by Gary Farber
We can't "win" militarily in Afghanistan any more than we could in Vietnam.
"AfPak" is still AfPak, no matter that it displeases Pakistan, no matter how the U.S. placates.
It's one war, and it can't be won militarily without invading Pakistan. Anyone up for that?
2 US servicemen mistakenly killed by drone attack in Afghanistan [UPDATE, 3:41 p.m., PST: erroneous link fixed; thanks, Ugh!].
[...] The Marines under fire were watching streaming video of the battlefield being fed to them by an armed Predator overhead. They saw a number of "hot spots," or infrared images, moving in their direction. Apparently believing that those "hot spots" were the enemy, they called in a Hellfire missile strike from the Predator.
Technology will triumph.
It worked in Vietnam! We're winning.
After all, unlike Vietnam, there are no safe havens across borders: Pakistan Tells U.S. It Must Sharply Cut C.I.A. Activities:
Pakistan has demanded that the United States steeply reduce the number of Central Intelligence Agency operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and that it halt C.I.A. drone strikes aimed at militants in northwest Pakistan. The request was a sign of the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies.
Pakistani and American officials said in interviews that the demand that the United States scale back its presence was the immediate fallout from the arrest in Pakistan of Raymond A. Davis, a C.I.A. security officer who killed two men in January during what he said was an attempt to rob him.
In all, about 335 American personnel — C.I.A. officers and contractors and Special Operations forces — were being asked to leave the country, said a Pakistani official closely involved in the decision.
It was not clear how many C.I.A. personnel that would leave behind; the total number in Pakistan has not been disclosed. But the cuts demanded by the Pakistanis amounted to 25 to 40 percent of United States Special Operations forces in the country, the officials said. The number also included the removal of all the American contractors used by the C.I.A. in Pakistan.
This is what we call "big news."
It's also, when you read between the lines, leverage, and there will be a trade-off, and you'll have to read between the lines, at best, and look carefully at the right sources, to find information about it when it happens, should said information be findable -- but traces always surface on the internet:
[...] In addition to the withdrawal of all C.I.A. contractors, Pakistan is demanding the removal of C.I.A. operatives involved in “unilateral” assignments like Mr. Davis’s that the Pakistani intelligence agency did not know about, the Pakistani official said.
An American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said without elaborating that the Pakistanis had asked “for more visibility into some things” — presumably the nature of C.I.A. covert operations in the country — “and that request is being talked about.”
Expulsions are part of the game.
All intelligence analysis is about decluttering.
[...] Clutter exists only when those things exert a mental drag, or get in the way of living, in line with the old Afrikaans proverb, 'Alles wat jy besit vat van jou tyd' — 'Everything you own snatches at your time.'
My information sucking is a tad cluttering, but I declutter for you, my guests.
[...] "The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call 'life' that is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run," is how Henry David Thoreau, everyone's favourite 19th-century hut-dwelling minimalist, expressed the sense that owning things constitutes a spiritual burden. He advocated not decluttering, though, so much as simplicity; not throwing things out so much as not acquiring them in the first place. Decluttering can be a step towards greater simplicity. But only if, having thrown off the ballast, you resist accumulating more. Otherwise, you're not really decluttering. You're just keeping the decluttering industry in business.
Obsidian Wings tries to declutter information. (Link via Stef.)
I could check the quote, but there would be a cost. Without going to the source, I note that Wikiquotes has it as:
And the cost of a thing it will be remembered is the amount of life it requires to be exchanged for it.
-- Journals (1838-1859) (After December 6, 1845.)
Yet more succinctly, I note that:
* It is a great art to saunter.
o April 26, 1841
I must return to more saunter in my blogging.
* For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms, and did my duty faithfully, though I never received one cent for it.
o After February 22, 1846
Thoreau was, as we know, an early blogger. He merely lacked Hellfire missiles.
He also notes in Life Without Principle (1863):
We do not live for idle amusement. I would not run round a corner to see the world blow up.
I would at least saunter. I'm easily amused.
Spencer Ackerman and I, however, are not amused by the drone strikes, and also sees the connection to the Pakistani CIA expulsions, as of course he would.
[...] The upshot is that the drones will probably continue to take a robotic knee while tensions cool. But the idea of any further restriction on the strikes is laughable. Here’s why.
First, the drones aren’t the result of cooperation with the Pakistanis. They’re a substitute for it. If the Pakistani army invaded the north Waziristan sanctuary of al-Qaida like the U.S. wanted, there’d be no need for the strikes. Since Pakistan doesn’t want to take that step, the strikes continue.
The Pakistani military is in on the act. Recall that the general in charge of the volatile territory recently sung the drones’ praises himself. It’s so cynical it looks like candor.
Beyond that, reading through the lines of the Pasha’s demands shows a discomfort with U.S. intelligence activity beyond the drones. Davis wasn’t a drone spotter. Reportedly, he was part of a team that hunted terrorists sponsored by Pakistani spies. Special Operations troops train Pakistanis in counterinsurgency in preparation for a potential invasion of north Waziristan. (And occasionally take more direct action.) Neither of these activities generate much enthusiasm in official Pakistan.
That makes them the perfect bargaining chips when U.S.-Pakistani tensions flare. Offer up dissatisfaction with the U.S.’ expansive spy activities and settle for the ones the U.S. considers most essential — the drones. And the very expression of indignity by Pakistan over U.S. intelligence activities convinces the CIA and the White House that it needs the drones more than ever if al-Qaida isn’t to exploit Pakistani intransigence. It’s almost like both sides have been here before.
Voila: Pakistani public anger gets placated and the drones keep flying. Billions in U.S. aid to Pakistan keep flowing. U.S. intelligence operatives have to operate by the ultimate gangsta rule: don’t get caught. This is how the counterterrorism sausage gets made.
So what to expect for the drones in tribal Pakistan? A decent interval.
Ignatius, who has long been well wired with CIA, also points out:
If the past is any guide, the tone of private discussions between Pasha and Panetta will be less antagonistic than Pakistani press leaks to the Times’ veteran Islamabad correspondent, Jane Perlez, would indicate. ISI officials often reach more cooperative decisions in private than the sharp press reports would suggest. It’s all part of a delicate process of signaling and negotiation, but that doesn’t mean the issues can be fudged.
[The ISI official said Tuesday: “It seems that we are heading in the right direction — that is, the need to work together is far bigger than incidents like RD, but I think U.S. needs to do more in making this relationship grow on the basis of trust, respect and equality.”]
Over the past two years that I have been interviewing ISI officials, they have made the same basic point in every conversation, which is that Pakistan wants more respect and openness from the U.S. side as part of its cooperation in the joint fight against Islamic extremists.
Expulsions are leverage. Pakistan is merely momentarily decluttering themselves of CIA. They'll be back: droning on.
Our troops still need to be drastically cut back in Afghanistant. They're not helping, as Canadian veteran of Afghanistan Bruce Rolston observes:
The trials continue. But what is unquestioned is that from January to May of 2010, a group of American soldiers were basically shooting indiscriminately at civilians in Kandahar City and in Zhari District, places Canadians worked for years without the remotest claim of abuse of a similar nature, and singling out old men and young boys in Maiwand District who were open-minded enough to trust them for a minute, for thrill-seeking and memento-gathering executions. This occurred despite multiple warnings to their chain of command, none of whom are facing any consequences for allowing this to go on.
I never thought that Afghans would have to pay that high a price for our departure from those districts. I'm frankly just appalled what we abandoned them to here. It's hard after reading this article to think of a good reason why we should be allowed to consider ourselves still on the good side of this fight, or somehow deserving of the win.
One more thing, that the article doesn't say explicitly enough for my taste. Like the vast majority of soldiers in the theatre, these sick little f__ks had as little contact as possible throughout their tour with local nationals, who were about as real to them as sprites in a video game. This was a predictable consequence of all the distance we have put in this military context between Us and Them, the "Them" in this case being the people we were sent to protect. Our whole approach to force protection, with all of its interacting with the host nation only across razor wire or through gunsights, is a concomitant cause of these atrocities. Read in the story how impossible it was for the Afghan friends and relatives of the murdered to even get their case heard, let alone believed, and imagine what you would want done to the organization that protected these evil men. See also Pat Lang.
Bruce Rolston has been blogging since 2002. He should be read more widely.
Less serious and much shorter sort-of-variant posted at Amygdala.