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Thread: Reconciliation and COIN in Afghanistan

  1. #221
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    The revolutionary idea and the act, although separated in time, are inseparably linked.
    Agreed and also done on that point.

    However, getting back to my original point I think there is something else we may be missing that permits the idea to be operationalized. There are conditions in society that create the will to act, and those conditions must be more than an abusive government because many people don't rise up against abusive governments. I suspect those conditions vary significantly in each case, but a topic worth discussing if it leads to greater understanding.

    While revolution may not be right word, it is close. In my view we "imposed" a social and political revolution upon both Iraq and Afghanistan. The conditions were not right in either country for synergy to develop with their populace, thus no shinning city on the hill after years of sacrifice. In our UW Doctrine we used to teach (suspect they still do) you as the foreigner can't start a revolution, but you can support one. Not so sure that is a law, but rather something that is generally true, yet if we're going to continue to pursue these idealistic foreign policies, then it may be worth considering how to make a population receptive to revolutionary ideas and ready to act when the catalyst is presented (JDAMs dropping their nation's security forces). I know this is an extreme idea, but maybe extreme ideas are called for if this continues to be our mission. I don't think our current approach is working well if at all.

  2. #222
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    America likes stability and certainty in the locations around the planet where we perceive our interests to manifest.

    One major component of our current challenges in the post Cold War era is that in many of those locations populaces are evolving in their expectations of governance more rapidly than the "US-approved" systems of governance that serve them. Those systems that have the flexibility to evolve in nature along with the evolving expectations of their populaces are doing better than those that rigidly seek to sustain some status quo of governance as defined by those who control the government. But changes are so rapid that all systems are struggling to some degree. Flexible systems are being bent, rigid systems are breaking.

    All of that leads to instability and uncertainty, and that makes America nervous, so we launch into a massive program of excessive engagement to seek to re-establish the stability and certainty that we have come to see as so essential to our interests. It is an unsustainable situation.

    We are fairly flexible at home, but very rigid abroad. A mix of domestic bending and foreign breaking. If we could only learn to allow others the same fundamental principles we demand for ourselves we would be less compelled to overly engage those breaking systems abroad, and there would likely then be less bending at home. Instead we over-engage and see the solution as pushing modern US values rather than simply allowing classic US principles. But to allow the latter is to relinquish the control and certainty we see as so essential to making our current system work.

    We need to think about "stability" differently. It is not just a "phase" or an "operation" that we can conduct to "fix" an unstable situation. In fact, such operations more often than not only serve to suppress the current set of challengers to the existing unstable situation. They freeze instability rather than produce stability, then require constant input of energy to sustain that unnatural condition.

    We also need to learn to deal better with, and fear less, "uncertainty." Become less of a control freak. The problem is that we have become so intertwined in the governances of some places that relinquishing control is labeled as "abandonment." Big corporations love certainty as well, and the pressure they apply to sustain status quo relationships does not help either.

    I don't know what the answer is, but I do believe we need a new model better tuned for the world we live in today. That the model we apply was designed for a world that no longer exists. It demands too much energy (measured in money, engagement, influence, etc) to sustain, and as it is inappropriate for the emerging world it actually serves to make us less secure rather than more secure through its execution.

    This leads us back to Afghanistan and this thread. We emplaced and now protect a system that we think will give us the stability and certainty WE "need" and are therefore reluctant to pull way back on all of the programs we are applying there to make the current system work, and to instead focus our energy on an approach designed to allow the current system to evolve to a more natural state.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 07-30-2012 at 06:39 AM.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "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)

  3. #223
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Time for taking tea

    Meantime after the recent diversion back to Afghanistan:
    In a rare interview, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the powerful northern warlord who was a key US ally against the Taliban and threw his support behind President Karzai at the last election, gives an interview at his Kabul home.
    Slightly strange IMO, but as General Dostum rarely gets such attention worth adding here. Plus I thought he was taking a sabbatical in Turkey.

    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...id-Dostum.html

    I am sure the General is well versed in Afghanistan's equivalent of constitutional and social propriety.
    davidbfpo

  4. #224
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Default No civil war ...

    Afghans, Crocker said, have "been there and done that. ... No one wants to go back to that." Instead, he said, major politicians from various ethnic groups want to have a voice in their nation's affairs — but not at the point of a gun. And, said Crocker, because the Taliban and its allies "are equal opportunity killers" who victimize all groups, they have "actually been a unifying factor" in Afghanistan.
    http://www.npr.org/2012/07/30/157580...ry-achievement

    See also: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/...ns?ft=1&f=1001

    That is where the actual quote is above is from. Second article is on a report that indicates that our nation building efforts are largely for naught since they will come to fruition too late and they are unsustainable by the Afghans.

    the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction warned in a report released today that U.S.-funded construction projects now underway in Afghanistan that are costing hundreds of millions of dollars are behind schedule and may not be finished before U.S. combat forces depart. And that means, the report said, that the projects may not be "viable or sustained by the Afghan government after completion."

    "Implementing projects that the Afghan government is unable to sustain may be counterproductive to the [counterinsurgency] strategy," the inspector general reported, as they raise Afghans' hopes for electricity and other basic necessities only to dash them later.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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  5. #225
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Col Jones, that is an excellent explanation of the problems we incur and endure. It makes for the stuff of a political science textbook that you really ought to get around to writing, because it makes for a very resilient predictive model.

  6. #226
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Lessons from my talks with the Taliban: Part Two

    Part One was Post 194 and Anatol Lieven had a podcast interview a week ago, courtesy of the Australian Lowy Institute:
    Yesterday the noted expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Anatol Lieven, spoke at the Lowy Institute. In this interview, he shared with me some extraordinary insights into some of the streams of Taliban thinking about the prospects for peace in Afghanistan, including surprising speculations on whether the Taliban would ever tolerate US military bases in a post-conflict settlement.
    Podcast link, it is nine minutes long:http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/...o-Taliban.aspx
    davidbfpo

  7. #227
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A different view

    There are parts of Professor Lieven's interview that jarred with me, especially having read this long article by Dexter Filkins; hat tip to Carl who added it to a SWJ discussion:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...urrentPage=all
    davidbfpo

  8. #228
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Pakistan agrees Taliban release to help Afghan peace process

    Positive, calculated gesture by Pakistan?

    Details emerged after Afghanistan's High Peace Council met military and civilian leaders in Islamabad....seven "mid-ranking" Taliban figures had been released. It is understood that Mullah Nooruddin Toorabi, the former hardline Taliban justice minister who ordered men to grow beards, is among the names agreed for release but not Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy to Mullah Omar.
    Why do I use calculated? This helps:
    Toorabi, notorious hardliner during the Taliban regime .....he was said to have mellowed in exile after 2001 and in 2005 met his previous colleagues in Abbottabad and Peshawar to consider making peace with Kabul. He was arrested soon afterwards.
    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...e-process.html

    Slightly different report:http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2...050926816.html

    Somehow I doubt release actually means free to travel, just a nicer compound bungalow.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-14-2012 at 01:53 PM.
    davidbfpo

  9. #229
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Hope for Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar

    Pakistan will consider freeing former Afghan Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, if current releases of lower level members help to advance peace efforts, officials from both countries told Reuters on Thursday
    Link:
    davidbfpo

  10. #230
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-e...RoveeM.twitter

    Until we are willing to subjugate our tactical goals to the pursuit of our strategic ends, we are simply not going to get in front of this conflict.

    Not only are Mr. Karzai's demands reasonable, their is no way any one can perceive his government as sovereign if we persist in denying this, and similar, fundamental and legal requests.

    Our message is clear. We believe it is more important to roll up Taliban Squad leaders unconstrained by GIRoA's rules, than we it is to support GIRoA's pursuit of the sovereignty that is absolutely necessary to the achieving any kind of true stability.

    We say we promote democracy, yet we are dedicated to preventing any Taliban influence in the government of Afghanistan.

    We say we promote sovereignty, yet we allow our general's to tell a sitting national President "no" in his own country to a legal request.

    That is neither democracy nor sovereignty. When Gian Gentile says we pursue a "strategy of tactics" this may not be what he means, but this is absolutely a campaign that places a cobbled together mix of tactical programs over the very strategic ends critical to resolving the conflict. We have lost our way.
    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)

  11. #231
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    Default Deja Vu ?

    Reminds one a bit of the Iraq situation where 2008 Agreement signed; impasse reached on permanent agreement with Maliki; and US troops leave Iraq.

    Will Karzai and his Krooks "succeed" as well as Maliki and his Muggers ?

    It wouldn't break my heart if no US troops remained in Astan at the end of 2014.

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 12-09-2012 at 02:51 AM.

  12. #232
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Mike,

    I doubt very much that GIRoA as we have helped create and sustain over the past 11 years will last long after we leave. It was never a sustainable model to begin with, but then the Northern Alliance core of GIRoA has always known that, even if we have deluded ourselves by the trappings of modern governance that we have draped over it.

    The Northern Alliance is dedicated to the exclusion of Taliban influence, or more accurately, the Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek minorities will make any compromise - to include allowing US-led NATO forces occupy their land in pursuit of defeat, deny, disruption of AQ - to the end of not being second to the Pashtun majority. Similarly those Pashtun tribes out of patronage under the Taliban were quick to sign up with the Northern Alliance to turn those tables as well.

    After all in a patronage society such as Afghanistan, there is no second place. Particularly under the clever constitution we help Mr Karzai and his inner circle put in place. The constitution takes traditional patronage and centralizes and elevates it as never seen before in Afghanistan. The Loya Jirga members reacted with outrage to this concept, but deals were made and the document was ratified. Western analysts by and large lauded it as a great advance toward modernity and democracy. In reality it was a grand scheme to control the country and exclude the return of any influence of those so recently excluded.

    For the Taliban government in exile this was the throwing down of the proverbial gauntlet. The revolutionary insurgency began to grow as soon as the Constitution became a reality. No longer could they just bide their time for the foreigners to leave and regain power through traditional means. The rest is history, we countered the revolution, and those actions began to grow a resistance among average, apolitical Afghans increasingly affected by our COIN efforts. The Revolutionaries provided support to the resistance, we conflated both as one in our mind, and continued to pile in more and more effort to "defeat" what we had in many ways created.

    Better we just pull the plug. Not pull the plug as in leaving, but pull the plug on that damn constitution. We should tell Mr. Karzai that we will agree to all of his demands regarding his sovereignty immediately if does one simple thing: Follow through on his promise to hold a true reconciliation and constitutional loya jirga. The new constitution can take many forms, but it needs to ensure fundamental rights in the context of this culture, it needs to guarantee quotas of power across the major groups, it probably also needs to disempower the central government with a central army and put the majority of power down to the province level to governors with regionally recruited and operating national guard forces. IE, something sustainable and closer to the context of the place.

    The constitution is the key, and yet we not only don't see that, we do the opposite. We continue to protect and laud that document.
    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)

  13. #233
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    Default Dead Horses

    I'd suggest that "Reconciliation" in Astan is a horse no more alive today then it was five years ago - or will be five years from now. The term "COIN" may or may not be used five years from now in Astan (except as it might have propaganda value). I'd bet on the notion of "Civil War" as being the more accurate.

    We'll see old and new "Northern Alliance" people - e.g., Ismail Khan and Abdul Dostum of the "old", if they manage to stay alive. I'm not an Astan analyst and won't even attempt to ID the "new" people. Karzai and his Krooks should have enough assets now to live well anywhere in the World.

    The Astan Bonn Constitution is not the problem. It's a mere piece of paper which has no materiality to Astan governance. That is based on its real constitution, which is what its people do - acts, not words, govern Astan.

    I wouldn't negotiate with any of these ba$tards - none of whom are worth the little finger of any one of our people in Astan. Anything that we (the USA specifically and solely, not including any allies) need to get done in Astan, can get done quietly, clandestinely and covertly (if we still are able to act according to those concepts ?).

    I'm sure you believe this:

    from BW
    We should tell Mr. Karzai that we will agree to all of his demands regarding his sovereignty immediately if does one simple thing: Follow through on his promise to hold a true reconciliation and constitutional loya jirga. The new constitution can take many forms, but it needs to ensure fundamental rights in the context of this culture, it needs to guarantee quotas of power across the major groups, it probably also needs to disempower the central government with a central army and put the majority of power down to the province level to governors with regionally recruited and operating national guard forces.
    but, it's so far removed from my position that I can't even address its assertions.

    So, I guess I'll just have to plead the "general issue", and let the jury decide.

    Regards

    Mike

  14. #234
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Mike,

    So a constitution is a "mere piece of paper"? A Certificate for a million shares of Goggle is "mere paper" as well. President Obama's birth certificate is "mere paper."

    Fact is, some paper is more important than others. I know you know that, so I find your position odd.

    The "mere paper" of the Afghan constitution vested in one man virtually all Afghan patronage. The King did not have that power in the "good old days" of Afghanistan. No leader before Karzai has had such power to my knowledge has. Perhaps Genghis...

    Karzai got "elected" in a process that is perceived globally as being highly fraudulent. Probably not quite as bad as the process the garnered Diem 110% of the vote in Saigon when he rose to the presidency in a US supervised election there, but close.

    Then once elected he picks 1/3 of the Jirga; all the supreme court, all the ministers, all the Provincial and District Governors and Chiefs of Police - and they in turn all owe their patronage up to him and his cronies. This is a Ponzi scheme that is the root of the scale of Afghan corruption we all complain about. Everyone who buys a positing in this scheme (good rumors are that the latest minister of defense paid $2 million US for his appointment) are then in competition with each other, not just to enrich themselves and their friends and families, but also their patrons, in hopes of earning even better positions where they can make more money.

    This means all of those who had such positions prior to the constitution were immediately kicked to the curb. Entire tribal structures were disempowered, while those they had lorded over stepped up to take their jobs, their farms, their power. This is not the type of turmoil that occurs in DC where one party leaves their appointments to go to think tanks, and vise versa. This is like if every member of a particular party that just lost acorss the country had to surrender they homes, their businesses and their pride.

    Just a piece of paper? Hardly. And now, as a price of "reintegration" that we offer to the Taliban is that "all" they have to do to come back in from the cold is to swear allegiance to this "piece of paper." Essentially agree to a life of second class citizenry in a country where there is no second class.

    I think the Billy Bean quote in money ball applies in his answer to "what the problem is"

    "The problem we're trying to solve is that there are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there's fifty feet of crap, and then there's us."

    This is the same conversation that formerly powerful people who are the core of the insurgency in Afghanistan have around their campfires...

    Oh, and I am curious. When is it that an insurgency becomes a civil war? People like to say that the insurgency in Syria is a civil war; like it is a degree of violence that is the critical distinction. That a civil war is by its nature worse than an insurgency. I think either one can be "worse" than the other, depending on how it unfolds. Certainly historians are very casual about what gets called a civil war vs what gets called an insurgency

    For me, it is like cellular biology. if there is once cell, and the conflict is internal to that cell, it is insurgency. When the cell divides, each with all the working parts of a full cell, and those two cells then go into competition with each other to see which will grow to fill the entire space, then it is civil war. Degree of violence is, IMO, moot.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 12-09-2012 at 11:29 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)

  15. #235
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    Default Another reason for pleading the "general issue"

    is that I don't well tolerate people who attempt to twist my words[*] - as in this assertion:

    So a constitution is a "mere piece of paper"? A Certificate for a million shares of Goggle is "mere paper" as well. President Obama's birth certificate is "mere paper."
    Exactly what I said (specific to one and only one document) was:

    The Astan Bonn Constitution is not the problem. It's a mere piece of paper which has no materiality to Astan governance.
    Karzai does what Karzai does because he has power to do so enabled by the realities of the situation in Astan - he and his cronies can get away with and profit from corruption to the nth degree. I measure Karzai by his acts which are organic to him; and not by the process initiated in Bonn, Germany (the document itself was later enacted in Astan).

    As to the Astan constitutions (plural), I've managed to look at them. In fact, I did a thread on them (+ Astan's diplomatic history, the status of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, etc.), Defending Hamdan (a couple of dozen posts are material to this thread). As to "insurgency", Advanced Search (limited to JMM99) gives 166 hits; as to "civil + war", Advanced Search (limited to JMM99) gives 165 hits.

    I'm not going to regurgitate that stuff. One can read it or not as one wishes, making up one's mind or non-mind in the process.

    I'm not going to engage in a debate with you. Dayuhan can have that pleasure. You are, without a doubt, very articulate.

    Regards

    Mike

    [*] In fact, I grew to despise and hate lawyers who were inveterate word twisters par excellance. Trials and appeals, where a third party renders the decision, were thus a great satisfaction because they usually gave me payback. But, retiring and getting away from the buzzards was the best of all.
    Last edited by jmm99; 12-10-2012 at 02:47 AM.

  16. #236
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Mike,

    My point is that "Karzai acts as Karzai acts" within the legal context as framed by the Constitution we helped him and his Northern Alliance design and put in to effect. He does not act IAW the historic context of the culture and historic governance of the region. We saw central governance, increased democracy and modernity. The Northern Alliance saw a solidification of their patronage power, centralized control that disempowered the populace as well as any rising regional power brokers. We both saw exclusion of the return to legal power of those associated with the recently dispossessed Taliban.

    There was little insurgency prior to this document going into effect, but it has grown ever since. Certain aspects are temporarily suppressed by the weight of our surge in a few places, but I doubt very much any changes made in that manner will stick. The problem will return to its natural state once the weight of our presence is removed.

    My prediction is that the resistance aspect of the insurgency will actually die down as we continue to draw down; but that the revolutionary aspect will build up steam. GIRoA will either cut a deal, or they will face a push that will be bloody and likely cannot win.

    Once the Taliban rise to power they will see the value of this constitution to legitimize their own dominion over the country, just as the Northern Alliance has. We will find ourselves in a tough spot, because suddenly the document we have lauded and protected for so long as it helped us serve our interests will become very problematic indeed as we see it works equally well to counter our interests. We outsmarted ourselves on this one.

    So my point is simple. Perceptions of the sovereignty of governance for any of our partners is vitally important. We need to do a better job of promoting and respecting those perceptions. The nurturing of some aspect of democracy that allows a populace to have reasonable means to legally address their concerns with their government in the context of their own culture and history is vitally important as well. We need to nurture that most of all.

    In Afghanistan our fixation on our tactical programs, our fears, and our perception of "what right looks like" lead us to positions that run very counter to both of those critical perceptions.

    I am not the one "twisting words," our government is. I am merely pointing out the twist and attempting to explain why untwisting those words is so important. When we twist words such as "sovereignty" and "democracy" as the United States of America to serve our perceived interests, who have we become as a nation??
    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)

  17. #237
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Releasing the Taliban: Kabul opens the doors

    After having little success playing it safe, the Afghan government is gambling on a risky new strategy to convince the Taliban that the road to peace runs through Kabul.

    In recent months, scores of Taliban officials and rank-and-file have been freed from prisons in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Now, Afghanistan is upping the ante with the expected release of thousands more within its borders while pushing Islamabad to free some of the Islamist militant group's most dangerous characters.

    The prisoner releases are seen as a signal of good faith from the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is wary of peace efforts not led by Kabul but whose overtures for direct talks with the Taliban have been refused.
    Link:http://www.rferl.org/content/afghani.../24822610.html

    One US analyst, with time on the ground in Helmand, ends with:
    The incentives do exist for them to talk about talking in a way to get concessions and cause friction between the Afghan government and the International Security Assistance Force and within the Afghan government...we cannot create these incentives for them to make a deal while we are leaving.
    In the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) that led to a form of peace in Northern Ireland, the status of convicted prisoners was a critical issue and it became clear later an easing of parole leading to early release helped to gain the prisoners support for the GFA.

    I fully accept Afghanistan is very different from Northern Ireland, but is such a mass release seemingly without condition wise?
    davidbfpo

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