Pakistan After Reagan

by Ahmed Rashid
published in MER155

Before they died in a suspicious plane crash on August 16, President/General Zia ul-Haq and his officer cohorts were looking with dismay at the prospect of a new administration in Washington. Pakistan forged the closest ties ever with the United States during the eight years of Ronald Reagan’s administration. The Soviet military presence in Afghanistan virtually guaranteed Reagan’s blind eye to Islamabad’s nuclear program. Increased military aid and closer intelligence ties boosted the Pakistani military’s dominant political role in the country.

Report from Afghanistan

by Steven Galster , Jochen Hippler
published in MER158

The last Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan have gone home, clearing the stage around Kabul and other cities for a major showdown between Soviet-supported government forces and their American-supported guerrilla rivals, the mujahideen. Conventional wisdom has it that the mujahideen are now in position to finally topple the Kabul regime. Former President Ronald Reagan based his policy on this premise -- that peace in Afghanistan lay beyond a Soviet withdrawal and the overthrow of the Najibullah government. President George Bush, hoping to put his own imprint on what conservatives view as the one solid victory of the Reagan Doctrine, has decided to continue arming the rebels as long as the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) remains in power.

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Big Empire, Little Minds

by Christian Parenti
published in MER264

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan (Knopf, 2012).

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Culture, a Weapon System on the Wane

by Rochelle Davis
published in MER264

The concept of “culture” took on new life in US military strategy in 2006. At the time of the US invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, cultural knowledge and training played no role in US military calculations; it was simply not part of the vocabulary of war. Culture became an official element of the US military’s arsenal with the 2006 publication of Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, referred to colloquially as “the COIN manual.” Under the COIN rubric, cultural knowledge functions as a tactical asset for troops and military strategists.

Bagram, Obama's Gitmo

by Lisa Hajjar
published in MER260

On President Barack Obama’s second day in office, one of the three executive orders he signed was a commitment to close the detention facility on the naval base at Guantánamo Bay as soon as possible but no later than one year thence. An inter-agency task force headed by White House counsel Greg Craig was established to come up with a plan. The new administration did not anticipate that this step would be controversial because, at the time, closing Guantánamo had bipartisan support, including from former President George W. Bush and Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain. Bagram, the main US-controlled prison in Afghanistan, on the other hand, was being expanded -- like the war in that country.

The Taliban, the Shari'a and the Pipeline

Rivalries and Power Plays in Afghanistan

by Olivier Roy
published in MER202

Underlying the appearance of the Taliban movement, first of all, are factors internal to Afghan society, in particular the discrediting of the government and the “commandos” born out of the resistance to Soviet intervention. The rapid expansion of the militia, culminating with the conquest of Kabul on September 26, 1996, cannot be understood without considering the direct support of Pakistan, abetted by the US and Saudi Arabia, as part of a larger project to export fossil fuels from Central Asia to Western markets via Afghanistan and Pakistan, bypassing Iran and Russia.

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Barfield, Afghanistan

by B. D. Hopkins
published in MER256

Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

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More Troops Won't Do It

by Chris Toensing | published November 13, 2009

For the past two months, President Barack Obama has been weighing Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request to send an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” al-Qaeda. That same effort, according to Obama, entails ensuring that the Taliban can’t regain control of the country. But a military strategy alone won’t beat al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Achieving lasting stability in Afghanistan will require national political reconciliation, the establishment of a functioning, accountable political system, and a credible government. In this respect, the outcome of Afghanistan’s presidential election, marred by cheating, was a step in the wrong direction.

Afghan Women and Girls Still Held Hostage

by Zama Coursen-Neff
published in MER228

When asked what she desired most for Afghanistan’s future, “Nadia,” a Kabul university student, didn’t hesitate. “First, we wish the girls who live in the provinces would have schools -- not just grades one through five at most. Second, we wish that they would collect all the guns from the gunmen, so girls can go out and go to school. Third, we wish they would talk with families -- girls are interested but some families won’t let them go out. Yes, people are afraid of what would happen from the gunmen if they allowed their girls to go to school. Of course they are afraid of men with guns or other groups,” she said.