

    The French MAY deploy two platoons t Afghanistan, this is described as a "BIG strategic shift"

    50 troopers/trainers
    A Strategic difference.

    NATO needs Russian choppers to get around. What a fubar.

  3. Who'd you like sam, Al Gore, now there is winner.

    An Oscar, a Peace Prize and the 2000 popular vote in the US.

    It's goin' no where.

    A few weeks ago, van Middelkoop asked the Germans and Norway for help, specifically helicopters and mentors for the fledgling Afghan army.

    The Norwegians have turned down the request, with Defence Minister Strm-Erichsen telling a news agency in her country that she doesn't want the country's contingent - totalling about 100 troops - broken up and spread about piecemeal.

    100 troops, almost a Company.
    Can't spilt 'em up.

  4. It has been clear for some time that failure in Iraq will likely lead to failure in Afghanistan and failure in Afghanistan will pressurize Pakistan. Where that would end is anyones guess. A consequence of Iraq is that it has exposed the limitations of American military power and that shows up in Afghanistan.

    Nato does not have the will to properly augment the American led effort in Afghanistan and the US does not have the resources to do it alone. The US is also rapidly losing the political commitment to support two Asian wars.What do we do?

    We have little influence over Pakistan short of supporting a military regime under Musharraf. It seems to me that stability in the region would be a worthy and achievable goal. That would require a radically different approach and far less direct US military involvement, except in extreme and severe but measured responses to provocation.

  5. Why sure, stability is an admirable goal, but so is vengeance.

    We'll obtain neither.

    Warizistan is not Anbar.
    The Pakistani Army are not Marines.

    Afghanistan is larger Iraq, why would anyone believe a micro occupation footprint would work, there.

    It went to shit when we did not pursue the Tora Bora survivors, allowing them to establish a sanctuary in Pakistan.
    By not taking the Taliban seriously, by taking our eye of the prize.

    We screwed the pooch.

  6. All true, but that was then. This is now. It is better to achieve the achievable than to fail at the unattainable.

  7. What is obtainable?
    Maintain the General President? Doubtful outcome, there.

    The nice lady, Ms Benazir Bhutto, is a thief, but shows well in the west.
    She accused Pakistani Government officials of attempting to kill her, before they even tried:

    ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan Premier Benazir Bhutto has named four well-known persons, including Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and former ISI chief Hamid Gul, as those who pose a threat to her life in a letter to President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan media reported on Wednesday.

    In the letter written on October 16, two days before she returned to Pakistan from eight years in self-exile, Bhutto said she feared there was a threat to her life from Elahi, Gul, Hassan Waseem Afzal, the former Deputy Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and Intelligence Bureau chief Brig (Retd) Ijaz Shah, Geo TV reported.

    Ms Rice, she wants the General President to expand the talent pool, to include folks that'd like to depose him.

    Rice, speaking at a U.S. congressional hearing Wednesday, said the United States hopes "that there will be an effort of all moderates to be prepared for fully democratic elections to take place in the parliament in December, so that Pakistan can take that next step toward a more stable democratic environment."

    There was no stability in Afghanistan before we invaded. There is no stability now, there won't be any if we leave.

    General Gul, he's the man.

  8. Haven't we got Iraq purtnear sewn up? (except for the Turkey deal that may or may not happen). Throw Petraeus on that shortlist.

  9. Bhutto, who also referred to three persons posing a threat to her life in a complaint she submitted to police in Karachi, has so far not publicly named these persons. In her complaint, Bhutto only said that police should take action against "those whose names were given to Musharraf".

    The government has so far been silent on her allegations though Musharraf's spokesman defended the IB chief's integrity and reputation and said there was no move to sack Shah.

    Some media reports had earlier suggested that Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim was also named in Bhutto's letter.

    Afzal, who played a key role in probing graft charges against Bhutto and was removed from his post in the NAB due to pressure from her PPP party, is currently serving as Secretary to Punjab Governor Lt Gen (Retd) Khalid Maqbool.

    Partisan politics in Pakistan, bullets and ballots.
    The ballots are rigged, historicly.

  10. I had thought, a year or two ago, that we'd establish the Iraqi Government, then redeploy to Afghanistan. But if one reads westhawk's latest, Adm. Mullen does not see it that way.

    He wants to bring the troops home, deploy them less. The Captians are in turmoil, the wives want 'em home.

  11. The author of "God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World," Walter Russell Mead, said he did not think the Turkish moves into northern Iraq would risk setting a precedent for armed intervention from Iran or Syria. "As a pragmatic matter, the fact that Turkey received a statement of support from NATO, if those countries tried it, they would find themselves isolated," Mr. Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said.

    Still, he said the developments posed their own risks. "The risk with any armed conflict is that it can spread," he said.

    "They may find the airstrikes don't make the terror raids stop, and they decide to go in by land and step up the airstrikes. The security situation could deteriorate and could have a wider impact on the politics of Iraq, where the Kurds play an important role."

    Backing Turkey

  12. I'm lagging behind the discussion. There were arsonists involved in the California fires. But who? Cops killed one, but no information yet on the lighter.

  13. KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) - The detective leading Pakistan's inquiry into the suicide attack on Benazir Bhutto withdrew from the case Wednesday after the former prime minister accused him of involvement in the torture of her husband in 1999, a senior official said.

    Ghulam Muhammad Mohtarem, home secretary of Sindh province, said the government would form a new team to investigate the deadly attack on Bhutto's homecoming parade in Karachi last week. The bombing killed 136 people and raised fears about the country's stability.

    Bhutto has blamed Islamic militants for the attack, but has also accused elements in the government and the security services of complicity. She wants international experts to help with the investigation.

    The two-term prime minister specifically objected to Manzur Mughal, a senior investigator in Sindh province, claiming he had been present while her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, was tortured in custody on corruption charges in 1999.

  14. Cyrus Karimi
    The Arizona Republic
    Oct. 24, 2007 04:46 PM

    An Arizona man who authorities believe could be connected to arson in fire-ravaged Southern California was shot and killed after trying to run police over Tuesday night.

    Police officers from California State University, San Bernardino saw the man in the brush land behind the school a little before 6 p.m., said Scott Patterson, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Police Department.

    "The officers were worried he might be an arson suspect," Patterson said.

    When officers approached the man, he fled into the foothills in a white pickup truck, Patterson said.

    The man then used his pickup to ram a San Bernardino police car after they chased him into the foothills, Patterson said. The officers then shot the man and killed him.

    The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department is investigating the incident, including investigating the truck's contents to determine whether the man is a suspect for arson in the area.

  15. If the arsonist turns out to be a muzzie, or a Save The Earth type,I think the Californians will finally start to wake up, and say, kill the mother fucker.

  16. Thou shalt not burn thy neighbors house down.

  17. On other issues:

    — Rice said the Iraqis are taking steps to crack down on PKK fighters in Turkey, including closing PKK offices, stopping the movement of party members and dispatching a senior delegation to Turkey.

    — Rice cited delicate relations with Turkey as she urged lawmakers not to pursue a resolution that would label as genocide the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago.

    — Rice said the U.S. embassy in Iraq will be completed within budget, at a price tag of $592 million, and that construction delays were being addressed.

    Rice on the Issues

  18. If your house is in ashes, it makes you think about stuff.