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

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Weekly Great Game #6 (April 14 - April 20)

Before the day-by-day overview, I should first of all draw here attention to the flour crisis (and the connected wheat price crisis). It's all over the news of course.
So now if you hear that armed fighting occurs in Afghanistan connected to the white powder as such, you have to think of several possibilities, not simply that it's to do with heroin. Here's a pile of... flour for illustration (pic source).
Really. Food prices are up globally, and as I've been covering this since last autumn, Afghanistan and Pakistan are seeing price hikes also as a result of conflict. The larger conflict premium in Afghanistan, meanwhile, is drawing smuggling from Pakistan.
And this week, on Monday, near the Chaman border crossing, Afghan and Pakistani units clashed with each other, for unclear reasons, when a caravan of trucks smuggling flour attempted to cross the border (some of the trucks did get through).
Elsewhere even the TTP, the Pakistani Taliban stopped smugglers and confiscated their shipment. Seems like a case of the TTP posing as an informal police force in their area, which might then reveal a somewhat surprising lack of solidarity with Pashtuns on the other side of the border. If the news reports happen to have got everything rightly accounted of, that is.
Anyway, I thought I should remark all this before the regular overview of weekly diplomatic developments. Now that even interstate skirmishes have occurred as a result of the flour crisis.
April 14, Monday
Musharraf, still around, talks SCO and IPC. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, speaking at a Beijing university on Monday, urged the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's involvement in Afghanistan. I interpreted this as a Chinese move in reply to Russia's increasing role in the logistics of NATO/ISAF operations in Afghanistan. Let's do it together, we're great friends after all, aren't we? - I took it as that sort of message, delivered by Musharraf as a medium.
The Pakistani President also added, in a rather non-pc, ultra-casual way that IPI could also be IPC instead. Kind of significant with talks in Islamabad coming up next week about the TAPI pipeline, with India's possible participation if I'm well-informed. Quoting from Musharraf: "We are vying for a pipeline in Pakistan between Iran, Pakistan and India. We are calling it the I-P-I pipeline. So why can't this be the I-P-C pipeline between Iran, Pakistan and China?"
French and Canadian FMs Bernard Kouchner and Maxime Bernier visited Kandahar Airfield. Talk is now quite regular of French plans to increase the number of French troops in Afghanistan to 3,000, with currently 1,600 of them based in the Kabul region, and 160 troops at Kandahar air base. This is somewhat more than the addition of a battalion-size force talked of in Bucharest. Will all of them go to the east?
Meanwhile, it also turned out on this day that nearby, in Zabul province, a Kazakh company's helicopter, on a contracted airlift, delivered a shipment of "Kalashnikovs, different guns, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and 550000 bullets" (and even food and water) from Kandahar to a Talib leader called mullah Muhammad Alam, towards the end of March. "Amrullah Salih head of the national security department told the reporters that the NATO was trying to supply the items to a security check post in Ghazni," reports Pajhwok. Supplying to the wrong province... A security breach? Or just a case of wrongly read latitude and longitude? Unfortunately, some in Afghanistan tend to think of a third option: conspiracy.
April 15, Tuesday
Excerpt from the summary of an interview with Afghan interior minister Ali Ahmed Jalili - Jalili's take on ISAF's strategic vision statement, adopted in Bucharest (the text of which btw can be read here):
"The Bucharest Summit, according to him, has set out a clear vision guided by four principles - shared long-term commitment, support for Afghan leadership and responsibility, a comprehensive approach by the international community, bringing together civilian and military efforts and increased cooperation and engagement with Afghanistans neighbours, especially Pakistan.
However, Jalali explained past experience indicated that adopting joint plans and strategies was the easy part but putting implementing mechanisms in place, unifying efforts and coordinating actions of all stakeholders at tactical, operational and strategic level was a difficult job.
It is hard because it is extremely difficult to bring operational coordination to the efforts of so many actors with uneven capacities and political concerns in responding to emerging challenges in a highly-volatile and dynamic environment, he said.
Jalali said the substantial transformation of NATO has created significant capacities and new challenges. The emergence of a new NATO capable to deal with challenges beyond the European theatre is an evolving process, he said.
Afghanistan is microcosm of emerging global threats and challenges that NATO is willing and expected to faces in the post-Cold War period, Jalali said.
Observing that NATO's engagement in Afghanistan is not only a test of the alliances political will and military capabilities but it can also serve as an engine of its transformation, Jalali said: The outcome of the Afghan mission will determine the future of the alliance."
Meanwhile Canada started a difficult game with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over Assadullah Khalid, Kandahar's governor. Maxime Bernier, while in Kandahar the previous day, had made it clear to reporters that he'd be happy to see Khalid go. There are many speculations about what differences there may be between them, but I recall a bad fallout already back in JanuaryFebruary over major insurgent bombings that killed scores of people in the province. In one instance Khalid claimed the Canadians were warned by him not to patrol an area where an IED killed by-stander civilians later on. At that time I took this as a face-saving attempt by Khalid, under pressure because of the lack of security. It surely wasn't sign of a healthy relationship between him and the Canadians that he looked to save face that way. Now many other faces have to be saved. Calls for both Khalid's and Bernier's resignation coming. And it complicates matters somewhat that Bernier tried in vain to convince Karzai of Khalid's removal, before going to Kandahar from Kabul. And Karzai and his family - and his tribe - is more than a little influential in Kandahar. He probably said a "no" to Bernier, who consequently might have been trying to corner Karzai over the issue by making a public statement.
April 16, Wednesday
Iranian President Ahmadinejad went confrontative again. This time he decided to voice 9/11 conspiracy theories. That was his choice of the day from a radical's repertoire.
April 19, Saturday
Pakistan's would-be ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin appeared in a video footage, aired on al-Arabiya. He was kidnapped not so long ago, right after Pakistani forces were reported to have caught Talib leader Mansoor Dadullah, brother of slain mullah Dadullah, the one who was exchanged as a prisoner in return for Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo last year in another kidnapping case.
You think there'd be mention of Dadullah in the video? No. Instead, a cryptic message: "He urged Pakistan's ambassadors in Iran and China, as well as the country's Foreign Ministry, to comply with Taliban demands."
Oh, by the way, congratulations to AP for NOT mentioning the Dadullah brothers in their first report I read. Understandable - it was so long ago, who remembers? AFP did a better job this time, though still less than perfect. Where is Mansoor Dadullah now? And what was that story about his sacking by mullah Omar shortly before he was reported as caught?

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