. Military Space News .

Outside View: End game or no game?
by Harlan Ullman
Washington (UPI) Feb 8, 2012

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Last week was another roller coaster ride for international politics. Violence in Egypt; looming civil war in Syria; and threats and counter-threats over Iran's nuclear intentions reverberated around the international security community intensifying the gathering sense of impending disaster.

In Brussels at the NATO Defense Ministers' meeting followed by the Munich Security Conference the next day, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta fueled this uncertainty by calling for a transfer of U.S. combat responsibility to Afghan national security forces in 2013, a year earlier than the promised 2014 withdrawal date.

Reaction was predictable from all sides of the spectrum. Supporters applauded the announcement as further signs of accelerating the withdrawal and pressuring the Karzai government in Kabul to assume its full share of the burden. Critics predictably denounced the statement as giving the enemy our timetable and quitting the field of battle before the Afghans were ready and able to defend themselves.

The tragedy remains self-evident. Despite the furor about turnover and withdrawal dates, that debate won't determine Afghanistan's future.

The U.S. and NATO Afghan strategy has rested on three foundations and the help of Pakistan. Security, governance and economic development form the three legs. Because the bulk of effort has been on the security leg -- to seize, hold and protect territory to create a safer environment for Afghans and to train Afghan forces to assume those duties -- the other legs have been neglected and won't be ready to assure Afghanistan's future for a long time to come probably well beyond 2014.

It is unknowable how long it will take, if ever, for these other two legs to take hold. Meanwhile, the overland supply route from Pakistan is still shut and relations with the United States are stalled at rock bottom.

Some observers say that should the Obama administration win a second term, withdrawal will be even faster. The good news is that a withdrawal will relieve pressure on Pakistan and as a result the insurgencies as well as widespread anti-American animosity will lessen.

Still, critics have a point -- suppose Afghanistan is unready to govern itself and provide for its people a modicum of security and prosperity including the ability to pay for its security forces. What then?

Beyond these possibly fatal weaknesses, cultural understanding has never been an American strength. We failed in Vietnam in large part because of cultural incompetence. The efforts in Central America to bring down dictatorships suffered the same short sightedness and ignorance. We launched into Afghanistan and then Iraq without learning those lessons. And we are paying the price.

Two Afghan truisms have been dismissed at our own peril. First, (virtually) all Taliban are Pashtun. But not all Pashtun are Taliban. Second, as the Soviet Union learned, its army had all the wristwatches. The mujahedin had all the time.

The lesson is that the Taliban "problem" is largely a Pashtun matter. Unless we address that as well as accommodate Pashtunwali -- the Pashtun code of conduct millennia old that rests all on honor, hospitality and revenge -- the outcome is predictable and time isn't on our side.

The only potential solution -- and one that may not work -- is a negotiated settlement. That means bringing in all parties not just from inside Afghanistan but its near and far neighbors to include China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in a major peace conference to settle Afghanistan's future because piecemeal activities and set dates to transfer responsibilities to the Afghans won't work.

Fortunately, an opportunity to accomplish such a conference can be created.

Toward the end of May, NATO will have a heads of government summit in Chicago. Planning for that summit is in process. Afghanistan will be a critical agenda item especially given the French decision for an early pullout and Panetta's statements. It is unlikely that the presidential election in France will alter that decision regardless of who wins.

Why then not tee up the idea of a major international conference on Afghanistan with the intent of finding a means to keep Afghanistan a stable and more peaceful as well as more prosperous state? That will mean including insurgents including Taliban. It also will mean engaging the Pashtun as well as other minorities. And while Pakistan remains a crucial part of any settlement, that can be done in conjunction with Afghan's neighbors.

NATO is entering its 11th year in Afghanistan. World War II, from a European perspective, lasted six years. The Cold War went on for nearly 45. If Afghanistan isn't handled properly, that war could simmer for far longer.

(Harlan Ullman is chairman of the Killowen Group, which advises leaders of government and business, and senior adviser at Washington's Atlantic Council.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Related Links
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

NATO extends Baltic air policing mission until 2018
Brussels (AFP) Feb 8, 2012 - NATO agreed Wednesday to extend its air policing mission over its Baltic member states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia until 2018.

At the same time, the 28-nation alliance will seek a "sustainable long-term solution" to maintain planes over the three nations, which do not have their own fighter jets, a NATO official told AFP.

"This mission continues to demonstrate the Alliance's commitment to collective defence and solidarity for all its members," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement.

The Baltic air policing mission was first launched in 2004, when the three former Soviet states joined NATO.

It was renewed in 2010 for another four years, but the Baltic nations want the operation to become a permanent NATO mission.

NATO nations have been rotating the mission, with more than a dozen member states taking turns, including Britain, Germany, Turkey and the United States. The mission is based at the the Lithuanian First Air Base in Zokniai.

Lithuanian Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene told AFP the renewal of the mission was a good example of NATO's "Smart Defence" initiative, aimed at deepening cooperation between allies in an era of economic austerity.

"Those countries who come here to participate (in the air patrols) will have an opportunity to exercise and to get to know this region, and we will have security over our heads, a secure airspace," she said.

Latvia's Defence Minister Artis Pabriks told AFP that it would cost 1.5 billion euros (almost $2.0 billion) for Baltic nations to police their own skies.

"It's much easier if someone else is doing air policing in our airspace and at the same time we contribute our forces and capabilities somewhere else," he said.

Estonian Defence Minister Mart Laar said in a statement: "Estonia has, together with its allies, now made a great step towards increasing the security in Baltic Sea region."


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Commentary: China pivot -- or pirouette?
Washington (UPI) Feb 6, 2012
Amid the gazillion blogs, tweets, Facebookies and LinkedIn aficionados, it has become even harder to find reasoned and convincing arguments for what kind of military drawdown would do least harm to the United States' global posture. Even learned think tanks are tweeting. Retired admirals and generals, professors and journalists, everyone is weighing in with elite newsletters and gap fil ... read more

Raytheon Awarded Contract for Missile Defense System

IAI and Boeing drive to active Arrow-3

US drone strike 'kills 10' in NW Pakistan

Drones over U.S. may pose security risks

Unmanned craft may share civilian airspace

Elbit Systems Launches Hyperspectral Payload

Britain's Prince Harry qualifies as Apache pilot

Northrop Grumman Participating in Bold Alligator Maritime Exercise With F-35 Sensors

US Army Awards Northrop Grumman Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) Contract

Splat! Geek-in-chief Obama tests marshmallow gun

Britain to buy new military plane despite cuts

US poised to withdraw 4,700 Marines from Japan

Saab to cut jet fighter price for Swiss: report

Aerospace, defense deals reach record

Outside View: End game or no game?

US voters back Obama as commander-in-chief: poll

U.S. 'committed' to Bulgaria's security

Commentary: China pivot -- or pirouette?


Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement