Thursday, January 17, 2008

Afghan/Pakistan: Some Bad Signs

Blog friend Mike Williams sends along some worrisome news about Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Here's Mike ----

From StrategyPage:

Over the last few years, NGOs and the media have made a lot of noise about corruption and misbehavior by UN peacekeepers and administrators. As a result, the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (which investigates such matters) has found itself buried in a growing number of cases. Currently, there are 250 investigations going on.

Two thirds involve corruption, the rest are about peacekeepers and UN staff having sex with the people they are supposed to be helping.

The sex was always there, but over the years, some of the soldiers got more creative, and greedy. They either demanded it for free, or in exchange for access to relief supplies and services. Some soldiers went into business, and set up brothels. Some may have been influenced by UN staff, who were notoriously corrupt (at least in some countries). So far, the UN investigators have found stealing going on in about 12 percent of the money handled by peacekeeping officials. ( From what people familiar with UN corruption involving relief aid, the 12 percent figure very likely under-reports the corruption. -- JinC )

This corruption has been an open secret for decades, but has gotten worse of late. Perhaps it was the extent of the payoffs and stealing in the Iraqi "Oil for Food" program that got the heat turned on. The corruption in the Iraqi program was also an open secret. But after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, many records, and Iraqis willing to testify, became available. It was hard to ignore the rumors after that, and suddenly UN corruption in peacekeeping operations became newsworthy.

In the blogs at least.

But moving right along, more trouble for Musharraf:

The Pakistani army suffered a humiliating defeat yesterday when Taliban and al-Qaeda troops overran a fort on the Afghan frontier….

The action took place in an area dominated by one of the suspects in Benazir Bhutto's assassination, Baitullah Mehsud. Meshud also led the attack on the Red Mosque last year and is considered one of the major extremists in Pakistan. A defeat at the hands of this guy is not good for Musharraf. He may now seek an accommodation with Meshud.

That has been his pattern in the past when the Pakistani army has suffered a setback.Such an accommodation will only embolden Meshud to continue his pre-election campaign of bombings and attacks in hopes of destabilizing the regime.

In this, he has been less successful as it appears to have turned the Pakistani people against extremists of all stripes, making them more likely to elect a government that promises to deal harshly with the terrorists.

A month away from elections and President Musharraf may be inclined to pull back in his confrontation with the Taliban to avoid any more embarrassments. At this point, he has few options.

And now, today:
The Taliban have captured a second paramilitary fort in the tribal agency of South Waziristan, but this time the fort was taken without a fight. Pakistani paramilitary troops from the Frontier Corps deserted the Saklatoi outpost on the Afghan border after the Taliban threatened to attack. About 40 paramilitary soldiers fled the post without a fight….
Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Gates reportedly isn’t too happy with the performance of our NATO allies in Afghanistan:
Since his assumption of the Pentagon’s throne a year ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has received unstinting praise as the “anti-Rumsfeld”: mild with his use of language; cooperative with America’s allies, especially the Europeans; and a technocrat, without an ideological agenda.

Thus, Mr. Gates’s many fans must have fallen off their chairs when they read this morning about their man publicly ripping into some NATO allies for demonstrating incompetence, topping even Mr. Rumsfeld for undiplomatic language….

It now seems obvious that the situation in Afghanistan is angering the mild-mannered Mr. Gates. When Europe’s alleged fecklessness caused Donald Rumsfeld to boil over, critics of the former defense secretary were quick to find blame not with the “Old Europe” governments, but with Mr. Rumsfeld’s irascible and undiplomatic personality. These critics were sure that the arrival of the more reasonable Mr. Gates would smooth over all the problems caused by his predecessor.

Now that it is Mr. Gates doing the boiling, perhaps the critics may now have to admit that there really is a problem with NATO….

This is JinC back now - - -

Why are so many of the "pundits," "policy experts," and various Democrats who are quick to find fault with America reluctant to criticize "our European allies?"

And why do they get so upset when others do?