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

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Compulsory reading

This article from Dexter Filkins is just what I'm calling it. Compulsory reading. Excerpt with one amazing claim, which I tend to give credit, though the rules of the game mentioned at the end are not all there is to the game (it's one explanatory factor out of several others).
" And then the retired Pakistani official offered another explanation — one that he said could never be discussed in public. The reason the Pakistani security services support the Taliban, he said, is for money: after the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani military concluded that keeping the Taliban alive was the surest way to win billions of dollars in aid that Pakistan needed to survive. The military’s complicated relationship with the Taliban is part of what the official called the Pakistani military’s “strategic games.” Like other Pakistanis, this former senior official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of what he was telling me.
“Pakistan is dependent on the American money that these games with the Taliban generate,” the official told me. “The Pakistani economy would collapse without it. This is how the game works.” "


Patton said...

I think at this point it's no use being indignant about this, but it is useful being worried about what this could mean for the future of Pakistan- this is a bit like juggling live bombs. If they hit the ground, it wipes out the juggler. I just wonder how long they can keep it up before one side or the other gets impatient. This is truly an example of how "War teaches us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies."

Péter MARTON said...

Juggling live bombs - yeah, it's one of those comparisons that can be drawn, definitely. Let's add that there are now people throwing live bombs at the juggler who weren't in the original plan. Filkins talked to Haji Namdar's men. That guy is already dead. Baitullah Mehsud's people finished him off. The latter is a bit of a game-spoiler...

fnord said...

In all fairness, it must be pointed out that the economy of the north has always relied to a large extent on them being paid off by one power or other. It is hard to "blame" the locals for reality up there being what it is. All conspiracies aside, the pakistani army wouldnt stand a snowballs chance in hell in a toe to toe fight. In addition to the regular militias, there is also the criminal netwerks of the opium trade, with their agents in every city. So what are the options for Pakistan, letting the US occupy the north as well? Or accept all out civil war on a principle?

What is the real underlying root problem here for the west, is as always the fact that we have no strategical vision for Afghanistan. At all, its just ad hoc reconstruction and kowtowing before Karzai and his criminal friends. What is the percieved succesful endstate of afghanistan? When can we go home? Noone wants to answer, all you get is silence. Add to this a very unclear forcecommand structure, a UN that is formaly given some responibility but kept out of the loop by the US, idiotic IO failures (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/08/world/asia/08afghan.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin) and a logistic situation from hell, and it all looks really bad, actually. Pretty frustrating stuff.

Péter MARTON said...

Totally agree about the point about the importance of the informal economy. As an aside, I've just read an IMF report from the early 1990s which methodically measured the size of the underground economy in Pakistan for a longer period and the yearly data (what a surprise!) shows a jump in the 1980s, concluded to be AFG-connected by the researcher. I'll bring this up in a later post, but in advance I'm thinking things can't be too different now.

As to the end-state. Well, end-state-building (i.e. telling Afghans exactly what they should do about everything) should give place to state-building. Sure, normative expectations matter, but the internationals can't afford to keep even the semblance of keeping Kabul on a tight leash for long. What room Kabul has now, it can use it basically only to mess things up, which it does. The Karzai family is a major part of the current Afghan economy, but I see current problems with governance in Afghanistan as beyond Karzai's circles and anything good or bad they have or have not done.

Security should first be established and then other issues could be better handled. And here comes the importance of not showing any clear resolve over putting things in order. Most countries are there not in order to do something about Afghanistan. I can cite former defence ministers saying their country's participation in Afghanistan is not about Afghanistan (not that I'm surprised by such sentiments, but it's even openly acknowledged). So no re-calculation possibly forced as a result in key spoilers' heads.

fnord said...

Good points all (except the last sentence wich I do not understand ;-)). Do you know of any serious studies of the structure and shape of the Taleban logistical chain? I am continually surprised that there are is little to no text to be found on the chains of the opium trade either. Its like there is a black hole of info from the moment it gets harvested and reappears in a junkies arms over here, or more likely in Iran.

As for the endstate, agreed that we can not force the Afghans now, having started to back Karzai there is little way out of it it seems. Wich again goes back to fundamental mistakes being made in 2002-03, wich again goes back to the gift that keeps on giving, Rumsfelds lack of proper planning. (In my opinion, of course..)

Péter MARTON said...

I owe you one for the French-army-chief-of-staff-resignation link so I'll put up some sources.
I've just written a paper in which I partly assembled the picture regarding the drugs trade - I'm thinking I'll upload a draft of that paper to a site and link to it soon (it's coming out from HIIA officially in about a week).

So, sources I used, among others.

I'll give some regarding the drugs trade here - the Taliban is a bit more tricky, but I can offer some info on that, too.

1. The World Customs Organisation's 2006 report is useful (can't find it on the web now)

2. INCB (2006): 2006 Report of the International Narcotics Control Board.
URL: http://www.incb.org/pdf/e/ar/2006/annual-report-2006-en.pdf

3. UNODC's World Drug Reports are needed as well.

4. The China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly's February, 2006 issue is full of relevant articles revealing details of the trade in Central Asia. It's up there on the net as well.

5. Here's an interesting article from the Observer:
"Drugs for guns: how the Afghan heroin trade is fuelling the Taliban insurgency," by Jerome Starkey, The Independent, April 29, 2008. URL: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/drugs-for-guns-how-the-afghan-heroin-trade-is-fuelling-the-taliban-insurgency-817230.html

Before I'd forget, this video is a MUST:

And for some follow-up after the video:

So, these all might be useful.

Péter MARTON said...

The link to the China and Eurasia Forum's issues is:

Péter MARTON said...

Just not to generate false expectations, it's not like I'd be reporting on the exact actors of the trade, not operative analysis or anything like that. I don't have insight like a law enforcement official would. I'm just writing of the trading routes, the smuggling methods, the amounts and the health and other consequences on the different markets, and policy issues, all that is reported on regularly by these open sources.

Amrullah Saleh said...

The whole money issue is an old story. I would say that was reflective of Pak military's perspective pre-2007. It's changed a lot since then. Half of these anonymous sources just speak out of their asses.