LIVE STREAM TODAY — AfPak Diary: Notes From Islamabad and Kabul


The news of former ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s and his staff’s comments about senior administration officials and the President, followed by McChrystal’s sacking this morning, have sucked up much of the news about Afghanistan in the last few days.
But while the war effort faces difficulty and certain questioning as Gen. David Petraeus takes over (temporarily), one success in Afghanistan is the export of soft power, in the form of radio. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, originally founded in 1949 to send America’s message to the communist world, now runs the most popular radio station in the country, Radio Azadi. RFE/RL also started an Pashto-language station targeting the Afghan-Pakistan border region, Radio Mashaal, in January of this year.
TODAY from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm, RFE/RL’s President Jeffrey Gedmin, who has just returned from a reporting trip to Pakistan and travels frequently to the region, will be at the New America Foundation for a conversation with TWN publisher Steve Clemons about his time in South Asia and soft power on the Durand Line. The event will livestream here at TWN, RSVP here if you are in Washington and would like to attend.
— Andrew Lebovich


14 comments on “LIVE STREAM TODAY — AfPak Diary: Notes From Islamabad and Kabul

  1. John Waring says:

    Here’s another article, this one by Michael Scheuer. We have experts in the English-speaking world on Afghanistan, but precious few of them have any voice in deciding American policy.
    Our policy is moribund. The only issue remaining is the stench it will raise before we get the sense to bury it.


  2. David says:

    Pretty much says it all, John.


  3. John Waring says:

    Please read the following:
    “Why the Taliban is winning in Afghanistan, by William Darymple


  4. David says:

    I have you by 2 years, Chuck, and I most certainly agree America has much to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, no elected official can survive that admission. Obama caught living hell for even alluding to America’s mistakes in the Middle East (and elsewhere). Our national ego utterly blinds us to any meaningful common grasp of reality and any effective move forward through accepting and ameliorating those mistakes.
    Oil policy was Carter’s undoing (thanks for nothing Zbig), Clinton was apparently just a bit naive about NAFTA, giving the private sector more credit than it deserved for worker rights and environmental protection, and Bush was a hopelessly clueless ideologue/true believer who truly sealed the deal on the debacle now understood as the America of the 21st century.
    It took Reagan’s “morning in America” to ensure we were not going to face or solve any of our real problems, something Americans embraced overwhelmingly, and another 22 years after Reagan, bookended by Bush/Cheney, to essentially do us in.
    We might resurrect. Who knows? There were certainly positives during the Clinton administration, not least of which was a significant budget surplus. But we never should have come to the pass that we need resurrection, and resurrection is never guaranteed.
    Regarding oil and the environment, the knowledge has been around for at least 40-50 years. But corrupt politicians have never been the primary problem. People not really wanting to know and rejecting politicians who did speak truth are, and have always been, a far greater problem.
    Consider the ease with which $pecial intere$t$ have been able to turn people against Obama, not because of those things where he has failed to deliver but because of a generally reactionary, self-centered, chauvinistic popular mindset that plagues a generally narrowly informed public. I am not making excuses for areas where Obama has not been as assertive as I’d like, nor am I making excuses for what I think are mistakes in carrying forward some of Bush’s very objectionable policies. But Americans expect instant gratification, they now believe liberal is a bad word, and they really do blow like wheat in the wind. Jeez, how many people base their votes on “opposition” tv ads? There is a distressing two-dimensionality to voter behavior. I recognize the argument that an effective leader has to succeed in whatever context he or she finds him- or herself, but the extent to which the context can be manipulated via television and television advertising is a whole new dimension that FDR never had to deal with. And now radio is primarily just a rightwing noise machine.


  5. Chuck Miller says:

    I look at my Children and Grandchildren and realize I,and YOU, neglected to check on these Crooks and Thieves in Congress, we have been handing our OK’s to for more than my Years of 66.
    With NO Accountability !! ??
    I woke to Carter -De-regulating Oil / OPEC —
    Watched Clinton– finish NAFTA (60 Billion U.S. Tax Dollars to Mexico, and, Job Give-a-Way).
    Experienced Treason, thru Irac Invasion Lies from: Bush/Chaney/Rumsfelt/ Wolfowitz/ and on-going Haliburton/Chaney rapeing U.S. Dollars while securing Irac Oil.
    The Cost of over 4000 US Soldiers and Un-known Irac People, with >>.
    The BIG FLEESEING: 2008 Sales Job, of PAULSON and Wallstreet with the Congress Approval –TAKING AMERICAN RETIREMENT/BORROWED RESOURCES and Other,
    An Embezzelment from the American People and will Eventually Lower the American Standred of Living
    to Equal what is now Third World Standards.
    God Help Americans,
    I am Twice Vietnam Era and, Ashamed.


  6. David says:

    Thanks, erichwwk. I was unaware of the George Kennan statement. Obviously need to get Gerson’s book. Not sure how I missed it. Thanks again.


  7. erichwwk says:

    On the Powers of POTUS you migh want to read chapter 4 – “The Cuban Missile Crisis” to get an extent to which POTUS is often outside of the loop, and the Generals give POTUS the middle finger salute.
    On US policy in general, this George Kennan quote might be helpful:
    “We have about 50 percent of the world


  8. David says:

    Still working on trying to get a better grasp on what actual powers a POTUS has. Know the real seats of financial power – at least to the extent that is possible for a layperson. And have some idea of the actual dymanics of the voting behavior of Americans, which is actually where power ultimately lies, and which is way too easily manipulated. But I am not satisfied that I know what de facto powers a POTUS has. Bush appeared to have power, but it was because he was not at odds with financial interests. Apparently he defied Cheney and those people whose interests Cheney represented when he would not sign off on Israel bombing Iran, but this is, of course, attempting to read between the lines. And I do not know what influential interests favored the military strikes vs. influential interests who opposed it.
    But I am beginning to wonder what actual power a POTUS possesses. And what is purportedly checks-and-balances seems to me to be more a case of special interest checkmates as Republicans, on behalf of whichever special interests they represent, seek to bring down the Obama presidency.
    And to some extent forces apparently beyond any particular group’s control do shape events and run roughshod over leaders.
    I am, at the moment, singularly perplexed, reflecting on dos Passos’ USA Trilogy, and wondering if the literary naturalists might have been the most insightful of the literary lot, with the absurdists running a highly competitive second. I mean Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin? And we are clearly billeted on a fossil fuel express running full tilt toward even more catastrophic trainwrecks than the ecocide in the Gulf of Mexico.


  9. JohnH says:

    Obama removed the drawdown deadline. Now the military has no objectives, no due date, and no idea what victory might look like.
    Nice job if you can get it! (My jobs always expected me to produce on schedule.)


  10. ... says:

    johnh – i think it is tough for obama to give the military a clear credible objective… the bottom line is he has to keep them and the military machine working, so a war must be found if the one that already exists can’t be continued indefinitely… that is what the usa seems to have come down to circa 2010… think of all the lockheed martin people out of work and what do you do if you are a president of the usa?? tough job!!!!!


  11. JohnH says:

    Charlie Rose asked one of his guests to identify exactly what Obama hadn’t given McCrystal. The answer? An unlimited time frame!
    On another thread, the pro-war crowd complained that Obama didn’t support the war effort. BS! This is already the longest war in American history. Now generals and greedy defense contractors are having so much fun that they want to prolong it indefinitely.
    Of course they don’t want clear goals and time frames! That would force them to perform instead of just doing what they do best (wink, wink).
    Obama was right to put a time limit on it–it’s called Management by Objectives 101. Too bad he could never give the military a clear, credible objective! Or give the American people a clear vision of what winning would look like.


  12. The Pessimist says:

    The primary objective of America’s war in Afghanistan is to secure petro-resources for western oil corporations, period.
    A secondary beneficiary to this objective is the military/industrial/congressional cabal. Military action consumes massive quantities of stuff. The more stuff that is consumed, the greater are the profits for the manufacturers of this stuff. Perpetual warfare guarantees perpetual profits.
    All this talk about democracy, human rights, Taliban/Al Qaeda blah blah blah, is just bullshit. It simply serves to distract from the true motive, $$$$$$.
    Economics 101.


  13. John Waring says:

    Ditto your remarks. The President has just reinforced failure. The template of counterinsurgency does not fit, and will never fit, the human environment of Afghanistan. If the opening act in Marja has become a bleeding ulcer, I fear for the main act in Kandahar.


  14. JohnH says:

    When Tom Friedman gets it, I’d say the pointless, futile war in Afghanistan is in BIG trouble:
    “President Obama is not an Afghan expert. Few people are. But that could have been his strength. The three questions he needed to ask about Afghanistan were almost childlike in their simplicity. Yet Obama either failed to ask them or went ahead, nevertheless, because he was afraid he would have been called a wimp by Republicans if he hadn


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