Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Runaway General | Rolling Stone Politics

This is a very, very interesting article that comes at a very interesting time in the Afghanistan fight. I think this article will have game changing effects. A must read.

The Runaway General Rolling Stone Politics

Friday, June 18, 2010

Robert Art's Vital Interests

Here is a recent question from class. It is about Robert Art's idea about American interests. Any thoughts?

Review Art's three "vital interests": In your estimation, did he get them "right"? Using what you now know about the "9/11" attacks, how is it that he could see so clearly the threat to homeland security (at least two years before it happened) when others seemingly never envisaged such a threat?

Robert Art suggests there are six national interests, three of which are vital. He says, "retarding NBC spread, maintaining Eurasian great-power peace, and preserving access to secure and stable oil supplies" (Art & Waltz, 2009) are vital to American interests. I think for the most part he was right. But I think there are considerations to adjust some of what he considers "vital."

Regarding our homeland security, Art points out that of three types of threats, "the third type of threat - fanatical terrorists or rogue states armed with NBC weapons" (p. 331) were the most worrisome. While I think still true today, the one aspect of attacks I think many people were missing was the creativity of fanatical terrorists. The remarkable thing and arguably one of the reasons we failed to stop the 9/11 attack was how simple it was. Granted, the effort was very coordinated, well planned, and well thought out. But, the actual procedure of hijacking planes and turning them into weapons is too simple.

It seems that the fascination with weapons of mass destruction has been limited to NBC weapons. This is an area Art could refine with respect to this particular "vital interest." He was right to say that the present day threat was of a terrorist nature, but focusing on only "rogue states or fanatical terrorists armed with NBC weapons" (p. 331) leaves our broadside exposed to any number of creative options.
His idea about maintaining Eurasian peace may need updating as well. On the one hand he more than implies that it is the United States' responsibility to keep Eurasian states from all out war (Art & Waltz, 2009). This means that those states are inherently subordinate to the U.S. While that may be technically true from an international economic and military perspective today, the challenge for the U.S. is to maintain that hegemonic responsibility into the future. If the relative power of Eurasian states balances with the U.S., then the U.S. may find it hard to persuade those states to accept supervision.

This is what Fareed Zakaria talked about in his book The Post-American World. He suggests, "We are now living through the third great power shift of the modern era. It could be called 'the rise of the rest'" (p. 2). Following Zakaria's suggestion, then, the balance of global power is slowly shifting away from the U.S. and leveling amongst a field of players. His point is not that the U.S. is losing power. Rather other states, particularly Eurasian states are gaining power and independence while American power remains constant. Art's Eurasian peace theory requires perpetual American dominance. While I would not necessarily be opposed to that, the U.S. should consider the possibilities were it no longer the dominating force in the world.

In general , forecasting the future may not be practical, but enough clues from the past and present exist to piece together possibilities. The challenge is paying attention to the clues. I think Art saw clearly potential threats to U.S. homeland security. While his focus was partially narrowed to focus on NBC threats, the gist of what he proposed as threats was true. Many others saw those threats too.
Ahmed Rashid warned that the West was ignoring a growing threat in Afghanistan (Rashid, 1999). In his 1999 Foreign Affairs piece Rashid said, "Terrorism will develop new adherents there [Afghanistan]" and that cost was one "that no country…can hope to bear" (p. 35). In a response to that article a couple of months later, Peter Tomsen pointed out that, "Afghanistan is the documented training and inspirational base for worldwide militant Islamist operations ranging from American soil to the Middle East…" (p. 181). At the same time Zalmay Khalilzad and Daniel Byman urged that immediate action was essential. If not the Taliban would become, "too strong to turn away from rogue behavior" and "gain more influence with insurgents, terrorists…and spread its abusive ideology throughout the region" (pp.65-66). These are only a few examples of clues. Art was talking about impending terrorist threats. Many were talking about impending terrorists threats. It seems few were paying attention.

Art, R. J., & Waltz, K. N. (2009). The Use of Force Military Power and International Politics (Seventh ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefied Publishers, Inc.

Khalilzad, Z., & Byman, D. (2000). Afghanistan: The Consolidation of a Rogue State. The Washington Quarterly
, 23 (1), 65-78.

Rashid, A. (1999, November/December). The Taliban: Exporting Extremism. Foreign Affairs
, 78 (6).

Tomsen, P. (2000). A Chance for Peace in Afghanistan. Foreign Affairs
, 79 (1), 179-182.

Zakaria, F. (2009). The Post-American World. New York: W.W. Norton.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Name Change

I believe there is a lot in a name. Today was an aniversary for YouTube. Their name is interesting and intriguing and inviting all at the same time. So, I think it is time to change the name of this blog. It's not that I don't like it. I just think it is confusing. I'm confused by it - and I made it up. I've got one more essay to post from this semester and will be putting it up later this weekend. Then I'll have one more semester to go. During the next semester I'm going to try to keep this place a little more updated. I'm not too concerned about trying to attract readers. But, I don't want to discourage anyone who might be remotely interested in checking out a deeper discussion about stuff in the world. Plus, I'd like to delve a little deeper into the discussions. What should I call it? As with the blog, I'm open to ideas.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Challenges of Punitive and Reconciliatory Measures

Here is a recent essay from class. This topic dealt with punitive measures and reconciliatory measures used to prosecute offenders of atrocities. We were to discuss the challenges that different actors face when balancing which measure to use. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Nation/State-Building Challenges of Punitive and Reconciliatory Measures

    Patrice McMahon and Jon Western warn that (2009), "After 14 years of the international community's effort in the Balkans, eight in Afghanistan, and six in Iraq, it is clear that state building is not for the faint of heart" (McMahon & Western, 2009). These examples and many others prove two things. State building has become a rule following conflicts, and it is not easy. When states, coalitions or international institutions engage in the post-conflict nation/state building process, they face several challenges. They are challenged with understanding the conflict. They are challenged with determining a solution to the conflict, and they are challenged with adjudicating the conflict.

    Adjudicating the conflict offers specific challenges. External actors must balance the punitive and reconciliatory measures necessary to ensure justice. In doing so they must take into consideration three things. First, external actors should consider their effect on state sovereignty. By virtue of their intervention, external actors interfere with state sovereignty. Second, they should consider whether a certain measure of force may be necessary to either bring about an end to conflict or to maintain an end of conflict. Third, they must determine an effective solution to accountability. They must also determine which form of accountability will achieve the most effective result. Additionally, since future conflict remains an unavoidable problem for the international community, who is most effective in meeting those challenges - the state, international institutions or others, such as non-governmental organizations (NGO)? The entire process of conflict resolution, then, is a balancing act of challenges for both punitive and reconciliatory measures.


    Trials and tribunals, such as those conducted at Nuremburg following WWII, are generally punitive post-conflict measures. Their intent is to prosecute those who are responsible for atrocities. On the one hand, punitive measures are necessary to seek justice. On the other hand they can also act as a deterrent for future violence. In terms of international justice, Ramsbotham et al believe that trials (2005) "are an essential ingredient in the struggle to assert internationally endorsed humane standards" (p. 241).

    Truth commissions lean more towards a reconciliatory measure in that they do not entirely prosecute fault. They more so explain fault. The truth commissions used in South Africa, for instance, were particularly important for closing a dark chapter on racial and ethnic abuses. While some suggest truth commissions do not fully prosecute offenders, they do expose the gravity of situations. In South Africa the extent to which apartheid was a function of inhuman treatment became "truth." It was hard to deny those abuses took place. Jonathan Tepperman expressed this in a Foreign Affairs essay in which he cites a South African Constitutional Court judge. The judge, Richard Goldstone, says (2002), "If we had not had a truth commission, the denial of apartheid-era abuses …would no doubt continue to this day" (p. 135-136). Outside actors take on several challenges in choosing which measure to apply.


    One challenge outside actors face is that they are outside actors. They cross the lines of sovereignty to intervene in situations. Since the end of the Cold War, lines of sovereignty have been crossed many times including Somalia, Haiti, Cambodia, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan (Fukuyama, 2004) and most recently Pakistan. We should reflect on the following observation Francis Fukuyama made in his aptly titled book, State-Building:

State sovereignty was a fiction or bad joke in the case of countries like Somalia or Afghanistan, which had descended into rule by warlords. Dictators and human rights abusers like Serbia's Milosevic could not hide behind the principle of sovereignty to protect themselves as they committed crimes against humanity, particularly in multiethnic states like the former Yugoslavia where the borders of the sovereign state in question were themselves contested. Under these circumstances, outside powers, acting in the name of human rights and democratic legitimacy, had not just the right but the obligation to intervene. (p. 97)

    Intervening in a situation inherently requires an organization to inject itself into the troubled nation. In Bosnia for instance, many international organizations entered the scenario. The United Nations, NATO, the EU, the United States and many more separate organizations sought to help the Balkan states recover from both fighting and atrocities. McMahon and Western suggest that at one point over 262 (McMahon & Western, 2009) entities were working within Bosnia. To say that Bosnia had any control of itself at that time would be laughable. They did not.

    Yet, as Fukuyama said, the international community essentially had an obligation to intervene because the Balkan conflict had human rights interests and international interests. Necessary intervention, though, can become problematic. Over time the intervention of external actors creates a sense of fatigue. James O'Brien illustrates the fatigue by saying (2006), "many in the region may be tired of change; as one participant told me, the states 'are tired of transition'" (p. 80). In that case the international community must determine which actor is best suited to mete out justice, bring about change and avoid upsetting too extensively states' rights of sovereignty.

    For this particular challenge, regional coalitions, such as the EU, may be the most effective element. In the Balkans, there is a specific incentive for participation by the affected nations. It is in their best interest to become members of the EU. Conversely, the EU is able to leverage its incentive to effect changes. Elizabeth Pond notes that (2008), "The trump card is that the Kosovar Albanians, like everyone else in the Balkans, yearn to join the EU…and must be on their best behavior to qualify" (p. 104). Because they hold that "trump card" of dependency, regional institutions can be more nimble in terms of interfering with sovereignty. But what if more than just access to the troubled state is needed?


    Fukuyama argues that force was the necessary measure needed to "pacify" the Balkans. Drawing a distinction between applying peace and applying force, Fukuyama suggests the following (2004):

the European peacekeepers contributed to the problem by not being willing to fight; in places like Srebrenica, they were held hostage and needed to be rescued. It was only as a result of actions by states that were willing to decisively use traditional forms of military power - the Croatians in the case of Bosnia and the Americans in the case of Kosovo - that Serbian domination was ended and the Balkans pacified. (p. 116)

A particularly frustrating challenge actors face in troubled situations is to what extent should force be applied to quell violence. Arguably the UN has a poor track record of applying force in situations. An equally arguable point some might make is that member states, such as the U.S., can be unreasonably forceful. Actors must consider to what extent force should be applied in the situation. This determination can impact the method external actors use to achieve justice be it punitive or reconciliatory.    

    Ramsbotham et al suggest there is a need to end violence before meting out justice. Referring to the aforementioned, Richard Goldstone, who was also involved in criminal tribunals of the former Yugoslavia, they note that (2005) "without a cessation of violence there is usually no hope of bringing perpetrators of atrocities to justice" (p. 241). When external actors must force an end to violence, they must also be careful not to blur the legal lines of war and peace. Kenneth Roth makes this point regarding the United States' handling of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an essay for Foreign Affairs he says (2004), "using war rules when law-enforcement rules could reasonably be followed is dangerous…But if war rules apply, the government is never obliged to prove a suspect's guilt" (p. 5).

    That is not to say external actors would either apply rules of war or apply rules of peace when prosecuting alleged offenders. But, the effect of the measure of force applied to end violence could cause actors to apply more punitive measures instead of reconciliatory ones or vice versa. Therefore it may be incumbent upon international institutions, such as the UN, to affix a punitive or reconciliatory label to the resolution process. As an institution that should remain somewhat impartial, they would likely be more effective at determining a path to justice. This way accountability can be properly applied on both sides of the conflict.


    After a conflict, intervening actors are challenged to deal with the question of what to do with the accused. Part of the resolution process involves holding perpetrators accountable. This is in part a matter of upholding regional and international human rights norms. It is also a matter of closing painful chapters of history for the offended so they and the nation can move on. Henry Kissinger put it this way in a 2001 Foreign Affairs essay (2001), "It is an important principle that those who commit war crimes or systematically violate human rights should be held accountable" (Kissinger, 2001). But what does it mean to be held accountable? For instance which process of justice would have served both the former Serbian President, Slobodan Milosovic, and the Serbian people? Was the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sufficient? Or would a less punitive approach, such as truth commissions used in Central and South America, have effectively moved the conflict forward?

    It is difficult to say because both methods have inherent problems. Michael Humphrey, in a 2003 essay, points out that (2003), "The main public criticisms of truth commission reports…[is] governments' failure to implement the recommendations of reports, especially on reparations" (p. 178). As was mentioned before, truth commissions expose the truth. On many levels they contribute to the emotional healing of a nation. But, when severe atrocities are committed, blanket forgiveness may not be a viable option.

    What further complicates determining accountability is determining through which means accountability is served. This is specifically true of punitive measures. Laura Dickinson offers a reasonably convincing suggestion that instead of purely domestic or purely international courts, a hybrid system of justice may be most effective to ensure proper accountability (Dickinson, 2003). She argues that domestically courts (2003), "do not capture the complexity or magnitude of the atrocities" (p. 305). In essence, domestic judicial systems are not designed to handle the extent of atrocities which often are of an international scope.

    Conversely she argues that internationally (2003), "there is often such a limited base of familiarity with the norms in question that such authority is meaningless" (p. 305). In other words, courts, such as the International Criminal Court, can be so far removed from the problem that their lack of understanding regional and local laws has negative ramifications. For these reasons, then, regional institutions may be most effective at determining accountability. Institutions such as NATO have a vested interest in resolving conflict particularly when member states are involved. Also, because of their regional familiarity, NATO and similar regional institutions may more effectively issue meaningful authority rather than "authority [that] is meaningless".

    Undoubtedly nation/state-building is very complicated. But, it is an inescapable international process. Fukuyama offers (2004), "Peace is of inestimable benefit to the people living in those countries and justifies the international effort" (p. 103). The challenges of sovereignty, use of force, and effective accountability are a few of the many challenges external actors face when trying to resolve conflicts. It is important for the international community to balance those challenges. And, it is important for the international community to apply the proper institution to those challenges. Doing so may bring about a more effective end to conflict whereby either punishment or reconciliation is best served.


Dickinson, L. (2003). The promise of hybrid courts. The American Journal of International Law
, 97 (2), 295-310.

Fukuyama, F. (2004). State-building: governance and world order in the 21st century. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Humphrey, M. (2003). From victim to victimhood: truth commissions and trials as rituals of political transition and individual healing. The Australian Journal of Anthropology
, 14 (2), 171-187.

Kissinger, H. (2001, July/August). The pitfalls of universal jurisdiction. Foreign Affairs
, 80 (4), pp. 86-96.

McMahon, P. C., & Western, J. (2009, Sep/Oct). The death of dayton. Foreign Affairs
, 88 (5), pp. 69-83.

O'Brien, J. C. (2006, Summer). Brussels: next capital of the balkans? The Washington Quarterly
, 29 (3), pp. 71-87.

Pond, E. (2008, Autumn). The EU's test in kosovo. The Washington Quarterly
, 31 (4), pp. 97-112.

Ramsbotham, O., Woodhouse, T., & Miall, H. (2005). Contemporary conflict resolution (Second Edition ed.). Malden, MA: Polity.

Roth, K. (2004, January/February). The law of war in the war on terror. Foreign Affairs
, 83 (1), pp. 2-7.

Tepperman, J. D. (2002, March/April). Truth and consequences. Foreign Affairs
, 81 (2), pp. 128-145.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thoughts on the Marshall Plan

I am not much of a historian. In fact I can barely remember what happened last week. But, we have been discussing the Marshall Plan in class. It is something I do not remember learning. I’ve heard about it. We hear about it often in the news and as a comparison to present day drastic measures. But, I wonder if we really know what we are talking about. Anyway, here is what I think thus far. Thoughts? Ideas? More info please?

There were at least two primary motives for the implementation of the Marshall Plan. After Germany surrendered unconditionally, two significant shocks to the global system remained. One, was the physical devastation left behind in Europe. Infrastructure was severely lacking and people were literally hungry. Two, was the oncoming rise of communism from the East. So, there was a practical and political motive to the Marshall Plan.

The practical application was to help Europe recover from the war. Truman saw a recovered Europe as in the best interest of all - America and Europe (Truman, 1972). In recognizing a need for Europe to quickly come back from such loss, Truman and his administration put a priority on helping them. In her book about her father, Truman's daughter Margaret, recalled a 1948 speech to Congress in which he said (1972), "the determination of the free countries of Europe to protect themselves will be matched by an equal determination on our part to help them protect themselves" (p. 405). Part of the Marshall Plan was to do just that - inject aid on a massive scale to help Europe help themselves.

The political piece of the plan, however, was most likely to set conditions for the oncoming struggle between communism and capitalism. David Reynolds points out in his Foreign Affairs piece that (1997), "The promise of American aid helped persuade the center-left in both of these countries to break with the communists and, in Frances case, with Soviet foreign policy" (p. 182). Reynolds also points out that Stalin himself drew a similar conclusion regarding the Marshall Plan (Reynolds, 1997). Given that Truman was not only a very practical person, he was a very skilled politician. I believe the Marshall Plan was very much a political calculation to strike against the East (Soviets) and extend American democratic influence.

Reynolds, D. (1997, May/June). The european response. Foreign Affairs , 76 (3), pp. 171-184.

Truman, M. (1972). Harry S. Truman. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Post-Conflict Reconstruction Tools

Post-Conflict Reconstruction Tools: The Interconnectedness of the Political, Economic, and Military

    In the book Contemporary Conflict Resolution, Oliver Ramsbotham et al point out that (2005), "Conflict is an intrinsic and inevitable aspect of social change" (p. 13). This statement is hard to dispute. Throughout the course of human history states have risen and fallen. Some are more successful than others (The failed state index, 2009). The disparity of successes and failures, contradiction of cultures, demand for strength and power are only a few of the many reasons states conflict with each other. Given that conflict is such a part of the global landscape, mechanisms have emerged over time to deal with those conflicts. The study and practice of conflict resolution is no less intricate and complicated than the diversity of the conflicts themselves.

    Today's policy makers employ certain tools to reshape and reconstruct those conflicted landscapes. States use their political, economic and military arms as tools to engage in the reconstruction of war-torn or crisis-torn states. The question is, to what extent are these tools interconnected? Are they unilaterally sufficient, or are they mutually dependent on each other to achieve certain effects in crisis regions? Also, given that the global landscape is inevitably conflicted, as Ramsbotham et al suggest, how much more challenging is it to implement the triune of tools today than prior to the end of the Cold War?

    John Hamre and Gordon Sullivan point out that post-conflict reconstruction entails four separate functions: security, justice and reconciliation, social and economic well-being, and governance and participation (Hamre & Sullivan, 2002). This four pronged approach is similar to the longstanding military principle of national strategy known as DIME: diplomatic, information, military, and economic. Whichever way the terms are defined, these pillars are influenced by the political, economic and military tools to balance a nation's foundation. When a conflict or crisis arises, a state becomes out of balance because one of those factors is exaggerated or neglected. One of the political, economic or military tools must be strengthened to support the foundational pillars.

    It is helpful to view this relationship in the form of a three-legged table on which rests the foundational pillars (Fig. 1). The legs represent the effort of political, economic and military tools balancing the table. From this illustration it becomes clear that any element either a leg or a pillar that is uneven could tip the table in any direction. In terms of reconstruction, it stands to reason that to achieve a solid reconstruction result, a strategy should employ all three tools concurrently.

Fig. 1

    There exists, then, an interconnected relationship not only with the political, economic and military, but also with a state's foundational pillars. The topside and the underside of the table must work together to keep the table steady. This relationship is consistent with present day thinking regarding reconstruction. Hamre and Sullivan reference the former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, who said (2002), "'All these tasks - humanitarian, military, political, social, and economic - are interconnected...We cannot expect lasting success in any of them unless we pursue all of them at once as part of a single coherent strategy'" (p. 92). Using this illustration along with any foundational pillars such as those Hamre and Sullivan suggest as a framework for discussion, we can determine the extent to which these elements are in fact interconnected.

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict offers one example of the impact from imbalance in the application of the political tool. In 2006 Hamas, a labeled terrorist organization, won Palestinian legislative elections. This was a shock to many in the Arab region and to the West. What could be considered a diplomatic blunder, was a political miscalculation of the Palestinian situation. This led to what Glen Kessler points out in his Washington Quarterly piece (2008), "Hamas's (sic) eventual seizure of the Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million inhabitants" (p. 137).

    The political imbalance was evident from two angles. First, a terrorist organization legitimately assumed Palestinian control. After Hamas won the election, the region was left to deal with a previously illegitimate organization. Second, the U.S. and others, prior to the election, were possibly too focused on the political election process. Again Kessler points out (2008), "Its victory [Hamas]…is the direct result of the U.S. fixation with elections as a pathway to democracy" (p. 138). In other words applying too much energy on the political leg of the Palestinian situation caused that leg to be overextended.

    This has tipped the foundational table in the region making further peace settlements potentially more difficult. Coincidentally, Kessler explains a similar balancing act in which he illustrates (2008), "The rise of Hamas means that a viable peace has become a three-legged stool - Israel, Fatah, and Hamas. The stool will not stand if one leg is missing." (p. 139).

    Whichever element of the legs and pillars one chooses as most important, it cannot alone act to reconstruct a state. All elements should be considered simultaneously. Also, the process of reconstruction is neither sequential nor linear. Each tool should be applied in sync with the others. One leg cannot be constructed without support from the other two. Seth Kaplan offers a case in point approach to helping Somalia recover from years of internal and external struggles. In his Washington Quarterly essay he explains:

A four-pronged approach might be most productive: One, provide military, financial, and political support...Two, spur the establishment of new regional governments...Three, encourage moderate Islamic groups to participate in this plan...Four, help establish a modest national superstructure of governance. (p. 92)

     An important point to note about comprehensive, multi-faceted integration of tools is that interconnectedness may allow for more complex problem solving. One thing aiding states should consider is that every situation is not exactly the same. Each crisis requires a different application of each tool to achieve the greatest level of reconstruction success. As Kaplan concluded (2010), "The international community needs to look beyond the one-size-fits-all state-building formula if it hopes to fix fragile states" (p. 95). By attacking problems with a comprehensive strategy of political, economic and military tools, the pillars of a state's foundation can be reconstructed together minimizing lopsided results.    

    Mapping out a strategy for reconstruction in a given crises area is no easy task. There are myriad data points to consider when evaluating a state. The magazine, Foreign Policy, publishes an annual Failed States Index. The recent index includes 12 measures of failure ranging from security to development. Each measure of failure is representative of the political, economic, and military tools either working or not working well. Failed states in which none of the three work well, such as Somalia, are clearly evident. Others, such as China, which are supported more favorably in the economic realm, but less so in the political are not as obviously "failed" (The failed state index, 2009). In terms of reconstruction, then, it would be necessary to fully analyze those elements of a state that require a boost. Doing so would, in essence, determine the right amount of influence in the right area to shift the imbalance.

    Historically, applying the political, economic, and military tools has never been free of challenge. But, implementing those tools for reconstruction in some respects offers new and more complicated challenges today. Prior to the end of the Cold War, conflicts were relatively symmetrical. Conflicts began. Fighting ensued. Conflicts ended. The international community intervened, and the process of reconstruction moved on. Ramsbotham et al note that (2005), "In 1945 the political conflicts were decided on the battlefield and were emphatically over before reconstruction began. This is not the situation in most 1989-2004 cases" (p. 191).

    Since the end of the Cold War, a more correct description of conflicts is that they are more asymmetrical. Terrorism is an additional dimension added to the global landscape. Ramsbotham et al note that terrorism is not a new phenomenon (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, & Miall, 2005). But, the latter half of the 20th century has arguably seen a greater proliferation of terrorist influences. The threat of terrorism may be more profound after the Cold War in so far as the outcome of terrorist acts are more dramatic. Ramsbotham et al point out that (2005), "the greatest number of terrorist atrocities in the past century has been perpetrated by what Walter Laquer calls 'terrorism from above'. According to some estimates, well over 160 million of their own citizens were 'intentionally killed' by repressive governments" (p. 71). Because terrorism is a loose term that includes criminal, tyrannical and ideological realms, it is therefore very widely spread.

    This author submits that the complexity terrorism injects into the global scene adds a dimension that was previously unrecognized or only mildly scrutinized. It is interesting that empirically there has been a decline in the number of conflicts since 1989 (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, & Miall, 2005). But, the decline in overall conflicts may have been eclipsed by the global involvement of much of the international community to combat the threat of terrorism in its many forms. In other words, the world is joined in a fight against terrorism. This post-Cold War is unique because the diversity of terrorism is as vast as the number of states affected by terrorism. This means that every conflict situation is different and requires a specific strategy. As Ramsbotham et al point out (2005), "no one operating model can fit the needs and complexities of each country's situation" (p. 192).

    For that reason, applying the political, economic and military tools in post-conflict reconstruction is potentially more challenging than before. The stakes still remain as high as they were prior to the end of the Cold War. But now, the added dimension of terrorism means that reconstruction models should be tailored rather than store bought. Post-conflict reconstruction requires even more careful analysis of the multifaceted dimensions of a situation to maintain balance. More so, applying a combination of political, economic and military tools to each situation also requires careful analysis so as not to exaggerate one element or neglect another.


Hamre, J. J., & Sullivan, G. R. (2002, Autumn). Toward postconflict reconstruction. The     Washington Quarterly
, 25 (4), pp. 85-96.

Kaplan, S. (2010). Rethinking state-building in a failed state. The Washington Quarterly
, 33     (1), 81-97.

Kessler, G. (2008, Autumn). Fix this middle eastern mess. The Washington Quarterly
, 31     (4), pp. 135-142.

Ramsbotham, O., Woodhouse, T., & Miall, H. (2005). Contemporary conflict resolution     (Second Edition ed.). Malden, MA: Polity.

The failed state index. (2009, July/August). Foreign Policy , pp. 80-83.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Afghanistan in the 90s

Here is a piece from the last class. The tone of this piece might seem like I'm accusing a certain country or set of countries for failing to act in the 90s. That is true, but that does not mean I am blaming them. There are enough circumstances in history that in retrospect inaction or minimal action by those who could have done more resulted in bad situations. It is a common thread, but I don't think blame is the correct word. Instead we should remember these lessons and pay attention. I think we often miss what's in our periphery vision because we focus too much on what's directly in front of us.

Afghanistan in the 90s: Where Were We?
"Into the political vacuum left by 20 years of war and the collapse of stable government has marched a new generation of violent fundamentalists, nurtured and inspired by the Taliban's unique Islamist model" Ahmed Rashid, 1999
Afghanistan has been referred to by several scholars and pundits as the "Graveyard of Empires."It is a land that has trapped many would be conquerors. Malou Innocent and Ted Galen Carpenter give this description (2009):
From its invasion by Genghis Khan and his two-million strong Mongol hordes to the superpower proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union, Afghanistan's trade routes and land-locked position in the middle of the region have for centuries rendered it vulnerable to invasion by external powers. (p. 1)
In their study for the Cato Institute, Innocent and Carpenter map out a plan for the United States to escape from this graveyard, unlike the Soviets who did not escape (Innocent & Carpenter, 2009). It is from the aforementioned backdrop that one might wonder, how can this place be such a vacuum for societies? Similar descriptions give it the impression of being a black hole on earth. Is peace possible in this place so void of it? Given its track record the answer is doubtful. Why?
Today NATO forces continue to engage in a protracted war for peace. Brought on by the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001, waging peace has been no simple task. Into the ninth year, the world watches again as nations pour their militaries into Afghanistan in an effort to topple an insurgency that ceases to disappear. Names such as Gulbeddin Hekmatyar, Mullah Omar, and Osama bin Ladin are at the front of a target list of enemies. Finding and bringing these leaders of extremist organizations to justice is a primary objective in the long war. Yet they are not new names.
Their cause is not new, and their intentions are not new. These same names and many more surfaced during the 80s and 90s. It was during the 90s that many of them and their organizations such as Hizb-i-Islami, Taliban, and al Qaeda became prevalent. And, it was during this period that conditions were perfect for their ideologies to ripen. How did it happen? Could the world have seen them and their intentions coming? Could the world have prevented a rise of extremist ideology in Afghanistan? More importantly, did it try? We have to wonder in retrospect if effective efforts of peace were made during this decade? We should also wonder if more could have been done and would more have made any difference?
Afghanistan has run the gamut of peacekeeping operations. Throughout the 80s and 90s and the turn of the century, the international community has been engaged in peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peace enforcement operations. Between 1990 and 2000 Afghanistan underwent a transformation that resulted in the present day battle to eliminate Taliban control. After the Soviet Union was forced out of the country, Afghanistan experienced more than just a shift in power. Immediately after the Soviet defeat, power was virtually non-existent. It was during this non-existent period between 1989 and 1992 that groups maneuvered for a position to claim hold of the country. Ultimately one group, the Taliban, prevailed.
Their brand of extreme, fundamentalist and ultra-conservative Islam proved to be oppressive and threatening. They enacted a form of law that engaged in extreme forms of punishment. They pushed a system of rule that was strict and harsh. Their continued pursuit of power resulted in a massive exodus of refugees and a violent loss of civilian life. Internally the Taliban caused nothing but problems for the Afghan people. Internationally, the Taliban caused nothing but problems for security. It was their harboring of other extremist groups that warranted an even greater appreciation for the gravity of their threat. In a Foreign Affairs piece in 2000, Peter Tomsen pointed out that (2000), "Afghanistan is the documented training and inspirational base for worldwide militant Islamist operations ranging from American soil to the Middle East…" (p. 181). It was no secret who the Taliban were and what their intentions were. Yet, there is little evidence suggesting western states were interested in preventing a failed state's further demise. As a result of the Soviet defeat in 1989 and the withdrawal of U.S. interest in the region, a vacuum was created.
This gets to the heart of the issue in the 90s, and that is, given a void, what remained to fill the void? Was it rogue elements or the international community vis-à-vis peace measures? Clearly rogue elements filled that void. Could something have taken their place? The preferred option would have measures of peace.
In a similarly conflicted region of the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Darfur region of Sudan offer examples of minimally effective intervention by the international community. Francois Grignon and Daniela Kroslak point out that (2008), "Once a vacuum is created, it has to be filled by agreed state structures. If not, the same or other armed groups will quickly regain or expand their territorial control" (p. 187). Regarding African states, genocide and extreme ethnic cleansing resulted from those vacuums being filled with violent regimes. Indeed peace operations existed in those African states and they continue today. But to what end? Recently the question was asked as to the success or failure of MONUC, the UN mission in Congo. Given that Grignon and Kroslak suggest (2008), "its efforts over the past five years to save lives in eastern Congo, it has performed abysmally" (p. 186), many agree that UN efforts have in fact been a failure. So what about Afghanistan?
In Afghanistan, NGOs, the UN, the U.S. and even the USSR had been dealing with many issues to preserve and protect the civilian population. Going into the 90s it was a severe refugee problem that afflicted the Afghan population. Helga Baitenmann points out that (1990), "The combined efforts of the [UNHCR] and the governments of Pakistan and the USA could not alone take care of the 3.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan" (p. 62). The Soviets had wreaked such havoc in the country that many citizens fled. The international response was relatively significant. Prior to the end of the Soviet conflict there were over 200 NGOs operating in and around Afghanistan (Baitenmann, 1990). Even the U.S. interest in aid support was significant. A proxy war with the USSR through Afghanistan meant the U.S. would influence efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and destabilize the Soviets. At one point, as Baitenmann pointed out (1990), "The US government has had ties to all major NGOs" (p. 69).
While NGO operations were significant going into the 90s, they were not without difficulties. The country was very much a war torn state, and as such continued to be very hostile. What is interesting about the hostility going into 1990 is that it may not have been entirely a function of fighting. True, despite forcing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, Afghanis themselves waged a civil war as factions fought for power. And, intrastate infighting made it difficult for NGOs to deliver their services. But, what may have been even more difficult as Baitenmann suggests is the political atmosphere of east versus west (Baitenmann, 1990).
The vast NGO effort in Afghanistan was largely linked to elements of U.S. interest with intended goals of influencing Soviet imbalance (Baitenmann, 1990). Groups that supported similar campaigns in Central America's communist struggle, supported advocacy campaigns in Afghanistan. These kinds of aid operations could be considered to have been part of a larger strategic, political campaign. In effect, their interest may not have been entirely for Afghanistan. Rather there may have been more interest against the Soviets, i.e. against communism. The effect? Once the Soviets were run out of Afghanistan and communist ties were no longer an influence, what purpose would those NGOs continue to serve?


As interest in the region faded, Afghanistan was left to fend for itself. One of the first orders of business was to reestablish its central government. But, having been a war-torn country for so long, Afghanistan was out of practice governing itself. What happened instead was the creation of an ineffective and often inept council of former mujahedeen representatives. The UN, moderately involved in the building process sought to help create a "power-sharing arrangement…from various mujahideen parties and the Wattan Party, the former Communists" (p. 165-166) as Shah Tarzi points out in his Asian Survey essay. This may have been one of the first missteps in the 90s to prevent the rise of Taliban extremism. In a piece for Third World Quarterly, Ian Spears' observations about power-sharing in Africa conclude that (2000), "The central weakness of power-sharing is not that it fails as an idea, but that it runs into so many obstacles when put into practice" (p. 116).
As indicated by Spears observation of power-sharing, what further complicated the formation of a central governing body was the increasing pressure of Gulbeddin Hekmatyar, an extreme Islamic fundamentalist whose desire it was to gain some kind of control in the country's capital. His menacing of Kabul went so far as to assail Kabul with rockets and threaten officials with some initially failed military coups (Tarzi, 1993). Hekmatyar was an inescapable obstacle to progress with respect to forming an effective central government. His hard line approach to insisting on a position within the government would prove to be a fatal blow to legitimate governance.
It was at this specific point, that the UN should have increased influence in the building process. But little evidence exists to suggest the UN did anything more. As Afghanistan's constitution was being constructed, relatively few indications suggest any state involved themselves further in Afghanistan's developing process. In his 1993 essay, Tarzi points out that (1993), "the interim government, ineptly conceived and organized, was a constitutional monstrosity" (p. 166). Peacemaking efforts by either the UN, the U.S. or even neighboring Pakistan, China and Iran seem to have been non-existent during the period between 1990 and 1992. This may have something to do with why Afghanistan created such an inept government. This condition of ineptitude, coupled with a lack of international support through any kind of peace intervention meant that specific individuals such as Hekmatyar could continue to harass the fledgling state.
By the end of 1992, Hekmatyar's menacing resulted in (1992), "some 3000 deaths, and many of the 9000 wounded were women and children [figures for August alone]" (p. 174). Yet, the UN and the international community did little more than watch as Afghanistan earned a spot at the "top of the list of indices of misery and deprivation" (p. 174). Their previous refugee problem only grew. Pakistan could be considered the most helpful state in terms of aid and assistance because they had no choice. Approx 3.5 million Afghanis (Tarzi, 1993) sought refuge in the border country. As reported by Tarzi, the world was watching and witnessing the deterioration of a state badly in need of help. So where was it?
    By 1994 a paradox of international support emerged. On the one hand, the UN sought to be more involved in Afghanistan and to insist upon a peace agreement. On the other hand, major UN players, namely the United States, withdrew support for a variety of reasons. An essay in Asian Survey by Zalmay Khalilzad concludes (1995), "The decline in American assistance has been the most dramatic, amounting to around $6 million in 1993-1994" (p. 152). In terms of the world agenda, Khalilzad indicated Afghanistan was a very low priority (Khalilzad, 1995).
Yet, again it was during this period that attention should have been great because the fractured government continued to fight amongst itself. More importantly it was during this period that the Taliban really started to emerge. Khalilzad pointed out that (1995), "The Taliban, a movement composed mainly of religious students, emerged as a major new power center late in the year" (p. 148). Although hindsight is always 20-20, failing to recognize the potential threat of Taliban control was a critical error of the international community. It may not have been so much a failure to recognize as a failure to act that spurred the Taliban's rapid rise to control.
The UN had in fact initiated a special mission during this period with the intent to bring about a peace arrangement. But, UN efforts fell short of accomplishing anything as Hekmatyar and others battled for control of Kabul. Afghanistan without a doubt was in an all out civil war. With Kabul under attack, little by way of peace negotiation took place. Moreover, Khalilzad said (1995), "Because of the attacks in Kabul, U.N. staff members left and U.N. humanitarian aid declined – while the need for it increased" (p. 149). In defense, however, it is fair to say that the UN had a responsibility to protect its people and its interests.
What one should wonder today is whether withdrawing aid and support may have only exacerbated the problem. This author believes that the lack of international aid at that time may have contributed to the problem in so much as non-intervention was akin to the non-intervention in Rwanda during the same time period. In effect, the UN was quite concerned with protecting a positive image and less concerned with protecting states' citizens. The UN is not entirely to blame, though for limiting aid support. As mentioned before, the world was watching and witnessing the deterioration of Afghanistan but doing little to help.
One might get the impression that no peace initiatives existed at all. That is not true. While characterizing the UN and the international community as non-existent is a fair characterization, many efforts did exist to push peace plans and programs. They were just haphazard and ultimately ineffective. In a 1995 article for Disaster Prevention and Management, Sultan Barakat and Arne Strand described the situation as this (1995), "Despite the fact that there are more than 200 NGOs working for the people of Afghanistan…there is very little to show for their efforts in terms of reconstruction and people's return to normality" (para. 2). Adding to the problem of ineffective NGO efforts is what Barakat and Strand refer to as "donor fatigue" meaning that as the civil war continued states reassessed the value of their investment in aid projects and programs (Barakat & Strand, 1995).
What is interesting about the role of NGOs as opposed to UN and other state specific aid is that NGOs seem to have been the most active agent engaged in any form peace operations. Yet by the mid 90s with a variety of NGOs and a removed UN, there existed little to no coordination of aid efforts. The UN was encouraging NGO support from local Afghan communities (Afghan NGOs) while limiting other international agencies (Barakat & Strand, 1995). The problem was there was too much work to be done. NGOs alone could not have done all the work, and the UN alone could not have done all the work. There needed to be a unified effort of aid and peace initiatives which simply did not happen. Barakat and Strand concluded that (1995), "Developing a co-ordinated (sic) and common policy between UN and the NGOs…is actually the greatest challenge for all those involved in the rehabilitation process" (para. 38). Evidently a second, rather oxymoronic battle had been ongoing in Afghanistan which was for control of peace initiatives.
While the peace battle continued, the battle for control of Kabul intensified. The Taliban grew more determined to control Afghanistan. By the end of 1996 they controlled nearly two thirds of the country. Even more remarkable was by June of 1996, Hekmatyar had finally earned his spot in government as the Prime Minister. This new government became known for its strict and harsh social rule. Ralph Magnus, referring to 1996 as the "Year of the Taliban" revealed that (1997), "Hekmatyar announced a strict Islamic regime in Kabul, closing cinemas, banning music broadcasts on radio and television, advising women to follow Islamic dress codes, and calling for the dismissal of all communist officials" (p. 112). Although it had been six to seven years in the making, this new, extremist government was suddenly cause for alarm by the international community.
In the US, interest suddenly grew, but according to Magnus, their concern may have been more self interested. He notes the following exchange in Washington (1997):
In Senate testimony…Robin L. Raphel stated that U.S. interests remained constant: regional stability, since stability prevented the opening of trade routes for Central Asia; terrorism and drug problems, whose solution required an effective government; and humanitarian concern with the plight of the Afghan people. (p. 116)
The US position regarding Afghanistan really had not changed except to say they were more aware of the situation regarding the Taliban. Furthermore, the Taliban, now assuming control of Afghanistan meant a form of government was finally in power. One should not conclude, however, that the US was in favor of a Taliban government. Rather, Magnus implies that with Taliban control came opportunity (Magnus, 1997). Coincidentally he pointed out that a major oil and gas pipeline that had been previously negotiated was scheduled to be built through Afghanistan. Allegedly an official associated with the American company building the pipeline suggested Taliban control "was a positive development" (p. 116). Whether any US official regarded the Taliban as a positive thing is speculative. The real point was that having ignored Afghanistan for at least six years, suddenly there was a new found interest in the region.
Unfortunately that new interest did not translate any further into more peace operations. Instead the state of Afghanistan continued to worsen through the end of the decade. The Taliban continued to gain more control of the country. And, they encouraged other breeds of extremism to flourish, namely Al Qaeda. Simply recognizing that a problem existed was about the extent to which the UN went to deal with this threat.
The end of the decade brought about little by way of constructive efforts to end the Taliban violence. In a few measures to deal with the Taliban, the UN passed several resolutions. One such resolution agreed upon in February of 1998 was aptly subtitled, Emergency International Assistance for Peace, Normalcy and Reconstruction of War-stricken Afghanistan. As is the case with many resolutions, this one attempted to express concern over the loss of life and the well being of Afghanistan's citizens. It denounced the oppressive practices of the Taliban against women for instance. And it urged participation by the international community to assist with aid and reconstruction, so long as it was practical (UN Resolution 52/211 , 1998).
A subsequent resolution later that year, Resolution 1214, further condemned the Taliban for their continued violence and harsh governance. Yet, it is likely that the UN's "reiterating its deep concern at the continuing discrimination against girls and women [etc.]" did nothing more than appease the international community's desire for someone to do something (UN Resolution 1214, 1998). Unfortunately, little evidence exists to indicate that anybody did anything of real value to encourage peace.
1998 saw the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. It was Osama bin Ladin, the head of the Al Qaida organization, that the U.S. blamed. Ahmed Rashid points out in a Foreign Affairs piece that (1999) "Washington demanded bin Ladin's extradition; the Taliban refused to comply" (p. 32). It is little wonder then that strongly worded resolutions had minimal effect. In terms of peace enforcement, the UN's efforts could be construed as having been wanting.
The rest of the story needs no elaboration. After 9/11, the U.S. and NATO did something about the Taliban and toppled the regime. But, the world watches now, nine years later, as the U.S. and NATO continue to fight a resistant insurgency. Undoubtedly the interest of those that were previously uninterested is sharply more acute.
    One question that should be asked and analyzed is would more aggressive peacekeeping intervention have done any good? There is anecdotal evidence in terms of peacekeeping efforts that suggest peace operations do not always help the people. The African continent provides plenty of case studies for example. In their brief but pointed article "The Problem with Peacekeeping", Grignon and Kroslak illustrate this very point. They say:
Recent peacekeeping operations have indeed achieved notable success in Africa. Yet, paradoxically, their success has not been in the area of civilian protection. The UN mission in Congo (Monuc) (sic) efficiently supported the peace process in the DRC and deserves considerable credit for the successful organization of Congo's 2005 constitutional referendum and 2006 general elections. Yet in its efforts over the past five years to save lives in eastern Congo, it has performed abysmally. (p. 186)
The idea here is that the UN was and still is insufficient to either ensure or enforce peace. Similarly Michael Barnett, writing about the atrocities in Rwanda, suggests that the UN invests more interest in protecting itself than protecting the people of stricken countries (Barnett, 2002).
This unfortunate illustration suggests that quite possibly had the UN or other members of the international community done more by way of peacekeeping, the outcome would likely not have changed with one exception. It was an indifference and not entirely an incompetence in Afghanistan that denied Afghanistan a better chance at peace. As Barnett says (2002), "The UN's indifference, in short, is the sum of the individual indifferences of member states" (p. 175).
The clues regarding the rise of an extremist organization threatening U.S. and international security was not a secret. There is no shortage of research and discussion pointing to the imminent threat to the west. In a response to Ahmed Rashid's writing about the Taliban, Tomsen warned (2000), "The chief danger to U.S. interests is the rising tide of Islamist militancy and international terrorism emanating from bases in Afghanistan" (p. 181).
What role then did humanitarian and other peace operations play during the 90s? Did peace operations help prevent or at least stall the rise of the Taliban? Unfortunately they did not. One might wonder then if the international community is at fault for Afghanistan's condition leading into the 21st century. That kind of characterization would require a further analysis of deliberate ignorance. In this analysis it would be an unfair leap to conclude such culpability. But, in many respects the international community did abandon Afghanistan or at least leave Afghanistan without much help. Such a void may have been avoidable. But, we only know what history has proved which, as Michael Chege reiterated of British foreign secretary Jack Straw, "when we allow governments to fail, warlords, drug barrons, or terrorists fill the vacuum" (p. 147).

Baitenmann, H. (1990). NGOs and the Afghan war: the politicisation of humanitarian aid. Third World Quarterly
, 12 (1), 62-85.

Barakat, S., & Strand, A. (1995). Rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan: a challenge for afghans, NGOs and the UN. Disaster Prevention and Management
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Barnett, M. (2002). Eyewitness to a Genocide. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Chege, M. (2002, Summer). Sierra leone: the state that came back from the dead. The Washington Quarterly
, 25 (3), pp. 147-160.

Grignon, F., & Kroslak, D. (2008, April). The Problem with Peacekeeping. Current History , pp. 186-187.
Innocent, M., & Carpenter, T. G. (2009). Escaping the "Graveyard of Empires" A Strategy to Exit Afghanistan. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute.
Khalilzad, Z. (1995). Afghanistan in 1994: civil war and disintegration. Asian Survey
, 35 (2), 147-152.

Magnus, R. (1997). Afghanistan in 1996: year of the taliban. Asian Survey
, 37 (2), 111-117.

Rashid, A. (1999, November/December). The Taliban: Exporting Extremism. Foreign Affairs , 22-35.
Spears, I. (2000). Understanding inclusive peace agreements in Africa: the problem of sharing power. Third World Quarterly
, 21 (1), 105-118.

Tarzi, S. M. (1993). Afghanistan in 1992: a hobbesian state of nature. Asian Survey
, 33 (2), 165-174.

Tomsen, P. (2000). A chance for peace in afghanistan. Foreign Affairs
, 79 (1), 179-182.

UN Resolution 1214. (1998, December 8). United Nation.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pakistan v. Taliban Part Two

I have been away from Spell Hegemony for a while. We just had a baby – a new baby girl. Woohoo! She is very precious and very time consuming. Anyway, here is a recent essay for class. I'll admit. I was a bit distracted when I put it together so it needs some refinement. The thoughts are only partly put together. I think the research is sound, but I need to refine some of my criticism of the UN and NATO with respect to what is going on in Pakistan. Also, it may seem that what I say about the U.S. actions in Pakistan are sensitive, but what I say is very much open source information. I am not revealing anything new. Thoughts?
Pakistan v. Taliban: An Intra/Interstate Conflict Part Two
    It is clear that Pakistan is in conflict. Pakistan struggles with internal politics. They struggle economically. They struggle with a decades long territorial dispute with India. And, most recently they struggle with an ethnic Pashtun militancy known as the Taliban. The Taliban, a militant Islamist organization once ruled over Afghanistan. Although they are most notably associated with Afghanistan, the Taliban have found roots in the neighboring border region of Pakistan. NATO and the U.S. have been actively at war with the Taliban since 2001. As the war in Afghanistan wages on so does a new war in Pakistan. The two are closely linked, but what began as a problem for Pakistan has become a potential breaking point.
    Factions of the Taliban, once supported by Pakistan (Innocent, 2009), have taken aim at Pakistan's military, its politicians, its people, and its power. This tinderbox has the potential to flame out of control. Yet who has water to help put out the fire? Three bodies representing distinctly different levels of international support have either been mildly, moderately or mostly at work resolving this conflict. One player may be missing an opportunity to intervene; one may be doing too little, and one may be missing the point of their intervention. This second part of a two part analysis of Pakistan's Taliban conflict seeks to analyze what the international community has done to help resolve Pakistan's growing problem.
The Players
    Pakistan's problem with the Taliban today originates from its support of the Taliban in the past. In part one of this study, we found that Pakistan had once been a supporter of the Taliban but has been forced to take a stronger stand against them. This forced stance is a result of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. So, the Taliban problem in Pakistan is largely seen as an extension of the bigger Taliban fight in Afghanistan. Pakistan's internal struggle takes a back seat in terms of international priorities. It is because the conflict is viewed as more interstate rather than intrastate that the Taliban-Pakistan conflict has grown worse and will continue to get worse. Strangely it is both the lack of international intervention and international meddling in the Afghan-Pakistan border that perpetuate the problem. The first player, the United Nations would seem to be a logical source of support in this struggle. They have the international interest and means to provide an array of diplomatic and humanitarian aid support. But where are they? The second player, NATO, much like the U.S., has a vested interest in seeing a more stable Pakistan because the mission in Afghanistan is so closely linked. Success in Afghanistan to a certain extent hinges on success in Pakistan. But, again where is NATO? The third player, the United States, is most heavily involved in Pakistan right now. But U.S. involvement is not entirely welcome and may be narrowly focused.
The UN
    Examining what the United Nations has done to contain the conflict in Pakistan is really to examine what the UN has not done. The evidence of the UN's role in Pakistan with regard to its Taliban conflict is minimal at best. Even a visit to the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations is absent any substantive mention of efforts to intervene in the Taliban conflict (PAKUN, 2010). Similarly a search of UN databases produces few results. Most of those include condemnations of recent bombings. Those condemnations come from a committee formed in 1999 known as the "Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee" (United Nations Security Council). Of the relatively few steps the UN has taken is a measure to sanction specific terrorist related networks, namely Al-Qaida and the Taliban. In 1999 this body was established to block activities by Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Then in 2002 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UN passed resolution 1390 which among other things sought to freeze funding of the Taliban's access to arms – essentially an arms embargo. Although this embargo was directed at Afghanistan, the impact would have been felt throughout the entire region.
    This measure is interesting because it has been virtually ineffective. In a 2003 report to the Al-Qaida and Taliban committee, the Pakistani representative concluded that with regard to the arms embargo that (2003), "Sale and purchase of arms and explosives is strictly regulated…[and] Pakistan follows most stringent controls over export of arms" (Khalid, 2003). In this UN report Pakistan suggests that they had arms control under control. What is troubling is that it is difficult to find any further action by the UN to either follow-up on or implement other measures to combat terrorist networks in the region. In effect the position of the UN at that time was that Pakistan was complying with and handling the Taliban situation themselves. Unfortunately that was not the case.
    This may be one reason why Pakistan's growing troubles in the conflict are only getting worse. Pakistan has not handled the Taliban situation themselves. In fact, more and more we see an increase in the violence from the Taliban with more and more sophisticated bombs and more sophisticated coordinated attacks. The question the UN must raise now is where are the arms coming from? With little outside support, Pakistan is fighting alone against the Taliban. It is important that the UN take a more active role in this conflict. If they do not, Pakistan could reach a similar flash point with the Taliban as it did with India.
    In a 2002 Stimson Center report, Colonel Rafi uz Zaman Khan analyzed the tension between India and Pakistan. Khan points out that (2002), "Conditions for stable deterrence are absent, and an accident or miscalculation during a crisis has become increasingly possible" (p. 2). There is no real UN deterrence right now against the Taliban. The Taliban continue to seek their objectives with little regard to social concerns and little regard to themselves. The Taliban's favored tactic, suicide bombing, indicates their intent is so radical and so extreme that very little by way of deterrence will sway them or turn them from their objective. A failure to recognize this and a failure to do something constructive about this reality could result in a severe miscalculation of the Taliban threat.
    In his book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria makes a point about the misdirection of the U.S. in Pakistan. He says (2009), "What the United States is lacking in a place like Pakistan is a broader effort to assist that country in its modernization and an effort that makes it clear that the United States wants to ally with the people of that country and not merely its military" (p. 246). This is where the UN could help. The UN could be more visible in broader efforts to assist with infrastructure, economy, technology and other quality of life functions that Pakistan needs. Pakistan is not a desolate country. Compared to Afghanistan, Pakistan is a veritable powerhouse. But, all the attention right now is focused on Afghanistan and other causes. Until the UN realizes Pakistan is not so much of a powerhouse and that it has more than just a Kashmir problem, Pakistan will remain embattled with militant fundamentalist organizations.
    It would make sense that NATO would take on a greater role in Pakistan because the fight in Afghanistan is so closely linked. In a 2009 New America Foundation report, Sameer Lalwani points out that NATO is a target of the Taliban. He says (2009), "While some pro-Pakistani TTP leaders exclusively focuses on carrying out cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, others are committed to a more expansionist vision, including Talibanizing (sic) and spreading Sharia law in the NWFP and perhaps even deeper into Pakistan" (p. 17). This statement points to two interesting aspects of NATO and their interest in Pakistan's fight. First, NATO has a vested interest in assisting Pakistan inside the Pakistan border. But, NATO as a body does not show any signs of engaging with the Taliban except inside the Afghan border.
    This may be a function of Pakistan's sovereignty which has been more explicitly tested in recent years. Pakistan still remains a sovereign state that, as the aforementioned UN involvement indicates, is allegedly capable of handling its own internal conflicts. But, when Pakistan fails to contain the Taliban in Pakistan the repercussion spills into neighboring Afghanistan. For instance, supply lines passing through the Kyber Pass, a significant source of ground supplies, are routinely attacked for instance (Innocent, 2009). This costs NATO money, supplies, and time. NATO's reaction has been to make a stand at the border and no further. In essence, NATO has attempted to establish a blockade along the AFPAK border, but strictly limits cross border operations.
    This poses a problem for NATO, not the Taliban. And it poses problems too for Pakistan. Malou Innocent points out in a CATO Institute report that (2009), "Aside from pockets of Wild West conditions, another factor contributing to Afghanistan's downward spiral is the de facto al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries in Pashtun and Balochi areas of western Pakistan. NATO's stalemate will continue so long as militants remain protected across the border" (p. 7). By creating this stalemate, NATO does very little to inhibit Taliban activity in Pakistan. Further, they do very little to inhibit the Taliban from impacting ground supplies going into Afghanistan intended for NATO. Additionally this stalemate only enhances the continued protection al Qaeda and Taliban members maintain in the border region of western Pakistan.
    Second, NATO is best positioned to act with Pakistan against the Taliban. If the intended target of the Taliban is control deeper into Pakistan, then stopping that control at the fringe is essential. With NATO forces on one side and Pakistani forces on the other, it is the Taliban that is most at risk of failure. Coordinated measures between Pakistan and NATO could limit Taliban activity. With a limited NATO supply of troops along the border (Johnson, 2007) and increased attacks on the supplies coming through Pakistan, one such measure NATO has sought is to find alternate routes of supply.
    C. Christine Fair pointed out in a 2009 Washington Quarterly essay that (2009), "Motivated by increasing Pakistani attacks on convoys carrying supplies for the war in Afghanistan, the United States and NATO are seeking new logistical supply routes" (p. 164-165). While finding new supply routes is a step, it is only a limited step to contain the Taliban in Pakistan. Pakistan is still left with a growing Taliban problem that, as Sameer Lalwani indicates, is turning away from Afghanistan and toward Pakistan (Lalwani, 2009). The startling reality is captured in the following from Lalwani (2009), "As of mid-July, the Pakistani military's casualties from the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda outstripped the combined losses of U.S. and NATO contributors by almost 50%" (p. 55).
The U.S.
    With a limited UN role and a limited NATO role the international community's response to the Taliban threat in Pakistan has fallen most heavily on the U.S. This fact is troubling because the situation in Pakistan is ripe for a virtual meltdown of control. The UN and other allied nations need to be worried that Pakistan not becomes one of the next terror havens. Some might argue that it has already become so. This would explain the great interest the U.S. has along the AFPAK border. In a Washington Quarterly paper, Michael Chege, remarked about former British foreign secretary Jack Straw in which he said (2002), "'when we allow governments to fail, warlords, drug barons, or terrorists fill the vacuum…Terrorists are strongest where states are weakest'" (p. 147).
    The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan was in large part due to a vacuum created by the Soviet and U.S. interests fleeing the country. When Afghanistan fell into a state of anarchy, the Taliban gained power. Similarly, Pakistan could fall into a state of anarchy. If it is not anarchy per se, Pakistan could reach such a point of complete dysfunction that it would be hard to tell the difference. It is that point that the Taliban operating inside Pakistan and the Taliban operating across the border may be trying to reach. If they can influence political and social unrest, then factions of the Taliban may have a shot at gaining more formidable power.
    This greatly concerns the U.S. because Taliban chaos in Pakistan impacts directly the protracted fight in Afghanistan. It is possible that the U.S. views Pakistani success as U.S. success. Quite possibly the converse could be true. So, the U.S. has stepped up aggressive cross-border operations most notably precision munitions attacks including Predator strikes. Despite the apparent infringement upon Pakistan's, sovereignty the U.S. continues to strike targets deeper and deeper into Pakistan (Lalwani, 2009).
    Recently brought to light, is the small number of U.S. forces training Pakistani forces in Pakistan. Malou Innocent points out that (2009), "During the late summer of 2008, a small number of U.S. Army and special operation forces began training the Special Services Group, a commando division in Pakistan's army" (p. 12). Along with Pakistani commandos, Innocent reveals that the U.S. has been engaged in a "train the trainer" campaign to train Frontier Corps forces to "[enhance] the fighting capability of the Frontier Corps" (p. 12). This kind of direct involvement is the only visible action by the international community that is producing any relative results.
    Unfortunately, those results are currently met with criticism. Lalwani makes an important point about the effect of continued U.S. involvement in Pakistan. He says (2009), "Finally, Pakistan's reliance on American support to conduct a COIN campaign and offset its disadvantages actually could prove counterproductive, intensifying public resentment, further eroding morale, and strengthening militant recruitment and cohesion" (Executive Summary). Because the U.S. carries the heaviest load of international support for Pakistan, it must be cautious of second and third order effects caused by pushing Pakistan to engage in a terrorist fight that, in Pakistan's view, is largely a Western issue (Lalwani, 2009).
    Ultimately, the battle continues in Pakistan. Despite its interstate feel, the conflict in Pakistan today is very much an internal struggle. Absent from their struggle has been relevant support from the international community. The UN and NATO have been largely absent from Pakistan's struggle, while the U.S., whether helpful or not, continues to be actively engaged. Limited or even failed action by the international community may validate Michael Chege's point that (2002), "Full-blown state failure requires opportunistic intervention by external actors" (p. 155).

Chege, M. (2002, Summer). Sierra Leone: The State that Came Back from the Dead. The     Washington Quarterly , pp. 147-160.
Fair, C. C. (2009, April). Time for Sober Realism: Renegotiating U.S. Relations with Pakistan.     The Washington Quarterly , pp. 149-172.
Innocent, M. (2009). Pakistan and the Future of U.S. Policy. Cato Institute. Washington, D.C.:     Cato Institute.
Johnson, T. H. (2007). On the Edge of the Big Muddy: The Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan.     China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly
, 5 (2), pp. 93-129.

Khalid, M. (2003, April 24). Reports from Member States. Retrieved February 6, 2010, from     Security Council Committee 1267:     http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/memstatesreports.shtml
Khan, C. R. (2002). Pakistan and India: Can NRRCs Help Strengthen Peace? Washington, D.C.:     Stimson Center.
Lalwani, S. (2009). Pakistani Capabilities for a Counterinsurgency Campaign. Washington, DC:     New American Foundation.
Pakistan Mission to the United Nations. (2010, February 6). Retrieved 2 7, 2010, from Home     Page: http://www.pakun.org
United Nations Security Council. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2010, from Al-Qaida and Taliban     Sanctions Committee: http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/index.shtml
Zakaria, F. (2009). The Post-American World. New York: Norton.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pakistan v. Taliban: Part One

Here is the first of a two part analysis of Pakistan's conflict with the Taliban. I submitted this to my class tonight, so I have no idea what I got on it. There may be some errors in it, but I hope not. This first part looks at the conflict as an intrastate conflict. Part two will be a view from the interstate perspective.

Pakistan v. Taliban: An Intra/Interstate Conflict Part One

    There is a movie playing in theaters right now called It's Complicated. No, it is not a film about the enormity of what it going on in Southwest Asia. However, that would be a great title. Pakistan finds itself today embroiled in a conflict that extends beyond borders, impacts daily life, opens the door to threatening neighbors, exposes nuclear capabilities, affects the very future of its stability, and has become front and center in the global terrorism fight. Complicated? Just a bit. So what is this conflict taking place within the borders of Pakistan? This is the first of a two part analysis of Pakistan's conflict with Taliban and militant groups. Within Pakistan's borders, the Taliban have quickly become the country's deadliest threat. As India and the dispute over Kashmir appears to take a back seat to the now present and frequent Taliban attacks, how has the Taliban threat risen in priority? What may have caused this conflict and what might the impact be for the near future?


    Pakistan is located in Southwest Asia sandwiched between Afghanistan and Iran to the west and India to the east. It is a Muslim state that gained independence from Britain in the late 40s. The separation of India and Pakistan by Britain never fully resolved the disputed northern territory of Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan claim a hold on the territory and since the late 40s have fought three major wars over it. The tense relationship these neighbors share has resulted in both becoming nuclear armed states. Both have positioned hundreds of thousands of troops along their border and tested their nuclear capabilities. This demonstrates both countries' commitment to go to extremes (Khan, 2002).

    Until recently, a large part of Pakistan's international interest rested in resolving the dispute with India. Today, that interest has been overshadowed by the growing threat of destabilization by Taliban and militant groups. As the U.S. led coalition war against al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist extremists, continues, Pakistan finds itself caught in the middle of protecting itself from both India and Afghanistan. What further complicates Pakistan's neighboring threats is the fragmented control the central government has on the western regions bordering Afghanistan. It is there tribal rule reigns, and it is from there trouble begins.


    The Taliban is a militant organization known for its association with the terrorist network, al Qaeda. After the Mujahidin forced the former Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, a governing void remained. That void was eventually filled by a radical Islamist movement known as Taliban, quite literally "students" (Rashid, 1999). A largely ethnic Pashtun organization, these "students" of radicalism seized control of the Afghan government and in the late 90s and set out to seize control of all portions of the country. Their Pashtun origins extend beyond the border of Afghanistan into neighboring Pakistan. Their radical views and often harsh brand of rule paved the way to establish relationships with other interested radical organizations such as al Qaeda. It was from Afghanistan that the Taliban harbored hundreds of militant al Qaeda training camps. And, it was from these camps that the al Qaeda head, Osama bin Ladin, planned and carried out attacks, most notably the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001.


    On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists attacked the United States. These horrific attacks, which killed over 3,000 Americans, launched the U.S. into a new era of warfare against terrorists and radical extremists. In October of 2001, the U.S. and coalition forces began an offensive in Afghanistan to defeat al Qaeda and overthrow the Taliban government. The Taliban were effectively overthrown and al Qaeda was nearly dismantled. However, elements of Taliban and al Qaeda leadership and fighters fled to the uncontrolled border region of Pakistan. Because of the sovereign control of Pakistan and a relative friendly relationship with Pakistan, the U.S. and coalition forces have been minimally engaged in prosecuting Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Pakistan.

    This has partly contributed to the Pakistan government's inability to control its western border areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) (Innocent, 2009). It is there, in the largely tribal controlled areas of western Pakistan, that the Taliban have been able to take further root. Their ethnic Pashtun history along with sympathetic tribal relationships fostered a breeding ground of sorts with local populations. Now, this relative no-man's-land poses serious problems to not only the ongoing coalition fight in Afghanistan, but also the very stability of Pakistan.


Ahmed Rashid, who has written some the most definitive books and essays on the Taliban, foretold a grim situation. In 1999 he said, "An already fragile nation in the midst of an identity crisis, economic meltdown, ethnic and sectarian division, and suffering under a rapacious ruling elite unable to provide good governance, Pakistan could easily be submerged by a new Islamist wave – one led not by established, more mature Islamist parties but by neo-Taliban groups" (p. 27). He wrote this two years before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and eight years before the famed, Red Mosque incident in 2007. His insight back then is a very clear glimpse into what is going on now.

Taliban and al Qaeda continue to battle coalition forces in Afghanistan. But, their strategy has grown to include destabilizing Pakistan from within. What is interesting about this aspect of the Global War on Terror is that Pakistan may have never envisioned this kind of internal conflict. In the late 90s as the Taliban rose to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan actually favored the Taliban and in many cases supported them (Rashid, 1999). The Pakistan government even went so far as to establish so-called treaties with tribal factions governing the uncontrolled western border regions (Innocent, 2009). This region of the country as mentioned above is the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) which is to say limited of Pakistani governmental control. The relationship the government established with tribal rulers, however, has become strained as pressure builds from the U.S. and coalition forces for Pakistan to deal with the Taliban. Why? It is from these uncontrolled tribal areas that the Taliban seek refuge. And it is from these sympathetic tribal areas that the Taliban control grows (Curtis, 2006).

Willingly or not, Pakistan is engaged in uprooting Taliban leaders and fighters. As a result, Taliban factions have set their sights not only on coalition forces in Afghanistan, but on the government of Pakistan itself. It is difficult to say to what end. Pakistan does have nuclear capabilities. To destabilize the country could expose nuclear capabilities. Whether that is the goal or whether it is something else, the security situation inside Pakistan has changed dramatically since 2001. Malou Innocent points out in her Cato Analysis paper (2009), "The security situation in each of FATA's seven tribal agencies has grown worse in the past few years" (p. 9). "Worse" is an understatement. The effect of the Taliban on Pakistan seems, at the moment, out of control.


So what happened? As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated, calls for Pakistan to step up offensive actions in the FATA increased. The hope was that doing so would further destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda elements and help Afghanistan regain control of itself. The Pakistani government began to crack down on the Taliban. Somewhat tit-for-tat exchanges continued until July 2007 when the Pakistan military attacked the Lal Majid mosque (the Red Mosque) (Innocent, 2009) which was under Taliban control. This incident poured fuel on the already burning fire of violence. The result, Taliban elements began staging dramatic attacks against the Pakistani government. Also, by proxy, they threatened the government by attacking civilian populations.

The conventional fight Pakistan has been engaged in against the Taliban and other militant groups is also very costly. Just from a military perspective, thousands of troops have been killed as Malou Innocent indicates (Innocent, 2009). What's even more devastating is the loss of civilian life. Since October 2009 there have been over 600 civilian deaths (Pakistan Data Sheets, 2010). The total number of civilian casualties is far greater. These include scores of women and children. In one particular suicide bombing in Peshawar market over 100 people were killed; almost half were women and children (al Islam et al, 2009).

In April when Malou Innocent said the situation, the civilian death toll at that time had already surpassed thousands. We are not even two weeks into January 2010 and already over 100 civilians have been killed by suicide bombings. Since 2007 when the first significant spike occurred, there have been nearly 6,000 civilian casualties as a result of terrorist attacks (Pakistan Data Sheets, 2010). These attacks produce unreal death tolls. A partial list includes the following (Pakistan Data Sheets, 2010):

  • Karachi, October 18 2007 – 143 killed
  • Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), December 21 2007 – 60 killed
  • Punjab, August 21 2008 – 70 killed
  • Islamabad, September 20 2008 – 60 killed
  • FATA, October 10 2008 – 85 killed
  • Peshawar, March 27 2009 – 83 killed
  • Baluchista, October 28 2009 – 117 killed
  • NWFP, January 1 2010 – 90 killed
These are only a few of the major attacks. It is clear from these attacks that a huge internal struggle is going on inside Pakistan. By any definition, what is going on inside Pakistan is in intrastate conflict to the extreme. The Pakistani government is engaged in a battle against militant extremist groups, namely factions of the Taliban. The big question is what caused all this?

    On the surface, the clear indicator is that the influence the fight in Afghanistan has on Pakistan has been tremendous. The reasonable conclusion that one can draw is that U.S. and coalition efforts to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan have spilled into the border region of Pakistan. By first pushing Taliban and al Qaeda members east into Pakistan and then by pressuring Pakistan to engage those members, it is reasonable to assess the cause as a function of the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan was initially somewhat supportive of the Taliban and tribal rulers (Rashid, 1999). Now Pakistan is forced to engage these very elements. The effect appears to be one of revenge. But revenge to the tune of thousands of civilian deaths does not make sense. So there must be more to the battle. Rashid warned of Pakistan's Taliban friendliness in 1999 when he said (1999), "The Pakistani government's support for the Taliban is thus coming back to haunt it, even as Pakistan's leaders remain oblivious of the danger and continue their support" (p. 28).

    Other influences may also be lurking. The dispute for Kashmir has certainly taken a back seat to present threats, but Kashmir still remains a primary concern. Again Rashid foreshadowed this concern as a reason Pakistan was willing to support the Taliban. Rashid said (1999), "Islamabad considers support for the Taliban necessary because of its dispute with India over Kashmir" (p. 28). What may seem farfetched but not unreasonable is India's influence over the Taliban against Pakistan. To a certain extent one could wonder if India has leverage over Pakistan vis-à-vis Pakistan's present engagement with the Taliban. If so, concerns from Islamabad that India could be behind the violent Taliban surge may valid. In a recent news report from the Pakistan daily newspaper, Dawn News, Pakistan's Foreign Minister suggested (2009), "that Pakistan was 'compiling hard evidence of India's involvement and interference in Balochistan (sic) and Fata'" (Dawn News, 2009). At the moment this allegation cannot be proved, but the implication is very real. Could India be fanning the flames of an already out of control fire? If, as Colonel Khan indicates in his Stimson Center report (2002), "Kashmir is considered to be the 'nuclear flash point' in the region" (p. 1), then it is not unreasonble to think India could be in some part behind the scenes of Pakistan's intrastate conflict.

    Whether the fight in Pakistan is solely against the Taliban and militants or whether it includes something else, it is true that Pakistan is in a fight for its life. It is also in a fight for the lives of its citizens. As casualties continue to mount, the struggle from within only grows stonger. The fight in neighboring Afghanistan has likely caused the rapid rise of Taliban violence. But, one should be careful to accept that exclusively because the cause is not simple. It is very complicated.


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Curtis, L. (2006, October 26). Issues: Denying Terrorists Safe Haven in Pakistan. Retrieved January 8, 2010, from Heritage Foundation: http://www.heritage.org/Research/AsiaandthePacific/bg1981.cfm

Innocent, M. (2009). Pakistan and the Future of U.S. Policy. Cato Institute. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute.

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Qureshi accuses India of aiding insurgents. (2009, November 23). Retrieved January 8, 2010, from Dawn News: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/19-qureshi-accuses-india-of-aiding-insurgents-hh-01

Rashid, A. (1999, November/December). The Taliban: Exporting Extremism. Foreign Affairs , 22-35.

The World Fact Book: South Asia - Pakistan. (2009, December 23). Retrieved January 9, 2010, from Central Intelligence Asia: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pk.html