Mexico’s new president takes aim at violence during first day in office

Mexico’s new president takes aim at violence during first day in office

By David Alire Garcia, Miguel Gutierrez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – On his first full day in office, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defended a plan to end lawlessness with a new national guard, an initiative that risks upsetting some supporters who favor a less militarized approach.

In a Sunday morning speech, Mexico’s first leftist president in decades continued to pivot from an emphasis during the campaign on peaceful reconciliation and even amnesty for some involved in the country’s grueling drug war to a more traditional approach defined by more soldiers and police.

“We must adjust to a new era,” he said, flanked by generals at a military base in the capital, while emphasizing that his security policy will also respect human rights.

In the first phase of his plan, a 60,000-strong national guard force made up of army, navy and other federal police will battle crime while a constitutional reform will be pursued to cement the new strategy.

Lopez Obrador has said the strategy will be put to a public vote, likely in March.

A second phase will add additional military forces to the effort.

“The people of Mexico need their armed forces to address this grave problem of insecurity and violence right now,” said Lopez Obrador, often turning toward the uniformed officers assembled behind him to address them directly.

“We’ve opted for this plan because we trust the armed forces,” he said.

Over the past dozen years, Mexican security forces have toppled some high-profile drug kingpins but more than 200,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands more disappeared since a military-focused approach was initiated in 2006.

The last couple years have seen record numbers of murders, including in some of the country’s most fabled tourist destinations like Acapulco and Los Cabos.

Lopez Obrador’s new security focus has already stirred unease among some human rights activists, who argue the plan ignores past abuses stemming from the “militarization” of public safety.

“We call on the new government to back a civil security model that can create conditions for a gradual withdrawal of the armed forces in public security work,” a coalition of leading human rights groups said in a statement late last month.

In addition to the national guard plan, Lopez Obrador has offered a six-year security blueprint that criticizes drug prohibition as both ineffective and arbitrary. The new president’s allies in Congress have already proposed legislation to decriminalize and regulate the use of marijuana.

During the campaign, his security aides outlined plans to reduce jail time for some crimes, as well as stiffer controls on weapons. The strategy leaned heavily on “transitional justice,” which often involves leniency for those who admit guilt, truth commissions to investigate atrocities and the granting of reparations for victims.

The landslide election winner has not yet detailed how those policies will the implemented.

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CHINA AND PAKISTAN UNVEIL THEIR PLAN FOR AFGHANISTAN

 

CHINA AND PAKISTAN UNVEIL THEIR PLAN FOR AFGHANISTAN

By Lawrence Sellin, Colonel, U.S. Army (Reserve)

The China Daily, a Chinese government media outlet, published an article, “Pakistan key to Afghan peace process,” by an author from Pakistan, an ally of China, which not only drips with irony but unabashedly explains the Chinese-Pakistani plan for the future of Afghanistan.

It originates from the “non-governmental” Beijing think tank, the Center for China and Globalization, founded and run by former high officials of the Chinese government, one of which was chief negotiator for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

The article begins by blaming the United States for waging “an unnecessary and avoidable war” for 17 years, despite the fact that it was actually Pakistan who provided safe haven and supported a Taliban proxy army that “caused the deaths of countless innocent people.”

Contrary to the author’s contention, it was not the War in Afghanistan that “has endangered and destabilized the whole region” but Pakistan’s domestic policy of promoting Islamic extremism to subdue ethnic self-determination and its use of terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy that led to and nurtured that war.

The author then conveniently identifies the countries collaborating with Pakistan to hasten a U.S. exit from South Asia; China, Russia, Iran and Turkey.

U.S. withdrawal is necessary for “the true potential of the Belt and Road Initiative, especially China-Pakistan Economic Corridor”, to be realized because “Eurasia, Russia and Central Asia can only utilize Gwadar [Pakistan’s port] as a newly emerged trade route through Afghanistan, where CPEC may later extend in the future.”

That can happen when “the [United States] completely withdraws from the country, as in Vietnam … and Pakistan can facilitate this by providing a safe passage for a U.S .withdrawal.” The subtle message being that Pakistan will continue to attack Afghanistan with its Taliban proxies until the United States does so.

Here is the punchline: “China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization objectives can only be realized only when there is a stable Afghanistan,” that is, a Chinese-Pakistani controlled Afghanistan.

And here is how the Chinese-Pakistani plan will unfold.

China’s ally Pakistan will increase the attacks on Afghanistan by its proxy the Taliban to further undermine the Kabul government and raise the pressure on the United States to reach an agreement for withdrawal.

Together with Pakistan, Iran, Russia and Turkey, China will become a mediator to end the Afghan War.

A coalition government for Afghanistan will be proposed consisting of the Taliban and nominally neutral, but, in practice, pro-Pakistani/pro-Chinese Afghan politicians with a concomitant scheduled drawdown of the United States and NATO forces.

Afghanistan will be offered participation in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and will become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a basis for Afghan reconstruction and development.

Pakistan will withdraw its support of the Taliban and joint Chinese-Pakistani counterterrorism forces will eliminate the remaining Taliban from Afghanistan, for which joint exercises are already underway while solidifying a pro-Pakistani/pro-Chinese government in Kabul.

Following China’s economic subjugation of South Asia, the Chinese will establish military bases in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea to control the vital sea lanes of the northern Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, link the Chinese naval base in Djibouti with its bases in the South China Sea and isolate India.

Focused narrowly on enticing the Taliban to the negotiating table, the U.S. government appears to have no strategy to counter the China-Pakistan plan to dominate South Asia.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa.

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STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL STATES STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN — ‘MUDDLE ALONG’

 

STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL’S STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN? ‘MUDDLE ALONG’

By: Lawrence Sellin, Colonel, U.S. Army (ret.), U.S. Army Reserve

12/07/2018

There is a mind-numbing consensus among U.S. military leaders, past and present, that goes a long way to explain the 17-year stalemate in Afghanistan. They are clueless and stuck on automatic pilot.

Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who gives highly paid lectures on “Lessons of Leadership,“ recommended to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that we continue to “muddle along” in Afghanistan.

When asked what should be done, McChrystal responded:

I don’t know. I wish I did … If we pull out and people like al-Qaeda go back, it’s unacceptable for any political administration in the [United States]. It would just be disastrous, and it would be a pain for us. If we put more troops in there and we fight forever, that’s not a good outcome either. I’m not sure what [is] the right answer. My best suggestion is to keep a limited number of forces there and just kind of muddle along and see what we can do.

Echoing those muddle-along sentiments at a Washington Post Live event, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford stated his basic assumption:

Were we not to put the pressure on Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other groups in the region we are putting on today, it is our assessment that, in a period of time their capability would reconstitute, and they have today the intent, and in the future, they would have the capability to do what we saw on 9/11.

Dunford added, “If someone has a better idea than we have right now, which is to continue to support the Afghans and continue to put pressure on those terrorist groups in the region, I am certainly open to a dialogue on that.”

Dunford’s basic assumption — that is, his strategic ends — are correct, but his ways and means are not.

Dunford’s goal for Afghanistan depends upon the ability of the Afghan security forces to take the lead against the Taliban or any other terrorist entity that plans to use Afghanistan as a training or operational base.

For 17 years, the Afghan security forces have never had that ability and are unlikely to have it anytime in the foreseeable future. Even the incoming CENTCOM commander, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, stated that the death toll among the Afghan security forces resulting from the upsurge in Taliban attacks is presently not sustainable.

Putting additional pressure on the Taliban, whether it be political, social or military as Gen. Dunford suggests, is not the answer.

As long as Pakistan politically supports and militarily sustains the Taliban, providing a safe haven for the Taliban’s command and control, recruitment, training and medical treatment infrastructure, no adjustment in the U.S. training and advise mission will be sufficient to produce anything more than the current stalemate.

The political, social and military pressure Gen. Dunford recommends would have a greater strategic impact if it was directed at Pakistan.

Rather than a “muddle-along” tinkering with a failed policy in Afghanistan, the United States should take steps to change the strategic dynamics in the region, not only to affect the peace process in Afghanistan but to provide a better foundation for a future U.S. South Asia strategy, especially in regard to Chinese expansionism.

The strategic centers of gravity are Balochistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Within those lie Pakistan’s pain points and the regional leverage U.S. policy desperately needs.

Gen. George S. Patton once said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. 

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TRUMP’S CLUELESS WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

TRUMP’S CLUELESS WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

By: Lawrence Sellin, Retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve
11/30/2018

Yes, it is President Trump’s war now, and he doesn’t know what to do about it. The bad news is: neither do those advising him.

So, the Trump administration has chosen to prolong the stalemate by continuing an expensive, exhaustive and entirely inappropriate counterinsurgency strategy in the desperate hope that the Taliban will be encouraged to join a peace process and agree to terms that will permit the United States to withdraw without the appearance of a humiliating American defeat.

Good luck with that.

The Trump Afghanistan policy remains the same as the two previous administrations: “Our primary mission remains to protect the homeland by preventing Afghanistan from being used again as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States or our allies.”

The success of that mission has always been predicated on a single proposition, to buy enough time so that Afghan security forces can successfully take the lead against the Taliban or any other terrorist entity who planned to use Afghanistan as a training or operational base.

In 2010, after serving at ISAF Joint Command (IJC) in Afghanistan, I wrote about our advise and train program in Afghanistan:

Last autumn [2009] the U.S. government announced that after eight years and $27 billion, the results of the Afghan Army and Police training program were so bad that it was declared a failure. If the effectiveness of the training was ever questioned internally, it had no obvious effect.

It was a program on automatic pilot, where everyone was being reassured that everything was going according to plan and ‘progress was being made.’ Despite the fact that symptoms of failure were already appearing in the press years earlier, no one in the chain of command spoke up and hence, no one should be surprised. The pressure to conform is enormous.

Like Afghanistan, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Vietnam depended upon a similar proposition: “American ground forces in Vietnam would be reduced through the policy of Vietnamization and the war turned over to an improved ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam] and government capable of defending its territory and its people.”

As we know, that never happened in Vietnam, and it still hasn’t happened in Afghanistan after 17 years.

To paraphrase Clausewitz, we have misunderstood the war we are fighting, turning it into something that is alien to its nature, a conclusion that can offer some clues to the Trump administration.

The war in Afghanistan is not an insurgency. It is a proxy war orchestrated by Pakistan and executed by the Taliban, an extremist group created and supported by Pakistan and composed primarily of Pakistani nationals.

The U.S. military policy of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan is untenable because Pakistan, through its proxies, regulates the operational tempo of the conflict and, because Afghanistan is landlocked, Pakistan also controls the supply of our troops. Pakistan has effectively used those levers to inhibit the United States from attacking Taliban safe havens and command and control infrastructure inside Pakistan.

Pakistan is an ally of China, not the United States. Pakistan’s aims in Afghanistan are completely different from those of the United States. To view Pakistan as a reliable partner in any resolution of the Afghanistan conflict on terms favorable to the United States is a fool’s errand.

Islamic extremism is endemic in South Asia, largely due to a toleration for or the promotion of that ideology by nation states. That is a regional reality and a U.S. “presence” in Afghanistan will not change it, but merely remain a target of it. Burden shifting is a more sensible approach.

U.S. leverage in achieving a satisfactory resolution to the Afghan war resides less with our presence or our military action in Afghanistan than in managing, to our advantage, the vested interests of nation states.

Financial carrots and sticks have had only a negligible effect on Pakistan’s support of the Taliban because the potential benefits to Pakistan supplied by the Taliban outweigh any measures previously employed by the United States to discourage that support. More effective measures are needed.

Ethnic separatism is Pakistan’s pain point, an existential rather than a financial threat. Greater U.S. leverage, both short and long-term, can be achieved by recognizing and supporting the ongoing efforts by groups such as the Baloch and Pashtuns movements for self-determination, located precisely in the staging areas in Pakistan from which the Taliban operate.

Ethnic separatism in Pakistan is also a threat to China’s investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. The disruption of CPEC would be a major geopolitical setback for Chinese economic and military expansionism.

Instead of our current policy, a recipe for stalemate, the Trump Administration should aim higher at the vested interests of those nation states who benefit from the service the Taliban proxies provide.

The United States cannot succeed operating under strategic conditions favorable to our adversaries. Instability can cut both ways. We should learn to manage it.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa.

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