Can Pakistan Survive the Return of the Taliban?

25 November, 2009

Conventional wisdom holds that Pakistan could become at risk of destabilisation in the event of a US exit from Afghanistan. Indeed, the most persuasive practical case for bolstering troop numbers comes from Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Presumably, empowerment of Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan would lead to spill-over effects, and thus empowerment of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Is it really that simple though?

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The Importance of Property Rights

27 October, 2009

Afghanistan FlagThe New York Times discusses the diversity of revenue streams which support the Taliban in Afghanistan. In recent months, US forces have begun to express doubt over whether a policy to damage the opium trade will really hurt their finances.

Surprisingly, lessons can be learned from Peru’s experience fighting the drug trade and the ‘Shining Path’ guerilla movement in the early 1990s. In that case, the forces aligned against the government drew their power from an unlikely source.

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The Lies Obama Tells Himself

30 August, 2009

Afghanistan FlagThe Economist takes stock of the current situation in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai continues to disgrace himself and damage his country, with widespread accusations of foul play in the recent presidential elections. It remains to be seen whether he is successfully re-elected.

In another article, President Barack Obama continues to claim that victory in this conflict (a concept devoid of meaning) is critical to keep America safe. This has been and always will be a lie.

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Afghanistan’s New Hope

20 May, 2009

Afghanistan FlagThe Economist reports on the introduction of the Afghan Public Protection Program (AP3). The US is hoping that what worked in Iraq can be applied to the very different problems in Afghanistan. They will be disappointed.

The problems in Afghanistan are rooted in a very different enemy, and the motivations of subscribing tribes to this new militia are decidedly different too. In addition, the support for these forces (although increasing in practical terms) is insufficient when compared to Iraq. The Taliban will not be defeated by passing the buck onto local militias.

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Back in Iraq

14 May, 2009

The Washington Post reports militants have renewed their entry into Iraq through Syria. The developments come as diplomacy between the US and Syria are promising, suggesting the real motivation behind these movements. Meanwhile, violence in Iraq is lower than it has been since the summer of 2003. President Obama’s decision to renew economic and political sanctions against Damascus will threaten the progress made on both fronts.

The ability of Syria to make life difficult for America, was demonstrated by their removal of support for border control operations with Iraq last year after incursions into their territory. This should not be forgotten. Antagonism also tends to drive Syria towards its neighbour Iran. Even though this is clearly only a marriage of convenience, it should be avoided.

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It’s Good to Talk?

21 April, 2009

Afghanistan FlagPresident Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has publicly expressed in the past willingness to negotiate with the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, while guaranteeing his safety. The current planned alterations to American policy in the country could provide a unique opportunity for Afghanistan’s government to sell apparent ‘concessions’ to groups within the Taliban in exchange for their co-operation in reducing levels of violence.

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