Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

A classic case of, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer…”

Appointments Unsettle State of Venezuelan Politics

Ever since President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela fell ill with cancer last year, intense speculation has focused on his inner circle and who might be groomed as a possible successor. Now, with a lengthy re-election campaign ahead of him, Mr. Chávez has once again upended expectations, scattering some of his closest confidants and promoting some old associates in a way that seems certain to provoke alarm at home and abroad.

On Thursday, a top official in Mr. Chávez’s political party, Diosdado Cabello, was sworn in as president of the National Assembly. Mr. Cabello, a former vice president with close ties to the military and an on-again off-again relationship with Mr. Chávez’s inner circle, wasted no time in announcing to opposition legislators that he had no intention of negotiating with them over issues.

Then came a bombshell with international implications: On Friday, Mr. Chávez announced that his new defense minister would be Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, a longtime military ally who has been accused by the United States of links to drug traffickers and by opposition politicians in Venezuela of being hostile to the democratic process. A former head of the Venezuelan intelligence service, General Rangel was accused by the United States Treasury Department in 2008 of working closely with the main leftist Colombian rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to help them transport drugs through Venezuela. Since then, further evidence has emerged fleshing out allegations that General Rangel aided the FARC’s efforts to move both drugs and weapons.

“Naming him while he’s on the list that the United States has of likely corrupt officials involved in the drug trade in Venezuela is clearly a thumb in the eye of the United States,” said Bruce M. Bagley, chairman of the international studies department at the University of Miami.

The announcement was sure to play well to Mr. Chávez’s base, which cheers his frequent taunting of the United States as an imperialist power seeking to trample on Venezuelan sovereignty. (Mr. Chávez will burnish his anti-American credentials further on Sunday when he hosts a visit by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)

The appointment may have been equally calculated to infuriate the opposition. In 2010, General Rangel gave an interview in which he said that the military was deeply loyal to Mr. Chávez and “married” to his political project. Some of his remarks were interpreted as suggesting that the military would not accept the formation of an opposition government if Mr. Chávez lost the 2012 presidential election, although the government later said his words were misinterpreted.

On Friday, Diego Arria, an opposition politician, issued Twitter posts criticizing the appointment of General Rangel, citing the drug trafficking allegations and his remarks about the coming election.

The appointment “is an act of profound embarrassment for the Armed Forces and a threat to all of us,” wrote Mr. Arria, who is seeking the opposition presidential nomination but is not considered a front runner.

Carlos Blanco, an adviser to another opposition candidate, María Corina Machado, said that General Rangel’s appointment carried a political message.

“Rangel Silva is connected to that image, the military officer that won’t allow another leader being in office,” Mr. Blanco said. “That’s the symbol that he represents, and I think that’s what Chávez is bringing into his cabinet.” He said that Mr. Chávez’s intentions would become clearer when he appointed a new vice president, an announcement that is expected soon.

The moves come as Mr. Chávez prepares for an extended political campaign against an opposition that appears more unified than it has been in years. A group of opposition politicians will hold a primary election next month to choose a single candidate to face Mr. Chávez. The presidential election is scheduled to take place in October.

Mr. Chávez’s doctors diagnosed cancer last June, and he spent the remainder of the year shuttling back and forth to Cuba, where he received treatment. But he has refused to give details of his illness and insists that he is fully recovered.

That has not cooled speculation about who might be waiting in the wings. Some speculation has focused on his brother, Adán, the governor of Barinas state and a close confidant. Others have looked to politicians high up in Mr. Chávez’s government.

The equation changed last month, when Mr. Chávez announced that he would be moving several key figures of his inner circle out of important government positions. They included Nicolás Maduro, the foreign minister; Elías Jaua, the vice president; Tareck El Aissami, the interior minister; and Gen. Carlos Mata Figueroa, the defense minister. All four, he said, would run for governorships in states currently held by the opposition.

Mr. Maduro, and to a lesser extent Mr. Jaua, were often spoken of as possible successors to Mr. Chávez. But commentators say that Mr. Chávez has never felt comfortable keeping potential rivals close by.

To many, the ascent of Mr. Cabello and General Rangel represents a strengthening of the military’s hand.

Both men took part in the failed 1992 coup attempt that first brought Mr. Chávez, then a military officer, to the attention of most Venezuelans.

Rocío San Miguel, a legal scholar who heads an organization that monitors Venezuelan security issues, said that Mr. Chávez might be seeking to solidify the loyalty of military officers in case the result of the October elections is in dispute.

“They are really who he has the most confidence in,” she said. If the October election is close or if the opposition disputes the results, she said, the military wing of Mr. Chávez’s party would be “absolutely indispensable.”

María Eugenia Díaz contributed reporting from Caracas.

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America’s Pacific Century
The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.

As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans — the Pacific and the Indian — that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. It boasts almost half the world’s population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia.

At a time when the region is building a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity, U.S. commitment there is essential. It will help build that architecture and pay dividends for continued American leadership well into this century, just as our post-World War II commitment to building a comprehensive and lasting transatlantic network of institutions and relationships has paid off many times over — and continues to do so. The time has come for the United States to make similar investments as a Pacific power, a strategic course set by President Barack Obama from the outset of his administration and one that is already yielding benefits.

With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward — we cannot afford not to. From opening new markets for American businesses to curbing nuclear proliferation to keeping the sea lanes free for commerce and navigation, our work abroad holds the key to our prosperity and security at home. For more than six decades, the United States has resisted the gravitational pull of these “come home” debates and the implicit zero-sum logic of these arguments. We must do so again.

Beyond our borders, people are also wondering about America’s intentions — our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make — and keep — credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action. The answer is: We can, and we will.

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region’s key players.

Just as Asia is critical to America’s future, an engaged America is vital to Asia’s future. The region is eager for our leadership and our business — perhaps more so than at any time in modern history. We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good. Along with our allies, we have underwritten regional security for decades — patrolling Asia’s sea lanes and preserving stability — and that in turn has helped create the conditions for growth. We have helped integrate billions of people across the region into the global economy by spurring economic productivity, social empowerment, and greater people-to-people links. We are a major trade and investment partner, a source of innovation that benefits workers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific, a host to 350,000 Asian students every year, a champion of open markets, and an advocate for universal human rights.

President Obama has led a multifaceted and persistent effort to embrace fully our irreplaceable role in the Pacific, spanning the entire U.S. government. It has often been a quiet effort. A lot of our work has not been on the front pages, both because of its nature — long-term investment is less exciting than immediate crises — and because of competing headlines in other parts of the world.

As secretary of state, I broke with tradition and embarked on my first official overseas trip to Asia. In my seven trips since, I have had the privilege to see firsthand the rapid transformations taking place in the region, underscoring how much the future of the United States is intimately intertwined with the future of the Asia-Pacific. A strategic turn to the region fits logically into our overall global effort to secure and sustain America’s global leadership. The success of this turn requires maintaining and advancing a bipartisan consensus on the importance of the Asia-Pacific to our national interests; we seek to build upon a strong tradition of engagement by presidents and secretaries of state of both parties across many decades. It also requires smart execution of a coherent regional strategy that accounts for the global implications of our choices.

WHAT DOES THAT regional strategy look like? For starters, it calls for a sustained commitment to what I have called “forward-deployed” diplomacy. That means continuing to dispatch the full range of our diplomatic assets — including our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our interagency teams, and our permanent assets — to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region. Our strategy will have to keep accounting for and adapting to the rapid and dramatic shifts playing out across Asia. With this in mind, our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.

By virtue of our unique geography, the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. We are proud of our European partnerships and all that they deliver. Our challenge now is to build a web of partnerships and institutions across the Pacific that is as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic. That is the touchstone of our efforts in all these areas.

Our treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand are the fulcrum for our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific. They have underwritten regional peace and security for more than half a century, shaping the environment for the region’s remarkable economic ascent. They leverage our regional presence and enhance our regional leadership at a time of evolving security challenges.

As successful as these alliances have been, we can’t afford simply to sustain them — we need to update them for a changing world. In this effort, the Obama administration is guided by three core principles. First, we have to maintain political consensus on the core objectives of our alliances. Second, we have to ensure that our alliances are nimble and adaptive so that they can successfully address new challenges and seize new opportunities. Third, we have to guarantee that the defense capabilities and communications infrastructure of our alliances are operationally and materially capable of deterring provocation from the full spectrum of state and nonstate actors.

The alliance with Japan, the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region, demonstrates how the Obama administration is giving these principles life. We share a common vision of a stable regional order with clear rules of the road — from freedom of navigation to open markets and fair competition. We have agreed to a new arrangement, including a contribution from the Japanese government of more than $5 billion, to ensure the continued enduring presence of American forces in Japan, while expanding joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities to deter and react quickly to regional security challenges, as well as information sharing to address cyberthreats. We have concluded an Open Skies agreement that will enhance access for businesses and people-to-people ties, launched a strategic dialogue on the Asia-Pacific, and been working hand in hand as the two largest donor countries in Afghanistan.

Similarly, our alliance with South Korea has become stronger and more operationally integrated, and we continue to develop our combined capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean provocations. We have agreed on a plan to ensure successful transition of operational control during wartime and anticipate successful passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. And our alliance has gone global, through our work together in the G-20 and the Nuclear Security Summit and through our common efforts in Haiti and Afghanistan.

We are also expanding our alliance with Australia from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one, and indeed a global partnership. From cybersecurity to Afghanistan to the Arab Awakening to strengthening regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific, Australia’s counsel and commitment have been indispensable. And in Southeast Asia, we are renewing and strengthening our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand, increasing, for example, the number of ship visits to the Philippines and working to ensure the successful training of Filipino counterterrorism forces through our Joint Special Operations Task Force in Mindanao. In Thailand — our oldest treaty partner in Asia — we are working to establish a hub of regional humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in the region.

AS WE UPDATE our alliances for new demands, we are also building new partnerships to help solve shared problems. Our outreach to China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island countries is all part of a broader effort to ensure a more comprehensive approach to American strategy and engagement in the region. We are asking these emerging partners to join us in shaping and participating in a rules-based regional and global order.

One of the most prominent of these emerging partners is, of course, China. Like so many other countries before it, China has prospered as part of the open and rules-based system that the United States helped to build and works to sustain. And today, China represents one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage. This calls for careful, steady, dynamic stewardship, an approach to China on our part that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests.

We all know that fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both those views. The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. But you cannot build a relationship on aspirations alone. It is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation — and, crucially, to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations. These are the things that will determine whether our relationship delivers on its potential in the years to come. We also have to be honest about our differences. We will address them firmly and decisively as we pursue the urgent work we have to do together. And we have to avoid unrealistic expectations.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, one of my top priorities has been to identify and expand areas of common interest, to work with China to build mutual trust, and to encourage China’s active efforts in global problem-solving. This is why Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and I launched the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the most intensive and expansive talks ever between our governments, bringing together dozens of agencies from both sides to discuss our most pressing bilateral issues, from security to energy to human rights.

We are also working to increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation or miscues between our militaries. The United States and the international community have watched China’s efforts to modernize and expand its military, and we have sought clarity as to its intentions. Both sides would benefit from sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency. So we look to Beijing to overcome its reluctance at times and join us in forging a durable military-to-military dialogue. And we need to work together to strengthen the Strategic Security Dialogue, which brings together military and civilian leaders to discuss sensitive issues like maritime security and cybersecurity.

As we build trust together, we are committed to working with China to address critical regional and global security issues. This is why I have met so frequently — often in informal settings — with my Chinese counterparts, State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, for candid discussions about important challenges like North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and developments in the South China Sea.

On the economic front, the United States and China need to work together to ensure strong, sustained, and balanced future global growth. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the United States and China worked effectively through the G-20 to help pull the global economy back from the brink. We have to build on that cooperation. U.S. firms want fair opportunities to export to China’s growing markets, which can be important sources of jobs here in the United States, as well as assurances that the $50 billion of American capital invested in China will create a strong foundation for new market and investment opportunities that will support global competitiveness. At the same time, Chinese firms want to be able to buy more high-tech products from the United States, make more investments here, and be accorded the same terms of access that market economies enjoy. We can work together on these objectives, but China still needs to take important steps toward reform. In particular, we are working with China to end unfair discrimination against U.S. and other foreign companies or against their innovative technologies, remove preferences for domestic firms, and end measures that disadvantage or appropriate foreign intellectual property. And we look to China to take steps to allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly, both against the dollar and against the currencies of its other major trading partners. Such reforms, we believe, would not only benefit both our countries (indeed, they would support the goals of China’s own five-year plan, which calls for more domestic-led growth), but also contribute to global economic balance, predictability, and broader prosperity.

Of course, we have made very clear, publicly and privately, our serious concerns about human rights. And when we see reports of public-interest lawyers, writers, artists, and others who are detained or disappeared, the United States speaks up, both publicly and privately, with our concerns about human rights. We make the case to our Chinese colleagues that a deep respect for international law and a more open political system would provide China with a foundation for far greater stability and growth — and increase the confidence of China’s partners. Without them, China is placing unnecessary limitations on its own development.

At the end of the day, there is no handbook for the evolving U.S.-China relationship. But the stakes are much too high for us to fail. As we proceed, we will continue to embed our relationship with China in a broader regional framework of security alliances, economic networks, and social connections.

Among key emerging powers with which we will work closely are India and Indonesia, two of the most dynamic and significant democratic powers of Asia, and both countries with which the Obama administration has pursued broader, deeper, and more purposeful relationships. The stretch of sea from the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca to the Pacific contains the world’s most vibrant trade and energy routes. Together, India and Indonesia already account for almost a quarter of the world’s population. They are key drivers of the global economy, important partners for the United States, and increasingly central contributors to peace and security in the region. And their importance is likely to grow in the years ahead.

President Obama told the Indian parliament last year that the relationship between India and America will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century, rooted in common values and interests. There are still obstacles to overcome and questions to answer on both sides, but the United States is making a strategic bet on India’s future — that India’s greater role on the world stage will enhance peace and security, that opening India’s markets to the world will pave the way to greater regional and global prosperity, that Indian advances in science and technology will improve lives and advance human knowledge everywhere, and that India’s vibrant, pluralistic democracy will produce measurable results and improvements for its citizens and inspire others to follow a similar path of openness and tolerance. So the Obama administration has expanded our bilateral partnership; actively supported India’s Look East efforts, including through a new trilateral dialogue with India and Japan; and outlined a new vision for a more economically integrated and politically stable South and Central Asia, with India as a linchpin.

We are also forging a new partnership with Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and a member of the G-20. We have resumed joint training of Indonesian special forces units and signed a number of agreements on health, educational exchanges, science and technology, and defense. And this year, at the invitation of the Indonesian government, President Obama will inaugurate American participation in the East Asia Summit. But there is still some distance to travel — we have to work together to overcome bureaucratic impediments, lingering historical suspicions, and some gaps in understanding each other’s perspectives and interests.

EVEN AS WE strengthen these bilateral relationships, we have emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation, for we believe that addressing complex transnational challenges of the sort now faced by Asia requires a set of institutions capable of mustering collective action. And a more robust and coherent regional architecture in Asia would reinforce the system of rules and responsibilities, from protecting intellectual property to ensuring freedom of navigation, that form the basis of an effective international order. In multilateral settings, responsible behavior is rewarded with legitimacy and respect, and we can work together to hold accountable those who undermine peace, stability, and prosperity.

So the United States has moved to fully engage the region’s multilateral institutions, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, mindful that our work with regional institutions supplements and does not supplant our bilateral ties. There is a demand from the region that America play an active role in the agenda-setting of these institutions — and it is in our interests as well that they be effective and responsive.

That is why President Obama will participate in the East Asia Summit for the first time in November. To pave the way, the United States has opened a new U.S. Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN. Our focus on developing a more results-oriented agenda has been instrumental in efforts to address disputes in the South China Sea. In 2010, at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, the United States helped shape a regionwide effort to protect unfettered access to and passage through the South China Sea, and to uphold the key international rules for defining territorial claims in the South China Sea’s waters. Given that half the world’s merchant tonnage flows through this body of water, this was a consequential undertaking. And over the past year, we have made strides in protecting our vital interests in stability and freedom of navigation and have paved the way for sustained multilateral diplomacy among the many parties with claims in the South China Sea, seeking to ensure disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with established principles of international law.

We have also worked to strengthen APEC as a serious leaders-level institution focused on advancing economic integration and trade linkages across the Pacific. After last year’s bold call by the group for a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, President Obama will host the 2011 APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii this November. We are committed to cementing APEC as the Asia-Pacific’s premier regional economic institution, setting the economic agenda in a way that brings together advanced and emerging economies to promote open trade and investment, as well as to build capacity and enhance regulatory regimes. APEC and its work help expand U.S. exports and create and support high-quality jobs in the United States, while fostering growth throughout the region. APEC also provides a key vehicle to drive a broad agenda to unlock the economic growth potential that women represent. In this regard, the United States is committed to working with our partners on ambitious steps to accelerate the arrival of the Participation Age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.

In addition to our commitment to these broader multilateral institutions, we have worked hard to create and launch a number of “minilateral” meetings, small groupings of interested states to tackle specific challenges, such as the Lower Mekong Initiative we launched to support education, health, and environmental programs in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Pacific Islands Forum, where we are working to support its members as they confront challenges from climate change to overfishing to freedom of navigation. We are also starting to pursue new trilateral opportunities with countries as diverse as Mongolia, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, and South Korea. And we are setting our sights as well on enhancing coordination and engagement among the three giants of the Asia-Pacific: China, India, and the United States.

In all these different ways, we are seeking to shape and participate in a responsive, flexible, and effective regional architecture — and ensure it connects to a broader global architecture that not only protects international stability and commerce but also advances our values.

OUR EMPHASIS ON the economic work of APEC is in keeping with our broader commitment to elevate economic statecraft as a pillar of American foreign policy. Increasingly, economic progress depends on strong diplomatic ties, and diplomatic progress depends on strong economic ties. And naturally, a focus on promoting American prosperity means a greater focus on trade and economic openness in the Asia-Pacific. The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia. Last year, American exports to the Pacific Rim totaled $320 billion, supporting 850,000 American jobs. So there is much that favors us as we think through this repositioning.

When I talk to my Asian counterparts, one theme consistently stands out: They still want America to be an engaged and creative partner in the region’s flourishing trade and financial interactions. And as I talk with business leaders across our own nation, I hear how important it is for the United States to expand our exports and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.

Last March in APEC meetings in Washington, and again in Hong Kong in July, I laid out four attributes that I believe characterize healthy economic competition: open, free, transparent, and fair. Through our engagement in the Asia-Pacific, we are helping to give shape to these principles and showing the world their value.

We are pursuing new cutting-edge trade deals that raise the standards for fair competition even as they open new markets. For instance, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports within five years and support an estimated 70,000 American jobs. Its tariff reductions alone could increase exports of American goods by more than $10 billion and help South Korea’s economy grow by 6 percent. It will level the playing field for U.S. auto companies and workers. So, whether you are an American manufacturer of machinery or a South Korean chemicals exporter, this deal lowers the barriers that keep you from reaching new customers.

We are also making progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will bring together economies from across the Pacific — developed and developing alike — into a single trading community. Our goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth. We believe trade agreements need to include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. They should also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of our regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains. Ultimately, our progress will be measured by the quality of people’s lives — whether men and women can work in dignity, earn a decent wage, raise healthy families, educate their children, and take hold of the opportunities to improve their own and the next generation’s fortunes. Our hope is that a TPP agreement with high standards can serve as a benchmark for future agreements — and grow to serve as a platform for broader regional interaction and eventually a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.

Achieving balance in our trade relationships requires a two-way commitment. That’s the nature of balance — it can’t be unilaterally imposed. So we are working through APEC, the G-20, and our bilateral relationships to advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on exports, more transparency, and an overall commitment to fairness. American businesses and workers need to have confidence that they are operating on a level playing field, with predictable rules on everything from intellectual property to indigenous innovation.

ASIA’S REMARKABLE ECONOMIC growth over the past decade and its potential for continued growth in the future depend on the security and stability that has long been guaranteed by the U.S. military, including more than 50,000 American servicemen and servicewomen serving in Japan and South Korea. The challenges of today’s rapidly changing region — from territorial and maritime disputes to new threats to freedom of navigation to the heightened impact of natural disasters — require that the United States pursue a more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture.

We are modernizing our basing arrangements with traditional allies in Northeast Asia — and our commitment on this is rock solid — while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean. For example, the United States will be deploying littoral combat ships to Singapore, and we are examining other ways to increase opportunities for our two militaries to train and operate together. And the United States and Australia agreed this year to explore a greater American military presence in Australia to enhance opportunities for more joint training and exercises. We are also looking at how we can increase our operational access in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region and deepen our contacts with allies and partners.

How we translate the growing connection between the Indian and Pacific oceans into an operational concept is a question that we need to answer if we are to adapt to new challenges in the region. Against this backdrop, a more broadly distributed military presence across the region will provide vital advantages. The United States will be better positioned to support humanitarian missions; equally important, working with more allies and partners will provide a more robust bulwark against threats or efforts to undermine regional peace and stability.

But even more than our military might or the size of our economy, our most potent asset as a nation is the power of our values — in particular, our steadfast support for democracy and human rights. This speaks to our deepest national character and is at the heart of our foreign policy, including our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific region.

As we deepen our engagement with partners with whom we disagree on these issues, we will continue to urge them to embrace reforms that would improve governance, protect human rights, and advance political freedoms. We have made it clear, for example, to Vietnam that our ambition to develop a strategic partnership requires that it take steps to further protect human rights and advance political freedoms. Or consider Burma, where we are determined to seek accountability for human rights violations. We are closely following developments in Nay Pyi Taw and the increasing interactions between Aung San Suu Kyi and the government leadership. We have underscored to the government that it must release political prisoners, advance political freedoms and human rights, and break from the policies of the past. As for North Korea, the regime in Pyongyang has shown persistent disregard for the rights of its people, and we continue to speak out forcefully against the threats it poses to the region and beyond.

We cannot and do not aspire to impose our system on other countries, but we do believe that certain values are universal — that people in every nation in the world, including in Asia, cherish them — and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful, and prosperous countries. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Asia to pursue their own rights and aspirations, just as we have seen people do all over the world.

IN THE LAST decade, our foreign policy has transitioned from dealing with the post-Cold War peace dividend to demanding commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As those wars wind down, we will need to accelerate efforts to pivot to new global realities.

We know that these new realities require us to innovate, to compete, and to lead in new ways. Rather than pull back from the world, we need to press forward and renew our leadership. In a time of scarce resources, there’s no question that we need to invest them wisely where they will yield the biggest returns, which is why the Asia-Pacific represents such a real 21st-century opportunity for us.

Other regions remain vitally important, of course. Europe, home to most of our traditional allies, is still a partner of first resort, working alongside the United States on nearly every urgent global challenge, and we are investing in updating the structures of our alliance. The people of the Middle East and North Africa are charting a new path that is already having profound global consequences, and the United States is committed to active and sustained partnerships as the region transforms. Africa holds enormous untapped potential for economic and political development in the years ahead. And our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere are not just our biggest export partners; they are also playing a growing role in global political and economic affairs. Each of these regions demands American engagement and leadership.

And we are prepared to lead. Now, I’m well aware that there are those who question our staying power around the world. We’ve heard this talk before. At the end of the Vietnam War, there was a thriving industry of global commentators promoting the idea that America was in retreat, and it is a theme that repeats itself every few decades. But whenever the United States has experienced setbacks, we’ve overcome them through reinvention and innovation. Our capacity to come back stronger is unmatched in modern history. It flows from our model of free democracy and free enterprise, a model that remains the most powerful source of prosperity and progress known to humankind. I hear everywhere I go that the world still looks to the United States for leadership. Our military is by far the strongest, and our economy is by far the largest in the world. Our workers are the most productive. Our universities are renowned the world over. So there should be no doubt that America has the capacity to secure and sustain our global leadership in this century as we did in the last.

As we move forward to set the stage for engagement in the Asia-Pacific over the next 60 years, we are mindful of the bipartisan legacy that has shaped our engagement for the past 60. And we are focused on the steps we have to take at home — increasing our savings, reforming our financial systems, relying less on borrowing, overcoming partisan division — to secure and sustain our leadership abroad.

This kind of pivot is not easy, but we have paved the way for it over the past two-and-a-half years, and we are committed to seeing it through as among the most important diplomatic efforts of our time.

Chávez Illness Sparks Succession Talk


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attends an United Socialist Party of Venezuela event in La Guaira outside Caracas in January.
Venezuelan officials scrambled Thursday to reassure compatriots that President Hugo Chávez was not seriously ill after his brother said the president would remain in a Cuban hospital for up to 12 more days, making it likely that Mr. Chávez will be away from the country for nearly a month.
The absence has sparked furious speculation about the president’s health and led many in Venezuela to ask: What happens if the former army officer who has ruled Venezuela for 12 years is suddenly incapacitated or even dies?
“Nothing will ever be the same,” said Juan Carlos Zapata, a political analyst in Caracas. “This is the first signal that Chávez has an end and that there is nobody to take over. He might come back, but nothing will be the same.”


On Wednesday night, Mr. Chávez’s brother Adan said he had just returned from Havana where Mr. Chávez was “satisfactorily” recuperating from an emergency operation on June 10 to treat a pelvic abscess, a pus-filled cavity that can result from injury or infection.
Speculation coming from Cuba and Venezuela has focused on the possibility that Mr. Chávez has prostate cancer, and has had his prostate removed. A senior Venezuelan official didn’t respond to emailed questions about the speculation.
Mr. Chávez’s return to Caracas could take place in 10 or 12 days, his brother said on a television program. Venezuela’s Defense Minister Gen. Carlos Mata Figueroa said Thursday that Mr. Chávez was “stronger than ever,” and would be back “soon.”
Under Venezuela’s constitution, Vice President Elias Jaua would take the helm if Mr. Chávez is incapacitated. But whether he could remain in power long enough to preside over presidential elections scheduled for December 2012 is open to question, analysts say.

Staying Power

1992: Then-Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez leads a failed coup attempt.

1998-99: Promising to help the poor, Chávez wins a landslide victory in presidential elections. A referendum expands presidential term to two terms of six years.
2000: Chávez handily wins second presidential election under new constitution.
April 2002: Civil unrest leads to a brief coup attempt.
Dec. 2002-Feb. 2003: Chávez purges opponents during a strike at state-oil giant PDVSA.
2004: Helped by ramped up social spending, Chávez wins an opposition-initiated referendum.
2006: Aided by high oil prices, Chávez wins a second full term.
2007: Chávez’s attempt to abolish term limits in a referendum is defeated.
2009: Chávez holds another referendum on abolishing term limits and wins. He plans to stand for presidential elections in 2012.
A populist caudillo—or strongman—whose rule rests on the personal and emotional tie he has developed with many poor Venezuelans, Mr. Chávez has no natural successor, analysts say.
“Chavismo without Chávez is not possible,” said Alberto Barrera, a co-author of a biography of Mr. Chávez. “Chávez, who is a great showman, is the emotion through which the people connect to power.”
Like many caudillos, Mr. Chávez has built a cult of personality, and dominates the country’s airwaves, speaking on television and radio for hours at a time. His visage is plastered on billboards across the country.
Polls show other Chávez supporters are unknown or unliked by most Venezuelans, said Daniel Kerner, a Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group. “Chávez has made it difficult for anyone to rise to that level where they can be seen as a replacement.”
Many analysts say that neither Mr. Jaua nor other top Chávez officials have any of the president’s charisma, which is the glue the president has used to build a following.
Mr. Chávez’s exit from the political scene would no doubt lead to a fierce succession struggle among leading members of his movement. Mr. Jaua, who analysts say comes from the most leftist branch of Mr. Chávez’s movement and has close ties to Cuba, could be challenged by other powerful Chávez followers such as Diosdado Cabello, a former soldier now a powerful congressman who controls much of the political apparatus of Mr. Chávez’s socialist party.
Rafael Ramírez, the head of the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, the oil-rich’s country piggy bank, is seen by analysts as another would-be contender for power, as is Mr. Chávez’s brother Adan.
If Mr. Chávez were to be incapacitated, Cuba’s crack security services might play a key role, analysts say. Mr. Chávez, who considers himself to be Fidel Castro’s spiritual heir, provides Cuba with up to 100,000 barrels a day of cut-rate oil, making the island’s economic survival largely dependent on Mr. Chávez’s largess.
“The two Castro brothers, who were Catholics once, must be burning a lot of candles, praying for Chávez’s survival,” says Riordan Roett, head of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
Venezuela’s military would also play a crucial role. Much of the military has benefited from perks and money-making opportunities provided by Mr. Chávez. But there is resentment among some officers of Cuban influence in the armed forces, and fear that civilian militias armed by Mr. Chávez pose a threat to the institution and the country.
“These political vacuums are very dangerous. There will be a fight,” Mr. Roett said. “There will be military moves. There will be moves among the Bolivarian factions.”
Some analysts believe that Mr. Chávez, a master of the grand political gesture, is only biding his time to make a triumphal comeback from Cuba, as if from the dead. Such a return, they believe, could help overpower his political opposition.
The former tank commander-turned president still commands the loyalty of about half of his countrymen. But many Venezuelans have become frustrated by the country’s surging criminal violence, its spluttering electrical system, as well as the highest inflation rate in the world.
One key date for Chávez watchers: July 5th, when Mr. Chávez is expected to host a spectacular and long-planned regional summit marking the 200th anniversary of Venezuelan independence.
But the longer time goes on without specific news on Mr. Chávez’s situation, the more anxiety grows. “I’m hearing so many rumors now, I don’t know what to believe,” said Manuel Acosta, a 47-year-old taxi driver.
“Of course you don’t want to wish ill upon anyone but if there is a change in the leaders, we can hope that things will start to change for the better.”

Corrections & Amplifications
Speculation coming from Cuba and Venezuela has focused on the possibility that Mr. Chávez has prostate cancer, and has had his prostate removed. An earlier version of this article misspelled the word as prostrate.
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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The Bin Laden Operation: Tapping Human Intelligence | STRATFOR
By Fred Burton

Since May 2, when U.S. special operations forces crossed the Afghan-Pakistani border and killed Osama bin Laden, international media have covered the raid from virtually every angle. The United States and Pakistan have also squared off over the U.S. violation of Pakistan’s sovereign territory and Pakistan’s possible complicity in hiding the al Qaeda leader. All this surface-level discussion, however, largely ignores almost 10 years of intelligence development in the hunt for bin Laden.
While the cross-border nighttime raid deep into Pakistan was a daring and daunting operation, the work to find the target — one person out of 180 million in a country full of insurgent groups and a population hostile to American activities on its soil — was a far greater challenge. For the other side, the challenge of hiding the world’s most wanted man from the world’s most funded intelligence apparatus created a clandestine shell game that probably involved current or former Pakistani intelligence officers as well as competing intelligence services. The details of this struggle will likely remain classified for decades.
Examining the hunt for bin Laden is also difficult, mainly because of the sensitivity of the mission and the possibility that some of the public information now available could be disinformation intended to disguise intelligence sources and methods. Successful operations can often compromise human sources and new intelligence technologies that have taken years to develop. Because of this, it is not uncommon for intelligence services to try to create a wilderness of mirrors to protect sources and methods. But using open-source reporting and human intelligence from STRATFOR’s own sources, we can assemble enough information to draw some conclusions about this complex intelligence effort and raise some key questions.

The Challenge

Following the 9/11 attacks, finding and killing bin Laden became the primary mission of the U.S. intelligence community, particularly the CIA. This mission was clearly laid out in a presidential “finding,” or directive, signed on Sept. 17, 2001, by then-U.S. President George W. Bush. By 2005 it became clear to STRATFOR that bin Laden was deep inside Pakistan. Although the Pakistani government was ostensibly a U.S. ally, it was known that there were elements within it sympathetic to al Qaeda and bin Laden. In order to find bin Laden, U.S. intelligence would have to work with — and against — Pakistani intelligence services.
Finding bin Laden in a hostile intelligence environment while friends and sympathizers were protecting him represented a monumental intelligence challenge for the United States. With bin Laden and his confederates extremely conscious of U.S technical intelligence abilities, the search quickly became a human-intelligence challenge. While STRATFOR believes bin Laden had become tactically irrelevant since 9/11, he remained symbolically important and a focal point for the U.S. intelligence effort. And while it appears that the United States has improved its intelligence capabilities and passed an important test, much remains undone. Today, the public information surrounding the case illuminates the capabilities that will be used to find other high-value targets as the U.S. effort continues.
The official story on the intelligence that led to bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound has been widely reported, leaked from current and former U.S. officials. It focuses on a man with the cover name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, a Pakistani Pashtun born in Kuwait who became bin Laden’s most trusted courier. With fluency in Pashto and Arabic, according to media reports, al-Kuwaiti would be invaluable to al Qaeda, and in order to purchase bin Laden’s property and run errands he would also need to be fluent in Urdu. His position as bin Laden’s most trusted courier made him a key link in disrupting the organization. While this man supposedly led the United States to bin Laden, it took a decade of revamping U.S. intelligence capabilities and a great deal of hard work (and maybe even a lucky break) to actually find him.
The first step for U.S. intelligence services after Bush’s directive was focusing their efforts on bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership. Intelligence collection against al Qaeda was under way before 9/11, but after the attacks it became the No. 1 priority. Due to a lack of human intelligence in the region and allies for an invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA revived connections with anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan and with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate in order to oust the Taliban government and accrue intelligence for use in disrupting al Qaeda. The connections were built in the 1980s as the CIA famously operated through the ISI to fund militant groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet military. Most of these links were lost when the Soviets withdrew from the Southwest Asian state and the CIA nominally declared victory. Pakistan, left with Afghanistan and these militant groups, developed a working relationship with the Taliban and others for its own interests. A coterie of ISI officers was embedded with different militant groups, and some of them became jihadist sympathizers.
U.S. intelligence budgets were severely cut in the 1990s in light of the “peace dividend” following the fall of the Soviet Union, as some U.S. leaders argued there was no one left to fight. Intelligence collection was a dirty, ambiguous and dangerous game that U.S. politicians were not prepared to stomach. John Deutch, the director of the CIA from 1995 to 1996, gutted the CIA’s sources on what was known as the “Torricelli Principle” (named after then-Rep. Robert Torricelli), which called for the removal of any unsavory characters from the payroll. This meant losing sources in the exact kind of organizations U.S. intelligence would want to infiltrate, including militants in Southwest Asia.
The CIA began to revive its contacts in the region after the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. While the U.S. intelligence community was looking for bin Laden at this time, he was not a high priority, and U.S. human-intelligence capabilities in the region were limited. The United States has always had trouble with human intelligence — having people sitting at computers is less of a security risk than having daring undercover operatives running around in the field — and by the end of the 1990s it was relying on technological platforms for intelligence more than ever.
The United States was in this state on Sept. 12, 2001, when it began to ramp up its intelligence operations, and al Qaeda was aware of this. Bin Laden knew that if he could stay away from electronic communications, and generally out of sight, he would be much harder to track. After invading Afghanistan and working with the ISI in Pakistan, the United States had a large number of detainees who it hoped would have information to breach bin Laden’s operational security. From some mix of detainees caught in operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan (particularly with the help of the ISI), including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Farj al-Libi, came information leading to an important bin Laden courier known by various names, including Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. (His actual identity is still unconfirmed, though his real name may be Sheikh Abu Ahmed.)
The efficacy of enhanced interrogation and torture techniques is constantly debated — they may have helped clarify or obfuscate the courier’s identity (some reports say Mohammed tried to lead investigators away from him). What is clear is that U.S. intelligence lacked both a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of al Qaeda and, most important, human sources with access to that information. With the United States not knowing what al Qaeda was capable of, the fear of a follow-on attack to 9/11 loomed large.
Anonymous U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters the breakthrough came when a man named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq in 2004 by Kurdish forces and turned over to the United States. Little is known about Ghul’s identity except that he is believed to have worked with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and to have given interrogators information about a man named “al-Kuwaiti” who was a courier between al-Zarqawi and al Qaeda operational commanders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ghul was then given over to the Pakistani security services; he is believed to have been released in 2007 and to now be fighting somewhere in the region.
While U.S. intelligence services got confirmation of al-Kuwaiti’s role from al-Libi, they could not find the courier. It is unknown if they gave any of this information to the Pakistanis or asked for their help. According to leaks from U.S. officials to AP, the Pakistanis provided the National Security Agency (NSA), the main U.S. communications interception agency, with information that allowed it to monitor a SIM card from a cellphone that had frequently called Saudi Arabia. In 2010, the NSA intercepted a call made by al-Kuwaiti and began tracking him in Pakistan. Another U.S. official told CNN that the operational security exercised by al-Kuwaiti and his brother made them difficult to trail, but “an elaborate surveillance effort” was organized to track them to the Abbottabad compound.
From then on, the NSA monitored all of the cellphones used by the couriers and their family members, though they were often turned off and had batteries removed when the phones’ users went to the Abbottabad compound or to other important meetings. The compound was monitored by satellites and RQ-170 Sentinels, stealth versions of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which were reportedly flown over the compound. According to The Wall Street Journal, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) even built a replica of the compound for CIA Director Leon Panetta and other officials. The NGA is the premier U.S. satellite observation agency, which could have watched the goings-on at the compound and even spotted bin Laden, though it would have been difficult to confirm his identity.
Some of these leaks could be disingenuous in order to lead the public and adversary intelligence agencies away from highly classified sources and methods. But they do reflect long-believed assessments of the U.S. intelligence community regarding its advanced capability in technology-based intelligence gathering as well as the challenges it faces in human-intelligence collection.

The Utility of Liaison Relationships

Historically, U.S. intelligence officers have been white males, though the CIA has more recently begun hiring more minorities, including those from various ethnic and linguistic groups important to its mission (or at least those who can pass the polygraph and full-field background investigation, a substantial barrier). Even when intelligence officers look the part in the countries in which they operate and have a native understanding of the cultures and languages, they need sources within the organizations they are trying to penetrate. It is these sources, recruited by intelligence officers and without official or secret status, who are the “agents” providing the information needed back at headquarters. The less an intelligence officer appears like a local the more difficult it is to meet with and develop these agents, which has led the United States to frequently depend on liaison services — local intelligence entities — to collect information.
Many intelligence services around the world were established with American support or funding for just this purpose. The most dependent liaison services essentially function as sources, acquiring information at the local CIA station’s request. They are often made up of long-serving officers in the local country’s military, police or intelligence services, with a nuanced understanding of local issues and the ability to maintain a network of sources. With independent intelligence services, such as Israel’s Mossad, there has been roughly an equal exchange of intelligence, where Israeli sources may recruit a human source valuable to the United States and the CIA may have satellite imagery or communications intercepts valuable to the Israelis.
Of course, this is not a simple game. It involves sophisticated players trying to collect intelligence while deceiving one another about their intentions and plans — and many times trying to muddy the water a little to hide the identity of their sources from the liaison service. Even the closest intelligence relationships, such as that between the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service, have been disrupted by moles like Kim Philby, a longtime Soviet plant who handled the liaison work between the two agencies.
Since most U.S. intelligence officers serve on rotations of only one to three years — out of concern they will “go native” or to allow them to return to the comfort of home — it becomes even more challenging to develop long-term human-intelligence sources. While intelligence officers will pass their sources off to their replacements, the liaison service becomes even more valuable in being able to sustain source relationships, which can take years to build. Liaison relationships, then, become a way to efficiently use and extend U.S. intelligence resources, which, unlike such services in most countries, have global requirements. The United States may be the world’s superpower, but it is impossible for it to maintain sources everywhere.

Liaison and Unilateral Operations in the Hunt for Bin Laden

In recent years, U.S. intelligence has worked with Pakistan’s ISI most notably in raids throughout Pakistan against senior al Qaeda operatives like Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Farj al-Libi. We can also presume that much of the information used by the United States for UAV strikes comes through sources in Pakistani intelligence as well as those on the Afghan side of the border. Another example of such cooperation, also to find bin Laden, is the CIA’s work with the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, an effort that went awry in the Khost suicide attack. Such is the risk with liaison relationships — to what extent can one intelligence officer trust another’s sources and motives? Nevertheless, these liaison networks were the best the United States had available, and huge amounts of resources were put into developing intelligence through them in looking for major jihadists, including bin Laden.
The United States is particularly concerned about Pakistan’s intelligence services and the possibility that some of their officers could be compromised by, or at least sympathetic to, jihadists. Given the relationships with jihadists maintained by former ISI officers such as Khalid Khawaja and Sultan Amir Tarar (known as Colonel Imam), who were both held hostage and killed by Pakistani militants, and most famously former ISI Director Hamid Gul, there is cause for concern. These three are the most famous former ISI officers with links to jihadists, but because they were (or are) long retired from the ISI and their notoriety makes them easy to track to jihadists, they have little influence on either group. But the reality is that there are current ISI and military officers sympathizing or working with important jihadist groups. Indeed, it was liaison work by the CIA and Saudi Arabia that helped develop strong connections with Arab and Afghan militants, some of whom would go on to become members of al Qaeda and the Taliban. The ISI was responsible for distributing U.S.- and Saudi-supplied weapons to various Afghan militant groups to fight the Russians in the 1980s, and it controlled contact with these groups. If some of those contacts remain, jihadists could be using members of the ISI rather than the other way around.
Due to concerns like these, according to official statements and leaked information, U.S. intelligence officers never told their Pakistani liaison counterparts about the forthcoming bin Laden raid. It appears the CIA developed a unilateral capability to operate within Pakistan, demonstrated by the Raymond Davis shooting in January as well as the bin Laden raid. Davis was a contractor providing security for U.S. intelligence officers in Pakistan when he killed two reportedly armed men in Lahore, and his case brought the CIA-ISI conflict out in the open. Requests by Pakistani officials to remove more than 300 similar individuals from the country show that there are a large number of U.S. intelligence operatives in Pakistan. Other aspects of this unilateral U.S. effort were the tracking of bin Laden, further confirmation of his identity and the safe house the CIA maintained in Abbottabad for months to monitor the compound.

The CIA and the ISI

Even with the liaison relationships in Pakistan, which involved meetings between the CIA station chief in Islamabad and senior members of the ISI, the CIA ran unilateral operations on the ground. Liaison services cannot be used to recruit sources within the host government; this must be done unilaterally. This is where direct competition between intelligence services comes into play. In Pakistan, this competition may involve different organizations such as Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau or Federal Investigation Agency, both of which have counterintelligence functions, or separate departments within the ISI, where one department is assigned to liaison while others handle counterintelligence or work with militant groups. Counterintelligence officers may want to disrupt intelligence operations that involve collecting information on the host-country military, or they may simply want to monitor the foreign intelligence service’s efforts to recruit jihadists. They can also feed disinformation to the operatives. This competition is known to all players and is not out of the ordinary.
But the U.S. intelligence community is wondering if this ordinary competition was taken to another level — if the ISI, or elements of it, were actually protecting bin Laden. The people helping bin Laden and other al Qaeda operatives and contacts in Abbottabad were the same people the CIA was competing against. Were they simply jihadists or a more resourceful and capable state intelligence agency? If the ISI as an institution knew about bin Laden’s location, it would mean it outwitted the CIA for nearly a decade in hiding his whereabouts. It would also mean that no ISI officers who knew his location were turned by U.S. intelligence, that no communications were intercepted and that no leaks reached the media.
On the other hand, if someone within the ISI was protecting bin Laden and keeping it from the rest of the organization, it would mean the ISI was beaten internally and the CIA eventually caught up by developing its own sources and was able to find bin Laden on its own. As we point out above, the official story on the bin Laden intelligence effort may be disinformation to protect sources and methods. Still, this seems to be a more plausible scenario. American and Pakistani sources have told STRATFOR that there are likely jihadist sympathizers within the ISI who helped bin Laden or his supporters. Given that Pakistan is fighting its own war with al Qaeda-allied groups like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the country’s leadership in Islamabad has no interest in protecting them. Furthermore, finding an individual anywhere, especially in a foreign country with multiple insurgencies under way, is an extremely difficult intelligence challenge.
Assuming the official story is mostly true, the bin Laden raid demonstrates that U.S. intelligence has come full circle since the end of the Cold War. It was able to successfully collect and analyze intelligence of all types and develop and deploy on-the-ground capabilities it had been lacking to find an individual who was hiding and probably protected. It was able to quickly work with special operations forces under CIA command to carry out an elaborate operation to capture or kill him, a capability honed by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the development of its own capture-and-kill capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. The CIA is responsible for missions in Pakistan, where, like the JSOC, it has demonstrated an efficient and devastating capability to task UAV strikes and conduct cross-border raids. The bin Laden raid was the public proof of concept that the United States could collect intelligence and reach far into hostile territory to capture or kill its targets.
It is unclear exactly how the U.S. intelligence community has been able to develop these capabilities, beyond the huge post-9/11 influx of money and personnel (simply throwing resources at a problem is never a complete solution). The United States faced Sept. 11, 2001, without strategic warning of the attacks inspired by bin Laden, and then it faced a tactical threat it was unprepared to fight. Whatever the new and improved human-intelligence capabilities may be, they are no doubt some function of the experience gained by operatives in a concerted, global campaign against jihadists. Human intelligence is probably still the biggest U.S. weakness, but given the evidence of unilateral operations in Pakistan, it is not the weakness it used to be.

The Intelligence Battle Between the U.S. and Pakistan

The competition and cooperation among various intelligence agencies did not end with the death of Osama bin Laden. Publicity surrounding the operation has led to calls in Pakistan to eject any and all American interests in the country. In the past few years, Pakistan has made it difficult for many Americans to get visas, especially those with official status that may be cover for intelligence operations. Raymond Davis was one of these people. Involved in protecting intelligence officers who were conducting human-intelligence missions, he would have been tasked not only with protecting them from physical threats from jihadists but also with helping ensure they were not under the surveillance of a hostile intelligence agency.
Pakistan has only ratcheted up these barriers since the bin Laden raid. The Interior Ministry announced May 19 that it would ban travel by foreign diplomats to cities other than those where they are stationed without permission from Pakistani authorities. The News, a Pakistani daily, reported May 20 that Interior Minister Rehman Malik chaired a meeting with provincial authorities on regulating travel by foreigners, approving their entry into the country and monitoring unregistered mobile phones. While some of these efforts are intended to deal with jihadists disguised within large groups of Afghan nationals, they also place barriers on foreign intelligence officers in the country. While non-official cover is becoming more common for CIA officers overseas, many are still traveling on various diplomatic documents and thus would require these approvals. The presence of intelligence officers on the ground for the bin Laden raid shows there are workarounds for such barriers that will be used when the mission is important enough. In fact, according to STRATFOR sources, the CIA has for years been operating in Pakistan under what are known as “Moscow rules” — the strictest tradecraft for operating behind enemy lines — with clandestine units developing human sources and searching for al Qaeda and other militant leaders.
And this dynamic will only continue. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told The Wall Street Journal on May 6 that another operation like the bin Laden raid would have “terrible consequences,” while U.S. President Barack Obama told BBC on May 22 that he would authorize similar strikes in the future if they were called for. Pakistan, as any sovereign country would, is trying to protect its territory, while the United States will continue to search for high-value targets who are hiding there. The bin Laden operation only brought this clandestine competition to the public eye.
Bin Laden is dead, but many other individuals on the U.S. high-value target list remain at large. With the bold execution and ultimate success of the Abbottabad raid now public, the overarching American operational concept for hunting high-value targets has been demonstrated and the immense resources that were focused on bin Laden are now freed up. While the United States still faces intelligence challenges, those most wanted by the Americans can no longer take comfort in the fact that bin Laden is eluding his hunters or that the Americans are expending any more of their effort looking for him.

Read more: The Bin Laden Operation: Tapping Human Intelligence | STRATFOR

The Bin Laden Operation: Tapping Human Intelligence is republished with permission of STRATFOR.”

The Bin Laden Operation: Tapping Human Intelligence | STRATFOR

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Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on the March, but Cautiously

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) officially registered Wednesday for the formation of a new political wing, paving the way for the establishment of the Freedom and Justice Party. With parliamentary elections scheduled in September, Freedom and Justice is expected to do well at the first polls of the post-Mubarak era. Just how well is the main question on the minds of the country’s ruling military council, which would prefer to hand off the day-to-day responsibilities of governing Egypt, while holding onto real power behind the scenes.

Leading MB official Saad al-Katatny, one of the founders of Freedom and Justice, said he hopes for the party to officially begin its activities June 17, and to begin selecting its executive authority and top leaders one month later. Members of Egypt’s Political Parties Affairs Committee will convene Sunday to discuss the application and will announce their decision the next day. They are expected to approve the request. Three and a half months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s leading Islamist group is on the verge of forming an official political party for the first time in its history.

Following Mubarak’s ouster, MB wasted little time in seizing what it saw as the group’s historical moment to enter Egypt’s political mainstream. They announced plans to form a political party on Feb. 14. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took over administration of the country following the deposal of Mubarak, did nothing to hinder this development, despite the military’s deep antipathy toward Islamist groups. Political instability was (and is) rampant in the country, and the military sought to find a balance that would allow it to maintain control while appearing amenable to the people’s demands, and bring life back to normal. Opening up political space to Islamist groups, including at least two emerging Salafist parties, and announcing plans for fairly rapid elections, was seen by the military as the most effective way to achieve this balance.

It bears repeating that what happened in Egypt in January and February did not constitute a revolution. There was no regime change; there was regime preservation, through a carefully orchestrated military coup that used the 19 days of popular demonstrations against Mubarak as a smokescreen for achieving its objective. Though a system of one-party rule existed from the aftermath of the 1967 War until Feb. 11 of this year, true power in Egypt since 1952 has been with the military and that did not change with the ouster of Mubarak. What changed was that for the first time since the 1960s, Egypt’s military found itself not just ruling, but actually governing, despite the existence of an interim government (which the SCAF itself appointed).

The SCAF wants to get back to ruling and give up the job of governing, but it knows that there has been a sea change in Egypt’s political environment that prevents a return to the way things were done under Mubarak. The days of single-party rule are over. If the military wants stability, it is going to have to accept a true multiparty political system, one that allows for a broad spectrum of participation from all corners of Egyptian society. The generals can maintain control of the regime, but the day-to-day affairs of governance will fall under the control of coalition governments that could never have existed in the old Egypt.

This opens the door for MB to gain more political power than it has ever held and explains why its leaders were so quick to announce their plans for the formation of Freedom and Justice in February. But the group has tempered eagerness with caution. MB is aware of its reputation in the eyes of the SCAF (and the outside world, for that matter) and is playing a shrewd game to dispel its image as an extremist Islamist group.

 It has been publicly supportive of the SCAF on a number of occasions, and has marketed Freedom and Justice as a non-Islamist party — it includes women and one of its founders is a Copt — based on Islamic principles. MB has also insisted that the new party will have no actual ties to the Brotherhood itself (though this is clearly not the case), while promising that it will not field a presidential candidate in polls due to take place six weeks following the parliamentary elections. In addition, MB has pledged to run for no more than 49 percent of the available parliamentary seats. This is designed to reassure the SCAF that it does not immediately seek absolute political power.

Focusing on whether the SCAF is sincere in its publicly stated desire to transform Egypt into a democracy misses the more important point, which is that the military regime feels it has no choice but to move toward a multiparty political system. The alternatives — military dictatorship and single-party rule — are unfeasible. But there are red lines attached to the push toward political pluralism, and MB is aware of these. Trying to take too much, too quickly, will only incite a military crackdown on the political opening the armed forces have engineered in the last three months. As for the SCAF, it is willing to give Freedom and Justice a chance in the new Egypt, so long as the underlying reality of power remains the same.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on the March, but Cautiously is republished with permission of STRATFOR.”

These are the guys that run the racket and repression in Syria…

Although Bashar al-Assad inherited Syria’s presidency on his father’s death in 2000, analysts say he does not have Hafez al-Assad’s absolute grip on power. He is surrounded by military and intelligence figures, most of whom are either related to the president or are members of his minority Alawite community.

Here are some excerpts on two of, if not THE, main men from Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle as reported by the BBC.

Maher al-Assad, Republican Guard chief

The president’s youngest brother is said to be Syria’s second most powerful man. He heads the Republican Guard, the elite force which protects the regime from domestic threats and is the only one permitted to enter Damascus, and commands the fourth armoured division. […]

He has a reputation for being excessively violent and emotionally unstable, and allegedly shot [!!] and wounded his brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat. […]

In 2005, Maher and Shawkat were both mentioned in a preliminary report by UN investigators as one of the people who might have planned the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

When mass pro-democracy protests began in the southern city of Deraa in March 2011, Maher’s fourth armoured division – which is deployed on Syrian territory bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and controls the capital’s approaches – was sent in to crush them.

Rumours persist that Maher might challenge his brother’s rule – much like his uncle Rifaat attempted to seize power from Hafez in 1983 – but there is no evidence that he has sufficient power to challenge his rule.

Rami Makhlouf

A first cousin of Bashar al-Assad, Mr Makhlouf is arguably the most powerful economic figure in Syria. He has been the subject of persistent accusations of corruption and cronyism, and analysts say no foreign companies can do business in Syria without his consent. […]

In 2001, he and the Egyptian telecommunications company, Orascom, were awarded one of Syria’s two mobile phone operator licences. After a court dispute over control of Syriatel, Orascom was forced to sell its 25% stake. […]

In addition to Syriatel, Mr Makhlouf is believed to control two banks, free trade zones, duty free shops, a construction company, an airline, two TV channels, and imports luxury cars and tobacco. He is also vice-chairman of Cham Holding, considered Syria’s largest private company, and has stakes in several oil and gas companies.

In 2008, the US treasury banned US firms and individuals from doing business with Mr Makhlouf, and froze his US-based assets. It accused him of “corrupt behaviour” […]

“Makhlouf has manipulated the Syrian judicial system and used Syrian intelligence officials to intimidate his business rivals. He employed these techniques when trying to acquire exclusive licenses to represent foreign companies in Syria and to obtain contract awards,” a statement said. […]

Former Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam said in 2009 that Bashar’s rule had been marked by “transforming corruption into an institution” headed by Mr Makhlouf.

Two years later, anti-government protesters in Deraa initially directed their wrath at Mr Makhlouf, some chanting: “We’ll say it clearly, Rami Makhlouf is robbing us”. A branch of Syriatel in Deraa was set on fire.
Opposition websites later accused Mr Makhlouf of financing pro-government demonstrations both across Syria and abroad, by providing flags, meals and money for those participating.

See the full article here: BBC News – Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle

Pakistan and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan

By George Friedman

Bob Woodward has released another book, this one on the debate over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration. As all his books do, the book has riveted Washington. It reveals that intense debate occurred over what course to take, that the president sought alternative strategies and that compromises were reached. But while knowing the details of these things is interesting, what would have been shocking is if they hadn’t taken place.
It is interesting to reflect on the institutional inevitability of these disagreements. The military is involved in a war. It is institutionally and emotionally committed to victory in the theater of combat. It will demand all available resources for executing the war under way. For a soldier who has bled in that war, questioning the importance of the war is obscene. A war must be fought relentlessly and with all available means.
But while the military’s top generals and senior civilian leadership are responsible for providing the president with sound, clearheaded advice on all military matters including the highest levels of grand strategy, they are ultimately responsible for the pursuit of military objectives to which the commander-in-chief directs them. Generals must think about how to win the war they are fighting. Presidents must think about whether the war is worth fighting. The president is responsible for America’s global posture. He must consider what an unlimited commitment to a particular conflict might mean in other regions of the world where forces would be unavailable.
A president must take a more dispassionate view than his generals. He must calculate not only whether victory is possible but also the value of the victory relative to the cost. Given the nature of the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus — first the U.S. Central Command chief and now the top commander in Afghanistan — had to view it differently. This is unavoidable. This is natural. And only one of the two is ultimately in charge.

The Nature of Guerrilla Warfare
In thinking about Afghanistan, it is essential that we begin by thinking about the nature of guerrilla warfare against an occupying force. The guerrilla lives in the country. He isn’t going anywhere else, as he has nowhere to go. By contrast, the foreigner has a place to which he can return. This is the core weakness of the occupier and the strength of the guerrilla. The former can leave and in all likelihood, his nation will survive. The guerrilla can’t. And having alternatives undermines the foreigner’s will to fight regardless of the importance of the war to him.
The strategy of the guerrilla is to make the option to withdraw more attractive. In order to do this, his strategic goal is simply to survive and fight on whatever level he can. His patience is built into who he is and what he is fighting for. The occupier’s patience is calculated against the cost of the occupation and its opportunity costs, thus, while troops are committed in this country, what is happening elsewhere?
Tactically, the guerrilla survives by being elusive. He disperses in small groups. He operates in hostile terrain. He denies the enemy intelligence on his location and capabilities. He forms political alliances with civilians who provide him supplies and intelligence on the occupation forces and misleads the occupiers about his own location. The guerrilla uses this intelligence network to decline combat on the enemy’s terms and to strike the enemy when he is least prepared. The guerrilla’s goal is not to seize and hold ground but to survive, evade and strike, imposing casualties on the occupier. Above all, the guerrilla must never form a center of gravity that, if struck, would lead to his defeat. He thus actively avoids anything that could be construed as a decisive contact.
The occupation force is normally a more conventional army. Its strength is superior firepower, resources and organization. If it knows where the guerrilla is and can strike before the guerrilla can disperse, the occupying force will defeat the guerrilla. The occupier’s problems are that his intelligence is normally inferior to that of the guerrillas; the guerrillas rarely mass in ways that permit decisive combat and normally can disperse faster than the occupier can pinpoint and deploy forces against them; and the guerrillas’ superior tactical capabilities allow them to impose a constant low rate of casualties on the occupier. Indeed, the massive amount of resources the occupier requires and the inflexibility of a military institution not solely committed to the particular theater of operations can actually work against the occupier by creating logistical vulnerabilities susceptible to guerrilla attacks and difficulty adapting at a rate sufficient to keep pace with the guerrilla. The occupation force will always win engagements, but that is never the measure of victory. If the guerrillas operate by doctrine, defeats in unplanned engagements will not undermine their basic goal of survival. While the occupier is not winning decisively, even while suffering only some casualties, he is losing. While the guerrilla is not losing decisively, even if suffering significant casualties, he is winning. Since the guerrilla is not going anywhere, he can afford far higher casualties than the occupier, who ultimately has the alternative of withdrawal.
The asymmetry of this warfare favors the guerrilla. This is particularly true when the strategic value of the war to the occupier is ambiguous, where the occupier does not possess sufficient force and patience to systematically overwhelm the guerrillas, and where either political or military constraints prevent operations against sanctuaries. This is a truth as relevant to David’s insurgency against the Philistines as it is to the U.S. experience in Vietnam or the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
There has long been a myth about the unwillingness of Americans to absorb casualties for very long in guerrilla wars. In reality, the United States fought in Vietnam for at least seven years (depending on when you count the start and stop) and has now fought in Afghanistan for nine years. The idea that Americans can’t endure the long war has no empirical basis. What the United States has difficulty with — along with imperial and colonial powers before it — is a war in which the ability to impose one’s will on the enemy through force of arms is lacking and when it is not clear that the failure of previous years to win the war will be solved in the years ahead.
Far more relevant than casualties to whether Americans continue a war is the question of the conflict’s strategic importance, for which the president is ultimately responsible. This divides into several parts. This first is whether the United States has the ability with available force to achieve its political goals through prosecuting the war (since all war is fought for some political goal, from regime change to policy shift) and whether the force the United States is willing to dedicate suffices to achieve these goals. To address this question in Afghanistan, we have to focus on the political goal.
The Evolution of the U.S. Political Goal in Afghanistan
Washington’s primary goal at the initiation of the conflict was to destroy or disrupt al Qaeda in Afghanistan to protect the U.S. homeland from follow-on attacks to 9/11. But if Afghanistan were completely pacified, the threat of Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism would remain at issue because it is no longer just an issue of a single organization — al Qaeda — but a series of fragmented groups conducting operations in Pakistan, IraqYemenNorth AfricaSomalia and elsewhere.
Today, al Qaeda is simply one manifestation of the threat of this transnational jihadist phenomenon. It is important to stop and consider al Qaeda — and the transnational jihadist phenomenon in general — in terms of guerrillas, and to think of the phenomenon as a guerrilla force in its own right operating by the very same rules on a global basis. Thus, where the Taliban apply guerrilla principles to Afghanistan, today’s transnational jihadist applies them to the Islamic world and beyond. The transnational jihadists are not leaving and are not giving up. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they will decline combat against larger American forces and strike vulnerable targets when they can.
There are certainly more players and more complexity to the global phenomenon than in a localized insurgency. Many governments across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have no interest in seeing these movements set up shop and stir up unrest in their territory. And al Qaeda’s devolution has seen frustrations as well as successes as it spreads. But the underlying principles of guerrilla warfare remain at issue. Whenever the Americans concentrate force in one area, al Qaeda disengages, disperses and regroups elsewhere and, perhaps more important, the ideology that underpins the phenomenon continues to exist. The threat will undoubtedly continue to evolve and face challenges, but in the end, it will continue to exist along the lines of the guerrilla acting against the United States.
There is another important way in which the global guerrilla analogy is apt. STRATFOR has long held that Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism does not represent a strategic, existential threat to the United States. While acts of transnational terrorism target civilians, they are not attacks — have not been and are not evolving into attacks — that endanger the territorial integrity of the United States or the way of life of the American people. They are dangerous and must be defended against, but transnational terrorism is and remains a tactical problem that for nearly a decade has been treated as if it were the pre-eminent strategic threat to the United States.
Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan. The guerrilla does not rely on a single piece of real estate (in this case Afghanistan) but rather on his ability to move seamlessly across terrain to evade decisive combat in any specific location. Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism is not centered on Afghanistan and does not need Afghanistan, so no matter how successful that war might be, it would make little difference in the larger fight against transnational jihadism.
Thus far, the United States has chosen to carry on fighting the war in Afghanistan. As al Qaeda has fled Afghanistan, the overall political goal for the United States in the country has evolved to include the creation of a democratic and uncorrupt Afghanistan. It is not clear that anyone knows how to do this, particularly given that most Afghans consider the ruling government of President Hamid Karzai — with which the United States is allied — as the heart of the corruption problem, and beyond Kabul most Afghans do not regard their way of making political and social arrangements to be corrupt.
Simply withdrawing from Afghanistan carries its own strategic and political costs, however. The strategic problem is that simply terminating the war after nine years would destabilize the Islamic world. The United States has managed to block al Qaeda’s goal of triggering a series of uprisings against existing regimes and replacing them with jihadist regimes. It did this by displaying a willingness to intervene where necessary. Of course, the idea that U.S. intervention destabilized the region raises the question of what regional stability would look like had it not intervened. The danger of withdrawal is that the network of relationships the United States created and imposed at the regime level could unravel if it withdrew. America would be seen as having lost the war, the prestige of radical Islamists and thereby the foundation of the ideology that underpins their movement would surge, and this could destabilize regimes and undermine American interests.
The political problem is domestic. Obama’s approval rating now stands at 42 percent. This is not unprecedented, but it means he is politically weak. One of the charges against him, fair or not, is that he is inherently anti-war by background and so not fully committed to the war effort. Where a Republican would face charges of being a warmonger, which would make withdrawal easier, Obama faces charges of being too soft. Since a president must maintain political support to be effective, withdrawal becomes even harder. Therefore, strategic analysis aside, the president is not going to order a complete withdrawal of all combat forces any time soon — the national (and international) political alignment won’t support such a step. At the same time, remaining in Afghanistan is unlikely to achieve any goal and leaves potential rivals like China andRussia freer rein.
The American Solution
The American solution, one that we suspect is already under way, is the Pakistanization of the war. By this, we do not mean extending the war into Pakistan but rather extending Pakistan into Afghanistan. The Taliban phenomenon has extended into Pakistan in ways that seriously complicate Pakistani efforts to regain their bearing in Afghanistan. It has created a major security problem for Islamabad, which, coupled with the severe deterioration of the country’s economy and now the floods, has weakened the Pakistanis’ ability to manage Afghanistan. In other words, the moment that the Pakistanis have been waiting for — American agreement and support for the Pakistanization of the war — has come at a time when the Pakistanis are not in an ideal position to capitalize on it.
In the past, the United States has endeavored to keep the Taliban in Afghanistan and the regime in Pakistan separate. (The Taliban movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not one and the same.) Washington has not succeeded in this regard, with the Pakistanis continuing to hedge their bets and maintain a relationship across the border. Still, U.S. opposition has been the single greatest impediment to Pakistan’s consolidation of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and abandoning this opposition leaves important avenues open for Islamabad.
The Pakistani relationship to the Taliban, which was a liability for the United States in the past, now becomes an advantage for Washington because it creates a trusted channel for meaningful communication with the Taliban. Logic suggests this channel is quite active now.
The Vietnam War ended with the Paris peace talks. Those formal talks were not where the real bargaining took place but rather where the results were ultimately confirmed. If talks are under way, a similar venue for the formal manifestation of the talks is needed — and Islamabad is as good a place as any.
Pakistan is an American ally which the United States needs, both to balance growing Chinese influence in and partnership with Pakistan, and to contain India. Pakistan needs the United States for the same reason. Meanwhile, the Taliban want to run Afghanistan. The United States has no strong national interest in how Afghanistan is run so long as it does not support and espouse transnational jihadism. But it needs its withdrawal to take place in a manner that strengthens its influence rather than weakens it, and Pakistan can provide the cover for turning a retreat into a negotiated settlement.
Pakistan has every reason to play this role. It needs the United States over the long term to balance against India. It must have a stable or relatively stable Afghanistan to secure its western frontier. It needs an end to U.S. forays into Pakistan that are destabilizing the regime. And playing this role would enhance Pakistan’s status in the Islamic world, something the United States could benefit from, too. We suspect that all sides are moving toward this end.
The United States isn’t going to defeat the Taliban. The original goal of the war is irrelevant, and the current goal is rather difficult to take seriously. Even a victory, whatever that would look like, would make little difference in the fight against transnational jihad, but a defeat could harm U.S. interests. Therefore, the United States needs a withdrawal that is not a defeat. Such a strategic shift is not without profound political complexity and difficulties. But the disparity between — and increasingly, the incompatibility of — the struggle with transnational terrorism and the war effort geographically rooted in Afghanistan is only becoming more apparent — even to the American public.

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