NATO: Surge and Cut, Transition and Run

November 20, 2010

NATO’s pretend word: Surge hides Cut. Transition disguises Run.

A lot of words are being thrown about. The bottom line is that the US is retreating from Afghanistan and now the face saving exercises have begun.

President Obama announced the withdrawal from Afghanistan and then camouflaged  it under the guise of a (so called) surge–which didn’t really materialize ’till this year. He was severely criticized for announcing a timetable and a schedule. Even President Pervez Musharraf said that the schedule should not have been announced. Mr. Khalil Nouri of the Afghan Study Group describes it eloquently Afghan Presdient Hamid “Karzai has  joined this “milonguero” renaissance slow slow dance, with the infamous Afghani style tempo of “Asta-Boro” – go slow in Dari”. How slow can NATO move? Conventional Military doctrine says that informing the enemy of a departure plan may encourage the enemy to become more aggressive.

This time around, President Obama has hedged his bets by fudging the end date of the withdrawal by calling is “transition” and then leaving the end date a bit open ended.

The surge is not going well. It is no accident that after 9 years of war America’s latest counterinsurgency tool in Afghanistan is the M1 Abrams tank. things must be really bad to send more than a dozen of M1s to Afghanistan. What will the M1 be used against? Well it can go thorugh walls and demolish mud bricked homes. A panicky Karzai asked NATO to stop all night operations. Ackerman calls it “Awe and Shock” and Rajiv Chandrasekaran writing for the Washington Post describes is “as taking the gloves off”. What can the M1 do that the hundreds of Soviet tanks could not? In fact the tanks are nuisance, cannot go where the guerrillas are and require tankers and convoys to support them–all easy targets. Mullah Omar still rejects any negotiations with ’till he gets a withdrawal schedule from Afghanistan.

President Medvedev of Russia informed the trilateral meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the French town of Deauville he said: ”Russia’s cooperation with NATO is an important format. I would go to Lisbon. This would facilitate the dialogue”.  With Russia in the loop, the road for the withdrawal is all set.

Pakistan of course with be the 900 pound gorilla in the room with all  eyes on Islamabad. The world knows that all roads to Kabul go through Islamabad. Pakistan has a strategic geography that no other country in the world can duplicate–not Iran, and not Bharat.

Like we said the return of the first soldier will be the most difficult.

  • There is deep skepticism in the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency as to whether Gen Petraeus’s surge is actually working.
  • NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is a litmus test for the future of NATO, say some experts.
  • The summit is expected to announce plans for a transfer of control to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
  • Larger countries like Germany, Italy and Spain have caveats that their troops only serve in areas of limited combat.
  • Many others have withdrawn entirely in the face of public opposition.
  • “The aim is for Afghan forces to be in the lead, countrywide, of security operations by the end of 2014.”Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
  • Iran’s vital partnerships in the region – Russia and India have been damaged.

As they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A story in the Guardian now describes the new scenario that will be come out of Lisbon.

James Kirkup describes the Lisbon summit from a Western perspective.

Alliance leaders meeting in Lisbon will on Saturday agree a timetable to transfer responsibility for security to Afghan forces, a process due to start next year and conclude by the end of 2014.

Despite Western leaders’ eagerness to leave Afghanistan, the Nato timetable remains conditional, dependent on the ability of the Kabul government to secure the country against the Taliban.

As the summit began, the Obama administration made clear that 2014 was only “an aspirational goal” and Nato’s secretary-general warned the West must remain committed in Afghanistan “as long as it takes”.

Nato must continue operations ‘beyond our borders’19 Nov 2010
Afghanistan will see ‘eye-watering’ levels of violence after troops leave19 Nov 2010

A senior Nato official also warned of “inevitable setbacks” in the work to complete transition by the end of 2014. Guardian. By James Kirkup, Lisbon 9:00PM GMT 19 Nov 2010

Lord Ismay, famously said the purpose of the alliance was to “keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” Lisbon will also attempt to resolve some of the inter-European issues with Russia. While NATO is seriously discussing keeping the Americans out many Americans think that the real challenge is China. The US may not be able to bank on NATO for its next war.

Ahmed Rashid, the paid agent of the CIA in a recent article i the Financial Times thinks that the forlorn Karzai is breaking with the West. There is ample evidence of this.  It is obvious that the Afghan President Karzai is developing common ground with Pakistan and Iran. The US failure leaves him no choice but to deepen his relationship with Pakistan if he wants peace with the Taliban. Karzai was in Islamabad and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani is visiting Kabul. Karzai is wants to rely on just the immediate neighbors to pull him out of his present predicament. He no longer supports the “war on terrorism” as defined by NATO, and he sees Washington’s military surge in the south as futile. He repudiates success metrics based on body counts of dead Taliban. He knows that the Afghans ever more alienated.

Mr Karzai sees th writing on the wall and wants to appear presidential and reassert himself clamoring for Afghan sovereignty. It is pedagogical to note that this is exactly what the communist President Mohammed Najibullah did as the Soviet began to retreat out of  Afghanistan in 1989. Mr Najibullah huffed and puffed but a few weeks after the Soviets left he ended up at the end of a rope hanging from a lamppost in Kabul.

General Kayani has bluntly informed Ambassador Holbrooke that “Pakistan will not open any new fronts” against anyone in the near future, so NATO might as well froget about an operation against North Waziristan. The Pakistan COAS emphasized the need for a political approach to resolve the Afghan conflict, and opposed the US drone strikes in Pakistan, as they were causing more civilian damage and negatively impacts the efforts against terrorists.

James Kirkup in the Guardian further states.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, described 2014 as “an aspirational goal” for the US to transfer security operations to the Afghan army and police. He said: “It does not necessarily mean that everywhere in the country [Afghan forces] will necessarily be in the lead and it does not mean that all US or coalition forces would necessarily be gone by that date.”

He added: “There may very well be the need for forces to remain in-country, albeit, hopefully, at smaller numbers, to assist the Afghans as they assume lead responsibility for the security of their country.”

The US military underlined its determination to continue to add resources to the Afghan battle by deploying heavily armoured tanks in Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war. The Marine Corps plans to use a company of Abrams tanks in areas of northern Helmand province where British forces were held to a stalemate by the Taliban by early spring.

While Nato’s schedule for transition is conditional, British officials in Lisbon made clear Mr Cameron’s timetable is unconditional. A British official in Lisbon said: “After 2015, we are not going to be in combat role. That’s absolutely clear.”

Britain has 10,000 troops in Afghanistan and has suffered 100 losses this year alone. The Prime Minister has made clear he wants most troops withdrawn before the next general election, due in May 2015.

Mr Cameron told MPs on Thursday that conditions in Afghanistan would not change his plan for 2015 to be the “endpoint” of British combat operations. He said: “I set the deadline of 2015, and yes, it is a deadline.” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general, told the BBC he thought Britain did not have a “concrete policy” on a withdrawal date.

He said: “I’m not aware of concrete policies for withdrawal and I believe all allies are committed to stay committed as long as it takes to do the job.

“We may also see, here and there, withdrawal of troops but the basic message is that we will stay committed as long as it takes.”

James Appathurai, the Nato spokesman, told reporters in Lisbon that the alliance is “fully confident” of meeting the 2014 target. But he added: “I must point out it is conditions-based.” Mark Sedwill, Nato’s senior civil in Kabul, underlined the difficulties the alliance will face in trying to follow its timetable.

“We are not indulging in a load of happy talk about the security situation in Afghanistan,” he said. “We believe we have regained the initiative but the progress is not irreversible. There are many challenges and inevitable set-backs ahead.”

Despite the doubts, the summit will today agree a statement proclaiming “new momentum” in Nato’s Afghan operation, declaring: “Our strategy is sound and our long-term commitment is solid.” Guardian. By James Kirkup, Lisbon 9:00PM GMT 19 Nov 2010

The Afghan president has recently said “The United States must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan and end the increased U.S. Special Operations forces night raids that aggravate Afghans and could exacerbate the Taliban insurgence.”

There have been more than fourteen futile international conferences on Afghanistan:  Bonn, Germany (2001),  Tokyo (2002), Tokyo (2003), Berlin (2004), London (2006), Rome (2007), Dusseldorf (2008), Paris (2008), Moscow (2009), La Hague (2009), Shanghai (2009), London (January 2010), Kabul (July 2010) and now Lisbon (November 2010).

It is clear that there can be no peace in Afghanistan without the advice and consent of Pakistan. Islamabad will not allow an Anti-Pakistan government in Kabul, and wants its western flank secured. The US has to face this reality.

President Bush and Obama have held multiple reviews on Afghanistan. Let us see what the future holds



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