Permissible Arms

Not so conventional

Posted in afghanistan, japan, united states by Karaka on 4 November 2009

Nightwatch fronts Japan’s new aid package:

A draft of a foreign aid package indicates that Japan might give Afghanistan about $4 billion in civilian aid over five years beginning in 2010, Kyodo reported 3 November. The aid package, which would be implemented through the Japan International Cooperation Agency and international organizations such as the U.N. Development Program, would include assistance in vocational training for former Taliban fighters, development of Afghanistan’s farmland and a project to construct a new city north of Kabul. Japan would also help build schools, train teachers and pay for police officers.

Japanese Cabinet members are expected to decide on the outline of the aid package soon, perhaps by 5 November, according to Yomiuri Shimbun. The Democratic Party coalition government is willing to provide non-lethal assistance to Afghanistan, but will not extend the naval refueling mission in the Indian Ocean when it expires on 15 January 2010.

During this Watch, Kyodo reported Defense Minister Kitazawa said the government is considering sending Self Defense Force liaison officers to Kabul to work with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The new government is comfortable with this arrangement because (ISAF) was approved by a UN resolution. The Self Defense Force officers also will have an opportunity to work with NATO which leads the ISAF.

It’s a shift within the nation consonant with the party-politic shift earlier this year, and acts as a soft-power way to assert separation from the previous administration’s policies while still providing support and ally with NATO in Afghanistan. Actually, despite not being a military or military support action, this could prove to be generally more beneficial to Afghanistan (if not necessarily NATO & the ANA) given the gaping need for international civilian assistance in development projects. Interesting, will keep watching.

I’ll admit I was surprised that Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the runoff election set for this month. It seemed somewhat abrupt after the eight-week long deliberation that lead to the announcement of the runoff. There’s a lot of commentary flying about Abdullah being Tajik, Karzai being Pushtun, calls of corruption and questions about international credibility (not to mention a couple pointed asides at the Obama administration for taking too much time to deliberate).

TNR has probably my pick for best analysis of what the f*ck just happened, saying:

Abdullah’s candidacy was always a long shot. The prospect of an Abdullah presidency may have seemed attractive to some Western observers, impressed by his soft Italian leather jackets, sharp suits, fluent English, and polished manners. But to many Afghans, he is anathema, still the face and the voice of the Northern Alliance. Even during the recent election campaign, Abdullah traded heavily on his mujaheddin past: Election posters showed a young Abdullah side-by-side with Massoud in the Panjshir Valley, brave soldiers repelling the Soviet invader. An Abdullah victory would very likely have provoked a major backlash in the Pashtun south, where Massoud and his cohorts are almost universally reviled.

Karzai was the overwhelming favorite from the beginning. Given the ethnic and political realities of Afghanistan, Karzai the Pashtun was destined to triumph over Abdullah the Panjsheri Tajik, regardless of the latter’s claim to a Pashtun father with roots in Kandahar. But by depriving Karzai of a chance to redeem himself with a strong showing in a second round, Abdullah has ensured that the stigma of the August elections will shadow Karzai for the length of his presidency.

Steve Coll also offers insight:

Many lesser politicians would have handled themselves less responsibly than Abdullah in such circumstances. He has ample reason to resent Karzai; he was forced from Karzai’s cabinet a few years back in less than happy circumstances, only to have Karzai or his team try to steal the presidential election—unnecessarily, and thuggishly. No doubt this personal history had some influence on Abdullah’s decision to foil the satisfaction of an outright Karzai election victory by employing complaints about fraud to withdraw from participation. But a better explanation lies in an analysis of Abdullah’s interests and current negotiating position. He has long sought constitutional reforms to strengthen parliament over the presidency. He is almost certainly interested in rejoining the government, with some of his allies, if the deal is attractive enough. He retains ambitions and wishes to remain a viable national figure in a post-Karzai Afghanistan. He will be in a stronger position to negotiate toward all of these goals by adopting the posture he announced yesterday than he would have been if he had participated in the runoff and been defeated.

As the sense of a decision made starts to settle in Afghanistan, it seems imperative that Obama must announce the conclusions of his month-long tactical review. If he offers a deviation from the strategy he laid out in March, that too changes the game, at least on the ISAF side. Whether he announces his conclusions before his trip to Japan is still up in the air, but it is not some taunt of “dithering” that concerns me. It is that the result of his review will have an immediate effect, on our goals, on our morale, and on quelling this level of uncertainty inherent in our presence in Afghanistan right now.

Also, I am very impatient, and I want to know already.

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