Sunday, December 28, 2008

Samuel Huntington dies

Samuel Huntington, a political scientist best known for his theory of a clash of civilizations, died Wednesday on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, Harvard University announced over the weekend. He was 81.
Huntington had retired from active teaching in 2007 after 58 years at Harvard. His research and teaching focused on American government, democratization, military politics, strategy and civil-military relations.
He argued that in a post-Cold War world, violent conflict would come not from ideological friction between nations, but from cultural and religious differences among major civilizations.
He identified those civilizations as Western (including the United States and Europe), Latin American, Islamic, African, Orthodox (with Russia as a core state), and Hindu, Japanese and "Sinic" (including China, Korea and Vietnam).
He made the argument in a 1993 article in the journal Foreign Affairs, and then expanded the thesis into a book, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order," which was published in 1996. The book has been translated into 39 languages.
In all, Huntington wrote 17 books, including "The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations," published in 1957 and inspired by President Harry Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur, and "Political Power: USA-USSR," a study of Cold War dynamics, written in 1964 with Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Huntington was born in New York on April 18, 1927. He graduated from Yale in 1946, served in the U.S. Army, earned a master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1948, and a doctorate from Harvard in 1951.
(Abstract of an International Herald Tribune article)

Monday, December 22, 2008

U.S.-Georgia Security Pact Said To Be In The Works

By Brian Whitmore

RFE/RL, 18 December 2008

With Georgia's hopes of quickly joining the NATO alliance deferred for the moment, Tbilisi is placing its hopes in the next best thing -- a bilateral security pact with the United States.Details of the emerging accord are still unclear, but Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said the two sides are already discussing a "framework agreement" proposed by U.S. officials."Intensive negotiations are under way," Kalandadze told reporters in Tbilisi on December 17. "This treaty is being discussed mainly at the Defense Ministry, but also at the Foreign Ministry.... We will jointly analyze all its provisions in detail and in the end we will come to an agreement."

The negotiations come as the United States and Ukraine prepared to present a new strategic partnership statement on December 19.Georgian officials say they hope a bilateral arrangement could not only enhance their security, but also jump-start their NATO bid. But analysts say it could also significantly raise the stakes in the South Caucasus by bringing the United States closer to a direct confrontation with Russia, which is solidifying its military and political presence in the pro-Moscow breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

News of the emerging pact leaked earlier this week during a visit to Tbilisi by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza. At a press conference on December 16, Bryza said that "no agreement exists," but then went on to strongly suggest that something was indeed in the works."What we talked about in detail, was U.S.-Georgia cooperation on security and strategic partnership," Bryza said. "We're still working through how to reflect the beautiful words 'strategic partnership' in our actual actions and actual life."Officials close to the negotiations say the pact will closely follow a model established by the Baltic states in the late 1990s.

The opportunities and the risks of NATO’s new supply routes

The Times reported on December 13 that, in the next two months, NATO will begin transporting supplies to Afghanistan through Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Alliance officials, unsurprisingly spearheaded by the US, have also allegedly been planning a supply route through the Caucasus, across the Caspian Sea and through Turkmenistan onto Afghanistan. The new routes will reduce NATO’s reliance on routes through Pakistan, which have come under heavy attack from Taliban militants in recent weeks.

This shift is more significant than its limited media coverage would suggest, for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, it signals that NATO is now back to business with Russia after the Georgian war. The EU and the OSCE have returned to normal dealings with the Kremlin in recent weeks, quietly dropping objections to its continued military presence in Georgia. The deteriorating security situation along the Pakistani supply routes, and President-elect Obama’s determination to launch a ‘surge’ of up to 30,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan, have compelled NATO to follow suit and go back to the negotiating table with Russia. For Moscow, allowing supplies to be routed through its territory is a small price to pay to put the Alliance in its debt, especially since it is ultimately in the Kremlin’s interest to have a stable Afghanistan. An agreement was initially struck at the Bucharest summit in April, but has not yet been implemented due to negotiations with the Central Asian states.

Secondly, the possibility of the so-called ‘Central Corridor’ is a signal that NATO still requires the co-operation of Caucasian states to support its operations, despite its rapprochement with Moscow. It also marks a major development in that co-operation, which has previously been limited to airlifting supplies. Road and rail transit provides a much more durable and continuous link. Rail transit would link both Georgia and Azerbaijan to the alliance to a degree previously unknown. For Tbilisi, this would be a convenient informal security guarantee against further Russian attacks: Moscow would not be willing to bomb infrastructure routes and bases in a country through which NATO equipment was passing. Alongside a proposed bilateral security pact with Washington, news of which leaked this week, the NATO transit agreement would shore up Georgia’s security and rebuild Western support, which had faded after the war with Russia.
The Caucasus Update, Issue 12, December 22, 2008
Caucasus Review of International Affairs

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gates sets priorities for US in the Gulf

As incoming Secretary of Defense under Obama's Administration, Dr. Robert M. Gates has delivered a speech at the IISS Regional Conference on Gulf Security, the so called Manama Dialogue.

The meeting was attended by delegations from 24 regional and world power, including US, China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Germany.

Mr. Gates touched upon some of the most relevant international security topics and he certainly set the agenda for the incoming months.

Iraq is on its way to stabilization and reconstruction and its entire political leadership appears to be committed in reaching this goal. Inclusion of Iraq within regional organizations - such as the Gulf Cooperation Council - will contribute to greater stability, according to Mr. Gates. Economic growth and prosperity will be fundamental to continue on this path.

Iran, instead, has been a stumbling block toward regional stability. Its nuclear and ballistics programme represent a threat to security for other countries in the region and a greater compliance by the International Community with UN Security Council resolution is required to stop the process.

Winning the war in Afghanistan is needed to stop terrorists movements that have originated in the country anf have spread in the region. The extensive economic pledges made by Gulf Countries in the recent Paris Donor Conference testify a common approach towards Afghanistan.

Regional Cooperation shall be expanded, Mr. Gates said, including political, economic, militar and social cooperation. The Gulf Cooperation Council, formed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Baharein and United Arab Emirates in 198 has grown and has become a vital forum for dialogue and cooperation in the region, and should be further expandend, in order to properly deal with the XXI Century security threats. Some are ancient, such as piracy, ethnic strife, and poverty. Others are of more recent vintage: terrorist networks harnessing new technologies, weapons proliferation, environmental degradation, and the emergence of deadly and contagious diseases that can spread more rapidly than ever before in human history. Multilateral efforts like these are encouraging, Mr Gates said.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Policing in Afghanistan: Still Searching for a Strategy

Police reform in Afghanistan is receiving more attention and resources than ever before, but such increased efforts are still yet to be matched by significant improvements in police effectiveness and public confidence. Too much emphasis has continued to be placed on using the police to fight the insurgency rather than crime. Corruption and political appointments are derailing attempts to professionalise the force. The government and the international community need to reinforce the International Policing Coordination Board (IPCB) as the central forum for prioritising efforts and drive forward with much greater unity of effort. Tangible steps such as appointing a career police commissioner and establishing community liaison boards will build professionalism and wider outreach. A national police force able to uphold the rule of law is crucial to state-building and would help tackle the root causes of alienation that drive the insurgency.

After years of neglect, the international community appears to be recognising the importance of police reform in Afghanistan. Greater focus on the sector has seen the first large-scale district-level training and equipping program, $3.8 billion in U.S. commitments in 2007 and 2008 and a reinforced European Union (EU) policing mission. Nevertheless, there is still need for enhanced coordination in the efforts of different countries involved in reform, with a greater emphasis on developing Afghan institutions rather than parallel programs. The EU, despite having nominal lead for police reform, has failed to match rhetoric with a comprehensive strategy and adequate resourcing and personnel. Instead, a deteriorating security situation and political pressure for quick results has continued to obscure longer-term strategic planning and the importance of civilian oversight.

The U.S. military, the dominant actor, still mainly sees the police as an auxiliary security force rather than an enforcer of the law. The Afghan National Police (ANP) is ill-equipped for this role, with 1,200 insurgency-related police deaths in 2007 – and on track for similar numbers in 2008. Such an approach also ignores that organised crime and the lack of rule of law lie at the heart of much popular disillusionment and instability. Lessons that could have been learned from other counter-insurgency situations often appear lost amid a profusion of international efforts. Better law enforcement, including a functioning judicial system, would help counter any appeal the insurgents may hold in Afghanistan.

Asia Briefing N°85

International Crisis Group

18 December 2008

Full report

Photo of the Week

Chinese soldiers listen to speeches in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing dedicated to the 30th Anniversary of the changes in economic policy introduced by Deng Xiaoping.
December 18, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Embassy of Latvia becomes NATO Contact Point Embassy in Georgia for 2009-2010

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has approved its list of Contact Point Embassies (CPEs) in partner states and has entrusted Latvia with the duties of the NATO CPE in Georgia from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2010.

The key task of a CPE is the distribution of information on the policy and objectives of the Alliance among NATO partner states and the involvement in the promotion of closer mutual contacts and the strengthening of relations. Latvia's commitment to fulfilling the responsibility of a CPE acknowledges the successful co-operation between Latvia and Georgia that stems from the support for Georgia's aspirations of Euro-Atlantic integration.

The network of NATO CPEs was established at the beginning of 1990s with the aim of sustaining several of the Alliance's partnership formats. Since joining NATO, Latvia has fulfilled the functions of a CPE in Sweden from 1 September 2004 to 31 December 2006 and in Finland from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2008.

MFA Latvia

Georgia suffers from politicized military culture

Georgia lags in its bid to fix army

by Thom Shanker and C. J. Chivers
IHT/December 18, 2008

The Georgian military, which was routed in August during a brief war with Russia, suffers from widespread mismanagement and unqualified leadership, and is in need of extensive reforms to become a modern fighting force, according to a classified Pentagon assessment conducted this fall.

The assessment, by a team of American military officers that worked quietly in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, in October and November, offers a clinical view of a politicized military culture and substandard practices in a country lobbying to join NATO while embroiled in two bloody territorial disputes with Russia.

The assessment underscores the difficult choices to be faced by President-elect Barack Obama, whose foreign policy team will be balancing decisions on how to engage Georgia against concerns that commitments to assist its military will further inflame Russia.

The report, portions of which were shown to The New York Times by a person concerned about the poor readiness of Georgia's military, made implicitly clear that after more than a decade of American training and nearly five years of heavy investment by President Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's military remains immature and ill prepared.


Excerpts From Pentagon Report on Georgia's Military here

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

YATA Energy Conference

Dear YATA members,

just by clicking on the link below, you will find:

* A full report of the YATA Energy Conference in The Hague from November 8-November 12
* A list of the speakers and topics that were discussed
* Shell's energy scenario's

For more information, just contact me!

Brendan Troost
Secretary General YATA

China close to naval mission in the Gulf of Aden

International medias reported today that "China is seriously considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast for escorting operations in the near future,” as the Foreign Ministry official, He Yafei said, quoted by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. His remarks came at a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Reuters reported Wednesday that pirates had seized a Chinese fishing vessel off the coast of Yemen. The report said the boat was believed to have a crew of about 30. “If one day the Chinese Navy sends ships to deal with pirates,” he said, “nobody should be shocked.”

About 60 percent of China’s imported oil comes from the Middle East, and the bulk of that passes through the gulf, along with huge shipments of raw materials out of Africa. Last month, two Chinese ships were hijacked there, a fishing trawler and a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship carrying wheat.

While China has been “quite wary of putting maritime assets in the region and wary of doing anything out in the open,” Chinese diplomats have been active in anti-piracy efforts, according to Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association.

Read full article fromNew York Times

Monday, December 15, 2008

Military Plans New Supply Lines Into Afghanistan

Just last week in Pakistan, there was another attack on NATO convoys heading to Afghanistan. It was the third time a convoy was hit in the past four weeks along the road leading to the Khyber Pass. That ancient route for invading armies is now a chokehold for American supplies. As thousands of additional combat troops head to Afghanistan, along with more air power — helicopters and heavily armed drones — the amount of supplies that need to be transported into the country is going to only increase.

"I've had a concern about this for months, and in that concern, we've worked pretty hard to develop options so that we're not tied to single-point failure," says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Single-point failure" is military-speak for the fact that Americans rely on the Pakistan route for 85 percent to 90 percent of supplies — that's food, fuel and building materials. (The more sensitive military equipment — everything from guns and ammunition, armored Humvees and radios — travels into Afghanistan by cargo plane.)

The admiral has come up with two new supply routes, both of which come from the north into Afghanistan, not through Pakistan.

"So what we are looking at is a route through the Caucuses, which would be Eastern Europe, across the Black Sea, through Georgia, Azerbaijan," he says. "From the port of Baku, either to the port of Turkmenbashi or a port a little to the north in Kazakhstan called Aqtau, through either of those countries into Uzbekistan, southeast through Uzbekistan, and across the border at a place called Termiz."

That's almost 3,000 miles. Harnitchek says NATO already has received approval from all the countries along the way. "I'm looking at starting moving stuff, probably around the first of the year or so," he says. That northern land route to Afghanistan, and a neighboring one he hopes will be approved by Christmas, is almost twice as long as the trip from Pakistan. But it's also safer, Harnitchek says. It's essentially part of the ancient Silk Road, and there's no need for patrolling U.S. troops. "These are all commercial routes," Harnitchek says, "and it is our intention to have our cargo fall in with the normal flow of commerce that travels along these routes." For veteran logistics officers, additional supply corridors make sense.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The demise of NATO?

The demise of Nato

As Nato enters its twilight years, the US should encourage the EU to grow into its global responsibilities

Nick Witney, Monday 8 December 2008 22.00 GMT

Nato is dying. Death, of course, comes to all living things. And, as Nato approaches its 60th birthday next spring, there seems no immediate urgency about writing its obituary; 60-year-olds may reasonably look forward to another decade, perhaps two or even three, of active and productive life. But perhaps it is now time for some discreet reflection on the fact that "the old man will not always be with us."

But each now resents the behavior of the other. Americans find their patience tried by Europeans who are free with their advice and criticism yet reluctant to shoulder risks. Moreover, the US learned from the Kosovo experience of "war by committee" to distrust Nato as a place to run operations, and now Afghanistan highlights the organisation's limitations as a mechanism for generating force contributions.

As for Europeans, they are unhappy about pressure to participate in a US-led "global war on terror" that they regard as dangerous and misconceived, and to go along with policies seemingly designed to antagonise their more difficult neighbours like Russia and the Islamic world.

So what is to be done? None of the ideas for another dose of Nato rejuvenation looks like the answer. All the talk of an improved Nato-EU partnership is mainly wasted breath. "Intensified strategic dialogue in Brussels" in practice boils down to the chilling spectre of interminable joint committee meetings at which one nation's ambassador to Nato explains his government's position to a compatriot diplomat who is accredited to the EU, and vice-versa.
There is nothing more dramatic to be done than to focus on upgrading the EU-US strategic dialogue. The annual summits need to be made more substantial, and their focus shifted from transatlantic, bilateral issues to aligning EU and US global policies and actions. The US president should keep an eye on the calendar of the European Council, which brings the EU presidents and prime ministers together four times a year, and solicit an occasional invitation. The US mission to the EU should be scaled up, and EU representation in Washington turned into a proper embassy. The more seriously the Americans show that they are willing to take the EU collectively, the more seriously the Europeans will take themselves.

Winston Churchill once remarked that you could always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after having tried everything else. In the same way, the Europeans will eventually find themselves having to speak with one voice and act as one body in the wider world, if only because a globalised world will not allow them the luxury of doing anything else. As Charles de Gaulle forecast: "It is not any European statesman who will unite Europe. Europe will be united by the Chinese." Only collectively can Europeans be effective contributors to global security, or achieve a robust transatlantic security partnership.

As Nato enters its twilight years, the US should encourage the EU to grow into its global responsibilities. For, despite all their differences and mutual dissatisfactions, Europe and the US know that each is the best friend either is likely to have for the foreseeable future.
Nick Witney, former Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, is a senior policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How to Reprogram the Pentagon

A Balanced Strategy

Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age

Robert M. Gates
From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2009


The United States' ability to deal with future threats will depend on its performance in current conflicts. To be blunt, to fail -- or to be seen to fail -- in either Iraq or Afghanistan would be a disastrous blow to U.S. credibility, both among friends and allies and among potential adversaries.

In Iraq, the number of U.S. combat units there will decline over time -- as it was going to do no matter who was elected president in November. Still, there will continue to be some kind of U.S. advisory and counterterrorism effort in Iraq for years to come.

In Afghanistan, as President George W. Bush announced last September, U.S. troop levels are rising, with the likelihood of more increases in the year ahead. Given its terrain, poverty, neighborhood, and tragic history, Afghanistan in many ways poses an even more complex and difficult long-term challenge than Iraq -- one that, despite a large international effort, will require a significant U.S. military and economic commitment for some time.


What is dubbed the war on terror is, in grim reality, a prolonged, worldwide irregular campaign -- a struggle between the forces of violent extremism and those of moderation. Direct military force will continue to play a role in the long-term effort against terrorists and other extremists. But over the long term, the United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory. Where possible, what the military calls kinetic operations should be subordinated to measures aimed at promoting better governance, economic programs that spur development, and efforts to address the grievances among the discontented, from whom the terrorists recruit. It will take the patient accumulation of quiet successes over a long time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and their ideologies.


The military and civilian elements of the United States' national security apparatus have responded unevenly and have grown increasingly out of balance. The problem is not will; it is capacity. In many ways, the country's national security capabilities are still coping with the consequences of the 1990s, when, with the complicity of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, key instruments of U.S. power abroad were reduced or allowed to wither on the bureaucratic vine. The State Department froze the hiring of new Foreign Service officers. The U.S. Agency for International Development dropped from a high of having 15,000 permanent staff members during the Vietnam War to having less than 3,000 today. And then there was the U.S. Information Agency, whose directors once included the likes of Edward R. Murrow. It was split into pieces and folded into a corner of the State Department. Since 9/11, and through the efforts first of Secretary of State Colin Powell and now of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the State Department has made a comeback. Foreign Service officers are being hired again, and foreign affairs spending has about doubled since President Bush took office.

Yet even with a better-funded State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, future military commanders will not be able to rid themselves of the tasks of maintaining security and stability. To truly achieve victory as Clausewitz defined it -- to attain a political objective -- the United States needs a military whose ability to kick down the door is matched by its ability to clean up the mess and even rebuild the house afterward.



Even as its military hones and institutionalizes new and unconventional skills, the United States still has to contend with the security challenges posed by the military forces of other countries. The images of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia last August were a reminder that nation-states and their militaries do still matter. Both Russia and China have increased their defense spending and modernization programs to include air defense and fighter capabilities that in some cases approach the United States' own. In addition, there is the potentially toxic mix of rogue nations, terrorist groups, and nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. North Korea has built several bombs, and Iran seeks to join the nuclear club.


But it is also important to keep some perspective. As much as the U.S. Navy has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, for example, in terms of tonnage, its battle fleet is still larger than the next 13 navies combined -- and 11 of those 13 navies are U.S. allies or partners. Russian tanks and artillery may have crushed Georgia's tiny military. But before the United States begins rearming for another Cold War, it must remember that what is driving Russia is a desire to exorcise past humiliation and dominate its "near abroad" -- not an ideologically driven campaign to dominate the globe. As someone who used to prepare estimates of Soviet military strength for several presidents, I can say that Russia's conventional military, although vastly improved since its nadir in the late 1990s, remains a shadow of its Soviet predecessor. And adverse demographic trends in Russia will likely keep those conventional forces in check

In the case of China, Beijing's investments in cyberwarfare, antisatellite warfare, antiaircraft and antiship weaponry, submarines, and ballistic missiles could threaten the United States' primary means to project its power and help its allies in the Pacific: bases, air and sea assets, and the networks that support them. This will put a premium on the United States' ability to strike from over the horizon and employ missile defenses and will require shifts from short-range to longer-range systems, such as the next-generation bomber.


I have learned many things in my 42 years of service in the national security arena. Two of the most important are an appreciation of limits and a sense of humility. The United States is the strongest and greatest nation on earth, but there are still limits on what it can do. The power and global reach of its military have been an indispensable contributor to world peace and must remain so. But not every outrage, every act of aggression, or every crisis can or should elicit a U.S. military response.

We should be modest about what military force can accomplish and what technology can accomplish. The advances in precision, sensor, information, and satellite technologies have led to extraordinary gains in what the U.S. military can do. The Taliban were dispatched within three months; Saddam's regime was toppled in three weeks. A button can be pushed in Nevada, and seconds later a pickup truck will explode in Mosul. A bomb dropped from the sky can destroy a targeted house while leaving the one next to it intact.

But no one should ever neglect the psychological, cultural, political, and human dimensions of warfare. War is inevitably tragic, inefficient, and uncertain, and it is important to be skeptical of systems analyses, computer models, game theories, or doctrines that suggest otherwise. We should look askance at idealistic, triumphalist, or ethnocentric notions of future conflict that aspire to transcend the immutable principles and ugly realities of war, that imagine it is possible to cow, shock, or awe an enemy into submission, instead of tracking enemies down hilltop by hilltop, house by house, block by bloody block. As General William Tecumseh Sherman said, "Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster."

Monday, December 8, 2008

European Barack Obama :)

Cem difference

Nov 20th 2008 BERLIN From The Economist print edition
Germany’s first party leader from an ethnic minority

CEM OZDEMIR has picked a good moment to be elected co-chairman of Germany’s Green Party. All of Europe is on the hunt for a European Barack Obama. As the first Turkish-origin leader of a big party in Germany, Mr Ozdemir is the country’s top contender. It does not hurt the comparison that he is thin, good-looking, charismatic and devoted to his family (wife and daughter).

Like the American version, he tries to transcend ethnicity, but in a different way. Mr Obama hoped that the historical significance of his election would work in his favour. Mr Ozdemir (who, as a Green, is unlikely ever to rise higher than foreign minister) seems eager to play down ethnicity altogether. “Is it so important to have a Turkish chancellor?” he wonders. “The fact that we’re still talking about this shows how far there is to go.” He blames both native Germans and immigrants. Germans must become comfortable with the “hyphenated identities” of some of their fellow citizens; immigrants and their children must accept that “this is not enemy territory.” The first words he heard were in the Swabian dialect of Baden-Württemberg.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Interesting on Afganistan

Returned Afghan refugees at a camp in Chamtala in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Rafiq Maqbool/The Associated Press)

From Great Game to Grand Bargain
Ending Chaos in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Barnett Rubin & Ahmed R. Rashid
From Foreign Affairs, November/December 2008

Seven years after the U.S.-led coalition and the Afghan commanders it supported pushed the leaderships of the Taliban and al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan, an insurgency that includes these and other groups is gaining ground on both the Afghan and the Pakistani sides of the border. Four years after Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election, the increasingly besieged government of Hamid Karzai is losing credibility at home and abroad. Al Qaeda has established a new safe haven in the tribal agencies of Pakistan, where it is defended by a new organization, the Taliban Movement of Pakistan. The government of Pakistan, beset by one political crisis after another and split between a traditionally autonomous military and assertive but fractious elected leaders, has been unable to retain control of its own territory and population. Its intelligence agency stands accused of supporting terrorism in Afghanistan, which in many ways has replaced Kashmir as the main arena of the still-unresolved struggle between Pakistan and India.


Afghanistan requires far larger and more effective security forces, international or national, but support for U.S. and NATO deployments is plummeting in troop-contributing countries, in the wider region, and in Afghanistan itself. Afghanistan, the poorest country in the world but for a handful in Africa and with the weakest government in the world (except Somalia, which has no government), will never be able to sustain national security forces sufficient to confront current -- let alone escalating -- threats, yet permanent foreign subsidies for Afghanistan's security forces cannot be guaranteed and will have destabilizing consequences. Moreover, measures aimed at Afghanistan will not address the deteriorating situation in Pakistan or the escalation of international conflicts connected to the Afghan-Pakistani war. More aid to Pakistan -- military or civilian -- will not diminish the perception among Pakistan's national security elite that the country is surrounded by enemies determined to dismember it, especially as cross-border raids into areas long claimed by Afghanistan intensify that perception. Until that sense of siege is gone, it will be difficult to strengthen civilian institutions in Pakistan.


Unfortunately, no government in the region around Afghanistan supports a long-term U.S. or NATO presence there. Pakistan sees even the current deployment as strengthening an India-allied regime in Kabul; Iran is concerned that the United States will use Afghanistan as a base for launching "regime change" in Tehran; and China, India, and Russia all have reservations about a NATO base within their spheres of influence and believe they must balance the threats from al Qaeda and the Taliban against those posed by the United States and NATO. Securing Afghanistan and its region will require an international presence for many years, but only a regional diplomatic initiative that creates a consensus to place stabilizing Afghanistan ahead of other objectives could make a long-term international deployment possible.


The Pakistani military does not control the insurgency, but it can affect its intensity. Putting pressure on Pakistan to curb the militants will likely remain ineffective, however, without a strategic realignment by the United States. The region is rife with conspiracy theories trying to find a rational explanation for the United States' apparently irrational strategic posture of supporting a "major non-NATO ally" that is doing more to undermine the U.S. position in Afghanistan than any other state. Many Afghans believe that Washington secretly supports the Taliban as a way to keep a war going to justify a troop presence that is actually aimed at securing the energy resources of Central Asia and countering China. Many in Pakistan believe that the United States has deceived Pakistan into conniving with Washington to bring about its own destruction: India and U.S.-supported Afghanistan will form a pincer around Pakistan to dismember the world's only Muslim nuclear power. And some Iranians speculate that in preparation for the coming of the Mahdi, God has blinded the Great Satan to its own interests so that it would eliminate both of Iran's Sunni-ruled regional rivals, Afghanistan and Iraq, thus unwittingly paving the way for the long-awaited Shiite restoration.

The true answer is much simpler: the Bush administration never reevaluated its strategic priorities in the region after September 11. Institutional inertia and ideology jointly assured that Pakistan would be treated as an ally, Iran as an enemy, and Iraq as the main threat, thereby granting Pakistan a monopoly on U.S. logistics and, to a significant extent, on the intelligence the United States has on Afghanistan. Eighty-four percent of the materiel for U.S. forces in Afghanistan goes through Pakistan, and the ISI remains nearly the sole source of intelligence about international terrorist acts prepared by al Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan.

Taliban's Spiritual Fathers Denounce Terror. Could Taliban Be Next?
By Jeffrey Donovan, Abubakar Siddique
RFE/RL, November 18, 2008

In May, Darul Uloom Deoband Madrasah, located north of New Dehli, issued an unprecedented fatwa, or religious decree, against terrorism. Earlier this month, 4,000 senior Indian ulema and muftis -- Muslim clerics with the authority to interpret Islamic law -- backed the fatwa in a mass gathering in the city of Hyderabad.


Darul Uloom Deoband was formed about 150 years ago as a spiritual resistance movement to British rule. Over the years, its austere form of Sunni Islam, which harkens back to the early days of the faith, spread across northern India and what is now Pakistan. Thousands of madrasahs propagating its teachings cropped up across the region, including along the Afghan-Pakistan border. It is here that many Taliban, including leader Mullah Omar, received their schooling.With their teachers now coming out against terrorism, will the Taliban in Pakistan or Afghanistan follow suit? Madani is unsure. But he wants senior clerics from the eight member states of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to come together to debate whether to endorse the Deobandi decree.

Russia Opens Afghan Transit Route For NATO's Germany
By Ahto Lobjakas
RFE/RL, November 21, 2008

Germany has became the first NATO nation to win Russian permission to use the country's railways to transit military goods bound for Afghanistan.

Moscow certainly has a real interest in the stability of Afghanistan. Russia itself is home to an estimated 20 million people with Muslim backgrounds. Afghanistan's descent into chaos would also spell disaster for the strategically important and energy-rich Central Asian nations on Russia's highly exposed southern flank.But Russia now appears to prefer cultivating cooperation with some handpicked allies over forging links with the entire alliance. Thus, the Russian Foreign Ministry statement noted Germany will be permitted to transit "weapons, military equipment, and military goods."

German general breaks silence on Afghanistan
By Judy Dempsey
IHT, November 30, 2008

Germany was responsible for training the Afghan police, but the German Interior Ministry, led by the conservative Wolfgang Schäuble, has come under repeated criticism from the United States and other NATO allies for providing too few experts and inappropriate training.The training scheme was "a miserable failure," Ammon told DPA, the German press agency, after describing the German record in Afghanistan to a gathering last week of a reservists' association. The government had provided a mere €12 million for training the Afghan Army and police while the United States has already given more than $1 billion, he said."At that rate, it would take 82 years to have a properly trained police force," he said. More damaging for Germany's reputation, Ammon said, was that its police-training mission was considered such a "disaster" that the United States and EU had taken over responsibility

Strategy shift poses stiff challenge for Obama
By Michael R. Gordon
IHT, December 2, 2008

"Afghanistan is not Iraq," said Ali Jalali, a former Afghan interior minister, who projects that it will take 10 years to establish stability in the country. "It is the theme park of problems." One major difference is that Iraq is a heavily urbanized society. When President George W. Bush announced the Iraq troop surge, the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia was focusing its attacks on Baghdad. By deploying five additional combat brigades in and around the city, the United States was able to concentrate its combat power in the area that its primary foe had chosen as the main arena.

In Afghanistan, while there are important cities like Kandahar that experts say need to be protected, much of the population lives in rural areas. "Fifty percent of Afghans continue to live in villages of 300 persons or less, and 75 to 80 percent live in a rural environment," said J. Alexander Thier, an expert on Afghanistan at the United States Institute of Peace, a government-financed research center. "The insurgency is rural-based."

Another critical difference pertains to the local army and the police who fight alongside the Americans. When the buildup began there were more than 300,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers. The quality of the Iraqi troops was uneven, and they depended on the Americans for airstrikes, artillery and some logistical support. But the Iraqi security forces demonstrated with their March offensive in Basra that they were able to deploy over long distances; and they have now expanded to more than 500,000.

In contrast, Afghanistan has a minuscule military for a nation with a population of 32 million — several million more than Iraq — and a territory that is a quarter larger than Iraq. The Afghan Army is nearly 70,000 strong, and the Afghan police number about 80,000, though many police officers are regarded as corrupt or ineffectual.

The conflict in Afghanistan is also complicated by a haven for militants just across the border in Pakistan, where a sympathetic Pashtun population is in control and has been able practically to ignore the Pakistani central government. For the military effort in Afghanistan to succeed, the Pakistani military would have to establish control of much of that lawless territory: a formidable task that would require a new emphasis on counterinsurgency by the Pakistani military and a greater willingness on the part of Pakistani leaders, who may be distracted by the flare-up of tensions with India after the attacks in Mumbai last week.

For all that, the political weakness of the Afghan government may be American officials' biggest worry. While Iraq is rife with sectarian tension and political rivalries, Iraqis have a tradition of a strong centralized state. In Afghanistan, power has long been decentralized and distributed, and there is broad dissatisfaction with President Hamid Karzai, who is expected to campaign for re-election next year. In Afghanistan, there is no memory of a centralized state," said Marvin Weinbaum, a former analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and a scholar at the Middle East Institute. "What they do have is a memory of a central government of limited scope and limited reach. Their expectations were driven up by our rhetoric and our proposals, and now somehow we have to find a way to meet those expectations."

Another reason sectarian violence declined so drastically in Iraq was the alignment of Sunni tribes with American forces. The Sunni Awakening in Anbar Province was under way before the surge, but the arrival of additional troops reinforced the effort there and encouraged the growth of Awakening movements in other parts of Iraq. In Afghanistan, the tribal network is far more fragmented, and commanders are wary of building up the strength of one tribe for fear of alienating a rival tribe.


Afghan refugees return home to a life of desperation

By Adam B. Elick IHT, December 3, 2008

In Pakistan, they lived in poor but industrious refugee settlements. Men held down manual-labor jobs, and most Afghans had homes, however spartan. Pakistan played host for decades. Although it still maintains dozens of camps, Pakistan closed two large camps in North-West Frontier Province near the Afghan border during the past 18 months, saying they had become sanctuaries for militant groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban.The nation's largest camp, Jalozai, was closed in May, forcing 110,000 Afghans to choose between two bleak options: relocate within Pakistan or return home.With Pakistan suffering from a food and fuel crisis, and with rent prices soaring in nearby cities like Peshawar, the answer was easy enough for 70 percent of them....


No Dream for Karzai

The Economist, December 4, 2008

The new administration is collecting champions of the Afghan problem. The vice-president-elect, Joe Biden, is a veteran of many visits to the region. The next secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has called Afghanistan and Pakistan the “forgotten front-line” in the war on terror, and has advocated the appointment of a special envoy to the two countries. If she gets her way, a probable candidate for the job is her old ally, Richard Holbrooke, a former American ambassador to the UN. He is also the chairman of the New York-based Asia Society and sits on its task-force on Afghanistan with Barnett Rubin, an expert on the country.

A dream team of Afghanistan-watchers, however, may be a nightmare for Mr Karzai, who enjoys a hearty, backslapping friendship with the loyal Mr Bush. Mr Obama has been sharply critical of him for not having “gotten out of the bunker” to organise the country in a way that would build confidence.


NATO and YouTube

Couple of days ago I was researching for the info on the web for my studies, and unexpectedly I found out that OSCE has recently established a YouTube account, thus establishing official OSCE Channel on YouTube -

Just excellent idea! I have been thinking about that idea for quite a long time in the framework for NATO, as millions of people are surfing in the YouTube for videos and other interesting materials. If you type name "NATO" as I am doing now, you will find information about NATO from official Russia Today and Aljazeer English Channels, song by a Turkish lady called Nato but NO official NATO Channel. Instead we have a separate NATO Channel, which I am not sure can boast with big audience. I am trying to type and what I see - a girl with a nick NATO cleaning her toilet.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Energy for all - a challenge for all

Dear YATA-members,

from November 8 until November 12 the Netherlands Atlantic Association and the Netherlands Atlantic Youth organised an international YATA-conference in the Hague called 'Energy for all - a challenge for all'. On YATA Talk you will find a brief summary of this very interesting conference. A longer report and some pictures will be published in the next YATA news letter.

With kind regards,

Brendan Troost
President Netherlands Atlantic Youth and Secretary General YATA

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

International Herald Tribune: Georgia and Ukraine Split NATO Members

You can find here a recent and interesting article on how Georgia and Ukraine are splitting NATO members in what regards their acession.