Friday, January 15, 2010

Two quick things on Afghanistan

Two quick things to report on Afghanistan. First, over at the Cable, Josh Rogin is reporting that Swedish diplomat Staffan di Mistura has been offered the post of Special Representative of the Secretary General for UNAMA.

Richard Holbrooke was interviewed by the Cable and said he had discussed the assignment with the Ambassador. The article adds the following:
From 2007 to 2009, di Mistura was the U.N.'s special representative in Iraq. He left Iraq last July to become deputy executive director of the World Food Programme.

Holbrooke said that during his time in Iraq, di Mistura earned the respect of leading U.S. national security officials including National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Central Command head Gen. David Petraeus. Di Mistura also has experience working with Karl Eikenberry, the current U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Holbrooke remembered.

Di Mistura has served in Afghanistan before, as the director of fundraising and external relations for the U.N.'s office in Afghanistan from 1988 to 1991. He has also worked for the organization in Sudan, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Sarajevo, and several other places, in addition to Iraq.
Next, Anthony Cordesman has a new report out: The Afghan War at the End of 2009. I haven't read it yet but this is what the website explains: "The report focuses only on the fighting, and not on the full range of issues that must be addressed to win the war." It discusses six additional areas that are essential for success including ISAF's structure, the structure of the international aid effort, effectively integrating civil and military efforts, building civilian Afghan capacity to govern (rule of law, essential services etc), building an effective ANSF, and linking all these efforts to work in Pakistan.


  1. Wait, I'm confused: they say it's "focuse[d] only on the fighting," but then it discusses ISAF structure, international aid, and a whole bunch of things that are decidedly NOT "the fighting." So how is that focused on the fighting?

  2. Yesterday I watched an old podcast from Fareed Zakaria's show when he interviewed Michael Hoh. I place no significance on Hoh's resignation (imo, it's about as important as Watada), but his interview was nonetheless interesting. He described a valley with 10,000 inhabitants who speak their own language and earn their living by cutting timber. Their only apparent contact with the outside world is when some intermediary comes to the valley to buy the timber. But then, along come ISAF troops and they occupy the largest saw mill in the valley to use as a PB. If the story is accurate, and as simple as he describes, and if there are lots of other instances like that, then it makes me wonder whether ISAF is an organization capable of learning.

  3. "If the story is accurate, and as simple as he describes ..."
    Not if you are talking about the Korangal valley (spelling varies a lot ...).
    Intensive logging (illegal in the eyes of the central gov) led to floods killing lots of people downstream. And it's one of the main routes for Taliban trying to get to the Kabul area to make trouble ...

    Vanity Fair + NYTimes had some really good reports. Best place to start (with links):

    BTW, that's only the US (+ANA) in there; no need to drag ISAF in ... ;-)

  4. Positroll: that's an interesting point. A real balancing act, then, between the parties involved. Also, that anecdote makes the point, painfully, that "hey, just what exactly is a legitimate central governmental authority in the eyes of people in the Korengal?" Tough. Just plain tough. I think flit (BruceR) had a post up about the Cordesman paper? Interesting.

    (Also, you all should have read a really cute comment by Anan/Anand at Registan - where did that guy go, he used to comment here all the time - about using Bollywood movies to learn Urdu-by-proxy, and become familiar with a popular form of entertainment throughout South Asia. Aww, you had to read it: it was very sweet and typically Anan/Anand. I actually kept up with my Hindi skills that way as a kid...Rambling as usual. Back to work!)

  5. Never mind, that flit post was on something else. Carry on.