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Thread: Gloomy US intelligence assessment coming or Let's hear from the spies

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Gloomy US intelligence assessment coming or Let's hear from the spies

    Hat tip to Circling the Lion's Den (a UK-based blogsite on matters Afghan) for pointing at Steve Coll's column in the New Yorker:http://www.newyorker.com/online/blog...-estimate.html

    Circling the Lion's Den summary, edited for brevity:
    Excellent, well-informed article by Steve Coll.. on the latest US National Intelligence Estimate on the war in Afghanistan....

    The new draft..is said to be gloomier than the typical public statements made by US military commanders in Afghanistan.

    It is said to raise doubts about the authenticity and durability of alleged gains in Kandahar and Helmand provinces since the Obama troop surge and also suggests that the next generation of political leaders after Karzai will be more corrupt.

    It also questions the success of the programme to train and equip the Afghan military and police forces, noting that the projected cost of running a force of 350,000 after 2014 will be $8-10 billion a year, more than the US is willing or able to pay.
    From:http://circlingthelionsden.blogspot....elligence.html

    There are some interesting parts to the Coll article, but this part struck me and partly as SWC have tried to consider what next?

    In the Afghan war, there are now two plausible choices. President Obama has committed to one of them: a gradual drawdown by 2014, accepting three more years of sacrifice in blood and expenditure (on a declining slope, it is hoped), in the expectation that Afghan forces can be built up to hold off the Taliban, protect civilians, and prevent civil war, which would almost certainly spill into Pakistan, making things there even worse. Another choice would be to declare that the 2014 project is unaffordable and beyond hope, and to bring troops home faster and sooner. Both choices involve risks.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I'm curious about the assessment that civil war would certainly spill into Pakistan, and what indicators that statement is based on.

    I'm equally interested how domestic politics will serve to frame--or inflame--our way ahead, as the estimate is shared with the Government.
    Last edited by jcustis; 11-25-2011 at 11:41 PM.

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    It also questions the success of the programme to train and equip the Afghan military and police forces, noting that the projected cost of running a force of 350,000 after 2014 will be $8-10 billion a year, more than the US is willing or able to pay.
    If Petraeus is of the opinion that a) the only thing standing between the ANA and ANP being an effective bulwark against the Taliban and the Haqqani Network is more time and b) there is no reason to believe that the U.S. Government is ever going to tire of subsidizing the two, effective or not, I have to wonder about his suitability for his current position.
    In the Afghan war, there are now two plausible choices.
    There would be more if the strategy had not been formulated around a centralized national government.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    I suspect that the 'projected costs' of running an Afghan army after the withdrawal of most Westerners is a very tricky thing.

    The relatively high pays for indigenous troops (all parties) is no doubt a result of the influx of US-$. The pay levels have to shrink once the dollar transfers of all kinds shrink.

    Afghanistan can easily sustain a 350k personnel army on its own, all it needs is to raise enough revenue and make sure price levels are not terribly distorted by foreign money. You only need guns, ammo, boots, clothes, food and a meagre extra pay in indigenous cash to run an army. The current situation is ridiculous and current costs are a poor basis for projecting future costs.



    There is the major problem of sticky wags, though. It's difficult to actually cut wages, especially if the employed men can mutiny.


    This was only a tiny glimpse of the many problems and challenges caused by the limited-duration influx of foreign cash, of course..

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    So now the intel communtiy says this isn't working?

    I hope everyone can appreciate the tragic irony of us allowing the intel community to lead us into a threat-centric "strategy" of clear-hold-build; night raids; and outrageous development programs against the resistance aspect of the insurgency internal to Afghanistan (while totally protecting and ignoring the causation of the insanely illegitimate Karzai regime and the Northern Alliance monopoly that is codified by the constitution we helped develop) and doing nothing to address the revolutionary aspect of the insurgency with the Taliban government in exile in Pakistan.

    Now the same intel F-tards say "golly, this isn't working." No kidding. I have yet to meet a single person in the intel business who knows anything about insurgency. Not a one. They do threats. That's all they know.

    Insurgency is not about threats, it is about governments that are out of synch and out of touch with the people they deem to govern. God save us from the intel community, and the politicians who listen to them.

    Venting, but too many great young servicemen and women are being fed into this stupidity and it is all so avoidable.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default "Hi" from an F-Tard

    One wonders if there is a problem on this earth that Bob's Wold doesn't lay at the feet of those "f-tards" in intel.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    He just hasn't met a whole lotta intel folks, that's all.

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    A good op is due to good planning and good execution, and a bad op is always due to bad intell. It has always been that way

    Joking aside I tend to agree that most military analysts don't get it, they somehow manage to transform an insurgency into an order of battle with leaders and foot soldiers and suggest if you kill/capture the leaders you win, and 10 years later they're still saying it. Those who embrace population centric COIN, blindly suggest that we have to do development and then the population will simply turn its back on the insurgency, yet 10 years later.....
    In my opinion Bob is on to something, and instead of everyone moving to defensive positions, they should try to figure out why are analysis is failing. I think part of it is telling commanders what they want to hear, but that isn't all of it.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 11-26-2011 at 04:55 AM.

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    Davidbfpo,

    This part of the article is what I found of interest.

    It is said to raise doubts about the authenticity and durability of alleged gains in Kandahar and Helmand provinces since the Obama troop surge and also suggests that the next generation of political leaders after Karzai will be more corrupt.
    I don't think we're capable of determining who is actually running the circus, and just because we have boots on the ground doesn't mean that adversarial forces aren't running the show. Most foreign troops are only capable of seeing overt armed insurgents, but the insurgency consists of much more than the militants. Equally important is the comment about durability. Very few gains are durable, and most will be reversed shortly after we let up a little on the pedal for a lot of reasons. While hardly a strong argument, the recent article in USA Today on the Special Forces village stability operations interviewed Afghans that said as soon as SF leaves the Taliban will return.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/a...tan/51145690/1

    "If the Americans weren't here, the police and the local government would just run away," Mohammed says. "In three days, the district would fall back into the hands of the enemy."
    Of course what does Mohammed know, he is only a local.

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Equally important is the comment about durability. Very few gains are durable, and most will be reversed shortly after we let up a little on the pedal for a lot of reasons. While hardly a strong argument, the recent article in USA Today on the Special Forces village stability operations interviewed Afghans that said as soon as SF leaves the Taliban will return.
    From the couple of Afghans I know and the reading I’ve done my guess would be that the Taliban and GIRoA are conceived of by the majority of Afghans as rival Pashtun factions contending for control of centralized government power. One of the factions relies heavily on the aid of a distant foreign power whose date of departure is already set. The other faction just seems like the better bet to come out on top eventually. Does that sound reasonable to those who have been there?
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    From the couple of Afghans I know and the reading I’ve done my guess would be that the Taliban and GIRoA are conceived of by the majority of Afghans as rival Pashtun factions contending for control of centralized government power. One of the factions relies heavily on the aid of a distant foreign power whose date of departure is already set. The other faction just seems like the better bet to come out on top eventually. Does that sound reasonable to those who have been there?
    I think that is a totally reasonable conclusion. I also think it's important to recall the rise of the Taliban and the fractured state of Afghanistan at that time. We demonized the Taliban for going into league with Al Qaeda, and seemed to be in a bit of disbelief that AQ could be harbored within the country, but the past bears a lot of reflection.

    Through either ideological satisfaction, or pay, or both, the Taliban's ranks swelled for a reason, and a lot of that had to do with the governance situation at that time. The footsoldier of today probably fights for a different range of reasons, but we continue to kill them and they continue to join and fight.

    Afghanistan has been too brutalized, too fractured, and is too split along tribal lines to be able to embrace a central government unless a terribly broad range of issues (poppy, ISI, the Af-Pak border area, etc.) can be resolved to a level of compromise for the largest affected groups. I think the greatest issue we have is that we don't know how to establish that compromise, and worse, we cannot get the Karzai government to build those bridges and resolve the causes of instability.

    The bureaucrats and localized ANSF leadership know what's up, and a look at their behavior in some of the far flung districts, like Rig and Garmsir, is telling.
    Last edited by jcustis; 11-26-2011 at 06:30 AM.

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    Posted by ganulv,

    One of the factions relies heavily on the aid of a distant foreign power whose date of departure is already set.
    First we addressed authenticity and durability, and as you pointed out we need to address sustainability (all concerned). Not taking a side on the debate, but assuming it was even possible for the President to not announce an end date with the current financial crisis and bigger priorities at home and other security concerns, would it make a difference if we stayed at current strength until 2020 in your opinion? On the other hand, I think you overstate the departure, we'll still have a considerable number of troops there long after 2014. If the Taliban is assuming that we're all leaving and taking the kitchen sink with us, they'll most likely end up being disappointed.

    Posted by jcustis,

    The bureaucrats and localized ANSF leadership know what's up, and a look at their behavior in some of the far flung districts, like Rig and Garmsir, is telling.
    Please elaborate or provide a link to stories that will explain the behavior you're making reference to. Thanks.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    One wonders if there is a problem on this earth that Bob's Wold doesn't lay at the feet of those "f-tards" in intel.
    Entropy, I actually am one who does not believe that it was a "failure of intel" that led to 9-11; (that was a failure of foreign policy, not intelligence) but we have been over compensating ever since in a dogged pursuit of "threats" to defeat to ensure that it does not happen again. We have build a massive machine to stare at the symptoms, yet have done little to assess that true failure of policy. We could use some of that great talent in the intel community focused on the real problems, that are internal, rather than all staring outward looking for "threats."

    I think the intel community is great at analyzing threats. Next time we are in a war, where success can be achieved by the defeat of some threat, we will need to apply the intel-driven process we apply now.

    But what I cannot fathom, is why this community refuses to evolve? Why it refuses to shift focus from the analysis of the symptoms of the problems we face (detailed analysis of various "terrorist" organizations [most of which are actually nationalist insurgent organizations - but why quibble over a person's purpose for action?], the individuals in these organizations, who they talk to, where they sleep, who they call, etc, etc) while completely ignoring analysis of the root causes of this "threat" that lie primarily within the political, policy, operational and tactical approaches of the governments that are being challenged?

    This is not state on state warfare that our intel community is trained, organized, and doctrinally equipped for. This is conflict between elements of various populaces and their government. This, for the West, is a conflict between various non-state actors who tap into these nationalist dynamics for all of their manpower, financing and sanctuary; and Western countries whose historic approaches to foreign policy are perceived as a major contributor to the problems between governments and populaces within these various states.

    Intel guys will drill into religion and ideology - though ideology does not create such conflicts, but rather is merely the "lubricant" that leaders of such movements apply to get things to move at the rate and in the direction they desire. But they will not drill into what aspects of foreign and domestic policy that are far more provocative than any ideology.

    90% of the intel work for the current "threat" is internal (internal to domestic policies for the states where these groups emerge from, and internal to the foreign polices of those states which find themselves the target of transnational terrorism); but 100% of our intel work is directed externally.

    Now, you are right, this is not totally the fault of the intel community. I should not blame the scorpion for being a scorpion. Senior leadership outside of the intel community should have reached out and redirected the efforts of the intel guys long ago, and still show no inclination to do so. But nor do I see the intel community standing up in protest as to how they are being abused and misused. In fact, when one goes to them to discuss such matters they typically hide behind snarky self-serving cliche's, like "intel leads ops" and go back to doing what they have always done.

    Even LTG Flynn's paper of a couple years ago that created such a stir by suggesting that we needed to analyze the entire populace and not just the combatant segment of the populace missed the main point. It still missed the point that it is the integration and interaction of government and the populace, not the "enemy" and the populace, that holds the keys to stability. Where is the analysis of GIRoA officials and their links to the segments of the populace that are either supportive or in rebellion? Where is the analysis of what former officials and their linkages that were dispossessed of power, wealth and influence by our efforts to tip the scales against them?

    How many intel guys feed the machine for night raids in Afghanistan? How many focus of the effects of such raids and the manner in which they are executed? Such night raids make the insurgency worse along many key drivers of insurgency. We should study that, understand that, and refine operations accordingly. It would lead to about a 90% reduction in the number of such missions conducted though, and that would mean that more "threats" are out there unmolested. Why worry about how each such raid provides powerful motivation for entire communities to support the insurgency. More fun to celebrate the latest "Jackpot." Tactical successes paving the way to operational failure.

    It was an intel assessment that lead us to Afghanistan and Iraq. It is intel assessments that point us toward Yemen, HOA and the Maghreb. Intel is great for tactics, but it sucks for strategy. Intel-led strategy is like 5-year olds playing soccer, chasing the ball in a big mob where ever it goes with little regard or understanding for the larger game being played. It ignores geostrategic importance, it ignores vital interests, it only chases the threat. If a place is only important because some non-state actor is currently hiding there, then that place is not important. Some few guys will indeed need to be taken out of those places, but we need to do so with clear understanding of political drivers that distinguish who is who, and not the ideological factors that join them together in action.

    The Einstein quote below applies very much to our intel-driven efforts over the past 10 years, and we should think about that.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 11-26-2011 at 12:11 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default Focused myopia

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    But what I cannot fathom, is why this community refuses to evolve? Why it refuses to shift focus from the analysis of the symptoms of the problems we face (detailed analysis of various "terrorist" organizations [most of which are actually nationalist insurgent organizations - but why quibble over a person's purpose for action?], the individuals in these organizations, who they talk to, where they sleep, who they call, etc, etc) while completely ignoring analysis of the root causes of this "threat" that lie primarily within the political, policy, operational and tactical approaches of the governments that are being challenged?

    This is not state on state warfare that our intel community is trained, organized, and doctrinally equipped for. This is conflict between elements of various populaces and their government. This, for the West, is a conflict between various non-state actors who tap into these nationalist dynamics for all of their manpower, financing and sanctuary; and Western countries whose historic approaches to foreign policy are perceived as a major contributor to the problems between governments and populaces within these various states.
    The short answer is system capture by the idea of doing things.

    Everybody is busy doing things and myopically focused on a few bits of the the whole. Few are thinking about the whole. Observations of the whole are continually taken by the system, but there is no mechanism which values and integrates these observations.

    We need to purchase less 'toys', train our folks better, have mechanisms to integrate the observations and experience of our whole of government partners and our folks who walk the ground, get our staff folk out from behind monitors and away from the air conditioners/heaters, and decentralize decision making....in short the business model needs to change.

    Leviathan and sys admin force is a solution whose time is coming.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_barn...for_peace.html

    The reality today however, is that the system has not yet endured enough trauma to change the business model.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Even LTG Flynn's paper of a couple years ago that created such a stir by suggesting that we needed to analyze the entire populace and not just the combatant segment of the populace missed the main point. It still missed the point that it is the integration and interaction of government and the populace, not the "enemy" and the populace, that holds the keys to stability. Where is the analysis of GIRoA officials and their links to the segments of the populace that are either supportive or in rebellion? Where is the analysis of what former officials and their linkages that were dispossessed of power, wealth and influence by our efforts to tip the scales against them?
    See my answer above...

    ...and speaking of myopia, please reconsider your (unbreakable?) mental link/chain between governance and 'insurgency'. Take a walk on the wild side and consider other possibilities. A number of us have mentioned this to you a couple of times

    Strong Societies and Weak States by Joel S. Migdal 978-0-691-01073-1

    Seriously, relook the link/chain that you have forged for yourself.
    Sapere Aude

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Well said...

    Quote Originally Posted by Surferbeetle View Post
    The short answer is system capture by the idea of doing things.
    ...
    ...and speaking of myopia, please reconsider your (unbreakable?) mental link/chain between governance and 'insurgency'. Take a walk on the wild side and consider other possibilities. A number of us have mentioned this to you a couple of times
    In both cases...

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Not taking a side on the debate, but assuming it was even possible for the President to not announce an end date with the current financial crisis and bigger priorities at home and other security concerns, would it make a difference if we stayed at current strength until 2020 in your opinion?
    I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion, really, but I suspect that there is a reason Afghans are stereotyped as thinking in the longue durée and Americans are stereotyped as thinking in the media cycle.

    The bigger part of what I have read about Afghan history and society is via one of the faculty members at my graduate program. In a 2009 report his take was that

    [t]he contradictory policies and practices of state building, including those of the post-Taliban era under US tutelage, have re-affirmed a dysfunctional, sovereignty-based, person-centred, Kabul-centred and kin-based political culture to the exclusion of more inclusive governance. Military intervention and the “war on terror” have once again empowered the Pashtun elites and a small number of their laganbardaar clients from “minority” ethnic groups to transform Afghanistan from a failed state into, at best, a fragile regional militia state. [p. 10 at LINK]
    His recommendation is to shoot for a federated* rather than centralized form of government with defense organized at the most local level possible. If I understand the VSO efforts correctly they seem to amount to the training of a gendarmerie. If that is indeed the case then I would guess that a lot of Afghans are reading the program as an effort by Kabul to work its tentacles into their lives rather than as an effort to create true local defense forces something like the minutemen. The creation of something like the minutemen would presume the existence of functional local groups something like New England town meetings and engagement with them, not just handing out small arms to young men in rural areas. I don’t think anyone with good sense would be under the illusion that creation of that sort of federated system would be simple or painless—look at how long it took the Swiss to arrive at their current arrangement—or that a well-resourced strategy aimed at that outcome would invariably succeed.

    *It’s not an analogy I have ever seen or heard him use, but something akin to the Swiss Confederation if I understand correctly.
    Last edited by ganulv; 11-26-2011 at 05:25 PM.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Ganulv:

    For not knowing too much, you sure have laid out a cornucopia.

    The Flynn gap was always that it remained threat-focused, and, thus, missed its own hard-earned points.

    From ancient days, the first thing an occupier did was go out and count things (Domesday Book, census). Then, based on whatever system existed or didn't, either impose its own political/administrative control systems or coopt and commandeer existing ones.

    Locally levied militias were part and parcel of the local levies, taxes, and fealty to the new occupier.

    Ours is one of the first times where an occupier occupied in embarrassment and denial, fielded off the controls to others, and left its responsibilities to endlessly spiral out of control---including where the unfocused money as weapons, drives its own illegitimacy, corruption and distance between people and government.

    It just didn't work, doesn't work, will never work... Been there, done that.

    Now, in the unwind, how do we find the best path?

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    His recommendation is to shoot for a federated* rather than centralized form of government with defense organized at the most local level possible.
    I think this steers toward a dangerous trap that we fall into too easily and too often: the trap of thinking that we installed the "wrong" sort of government and can make everything right by uninstalling that and re-installing the "right" form. This goes back to our typically mechanistic approach to governance in other places, often characterized by a belief that an externally installed government can work if it just achieves some kind of "right" balance or structure.

    I don't think that's the case. An appropriate system of governance is never going to be installed. It has to evolve, and the process of that evolution will typically involves some level of conflict and disorder. It's not just about refining the system, it's about the various contending parties refining their expectations and their abilities to work together... or not to, as the case may be.

    I don't think we got this wrong because of a threat-centered intel system or because we installed the wrong sort of government. I think we got it wrong the moment we decided that we had to leave behind a functioning government that Americans could recognize as "democracy". Once we chose that road we were on our way into the scheisse.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    I think this steers toward a dangerous trap that we fall into too easily and too often: the trap of thinking that we installed the "wrong" sort of government and can make everything right by uninstalling that and re-installing the "right" form. This goes back to our typically mechanistic approach to governance in other places, often characterized by a belief that an externally installed government can work if it just achieves some kind of "right" balance or structure.
    To be clear, I was just regurgitating my understanding of Nazif’s take on things, which has been consistent for the past decade. Your point is well taken, nonetheless.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    On Dahuyan's point, the latest on Iraq's political/governance structure:

    http://www.kurdishglobe.net/displayP...4CF9297CDAB21C

    The article does a fair job of explaining some of the many unresolved sub-national issues pending in Iraq--mostly still chafing at the Baathist restructurings of 1976 and beyond.

    Salah ad Din's testing of the Article 140 right to form its own region---the same as KRG---with broad political freedoms separate from a Central government.

    In large part, the right to regional governance ala Article 140 is heavily supported by all sides (as a refuge from Central government abuse) but with many varying maelstroms of conflict around the practicalities of it. Central government sends a fixed percentage of money; own courts; police, internal army, etc... (Just like KRG, and what Ganulv's reported proposal suggests).

    If Salah ad Din were its own largely Sunni region, does Balad/Ad DuJail (mostly Shia) return to Baghdad Amenate, as geography, population and political history factors suggest? What to make of Sammara, a Sunni city of great Shia religious significance and national importance?

    Does, as the Kurdish article suggests, Kirkuk become reconstituted, with Kalar, Kifri and Tuz Hormatu get re-attached (whether from Sulimaniya or Salah ad Din)?

    If all this rolling back to pre-1976 sub-national structures were considered, what about returning the Haj Trail lands (the routes from Qom to Karbala/Najaf to Mecca) back to those cities, and away from Sunni Anbar?

    The maps and history of all of this are in an article on Musings on Iraq:

    http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/20...nance-and.html

    The answers, however, rapidly become complex local ones---as Dayuhan wisely surmises, these are not questions for a foreign power to address, but ones that must evolve, or be fought through by locals.

    In truth, Ganulv's reported solutions are, in fact, identical to what is on the front boiler in Iraq today (and will be immediately after our major departure from Afghanistan), whether we pay attention to it or not.

    When this issue (Disputed Internal Boundaries) came to the fore in Iraq in 2008 and 2009, Ambassador Crocker wisely determined (to the surprise of many) that these were not issues which the foreigners should push on the Iraqis, but ones they must resolve.

    The reason this format of regional governance structures with minimal national power continues to re-emerge is that it is the only historical one that has, over centuries, provided success for these lands in lieu of a major dictatorial power.

    There is often more wisdom in history than we care to acknowledge where it conflicts with our intentions.

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