Four pieces of news from what Washington now calls AfPak raised questions about the stability of Central and South Asia on Thursday and Friday morning. Given the energy resources in Central Asia and the emergence of India as a regional superpower, the destabilization of this region and continued American military involvement with it has momentous implications for geopolitics in the coming decades.
The impact on Pakistan of the Taliban resurgence was visible on Thursday, as guerrillas attacked security centers in the eastern city of Lahore, far from the Pashtun areas. Ten attackers in their late teens hit 3 separate targets, killing 17 persons and spreading fear throughout Lahore. Because of the city’s proximity to the Indian border, the attacks also threw a scare into External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. Xinhua also reports on Indian apprehensions of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan.
Altogether, Taliban attacks in various cities left dozens dead on Thursday. Pakistanis are nervous about the deteriorating security situation.
Aljazeera English on how President Obama’s decision on what to do about Afghanistan will have a general impact on the region— Pakistan in particular. (I would also add that there is some potential for destabilizing Tajikistan and other areas of Central Asia, as the US and NATO increasingly use them for resupply, thus making them targets for the anti-government guerrillas.
The recent Frontline report on the “Return of the Taliban” seemed to me an eloquent argument against the likelihood that Gen. McChrystal’s counter-insurgency strategy can succeed in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan. One thing the report neglects is kinship. It depicts the Taliban as outsiders, but likely they were the cousins of the villagers with whom US troops were trying to make friends. If so, no wonder no shopkeepers opened businesses in the Marines’ bazaar. (For the FCC: IC carried an ad for this program via blogads for one week).
AFP reports that even officials in Karzai’s circle are now acknowledging the likelihood of a run-off election. Peter Galbraith, who as a UN official played an important role in forcing the issue, also seems reassured that there will now be a second round of voting. The allegation is that the gray diplomats of the UN in Afghanistan were initially so afraid of ethnic violence that they had been ready to acquiesce in Karzai’s ballot fraud and just declare him the president. Galbraith courageously blew the whistle on this approach. Ironically, his role in Iraq as an advocate of Kurdish secessionism has now come under question because of his investments in Kurdistan petroleum.
Jake Tapper at ABC News had argued that if Karzai refused to accept a run-off, his consequent lack of legitimacy would affect Obama’s decision on strategy.
Aljazeera English reports on Abdullah Abdullah’s own demand for a run-off election, and his conviction that he will win on the second round.
Italy denied on Friday that it had been bribing Taliban to keep quiet, but neglected to tell the French about the deal when it handed the region over to French troops. The allegations were reported by the Times of London. The bad news for President Obama is that such discord among NATO allies makes it even more unlikely that member states will send substantially more troops, as Obama has requested. While Britain will send 500 extra troops, France is declining to increase its contingent.
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