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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Weekly Great Game #3 (March 24-30)

March 24, Monday
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon call for more troop contributions from NATO countries before the upcoming NATO Summit, which both of them are going to attend in Bucharest, Romania, between April 2-4. Excerpt from the Sydney Morning Herald's article, with a recap of current Australian troop deployments.
"Mr Fitzgibbon said Australia - with just over 1000 military personnel in the volatile southern province of Oruzgan - is not well placed to increase troops."
Really, would an extra 5 or 10 per cent Australian contribution make any difference to the long-term result in Afghanistan? I don't think so," Mr Fitzgibbon told the Herald."
As the 10th-largest contributor overall and the biggest non-NATO country, I just don't think there's an argument whatsoever for us increasing our contribution."
There has been speculation that Australia will boost its presence in Afghanistan once the 515 military personnel based at Tallil in southern Iraq return home, but Mr Fitzgibbon said the Defence Force would "remain overstretched" after their withdrawal.
Given the continuing unrest in Australia's immediate region, the Rudd Government wants more troops based here for any crises that may flare closer to home.
Even after the withdrawal from Iraq, about 1000 Australian personnel will be assisting there, including an Anzac-class frigate patrolling the Persian Gulf, C-130 and P-3 Orion aircraft and crews, and a security detachment based in Baghdad that protects Australian government officials.
As well as the 1000 Australians in Afghanistan, a similar number are deployed in East Timor and the Solomon Islands."
Most importantly, in Afghanistan Australia has its main contingent of troops in Uruzgan, where fighting occurs with regularity. As a non-NATO member state participating in a NATO-run operation, lifting much weight, Australia is entitled to speak out about problems of burden-sharing within NATO that much more, to which others inside can refer for a bit of moral capital in urging more passive NATO members to do more.
U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney wrapped up a tour of visits in Istanbul on Monday, having gone to Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Israel and the Palestinian territories before ending up in Turkey. Speculations about a Turkish troop offer for ISAF, meanwhile, continue.
March 25, Tuesday
Several British officers in Afghanistan complain that the Afghan government's expulsion of two British officials (one from UNAMA, the other from the EU) for their role in talks with commander Abdul Salaam in Musa Qala district has been a major setback, and that the risk now, with the Afghan government not supporting the planned training of thousands of "village guards" (i.e. the training of the fighters formerly allied to the Taliban, for security duties, which probably would have included having them on a payroll of sorts), is that some of these people might return to fight on the other side.
Karzai greets and congratulates Riza Gilani upon becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan. Karzai expresses hope that the new government in Islamabad will concentrate more on terrorism. But that is not so clear, if it comes in the form of negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban, which PPP and other Pakistani politicians seem willing to conduct.
More details emerge about both the TAP (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan) and the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline projects, with a trilateral meeting coming up in the second half of April (April 22-23) in Islamabad. India is under pressure from several directions and in several ways to join both projects. The U.S. wants India in to inspire more regional cooperation, while China is a potential alternative partner in the IPI project, which could also turn out (at least on the drawing board) as an IPC pipeline therefore. The stakes for India: "Pakistan is to get a total of 2.1 BCFD of gas from the IPI project and India 3.2 BCFD. If India stays away, the pipeline length will come down to about 1600km, reducing the project cost. The volume of gas that Pakistan will get will increase to about 3.2 BCFD."
Meanwhile, Afghan foreign minister Rengin Spanta (on the way back from visiting Turkey) goes to another trilateral with Iran and Tajikistan in Tehran Dushanbe. Plans to develop the regional electricity grid as well as to build a railway line through Afghanistan all the way to Dushanbe. Deputy foreign minister-level follow-up meetings planned, the first coming still this year.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tells the media, while on a visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia, that Dick Cheney hasn't asked for more Turkish troops to be deployed to Afghanistan the previous day in Ankara. The Turkish public certainly wouldn't prefer acting so at U.S. instruction, and, remarkably, if one thinks of the past of the U.S.-Turkish relationship and of the ideological orientation of the current Turkish government, it's the Turkish military which is against the idea of sending more troops, while the government looks more ready to send soldiers to Afghanistan.
The World Food Programme is campaigning for more financing for its Afghanistan program after increasingly worrying wheat prices have increased significantly over the last year - about 67% in Afghanistan. Canada was the third largest donor behind the WFP in 2007 (with 176 million Canadian dollars offered), so WFP focuses its efforts there, its Deputy Executive Director for Hunger Solutions, Sheila Sisulu touring Canada, meeting officials.
March 26, Wednesday
French Président Nicolas Sarkozy in the UK for important talks. Major speech at the Westminster - ironically below paintings depicting the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo for a little piquantérie -, offering an entente cordiale, looked at bit by bit, snippet by snippet, here.
March 27, Thursday
The strategic vision statement to be published by NATO at its April 2-4 Bucharest summit is a four-page long document, it is hinted. Final touches are being made to it, it is reported.
In Afghanistan, several German soldiers are hurt by an IED in Kunduz province. Germany takes many casualties, despite its enormous focus on force protection, and despite their staying in the safer north of Afghanistan. It's that sort of conflict. The more one seeks safety for oneself over that of others, the more one might be attacked. One's behaviour may embolden attackers, and one's isolation from the environment one is in will deprive one of key intelligence to prevent attacks. 29 German KIAs (26 soldiers and three policemen) by the end of 2007, and over 70 injured soldiers by now.
French socialists are taking aim at Sarkozy for having announced more support to operations in Afghanistan. They also wish to see their soldiers "protected" more. Washington on the other hand is of course very appreciative of the promised increased French effort.
C.J. Chivers' article in the New York Times reveals how poor contracting standards leave Afghan forces supplied with much unreliable ammunition. Suspected corrupt deals exposed, implicating companies and officials in a number of countries from Albania to Cyprus, from Switzerland to the U.S. My post on this here.
March 28, Friday
The new UN envoy to Afghanistan, Norwegian Kai Ede arrives to Kabul. Could have been Paddy Ashdown instead of him, until it turned out it really couldn't.
Russian deputy foreign minister Aleksander Grushko almost explicitly links what he calls "lawful security interests," such as not seeing Georgia and Ukraine get a Membership Action Plan out of the Bucharest NATO Summit, to whether Russia will cooperate more with NATO over the ISAF mission. Why the need for the almost explicit link? Some within NATO are still tempted to push the Georgia and the Ukraine MAPs through, Russian offers of cooperation over Afghanistan notwithstanding? Or is it just Russia raising the stakes to pull off an openly acknowledged diplomatic coup for more effect for the future? Anyway, this still wasn't an explicit link established, it's still short of that. As Grushko said: "Further steps toward realising NATO's 'open doors' policy does not strengthen the security of NATO itself, nor the security of countries declaring their intention to join the alliance, nor, moreover, the security of Russia." Like, he was just trying to be nice to everyone, you see, concerned about everyone's security.
The U.S. is turning up pressure on the new Pakistani government not to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban.
British PM Gordon Brown responds very positively to Sarkozy's new approach to Franco-British relations, and vows to build an "entente amicale" between the two countries.
Canada is pushing for more European NATO troops to be sent to the south from 2009 (including specifically French, German, Italian and Spanish troops), even while it will get the extra troops it needs most likely from the U.S. as a foregone conclusion now. France will deploy more troops to the east of Afghanistan rather. The push may be directed at the rest of the four countries mentioned, but of those Germany is not likely to respond to this at all. This is just the latest salvo in the intra-coalition verbal war, one feels therefore. I'm not sure Canadians would so much want a few hundred Spanish and a few hundred Italian soldiers in Kandahar to work with. They made it clear in the past that they'd prefer to see 1,000 extra troops there from one contributing country (which will be the U.S. most likely).
March 29, Saturday
The first of six U.S.-Afghan-Pakistani military intelligence centers (with "kill TVs" and other equipment to direct drone strikes and observe movements back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan) is opened near Torkham border crossing. Three of these are to be built in Afghanistan, three in Pakistan, each costing about $3 million, to be manned by a staff of 20 (mixed, from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S.). A potentially major development in impeding militants' use of Pakistani territory as a safe haven, especially with more and more Reaper drones set to be deployed to the Afghan theatre over the coming years.
The Czech Republic, having started their Loghar PRT the previous week, announces it will agree to a U.S. request for the deployment of one of its special forces units to Afghanistan from next year. Some of the 100 SFs to be sent to Afghanistan will have already had experience operating and fighting in Afghanistan.
Dutch MP Geert Wilders' film does come out in the Netherlands after all on Friday. We shall see what this means in terms of consequences. Most likely outcome in Afghanistan at this point: peaceful protests with people chanting death to the countries they don't like now, in light of recent affairs. Calm persists so far.
In spite of Robert Gates' letter back in January, which the U.S. defence secretary addressed to Franz-Josef Jung, his German counterpart, demanding a German troop contribution to operations in southern Afghanistan, President Bush, in an interview given to the German paper Die Welt, has stated that he doesn't expect Germany to agree to such a deployment at the Bucharest Summit.
March 30, Sunday
George Bush is about to travel to the Ukraine next week, one of the places he will visit before going to Bucharest to attend the NATO Summit there (from Wednesday to Friday). Indication of how the U.S. hasn't yet resigned of getting the MAP for the Ukraine (as well as potentially for Georgia, too). It seems to be an honorary last - diplomatic - stand in defence of the two would-be NATO member allies' interests. To cite but one expert's take on the prospects of the attempt:
" "I think this NATO summit is basically the 'Goodbye George' summit," said Daniel Hamilton, Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. "A lot of the energy is looking beyond the administration." "

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