Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 03, 2009

The Pink Route To Afghanistan

(UPDATED with new Kyrgyzstan development at 2pm est)

"[In Afghanistan] a small army would be annihilated and a large one starved."
Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) (source)

A new supply route into Afghanistan is getting more urgent by the day. Russia is squeezing the U.S.' balls in negotiations over a route through its country. Now Iran might get the chance to do the same.

Today an important bridge in Pakistan went down:

The bridge in the Khyber district was blown up at 0600 local time (0100 GMT) and all traffic on the road had been suspended, news agency AFP quoted key official, Tariq Hayat, as saying.
The 30-metre (100-foot) iron bridge is 23km (15 miles) west of Peshawar.

To repair a 30 meter steel bridge in the volatile area will require some time, possibly weeks.

Some stuff was already missing in the mess halls and PX shops on U.S. bases in Afghanistan:

The milk is now pulled from the mess hall by 9 a.m., to ration the limited supply.
At the Camp Phoenix base store nearby, the shelves look bare. There's no Irish Spring Body Wash, no Doritos, no Tostitos Scoops, no Bayer Aspirin.
"I've never seen the store this empty, ever," said Ula Loi, the store manager.

Early last year 600 to 800 trucks per day were going from Karachi through Peshawar and the Khyber pass to Kabul and the U.S. main base in Bagram. After several attacks the traffic on that route had already been reduced to some 300-400 trucks per day with another 100+ per day going from Karachi through Torkham to Kandahar.

Even with those 500+ trucks per day, the PX had empty shelfs and the mess hall lacked milk. With 300-400 trucks less per day now military operations will have to be reduced.

The U.S. also has an air-base in Kyrgyzstan for flying supplies to Afghanistan which is also in trouble:

The base, located on the outskirts of Bishkek and home to over 1,000 military personnel, was established in 2001 after the start of the U.S-led military operation in Afghanistan. Recent media reports said the Kyrgyz government was considering to shut it down.

It may be that Russia has a hand in this:

Russia is offering the indebted ex-Soviet state a grant of 150 million dollars and a loan of 300 million dollars and is lining up major investment in return for closure of the US airbase in Kyrgyzstan, Kommersant reported.

In an earlier piece I said Russia "has the U.S. by the balls." Now it is squeezing.

UPDATE (2pm est): Just in: NYT Kyrgyzstan Said to Deny Base to U.S.

Kyrgyzstan is ending U.S. use of a key airbase that supports military operations in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan's president was quoted as saying Tuesday.


Five possible routes into Afghanistan have been discussed.


The blue line is the exiting and endangered route through Pakistan. The green line through China is unlikely to happen as China prefers to stay out of imperial adventures. The red line is the Caspian route the U.S. would prefer (also as a pipeline route) but which is blocked due to Russian influence on Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The yellow line is under negotiation and will have a heavy political price.

Petraeus' premature announcement that the yellow route through through Russia had been secured increased the price the U.S. will have to pay for it. Next to lots of money Russia wants:

  • a renewed START strategic arms reduction treaty
  • no further NATO expansion in Eastern Europe or Central Asia
  • no missile defense in Eastern Europe

The U.S. is desperate over the logistic situation in Afghanistan and the Russians know it:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov agreed on Tuesday to work more closely on key strategic issues, Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
The two foreign ministers spoke by telephone at the request of Washington, the ministry said in a statement.
"Especially noted was the importance of strengthening bilateral cooperation, including questions of strategic dialogue and economic cooperation, as well as current international problems such as the resolution of (the situation in) Afghanistan," the statement said.

Note the sequence of Lavrov's points. For Russia the route to Afghanistan is at the end of other issues.

There is of course the pink route left. Supply through Iran was unthinkable so far, but the urgency of the situation makes the earlier unthinkable possible:

NATO would not oppose individual member nations making deals with Iran to supply their forces in Afghanistan as an alternative to using increasingly risky routes from Pakistan, the alliance's top military commander said Monday.

Gen. John Craddock's comments came just days after NATO's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, urged the U.S. and other members of the Western military alliance to engage with Iran to combat Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

I can hear the alarms bells in Tel Aviv going off over this. A U.S. ally (Germany, Canada?) or the U.S. itself supplying through Iran's port Char Bahar makes an Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran politically at least much more difficult if not impossible.

Iran said earlier it would prefer that the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan.

But it may want to wait and see what the Russians will get for their route and then rethink its position.

Having a U.S. ally or the U.S. itself depend on Iran for supply in Afghanistan could be a major diplomatic asset and open up new possibilities.

Without Russia's and without Iran's help, the U.S. is unlikely to succeed in Afghanistan.

Russia is using its ability to squeeze the empire's ball over logistic lines to Afghanistan. Iran should think about gaining that capability and opportunity too.

earlier coverage of Afghanistan logistics at MoA:
The Costly New Supply Route To Afghanistan, Jan 26, 2009
New Supply Routes To Afghanistan, Nov 19, 2008
Fuel for War in Afghanistan Aug 20, 2008
The Road War in Afghanistan Aug 16, 2008
Fuel Tanker Attacks in Afghanistan Mar 24, 2008

Posted by b on February 3, 2009 at 15:50 UTC | Permalink


The red route only needs to go through Turkmenistan to get into Afghanistan, not Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. But I'm pretty certain the Turkmens won't accept.

Posted by: alex | Feb 3 2009 16:07 utc | 1

I know this is maybe a stupid question and probably discussed here at MOA before, but can someone tell me the real reason(s) the U.S. government/military is in Afganistan?

Posted by: Rick | Feb 3 2009 16:52 utc | 2

(Rick) "I know this is maybe a stupid question and probably discussed here at MOA before, but can someone tell me the real reason(s) the U.S. government/military is in Afganistan?"

Excellent koan!!

Posted by: seneca | Feb 3 2009 17:13 utc | 3

@alex - The red route only needs to go through Turkmenistan to get into Afghanistan,

The U.S. discussed several routes through those countries. The problem is not only political. Uzbekistan is the only country with connections to Afghanistan that have the necessary capacity. From the Caspian sea to Kazakhstan and from there to Uzbekistan might be a necessity as the Turkmenistan railway is a mess and the roads are no better.

There is an Asia Development Bank report (pdf) on traffic infrastructure in the area that describes some of the problems. (The railway map in there is incomplete though.)

@rick - real reason(s) the U.S. government/military is in Afganistan?

Hydrocarbons and other resources in Central Asia. Zbigniew Brzezinski's book "The Grand Chessboard" lays out the general big picture and plan.

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2009 17:23 utc | 4

Russia is using its ability to squeeze the empire's ball over logistic lines to Afghanistan. Iran should think about gaining that capability and opportunity too.

Oh, I think they have been considering their chances seriously for a while.
Foolishness . . . sheer foolishness. Didn't any of these idiots study Napoleon's Grand Army?

Posted by: crasmane | Feb 3 2009 17:31 utc | 5

slightly ot - a good piece on "Human Terrain Teams" in Afghanistan: Afghanistan: The New War for Hearts and Minds

ROBERT YOUNG PELTON goes deep inside America’s new, brainier strategy in Afghanistan and finds that, on the front line, scientists and soldiers don’t always mix. An absurdist tale of modern warfare.

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2009 17:38 utc | 6

For Rick: A War in the Planning for Four Years - HOW STUPID DO THEY THINK WE ARE? has lots of quotes from Brzezinski's book on Central Asia.

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2009 17:45 utc | 7


I had to look up what a “koan” was. No, my remark was not meant to stir trouble in having a debate where there is no real answer. It was meant to highlight a fundamental axiom to build upon for constructive thought. This fundamental is an unknown in my mind. I think there is a definitive answer as to why those who hold the reigns of power in the U.S. government desire to continue this military intervention. Of course, we can assume simply that invading other nations is what empire building nations do, but I believe there are concrete reasons. Not good reasons probably, but definitive reasons in the minds of those who pull the strings.

Since writing the above paragraph, I checked the thread and see b has been busy. Thanks again to b. I will read these links because background/perspective is essential.

Posted by: Rick | Feb 3 2009 17:50 utc | 8

@crasmane: Didn't any of these idiots study Napoleon's Grand Army?

What about the Grand Army? I remember they heroical conquered Moscow and were greeted as liberators. I stopped reading after that. Did I miss anything?

Posted by: Bill | Feb 3 2009 18:15 utc | 9

That ADB report is great stuff - I'd love to see what they filtered out of the consultants' reports. So even after the US buys Russia off at an extortionate price, they face creative permitting and enforcement ($); bundled tariffs exacted by monopoly carriers ($$); information asymmetries that give forwarders the whip hand (ka-ching!); and railcars you can't seal. So you get fed up with the pilferage and graft and take to the roads: one winter month of land trains over the frost heaves, and your supply lines are choked off again. Death of a thousand cuts.

Posted by: ...---... | Feb 3 2009 18:35 utc | 10

@ Bill

This graph gives a pretty good idea of how things turned out for the little frenchman.

Posted by: dan of steele | Feb 3 2009 18:38 utc | 11

sorry, I forgot to post the rest of the story for that graph

Posted by: dan of steele | Feb 3 2009 18:40 utc | 12

@DoS - may Bill's remark have been ironic?

Anyway - yes a great famous graph.

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2009 19:03 utc | 13

The negotiations between Kyrgyzstan and Russia I pointed to above were successful.

Russia is really squeezing hard. Obama and especially Petraeus must feel HURT.

Kyrgyzstan Said to Deny Base to U.S.

Kyrgyzstan is ending U.S. use of a key airbase that supports military operations in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan's president was quoted as saying Tuesday.

A Kyrgyz decision to end the U.S. use of Manas, just outside the Central Asian nation's capital of Bishkek, could have potentially far-reaching consequences for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, said during a trip to Central Asia last month that Manas air base would be key to plans to boost U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by up to 30,000 soldiers in the coming months.

Interfax and RIA-Novosti quoted Kurmanbek Bakiyev as making the statement just minutes after Russia announced it was providing the poor ex-Soviet country with billions of dollars in aid.

I just updated the piece above with this too.

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2009 19:14 utc | 14

re #6 - david price interview @ counterpunch w/ the author of a new book, "American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain", roberto gonzález

Counterinsurgency, Anthropology and Disciplinary Complicity

HTS personnel tend to use outdated anthropological concepts, theories, and methods, mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. For example, Montgomery McFate (the Pentagon's senior social science advisor for HTS) has recently published articles and given presentations in which she relies heavily upon the concept of "tribalism," functionalist theory, and data collection methods developed for the Human Relations Area Files. Others have sought to incorporate social network analysis as a research method. Each of these elements was either created or elaborated at a time when many anthropologists were employed by colonial governments to more effectively control indigenous populations. It's no accident that these are precisely the tools advocated by HTS's architects.

In the past, when military planners and colonial administrators sought the counsel of anthropologists, they looked for a social science stripped of ambiguity, meaning, and context. They wanted simple analytical tools that might help them accomplish short-term objectives: to put down an uprising, to manufacture propaganda, to conduct psychological warfare, to divide one ethnic group or religious sect against another. Today, anthropologists commissioned by the Pentagon as counterinsurgency consultants use the same tools as instruments for manipulation and social control-not as a means of humanizing other people. Some of this work is published in army journals with titles like, "The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture" and "Operational Culture for the Warfighter." These kinds of articles tell us a great deal about a principal aim of militarized social science: transforming culture into a weapon.

Posted by: b real | Feb 3 2009 19:20 utc | 15

DoS - I was just being silly. I actually have that map framed on my office wall.

B - Kyrgyzstan. Ouch, I just saw that. We lost a bridge and an airport in the same day. If, as reported, Russia is willing to spend billions on de-lining Kyrgyzstan from the US, then they'll be willing to spend as much on all the other stans. The US can still outbid them, but the cost of Central Asian adventurism just went up dramatically.

Posted by: Bill | Feb 3 2009 19:34 utc | 16

really, I got it. I just thought of that graph and wanted to post it.

we don't do wars like they did in the old days. losing a couple hundred thousand men in one campaign hasn't happened for a long long time.

Posted by: dan of steele | Feb 3 2009 19:40 utc | 17

My question is, if the Pakistani route is so precious, why is the US stabing Pakistan in the back?

Posted by: a | Feb 3 2009 19:43 utc | 18

@DoS - losing a couple hundred thousand men in one campaign hasn't happened for a long long time. Ruanda, Cambodia?

@a - My question is, if the Pakistani route is so precious, why is the US stabing Pakistan in the back?

Idiots? Indian (backed by Israeli) influence in DC?

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2009 20:08 utc | 19

the china option doesn't look too feasible - the corridor between Tajikistan and Pakistan is too narrow and could be closed to easily

Posted by: ed_finnerty | Feb 3 2009 20:31 utc | 20

@ed-f - the corridor between Tajikistan and Pakistan is too narrow and could be closed to easily

yep - it is a river valley with only a very poor road. The only possible route from China would be by rail through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to Afghanistan.

No way out for the U.S. - eat what Russia puts on the plate, what Iran is cooking up or stop fighting Pakistanian food.

Little choice there and everyone who matter knows this.

Only chance: Pull out and forget about it.

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2009 21:00 utc | 21

Start the clock for how long it will take for Bakiyev to be denounced as a corrupt dictator, which of course he is. But he used to be 'ours.'

Posted by: biklett | Feb 3 2009 21:01 utc | 22

M of A - The Pink Route To Afghanistan

Without Russia's and without Iran's help, the U.S. is unlikely to succeed in Afghanistan.

I would rather say that without Russia and Iran's help the US will quickly loose this war due to logistics. If supply routes are secured they can fight on, but I do not see how they would win.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Feb 3 2009 21:18 utc | 23

If Obama's dream is to go down in history as the man who conquered Afghanistan and if he comes to realize that forming an alliance with Iran is the surest way to make this dream of his come true, then perhaps he can finally gain enough balls to force J Street to close up shop, thereby telling Israel to go take a hike!

Posted by: Cynthia | Feb 3 2009 21:19 utc | 24

oops -- AIPAC, not J Street. That was pretty stupid of me to get the two mixed up.

Posted by: Cynthia | Feb 3 2009 21:47 utc | 25

When I saw that blown up bridge on the news I thought b would be on it. Good thread and thanks!

Alternatively, couldn't all this "bad" news give BO the opportunity to renege on that hawky campaign promise to the warmongers, i.e. more troops in Afghanistan? e.g.,

Pragmatically, folks, this puts our troops in too much danger ...

Posted by: Hamburger | Feb 3 2009 22:09 utc | 26

Not sure if anything will come of this. First, even though Iran hates the Taliban, they probably don't want to be seen as betraying fellow Muslims, especially as they buff up their image in the Sunni Arab world.

Second, their price may be much more than NATO/U.S. are willing to bear. A promise not to thwart an unstoppable nuclear program isn't going to cut it. American sanctions will have to end and they wont want to hear anymore b!tching and moaning about support for Hizbullah and Hamas.

In short, America will have to accept Iran as a serious global player. That's more than they will give. Washington is not lead by humble men and women. They will not, after years of sabre rattling and threatening, go to Iran hat in hand asking for help.

Most likely, they will make do the best they can with Pakistan. If half the supplies get lost along the way, then the troops will have to get by on the other half.

After all, the whole purpose of the Afghanistan expidition was to destabilize regional nations, not make ourselves beholden to them.

But if that were to happen...well, I do love irony.

P.S. I wonder what Russia would offer Iran **NOT** to go along with any deal?

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 3 2009 23:23 utc | 27

Not to worry. NATO's got this one covered.


Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Feb 4 2009 0:00 utc | 28

Good work, b!


Posted by: Gaianne | Feb 4 2009 2:24 utc | 29

@Lysander, 27 -I wonder what Russia would offer Iran **NOT** to go along with any deal?

S-300, Anyone?

Posted by: C.A. | Feb 4 2009 2:26 utc | 30

Doesn't anyone understand? When Benny Netanyahu gets elected, he goes after Iran. We don't want our best ally in the world to act alone so we go with him. We bomb the shit out of Iran until it calls uncle. With its nuclear facilities destroyed, its missiles demolished, and its people cowed, they are willing to accept whatever we seek. Thus, we secure the road through Iran for supplying the troops in Afghanistan. It simple and we'll be in Benny's debt.

Posted by: mattconnolly | Feb 4 2009 5:33 utc | 31

Does anyone still think it likely that the US is trying for an independent (read: under US thumb) Baluchistan? If they ever did I mean.

Would that be an option for a route from the sea into Afghanistan, and then further into Central Asia for future gas exploitation?

May explain some of the pressures applied to Pakistan.

I guess I am thinking more long term rather than as a solution to the current logistical problems, though if there was any plan I guess these supply nightmares may hasten its implementation.

Posted by: Ash | Feb 4 2009 5:37 utc | 32

@Ash - I wrote about the Baluchistan option nearly four years ago.

But the strategic interest of the U.S. does differ from Pakistan's. A completely U.S. controlled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Baluchistan pipeline would be nice. To advert an Iran-Baluchistan-India pipeline would help U.S. interests against Iran and to deny China access to the Arabian sea checks the upcoming competitor. (As does keeping a hand on Unacol)

Posted by: b | Feb 4 2009 6:29 utc | 33

NYT: Kyrgyzstan Says It Will Close U.S. Base

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, on Tuesday called Manas “a hugely important” airbase for the United States. The base has served as an air hub and refueling and transit point for NATO efforts in Afghanistan, and U.S. officials have several times intervened when Kyrgyz officials considered shutting it.
To Russians, the longstanding U.S. presence at Manas suggested ambitions “to strengthen its position in this region” – against Moscow’s and Beijing’s interests, said Andronik Migranyan, an analyst at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, a Russian think-tank based in New York.

“The American government is involved in many things that Russia does not like, and this is something of a bargaining chip,” he said.

Mr. Migranyan said friction over the air base will become “become a serious impediment to Russian-American relations” if Mr. Obama follows through on his plans to beef up the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. He added, however, that there was likely room to negotiate.

“If president Obama halts the construction of elements of a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland; if there are broader discussions on global security, if negotiations start on START I; and many other issues, then Russia will support the United States in Afghanistan,” he said.

Just as I analyzed above ...

Posted by: b | Feb 4 2009 7:54 utc | 34

Pictures 1 2 of the broken bridge east of Peshawar. From how it looks, it will take weeks to repair it.

Is there a way around it?

Posted by: b | Feb 4 2009 7:58 utc | 35

Stratfor's George Friedman on Afghan Supplies, Russian Demands

In addition to our guaranteeing that NATO will not expand further, the Russians seem to want the United States to promise that NATO forces will not be based in the Baltic countries, and that the United States will not try to dominate Central Asia. In other words, Russia wants the United States to pledge that it will respect the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. They will probably want this guarantee to be very public, as a signal to the region — and the Europeans — of Russian dominance. This is one guarantee that Mr. Obama will not want to give.

There is also no certainty that countries in the Russian sphere of influence, like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, would agree to let the United States use these routes without Russian permission.

Here is where Mr. Obama could use some European help. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to come soon.
The answer is to rely less on troops, and more on covert operations like the C.I.A. Covert operators are far more useful for the actual war that we are fighting (and they can carry their supplies on their backs).

The CIA idea is nonsense. You will not get the intelligence needed as the CIA has only very few people able to work the ground in Afghanistan.

Posted by: b | Feb 4 2009 8:19 utc | 36

b, re the bridge pictures @35. Technically speaking, I would have thought that US army engineers would be able to put in a temporary bridge in a few days; they have a lot of experience going back to the Second World War with this kind of problem. After all the allies spent their time in the NW Europe campaign bombing precisely this kind of bridge into atoms. The bridge is not far above the river-bed. The issue is availability of bridging equipment, and authorisation from Pakistan. They must have thought about the danger of even the accidental collapse of a bridge, so there must be bridging equipment around. Pakistani authorisation could be more of a problem...

Posted by: Alex | Feb 4 2009 8:45 utc | 37

Peshawar- Police buying pilfered U.S. stuff for its needs:

Business has been especially brisk in recent months, in the wake of more than a dozen major Taliban attacks on NATO supply routes and the creeping encroachment of insurgents in northwest Pakistan, according to Karkhano shopkeepers. Goods pilfered from raids on NATO supply trucks have become a mainstay for shopkeepers like Noor Mohammed.

Customers at Mohammed's small kiosk can easily purchase a set of American-made tools or an American flag or a durable American-made pistol holder. A U.S. military-issue ammunition vest and staff sergeant's sun cap together cost a mere $20. "It's not a problem to get anything here as long as you have the money," Mohammed said.
Pakistani officials have had to get creative when it comes to outfitting their security forces. Both the police chief and the Khyber political administrator said equipment shortages have forced them to buy black market supplies at Karkhano in recent months. This year, Khan, the police chief, bought 500 to 600 pairs of U.S. military boots at $30 a piece for his officers, while Khyber security officers have been kitted out with magazines of ammunition bought on the cheap at the market.

"I don't know where it all comes from," said Khan, the Khyber political administrator. "But I know that when I need something or I'm short on ammunition, that's where I send my men to buy it."

Posted by: b | Feb 4 2009 9:15 utc | 38

I believe the bridge is this one which has no easy way around it.

To rebuild it heavy equipment will be needed and lots of material needs to be trucked in. All that needs to be heavily guarded. In springtime there will be quite some water in the stream below the bridge. So its not an easy task.

Posted by: b | Feb 4 2009 10:11 utc | 39

8 NATO containers set on fire in Khyber Agency

PESHAWAR: Militants have destroyed eight containers of NATO supplies in tehsil Landi Kotal of Khyber Agency.

According to sources, militants attacked a parking lot of vehicles used for NATO supplies and set on fire eight containers in Sultan Khel area of Landi Kotal. However, no causality was reported in the incident

Militants also attacked in Landi Kotal cantonment area last night in which an official of Frontier Constabulary (FC) sustained injuries. He was shifted to CMH.

Posted by: b | Feb 4 2009 10:37 utc | 40

I don't have military experience as you do, b, but I've been along that road. There are many other bridges along there more difficult to replace.

In the first place, as long as there is little water in the bed, they can start by running a track along the river-bed until they can replace the bridge. Happens all the time in the Middle East, including Afghanistan.

In the NW Europe campaign, having bombed all the bridges into small fragments, the allies had to have experience of rapidly replacing missing bridges. Over much greater spans than here. There are prefabricated bridges which can be put in place in a day or two. The question is whether they have any such bridging "in theatre". Personally I think that if they didn't foresee this danger, or an accidental collapse, their planning would have been seriously at fault.

The politics is a greater problem. Are the Pakistanis going to let US engineers in to do the job?

Sorry if I'm repeating myself.

I would say max three-four days blockage.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 4 2009 10:55 utc | 41

To be as brief as possible:

The world awaited Obama to show his stripes, and now he has -- through rhetoric, appointments, and actions -- largely revealed his hand; and while the ever-gullible Democratic base may be surprised, the nations of the world are not. (One must wonder what the significance of Obama's appointments are: An unprecedented bi-partisan cabinet with three Republicans, and four military men in top positions: an insolent slap to his progressive, anti-war base. Is he preparing a unity government to enforce the next shock-therapy to be administered to the US public; are the military appointments a life-insurance policy which JFK was remiss in taking out? Bush assumed the Presidency, courtesy of Daddy, with a powerful enough base to simply boss the military and intelligence sectors around. Obama understands that he does not have that luxury, hence this is where he is investing his attention.)

I never agreed with the ridiculous thesis put forth on the previous thread -- endorsed by most here -- that Afghanistan is some sort of a "job program" for the military (First time I have fundamentally disagreed with Antifa.), as it never addressed why the 'job program' was to be in Afghanistan. We are continually reminded how stretched our troops deployments are; why not South America, which is slipping out from under the jackboot?

In any event, it has never been the perogative of Empire to reveal its true aims. (Only vassals like Palestine must acknowledge the "rights" of others.) Jim Lobe, in one of those awful "Shepherd's Pie" sort of articles, which goes back and forth between professed fictions like "Democracy" and true aims -- as if they were somehow interchangeable -- nevertheless, points to a considerable fractiousness among elite planners about what real goals are achievable under current constraints: "More Troops, More Worries, Less Consensus on Afghanistan,"

And what might those constraints be, beyond the obvious ones: money, troop strength, NATO fecklessness and European recalcitrance -- and the big elephant in the room, namely the lack of achievable goals? Simply put, by flat-footedly telegraphing his intransigence and resistance to significant "Change," and by appointing ideologues instead of statesmen, Obama has inadvertently raised the cost of doing business.

All actions in the world are cut from the same cloth: The Ukrainian pipeline fracas cannot be separated from the strategy in Afghanistan: In diplomacy, everything is on the table. b beat me to the punch with his link to George Friedman's Stratfor piece in the NYTimes. (Actually, a longer analysis, "Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda," went out to free subscribers several days ago. Well worth getting on his mailing list.)

But, this article from RIA Novosti points to the more likely Russian and Chinese response to incursions into what they regard as their sphere of influence: "Karzai scares Obama with Russia"

Speaking to the graduates of the Kabul Military Academy, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that if Americans did not speed up the implementation of the program to supply armed forces, this task would be carried out by other countries.

Last week, the press service of the Afghan President published Dmitry Medvedev's reply to Karzai. The Russian President expressed readiness to help the Afghan armed forces. An Afghan delegation consisting of high-level civil and military officials will visit Moscow in the near future. Expansion of bilateral military-technical cooperation will be the main subject of the talks...

In principle, Karzai's plan is correct. At one time, the Soviet-trained Afghan army was considered one of the most powerful in the region. It was also well-armed in comparison to other regional forces.

However, little has been achieved in recent years. From 2002 to 2005, Russia rendered the Afghan army $200 million in aid, but this cooperation was later curtailed. Neither the United States nor NATO as a whole has made much progress in building an Afghan army during the last seven years. There is no aviation or heavy armament, and the army itself is far from ready to guarantee domestic stability.

In Afghanistan, the army has been traditionally allotted a leading role in politics, and a stake on the army has always been failsafe, which is why Karzai has appealed to Russia for aid. Whether this will help him during the election or not is another matter.

In other words, the positive battle here is for the "hearts and minds" of the military elite, not the populace. Russia and China are happy to let the US/Europe continue to slaughter civilian "terrorists" with abandon, until the Afghanis look back on the good old days of the Soviet occupation with longing, much as Iraq now looks back with nostalgia on the days under the 'loving care' of Saddam. With the US exhausted and broke, Russia will step in with military contracts and China will mop up the business deals.

Incidently, the closure of Manas Air Base was not unexpected, as John McCreary points out in his equally valuable free analytical service, "Nightwatch:"

The Kyrgyz government has decided to stop the use of the Manas airbase by coalition forces, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said on Tuesday in reply to an Itar-Tass question. He explained the decision with economic considerations and the negative public attitude.

The agreement on coalition forces' deployment in Manas was signed in 2001 when the Afghan war was on, Bakiyev said. "Kyrgyzstan met the request and permitted the coalition to use its territory for fighting terrorism. Thus, it made a serious contribution to the counter-terrorism operation," he noted.

"Initially, it was the question of one or two years. Eight years have passed. American partners and we have many times discussed an economic compensation to Kyrgyzstan, but no understanding has been reached. Kyrgyzstan has been asking the United States to review the relationship for more than three years but to no avail," the president said.

With Bakiyev’s decision, the Medvedev-Putin duo has taken a long step towards restoring Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, as articulated by President Medvedev in his five principles last September. As Medvedev said, in paraphrase at that time, Russia opposes a unipolar world, especially when it poaches Russian strategic interests. Medvedev and Bakiyev also announced that they would cooperate in an anti-terror coalition, according to Moscow Channel One.

Although Russian opposition to unipolar politics and NATO encroachment are longstanding issues, the Russians have been counterattacking aggressively since Kosovo’s independence last February. In the past year, they have had strategic success in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Nevertheless, the stark juxtapostion of stories about Manas, the blown-up bridge, the Iranian "Hope" satellite, and Iranian-Pakistani cooperation in one day indicates just what kind of a tar-baby the Bush/Cheney junta has bequeathed to tyro President "Bam Bam." It's too bad he has appointed a coterie of equally unimaginative tar-godparents to oversee the situation.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 4 2009 11:19 utc | 42

NATO says member states can use Iran as a safe supply path to forces in Afghanistan, amid increasing attacks on its routes through Pakistan.

“NATO is looking at flexible, alternate routing. I think that is healthy,” top NATO military commander Gen. John Craddock said, in response to a question about using Iranian territory for supply.

"Options are a good thing, choices are a good thing, flexibility in military operations is essential…What nations will do is up to them," he added.

Craddock's comments came as Pakistani militants blew up a bridge in northern parts of the country, cutting off the Khyber Pass, a key NATO route where up to 75% of the coalition's supplies cross over to Afghanistan.

Last week, the chief of NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said West could only win the war in Afghanistan if it engages with all the countries neighboring Afghanistan, including Iran.

"To my mind, we need a discussion that brings in all the relevant regional players: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Russia, and yes, Iran. We need a pragmatic approach to solve this very real challenge," Scheffer said.

Later on the week, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen and the commander of US forces in the Middle East, General David Petraeus joined the NATO secretary general in calling for a 'regional approach' to calm Afghanistan's volatile situation.

"With respect to Afghanistan, a regional approach is critical… Iran, as a bordering state, plays a role as well," said Mullen.

A number of analysts believe that direct engagement with Iran, a country with a vast and secure border with Afghanistan, makes sense as Tehran has a real interest in a secure neighbor.

This could also serve as an opportunity for Western states to get closer to Iran which is now seen a key power in the Middle East.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 4 2009 14:32 utc | 43

bearing in mind that AFCEA is a lobbying group with big stakes in specific defense postures and lots of lucrative axes to grind.

Posted by: ...---... | Feb 4 2009 15:53 utc | 44

Yes. And that John McCreary is ex-DIA. And bearing in mind that all of us have interests. Actually, I find his analysis more balanced than politician's rhetoric and generally useful.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 4 2009 16:14 utc | 45

True, spooks are the greatest with open-source facts. Their preoccupations are also interesting to note - for instance, that Mexican instability business is one of the rationales for NORTHCOM. Goes down easier than domestic martial law.

Posted by: ...---... | Feb 4 2009 16:37 utc | 46

Re what I suggested in 26 - that all the bad news could give BO cover to renege on hawky Afghanistan promises:

Obama Seeks Narrower Focus in Afghan War in today's WaPo.

After a litany of dire conditions, we read:

Officials described Obama's overall approach to what the administration calls "Af-Pak" as a refusal to be rushed, using words such as "rigor" and "restraint." "We know we're going to get [criticism] for taking our time," said a senior official, one of several in the administration and the military who would discuss the issue only on the condition of anonymity.
Officials would not comment on whether Obama has reissued a covert action "finding," signed by President George W. Bush last summer, that authorized ground raids into Pakistan by military Special Operations units working with the CIA. There has been no known ground operation since September, however, and the advisability of such raids is a point of disagreement between Petraeus -- who considers any tactical gain on the ground to be not worth the strategic risk of a massive popular backlash in Pakistan -- and the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Hmmm. How likely is it that Gen. P. would consider such a thing? Is he being used to set up this position as the "pragmatically" correct one that BO will recommend at the April 3 NATO summit?

Posted by: Hamburger | Feb 4 2009 16:39 utc | 47

It seems the Ultimate US agenda was and is to rule the world (and rape it). Naturally, there are competitors. Russia was deemed as #1 by the US. Attempts to weaken Russia by sabotaging its stability within and without (Georgia, Ukraine, Baltics, Yugo, etc.) under the guise of democratization fooled no one but the American citizens. I am curious, was there ever a real opportunity (and lost) to destroy Russia during the nucelar-Bush-the-henchman era? If so, what gave?

Posted by: Al | Feb 4 2009 18:39 utc | 48

Few voters registered

Kandahar Surgar: Few voters, especially for women, have taken part in the upcoming presidential elections'
registration process in the provincial capital of Kandahar, independent election commission officials said.

The voter registering process has been launched and is moving forward in all districts of Kandahar but two,
the south regional Independent Election Commission head, Mohammd Qahir Wasifi, said.

The two abandoned registration centers are Ghorak and Meya Nashin, whose residents must register at other
voting centers located in Maiwand and Arghandab districts.

Wasifi spoke in an exclusive interview with Surgar weekly, arguing that conditions of wartime insecurity,
certain governmental officials not standing behind their promises, citizens residing in far remote areas
of the country and local traditions are reasons fewer people have participated in the voting process.

According to Mr. Wasifi, a total of 37 voter registration centers are open in the southern province.
19 of the centers are located in Kandahar city, ten for males and the remainder for female participants.
Voter registration in the southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Farah and Nimroz began on the 20th of
January, and will continue for one month, until the 20th of February.

Even though southern registration districts expected to face challenges, there haven't been major problems,
Wasifi said. The IEC head assured citizens of security and order at the centers and urged them to get their
voter registration cards soon, in order to take part in the upcoming elections. He thanked security officials
for protecting the registration process, and urged the opposition Taliban to create opportunities for the
public to register for their voting cards and hold elections, saying he is in contact with the provincial
council members in order to remind them of the value of loyal duty.

President Hamad Karzai's term of office is up in June of next year, but the presidential election will be
delayed until in the month of August due to security concerns and low voter registration turnout.


Corrupt lawyers dismissed

Kabul Surgar: Afghanistan Supreme Court officials have announced the dismissal of approximately 50 lawyers,
aiming towards the improvement of the justice organizations. The move came after NATO said corruption was
a much bigger threat to Afghanistan than the opposition insurgent Taliban.

The lawyers were removed from their jobs last year in order to prevent corruption in judiciary organizations.
Experts, on the other hand, claim the Supreme Court has taken the action only after accusations of corruption
rose concerning justice in the organizations.

Abdul Malik Kamavi, a Supreme Court official, said attempts to put an end to corruption in the judiciary
will continue, the BBC has reported.

Besides dismissing the allegedly corrupt lawyers, many others have been banned from carrying out their jobs.
Kamavi accepted the rise of international accusations and citizen complaints, without responding in detail.
According to him, the banned lawyers were defending in corruption cases and directly involved in corruption.

Kamavi declared the establishment of a new anti-corruption branch, which will put an end to corruption both
in the capital Kabul and other provinces of the country. Without naming anyone, he said higher officials
within the government have intervened in judiciary affairs and trials.

Unless corruption in the country is eliminated, development of the country will be impossible, experts say.


Opium cultivation to decrease

Kandahar Surgar: According to a survy by the counter-narcotic ministry of Afghanistan, it is believed
likely that future opium cultivation in the south and south-west provinces of the country will decrease.

The provinces are considered Afghanistan's most likely regions to show a cultivation decrease in 2009.
Last year the regions were the most significant opium growers in the country.

General Khudaidad, the national counter-narcotics minister, said the southern provinces of Kandahar,
Helmand, Farah, Zabul and Nimroz are likely to show a decrease in poppy growth in the ongoing year.

High food crop prices, the government fight against opium cultivation by government, and low opium prices
are some of the reasons opium cultivation may decrease, the survey said. The survey was taken in 500 opium
growing villages of the country, the ministry officials added.

General Khudaid said 18 provinces are reported poppy-free, and said he appreciated the efforts made by the
US and UK. The minister urged other foreign countries to assist them in the fight against the poppy growth.

Experts believe if farmers are given viable alternatives, opium cultivation will decrease in Afghanistan.


Ministry trains new police

Kabul Surgar: The interior ministry of Afghanistan has announced the creation a special police unit for
public security, in order to deal with the unstable situations found throughout the country.

The public security unit will be on active patrol, however, rumors circulate claiming this new police
unit would be similar to the occupying forces' controversial proposal to arm the tribal militias.

The interior minister, Hanif Atmar, stated that the new police unit would be military-trained young men.

"The new armed well-equipped police force will be trained under military rules and will work under the
police headquarters authority", Atmar told a news conference in the capital Kabul.

Atmar also proposed raising police salaries to the conference, saying the raises will prevent corruption
in the police force. The new salaries will be made retroactive to the end of the previous year. "The
entire police force including top officers will have a raise of 1000 afs in their monthly salary,
and a 4000 afs raise in salaries in the most unstable province's, beside the 100 extra ransoms daily,"
the interior minister said.

The new salary act hopes to quell accusations of police involvement in corruption, just as many other
national officials are accused of corruption in President Karzai's government.

The salary raise comes amid complaints by police saying their salaries are inadequate. Unless police
are well-equipped and their salary are increased, they can't be expected to provide strong security,
experts believe.

The powerful opposition Taliban strongly reacted to the new plan by the interior ministry, saying,
"The soon-to-be-trained security officials will not be police but like the armed militia as in the
communist Soviet Union times", the Taliban claimed in a press release sent to Surgar Weekly.

Taliban say the creation of these 'tribal militia forces' means that the Afghan National Army and
occupation military forces have failed in their fight against them.

The insurgents warned anyone who joins these militiass will face serious retribution from their side,
with an equal threat to any governmental officials who support the re-arming measures. The Taliban
press release also stated they will approach tribal leaders, elders, and scholars to oppose the new
Interior ministry plans, which according to them is a foreign conspiracy to make Afghans fight Afghans.


Ghazni residents demand end to casualties

Ghazni Surgar: The residents of Qara Bagh district of Ghazni last week demanded an immediate end to
civilian casualties after two civilians were killed during a US forces' attack.

The autonomous US military operations, carried out without national government approval, have lead
to large civilian casualties. After coalition forces claimed they killed two members of the insurgent
Taliban in Qara Bagh district, local tribal leaders told the media the forces had killed civilians.

Residents in Qarabagh rallied on the streets, blocking the major highway of Kabul-Kandahar twice
during the last week. The protesters shouted slogans against Karzai's government and the coalition
forces, while asking for an immediate end to such pre-emptive attacks and withdrawal of US forces.

The protesters marched through the streets with the dead bodies left from the US attack.

Qarabagh residents rallied as that hot topic of unprovoked coalition attacks without warning rose
within the international community. President Karzai has repeatedly asked coalition forces to carry
out joint military operations and avoid civilian casualties, but his requests haven't been honored.

US defense secretary Robert Gates said unless coalition forces, most of whom are US soldiers, don't
prevent the indiscriminate civilian casualties, success in the fight against terror in Afghanistan
would be impossible, and said the US would make efforts to reduce civilian causalities in the future.

Posted by: Shah Loam | Feb 4 2009 18:57 utc | 49

Taliban burns 10 trucks on Afghanistan-Pakistan supply route

A day after blowing up a crucial land bridge, Taliban militants torched 10 supply trucks returning from Afghanistan to Pakistan on Wednesday, underscoring the insurgents' dominance of the main route used to transport supplies to Afghan-based U.S. and NATO troops.
Amd some poker going on: Kyrgyzstan parliament to delay US base decision
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — A Kyrgyzstan official says parliament will delay discussions on a proposal to close a key U.S. air base until next week.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced plans this week to end the U.S. military presence in the impoverished nation after Russia unveiled a $2.2 billion financial aid package.

Government representative to parliament Murza Kaparov said Thursday that deputies should discuss the closure "slowly at committee stage and in the political party groupings," meaning the full parliament will debate it next week.

The legislature, dominated by a pro-Baikyev party, needs to approve the closure. The base is a crucial component of U.S. plans to expand military operations in Afghanistan.

U.S. forces will have 180 days to leave if the base is closed.

Posted by: b | Feb 5 2009 15:36 utc | 50

The reliable M K Bhadrakumar agrees with my assessment: Moscow, Tehran force the US's hand (Well worth reading the entire analysis, not three short excerpts.)

It may seem there could be nothing in common between the blowing up of a bridge in the Khyber, the usage of an air base nestling in the foothills of the Pamirs and the launch of a 60-pound (37.2 kilogram) satellite into the night sky that will circle the Earth 14 times a day.

But band them together and they trigger the political and diplomatic equivalent of what is known in the game of chess as zwischenzug, which means an intermediate move that improves a player's position.

Persians, who invented chess, would have mastery over zwischenzug...

As a Moscow commentator put it, the George W Bush era may be over, but the "consequences are still there"; Obama might have new ideas, but the "old wire-pullers" are still there in the establishment in key positions; and, therefore, Obama might need "years rather than months to shape a new foreign policy".

So, Moscow resorted to zwischenzug. Last Saturday, the influential Moscow paper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that Russia proposed to reopen the key Soviet air base of Bombora on the Black Sea coast in Abkhazia. On Tuesday, Russia signed an agreement with Belarus setting up an integrated air defense system. On Wednesday, Medvedev used the CSTO forum to reiterate he was open to cooperation with the US in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan...

But an unmatchable German word is more to the point - zugzwang. It literally means "compelled to move". That is, a situation develops on the chessboard when any move a player makes can only weaken his position, but he is nonetheless compelled to make his move.

It may be far-fetched to say that Moscow and Tehran coordinated their respective zwischenzug, but certainly both keenly await Washington's zugzwang.

It seems that Obama unsubtly broadcast his policy intentions, and others, undesirous of a Bush II regime, ensured that it would blow up in his face. "Warning bells are ringing in Western capitals...."

Obama is going to come up hard against reality these next two years -- which is about how long it will take him to realize that he MUST jettisson his moribund Bushlite policies and planners.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 6 2009 3:27 utc | 51

According to the BBC, the decision to close the Manas airbase at Bishkek is now final. No great surprise.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 6 2009 11:06 utc | 52

But AJ/Eng tagged on a line at the end of their report on the Manas closure that Tajikistan has agreed to the US use of a base there, for transit of "non-military" supplies, reported also in the BBC link above.

On an AJ discussion program last evening there seemed to be agreement that Iran and Russia were "happy" to have US/NATO troops tied up in Afg. fighting guys they themselves don't want to have to deal with. So, looking tough, saving face, making accommodations all around? Next move?

Posted by: Hamburger | Feb 6 2009 13:23 utc | 53

that's quite the development malooga.

The Russian president also said the CSTO was open for cooperation with the United States in the fight against terrorism in Central Asia.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a security grouping comprising the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

albeit Uzbekistan on a 'part time basis'. maybe they will be assisting nato at the same time!

Posted by: annie | Feb 7 2009 17:57 utc | 55

Hmm this is on the route Karachi-Kandahar, not through the Khyber pass. So far this route has been fairly save. That's over with:

Driver killed on NATO trailer's firing

KHUZDAR Feb 8 (PPI): A driver was killed and his cleaner injured in firing on NATO trailer between Khuzdar and Surab Sunday. According to details, a trailer was carrying goods for NATO forces in Kandahar from Karachi today. Unknown persons opened fire on the trailer near Lakhorian about 50 Km from Khuzdar. Bullets shattered windowpanes of the trailer. Driver Sawar Khan was killed and cleaner Azam sustained injuries. He was removed to Khuzdar where he was admitted for treatment.

Posted by: b | Feb 9 2009 9:47 utc | 56

This turned up several hours back:
Kazakhstan to allow US shipments

Kazakhstan has said it will allow the United States to ship non-military cargo via its territory to Afghanistan.

The foreign ministry said it had given its consent to the transportation of "material for civilian use" by land.

Kazakhstan does not border Afghanistan, but shares frontiers with three other Central Asian countries which do.

The move comes after Kyrgyzstan said it would close the only US base in Central Asia at Manas, which the Pentagon has described as hugely important.

The Kyrgyz government asked parliament to give the US six months' notice to leave the Manas base, after Russia promised Kyrgyzstan $2bn (£1.4bn) in aid. A parliamentary vote is expected this week.

So what does it all mean? The Kazakh position is essentially the same as the Russian one ie limited supplies of a non military nature.
The most reasonable interpretation would be that the Russia has managed to persuade all states in an around Afghanistan's northern border to act in unison, to signal amerika that the situation is returning to something close to the pre-1990 status quo.
Kazakhstan doesn't even share a border with Afghanistan so really it can only agree to what Russia does anyhow given that supplies will have to enter and exit via Russian territory, so the announcement is likely to be more didactic than practical.

But what if Russia feels a need to send a message about solidarity to another neighbour?

One thing I have been noticing vis a vis the BBC reports on the Kyrgyzstan position is the BBC angle is that the amerikan base in Kyrgyzstan is too important for minor players like the people of Kyrgyzstan to be allowed to determine its future.

The BBC reports have been playing down the possibility that such a thing could occur.
Not quite preaching that closure would be an act of war but sailing close to that point.
This may be to re-assure Mums Dads and wives of english soldiers serving in Afghanistan, it might be to create the notion that using force to convince Kyrgyzstan would be fair enough (unlikely as it is foolish too imagine Russia would sit on its hands if that went down) or most likely it is to provide an out for the Kyrgyzstan parliament to take the lucre on offer and back down.

Unfortunately BBC world english and BBC World Kyrgyz language service are the main news sources that educated Kyrgyzs use to for 'western' news coverage, so what is said by the BBC does effect decision making.

Just as we were discussing in the 'Wilsonian' column, amerika has 'ways and means' of forcing foreign parliaments to dance to amerika's rhythm - often at great electoral cost to the local pols.

Much as I hate to say it, it feels to me that the Kyrgyzstan parliament will resile from it's position of closing the base.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 10 2009 8:37 utc | 57

Second attack on the Karachi-Kandahar route in so many days: 2 injured in NATO supply trucks

KHUZDAR Feb 9 (PPI): Two persons were injured when unknown persons opened fire on trailer near Surab along RCD highway Monday. This is second attack on trailer during the past 24 hours. Earlier one person was killed and another injured in similar firing near Lakhorian yesterday. According to details, a trailer No. TL-777 carrying supplies for NATO troops in Kandahar was coming from Karachi. It was attacked by unknown armed men in Surab area along RCD highway today. Two persons Muhammad Aslam Cheema and Muhammad Sabtain were injured. They were removed to Quetta for treatment.

Posted by: b | Feb 10 2009 9:42 utc | 58

WPR has piece on the issue. Not much different than my take.

Posted by: b | Feb 10 2009 19:10 utc | 59

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