Book Review: Descent into Chaos

An old review from Major Amin, it remains topical.

Descent into Chaos , Ahmed Rashid, Allen Lane,2008.ISBN No .978-1-846-14175-1

Book Review

Major A.H Amin (Retired)

11 October 2008

Ahmed Rashid acquired fame and became darling of the west when his book on Taliban was published in 2000 or so.Descent into Chaos is another bestseller as far as publishing statistics is concerned.It is a tragedy that the West,guardian of the present worlds intellectual property projects what suits its political and social interests and stifles what it finds “ politically unacceptable”.Seen in this background what Ahmed Rashid writes is acceptable to the west.Possibly because what he says fits hand in glove with western perceptions about how to shape the future.

As normal the book has some factual errors.Some insignificant some not so insignificant and some which not have escaped the sagacity of a known Afghanistan hand like Ahmed Rashid. Continue reading “Book Review: Descent into Chaos”

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Afghan Peace Process

From Dr Hamid Hussain

My two cents of Afghan peace process.  It is based on my own limited perspective informed by regular travels to the region and interaction with many including Pakistanis, Afghans, Americans, Indians etc.  Many have been kind to candidly share their views and not ‘official’ narrative as well as hopes and aspirations of common people in streets and bazaars that they shared with me.

Hamid

Making Peace with Broken Pieces – Afghan Peace Process

Hamid Hussain

 “There is nothing further here for a warrior.  We drive bargains; old men’s work.  Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men; courage and hope for the future.  Then old men make the peace.  The vices of peace are the vices of old men; mistrust and caution.  It must be so”.   Prince Feisal (Sir Alec Guinness) to T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) in Lawrence of Arabia.

In the last few months, a new window opened in the seventeen years old war in Afghanistan. There was breakthrough with first serious efforts of direct negotiations between United States (U.S.) and main militant group Taliban.  It was President Donald Trump’s announcement of withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that got the ball rolling.  He made this decision without consulting any other government agency. Pentagon, intelligence community and State Department view rapid withdrawal as a recipe for disaster.  Trump appointed former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and an Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad nick named Zal to spearhead this effort.  Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar worked as intermediaries and a bridge between Taliban, Pakistan and Americans.

Negotiations between Taliban and Unites States is only one dimension of a complex conflict.  Taliban’s strategy is simple in its execution.  It used its committed cadre of fighters and support structure in Pakistan to escalate violence to a level to achieve two goals.  First to sow enough fear and uncertainty among Afghans that will undermine the efficiency and to some extent legitimacy of the government.  Another objective is to convince fellow Afghans that without giving them a share in power and economic pie, Afghans will never see peace.  Initially, behind the scene, questions were raised by Americans whether Taliban are a unified entity to work with.  Taliban responded by announcing a three days ceasefire during Eid festival.  There were no attacks all over the country proving their point that they have a firm command and control system and all fighters follow the leadership.  When United States announced troop withdrawal plan, Taliban thought that by directly negotiating they will get the credit and fulfill one of their objectives of forcing foreign troop withdrawal.  This will help them to carve out a much larger share in power after American withdrawal. Another factor was intense pressure on Taliban from Pakistan and Arab countries.  Agreeing to direct negotiations with Americans, Taliban placated both parties and if no agreement is reached, they can claim that they entered in negotiations with good faith and put the blame of failure at American doorstep. From U.S. point of view, there is a narrow window of about six months. Domestic troubles of President Trump will take a sharp turn with completion of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s work.  In addition, presidential campaign will start in the fall of 2019 and these two factors will suck all the oxygen in White House.  Like many other foreign policy issues, Afghanistan will also recede in the background.   Continue reading “Afghan Peace Process”

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Can India and Pakistan Make Peace?

Major Amin sent in an old article of his from 2013 (posted below).
I think Indian and Pakistan CAN make peace, but not yet… Anyway, you can read Major Amin’s more pessimistic take here.. 
Can India and Pakistan make Peace – Agha.H.Amin , Major (r)
(from 2013)
The recent sudden angelic desire on part of the Pakistani establishment to make peace with India has nothing to do with any major shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy written in the Pakistani military headquarters popularly known as the GHQ.
The Pakistani apparent shift is merely a tactical response to extreme confrontation with the US over perceived US view that Pakistan is playing a double game in Afghanistan.
This is similar to Musharrafs flirtation with India from 2000 to 2007 which in reality was a gambit to prevent a two front war with Afghanistan occupied by the USA and a hostile India in the east.
The real picture of true intentions of the Pakistani military will emerge when the US withdraws from Afghanistan.
This will be the time when the Russians ,Iranians and Indians will have no choice but to support the Northern Alliance against Pakistan sponsored Taliban who regard all Shias, Ismailis,Non Pashtuns,moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred.
The Pakistani politicians are a compromised manipulated lot who are under firm control of the Pakistani military thanks to the politicians own massive financial corruption. They will do what the Pakistani generals tell them whether it is the PPP, PML or any new party like Imran Khans Tehrik i Insaaf.
Pakistan will remain the same state run by an army rather than a state with an army.The Pakistani generals will control Pakistan’s politics and foreign policy and Pakistan India relations will remain a mix of an uneasy and an unpredictable peace.

Continue reading “Can India and Pakistan Make Peace?”

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Kabuki Dance – Pakistan’s Balancing Act

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Following was in response to several questions regarding Pakistan’s regional challenges and current policies.

 Kabuki Dance – Pakistan’s Balancing Act

Hamid Hussain

Pakistan’s challenging regional environment has taken some new turns and new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to cope up with these challenges.  Government’s major advantage is that it has no clash with the dominant army.  In many areas of foreign policy, it has ceded significant ground to the army.

Pakistan is in a difficult spot on three issues. First is rapid pace of negotiations between Taliban and Americans with projected quick withdrawal of American troops, second is isolation of Iran and third is potential entanglement in intra-Arab rivalry with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia on one and Qatar on the other side.  Pakistan is facing these regional challenges in the background of internal political instability and very serious economic downward trend.  Part of political instability and associated economic meltdown is due to self-inflicted wounds.  Departing from the normal process of check and balance, judiciary and army played an active role in tuning up the system that will have its own set of consequences. It has widened the political gulf and added new fissures.

Regional challenges of Pakistan are directly linked with American policies.  We are living in a Trumpian world that has sowed a lot of confusion on all fronts.  Every country and non-state player is adjusting positions at such a rapid speed that it is hard to make sense of every move.  Pakistan is also caught in this Trumpian world on several fronts.

US policy is in disarray with no coordination between different government agencies.  President Trump is using single point agents without full institutional support behind these efforts.  In many cases, some power centers of Washington are diametrically opposed to President’s efforts.   It is probably right time for withdrawal of American troops from both Syria and Afghanistan. Trump may have realized what Christopher Fettweis wrote in 2008 in his book Losing Hurts Twice as Bad that “bringing peace to every corner of the globe, even those whose stability we have wrecked through our own incompetence, is not necessarily in the strategic interest of the United States”.   However, the method in which it is being done has confused both allies and foes.  American intelligence agencies are publicly disagreeing with Trump that is unprecedented.  In late January 2019, in a hearing at Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence and heads of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) contradicted Trump on security issues.  They told the committee that Iran was still abiding by the nuclear deal.  Trump had pulled out of the deal stating that Tehran had broken the deal.  Furious Trump sent his twitter tirade saying that ‘the intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naïve when it comes to the dangers of Iran.  They are wrong’.  Continue reading “Kabuki Dance – Pakistan’s Balancing Act”

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The Last Hurdle to Afghan Peace

Brigadier Simon Saraf wrote a piece on the Afghanistan “peace” process that reflects the Paknationalist viewpoint. Major Amin has added his comments to it. (Major Amin’s comments are bolded). Major Amin is a military history aficionado who has decades of on the ground experience in Afghanistan.  

The last hurdle to Afghan peace

https://nation.com.pk/02-Feb-2019/the-last-hurdle-to-afghan-peace

Taliban and USA are in constant negotiations over withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. A draft pact addressing mutual sensitivities is concluded. The two parties facilitated by Pakistan will again meet towards end February to build a roadmap on the skeletal agreement.  

APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING— US HAS NO STRATEGY AND ITS ACTIONS ARE ACTIONS OF A LAME DESPERATE PRESIDENT BESIEGED BY SCANDALS AND A MINORITY IN CONGRESS–THIS MAKES HIM MORE DESPERATE THAN THE MOST UNDERFED TALIBAN–MR TRUMP WANTS TO NEGOTIATE A US WITHDRAWAL WHICH WOULD BE COMPLETED BY THE TIME ELECTIONS ARE ON THE TOP AND HE MAY WIN THE ELECTIONS—AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN CAN GO TO HELL—A.H AMIN

The best solutions must consider lessons learnt from the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, leaving power in hands of proxies and ignoring a broad based representative government. A representative government for Afghanistan does not mean democracy. Besides the people, it also means co-opting various warring groups, warlords and educated elites. Links with drug mafia and gun running are intrinsic. So unless these groups are satisfied, they have many supporters to make them disruptive. 

BROAD BASED REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT WAS NEVER THE LESSON IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR— PAKISTAN HAD ITS STOOGES–LOWEST RUNG MULLAHS LIKE HAQQANI WHO AS PER HIS ISI HANDLER COL QASIM ABBAS STANK SO MUCH THAT THEN MAJOR QASIM MADE HIM SIT IN THE OPEN BACK BODY OF HIS VEHICLE–THERE WAS NO BROAD BASE IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR AND NO BROAD BASE NOW–ONLY STOOGES-PAKISTANI STOOGES OR IRANIAN STOOGES OR AMERICAN STOOGES OR RUSSIAN STOOGES OR INDIAN STOOGES—A.H AMIN

USA, the Afghan resistance, Taliban and Pakistan have been here before as a resistance to Soviet occupation and then a broad based alliance approved by Pakistan and USA. 

Return of warlords gave meteoric rise to Taliban. They over ran most Mujahedeen groups led by warlords and fought fierce battles with Al Qaeda. 

AL QAEDA NEVER EXISTED — FOUGHT AFGHAN WAR AS LOGISTICS ADVISOR OF A SIDE –NEVER SAW AL QAEDA–BASED IN AFGHANISTAN SINCE 2001–NEVER SAW AL QAEDA—DAESH IS ALSO A FICTIONAL ENTITY THAT THE PAKISTANI STATE INVENTS WHEN IT GUNS DOWN INNOCENTS LIKE AT SAHIWAL Continue reading “The Last Hurdle to Afghan Peace”

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