Tag Archives: insurgency
International Sport(s), Geopolitics, and Political Histrionics

International Sport(s), Geopolitics, and Political Histrionics

Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani attended a semi-final match in the cricket World Cup today, the latest in a a 25-year series of events giving rise to the charming phrase, “cricket diplomacy”.  The seminal event  took place in 1987 when a match served as the pretext for what ended up being a somewhat decisive meeting between Zia-ul Haq and Rajiv Gandhi at one of the heights of tension in Kashmir.


And as an aside, the captain of the Pakistani team, Imran Khan, has since turned politician and and is a Pakistani MP, albeit a bit of a milquetoast-y one (there’s no shortage of course, not anywhere).

Speaking of pretexts and geopolitical histrionics, watch the daily “retreat ceremony” at Wagah on the Kashmiri border:

Let’s not forget the substantial role sport(s) plays in geopolitics: FIFA is, after all, the 2nd largest international organization (by number of member states)–only UN has more. But this topic is covered at some length.

And speaking of pretexts, I’ll take the opportunity to also remember that Kashmir isn’t solely contested by India and Pakistan: China has a stake too. It also has a spot of Muslim separatism (though not entirely–Xinjiang is semi-autonomous).

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Rebels Take Ajdabiya: What Happens Next?

Rebels Take Ajdabiya: What Happens Next?

So the Libyan rebels have taken control of Ajdabiya. Where celebration in Benghazi might have been more about  mere survival, this is a strategic victory.

Earlier on Friday, western warplanes bombed Gaddafi’s tanks and artillery outside the town to try to break a battlefield stalemate and help rebels retake the strategic area.

Coordination with the Rebels
Despite claims to the contrary, the seizure of Ajdabiya represents some degree of coordination between the coalition air forces and the rebels on the ground. Clearly, this is already “no-fly zone ‘plus'”; the targets were ground forces, not aircraft or air defenses, and the result clearly  went well beyond protecting “civilians”.

If you align Obama’s express political goals (among them the ouster of Qaddafi) with the strategic objectives of the coalition (albeit without much coherence, so I’m guessing) and frame them under the rubric off UNSC 1973, then you should be coordinating the actions in the air with those on the ground. I have to believe there’s some covert tactical intelligence-sharing between the air and the rebels, and that this allows us to advise them directly as opposed to some passive relationship where we “soften” targets and merely hope those actions nudge them in the right direction. While the rebels must at least consolidate in the East first, it’s a long way to Tripoli from there.

“Fleeing” v. Retreating
But it would be premature to celebrate as far as strategic military objectives are concerned. This isn’t so much a case of Qaddafi’s army “fleeing” as it is strategic prudence. Ajdabiya as it is probably more a concession of territory in order to retreat to closer and more fortified areas West. Qaddafi’s supply lines were strained and given the topography, an easy target for coalition air power. Things are going to get much more difficult as the rebels push West and approach more Qaddafi friendly/fortified territory, as the action closes in to more densely-packed areas (making for less effective “close air support” from the coalition and greater danger of civilian collateral damage) and the rebels’ supply lines become stretched as the loyalists consolidate. Sirte may prove determinative in this regard.

The rebels are being armed; we’re apparently looking the other way. Given that for us there are substantial legal questions over whether we could even arm any group within Libya, perhaps this is appropriate. Were the rebels able to get to Tripoli though (or even Sirte or Misrate), a few JDAM designators wouldn’t hurt.

After Qaddafi
What happens in Libya after Qaddafi? The people of Libya need basic services, at an absolute minimum “law and order” (then hospitals, water, power, etc.).  What security institutions will survive a post-Qaddafi Libya? In Egypt we had a relatively independent and strong military, relatively respected by the people. In Libya we may be stuck with a military made up of loyalist elites (at least, those who haven’t been persuaded to leave) and mercenaries (whose primary loyalty is to payment). Libya’s never been a “nation”, so primary loyalties (tribe) could leave a vacuum for more malign actors where security is absent.

Which brings us to the next point to consider in reconstructing a state: it needs to make money. And 95% of Libya’s export money comes from oil. That’s a single point of failure: Libya normally produces ~ 1.8 million barrels/day. Rebels are reestablishing production, but the numbers they’re talking about are in the hundreds of thousands of barrels/day. And of course, they need to establish ad-hoc export deals under their own authority for the time being. Apparently, the Transitional National Council (TNC) has established a deal with Qatar to take shipments of the oil and market it on behalf of the TNC.

As far as the consideration “it’s a long way to Tripoli”, those strategic objectives of regime change (or “regime disposal”) can’t entirely depend on the rebels, and a regional partition (say, East Libya and West Libya) is unsustainable, especially considering that the major oil fields and infrastructure are in the East. This scenario is similar to Iraqi Kurdistan, where a nation within a state is largely autonomous (having an independent military, a president, etc.) except when authority over a particularly oil-rich region (i.e., Kirkuk) comes into question. Again, there’s the simple fact that the there’s a pretty broad consensus that the de-facto head of state of “West Libya” “has to go”.

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