What Falls After Afghanistan?

The morning after a hurricane hit the East Coast and a flash flood killed 21 people in Tennessee, the headlines in the NYT, Washington Post and the WSJ described the upheaval in Afghanistan — the U.S.  pulled out, expanding the safe zones around the perimeter of Kabul airport, as the US Secretary of Defense announced that: “We cannot afford to either not defend that airfield, or not have an airfield that secure, where we have hundreds or thousands of civilians that can access the airfield at will and put our forces at risk.” And then, terrorists killed American soldiers and civilians, the airlift is over, and some Americans are still stranded, as that country faces a possible new civil war and financial disaster as the opium trade increases.

NATO’s foreign ministers had warned the Taliban that they would not tolerate Afghanistan to once again, as it did twenty years before to become a safe haven and breeding ground for terrorism. The foreign ministers noted that it had denied the terrorists a staging area for terrorists’ attacks, and it was prepared to once again invest in its vital role. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg did not rule out the use of military strikes to support their position. “We have the capabilities to strike terrorist groups…” within Afghanistan. Then the bombings and deaths come at the hands of ISIS. And the killing of civilians moved to a new high rate. Is a civil war brewing?  More than likely that and more, when the Taliban and the tribes that roam the Country come to the inevitable realization that the Taliban do not have the basic “tools” to govern the country, notwithstanding the influx of funds with the increase opium trade. That said, two days after Thanksgiving, the Washington Post affirmed what I had written one week before, that the Taliban attacks against the terrorist group have expanded its “shadowy war” against the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan. The Talban have deployed an additional thousands more fighters to its eastern province in an increasingly violent area. The operation becomes a critical test of the government’s ability to govern after what was a clearly botched U.S. troop withdrawal. And the answer is that it is not. Notwithstanding its perceived success in the ongoing action against ISIS, the government’s ability to feed its population and sustain a working economy is failing. Afghanistan’s economy and social services are further collapsing as I write this sentence, with Afghans throughout the country already suffering acute malnutrition. The fear is that children will die in the coming months as winter sets in, and a call has reached the international community for aid.

Then, as I paused waiting further developments, other areas have become increasingly volatile and a danger both directly and indirectly to our national security. In the midst of this, and not totally unrelated, the Iranian Ayatollah Alireza Ebadi announced that: The Jews Are the Biggest Problem for Islam and Humanity – They Control The World. How will that threat play out with their growing rush toward being an international nuclear weapon player? Turkey, a strategically located country, and as I have written in the past with its President Erdogan’s moving closer to military ties with the Kremlin, saw the country sliding into economic turmoil. The current crises have its population seeking bread and meat subsidies and fleeing for what would be a better life in Europe.

The claims of territorial rights have escalated in intensity and have become dangerous flashpoints: Hong Kong is lost. The small businesses I know there are holding onto their international trade with their fingertips and their voices are becoming dimmer.

Taiwan’s independence and those nation-states that depend upon and claim territorial and navigation rights to the South China Sea and adjacent seaways for international and local commercial transportation, mineral rights exploration and fishing hold our attention. Add India vs China and India vs Pakistan. On October 12th India and China announced that a high level military meeting between the two sides failed to ease the standoff to their boarder dispute that has left 20 Indian and Chinese troops dead.

The United States, notwithstanding strongly claiming that vast areas of the South China sea and adjacent significant maritime areas as international water has, in the past decades, made a series of tactical and strategic – military decisions that have placed us second to China who now possesses the world’s largest navy. And by any measurement – size does matter and raises significant questions of the nature of future hostilities.

Could China invade Taiwan now? As China bangs the drums of war, and although it sent in excess of 56 fighter jets over Taiwan’s beleaguered air defense systems, the answer is clear: at this moment their naval advantage is not sufficient to risk that aggressive move. In any invasion of that magnitude it would severely disrupt China’s present economic growth at home and its dependence on world opinion to support that growth. China and China watchers think in terms of 5-6 years for hostilities (however that word is defined) to commence, but were rattled when it was announced that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile 3 months ago that circled the earth and landed close to its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability. Parenthetically, Putin had already boasted of achieving hypersonic missile capability, but without the Beijing’s range.

Will there be a hostile “reunification” of the wayward province–Taiwan–or as some believe, a peaceful absorption by Beijing. Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has confirmed that U.S. military personnel are currently on the island as part of a “military exchange,” as she announced that the country’s 23 million residents would never “bow to pressure” in the face of the growing military threat from China. All the while, China practices amphibious troop landings, and Russian and Chinese warships conducted their first joint naval operations in the western part of the Pacific Ocean. The armada consisted of ten warships that sailed thru the Tsugaru straits that separate Japan’s major islands, rattling that country’s sense of security.

History is important: more than 70 years ago, during a civil war in China between the Nationalists and Communists, the Nationalists, after defeat on the battle field, retreated to Taiwan. It is important to understand on the international diplomatic level, Taiwan is not a nation-state, it has no seat at the United Nations and is recognized by 15 very small nations. At times in the past, life did flourish between the mainland and the democratic island. Today, the relationship is at its lowest level. China’s president announced that before the end of his tenure, he will see the return of the wayward “province” to the embrace of Beijing’s authority. And America’s president announced that we have an obligation to defend a democratic Taiwan.

Pakistan and India have a long feud regarding claims to territory in the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent since the partition of that area in 1947. Until the mid-19th century,  “Kashmir” denoted only a valley between two mountain ranges. Today, the term encompasses a larger area that includes Indian-administered territories, Pakistani-administered territories, and, as I’ve just learned, Chinese-administered territories. Today, India and Pakistan both claim the region in full. The Indian side of the region has been the scene of constant clashes between government forces and armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. At the same time, India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the frontier, to launch attacks. Naturally, Pakistan rejects the accusation, as it is accused of providing a safety zone for those jihadists who stage attacks in India.

Indian authorities have moved to shut down the internet as a “precautionary measure”, and have placed restrictions in Kashmir Valley. Police had ordered the civilians to refrain from walking on the streets.

India and Pakistan have fought four wars since their partition in 1947, three of them over Kashmir. China has remained silent. What makes this hotspot more volatile is that the United States and India have taken a major step in signing an agreement to develop an air-launched unmanned aerial vehicle, thereby deepening the defense technology between the two nations. India playing both sides of the street will welcome Russia’s Putin for a summit as Moscow begins the delivery of air defense missile systems to India. That could spur U.S. sanctions.

While the tensions run high in the India and Pakistan, they are unlikely to produce any significant, imminent fighting, other than cross-border sniping. Pakistan has long been a sinking pit for the American infusion of tens of billions of dollars in aid, most of it unaccounted for by its corrupt government. Although it has long been thought, in a positive way, as our partner in our “war” against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Without our financial aid, its government must totally rely upon its drug trade, which will undoubtedly be encouraged by the new Taliban chiefs in Afghanistan. One of those Afghan Taliban leaders, it has been frequently been reported in the press, is a protégé of the Pakistan military. All this must be viewed against a background that a corrupt Pakistan government holds the keys to a nuclear arsenal.

It appears that India, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, along with other smaller nation states in the South China Sea are trying to downplay the anxiety each feels (and attempts to shroud) when scrutinizing their individual relationship with the U.S.  Our present standing in the international community, after four years of the Trump Administration and our botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, has put these countries on edge. Are they each safe from any and all types of China incursion?  “The world has witnessed how the US evacuated its diplomats by helicopter while Taliban soldiers crowded into the presidential palace in Kabul,” the official and hawkish Beijing Chinese-English language newspaper wrote shortly after the Afghan Governments collapse. “This has dealt a heavy blow to the credibility and reliability of the U.S.”, the Chinese-English paper’s editorial continued. True or false – is it China propaganda (which they appear to be very good at), or are we in a world racked by an uncontrollable virus, shifting world political alliances and domestic political upheaval, causing confusion as we attempt to refocus our international priorities?

Two very different American Presidents planned to carry out our withdrawal from Afghanistan. Two very different American Presidents view this nation’s already contentious and hostile future with China; where we have no hotline as with Russia. The increasing, dangerous threats and aggressive activities from China necessitate the United States to shift its national security focus from the Mid-East and focus on China and the Indo-Pacific arena. The Chinese will learn that they will have to refocus and consider a more robust, offensive United States to its East, and to the west the Uighurs, whose plight is more and more being examined by the international press. They are a predominantly Muslim group of Turkic ethnicity and who live in China’s North-Western Xinjiang Province. China appears to view them as a national security threat to Beijing’s hard rule, and has subjected them to internationally condemned severe treatment.

Then the day after Thanksgiving, what started as a sunless cold day, the Global financial market plunged on the opening bell following the discovery of a new viral variant in southern Africa that top advisors warned was the “most worrying we’ve seen.”  I thought: is there no place to hide?

The Editor

Viewing Our Diminishing World Influence, Egypt and Israeli Military Coordination, And Why We Should Focus On Pakistan

From behind a fairly thick curtain of security comes news that at the highest government level, Egypt and Israel have coordinate aerial attacks against ISIS sympathizes within Egypt. This cooperation has been in place for more than two years relying upon unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets— all with the approval of the Egyptian President. There is close and improving cooperation between the high military commands of both nations. At the same moment Egypt is flooding discovered tunnels dug by terrorists to create artificial bodies of water to raise fish.

Much of the remaining news in the world surrounding the Syrian war zones is turning uglier, more deadly and unpredictable each day:   Iran and Hizbullah have taken advantage of the cover of war in Syria to smuggle advanced weapons through Syria to Hizbullah sympathizes and fighters; the Soviet capital can credit itself to have pushed its way to be able to claim an equal footing with the U.S. in wielding both political and military power in that explosive Eastern Mediterranean world.

The news from the world surrounding Syria is not at all encouraging, with no decrease in the extreme violence and devastation inflicted upon civilians of all descriptions and associations, who appear to be fleeing in all directions and continue to be caught in the crossfire of a political war, with its incendiary propaganda and violence rained down in the form of all types of military hardware.

Lost in this loud, violent conflict is our attention to what is properly the most potentially dangerous marker on the table: Pakistan. We generally think of Pakistani/India—both nuclear powers and their seemingly endless conflict. What I suggest is that Pakistan, aside from its conflict with India, is a dangerous powder keg undermining our own interests and security.

Some background to this discussion: Pakistan as a country was created in 1997, and we have had a long diplomatic multi-faceted relationship since then. If you look at a U.S. State Department site, it will show that we have maintained a strong security relationship, which only intensified since a 2014 attack against its Karachi airport and army school. Economically, Pakistan’s largest export destination is the United States, but China is it largest trading partner. What is more important in the equation is the amount of civilian and military aid we supply each year and have for years on end. All, Washington has alleged, so “Pakistan becomes a more secure, prosperous and stable democracy.”

If we reach back 11 years we read the official reports that we are “increasingly concerned that member of Al Qaeda, its Taliban supporters, and other Islamist militants find safe haven in Pakistani cities.” Some of these Islamist forces express “solidarity with anti-United States forces”, along with al Qaeda militants having made alliances with “indigenous Pakistani terrorist groups “that are clearly anti-Western’. In early 2007, the outgoing Director of National Intelligence had the most reliable crystal ball: in two sentences the dilemma facing our national security was articulated: “Pakistan is a frontline partner in the war on terror. Nevertheless, it remains a major source of Islamic extremism and the home for some top terrorist leaders.” Al Qaeda was posing, he said, the single greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its interests. Remember: This is a county that possesses nuclear power. This is a country that allows dangerous anti-American terrorist groups to secure hideouts. This is a country in which “anti-U.S. sentiment is not just a phenomenon within elite Pakistani circles either; it extends to the Pakistani population as well.” “According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. favorability rating among the Pakistani people hasn’t cracked the 30 percent mark in thirteen years of public polling on the subject.” We are not welcomed, we are not accepted. But please send the next check. And we have sent millions upon millions of dollars in both civilian and military aid. To what avail?

Part of the complex relationship that pits us and Pakistan on a dangerous path is Pakistan’s almost emotional reflex reactions to US/India relations. “Pakistan cannot, will not, absolutely will never accept Indian dominance in this region. Even if (the president) tweets that Pakistan is an unfaithful and disloyal ally. It doesn’t matter. Pakistan’s national security posture is defined by how it perceives itself with respect to India.” Not said is how Pakistan views itself to the rest of the world and its own ideas of what constitutes self-preservation. And therein lies part of the crux in its relationship to the United States and our security interests. The other element is the country has shown little if an incentive to crackdown on groups such as the Jamaaat-ud-Dawa (Jud) which had been blamed by the United Nations for the 2008 attack on the Indian city Mumbai that left the city inflames and killed 166 persons.

We must be more rationally engaged—whether it takes “carrot and stick” in preventing Pakistan from doling out its tactical nuclear weapons (which most assuredly could and will fall into terrorists’ hands), discouraging with sufficient support to encourage Pakistan from reviving its nuclear proliferation activities, preventing a major Pakistan-India war (that would in all likelihood land hard on United States interests) , as well as clamping down on Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in India in their ongoing seemingly endless nationalistic conflict and providing sanctuary to Afghan insurgents.

The United States has poured millions of dollars each year into Pakistan in the hope of influencing its mindset, but we must be more rational in our approach to this potentially dangerous nuclear power. We must not act like a street bully, and most important we must stop calling diplomats, heads of state and nations in common derogatory street terms if we hope to be a leader in the free world. It is a worthwhile and important first step that we will withhold two billion dollars in security assistance and have proposed to place Pakistan on a terror financial watch. Will that make a difference?

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Politics At Home and Chaos Abroad

We are living in the most unsettling and frightening times in my memory, and I am a senior-senior. Politics in the United States is much more disturbing than I remember, and I remember the McCarthy era all too well.

Today, politics and its vulgarity cut across an uglier path than our traditional concept prescribes. This blog focuses on security, terrorism and counter-terrorism, often brushing the shores of civil rights. The present political scene has a direct negative bearing on our security—national and international. And although I am loath to enter that mine-field, I must.

On the right , never before in my lifetime have I heard and read such vitriolic language to describe long standing economic and security partners, against friends and non-friends in the diplomatic world or more pathetically—each other. Clearly, you do not conduct foreign relations in this century behind a wall or encourage others to build nuclear bombs.

On the other side of the political spectrum we find Bernie Sanders—like Mr. Trump, hides his federal tax returns, decided he was a Democrat only 4 months ago, and his surrogates harass super-delegates. He seeks to be president and commander-in-chief while ignoring that at one time he filed as a “conscientious objector’. How that squares with our national security and control of the black box is beyond my comprehension. When or where does our national security (and frankly, I am thinking about my family’s security) come into play if the Senator believes in non-violence in a very violent world, and most surely he will be required from time-to-time to engage our military in violent confrontation if elected. As our present occupier of the White House, will he draw a line in the sand and then go on to ignore his own threats? How will he handle drones and their use against ISIS, it leaders and those who plot against our military? How does he criticize Israel’s response to Hamas’s attacks and blatantly ignore the thousands of rockets fired by Hamas including their use of civilians as shields? How does a conscientious objector morph into a Commander-in-Chief?

At home we fear ISIS and its allies. Not when but where will they strike. ISIS is losing ground on their home turf but is more than making up for that loss with their savagery abroad. Think Brussels and Paris.

The migrants and their wholescale deportation across the Turkey boarders have deleted the word “humanitarian” from our dictionary. Looking at the rest of the world I see only violent chaos, massive displacement of whole groups of people, killings as random as walking across the street. It appears to me that the world’s governments are paralyzed to stop this brutality although they talk in boasting terms.

In India, nearly 100,000 farmers have committed suicide in 2014. Why and why is India silent?

In Gaza, there is no news from whichever government pretends to be in control, the international press is silent as the Israeli government quietly announced it has expanded the Palestinian fishing zone from six to nine nautical miles. A spokesperson for the Palestinian fishing industry said this would increase their income by at least one hundred thousand dollars annually. President Abbas has been silent, and there have been no comment from London.

Nearly a week after recapturing Palmyra from ISIS, Syrian forces say they have uncovered horrendous evidence of the workings of the terrorist group. Mass graves, some holding 40 bodies—many were women and children, and some show signs of beheading and torture. As Iran remains a steadfast ally of those criminally minded people it has told the American government in a posting today that their missile power is a non-negotiable issue. Warning that they “don’t get permission from anybody” especially from the “imprudence” of the U.S. regarding their own security.

From Steve Emmerson’s group, we are asked to “imagine more of the African continent engulfed in Islamist savagery of Libya and Nigeria. Imagine Jordan and Saudi Arabia undergoing the same turmoil as Iraq and Syria. Imagine a Europe that begins to resemble Lebanon more than its American cousin.” These events could occur in the next few years, and NATO seems blind to this story.

A television clip released by MEMRI shows a Leader of Islamic Movement in Israel preaching: “This land (‘Palestine’) will vomit Israeli occupation like the sea vomits its filth”. I wonder if any person could preach that same gospel in Gaza about Hamas.

Turkey is awash in political upheaval. This once proud democratic nation has fallen victim to not some strong mana’s rule but a neo-Islamist dictator. His crushing of civil rights and the opposition press is not subtle but violent and public, and yet the people vote for him. All this internal power has provided him the upper hand internationally, as Greece with its dire financial conditions and swamping of migrants seeks help. In return for 6 billion euros and some vague promises of free travel, Turkey will take back anyone currently attempting to enter Greece. This week we saw the first boat load of migrants starting the painful route home. And as I write this blog, Turkey has been placed on high alert as our own government warms about credible threats and reports of controlled explosions conducted in Istanbul’s popular square.

And last on my agenda today is the South China Sea where international relations have becomes tenser and potentially moving beyond mere political hostility. Although the New York Times attempts to portray the Unite States as neutral in the area, it is just the opposite. America sails its warships close to the Chinese created military island and compound in defiance of China’s extension of its territorial and nautical rights in that part of the world. All, as the other nations of the area try to forge stronger political and military ties that we have not seen in decades.

I remember sitting in my office when JFK was assassinated, and I fearfully thought what was going to happen to the country. I thought of my very young family waiting for me at home. Obviously, the country has more than merely survived. But today’s political climate is more endemic. The hatreds long contained are being encouraged to be expressed and acted upon. The most base thoughts and actions are encouraged to be displayed and executed freely. Disregard for reality, one note songs repeated over and over in disregard of others; to dismiss what you don’t have merely because you do not possess it. I loathe placing Donald’s name in the same sentence with Bernie, but each in his very own distinct way have a blind eye to international reality and would make us a more isolationist nation. And that would damage our national and international security. Yesterday, a very close relative said to me: I am voting my brain not my heart. And I thought that is a good rule to follow when determining issues involving security.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

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