- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
I haven’t seen anyone blog this interesting tidbit from Robert Kaplan’s new piece in the Atlantic, in which the top U.S. intelligence official in Afghanistan says two of the most notorious Taliban affiliates are "absolutely salvageable":
A deal with the insurgents constitutes another part of a withdrawal strategy. While becoming more organizationally formidable since 9/11, the Taliban have also modified their behavior. Mullah Omar has sent out a directive banning beheadings and unauthorized kidnappings as well as other forms of violent and criminal activity, according to both Al-Jazeera and ISAF officials. “In a way, we’re seeing a kinder, gentler Taliban,” said both Commander Eggers and General Flynn. Moreover, in working with the tribes in the spirit of Churchill’s Malakand Field Force, Flynn, the intelligence chief, went so far as to suggest that the insurgent leaders Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are both “absolutely salvageable.” “The HIG already have members in Karzai’s government, and it could evolve into a political party, even though Hekmatyar may be providing alQaeda leaders refuge in Kunar. Hekmatyar has reconcilable ambitions. As for the Haqqani network, I can tell you they are tired of fighting, but are not about to give up. They have lucrative business interests to protect: the road traffic from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to Central Asia.” Lamb, the former SAS commander, added: “Haqqani and Hekmatyar are pragmatists tied to the probability of outcomes. With all the talk of Islamic ideology, this is the land of the deal.”
There’s been a lot of chatter recently over bringing Hekmatyar and/or Haqqani over on the the government side, but this is the first time I’ve seen a senior U.S. military official expressing this level of enthusiasm for the idea, even if it’s from a free spirit like Flynn. The Washington Post editorial board pre-emptively thundered last month that the inclusion of either guy "would be a disaster for the cause of human rights or a responsible Afghan government," so presumably Flynn isn’t the only guy in the U.S. military or civilian hierarchy thinking seriously about cutting a deal with one or both militant networks. (TNR‘s Michael Crowley quotes Bruce Riedel, who conducted the Obama administration’s AfPak strategy review and presumably still talks to the powers that be, expressing cautious enthusiasm for working with Hekmatyar.)
There’s no question these are nasty men, but they don’t strike me as particularly worse on human rights issues than say, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Mohammad Qasim Fahim, or any number of petty warlords the United States is working with in Afghanistan. The real question is what their demands are, and whether they’re willing to do things like rat out al Qaeda members hanging out in their areas of control. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his deputies are smart, practical men who have been given an impossible timetable and are going to do whatever works in order to meet President Obama’s withdrawal timeframe. If that means holding their noses and dealing with a sociopath like Hekmatyar, I’m sure they’ll do it when the price is right.
Shane Harris is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering intelligence and cyber security. He is the author of The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, which chronicles the creation of a vast national security apparatus and the rise of surveillance in America. The Watchers won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Economist named it one of the best books of 2010. Shane is the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He has four times been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, which honor the best journalists in America under the age of 35. Prior to joining Foreign Policy, he was the senior writer for The Washingtonian and a staff correspondent at National Journal.| The Complex |