|Foreign Minister Asif with Dr. Moeed Yusuf at USIP in Washington|
Here are some of the key Points made by Mr. Asif at this event held in Washington D.C. on Oct 5, 2017:
1. US funded, armed and trained militants to fight the Soviets in 1980s as part of the Cold War, then walked away without helping to rehabilitate them and left it to Pakistan to deal with them.
2. Pakistan does want to deal with these militants who are a liability for the country. Pakistan is working on finding the best way to do it.
3. US domestic politics prevents action on gun violence but Washington expects Pakistan to demolish all militant groups overnight.
4. India has 66 banned armed groups engaged in insurgency all over India. Only 4 linked to Pakistan.
5. Indian government's data shows over 36,000 infiltration attempts in India occupied Kashmir in 2001 and only 30 this year.
6. Ex US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said that "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan".
7. Gen Petraeus said at a RUSI presentation in 2016 that while he served as Centcom commander and then CIA chief, he saw no convincing evidence of Pakistan's support for Haqqanis.
8. Pakistan rejects US Defense Secretary Mattis' statement about working with Pakistan "one more time". Such talk is offensive to Pakistan and not conducive to cooperation with US.
9. The US has already lost the war in Afghanistan and now trying to salvage what it can from it. Further mistakes by US could force the Taliban and ISIS to get together and create a much bigger threat for Pakistan, the region and the West.
10. Indian Air Force Chief has threatened to carry out "surgical strikes" against Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. If that were to happen, don't expect any restraint from Pakistan.
Here's a video of the US Institute of Peace event featuring Khwaja Asif:
Trump's Afghan Strategy
Who are the Haqqanis?
US Gun Violence, Islamophobia and Terrorism
700,000 Indian Troops vs 10 Millon Kashmiris
Secretary Hagel on India Using Afghanistan Against Pakistan
Gen Petraeus Says No Evidence of Pakistani Support For Haqqanis
Why is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan?
Are Russia and Iran Supporting the Afghan Taliban?
What if Modi Attacks Pakistan?
Kautilya's Doctrine Dominates India's Pakistan Policy
What I did not understand, that last week, the same things were being reported. Now I hear two or three delegations are going to Pakistan. Tillerson. Defense Secretary. Maybe one more person. All separately. What game is going on ?
Seeme: "What I did not understand, that last week, the same things were being reported. Now I hear two or three delegations are going to Pakistan. Tillerson. Defense Secretary. Maybe one more person. All separately. What game is going on ?"
Hard to say given the ongoing disarray in US foreign policy.
But it looks like a good guy ( Tillerson) bad guy ( Mattis/ McMaster) game of ratcheting up the US pressure on Pakistan to do America’s bidding
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker: It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.
Bob Corker says White House is 'adult day care center' after Trump Twitter hit
Senate foreign relations chair and president trade undignified insults
Trump blasts Corker for retirement, ‘negative voice’, Iran deal support
After Donald Trump issued a fierce Twitter rebuke of Bob Corker, the retiring Republican senator tweeted back: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”
The exchange between the president and the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee was the latest undignified episode in Trump’s bizarre and fractious relationship with the Republican establishment and parts of his own administration. Trump’s treatment of secretary of state Rex Tillerson this week prompted remarks from Corker that were seen as critical of the president.
Midway through Sunday morning, Trump wrote: “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).
“He also wanted to be secretary of state, I said ‘NO THANKS.’ He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran deal!
“Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn’t have the guts to run!”
Corker was considered for both vice-president and secretary of state and was a key Trump ally during much of the 2016 campaign. He has since become a vocal critic.
On the deal between Iran and six major nations including the US that restricts Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, he is an important and supportive voice. It was reported this week that Trump, against the wishes of senior advisers, will not re-certify the deal. That would put it in the hands of Congress, which would decide whether to reimpose sanctions, a move that would threaten the deal’s existence.
Corker announced his decision to retire last month. “The most important public service I have to offer our country could well occur over the next 15 months,” he said, hinting at his opposition to the president. “I want to be able to do that as thoughtfully and independently as I did the first 10 years and nine months of my Senate career.”
This week, he made headlines when he implied that Trump was leading the US to the brink of “chaos”.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill about reports that secretary of state Rex Tillerson called Trump a “fucking moron” and considered resigning, Corker said: “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary [of defense Jim] Mattis and Chief of Staff [John] Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”
Asked if he was referring to Trump, he said: “[Mattis, Kelly and Tillerson] work very well together to make sure the policies we put forth around the world are sound and coherent. There are other people within the administration that don’t. I hope they stay because they’re valuable to the national security of our nation.”
Ex Chiefs of #RAW, #ISI meet in #London, Both agree war not an option, #India and #Pakistan talks must via @htTweets
AS Dulat and Ehsan-ul-Haq, who served as head of the RAW and ISI respectively in the early 2000s, came together at a seminar in the LSE that was marked by much banter and barbs.
Dulat and Ehsan, who served in their respective offices in the early 2000s, were key players in sensitive issues, often taking adversarial postures and actions, but at LSE they could not agree more with each other on Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism and peace talks.
Ehsan dwelt on what he called the “mass uprising in Jammu and Kashmir since July last year”, following the death of jihadi commander Burhan Wani, and harped on the need to resume the stalled dialogue between the two countries. Dulat agreed with him that India had committed “mistakes” and created “a mess” in the state.
Dulat also agreed that talks should be resumed between the two sides, since war is not an option and dialogue is the only way out. India, he said, needs to make an exception and talk along with terrorism (New Delhi has ruled out parleys until Pakistan-backed terrorism is stopped).
The former RAW chief said: “The magic of it all, as Ehsan-sab said, is mainstreaming and also democracy. The mistakes that we are making (in Jammu and Kashmir), apart from the mess that we have created, still not talking to people, high time we started talking to people…We need to deal with Kashmir in a more civilised manner.
“These red lines about Hurriyat…we have got it absolutely wrong because the whole idea of talking to the Hurriyat is to mainstream them, get them into the democratic process…The PDP-BJP coalition was expected to bring Jammu and Srinagar closer, but it has taken them further apart because Kashmiris have never forgiven the PDP for bringing the RSS into the (Kashmir) valley.
“In the BJP’s mind, the RSS may have come into the valley but the RSS is not going to achieve anything there,” he added.
Another point of agreement between the two former spooks was the need for cooperation between Indian and Pakistan intelligence agencies.
Dulat, an old Kashmir hand who headed India’s external intelligence agency during 1999-2000, said there were instances when interaction between RAW and ISI had “produced more than the desired results”, and Ehsan had been witness to at least one such major result.
Amid knowing guffaws and smiles, Dulat chided Ehsan and reminded him of his “relationship” with his Indian counterpart, of India tipping off Pakistan about a potential threat to the life of former president Pervez Musharraf, and of covert talks defusing a major flashpoint in the early 2000s.
Dulat said: “He (Ehsan) is still using the ploy of plausible deniability and being rather modest about his relationship which was well known. And from all that I know it was a great relationship that produced results. I think Sir, you recall the 2003 ceasefire took place because of you and your friend.”
The remarks evoked laughter from Ehsan.
Dulat added, “And if I can go beyond, your friend also tipped you with intelligence which may have saved Gen Musharraf’s life. And I think that is something that even Gen Musharraf in a way acknowledges. So I don’t think we need to deny that. It is a feather in your cap, Sir, and a feather in your friend’s cap.”
Objections to CPEC: India, US caught in their own snare?
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis’ statement on the CPEC, both the US and India find themselves trapped in their own snare. Without any reference to the entire Kashmir region, Mattis, inadvertently or otherwise, brought up the phrase ‘disputed territory’ when expressing his country’s reservations about the corridor. “The One Belt, One Road (of which CPEC is the flagship) also goes through disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee late last week.
India has always dismissed the notion of ‘disputed territory’ and called the entire region as its integral part. Major western capitals practically endorse New Delhi’s position and most have kept silence of expedience despite the wave of violence – hundreds of deaths, casualties and pellet-gun-induced fatal injuries to eyes – in the Indian-controlled Kashmir since the killing of Burhan Wani in Jualy 2016. Picking up on this paradox, General Nasir Janjua, the National Security Advisor, believes that the US Defence Secretary’s statement has resurrected the issue on the global radar. “This way the USA has not only recognisd Kashmir as a dispute but helped highlight it internationally,” Janjua told Daily Times.
"Washington should now step forward and help us seek a solution to Kashmir in the light of the UN resolutions," he said, "Kashmir has been bleeding and the world has looked on silently. Isn't it about time for the US to deploy its leverage for securing a peaceful resolution of a disputed territory?" Janjua asked.
Mattis' statement also validates Sino-Pakistan suspicions on the motives of the Indo-US opposition to CPEC.
Secretary Mattis has also said that the US opposed China's 'One Belt, One Road' policy in principle because in a globalised world, there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating 'One Belt, One Road'.
By endorsing the Indian position on CPEC, Mattis has basically pulled the cat out of bag and provided a glimpse of how the Trump administration plans to forge a new partnership with India on Afghanistan.
Earlier, during his September 25-27 visit to New Delhi, the Defence Secretary had exchanged vows of cooperation with his Indian counterpart Ms Nirmala Sitharaman. They agreed to enhance the Indian role in counter-terrorism training of the Afghan troops and building of the country's police force in the fight against the Taliban. Expanded role of Indian military is also under consideration to provide expertise in supporting the US-led training and advisory mission with Afghan security, the media has been told.
This convergence was not out of the blue; the Trump administration has been gradually ramping up pressure on Pakistan, manifest in statements before and after the strategy was unveiled; a day before his meeting with Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Secretary Mattis had upped the ante by telling a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the administration would try 'one more time' to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan, before turning to other options to address Islamabad's alleged support for militant groups.
Strangely, none of the reports by the US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) since 2012 has ever made any reference to Pakistan as the sole source of Afghanistan's troubles.
On the contrary, both an alliance of Afghan NGOs (which prepared a 10-point Roadmap to Peace for Afghanistan) and the SIGAR have identified governmental corruption, warlordism, narcotics, Taliban and other non-state actors and abuse of fundamental rights as the primary reasons for Afghanistan's continued troubles.
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > OPINION
Securing Pakistan’s nuclear assets
By Zamir AkramPublished: October 13, 2017
From Pakistan’s perspective, the greater threat to its nuclear assets has always been from the US or the Indians, rather than terrorists, and has taken robust measures to protect the safety and security of these assets. Accordingly, for Pakistan ensuring nuclear security is vital for ensuring national security. Had there been a window of vulnerability, the Americans would already have tried to penetrate it.
The Indian air chief’s recent boast about striking Pakistan’s nuclear installations has been dismissed by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif with the contempt that it deserves. Not only is this threat contrary to the Pakistan-India agreement not to attack each other’s nuclear facilities but is nonsensical as Pakistan’s nuclear assets are not vulnerable to such an attack and would definitely invite a befitting response.
These Indian fulminations are encouraged by the negative American narrative about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, repeated most recently in President Trump’s South Asia policy speech. It is an open secret that the US has contingency places to de-nuclearise Pakistan ever since the start of its strategic programme. After 9/11, the American narrative has alleged the threat of terrorists or extremist “insiders” taking over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons which would have to be “neutralised” before that happens. More recently, with the development of Pakistan’s low-yield or so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons to negate India’s Cold Start doctrine, the Americans allege that these weapons, when deployed in the field, would be vulnerable to terrorist takeover or lack effective command and control. Actually, such allegations are more in response to Pakistan’s rejection of American demands to accept unilateral restraints on its strategic deterrence efforts in response to the growing Indian conventional and nuclear threat rather than any credible terrorist or insider threat.
Pakistan has successfully defied American discrimination and intimidation. It is also cognisant of the emerging threats posed by cyber and electronic warfare, which require effective fire-walls and countervailing measures that have been put in place as part of the full-spectrum effort for the safety and security of our strategic assets.
What an #American #hostages rescue says about #US-#Pakistan ties: A new era of alliance? #Trump https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/analysis-caitlan-coleman-hostage-rescue-hints-new-era-pakistan-n810356 … via @nbcnews
The rescue of American hostage Caitlan Coleman and her family by Pakistan's military may prove to be a big step toward improving strained ties between Washington and its nuclear-armed ally.
Hours after details of the operation to free the Pennsylvania native from a horrific five-year ordeal emerged Thursday, statements by Pakistani authorities, the State Department and even President Donald Trump all praised the benefits of intelligence sharing and cooperation.
That appeared to indicate a positive turn in a relationship that has been fast deteriorating since the start of the Trump presidency. Before being elected to the White House, Trump had repeatedly tweeted that Pakistan "is not our friend."
“This rescue is an example of what intelligence sharing and mutual respect can do,” said Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a Pakistani military spokesman. “It should now be clear to the Americans that cooperation works. Coercion and confrontation don’t.”
The Pakistan military said that it took action after being alerted by U.S. intelligence that Coleman, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and their three children were being moved across the border from Afghanistan.
They had been held captive by a Taliban-linked group. Boyle gave a harrowing account of their plight to reporters Friday, saying captors had killed their infant daughter and raped Coleman.
News of the rescue produced glowing praise of Pakistan from Trump and Tillerson.
"This is a positive moment for our country's relationship with Pakistan," the president said in a statement. "The Pakistani government's cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region."
That represented a softer tone toward Pakistan from Trump.
In January 2012, he tweeted: "Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what did we get? Betrayal and disrespect—and much worse. #TimeToGetTough"
#Canadian #Hostage on His Daring Rescue by #Pakistan Army. #Afghanistan #HQN https://youtu.be/m1RJGnmWM3g via @YouTube
Josh Boyle: "A major comes over to me while I still have blood on me. The street is chaos and he says to me, 'In the American media they said that we support the Haqqani network and that we make it possible. Today you have seen the truth. Did we not put bullets in those bastards?' "And so I can say to you I did see the truth, and the truth was that car was riddled with bullets. The ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency) and the army got between the criminals and the car to make sure the prisoners were safe and my family was safe. They put them to flight and they ran like cowards. And this is proof enough to me the Pakistanis are doing everything to their utmost."
#Pakistan: Mad Dog #Mattis Will Bark, but #Islamabad Won't Bite. #Afghanistan #Trump #terrorism #TTP https://goo.gl/ZU1FK1 via @Stratfor Worldview
As President Donald Trump's administration searches for an exit from the war in Afghanistan after over 16 years of U.S. involvement, the United States is making another high-level diplomatic outreach to Pakistan. On Dec. 4, Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Islamabad for meetings with Pakistan's top military and civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. In these meetings, Mattis' mission is to convince Pakistani leadership to do more to attack militant safe havens and, in the long term, facilitate peace talks with the Taliban to end America's longest-running war. But Pakistan's leaders won't be easy to convince.
In the discussions, Mattis adopted a conciliatory approach by acknowledging Pakistan's sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, but he also reiterated Washington's demands. The United States has called for Pakistan to take more action against the militants that find refuge on its soil. Among them, crucially, is the leadership of the Taliban operating in Afghanistan.
Diplomatic outreach is just one of the ways the United States is trying to compel a change in Pakistan's behavior. Military aid is another. Last week, the latest report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service showed that the United States would further trim its annual aid package to Pakistan. In 2017, Washington doled out $526 million to Islamabad in exchange for its cooperation, which includes providing overland NATO supply route access through Pakistani territory. In 2018, that number is projected to drop to $345 million.
The United States has gradually trimmed the amount of aid it provides to Pakistan over the last several years. In 2014, for example, U.S. aid to Pakistan amounted to nearly $2.2 billion. For now, it appears that the U.S. strategy is to pursue incremental punitive measures against Pakistan, rather than pursue harsher tactics such as revoking Pakistan's non-NATO major ally status or cutting aid altogether. The United States isn't fully ready to bring out the stick, but the carrot is slowly being drawn back.
Pakistan wants to maintain its relationship with the United States, but it's willing to suffer the cost of deteriorating ties. From Islamabad's perspective, supporting the Taliban follows a rational calculation to ensure post-conflict Afghanistan is friendly to Pakistani interests. Support for Taliban leaders is aimed at denying Pakistan's rival, India, a foothold in Afghanistan. Because of this, Mattis' visit probably won't convince Pakistan to change its behavior, especially considering the Trump administration's calls for India to play a greater economic role in Afghanistan.
Can the U.S. End Pakistan's Double Game?
A Q&A with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll on America's forever war against the Taliban.
By Nisid Hajari
7 February 10, 2018, 6:00 AM PST
Steve Coll’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Ghost Wars” laid out in gut-wrenching detail the chain of events that led from one modern war in Afghanistan -- against the Soviets -- to the Sept. 11 attacks and the brink of another conflict. When the book came out in 2004, the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda seemed on the wane, at least compared to the then-raging insurgency in Iraq. Soon, however, with the aid of their longtime sponsors in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the Taliban would reconstitute their movement and seize control over great swathes of the Afghan countryside, dueling the U.S. and the Afghan Army to a stalemate. If current trends hold, the U.S. will in the not-too-distant future be sending soldiers to the “graveyard of empires” that hadn’t even been born on 9/11.
Coll’s new book, “Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” tells the story of this new war in equally magisterial fashion. The narrative is punctuated by folly, frustration and hubris, with the U.S. striving unsuccessfully to convince the Pakistanis to abandon support for their Islamist proxies -- tools, generals in Rawalpindi believe, to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan -- and to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield. It comes out just as a series of horrific attacks in Kabul have reminded the world how ineradicable the Afghan insurgency remains. I spoke with Coll about where he thinks America’s longest war is headed and how it might, finally, end. The following is an edited and condensed version of our conversation:
NISID HAJARI: Now that the Trump Administration has released its “new strategy” for Afghanistan, including an increase in the number of airstrikes, you’re starting to hear U.S. commanders talk again about gaining momentum and reaching a “turning point” in the war. After retracing the first 15 years of this conflict, what do you think when you hear such comments?
STEVE COLL: Well, the history is dispiriting when you excavate it because it's so repetitive. And some of the reason is what you suggest, that new commanders come in, they don't stay for longer than two years in high military command, sometimes shorter. Not to be too cynical about it, but their career depends on a narrative of achievement. I remember Eliot Cohen, who was a counselor to [then-Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice during the Bush Administration, recounting how he discovered that the six-month command rotations had a common pattern: A new commander would come in and say, “This looks like it's going to be very, very difficult.” And then, six months later, he’d say, “We've irreversibly changed the momentum of the war.” As a writer, it was a narrative challenge, because at a certain point I would think, "Haven't I already told this story?"
Can the U.S. End Pakistan's Double Game?
A Q&A with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll on America's forever war against the Taliban.
By Nisid Hajari
7 February 10, 2018, 6:00 AM PST
NH: The unofficial Pakistani defense for supporting the Taliban has always been that India is the one destabilizing the situation, by seeking to dominate the Afghan government and thus encircle Pakistan. Do such claims have any merit?
SC: Well, it’s a complicated picture. Let’s start with the hardcore Pakistani allegations -- for example that NDS [the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency] is an Indian project, or that the disposition of Indian consulates and the activities of Indian citizens in Afghanistan are really just a massive cover for destabilization operations inside Pakistan. That’s exaggerated if not entirely fanciful in my assessment. I mean, the NDS is a CIA operation. It has Iranian connections. It has Russian connections. It has a few Indian liaisons. But the idea that NDS is a proxy for RAW [India’s Research and Analysis Wing espionage service] is just incorrect.
You know, the Indians have been very careful about the kinds of things they do in Afghanistan -- building hospitals, roads, a little bit of military training. From time to time they get a little bolder. Does India sponsor or run sometimes in cooperation with Afghan clients, covert action against Pakistan? Yes, they do. They clearly have their fingerprints in Baluchistan [the site of a long-running separatist insurgency]. When the war got really nasty and there was NDS collaboration with elements of the Pakistani Taliban, as a tit-for-tat response to Pakistani collaboration with the Afghan Taliban, was India aware of that? Did it perhaps support it at some level? Maybe. But NDS was in this game for its own reasons.
India asserts, and I think any reasonable person would recognize, that it has a right to provide aid to support Afghanistan’s recovery. Does it take satisfaction that this annoys Pakistan? Yes. Is it the most important priority in Indian foreign policy? Not at all.
NH: Pakistan’s support for the Taliban, and the sanctuary it provides Taliban leaders, is obviously critical to prolonging the war. But there’s an endless list of other contributing factors as well, from government dysfunction in Kabul to corruption to the drug economy. How would you rank them in terms of their importance to ending the conflict?
SC: I think the most important one, and it may be as important as the Pakistani sanctuary and ISI support, is the political crisis in Afghanistan among the elites. It’s kind of a paradox because Afghan nationalism is very strong and has been strengthened by the experience of Pakistani interference. I mean, the main thing that ISI has accomplished in Afghanistan, apart from seizing some territory through the Taliban, is to rally Afghans around a national idea greater than ethnic identity.
But having said that, ethnic factionalism and the failure to create a unity government after the 2014 elections has left Afghanistan in a grave position. And the other thing that’s new is social media, which has really modernized the country and plugged in a new generation, but also exacerbated factionalism and ethnic polarization. It’s really a virus.
#McMaster of War: #American #tanks were several generations ahead of T-72s of his #Iraqi opponents. #Abrams have depleted uranium armor... and carry anti-tank munitions tipped with depleted uranium penetrators with significantly longer range. #Trump
A number of military experts – including the defense secretary, James Mattis – have warned that a US war against North Korea would be hard, incredibly destructive and bloody, with civilian casualties in the millions, and could go badly for US forces. But Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, is apparently insistent that ‘a military strike be considered as a serious option’.
One of Gen. McMaster’s claims to fame is a Silver Star he was awarded for a tank ‘battle’ he led in the desert during the so-called Gulf War of 1991. As a young captain leading a troop with nine new Abrams M1A1 battle tanks, McMaster destroyed 28 Iraqi tanks in 23 minutes without losing any of his own or suffering any casualties.
McMaster’s exploit (later embellished with a name, the ‘Battle of 73 Easting’) was little more than a case of his having dramatically better equipment. His tanks were several generations ahead of the antique Russian-built T-72s of his Iraqi opponents. They were protected by depleted uranium armour – a dense metal virtually impenetrable by conventional tank shells, anti-tank rockets and RPGs – and carried anti-tank munitions tipped with depleted uranium penetrators, which can punch through steel armour as if it were cardboard. They then ignite a tank’s interior, exploding any ordnance inside and incinerating the crew. The Abrams main cannon also has a significantly longer range than the tanks McMaster was confronting, meaning he and his men were able to pick off the Iraqi tanks while the shells fired back at them all fell short.
McMaster also fought in the Iraq War of the following decade. In 2005, running counter-insurgency operations in Tal Afar, a northern city of 200,000 people, McMaster ordered up a massive ground assault and aerial bombardment that levelled 60 per cent of the buildings in the old city centre. His experiences in Iraq raise concerns that Trump’s national security adviser may misperceive war as a one-sided affair in which an invincible US, with its super-powerful war machine, can smash its enemies with impunity.
I spoke to Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired army colonel who was chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was George W. Bush’s secretary of state. ‘McMaster knows very little about the [Korean] peninsula, period,’ he told me. ‘Thus far, his comments and – I must assume – his counsel to the NSC and its head, Trump, reflects that ignorance.’ Asked whether McMaster may be underestimating the risks of attacking North Korea, Wilkerson said: ‘That could be said of almost any US flag officer and reinforced with any who had combat experience in Iraq in 1990-91 or 2003.’
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