Whither “Savior” Musharraf Pervez?

The rrecent eturn to Pakistan of former dictator, Pervez Musharraf was at least for him was the begnning of his role as “savior” of his country. However, the hatred toward him swept his candidacy aside and almost got arrested. Now the question is what is his future: an ignominous arrest and jail term, or return to the life of luxury in London.

My surprise was second to none when I saw that the former dictator of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, had arrived in his native land with the audacious self-depiction of himself as a “savior.”  My estimation was that it was too soon for him to return to Pakistan; there were too many angry politicians and persons in the legal community and institutions chomping at the bit to get even with him.  One angry lawyer even hurled his shoe at him.  The ultimate “Bush welcome” in Baghdad of December 2008 has become a permanent symbol of popular contempt for unpopular politicians in Muslim countries.  Besides, the people of Pakistan had shown no affinity for the idea of his return.  The professional commando decided to go on a “suicide mission” on his own.  Continue reading “Whither “Savior” Musharraf Pervez?”

Book Review: Ahmed Rashid’s Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

Allah, Army, and America used to be catchphrases to describe the internal political dynamics, as well as the foreign policy behavior, of Pakistan in the previous several decades.  That reality has undergone palpable erosion regarding the influence of the United States on Pakistan under the presidency of Barack Obama.  That is certainly not good news for him, since his political stakes are high.  The Afghan war is a “war of choice” for him as much as the Iraq war was a war of choice for George W. Bush.  Obama cannot lose the war in Afghanistan.  However, for him to win, he needs Pakistan’s cooperation and help, which has been getting increasingly hard to come by in the past several months.  Since the support for the Afghan war is steadily in the American domestic arena, Obama has deftly set a date of withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.  He is hoping that such a decision would help him win his reelection campaign. However, wars have their own logic, in determining the winners and losers.  So, Obama is far from being out of the woods.  The same, alas, cannot be said of Pakistan and Afghanistan, two countries that, unlike Obama, cannot walk away from the war.  Of the three actors, however, Pakistan is the most important, in terms of its potential capabilities to improve conditions to win the war.  But it is not willing to do so for a variety of reasons.  Ahmed Rashid’s latest book, Pakistan on the Brink, is an excellent narrative of that unfolding saga. Continue reading “Book Review: Ahmed Rashid’s Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan”

The Culprit in Afghanistan is Occupation

The ongoing Quran burning controversy in Afghanistan is wrongly described as “inadvertent.”  That was not an inadvertent incident.  At the same time, the purpose behind that incident was not to insult Islam, but, like all things related to the military, the issue of security got the upper hand.  The US soldiers suspected the Afghan prisoners of passing some sort of secret messages to each other through the copies of the Quran that they were using for their daily recitation in the prison library.  Those copies were confiscated by the US military authorities.  What do you do with any material that is regarded as a breach of security?  You destroy it.  So, please don’t insult the intelligence of average Afghans (or anyone else) by telling them it was an inadvertent incident.

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The Only Realistic Solution to Afghanistan Is Fixing it

Former Secretary of State Collin Powell famously told President George W. Bush before he invaded Iraq, if you send troops to that country “you are going to own it.”  That is otherwise known as the “the Pottery Barn rule,” “You break it, you own it.”  Now, the United States “owns” Iraq as well as Afghanistan.  Even though President Barack Obama publicized the fact that he read Gordon M. Goldstein’s book, Lessons in Disaster, in order to learn how to avoid them before implementing the troop surge of his own in Afghanistan, no one told him that each major conflict has obdurate realities that forces the sitting U.S. President to commit idiosyncratic faux pas of his own.  The problem is not knowing how each major U.S. military deployment is going to be different from the previous ones.  Somehow, President Obama thinks that, if he were to announce a rational timetable to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, the conflict would remain highly manageable.

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Negotiating with the Taliban to Switch Sides

The current shape of the Afghan conflict is such that either the United States or the Taliban has to be decisively defeated. No other outcome is likely become a reality anytime soon.

After the death of Usama Bin Laden the Afghan conflict seems to have entered the “final phase,” at least in the minds of those Americans who during moments of candor never gave much credence  to the proposition that the United States can come out as a “winner” from that  conflict.  Bin Laden’s death has provided them the best opportunity to define victory on their own terms and make an argument for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Continue reading “Negotiating with the Taliban to Switch Sides”

The Arab Awakening: An Antidote Against the Relevance of Al-Qaida

 When al-Qaida was ranting against the corrupt and inept Arab and Muslim dictators as “slaves” of America, it had captured the sympathy of quite a few people in the Arab world, who agreed with that organization’s criticism of their rulers, but not with its brutal ways.  The Arab awakening is bringing about the kind of change that al-Qaida dreamed about, but with at least one major difference.  The falling dictators are likely to be replaced by democratic and transparent governments, which will also learn to govern well. It is aiming to create pluralistic governments in such countries as Egypt and Bahrain, where more than one religion and Islamic sect prevail.  It also aims to make discrimination against women a thing of the past.  If hopes related to these aspirations are dashed, then al-Qaida will have another opportunity to be back with a vengeance.  At least for now, it is watching history fly right by it.  That is just one of the most significant reasons to celebrate the Arab awakening. Continue reading “The Arab Awakening: An Antidote Against the Relevance of Al-Qaida”

Afghanistan as Obama’s “War of Choice”

President Barack H. Obama’s announcement of his new strategy on December 1, 2009, conclusively makes the war in Afghanistan “Obama’s war of choice.” The President spoke from one of the hallowed symbols of America’s military power–the United States Military Academy at West Point. Gone is the rhetoric of the wastefulness of Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, when candidate Obama was “speaking truth to power.”
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Obama’s Challenge: Building Sino-Russian Support on Denuclearizing Iran

The real test of President Barack H. Obama’s dealing with China and Russia will emerge in his success to persuade those countries to support the U.S. in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations.  Obama has reported to have lobbied China on that issue during his recent visit. He also broached Russia in the recent past for the same purpose, but with little success. Iran denies having such aspirations, but Washington has no faith in those denials.
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America’s Irrational Expectations About China’s Rise

President Barack H. Obama’s recently concluded trip to East Asia has created an irrational buzz in the American media about how the declining hegemon is increasingly behaving as such, and how China seems to be exploiting that perception to further its own advantages. The second part of this buzz is not contentious, since all great and small powers operate to maximize their advantages. However, the first part of that buzz is indeed controversial. This type of analysis may not be highly conducive to Obama’s palpable desire to promote multilateralism, both regionally and globally.
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A New Strategy or Following Your Own Advice

As President Barack H. Obama is edging toward making up his mind about accepting, partially accepting, or not accepting General Stanley McChrystal’s advice to insert more troops in Afghanistan, I hear an abundance of metaphors flying.  One metaphor was used by the candidate Obama himself during the presidential campaign, when he described starting the war in Iraq to driving a bus into ditch.  That metaphor is being reprinted (recently by the New York Times).  Rory Stewart, a Professor at Harvard and an opponent of the option of increasing the troops, is using the metaphor “driving off a cliff.”  Steven Biddle, a Fellow at CFR, calls it “a war that is worth waging, but only barely.” John Nagle, who built his reputation by being one of General David Petraeus’ assistants, and a person whose doctoral dissertation was on counterinsurgency (and a very good read), calls the war in Afghanistan “a better war.”  The debate within the Principals Committee in the White House is reported to be waging along the lines of COIN or counterterrorism.

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