What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Weekly Great Game #1 (March 10-16)

I'm starting a new feature today. As the at-times not particularly funny Great Game unfolds in Afghanistan, covering the diplomacy and related issues may be of interest, so therefore I'll be publishing weekly overviews from now. This is meant to be raw material mostly. Feel free to analyse all the bits of data on your own when I don't offer any firm conclusions. I'll go back two weeks in time for starters, and publish two weekly overviews today.
* * *
March 10, Monday - Of TAP and the EU police mission
Trans-Afghan Pipeline trilateral negotiations announced, to be held in Islamabad on April 22-23, between representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan to present new third-party audit of its gas reserves in the Daulatabad field. Pipeline route envisaged as leading from there through northwest, west and south Afghanistan, through Baluchistan (e.g. Quetta), out to the sea at Multan. Route length: 1680 km. Planned capacity: 33 billion cubic metres. The Asian Development Bank is the main sponsor; costs up to $6 billion to $7 billion. The pipeline will have to be laid several metres below ground and reinforced to minimise obstructability in the form of sabotage. India possibly willing in as well, with memories of plans for a pipeline from Iran to India. Will world peace set in? Guerrillas have a stake in the affair in both Baluchistan and Afghanistan, plus the viability of the project is doubted for other reasons as well.
EU foreign ministers offer to "bolster" the EU police mission in Afghanistan, following their Brussels meeting. Like, there could be 120 instead of 60 German police, if rigorous Germany sees no signs of free-riding from others, i.e. if the rest raise their numbers, too.
March 11, Tuesday - A minor Uzbek policy shift and no German policy shift at all
Dutch defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop meets Australian counterparts defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon and foreign minister Stephen Smith in Canberra. It is hinted that "within the next two to 2 1/2 years it must be possible that the nucleus of the provincial reconstruction team we have now will go from all military, most of the people will be civil people." Of course one has to add that a battlegroup would still be necessary beside these southern PRTs then. Where it would be possible to let PRTs transform more in a civilian direction right now is the much calmer north of Afghanistan. But the countries present there use their PRTs, staffed with soldiers almost exclusively, to show how active they are militarily while others are fighting in the south - which they don't really wish to partake in, of course.
Which connects to how, ruling out for the thousandth time a restructuring of Germany's deployments to Afghanistan, German chancellor Angela Merkel called for caution in considering taking in new members to NATO, saying "A country should become a NATO member not only when its temporary political leadership is in favor but when a significant percentage of the population supports membership." This was in reference to Georgia and the Ukraine of course. A significant development related to Afghanistan, as Georgia's membership matters to U.S. grand strategy not only vis-à-vis Russia, but Iran as well. And there is the issue of assistance Russia could provide to ISAF's operations. Most likely there was, in fact, an initiative directly linking the open-ended postponement of Georgia's and Ukraine's MAP (Membership Action Plan) and the provision of a land corridor to NATO through Russia, emerging via discussions in Belgium with Russia's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozhin.
Meanwhile, the U.S. again denied having access to the Termez airbase in Uzbekistan, used by Germany. NATO personnel may travel through Termez if permission is granted in advance, and some advisors may stay there permanently. Otherwise the fall-out over Andijan isn't over and this is not cooperation on the level seen in the days when the U.S. could use the K2 airfield. Andijan was too close to K2, as you may remember.
March 12, Wednesday - Fallon falls out with his superiors, Taliban fall out with jihadists
U.S. CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon resigns. Not enthusiastic enough in a strategic sense about General Petraeus' achievements in Iraq, less than trigger-happy about Iran, very understanding of Pakistan's military. Of the latter three attitudes of his the first two are the ones that cost him his job, after he voices those in an interview given to Thomas Barnett. There he also supposedly says that Iranians are "ants whom you crush when the time comes." A bit of deterrence smuggled into a well-dramatised preparation for a pre-decided bye-bye to his post by Fallon? I wonder.
Meanwhile, jihadist bloggers are at a difference with mullah Omar et al. from the Taliban, after the latter say they want good relations with the world, Radio Free Europe reports. Talks in the background, with the Taliban, must be.
March 13, Thursday - Canada lets everyone sigh in relief
A U.S. document dated February 3 is leaked to Reuters, outlining a five-year plan regarding Afghanistan. It is expected to be part of a strategic vision statement drafted by NATO, to be unveiled at the Bucharest NATO summit (April 2-4). If accepted, it will push time limits for key achievements in Afghanistan beyond those of the Afghanistan Compact (which were rather uncomfortable by now).
Canada's parliament votes to back the continued stay of Canadian Forces in Kandahar till 2011, if 1,000 more troops, as well as drones and transport helicopters are provided by some other country to them. For a while it looked like it would be France. Now it looks like it will be the U.S., with some of its forces to be freed up by the French in eastern Afghanistan. The 1,000 more troops are necessary in Kandahar to hold on to the ADZ/ink blot area there, as well as to secure key districts such as Arghandab. This year those tasks will be taken care of with the assistance of "in-surging" U.S. Marines. The recent report of a commission presided by Former Liberal deputy PM John Manley played a key role, face-saving as well as substantial, in the Liberal Party's change of opinion, which left the NDP and the Bloc Québécois opposing the extension in Canada.
March 14, Friday - An end to adoption
Foreign ministers of the Netherlands and Slovakia, Maxime Verhagen and Jan Kubiš, made a remarkable statement following their meet in the Hague: "In the next two to three years, while Afghanistan's own security forces gain in strength, we will have to let go of our own 'adopted' provinces and focus on the country as a whole." "Adoption" is a word I always hated so much. It's so openly an acknowledgement of how people tend ot think of "development cooperation" in general. And it reminds me especially of how certain small countries in the north like to refer to themselves as "providing security" in their respective provinces - say, with about 200 soldiers in a PRT... The militia commander next door is not even bothered.
March 15, Saturday - NATO-Russia deliverables discussed
Ahead of a NATO-Russia Council meeting set to come on Monday, March 17, at a Brussels forum on trans-Atlantic relations further details emerge over likely "deliverables" in NATO-Russia cooperation on Afghanistan. Moving even closer to an institutionalised NATO-Russia/CSTO partnership, but not there yet of course, e.g. the leasing of Russian planes and trains, and Russian training for Afghan helicopter pilots is discussed. Poland is the most openly unhappy about what's going on. After the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza blew the whistle on the Georgia-Ukraine MAP deal with the Russians, Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski says "Russia could play a positive role to facilitate logistics of NATO operations in Afghanistan. That would be welcome. But I would not link that to the policy of an open door for Ukraine and Georgia."
Meanwhile, Turkmenistan extends its commitment to supply electricity to Afghanistan till 2009.
End of overview

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The role of Europe? Vote at www.FreeEurope.info