Book review: The Great Gamble by Gregory Feifer

by Julia Mahlejd on 11/12/2009 · 27 comments

GreatGambleCoverI wish Gregory Feifer had written The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan before Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars. It would have seemed a lot more insightful and compelling then. Perhaps it’s a slightly unfair comparison because the former is about the Soviet side of the conflict and the latter is about the American side. But of all the recent, popular books on the subject written by former journalists, I feel Ghost Wars is superior. The Great Gamble is well (but not really well) researched, well (but not really well) written, and well (really well!) timed.

Eight years into the international military intervention in Afghanistan and the constituent members of ISAF are beginning to ask themselves the same question the Soviets were asking at the same point: to be or not to be here? More likely than not, ISAF will reach a different answer than the USSR did and with time the two attempts to pacify and modernise Afghanistan will be seen in completely different lights. Right now, however, it’s still fashionable among the chattering classes to draw parallels between the two conflicts (the argument being that if the USSR failed in Afghanistan, ISAF surely will too).

Sure, there are some similarities. Both conflicts started on arguably flimsy pretexts. Both have ill-defined conceptions of victory. And in both it took a long time to admit that conventional warfare is no way to win a counter-insurgency. But is that enough to pre-determine failure for the current mission?

For me the most significant thing about The Great Gamble is the astonishing differences it shows between the Soviet experience and what seems to be happening in Afghanistan today. Almost the entire book is a series of personal interviews with former military officers, conscripts, and intelligence operatives. It makes for gripping but ultimately patchy and anecdotal reading. The common theme among all the stories of daring-do is thievery. Stealing from the already paltry army supplies, stealing from the Afghans, stealing from each other – according to Feifer the only sense the Soviets saw in the war was their own survival and personal enrichment. It creates an ugly, tragic, warts-and-all portrait of incompetence and ideological disenchantment. Most striking is the palpable sense of futility on the part of those involved (or at least those Feifer chose to interview).

Say what you will about the ISAF forces but at least they are not (on the whole) demoralised, ill-equipped alcoholics who sell their weapons to insurgents and indiscriminately loot the population. Nor are they leaving a deadly legacy by dotting the country with mines. The tactical and strategic mistakes of ISAF may seem messy now but, after reading The Great Gamble, they pale in comparison to the mess the Soviets made and left behind. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself. If nothing else, at least it’s much shorter than Ghost Wars.


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{ 27 comments }

Joe Harlan November 12, 2009 at 4:24 am

Sounds like an interesting read. I suppose it documents the Soviet experience rather than makes any explicit comparisons?

Off the top of my head, it would seem there are huge differences between ISAF and the Soviets. (Remind me to send you a paper and fancy PowerPoint deck later.) The Soviets had no allies (that I recall); they were fighting most of the country and every major ethnic group; they obliterated villages and tried to usher people into the cities; they attempted to stamp out the common religion, dramatically alter the local governance structure, and create a government that had literally no support — not the weak support and acquiescence that at least Karzai enjoys.

ISAF, GIRoA, and the International Community are at least operating under a broad international mandate, are spreading the cost, have the involvement of NGOs; have the support of every ethnic group (including most Pashtuns); have explicitly supported the creation of an Islamic state, and are working to strengthen the local governance structures. And, as you pointed out, aren’t leaving roughly a million dead and however many mangled and wounded.

So, I guess I’ll have to read this book. Thanks for the review.

Christian November 12, 2009 at 5:40 am

“…demoralised, ill-equipped alcoholics who sell their weapons to insurgents and indiscriminately loot the population. Nor are they leaving a deadly legacy by dotting the country with mines.”

This is a description of a minority. There were many dedicated and professional Soviet conscripts, volunteers and officers. And they still withdrew from the country. And many of those landmines were from anti-Soviet countries, planted my the mujahideen. The UXO clearance guys should be able to provide a percentage (although places like the Panjshir should be almost 100% Soviet UXOs).

And Joe, the Soviets had allies. Dostum and Nadiri secured most of the Uzbek and Ismaili population, respectively. Urban areas were relatively acquiescent, and Parcham and Khalq were able to bring a (debatable) percentage of the rest of the rest population into supporting the government. And the Soviets still failed.

But they didn’t leave chaos. They left a government that lasted for three years until they made a terrible decision to move against semi-autonomous pro-government militias.

Portraying the Soviet’s efforts as brutal, stupid and “them against everybody” may make us feel better about current efforts, but much of the today’s image of the Soviets has to do with 1980s propaganda, not the reality of the Soviet strategy from about 1985 onwards.

Turgai Sangar November 16, 2009 at 2:48 pm

“And Joe, the Soviets had allies. Dostum and Nadiri…”

Just curious: I recall one source, which escaped me, that there was also a small contingent of the Nationale Volksarmee (the GDR’s/East German army) in the Soviet occupation force in AFG. Any views whether this is true? NVA officers and advisors were certainly present in South Yemen and several African conflict zones.

AJK November 12, 2009 at 8:55 am

Because I’m always curious about these things (and the inherent biases they entail), here’s Mr. Feifer’s bio: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4847822

And to be clear about my inherent biases, the first thing I wondered about him was, “hmmm, I wonder if the Exile guys know him”.

Paul November 12, 2009 at 9:56 am

It’s a good enough book, but focuses very narrowly on the military side of things. There was a lot more to the Soviet involvement than that. Yet Feifer devotes almost zero attention to subjects such as economic and technical assistance, what we would now call government ‘capacity building’, etc. From late 1986 onwards, there was also a shift in Soviet military thinking towards something a bit closer to what we would consider a counter-insurgency approach (political reform coupled with more aid, less excessive use of force, etc). Feifer doesn’t fully acknowledge this.

For instance, 1979-1989, the Soviets spent approx. 45 billion rubles on military operations and military aid in Afghanistan, a little over 1 billion rubles on economic and technical assistance, and maybe about 2 billion on ‘free aid’ (deliveries of food, oil etc – this figure is harder to determine). This means Soviet expenditure was roughly 94% military, 6% non-military. However, this isn’t very different from nowadays – the US spent $188 billion in Afghanistan, 2001-2009, of which $175 went to DoD and only $13 to diplomacy and aid, giving a ratio of approx 94:6 military to non-military, ie the same as the Soviets (though to be fair, the comparisons aren’t exact – not all DoD expenditure is strictly ‘military’ for instance). It is worth noting, though, that in 1987-8, Soviet economic and humanitarian assistance rose dramatically, and in 1987, the ratio of Soviet expenditures was 80:20 military:non-military, dramatically above anything we have managed so far.

This is a way of saying that perspectives on the Soviet era are a little off the mark. Christian is quite right about 1980s propaganda. Doing research on Soviet economic and technical assistance (I should have a couple of pieces out next year on this), I’ve discovered that a lot of Cold War writings are, with hindsight, terribly biased and inaccurate. As an old Cold Warrior it pains me to admit this, but often even the Soviet sources are more accurate!

Paul

Faisal Nazir November 12, 2009 at 1:37 pm

A smart player wouldn’t put big bet against huge odds. The Europeans and American are strangely enough doing exactly that. Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan only after decades of planning and they played their master stroke (of advancing towards warm waters) only when the West was fast retreating globally (starting with their pull from Wietnam) with Soviets chasing them ruthlessly. Angola, Chad, Yemen, and Iran was only a few fronts where Soviet influence advanced quickly and decisively. Despite the fact that Soviets were direct neighbors of Afghanistan and had no logistics problems whatsoever, they had to pull out of the Afghan quagmire. Afghanistan is currently a lost cause for the West too. Killing masses in their own land, in their own houses, in the name of war on terrorism can only terrorize the Afghans and devastate them as a nation. Nation building, the claimed objective of the aggression, is an entirely a different scheme of things, which Westerners seem to be unfamiliar or unconcerned. Afghan people have the same right to live their lives with peace and harmony as any other nation on earth. Then why they are being butchered on daily basis by the use of the most destructive weapon systems ever used in history of man kind. It is a shame that the fruit of human effort and essence, i.e. science and technology, is ruthlessly being used to decimate the fellow human beings. Irony is that these aggressor nations claim to be civilized. They, in fact, symbolize a matter of shame for the whole humanity.
The Afghans on the other side are determined, as is their nature, not to accept foreign occupation of their country. They are racing against the huge technological disadvantage but the time, as always, is on their side. Foreign occupation forces can not beat the Afghan stamina and their fierce zeal for freedom. The lesson of the history is very clear: aggressors invade Afghan lands with their own will but leave only by the Afghan permission. The current aggressors and occupiers of Afghanistan face the same dilemma.

Ahad_Abdurahmon November 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm

No matter what, I wish peace and progress to Afghanistan and its people.
I hope this mess will some day end. As Uzbeks, we have a lot of interest in peaceful and growing Afghanistan, many of our historical figures and poets lay on Afghan land and we would love to be able to travel and see those sites in peaceful Afghanistan.

Prithvi November 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Faisal:

The Taliban do not equate Afghanistan. Like so many armed, revolutionary groups, they exploited a time of crisis and disorder to seize power through force while cloaking their radical agenda as some sort of populist program.

I’m not saying this means Afghans like the NATO forces in their country, but it’s shocking to claim that the Taliban are fighting for “freedom.”

anan November 12, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Prithvi, it is worse than that. All of the public opinion polls conducted in Afghanistan since 2001 have shown that about 90% of all Afghans view the Taliban unfavorably. By contrast, the Afghan National Army is by a huge margin far more popular than anything else among Afghans. This is true of every Afghan public opinion poll taken.

If Faisal wants to support “the Afghan stamina and their fierce zeal for freedom,” he should support the Afghan National Army.

Faisal Nazir November 12, 2009 at 10:37 pm

I don’t know what you mean by revolutionary groups. Taliban proved much better than the Afghan warlords. They brought peace to the areas that they controlled. In a society like the Afghans, where arms are readily available in abundance, restoring complete peace, eradicating the crime, choking the poppy cultivation, and bringing an order to life was simply not possible without popular Afghan support. Misleading and manipulative opinion polls can not prove otherwise. As I said before, Taliban failed on only one count and that was to display the rigidness without understanding the needs of modern life. Islam is not a rigid religion. It is a vital part of Muslim belief that Islam is a complete code of life for all generations to come and that is possible only if human needs are addressed properly as the times change. Anyhow, despite their rigidness, the Afghan people preferred to have safety and security and Taliban’s honesty and simple style of life. Any leadership is actually tested in crisis. During Taliban rule, drought once got so sever in a part of Afghanistan that Taliban appealed to people to hand their animals over to officials so that the animals could be moved to better areas in order to safe them from death. Afghan people happily did that after putting small tags, having the owner’s name on those tags, around their animals’ necks. After the conditions got better, all the animals were brought back and returned to the owners. Can Karzai government claim to have such an unflinching trust by the people of Afghanistan? Despite all your support and propaganda for Karzai’s corrupt government, the people of Afghanistan do not really trust robbers and drug barons.

Some people are over emphasizing the role of Afghan Nation Army, which, in fact, is no more than a sacrificial force to lead the assaults, thus taking the maximum causalties, on Afghan people by the occupation forces and to absorb the roadside explosions. Poor Afghan people are lured into such a disgraceful role by heavy financial incentives. How can you call such a mercenary force, which kills Afghan people to please their foreign masters, as Afghan National Army? Using fancy names does not really change the black to white.

Toryalay Shirzay November 12, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Julia, you said it well:this book”it makes for a gripping but ultimately patchy and anecdotal reading”. Exactly,this is what one should expect when a radio reporter attempts to write a history book on the Soviet war in Afghanistan,how pretentious.And the author of this book comes from a country which had a president from Hollywood who not only denied he was dying his hair but also feverishly pushing his Company on the Potomac to recruit tens of thousands of islamic fascist thugs from around the world to come to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.He publicly declared these islamic thugs who murdered countless innocent helpless Afghan civilians as freedom fighters !!The author of “ghost wars” tells it even better.Also the pretexts for the soviet war in Afstan and the American war there is far from flimsy;in both cases the reasons were compelling.
Christian you get the flowers.your brief description of the events during the Soviet war in Afstan is more accurate and your readers would have benefited from a more detailed account.

omar November 13, 2009 at 8:46 am

There is argument at the level of propaganda and we are all familiar with it, but I am going to put on my cynical cassandra hat:

1. The majority of the afghan people want peace and progress, but the majority cannot be said to automatically know how to get there (this is true of all people in some trivial sense). What Anand is saying about the ANA may have been true, but when the US signals withdrawal, things are bound to change. Most people do not support the taliban or the karzai regime. They support whatever option is marginally better than the rest in giving them peace and security. With full western support and creative and consistent effort, that MAY have been the ANA, it wont be once Obama completes his pullout dance. Support will then necessarily shift.

2. It will not shift all to the taliban. Where local warlords are capable of resisting the taliban, a lot of it will shift to them.

3. Obama and the West have probably not decided to pull out. WE can see that pullout, they cannot. This is a tragic but perhaps expected situation. Tragic because it means a lot of killing will be carried out on all sides while the Western powers figure out that they are leaving.

4. Of course, all that killing will be nothing compared to the orgy of violence that will come AFTER the withdrawal.

5. Jihadi propagandists (including the oversmart spin masters at GHQ, like Shireen Mazari and Ahmed Qureshi) will find that victory is sometimes much worse than defeat. Their objective interests (as a class) actually lie with the West and India (not with “the gap”, as Barnett would say), they just dont know it. Eventually, they will be shunted aside or will change their tune OR “everything burns”…btw, I am not buying all of Barnett Bahadur’s cheery theories either…

6. As always, I hope to be proved wrong. But watching the show unfold in the national security team in Washington, I now think this will all end sooner than we thought.

7. Finally, I dont think the average American taxpayer will be worse off (or at least, they will not be much affected by this whole business). It may be that the lives of average people will be materially better just as the lives of average britons have been better since their empire moved on (at least for a couple of generations..nothing lasts forever), especially if the important parts of the world are still cooperating and in order. The places the US leaves behind may also be better off, but not ALL of them. I dont think there is some general rule that EVERY region is ready to rule themselves and cooperate with some kind of international order as well. Some will fall into anarchy until a new policeman takes control (chinese?)..Unfortunately, I think Afghanistan is in that category and could drag a chunk of Pakistan down with it. Worse case scenario, all of south asia is in trouble…And I am making no judgment about how much foreign “interference” has helped to bring things to this pass. Just describing things as they seem to be unfolding.

Prithvi November 13, 2009 at 9:06 am

Faisal,

I expect that the thousands of Hazaras ethnically cleansed by the Taliban might have a somewhat different outlook.

Ahad_Abdurahmon November 14, 2009 at 11:32 pm

@ Faisal, I do not have much knowledge about Afghanistan and Taliban but here are my points:
1. Taliban came from outside (Pakistan).
2. It took power with brute force and killed everyone who opposed them.
It demonstrated its hostility towards many things such as educational rights of women, ethnic/religious minorities, cultural/historical cites, etc.
They use religion to reach power and they translate their attempts to defend their political interests as defending Islam.
What they are trying to defend is not Islam, but their interpretation of Islam.
How do you know people trusted them cows??? You cannot argue about their trust unless you can prove that decision was voluntary. I for example, cannot make a voluntary decision if some armed zombied-out zealot asking me to do something.
It is very easy to argue that they significantly decreased poppy cultivation. But have you ever wondered about the reasions behind this success and its sustainability?
It was clear from the start that they were doing it to gain some international legitimacy because none except fellow Pakistan, KSA, and UAE did not officially recognize them. They control poppy production and they decreased it for political purposes. It was also very unlikely that this decrease was going to last very long because poppy business is their artherial line.
Of course, natural conditions, such as severe drought during those periods also facilitated the decision about sacrificing economic (poppy) interests to political (recognition) interests.
For a government to take shape and gain support, not only domestic, but also international legitimacy is also crucial, even Taliban realized it. They took over domestic politics by violent force, but it was impossible for them to gain international recognition with the exception of 3 countries who might have been among chief patrons of taliban from the beginning.
Current government has good international backing, but domestic legitimacy is shaky, but this is a hole different topic.

Faisal Nazir November 15, 2009 at 1:39 am

You do not have much knowledge about Afghanistan and Taliban, as you stated to start with, and yet you made so many claims about Taliban. Your ignorance is evident from your claim that they came from Pakistan. Do you really think that Afghans would have tolerated Taliban had they come from any other country, Pakistanis being no exception? And you also claim that poppy eradication by them was merely for the sake of getting international legitimacy. Strange. They did every other thing with little care to earn that goodwill and legitimacy. The fact is that Taliban delegations were getting red-carpeted treatment at important power centers in D.C. They, however, apparently cared the least about the international legitimacy, perhaps, due to their ignorance. Taliban did not provide an ideal leadership but they were better than warlords of 1990s and corrupt and criminal puppets of 2009 serving foreign occupation forces. Good leadership can evolve only if Afghans are allowed to work together and independently. By living in normal houses, meeting common Afghans in Masjid five times a day, and living a commoner’s life, Taliban, in any case, had better chances to interact with Afghan masses and give way to the emergence of a better and real leadership for Afghan people.

A solution to the current crisis in Afghanistan lies in the national reconciliation without foreign influence. The Americans and NATO occupation forces are not in a position to do that. They can only try to divide Taliban, which they are already trying to achieve even though the chances for that happening are very meager. That attempt will only bring more bloodshed. A very viable solution may be to bring in a peace force from Islamic countries (Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, etc.) under UN flagship but OIC in actual control. That Islamic peace force will replace the occupation Western forces. That peace force should be tasked to bring all Afghans under one roof and facilitate negotiations and national reconciliation. A national government may be formed for a couple of years that can be tasked to evolves a system for governance and procedure for selecting national leadership. A shura system may very well be closer to Afghan national character than general elections.

Prithvi November 15, 2009 at 6:43 pm

If Afghans wouldn’t accept Pakistanis in force, as you yourself say, why would they accept the presence of troops from Turkey, Egypt, and the other Muslims nations you mentioned? How can you seriously say on one hand that national reconciliation in Afghanistan must take place without foreign influence, and then say in the same breath, that other foreign powers such as Yemen, Bangladesh, etc etc will occupy Afghanistan in order to facilitate such a reconciliation?

Just because these powers are co-religionists, they are still vastly different from one another in a cultural sense and they have different interests. It’s like claiming that during the 1999 Balkan conflict, the US and Serbia would have fought on the same side against the Kosovar Muslims, because they are both mostly Christian countries.

Toryalay Shirzay November 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Faisal Nazir, you have a lot of wishful thinking.The Taliban did not exist in Afghanistan during the Soviet war.Talibans are Afghans refugees in Pakistan where their Paki masters brainwashed ,trained,armed them and then sent to Afstan for the express puepose of taking over Afstan by proxy.This is why The taliban leadership is still protected and supported in Pakistan and just waiting for Westerners to leave so they come back and take over again.The Pakis know this game very well and when the Afstan takeover is complete,then The Pakis know how to use these ferocious warriors to take on Kashmir.Afghans do not want any Pakis or their thugs in AFSTAN nor do they want any Arabs especially the islamic fascist Arabs in Afghanistan.

Turgai Sangar November 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Well, brother Faisal has no more wishful thinking than you about the charms and virtues of ‘secularism’ and ‘liberal democracy’ which can only exist in a number of core countries at the detriment of the periphery.

Faisal Nazir November 16, 2009 at 5:06 pm

You need to think a little deeper. Taliban were merely youth during the Afghan war against Soviets. Some of them might have been raised in refugee camps in Pakistan too. But Taliban were almost entirely Afghans. The death and destruction they saw during the Soviet invasion and the hardship that those young brains had to go through might actually explain why Taliban were so strict, rigid, and uncompromising. All that Pakistanis want is to see Afghan brothers living in peace and harmony and reveling in prosperity. The destiny of both the peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan is tied together. Bloodshed in one country affects the other. Taliban were not hostile to Pakistan does not really mean that they were Pakistani puppets. Someone thinking so does not really understand the Afghan history and their mentality of freedom.

anan November 16, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Turgai Sangar 11/16/2009 at 2:36 pm, I don’t understand what you are talking about. Most countries are liberal democracies, including most Latin American countries, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, and India.

Global free market democracy has greatly benefited billions of poor around the world, including in India, Indonesia and Brazil.

1 + 1 =3. We benefit from the success of others.

Faisal Nazir November 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

No jokes please. Don’t include India in liberal democracy. India is one of the worst nightmare place for non-Hindu citizens. Come on, admit the reality.

Faisal Nazir November 16, 2009 at 4:43 pm

@Prithvi 11/15/2009 at 6:43 pm
There may be several reasons but two crucial factors must be kept in view. First, the UN has no standing in the eyes of Muslims all over the world in general and of Afghan and Pakistan in particular. The UN is widely perceived, and certainly not without a reason for that, as a mistress of Western powers that has only been used to further their interests at the cost of third world countries, especially the Muslim countries. Contrary to the claims by the West, Afghans do not really see the foreign occupation forces, crusading under the UN flagship, as their liberators. Every one knows that the occupation of Afghanistan is a part of bigger game that has the least to do with the welfare of Afghan Muslims. That is why I suggested an active role for the OIC.

Second, an equally important factor is the fact that Afghan society predominantly consists of strictly Islam-loving people. While they may be scared by and allergic to the foreign forces, a peace force consisting of only Muslim troops and controlled by the OIC will help to reassure them of the nature of their mission, which is peace keeping and facilitating of negotiations. It is not to say that the Muslim peace force will face no problems. Vested interests would rather try to divert the focus in an attempt to keep the bloodshed continuing in that country. But it should be clear that process of national reconciliation and unity in Afghanistan has no better basis than Islam. That may be hard to understand for many non-Muslims due to the fact that many Muslim countries have been fighting in past. That does not really mean that Islam is totally irrelevant factor that can not be used as binding force in Afghanistan.

The gambit and game of the occupation forces is entirely different from the mission of a proposed peace force in Afghanistan. Also, do not ignore the importance of behind the scene contacts and positive influences of different Islamic organizations and personalities. That is in contrast to the case of the NATO and American forces, which are totally aliens in Afghanistan and no one really trusts them, trying to achieve their goals by the use of deadly mix of force, dollar, deception, and coercion.

I have deliberately not mentioned Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asian states in the list of potential contributors to proposed peace force. I feel the force should be clear of any regional geo-strategic politics and policies. In addition, many extra-regional vested interests would try to make that a lamenting point to oppose the approach and start playing a dirty game against the peace force if it materializes at all. These evil forces have nothing directly to do with Afghanistan but these forces have come to Afghanistan only to harm the regional countries, including Pakistan, Iran, and Chine.

NOTE: Some people would call my views as a wishful thinking. Well, it may look like that. But, to me, it’s a good excercise to exchnage views. Who knows some good may come out of that exchange.

anan November 16, 2009 at 9:58 pm

The OIC is welcome to train and equip the ANSF, and increase the capacity of civilian Afghan institutions. Some of their members are, especially Turkey. To my knowledge every member of the OIC backs the Pres Karzai government, and in public are all peachy with him, in sharp contrast to NATO countries, which seem to be the only countries willing to take on the GIRoA (Gov Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) in the world.

Faisal, the problem is that you, and presumably some other Pakistanis, don’t like the GIRoA and its ANSF, and would presumably support violent attacks against any OIC forces that came to Afghanistan. It is probable that many Pakistanis would as afraid and suspicious of the OIC forces as they are afraid and suspicious of ANSF and ISAF.

It would also take the OIC many years to train their forces in Dhari, Pashtu and Afghan culture, the way some ISAF forces have been trained. Many OIC countries lack large Afghan diasporas to recruit from. It would be very expensive to train, equip and field OIC security forces and civilians in Afghanistan; more expensive than training, equipping and fielding the ANSF in Afghanistan. Who would foot the bill for the OIC security forces and civilian surge? Who would train and equip the OIC forces so that they in turn could train and equip the ANSF?

And then there is a quality issue. Bangladeshi security forces for example are widely considered to be less than optimal quality (especially compared to Pakistanis and Indians.) Bangladesh has better quality security forces than most OIC countries. Arguably the only Arab Army that is as good quality as the Iraqi Army is the Jordanian Army. And we all know that the Iraqi Army has challenges.

This said, my hope would be that Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Arab countries play a larger role in:
-training and advising Afghan judges and attorneys
-training the Afghan Police
-advising the Afghan Police (this would be a stretch for most OIC countries, although some of them such as Turkey are contributing POMLTs as we speak.)

Faisal Nazir November 16, 2009 at 10:24 pm

“Faisal, the problem is that you, and presumably some other Pakistanis, don’t like the GIRoA and its ANSF, and would presumably support violent attacks against any OIC forces that came to Afghanistan. It is probable that many Pakistanis would as afraid and suspicious of the OIC forces as they are afraid and suspicious of ANSF and ISAF.”
What? These claims are just based on ignorance and obviously contrary to the facts. Why Pakistanis would oppose the mission of the Muslim peace force controlled by the OIC. It will only be the evil forces, which descended in Afghanistan eight years ago and are busy spreading death, destruction, and mischief in the region since then. Any peace mission by Muslim forces will certainly kick these aliens out. Pakistan would actually fully support that effort and offer an effective cooperation to get rid of these vultures.

anan November 16, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Faisal, currently 43 countries contribute military forces to ISAF. Other countries contribute to CSTC-A/NTM-A or OEF but not to ISAF. A total of over 50 countries contribute military forces to Afghanistan. Several are muslim majority countries.

Do you support increased contributions from Turkey and other muslim majority countries? I am surprised, since their primary mission would be to train and equip the ANSF, which you are suspicious of. Do you know a single OIC country that doesn’t back President Karzai? If not, why would you be okay with OIC trainers and advisors for the ANSF?

I think the Afghans, MoD, MoI, and CSTC-A/NTM-A would delighted if the OIC sent ANP trainers, judge/attorney trainers, ANP advisors, and a civilian surge to increase the capacity of Afghan civilian institutions.

Faisal, the Afghans have already asked OIC countries to contribute. What else do you think the Afghans should do to encourage them to contribute?

Faisal Nazir November 17, 2009 at 10:23 am

I am disappointed by your inability to understand other’s point of view. I am talking to remove the ISAF, which has given only death and destruction to Afghans and bloodbath to Pakistanis, and replace it with totally a new Islamic Peace Force. Many other dirty not-so-visible players are busy in Afghanistan to promote terrorism in this region in the garb of the war against terrorism. The consequences of all that mischief are bound to bring more instability and bloodshed in the region. That may probably be the actual goal of these foreign intruders and aggressors. But if some one is really interested in the stability, development, and progress in this region, a way to stop the bloodbath in Afghanistan and Pakistan must be found. To me, ISAF is completely incapable of achieving that goal. ISAF should be replaced with a new peace force consisting only of troops from Islamic countries. I never meant that Islamic countries should contribute troops under the command of ISAF. In fact, many Islamic countries were approached and pressurized by Bush administration for doing so but almost all of them refused. India, however, is now widely expected to send troops to assist in ISAF mission of subduing Afghans. Indians have so far enjoyed a relatively safe operational environment in Afghanistan under ISAF protection. Indians, I believe, will now be put to taste the real war by participating in the missions against Afghans. Most of the fifty countries that you claimed are currently participating in Afghan mission have only a token presence there. Majority of those countries, I am sure, want to see peace and stability in Afghanistan. But the main contributors are only few countries and most of them are practically fighting against Afghan people.

Yes, it’s true that militaries of many Islamic countries may not posses that high level of technical expertise as some of ISAF troops can boast of. Those higher capabilities, however, are being utilized to kill more Afghans. For training Afghan army and police forces, one does not really require NATO-level standards for the instructors in any case. Afghan Army is not supposed to accomplish NATO missions. Also, the mission of Islamic peace force will not be to fight against Afghans but rather to do the peace keeping duties and facilitating intra-Afghan negotiations aimed Afghan national reconciliation.

Julien Katchinoff November 19, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Julia,

Your wish was actually granted in 1990 by Artyom Borovik, in “The Hidden War,” which, interestingly, also features the original cover used by Mr. Feifer.

http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-War-Russian-Journalists-Afghanistan/dp/080213775X

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