- “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes”, Michael Rubin, 2013.
The world has never been as dangerous as it is now. Rogue regimes—governments and groups which eschew diplomatic normality, sponsor terrorism, and proliferate nuclear weapons—challenge the United States around the globe. The American response of first resort is to talk. “It never hurts to talk to enemies.” Seldom is conventional wisdom so wrong. While it is true that sanctions and military force come at high cost, case studies examining the history of American diplomacy with North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, and Pakistan demonstrate that problems with both strategies do not necessarily make engagement with rogue regimes cost-free.
Terrorist groups also challenge traditional diplomacy, be they the PLO in the 1970s and 1980s, or Hamas and Hezbollah in the last two decades. Moral equivalency enables often infuses the willingness to talk to terrorists—after all, as many diplomats note, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter—but seldom is the record of talking to terrorists considered. While soldiers spend weeks developing lessons learned after every exercise, seldom do diplomats consider why their strategy toward rogues have failed, and whether base assumptions about how they conduct talks might be to blame.
Indeed, rogue regimes have one thing in common—they pretend to be aggrieved in order to put Western diplomats on the defense. Whether in Pyongyang, Tehran, or Islamabad, rogue leaders understand that the West rewards bluster with incentives, and that for the State Department process can mean more than results.
- “The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan”, Amb. Ron Neumann (Ret.), 2013.
As the bloodshed in Iraq intensified in 2005, Afghanistan quickly faded from the nation’s front pages to become the “other war,” supposedly going well and largely ignored. In fact, the insurgency in Afghanistan was about to break out with renewed force, the drug problem was worsening, and international coordination was losing focus. That July, Ronald Neumann arrived in Kabul from Baghdad as the U.S. ambassador, bringing the experience of a career diplomat whose professional lifetime had been spent in the greater Middle East, beginning thirty-eight years earlier in the same country in which it ended—Afghanistan.
Neumann’s account of how the war in Afghanistan unfolded over the next two years is rich with heretofore unexamined details of operations, tensions, and policy decisions. He demonstrates why the United States was slow to recognize the challenge it faced and why it failed to make the requisite commitment of economic, military, and civilian resources. His account provides a new understanding of the problems of alliance warfare in conducting simultaneous nation building and counterinsurgency. Honest in recounting failures as well as successes, the book is must reading as much for students of international affairs who want to understand the reality of diplomatic policymaking and implementation in the field as for those who want to understand the nation’s complex “other war.”
- “The Secret Behind Iraq’s Scientific Resurgence”, Wired, October 2013.
Ten years ago, the Iraqi scientific establishment was in trouble. Political and military convulsions following the American invasion made it difficult to maintain routinized studies critical for robust research. Iraqi scientists were unable to engage with their peers, and the annual national output of peer-reviewed publications dipped into the double digits. Mesopotamia, a region so integral to the rise of human culture, was essentially sidelined from modern science.
Today, there is a sense of renewed progress. Systematic structural challenges remain, to be sure (unplanned power outages can interrupt code or ruin biological samples, for example), but the momentum is tangible – publications have more than tripled in the intervening decade, with no sign of letting up.
- “Iraq's South Rises Again”, National Interest, October 2013.
With some exceptions, most Iraq news these days is tucked away in the middle of your daily paper. The postscript to these stories may add that the situation has gone from bad to worse since the U.S. withdrawal. Remember “the surge,” anyone?
Maliki has managed to co-opt the few and isolate the many, while north to south Sunnis and Shias protest over any number of issues. If the protesters were united that might be positive but mostly they are not, and Al Qaeda is thriving. The news seems so grim that Americans might just want to move on and forget it altogether.
Indirectly, Iraq still looms large in the news, as it struggles to escape the Syrian conflict and push forward its energy boom, it may well be the most strategically important country in the Middle East, as Gen. James Jones recently remarked. The EU are waking up to this, but it has taken a ferocious alliance of Syrian and Iraqi Al Qaeda fighters to spur the United States into action.
- “Afghanistan Index", Brookings Institution, November 2013.
The Afghanistan Index is a statistical compilation of economic, public opinion and security data. This resource will provide updated and historical information on various data, including crime, infrastructure, casualties, unemployment, Afghan security forces and coalition troop strength. It will be updated every two weeks.
The index is designed to assemble the best possible quantitative indicators of the international community’s counterinsurgency and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan, to track them over time, and to offer an objective set of criteria for benchmarking performance. It serves as an in-depth, non-partisan assessment of American and international efforts in Afghanistan, and is based primarily on U.S. government, Afghan government and NATO data. Although measurements of progress in any nation-building effort can never be reduced to purely quantitative data, a comprehensive compilation of such information can provide a clearer picture and contribute to a healthier and better informed debate.
- “We Are The Not Dead”, MyModernMet.com, November 2013.
Photographer Lalage Snow, who is currently based in Kabul, Afghanistan, embarked on an 8-month-long project titled We Are The Not Dead featuring portraits of British soldiers before, during, and after their deployment in Afghanistan. Similar to Claire Felicie's series of monochromatic triptychs, Snow captures the innocent expressions of these men transformed into gaunt, sullen faces in less than a year.
The three-panel juxtaposition allows the viewer to observe the physical changes a stationed soldier in a war zone goes through. Time is sped up for these men under the beating sun, amidst combat. Regardless of age, the boys that went in came back as men with experiences beyond their years. As weathered and worn as their skin or sunken in faces may appear, it's their dilated eyes that are the most telling.
- Alliance in Support of the Afghan People (ASAP)
The Alliance in Support of the Afghan People (ASAP) is a coalition dedicated to preserving and protecting progress made by the Afghan people over the last 12 years. We seek to amplify Afghan civil society voices in policy discussions and support their aspirations for further political and economic development and the protection of basic human rights.
The ongoing transition process and military drawdown will determine the country’s future and shape regional security conditions. Despite formidable obstacles, a critical opportunity exists to protect and sustain the progress and investments of the last decade for all Afghans, particularly women and youth. With only a small number of international forces in a training and deterrence capacity, Afghanistan’s international partners should prioritize support for a rights respecting Afghan National Security Force, strengthening the economy, reinforcing democratic processes and educating Afghanistan’s next generations. Upcoming elections in 2014 and 2015 pose a vital challenge and a great opportunity for continued progress in Afghanistan.
- “Why Karzai Doesn't Trust America”, National Interest, October 2013
For the moment at least, Secretary of State John F. Kerry appears to have patched up the fraying relationship between the U.S. and Afghan governments that just two weeks ago appeared to be at the point of rupture. Flying into Kabul on a previously unannounced visit and engaging in what the New York Times describes as “nearly 24 hours of talks and meetings” with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Kerry revived the floundering negotiations for a bilateral security agreement that will provide for a limited but long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan following the end of the NATO combat mission in December 2014.
The security pact, which must be reviewed by a loya jirga (an assembly of some 3,000 Afghan tribal elders) and then approved by parliament, could even now unravel over the still-unresolved issue of whether remaining U.S. troops will enjoy the airtight legal protections that Washington is insisting on. But if the agreement holds, it would represent a striking feat for Mr. Kerry, who is rapidly emerging as a more consequential figure than his predecessor.
It also promises to bring some stability to a wartime alliance that has long pulsed with mistrust and suspicion. The acrimony regularly leads Karzai, once seen as America’s hand-picked partner in Kabul, to denounce the Western military presence in Afghanistan as a foreign occupation. Three years ago, he accused the West of meddling in the country’s internal affairs and bizarrely threatened to join forces with the Taliban forces that NATO and his regime were supposedly united in opposing. That particular outburst caused the White House to warn that it was thinking of retracting Karzai’s invitation to meet Mr. Obama in Washington.
- “Hero Afghan interpreter finally arrives in US after long visa battle”, FoxNews.com, October 2013.
The Afghan interpreter who saved the life of an Army intelligence officer and became a target of the Taliban for his trouble has finally arrived in the U.S. to start a new life, after a long battle to win a special visa.
Janis Shinwari arrived at Reagan National Airport in Washington late Tuesday night, where he was heartily greeted by Matthew Zeller, the Army soldier who says he owes his life to Shinwari. Zeller campaigned tirelessly for a special visa reserved for translators who put their lives on the line for U.S. military personnel. The visa was finally approved last month, but then mysteriously pulled, according to Zeller.
Shinwari, 36, told FoxNews.com he, his wife and their two children are eager to start a new life in the U.S., especially after Shinwari spent the last several months in hiding after he became known for helping the U.S. military.
- “Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy”, Congressional Research Service, October 2013.
The United States and its partner countries are reducing military involvement in Afghanistan as Afghan security forces assume lead security responsibility throughout the country. The current international security mission will terminate at the end of 2014 and likely transition to a far smaller mission consisting mostly of training and mentoring the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which peaked at about 100,000 in June 2011, was reduced to a “pre-surge” level of about 66,000 in September 2012, and is currently about 52,000. That number will fall to 34,000 by February 2014. The size of the “residual force” that will likely remain in Afghanistan after 2014 might be announced later in 2013, with options centering on about 8,000-12,000 U.S. trainers and counterterrorism forces, assisted by about 5,000 partner forces performing similar missions. The U.S. troops that remain after 2014 would do so under a U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement that is under negotiation. Fearing instability after 2014, some ethnic and political faction leaders are reviving their militia forces should the international drawdown lead to a major Taliban push to retake power.
The Administration remains concerned that Afghan stability after 2014 is at risk from weak and corrupt Afghan governance and insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. Among efforts to promote effective and transparent Afghan governance, U.S. officials are attempting to ensure that the next presidential election, scheduled for April 5, 2014, will be devoid of the fraud that plagued Afghanistan’s elections in 2009 and 2010. Other U.S. and partner country anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan have yielded few concrete results. An unexpected potential benefit to stability could come from a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Negotiations have been sporadic, but U.S.-Taliban discussions that were expected to begin after the Taliban opened a political office in Qatar in June 2013 did not materialize. Afghanistan’s minorities and women’s groups fear that a settlement might produce compromises with the Taliban that erode human rights and ethnic power-sharing.
- “The Double-Dealing Middle East Is Double-Dealt”, Victor David Hanson, November 2013.
In sum, the American people think the Middle East is, well, the Middle East: support democracy and we are derided as cultural chauvinists, Western interventionists, and clueless about the nuances of Arab culture. Support the existing status quo, and we care only about oil, not the masses, and geopolitics rather than democratic reform. Stay out entirely and we have abdicated moral responsibility. Intervene and we are “nation-building” in the old colonial fashion.
- “Ending the U.S. War in Iraq”, Rand Corporation, 2013.
Over the course of the U.S. engagement in Iraq, the U.S. military managed hundreds of bases and facilities and used millions of pieces of equipment. The military was not only involved with security-related activities but also assisted in political and economic functions the host nation government or other U.S. departments would normally perform. A 2010 assessment identified that responsibility for 431 activities would need to be handed off to the government of Iraq, the U.S. embassy, U.S. Central Command, or other U.S. government departments. Ending the U.S. war in Iraq would also require redeploying over 100,000 military and civilian personnel and moving or transferring ownership of over a million pieces of property, including facilities, in accordance with U.S. and Iraqi laws, national policy, and DoD requirements. This book looks at the planning and execution of this transition, using information gathered from historical documents and interviews with key players. It examines efforts to help Iraq build the capacity necessary to manage its own security absent a U.S. military presence. It also looks at the complications that arose from uncertainty over just how much of a presence the United States would continue to have beyond 2011 and how various post-transition objectives would be advanced. The authors also examine efforts to create an embassy intended to survive in a hostile environment by being entirely self-sufficient, performing missions the military previously performed. The authors draw lessons from these events that can help plan for ending future wars.
- “Should Iraq's Jewish Archives Stay in U.S.?”, Forward.com, November 2013.
Washington — At the National Archives in Washington, the story of Iraq’s ancient Jewish community has just gone on display, presented via a priceless collection of artifacts and documents recovered during America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. But behind the scenes, a battle reaching to the highest levels of government is taking place over the future of those same documents and artifacts.
“Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage” is the subject of a vigorous campaign launched by Iraqi Jewish activists, Jewish communal leaders and members of Congress trying to convince the government of the United States to back out of an agreement it signed with the Iraqi government, promising to return these objects after the exhibit ends.
At issue is not just the fate of the religious artifacts and community documents, which were forcefully seized by the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein before American GIs ever arrived. With these items, surviving members of Iraq’s once thriving but now extinct Jewish community are also seeking to win recognition from the world for their story, a story they believe other Jews take for granted.
- “In Afghanistan, interpreters who helped U.S. in war denied visas; U.S. says they face no threat”, WashingtonPost.com, November 2013.
KABUL — A growing number of Afghan interpreters who worked alongside American troops are being denied U.S. visas allotted by Congress because the State Department says there is no serious threat against their lives.
But the interpreters, many of whom served in Taliban havens for years, say U.S. officials are drastically underestimating the danger they face. Immigration lawyers and Afghan interpreters say the denials are occurring just as concerns about Taliban retribution are mounting because of the ongoing withdrawal of U.S. forces.
“There are tons of Talibs in my village, and they all know that I worked with the Americans,” said one interpreter, Mohammad, who asked that his last name not be published for security reasons. “If I can’t go to the States, my life is over. I swear to God, one day the Taliban will catch me.”
Mohammad received a U.S. form letter saying he had failed to establish that there was a “serious threat” to his life. He had explained in his application that the Taliban had spotted him on the job and had spread word in his village that he was a wanted man.
- Nowzad Dogs
The aim of the charity is to improve the welfare of the animals of Afghanistan; which includes humanely reducing the stray dog population which in turn will reduce the incidents of canine rabies, provide animal welfare education for the Afghan people and develop training programmes to improve the lives of working animals. We have also now helped over 550 soldiers serving in Afghanistan to be reunited back in their home countries (USA, UK, Italy, South Africa, Australia and Germany) with the dogs or cats they rescued from the front lines of Afghanistan. - See more at: http://www.nowzad.com/about/our-mission-in-afghanistan/#sthash.i95CIWpj.dpuf
- “Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance”, Congressional Research Service, November 2013.
The capacity, transparency, and legitimacy of Afghan governance are considered crucial to Afghan stability after U.S.-led NATO forces turn over the security mission to Afghan leadership by the end of 2014. The size and capability of the Afghan governing structure has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, but the government remains weak and rampant with corruption. Even as the government has struggled to widen its writ, President Hamid Karzai has concentrated substantial presidential authority through his powers of appointment at all levels. But, he is constitutionally term-limited; presidential and provincial elections are scheduled for April 5, 2014, and Afghanistan is beginning to transition from the Karzai era. Several major figures—some close to Karzai and others opposed—have registered to run for president; many of their slates include faction leaders long accused of human rights abuses. Some candidates are concerned that Karzai will use state machinery to favor a particular candidate. Fraud in two successive elections (for president in 2009 and parliament in 2010) was extensively documented, but Afghan officials, scrutinized by opposition ties, civil society organizations, and key donor countries, have taken some steps to limit the potential for fraud in the April 2014 elections.
Fears about the election process are fanned by the scant progress in reducing widespread nepotism and other forms of corruption. President Karzai has accepted U.S. help to build emerging anti-corruption institutions, but these same bodies have faltered from lack of support from senior Afghan government leaders who oppose prosecuting their political allies. At a donors’ conference in Tokyo on July 8, 2012, donors pledged to aid Afghanistan’s economy through at least 2017, on the condition that Afghanistan takes concrete, verifiable action to rein in corruption. Afghan progress on that issue was assessed relatively unfavorably at the end of a Tokyo process review meeting in Kabul attended by major donors on July 3, 2013.
- “The Dogs Are Eating Them Now – Our War in Afghanistan”, Graeme Smith, 2013, “We lost the war in southern Afghanistan and it broke my heart.” So begins Graeme Smith’s The Dogs Are Eating Them Now, and like all heartbreaks, this one happened despite the best intentions. Smith devoted more time to southern Afghanistan than any other Western journalist between 2005 and 2011, and his book offers a candid and critical look at the Taliban’s rising influence and the West’s continued miscalculations.
Smith was not simply embedded with the military: he operated independently and at great personal risk to report from inside the war, and the heroes of his story are the translators, guides, and ordinary citizens who helped him find the truth. They revealed sad, absurd, touching stories that provide the key to understanding why the mission failed to deliver peace and democracy.
- “Development Assistance in Afghanistan after 2014: from the Military Exit Strategy to a Civilian Entry Strategy”, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, December 2013.
After the departure of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), delivering development assistance in Afghanistan can return to common practices and procedures used in other insecure areas such as Somalia and Sudan (and already in areas of Afghanistan). This means that the international community must develop a civilian entry strategy and communicate to the Afghan population that civilian entry, not military exit, is its strategy for the future.
Donors should ignore the current commitment to channel 50 per cent of assistance through the central government budget. Instead, in each sector (e.g. health care, education, security) an effective division of labour must be established between the central and provincial governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector. Involving NGOs, the private sector and the local population in the delivery of basic services does not have to be at the expense of government control or legitimacy. International aid donors need to pay further attention to security and rule of law. But alternatives to the current strategy, which is often perceived as being militarized and short-term, have to be found. It is often more effective to integrate these issues into broader development programmes. http://books.sipri.org/files/insight/SIPRIInsight1304.pdf
- “Trans-Regional Web Initiative” Sources Sought
- Military Information Support Operations – Improved Coordination, Evaluations, and Training and Equipping Are Needed, Government Accountability Office, April 2013
- Extractive Industries and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan: The Role of Social Accountability, United States Institute of Peace, November 2013.
Recent estimates of deposits in Afghanistan indicate that mineral extraction could contribute to the economic growth the country needs to sustain its efforts in peacebuilding and development after 2014. This report argues that integrating social accountability measures into governance of the extractive industry can help alleviate violent conflict by ensuring a more equitable distribution of the benefits as well as facilitate greater confidence in the state and a molding of the social contract. The U.S. Institute of Peace is working with Integrity Watch Afghanistan in testing some of the concepts in this report through a project to help support social accountability in Afghanistan’s mining sector.