are images of Afghanistan and conflict over the past month, part of
an ongoing monthly series. 42 photos, with captions. From The
the US funds the Taliban by Aram Roston. Insurgents are getting
paid insurgents for safe passage because there are few other ways to
bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where
soldiers need them.
of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll KABUL, Afghanistan Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the
Afghan president and a suspected player in the countrys booming
illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence
Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current
and former American officials.
pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit
an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.s direction
in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzais home.
ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency
and Mr. Karzai raise significant questions about Americas war
strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.
to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration.
The critics say the ties complicate Americas increasingly tense
relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build
sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the
Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.s practices also suggest
that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp
out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the
some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai,
the most powerful figure in a large swath of southern Afghanistan where
the Taliban insurgency is strongest, undermines the American push to
develop an effective central government that can maintain law and order
and eventually allow the United States to withdraw.
If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan,
and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining
ourselves, said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American
military intelligence official in Afghanistan.
'drift' on troops spurs revoltIn
Afghanistan they call it a shura, the tribal way of listening to elders'
views before reaching a consensus. In the US, where President Barack
Obama has now held five war councils, they are starting to call it dithering.
-- The Australian newspaper
Joe Biden should resign. Biden has become the chief White House
skeptic on escalating the war in Afghanistan, specifically arguing against
Gen. McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops to pursue a counterinsurgency
that they are risking their lives and that colleagues have died
for a futile mission and an Afghan population that does nothing
to help them, the chaplains told The Times in their makeshift chapel
on this fortress-like base in a dusty, brown valley southwest of Kabul.
delays troop call. Wall Street Journal. 9/22. WASHINGTON --
The Pentagon has told its top commander in Afghanistan to delay submitting
his request for additional troops, defense officials say, amid signs
that the Obama administration is rethinking its strategy for combating
a resurgent Taliban.
for an Afghan SurgeWall
Street Journal. 9/17 America's top military officer endorsed sending
more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, a shift in Pentagon rhetoric that heralds
a potential deepening of involvement in the Afghan war despite flagging
support from the public and top Democrats in Congress.
Addressing a Senate panel, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, offered no new details about how many American reinforcements
will be needed in Afghanistan. But his comments mean that both Adm.
Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who spoke on the subject
last week, now appear willing to order more forces to Afghanistan despite
their earlier skepticism about expanding the American military presence
support makes it easier for President Barack Obama to approve the plans
of Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- whom the Obama administration installed
as the top American commander in Kabul -- when he submits a formal request
later this month for as many as 40,000 new troops, in addition to 62,000
Stop The War in Afghanistan, Stop Afghanistan, General Stanley A. McChrystal
only have we accomplished nothing in Afghanistan, but the locals hate
us with a vengeance and want us out asap. And now even the "friendlies"
are killing us. We should be out instantly. And out completely. Here's
today's depressing piece from the New York Times.
Attacks in Afghanistan Shape the Late Stages of a War
It was only after the young Afghan soldiers hatred of Americans
had grown murderous that he reached out to the Taliban.
named simply Mahmood, 22, said that in May he told the insurgents of his
plan to shoot Americans the next time they visited the outpost where he
was based in northeastern Afghanistan. He asked the Taliban to take him
in if he escaped.
veterans he contacted were skeptical. Despite their public insistence
that they employ vast ranks of infiltrators within the Afghan Army and
the police, they acknowledged that many of the insider attacks they take
credit for start as offers by angry young men like Mahmood. They had seen
many fail, or lose their nerve before even starting, and they figured
that Mahmood, too, would prove more talk than action or would die in the
the Taliban didnt think I would be able to do this, Mr. Mahmood
said in an interview.
them wrong days later, on the morning of May 11, when he opened fire on
American trainers who had gone to the outpost in the mountains of Kunar
Province. One American was killed and two others were wounded. Mahmood
escaped in the ensuing confusion, and he remains free in Kunar after the
Taliban welcomed him into their ranks.
he said, his proudest day.
attacks, by Afghan security forces on their Western allies, became the
signature violence of 2012, in the words of one former American
official. The surge in attacks has provided the clearest sign yet that
Afghan resentment of foreigners is becoming unmanageable, and American
officials have expressed worries about its disruptive effects on the training
mission that is the core of the American withdrawal plan for 2014.
a game changer on all levels, said First Sgt. Joseph Hissong, an
American who helped fight off an insider attack by Afghan soldiers that
left two men in his unit dead.
clashes have contributed to some of the insider attacks, with Afghan soldiers
and police officers becoming enraged by what they see as rude and abusive
behavior by Americans close to them. In some cases, the abusive or corrupt
behavior of Afghan officers prompts the killer to go after Americans,
who are seen as backing the local commanders. On rare occasions, like
the killing of an American contractor by an Afghan policewoman late last
month, there seems to be no logical explanation.
it all, many senior coalition and Afghan officials are now concluding
that after nearly 12 years of war, the view of foreigners held by many
Afghans has come to mirror that of the Taliban. Hope has turned into hatred,
and some will find a reason to act on those feelings.
great percentage of the insider attacks have the enemy narrative
the narrative that the infidels have to be driven out somewhere
inside of them, but they arent directed by the enemy, said
a senior coalition officer, who asked not to be identified because of
Afghan and American sensitivities about the attacks.
is that, although the Taliban have successfully infiltrated the security
forces before, they do not always have to. Soldiers and police officers
will instead go to them, as was the case with Mr. Mahmood, who offered
a glimpse of the thinking behind the violence in one of the few interviews
conducted with Afghans who have committed insider attacks.
have intimate friends in the army who have the same opinion as I do,
Mr. Mahmood said. We used to sit and share our hearts tales.
But he said
he did not tell any of his compatriots of his plan to shoot Americans,
fearing that it could leak out and derail his attack. The interviews with
Mr. Mahmood and his Taliban contacts were conducted in recent weeks by
telephone and through written responses to questions. There are also two
videos that show Mr. Mahmood with the Taliban: an insurgent-produced propaganda
video available on jihadi Web sites, and an interview conducted by a local
journalist in Kunar.
Mahmood at times contradicted himself, falling into stock Taliban commentary
about how it had always been his ambition to kill foreigners, much of
what he said mirrored the timelines and versions of events provided by
Taliban fighters who know him, as well as Afghan officials familiar with
grew up in Tajikan, a small village in the southern province of Helmand.
The area around his village remains dominated by the Taliban despite advances
against the insurgents made in recent years by American and British troops.
Even Afghans from other parts of Helmand are hesitant to travel to Tajikan
for fear of the Taliban.
an Afghan officer who runs the Afghan National Armys recruitment
center in Helmand, said Mr. Mahmood enlisted about four years ago. His
story, up to that point, would be familiar to many Americans: He was a
poor boy from a family of eight who worked sweeping up in a tailor shop
and was looking for a better life. The army offered steady pay, reading
and writing lessons, and a chance to see something beyond the mud hovels
in which he was born and raised.
barely had a beard, recalled Colonel Khudaidad, who also uses only
one name, in an interview. He looked so innocent that you wouldnt
believe what he did if you only saw him then.
says he was anything but an innocent. He grew up being told that Americans,
Britons and Jews are the enemies of our country and our religion,
May, he worked and fought alongside foreigners without incident. The change
came in the Ghaziabad District of Kunar, where he ended up after the start
of 2012, he said.
is thick with Taliban, along with Islamists from Pakistan. Many residents
sympathized with the insurgents and often complained to Afghan soldiers
about the abuses committed by Americans and the failure of Afghan soldiers
to control much of anything beyond the perimeter of their own outpost,
Mr. Mahmood said. The Taliban, they glorified.
to villagers, Mr. Mahmood became convinced that the foreigners had killed
too many Afghans and insulted the Prophet Muhammad too many times. He
wanted to be driving them out, not helping them stay. The villagers
stories strengthened my desire to kill Americans with my own fingers,
the Taliban through a local sympathizer. He did not want help he
only asked the insurgents not to shoot me if he managed to
escape after attacking the Americans, which he told them would happen
in a few days.
He was on
guard duty when American soldiers arrived at the outpost on May 11. He
waited for a few of them to shed their body armor and put down their weapons,
and then he opened fire. (New regulations require American trainers to
keep their armor on and weapons at hand when visiting Afghan bases.)
and American soldiers initially thought the attack was coming from the
outside. They didnt even think that someone within the Afghan
Army might have opened fire on Americans, he said. I took
advantage of this confusion and fled.
to have hit six Americans. I dont know how many were killed,
though I hope all were, he said. The coalition said one soldier
was killed and two were wounded.
welcomed him as a hero. He was given the title ghazi, an honorific
for someone who helps drive off non-Muslim invaders. They let me
keep the same rifle I used to kill Americans.
the Taliban featured Mr. Mahmood in a propaganda video, calling him Ghazi
of Ghaziabad. The video shows Mr. Mahmood, smiling broadly, being
draped with garlands and showered with praise from local elders, Taliban
fighters and cheering crowds of men and boys.
month, the American-led military coalition announced that it had killed
Mr. Mahmood in an airstrike. The coalition now says it was mistaken and
that Mr. Mahmood is still with the Taliban in Kunar.
and officials in Helmand backed up that account, saying Mr. Mahmood had
been in touch with relatives since the report of his death. Mr. Mahmood
said he spoke only to his mother, and that she was happy.
and Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting from Kabul, and an employee
of The New York Times from Asadabad.
re-elected President has said on a thousand times that he wants to get
us out of Afghanistan asap. We first heard end-2014. Now we're hearing
that he wants to stay there after the end of 2014. He doesn't tell us
why. And no one can figure his "logic."
is nothing America can gain by staying in Afghanistan.
went there to get Al Qaeda. We did. And the remnants have long ago moved
to Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and other thrilling places.
itself is a mess. Corruption is rampant. The government cannot govern.
Warlords are running amok. The Taliban control much of the country and
are coming back. We've not been able to fix any of this. Yet American
soldiers are dying, being maimed, and suffering awful psychological
problems. Think what happens to you when you miss a night's sleep. Many
of our troops haven't had a decent night's sleep for months. Imagine
how you'd feel. You can't.
many people have too much stake in the continuation of this war -- from
the generals to the consultants, from the paid mercenaries to the contractors
bringing in supplies for our troops at huge profits.
than writing letters to The White House and your Congresspeople, I can't
think of any way of bringing this useless war to a quick end.
keep publishing this blog in the hope that someone will take notice
and do something about closing it down. Write me if you can think of
something -- Harry at HarryNewton dot com.
27, 2012. New York Times editorial:
Pace of Leaving Afghanistan
months ago, President Obama said that the 30,000 American troops deployed
to Afghanistan for the "surge" would be home by this September,
and he made good on that promise. He also said troop reductions would
continue at a "steady pace" until the remaining 66,000 were
out by the end of 2014.
"steady pace" should mean withdrawing all combat forces on
a schedule dictated only by the security of the troops. That should
start now and should not take more than a year. We strongly supported
the war in Afghanistan following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but
after more than a decade of fighting and a cost upward of $500 billion
it is time for a safe and orderly departure. If there was ever a serious
chance of building a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, it was lost
when President George W. Bush abandoned that challenge to pursue his
pointless war in Iraq.
unclear how Mr. Obama defines "steady pace." He said that
his senior commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, would provide
him with a formal recommendation on the pace of withdrawals after the
November election. But the White House has still not asked General Allen
for his assessment, nor has the Pentagon begun considering specific
troop levels for 2013 and into 2014.
R. Gordon of The Times reported this week that military commanders are
pressing to keep most of the remaining 66,000 troops in Afghanistan
until the end of the 2013 fighting season in the fall and then withdrawing
them in the year after that. But this slow withdrawal would do nothing
to ensure that the Taliban does not regain territory or that Afghanistan's
politics stabilize. And any hope of ridding the government of corruption
seems less and less likely. What is certain is that the longer troops
remain in the battlefield, the more that deaths and injuries will be
White House is already beginning to deal with another important decision:
whether to leave a residual force after 2014 when the Afghan Army and
police forces have full responsibility for the country's security. American
and NATO military planners are drawing up the broad outlines of such
a deployment. One option calls for about 10,000 Americans and several
thousand non-American NATO troops, including a counterterrorism force
of about 1,000 and other units to advise Afghan security forces.
House officials say Mr. Obama will consider options for the residual
force soon, because that will affect negotiations already under way
between Washington and Kabul on specific terms of their future security
relationship. So far, President Obama has failed to make a case to the
American people for a residual force of any size.
negotiations, which could take months, should not be an excuse to drag
out a decision on the pace of withdrawing the remaining combat troops.
More than 2,000 American military personnel have died in this war, and
many thousands more have been maimed. There is no reason to delay the
troops' return home by another year.
to get out NOW
is an Editorial in today's New York Times. The editorial says what I
have been saying for many years -- Pack up and get out NOW. Do it teh
fastest possible way -- even if it inlcudes renting every large long-haul
plane in the world and bring our troops and support personnel out in
the next few weeks. Save our people's lives, please. Get out NOW. There's
nothing left to saccomplish or save in Afghanistan. -- Harry Newton
to Pack Up
more than a decade of having American blood spilled in Afghanistan,
with nearly six years lost to President George W. Bush's disastrous
indifference, it is time for United States forces to leave Afghanistan
on a schedule dictated only by the security of the troops. It should
not take more than a year. The United States will not achieve even President
Obama's narrowing goals, and prolonging the war will only do more harm.
President Joseph Biden Jr. said on Friday that "we are leaving
Afghanistan in 2014, period. There is no ifs, ands or buts." Mr.
Obama indicated earlier that this could mean the end of 2014. Either
way, two more years of combat, two more years of sending the 1 percent
of Americans serving in uniform to die and be wounded, is too long.
officials say they will not consider a secure "logistical withdrawal,"
but they offer no hope of achieving broad governance and security goals.
And the only final mission we know of, to provide security for a 2014
Afghan election, seems dubious at best and more likely will only lend
American approval to a thoroughly corrupt political system.
conclusion represents a change on our part. The war in Afghanistan had
powerful support at the outset, including ours, after the attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001.
Mr. Bush's years of neglect, we believed that a new president, Barack
Obama, was doing the right thing by at least making an effort. He set
goals that made sense: first, a counterinsurgency campaign, stepped-up
attacks on Al Qaeda, then an attempt to demolish the Taliban's military
power, promote democratic governance in Kabul and build an Afghan Army
capable of exerting control over the country.
it is now clear that if there ever was a chance of "victory"
in Afghanistan, it evaporated when American troops went off to fight
the pointless war in Iraq. While some progress has been made, the idea
of fully realizing broader democratic and security aims simply grows
more elusive. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 American troops have died in
this war, more than 50 of them recently in growing attacks by Afghan
forces, and many thousands more have been maimed. The war has now cost
upward of $500 billion.
Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, said at the debate
on Thursday: "We don't want to lose the gains we've gotten. We
want to make sure that the Taliban doesn't come back in."
fighting will not consolidate the modest gains made by this war, and
there seems little chance of guaranteeing that the Taliban do not "come
back in," at least in the provinces where they have never truly
been dislodged. Last month, militants struck a heavily fortified NATO
base. Officials say the Pakistan-based Haqqani network is behind many
of the attacks on Americans.
are desperate to see the war end and the 68,000 remaining troops come
home. President Obama has not tasked military commanders with recommending
a pace for the withdrawal until after the election. He and the coalition
partners have committed to remain engaged in Afghanistan after 2014
at reduced levels, which could involve 15,000 or more American troops
to carry out specialized training and special operations. Mr. Obama,
or Mitt Romney if he wins, will have a hard time convincing Americans
that makes sense - let alone Afghans. The military may yet ask for tens
of thousands more troops, which would be a serious mistake.
increase the odds for a more manageable transition and avert an economic
collapse, the United States and other major donors have pledged $16
billion in economic aid through 2015. That is a commitment worth keeping,
but the United States and its allies have tried nation building in Afghanistan,
at least for the last four years. It is not working.
task is to pack up without leaving behind arms that terrorists want
and cannot easily find elsewhere (like Stinger missiles) or high-tech
equipment (like Predator drones) that can be reverse engineered by Pakistan
or other potential foes. The military can blow those things up if it
is hard to be exact about a timetable since the Pentagon and NATO refuse
to discuss it. The secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, told us last
week that decisions about the timetable would be made after the military
command reported to Mr. Obama in December. He would not say much of
anything beyond that - whether the withdrawal would be front-loaded,
or back-loaded, or how many troops would be needed to secure the election.
experts say a secure withdrawal would take at least six months, and
possibly a year. But one year is a huge improvement over two. It would
be one less year of having soldiers die or come home with wounds that
are terrifying, physically and mentally.
among veterans and those in active service reached unacceptable levels
long ago. A recent article by The Associated Press quoted studies estimating
that 45 percent of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are
claiming disability benefits. A quarter of those veterans - 300,000
to 400,000, depending on the study - say they suffer from some form
of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is far too high a price to go
on asking of troops and their families.
years ago, Mr. Obama called Afghanistan a "war we have to win."
His strategy relied on a newly trained Afghan Army and police force
that could take over fighting the Taliban; a government competent to
deliver basic services; and Pakistan's cooperation. Here is what happened:
SECURITY FORCES NATO and the Pentagon built an Afghan Army and police
force of nearly 352,000 that is now nominally in the lead for providing
security in most of the country. Attrition rates are high and morale
is low; the attacks on coalition forces have eroded trust and slowed
the training. Afghan leaders have to work harder with Washington to
weed out corrupt troops and Taliban infiltrators, but the nation cannot
hang its hopes on that happening.
is an agreement to finance the army to 2017 with Kabul paying $500 million,
Washington about $2.5 billion and other donors about $1.3 billion. If
Kabul keeps its commitments, the donors should make good on theirs.
Taliban have not retaken territory they lost to coalition forces, but
Kandahar and Helmand Provinces, the Taliban base and the main focus
of the 2010 surge, remain heavily contested. A Pentagon report in May
said Taliban attacks in Kandahar from last October through March rose
by 13 percent over the same period a year earlier.
Byrd, an Afghan expert at the United States Institute of Peace, said,
"The most that probably can be hoped" is that the army continues
to hold Kabul and other major cities. It is not likely to ever become
an effective counterinsurgency force.
CREDIBLE GOVERNANCE President Hamid Karzai's weak and corrupt government,
awash in billions of dollars, continues to alienate Afghans and make
the Taliban an attractive alternative. Mr. Karzai recently chose Asadullah
Khalid, a man accused of torture and drug trafficking, to take over
the country's main intelligence agency. Dozens of Karzai family members
and allies have taken government jobs, pursued business interests or
worked as contractors to the United States government.
recent report by Afghanistan's central bank said the Afghan political
elite had been using Kabul Bank as a piggy bank. In 2010, word that
the bank had lost $300 million caused a panic, and the number later
tripled. To win pledges of continued aid at an international donors
conference in July, President Karzai promised to crack down on corruption
and make political reforms, but he has done little. The aid sustaining
his government is at risk if he fails. We doubt that he will exercise
real leadership. For now, he has proved himself to be not only unreliable,
but a force undermining American goals and Afghans' interests.
2009 and 2010, Mr. Karzai's supporters tried to defraud the national
elections. With elections scheduled for 2014, the question is whether
Mr. Karzai will keep his vow to abide by the Constitution and leave
when his term is up. He needs to make sure the Parliament and the government
put in place an electoral system that encourages competent candidates
to run and enables a broadly accepted election with international monitors.
All sides are lagging. (There has been even less progress in restoring
local governance, the bedrock of Afghan society, where the Taliban exert
Obama wants to use American troops to provide logistical assistance
and security at the elections. There were real threats to voters' lives
in the first post-Taliban elections, but the real threat to democracy
is from corruption, not bombs. Mr. Karzai stole the last election, and
he got away with it with American forces in place. After giving him
10 years and lots of money, things keep going in the wrong direction.
Why would this now change?
WITH PAKISTAN After some bitter disputes, Pakistan began cooperating
with the United States again in June by reopening a critical supply
route to Afghanistan. American officials say the Pakistanis may have
decided that sowing chaos in Afghanistan by supporting Taliban proxies
is not in their interest after all. This could be wishful thinking.
Last week, the Pentagon blamed the Pakistani-backed Haqqani network
for some of the recent "green on blue" attacks. Islamabad's
collusion with the Taliban and other extremist groups is the biggest
threat to Afghan stability.
United States has a huge interest in a less destructive Pakistan, a
nuclear-armed country of 170 million that supports jihad in Afghanistan,
Kashmir and Indian cities. But there is reason to argue that America's
leverage with Pakistan on security matters is limited by its need for
Pakistani bases, border crossings and intelligence on the Taliban.
tens of thousands of American troops were removed from landlocked Afghanistan,
that might actually allow the United States to hang tougher with Islamabad.
Pakistan officials might not listen, but at least the United States
could be more honest about what the Pakistanis were doing to worsen
the threat of terrorism and insurgency.
are not arguing that everything will work out well after the United
States leaves Afghanistan. It will not. The Taliban will take over parts
of the Pashtun south, where they will brutalize women and trample their
rights. Warlords will go on stealing. Afghanistan will still be the
world's second-poorest country. Al Qaeda may make inroads, but since
9/11 it has established itself in Yemen and many other countries.
global interests suffer when it is mired in unwinnable wars in distant
regions. Dwight Eisenhower helped the country's position in the world
by leaving Korea; Richard Nixon by leaving Vietnam; President Obama
by leaving Iraq.
of these places became Jeffersonian democracies. But the United States
was better off for leaving. Post-American Afghanistan is likely to be
more presentable than North Korea, less presentable than Iraq and perhaps
about the same as Vietnam. But it fits the same pattern of damaging stalemate.
We need to exit as soon as we safely can.
Site and Nation Building
web site contains the latest news from, and opinions about Afghanistan.
I do not believe in the War in Afghanistan. I believe the U.S. and its
partners have nothing to gain from this endless war (already much longer
than the World War II.). The United States should withdraw immediately
from Afghanistan -- not on the slow, painful timetable our dreamy, academic
president has proposed. See Endgame below.
I began publishing this blog years ago, I have wrestled with the best
argument as to how to close this War. There is no victoriious enemy
army as in Korea or Vietnam to force us to retreat. We could stay in
Afghanistan. If we spend the money and the lives of precious American
children, we will never be defeated. The argument to exit now is Nation
we should be nation building America, not Afghanistan.
United States currently spends about $10 billion a month in Afghanistan.
If you figure $10 million a new school or a community college, that's
one thousand new schools the U.S. could build every month.
Or 12,000 schools a year.
real unemployment in the United States still running over 16%,
we need to ask ourselves: Should we spend our money on bombs, bullets,
troops and airport runways in Afghanistan? Or should we spend the money
at home to train our unemployed workers? And to build some bridges,
tunnels and roads. Or should we reduce onerous taxes on employers, like
got a new 11,500 foot airport runway, courtesy Uncle Sam. New York City
could do with one. Maybe Chicago? Atlanta? You get the idea.
Building in the U.S. Not in Afghanistan." That's our new motto.
Let's see if we can make it stick. Nation
building is my best idea on how to convince the U.S. government and
its partners to leave Afghanistan.
publish this web site as a public service. I personally pay for all
the expenses of this web site. I don't feel Afghanistan is worth American
lives and treasure. -- Harry Newton.
book is called The War Within the War for Afghanistan. It's by Rajiv
book was reviewed in the New York Times. Here's the review of September,
By LINDA ROBINSON
Chandrasekaran has done it again. Like "Imperial Life in the Emerald
City," his chronicle of Washington's hapless management of the
Iraq war in its early days, "Little America" is a beautifully
written and deeply reported account of how a divided United States government
and its dysfunctional bureaucracy have foiled American efforts abroad,
this time to suppress the Taliban insurgency and bring stability to
Afghanistan. It tells a story of political foibles, overly ambitious
goals and feckless Afghans and Americans. The United States seems condemned
to lurch between disastrous quick fixes and unrealistic visions of remaking
countries overnight in its own image, never finding a middle road. No
doubt most readers of this book will come away with the conclusion that
our principal enemy in all this is ourselves.
takes his title from an earlier effort to help Afghanistan. In the 1950s
the Afghan king set out to bring prosperity to the rural southern region
of his country through a huge development project supported by Afghan
and American money. The construction giant Morrison Knudsen built a
Little America enclave for engineers, workers and their families, complete
with a swimming pool and card parties. In a telling vignette, Chandrasekaran
recounts a riot that erupted in Kandahar when the conservative Pashtun
elders found out that Afghan girls were being taught alongside boys
in schools the Americans had built. The elders violently rejected this
form of progress, but ultimately it was the land itself that thwarted
the program: the salinity of the soil wrought havoc with most crops.
years later, the United States has repeated many of its past errors
in the very same place. Chandrasekaran, an associate editor at The Washington
Post, skewers the United States Agency for International Development,
which refused to back an Afghan program to revive cotton gins in the
south on the grounds that it would not be a free-market endeavor - no
matter that the American cotton industry depends on government protection.
Another tragicomedy is a hydropower project at Kajaki Dam, in a guerrilla-infested
corner of Helmand Province. If it is ever finished, it will cost hundreds
of millions of dollars and only slightly increase the supply of electricity.
fiascoes highlight U.S.A.I.D.'s lack of management skill and expertise.
But the most egregious error in development policy, Chandrasekaran shows,
is a simple one: gushers of cash have been pumped into one of the world's
poorest economies, creating Potemkin progress and a tidal wave of corruption.
the American model for promoting economic growth is fundamentally broken,
the same might be said for its wartime policy-making process. The Pentagon
favored a broad counterinsurgency program, whereas the Obama White House
wanted a narrower effort directed at preventing Al Qaeda from regaining
a foothold in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the legendarily energetic and
egotistic Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special representative for Afghanistan
and Pakistan, pursued a third strategy, trying to negotiate an end to
the Taliban insurgency, that was supported by neither the White House
nor the military.
adds important new details to previous accounts of the crippling infighting
at the top levels of government. Douglas E. Lute, the White House's
chief adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the American ambassador
in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, engaged in perpetual bureaucratic warfare
with Holbrooke and the Pentagon. Lute tried to get Holbrooke fired.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Holbrooke's friend and boss, protected
his job, though his ceaseless forays, before his death, in quest of
a Balkan-like peace deal were bearing no fruit. And while Holbrooke
and Eikenberry were allied in their criticism of President Hamid Karzai
of Afghanistan, neither had much influence with him. The only senior
official to forge decent relations with Karzai was Stanley McChrystal,
the four-star commander in Kabul, who resigned after his staff's scathing
remarks about the White House became public. According to Chandrasekaran's
sources, President Obama became increasingly skeptical of American involvement,
but he did not intervene to stop the infighting that undermined whatever
chance it might have had of succeeding.
the military front, Chandrasekaran spent most of his time on the ground
charting the Marines' operations in Helmand. They arrived to bolster
the undermanned and faltering British effort, but Helmand, which had
a booming opium crop, was not in any sense the strategic center of the
war. Neighboring Kandahar, the Pashtun homeland and the Taliban heartland,
had half the 20,000 troops that Helmand received. According to Chandrasekaran,
both McChrystal and Lute recognized this as a misallocation of forces
but did not correct it. The young Marines fought heroically, taking
terrible casualties, especially from thickets of homemade mines affixed
to irrigation canals, culverts and walls.
of the troops grumbled at the restrictions on air power that McChrystal
had imposed to reduce the number of civilian casualties as being too
soft on the enemy. But there was still plenty of killing in the fields
of Helmand and western Kandahar. Explosives were used to blast open
routes to villages on heavily mined roads, and when the 101st Airborne
arrived in Arghandab District, it leveled a few villages that had been
vacated except for Taliban fighters. Chandrasekaran tells the discouraging
story of Harry Tunnell, the commander of the Fifth Brigade, Second Infantry
Division, which took heavy casualties in Arghandab, came out swinging
with rogue kill teams and never stopped. Tunnell was an unrepentant
opponent of counterinsurgency who gave his brigade the moniker "Destroyer"
during training, and ordered its vehicles painted with the motto "Search
and Destroy." Senior leaders wondered if he should have been relieved
of command, but by the time his unit's possible crimes were uncovered,
he was back home. An investigation absolved him of responsibility.
America" is a brilliant and courageous work of reportage. Its only
weakness is a final chapter that feels more like a grab bag of complaints
than a coherent critique. Chandrasekaran's contribution to our current
debates over Afghanistan would have been greater had he answered more
definitively the questions of whether Obama's policy was essentially
unworkable, and whether there was a path not taken.
does provide some tantalizing possibilities. A diplomat advising the
Marines in Helmand advocated a more modest but sustained approach, and,
the author writes, "he had been right all along: . . . Obama should
have gone long, not big." Chandrasekaran also recounts a pragmatic
attempt by the United States commander in Kandahar, Maj. Gen. James
Terry, and his deputy Ken Dahl to achieve a balance among competing
factions in the south, but this became a lost cause, Chandrasekaran
says, once Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the plan's chief Afghan architects,
was murdered by an aide. Clearly, Afghanistan is a Hobbesian world of
palace intrigue, where life for many will go on being nasty, brutish
Robinson is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Her most recent book is "Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus
and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq."
Afghanistan, Businesses Plan Their Own Exits By GRAHAM BOWLEY and MATTHEW ROSENBERG, the New York Times
Afghan man exchanged currency for a client at the Money and Exchange Market
America may be struggling to come up with a viable exit plan for
Afghanistan, but Abdul Wasay Manani is sure of his.
Afghan butcher spent the past seven years trucking cattle in from the
Pakistan border and building a thriving business for himself and his family,
serving up some of the best hamburgers in Kabul for the embassies and
expatriates and their barbecues.
month, Mr. Manani, 38, flew to India for 14 days to scout out a new business,
and a new home, ready to leave Afghanistan and everything he worked to
build here, just in case things fall apart when most Americans and other
foreign troops leave in 2014. If the Taliban come like last time,
ordering people around with whips, I cant stay here, he said.
I have to leave this country to keep my family safe.
share his concern. Interviews with business owners, analysts and economists
paint a picture of extreme anxiety in both the domestic and international
business communities here as the Afghan-United States relationship deteriorates
and as the Western drawdown begins.
environment, troubling indicators are not hard to find. More than 30,400
Afghans applied for asylum in industrialized nations in 2011, the highest
level in 10 years and four times the number seeking asylum in 2005, according
to provisional figures from the United Nations. Meanwhile, the number
of displaced Afghans outside the country seeking to come the other way
slowed to 68,000 last year, down from 110,000 in 2010 and a big decrease
from the 1.8 million Afghans who repatriated in 2002, the year after the
Taliban were driven out of power.
Western bank operating here said on Wednesday that it would be leaving.
Piles of cash equaling about a quarter of Afghanistans annual economic
output were physically carried out of Afghanistan last year. Fewer foreign
companies are seeking to do business here, and those already here are
downsizing and putting off new investments. And there are businessmen
like Mr. Manani who already have a foot out the door, working actively
toward a Plan B for life and business outside Afghanistan.
officials are acutely aware of it, and are alternately worried and angry.
Sometimes I hear that some businessmen are fleeing and moving their
businesses to outside Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai said at
a news conference this month. Curses be upon such businessmen that
made tons of money here and now that the Americans are leaving they flee.
They can leave right now. We dont need them.
importance of trying to bolster economic independence in the overall plan
for Afghanistan, the skittish responses and decreasing investment and
hiring strike right at hopes that this impoverished nation, still barely
on the cusp of modernity, can thrive on its own.
are expressing worries about security. One of the most significant is
Standard Chartered, the only big Western bank with a branch in the country,
which said Wednesday that it was turning over its operations to a local
Afghan bank and withdrawing mainly because of deteriorating conditions.
Qurban Haqjo, chief executive of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and
Industries, said the head of one of the countrys four big cellphone
companies had told him that he planned to take his investments out of
the country after 2014.
is still two years to go, but we are hearing from our businesses that
everybody is raising this question, Mr. Haqjo said.
who are trying to stay, foreign companies in particular, have become very
conservative. According to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency,
capital spending by foreign companies newly registered in the past year,
at $55 million, was the lowest rate in at least seven years, and about
one-eighth the rates peak in 2006.
to Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American businesswoman who grew up in Queens,
the caution is expressing itself in businesses that are downsizing work
forces, for example, or holding off on new investments.
the people I know, there is planning going on in terms of investment decisions,
she said. They are not packing up their bags just yet, but people
are looking to diversify abroad or into other business sectors within
the companies that are more heavily dependent on the military and the
aid economy, like construction and logistics businesses, are trying to
stay put by reconfiguring toward the few areas where analysts feel Afghanistan
might have growth potential, like mining or trade.
are nervous that Afghanistans nebulous private sector will not be
enough to fill the gap left by the United States military and development
spending. World Bank figures back up those fears: the bank estimates that
outside aid is equivalent to more than 90 percent of the countrys
total economic activity, and forecasts a slowdown in growth in the coming
years to 5 or 6 percent from about 9 percent, or much lower if security
in part because, despite the billions in reconstruction and aid money
poured into Afghanistan, there still is no major manufacturing or technology
base that could be a driver of future prosperity. A new Pepsi bottling
plant on the outskirts of Kabul is trumpeted as one of the few new investment
is a sense that they have to change from a war economy to a postwar economy,
and people definitely expect it to contract, said Thomas Rosenstock,
a lawyer, originally from New York, who helps foreign companies entering
the Afghan market. Its uncertain how dramatic the contraction
are those who are voting with their cash.
tens of millions of dollars some thought to be diverted American
aid or drug money are packed into suitcases or boxes and loaded
onto planes leaving Kabul International Airport for destinations like
Dubai, capital flight that is increasing steadily ahead of the 2014 deadline,
Delawari, the central bank governor, recently imposed restrictions limiting
the amount a passenger can take out of the country to $20,000 a trip.
mountain of departing cash that is officially declared about $4.6
billion last year, the same size as the Afghan governments annual
budget may be matched by money fleeing through other airports and
over borders, or seeping out through the black market, an Afghan official
said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. We really dont
know how much is being moved, the official said.
officials are still struggling to ensure that people passing through the
V.I.P. area of the Kabul airport put their bags through X-ray machines
installed a few years ago in part to keep people from sneaking cash out,
the official said.
Manani, the butcher, and others like him who do not have huge amounts
of capital as a safety blanket, the hopes that they can stay at home and
still expand their businesses are being tempered by the need to ensure
their families safety.
is rooted in an effort to start a second business in New Delhi with his
local Sikh business partner there, he says. That would enable him to get
a long-term visa, and so a way out for his wife and five children, as
well as his parents, brothers and a sister and their children, all of
whom depend on him and would have to move with him, he says.
businessman is just thinking about how to move from here, about how to
be safe, Mr. Manani said as he stood in front of a big cooler where
sides of beef and lamb were hanging. Through the doorway into another
room, four workers were busily cutting and packing.
up in the north of Afghanistan and fought in the bitter civil war of the
1990s. There is no way he wants to relive that experience, he said.
dont have the energy to take the gun again and start fighting,
he said. Thats why I am looking for a way out.
Zohori contributed reporting.
By MAUREEN DOWD, The New York Times
gentleman from North Carolina mentioned "Uncle Chang," it hit
with an awkward clang.
are spending $10 billion a month that we can't even pay for," said
Congressman Walter Jones, that rarest of birds, a Southern Republican
dove. "The Chinese - Uncle Chang is lending us the money to pay that
we are spending in Afghanistan."
morning, members of the House Armed Services Committee tried to grill
Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the commander in Afghanistan who succeeded
David Petraeus, about the state of the mission.
has happened in the past few weeks. A war that long ago reached its breaking
point has gone mad, with violent episodes that seemed emblematic of the
searing, mind-bending frustration on both sides after 10 years of fighting
in a place where battle has been an occupation, and preoccupation, for
forces cold-bloodedly murdered some American troops after Korans were
burned by military personnel. Then an American soldier walked out of his
base early one morning and began cold-bloodedly murdering Afghan innocents,
leaving seven adults and nine children in one small village dead.
an exhausted feel to the oversight hearing, lawmakers on both sides looking
visibly sapped by our draining decade of wars. Even hawks seem beaten
down by our self-defeating pattern in Afghanistan: giving billions to
rebuild the country, money that ends up in the foreign bank accounts of
its corrupt officials.
Chairman Buck McKeon, a Republican from California, made a pro forma complaint
that the administration is "heading for the exits."
of the politicians seemed resigned to the fact that President Obama is
resigned to settling for a very small footprint and enough troops to keep
terrorists from using Afghanistan as a base to attack the U.S. or our
House seems ready to forget eliminating the poppy trade and expanding
education for girls. We're not going to turn our desolate protectorate
into a modern Athens and there's not going to be any victory strut on
an aircraft carrier.
buried alive in the Graveyard of Empires, all you can do is claw your
Jones directly confronted General Allen on the most salient point: "What
is the metric?" How do you know when it's time to go?
does the Congress have the testimony that someone will say, we have done
all we can do?" he asked. "Bin Laden is dead. There are hundreds
of tribes in Afghanistan and everyone has their own mission."
once so gung ho about W.'s attempts to impose democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan
that, after the French opposed invading Iraq in 2003, he helped lead the
effort to rename French fries "freedom fries" and French toast
"freedom toast" in the House cafeteria.
he thinks that both wars are sucking away lives and money, reaping only
futility, and that he was silly about the fries. He said he's fed up with
having military commanders and Pentagon officials come to Capitol Hill
year after year for a decade and say about Afghanistan: "Our gains
are sustainable, but there will be setbacks" and "We are making
progress, but it's fragile and reversible."
he had recently visited Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital to see
wounded troops: "I had a young Marine lance corporal who lost one
leg," in a room with his mother.
question is," the Marine asked him, "Why are we still there?"
read an e-mail from a military big shot whom he described as a former
boss of General Allen's, giving the congressman this unvarnished assessment:
"Attempting to find a true military and political answer to the problems
in Afghanistan would take decades. Would drain our nation of precious
resources, with the most precious being our sons and daughters. Simply
put, the United States cannot solve the Afghan problem, no matter how
brave and determined our troops are."
noting mordantly: "I hope that sometime in between now and 2014,
if things are not improving or they are fragile like they are now, somebody
will come to the Congress and say the military has sacrificed enough.
The American people have paid enough. And somebody would shoot straight
with the American people and the Congress."
"We can declare victory now. But there's one thing we cannot do,
and that is change history, because Afghanistan has never changed since
they've been existing."
of our Sisyphean decade of two agonizing wars was written last year by
then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates: "Any future defense secretary
who advises the president to send a big American land army into Asia,
or into the Middle East or Africa, should have his head examined."
from a Distant Battlefield
Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom was killed by Taliban fighters in 2008, while
attempting a heroic rescue in a perilously isolated outpost, his war was
over. His fathers war, to hold the U.S. Army accountable for Brostroms
death, had just begun. And Lieutenant Colonel William Ostlunds warto
defend his own record as commanderwas yet to come. With three perspectives
on the most scrutinized engagement of the Afghanistan conflict, one that
shook the military to its foundations, Mark Bowden learns the true tragedy
of the Battle of Wanat.
WAR AT HOME The family of Jonathan P. Brostrom, who was killed at
Wanat. From left: Brostroms mother, Mary Jo; his father, David,
a retired colonel; and his brother, Blake, a lieutenant.
above is from the December, 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. It deals with the
sad death of Jonathan P. Brostrom in a remote part of Afghanistan. As
you read the article, the question you will ask yourself is "What
were our troops doing there? Even if they had succeeded, what could they
have accomplished that would benefit America? Why put these poor young
kids in harm's way? The story of this remote outpost is a microcosm of
what this insane war has become. So terribly sad for the mother, the fatrher
and the brother. Read the article, please. Click here.
years after the end of the Vietnam War
I am in Vietnam playing tourist. I ask my local political expert (my cab
driver): Do people talk about the War?"
do they talk about?" I ask.
bill comes in U.S. dollars. Our restaurants' bills are often in U.S. dollars.
Coca Cola is ubiquitous. HP is running a printer promotion at a local
computer store, which sells every product Best Busy sells in the states
-- at about the same price.
electricity?" I ask.
has it. It works all the time." he answers.
people have a cell phone and a landline in their house if they want it.
Landlines are popular with older Vietnamese, who have trouble using cell
is telecommunications. I was in that industry for 40 years. I still write
the best-selling Newton's Telecom Dictionary. I know what it takes
to wire up a country of 90 millon people the size of Vietnam and do it
in only a few years.
is truly imprssive. Why is it relevant to Afghanistan?
America also invaded Vietnam -- not because it was worried about Al Qaeda
but because it was worried about the spread of communism.The big difference
between Afghanistan and Vietnam is that in Vietnam America faced a serious
army equipped with serious armaments by a patron State -- Russia.
Vietnamese Army soundly defeated the American army and its south Vietnamese
puppet. On April 30, 1975 Viet Cong tanks crashed through the gates of
the presidential palace in Saigon and America scrambled its helicopters
to take its people out of the City. The Communist Party of Vietnam still
runs the united country. But capitalism is rampant. Nightclubs. Bakers.
Antique shops. Art shops. Clothing shops. Tennis clubs. Small businesses
everywhere. I visited dozens of them. The place is rocking. It makes clothing
for America. And Intel moved a huge semi-conductor factory there from
China -- because it found the Vietnamese easier to work with. Vietnam's
"communism" is a threat to no one, but a promise to its people
of huge ongoing increases in the people's standards of living.
War had an end -- April 30, 1975.
War has no end because there is simply no army strong enough to push us
out. The Taliban are dangerous, but ragtag.
end to the Afghanistan War will come when we Americans decide we've had
enough. When that will be who knows. There are far too many Americans
who have a vested financial and career stake in continuing the war --
sacrificing our children for their financial gains. I pray our president
will wake up one day soon and say "This is crazy. Close it down tomorrow."
years of war in Afghanistan
7th, 2001, the first NATO airstrikes hit Kabul. A correspondent reflects
on how the war has changed Afghanistan and its occupiers, and whether
it was worth it
AS A general
rule, the longer outsiders spend in Afghanistan the more depressed they
become about the place. Though there are not many foreigners who can boast
of more than a few years' experience here, the Wests decade-long
adventure has made the army of diplomats, aid workers and development
people positively funereal.
conversation starts without a dark-humoured joke about the ultimate failure
of the NATO mission. Everyone has their own particular reason to be glum.
NGO types are disinclined to see glimmers of hope as they struggle to
get anything done in a country where year after year the Taliban-led insurgency
has strengthened and expanded, making it progressively harder to move
staff around safely. There is rarely a week when human-rights officials
dont have some cause to tear their hair outperhaps a Taliban
stoning video or the discovery that the Afghan government is viciously
abusing prisoners. And the diplomatic corps must deal with the daily frustrations
of doing business with a government led by Hamid Karzai. It was his behaviour
during the 2009 presidential election that seemed to tip many people towards
despair: a million of fake ballots cast and a messy post-polling dispute
that dragged on for months. The countrys four post-2001 elections
have seen increasing fraud and falling participation. Western electoral
experts are usually the most despairing of the lot.
too are disinclined to see anything but a bleak future. The vast change
that the last decade has brought to Kabul, a city that has experienced
a ten-year boom and which now enjoys almost round-the-clock electricity,
will not last, says the manager of a high-end shop selling office computer
supplies. He points out that when the torrent of money flowing through
the Afghan capital in the wake of the foreigners stops, so too will the
mad construction of grandiose concrete palaces that now encroach on almost
every neighbourhood. Ditto the ludicrous rents and high prices for almost
everything that has to be hauled up to this mountaintop plateau, making
Kabul one of most expensive cities in the poor world. The 9/11 kids,
he says, pointing to a gaggle of male teens sporting spiky gelled hair,
the hippest of threads and flaunting mobile-phone technology that would
have given the Taliban regimes vice and virtue police heart palpitations.
They will all go back to wearing shalwar kameez.
which has thrived off contracts with commercial development companies
who need computers and printer toners, is already feeling the squeeze
as aid budgets are cut. He is resigned to having to do something rather
more humble in the future. I will sell bolani, he suggests,
picturing himself as a roadside vendor of greasy, potato-filled breadwhich
is what he was doing as a refugee in Peshawar in 2001 before the war started.
foreign soldiers tend to be much more upbeat, in recent years there has
been a noticeable fading of their zeal. These days it is not hard to find
American soldiers simultaneously doing some of the most ambitious and
sophisticated counter-insurgency operations ever attempted, while failing
to see the point of them.
I got my
first taste of this two years ago, on a rainy evening in Bala Murghab,
an outpost of fierce insurgency in the otherwise relatively Taliban-light
north-west, from a couple of young US Army specialists (9/11 kids too),
chatting as they manned a gun emplacement in a wide valley where their
expensively carved out security bubble was merely a few kilometres
wide. They understood that the point of the whole agonising business of
endless foot patrols and engagement with the local community was to win
them over to the Afghan government. But they did not think it had much
to do with America's national security. The people here are no threat
to me or my family, one said, before explaining his reasons for
joining up: a lack of other employment opportunities and a young mans
general enthusiasm for guns and violence.
are often more willing to accept the logic of a grand strategy, in this
case one that is supposed to keep America safe by preventing Afghanistan
from once again becoming a jihadist free-for-all. But after three or four
tours in Iraq and Afghanistan many say they are tired and fed-up with
the strain that the 12-month stints put on their family lives.
mood apparently gloomier than ever, is there any reason to think the Afghan
adventure may not end in failure? Sitting in his windowless office, a
man who insists on being cited only as a senior Western intelligence
officer thinks Kabuls chattering class (not least the cohort
of journalists who have realised the bleaker their copy the more prominent
it is in newspapers back home) has become too depressed and is thus ignoring
some areas of progress. He and his team of colleagues, including a German
theoretical physicist, pore over vast quantities of data gleaned from
soldiers spread across the country.
charts they use to track things show fighting seasons (the summers) becoming
more intensive every year over the past decade. Only this year things
were slightly different. This summer is set to be slightly less deadly
that the last, for the first time: the level of violence in the south
has plunged downwards. Although those gains have been partly offset by
increases in violence the east, where NATO has turned its attention, across
the country as a whole things are at last turning for the better. It may
not look much, but the after so many years of relentless strengthening
by the various insurgencies racking Afghanistan, this is a remarkable
numbers [of attacks] are still high, but the trending is unmistakable,
he says, waving a bar chart. Every year we have seen dramatic increases
in violencenow we are seeing that trend reverse. He does not
claim victory is nigh, and is careful to state the gains are fragile,
but hes maddened by the widespread failure to recognise the change.
This is our frustration: everyone says you have to get the violence
down, and we get the violence down and then apparently for the media and
sometimes some people in government it doesnt matter, it is irrelevant.
of the American mission in Afghanistan in the past few years certainly
has been remarkable. Four years ago, when your correspondent first arrived,
the NATO effort was drifting along with little American leadership. The
headquarters of the NATO mission felt like a particularly cosmopolitan
holiday camp, with a good bar. Wandering around were precious few Americans
but Europeans from every conceivable nation, including countries with
trivial troop contributions.
remarkably quick overthrow of the Taliban government in late 2001, and
then the distraction of Iraq, the Americans felt comfortable having fewer
than 30,000 troops in Afghanistan. The British made the intellectual running,
producing daring plans for tribal defence forces, including teams incorporating
former Taliban fighters, who, the British ambassador of the day thought,
could be coaxed into swapping sides. The American general in charge wasnt
convinced and publicly squashed the idea of militias, while Washington's
ambassador persisted in believing the only good Taliban is a caged
Taliban. And bold ideas were nothing without American firepower
anyway. The commander of British troops in Helmand, a huge province that
produces more opium than any other place in the world, admitted as much
when he told me the efforts of his overstretched force were just a holding
exercise until the Americans could re-engage themselves.
did get serious in 2009 with a new commander, Stanley McChrystal, and
two troop surges. Special-forces operations, particularly night raids
directed against mid-level insurgents, were greatly increased. We
have never been better at taking bad people off the battlefield,
says John Nagl, an American counter-insurgency expert. Extraordinary efforts,
including restrictions on air power, were made to reduce civilian casualtieswhich
are now overwhelmingly caused by the Taliban.
effort was put into trying to train up a half-competent Afghan Army and
to overhaul the countrys prisons which, General McChrystals
people soon discovered, were often taking in criminals and putting out
insurgents. And plans remarkably similar to the old British idea were
put in place for local defence militias. A team was set up to try to help
persuade insurgents to lay down their weapons, so far to little effect.
McChrystals tiny headquarters in Kabul took on a very different
feel. The notoriously ascetic generally personally lambasted European
soldiers spotted idling in the garden. He also closed the bar. Privately
he would point out that most insurgencies take about a decade to beat.
In his view, Afghanistan was at year two of that effort, at best. He also
said victories were usually impossible when the enemy enjoys the sort
of sanctuaries that the Taliban have in Pakistan. Helmand has benefited
the most from the full-bore counter-insurgency campaign that came with
General McChrystal, as the classified charts and tables drawn up for the
senior Western intelligence officer attest, marking the sharpest fall
in attacks by insurgents.
Army has also made remarkable gains. In many areas it is now logistics
and resupply that worry its international mentors, not the Afghans' capacity
for fighting (which they are evidently rather good at).
gains are not enough for the doubters. Thats partly because of a
deep-seated distrust of anything said by the military commanders, who
have announced too many turning points in the past. But it is also because
they argue that military gains are ephemeral without improvements in governance,
rule of law and the economy.
there are plenty of other examples of poor countries that manage to bodge
along, misgoverned by corrupt elites. They just don't have to live with
a threat to their existence the size of the Taliban. In my first 24 hours
in Dushanbe, the capital of Afghanistans northern neighbour, Tajikistan,
my wallet was lightened more than four times by traffic police and border
guards. Ive never been asked to pay a bribe in Afghanistan. For
all the complaints about Afghanistan being uniquely corrupt, the problem
is not so much the government, which certainly is predatory at times,
and more that the dirty spoils of an out-of-control war economy are snapped
up by factions or tribes, to the anger of other groups.
might lift if the cynical observers of this war were to accept that the
bar for success is now far lower. The rhetoric and aims of late 2001 evaporated
long ago. The plan is no longer for a modern state with clean courts,
a functioning bureaucracy and a commitment to human rights that would
lead to the locking up of the warlords, as many observers still seem to
hope. As David Petraeus said, no one is trying to create Switzerland.
Ten years on, success will simply be the holding of ground in a grinding
counter-insurgency that will increasingly be fought by Afghans and be
paid for by Americans. What is often described as a withdrawal
in 2014 is really a troop reduction. American troops will fall back to
probably around the 30,000 level, with most of them involved in mentoring,
training and supplying air support the Afghans lack. There will no doubt
be quite a bit of special-forces activity. Most of the non-Americans will
A much expanded
Afghan army and police, numbering around 350,000, will have to do most
of the fighting against an insurgency that fluctuates between around 25,000
to 30,000 strong. Their mission for the army and police will be to hold
on to the bits of Afghanistan that matter the most: the cities, where
increasing numbers of Afghans now live, the north, and as much as the
rural south as possible.
on, the best Afghanistan can hope for is quite depressing. There will
not be the happy ending that most people hoped for in 2001, but nor will
there be the total defeat that many now expect.
Afghanistan, Then and Now What Washington
Should Learn From Wars Past
By Jonah Blank in the September/October 2011, Foreign Affairs
the result of two successful campaigns, of the employment of an enormous
force, and of the expenditures of large sums of money," the secretary
of state observed, "all that has yet been accomplished has been the
disintegration of the State . . . and a condition of anarchy throughout
the remainder of the country." A highly decorated general, recently
returned from service in Kandahar, concluded, "I feel sure that I
am right when I say that the less the Afghans see of us the less they
will dislike us." The politician was Spencer Cavendish, Marquis of
Hartington, the British secretary of state for India. The general was
Sir Frederick Roberts, who eventually became a field marshal and the subject
of three ballads by Rudyard Kipling. The year was 1880. As U.S. President
Barack Obama tries to wind down the longest war in U.S. history, while
leaving behind some measure of stability, he would be wise to keep in
mind this bitter truth: most of Afghanistan's would-be conquerors make
the same mistakes, and most eventually meet the same disastrous fate.
consuls and prospective invaders interested in avoiding such an end would
do well to read Peter Tomsen's magisterial new book, The Wars of Afghanistan.
A career U.S. diplomat, Tomsen served as Washington's special envoy to
the Afghan resistance in 1989-92, an experience that gave him almost unrivaled
personal insight into Afghanistan's slide from anti-Soviet jihad into
civil war. His account of the country's political dynamics before, during,
and after this period is exhaustively researched, levelheaded, and persuasive.
Throughout the book, he highlights two lessons that most of Afghanistan's
invaders learn too late: no political system or ideology imposed by an
outside power is likely to survive there, and any attempt to coax political
change from within must be grounded in a deep knowledge of local culture
legitimate authority has traditionally been highly localized, a product
of consensus rather than brute force, and firmly anchored in tribal, clannish,
and kinship structures. Afghanistan only developed the barest bones of
a centralized state in the twentieth century, and even today, Kabul's
control over the country's periphery remains tenuous at best. These attributes
make Afghanistan a difficult country for foreign military planners to
occupy. Then again, as former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,
under whose tenure the United States began its operations in Afghanistan,
might have put it, you go to war in the country you have, not the country
argues that these salient features of Afghan political life will not disappear
anytime soon. His conclusions about how Washington might stabilize Afghanistan,
given the country's decentralization and independent culture, range from
the uncontestable (better understand local practices) to the slightly
contestable (do not hope to centralize power) to the problematic (reinvent
the U.S. relationship with Pakistan). Whether one agrees with Tomsen,
however, there is no denying that his descriptions of Afghanistan's society
and politics are a valuable foundation for any discussion of how the country
should be governed.
ALL OVER AGAIN
the British and Soviet wars in Afghanistan may be the closest analogues
to the United States' experience today, Tomsen starts his tale from the
beginning. He usefully summarizes 3,000 years of Afghan history, during
which the Greeks, the Romans, the White and the Black Huns, the Mongols,
the Moguls, the Persians, and the Turkmens all tried to dominate the land.
Every campaign eventually came to naught, either because the invader paid
insufficient attention to local culture or because he sought to impose
centralized control on ferociously independent tribes and clans. The pattern
was basically the same each time: a brutally competent conqueror sweeps
through Afghanistan, wreaking enough carnage to terrify all his enemies
into submission, but he soon finds himself mired in a swamp of tribal
customs and feuds that he does not begin to comprehend. When he loses
enough in men and gold, he retreats -- not infrequently with fewer limbs
than he had when he arrived.
invaders, the British troops that marched into Afghanistan in 1839 did
not come to conquer; such a goal would have been far too expensive for
the frugal bureaucrats back home. Instead, they aimed to place a puppet
on the Afghan throne, or at least to establish a buffer between British
India and the expanding tsarist Russia. The newly installed monarch would
govern far more justly than his ousted rival: his British patronage was
proof of his enlightenment. The British, much like the Soviets and the
Americans decades later, were amazed to discover that Afghans did not
believe in their benevolence. Suspicion quickly flared into insurgency,
and when the British pulled out of Kabul in 1842 with a convoy of 16,000
troops and camp followers, only a single survivor (the assistant surgeon
William Brydon) reached the border town of Jalalabad alive. Still, the
lesson did not sink in. The British intervened in Afghanistan again in
1878 to compel the Afghan emir to at least accept a British diplomatic
mission, and within just two years, they were left with some 3,000 dead
or wounded. The Third Anglo-Afghan War, waged just after World War I to
repel an ill-advised Afghan raid into British-held territory, lasted barely
three months but killed 236 Britons in action. In each case, the colonial
power arrived with increasingly modest goals -- and left with those goals
only barely met.
some Afghan city dwellers may have welcomed the Soviet invasion of 1979
as a respite from half a decade of coups and near coups, and those in
the countryside may barely have known that it was happening. But any warm
or neutral feelings were quickly swept away by the Soviets' attempts to
impose their communist ideology and their conducting of a counterinsurgency
campaign through carpet-bombing. By conservative estimates, more than
one million Afghans were killed during the decadelong Soviet presence
in the country -- many times the number of Afghans who have died as a
result of the NATO-led war since 2001.
a Russian speaker who served as a political counselor in the U.S. embassy
in Moscow immediately prior to the Soviet invasion, makes clear that there
is no moral equivalence between the Soviets' occupation of Afghanistan
in the 1980s and the ongoing U.S.-led campaign there. He points out, however,
that the Soviets made the same core mistakes that have haunted invaders
before and since them: they attempted to impose a centralized order on
a highly decentralized nation, and they displayed complete ignorance about
the realities of Afghan society. There were few nations in the 1970s less
ripe for a Marxist-Leninist revolution than Afghanistan. The country had
no proletariat; indeed, it had little capitalist structure of any kind.
as communism failed to catch on, Moscow refused to jettison its ideological
framework and instead tried to shore up its puppet government by patching
together the two rival factions of the ruling national communist party.
The Khalq faction was overwhelmingly made up of members of the Ghilzai
Pashtun tribes, and the other, the Parcham faction, was mostly made up
of Tajiks and Durrani Pashtuns, the Ghilzais' traditional foes. The feud
between the two groups was coated with a thin veneer of socialist rhetoric,
but it was really only a continuation of centuries-old tribal struggles.
The result was a government in Kabul wholly uninterested in governance,
utterly removed from the day-to-day concerns of the Afghan people, and
consumed with petty struggles over the spoils of rule. Meanwhile, the
government simultaneously parroted and plotted against its foreign patron.
If this doesn't sound familiar, it should.
To a specialized
reader, the most valuable parts of Tomsen's book are those in which he
recounts what he actually witnessed. His recitation of the political maneuvering
of the Soviet era in Afghanistan may strike some as overly detailed: the
Ghilzai warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar betrays the Tajik warlord Burhanuddin
Rabbani, Rabbani betrays the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, Dostum
betrays everyone, and so on. But it is precisely with such detail that
Tomsen breaks the most new ground. For this reason alone, The Wars of
Afghanistan should have a place among the indispensable books on the topic.
reader will also find much to ponder in Tomsen's firsthand accounts. It
is here that Tomsen most fully articulates his criticisms of the United
States' own Afghanistan strategy, which he sees as having been remarkably
static over the last few decades. Of the Clinton administration, he writes
that the White House seemed not to have had any policy at all, "only
a strategy that [was] marginally adjusted in reaction to events."
(The critique also applies, in varying degrees, to every modern U.S. administration
before and since.) As the United States' war in Afghanistan went from
cold to hot, Washington made the same mistakes again and again.
to Tomsen, another recurrent problem has been the United States' incoherent
implementation of its policy, with every White House failing to enforce
unified action across all branches of the government. Tomsen describes
the CIA, in particular, as having conducted a foreign policy of its own,
sabotaging U.S. attempts to build a unified moderate Afghan front and
instead channeling support to Pakistan-based extremists. Meanwhile, U.S.
presidents have been unwilling to devote sufficient time, attention, and
political capital to formulating an effective Afghanistan policy. Most
damaging of all, Tomsen argues, the United States has essentially outsourced
its strategy to Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence
(ISI), funneling billions of dollars and military equipment to rabidly
anti-American military officers and their jihadist proxies. The result,
he argues, is that the United States has been continuously hoodwinked
as Pakistan has taken the money for nothing in return.
Ronald Reagan, for example, praised the anti-Soviet mujahideen as "the
moral equivalent" of George Washington and looked the other way as
the ISI funneled most of the American money and arms to Hekmatyar and
other incompetent, anti-American figures while sidelining more capable
and more broadly representative ones, such as the resistance leader Ahmad
Shah Massoud. Tomsen is kinder to George H. W. Bush, who appointed him
as special envoy to the region, than to other U.S. presidents, but he
writes that he himself lacked the bureaucratic support to rein in the
CIA when it undermined agreed-on policies, such as supporting the development
of a moderate and broad-based government. During Bush's tenure, Tomsen
writes, the agency continued to call all the shots, and money kept flowing
to the ISI. Clinton made a few diplomatic feints, such as limited outreach
to the ISI-backed Taliban, and lobbed a few cruise missiles when the Taliban
continued to shelter al Qaeda, but he otherwise largely ignored Afghanistan.
And even after 9/11, George W. Bush failed to wrest power from the CIA,
the Pentagon, and the ISI. Tomsen sees traces of promise in Obama's 2009
decision to renew top-level emphasis on Afghanistan, but he is skeptical
that such a commitment will work without a wholesale reexamination of
U.S. policy. In sum, Tomsen sees most outside potentates, whether politiburo
chairmen or presidents, as making the same set of errors.
learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, today's war planners have
settled on a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy that is supposed
to create enough security to help a civilian government establish legitimacy
among the local populace. Observers with longer memories will recall,
of course, that the principles of counterinsurgency have been discovered
many times before: by the British in Malaya, the French in Algeria, the
United States in Vietnam and the Philippines, and even the Soviets in
Afghanistan. And discovering (or rediscovering) a principle is easier
than implementing it. Ten years into the current counterinsurgency in
Afghanistan, the military piece of the mission seems to have progressed
far more rapidly than the civilian portion. Troops have pacified the major
cities enough to allow for the formation of a central government. But
the government of President Hamid Karzai seems to have little more popular
support than did that of the Soviet puppet (and eventual light-post adornment)
Muhammad Najibullah. As General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of
U.S. forces in Afghanistan, candidly noted in his 2009 assessment of U.S.
progress in Afghanistan, the military piece of counterinsurgency can do
little more than provide the time and space for a civilian government
to take root. It remains to be seen whether in 2014, by which time U.S.
troops will have withdrawn from their combat role in Afghanistan, the
Afghan government will resemble a stable oak or a flimsy reed.
policy recommendations are the flip side of his critique. He calls on
the Obama administration to ensure a coherent policy by relegating the
U.S. military and intelligence agencies to "policy-implementing,
not policymaking." He also urges the administration to stay engaged
in Afghanistan for the long haul but to "de-Americanize the Afghan
war across the board as rapidly as possible" by disentangling the
United States from Afghan governance and development, finding Afghan moderates
worth backing, and helping the Afghan regime build its governance capacity
so long as its practices are "honest and effective." If some
of Tomsen's recommendations are common sense (who could object to greater
policy coherence?), others are somewhat contradictory (how should one
stay engaged enough to back moderates and build the regime's capacity,
all while shifting responsibility for security to Afghan forces?). The
government in Kabul may not inspire much confidence today, but Tomsen
avoids the question of what the United States should do if Afghan politics
are as corrupt and dysfunctional in 2014 as they are in 2011.
urges a get-tough approach with Pakistan: "The most valuable contribution
that America can make to Afghan peace," he writes, "lies not
in Afghanistan but in Pakistan." In addition to enforcing existing
conditions on military aid more strictly, Tomsen argues, Obama should
threaten to designate the country a state sponsor of terrorism if the
ISI does not cut its ties to militants. Some readers will wholeheartedly
endorse Tomsen's call, even if following it might lead to a severing of
relations between the United States and Pakistan. Others will question
the wisdom of trading a potential disaster in Afghanistan (a country of
40 million people and of dubious strategic interest to the United States)
for a potential disaster in Pakistan (a nation of 185 million and with
the world's fifth-largest nuclear arsenal). Even those who share Tomsen's
intense frustration may scratch their heads trying to figure out what
leverage the United States could possibly hold over the Pakistani military
as long as the Pentagon remains so logistically dependent on it: half
the supplies for U.S. troops in Afghanistan (and almost all the lethal
equipment, from ammunition to the weapons that fire it) are transported
daily by the convoys that come through the Khyber Pass and Spin Boldak,
a town right on the border with Pakistan.
those who agree with the basic elements of Tomsen's approach will remain
hungry for a fallback option if his approach fails. "Afghanistan
is an unpredictable place," Tomsen writes. "Things almost never
turn out as planned, especially when the planning is done by foreigners."
How should U.S. policy deal with this problem? If the Afghan National
Security Forces are unable to provide security by 2014, should the United
States delay the withdrawal of its troops indefinitely? If the Karzai
regime fails to address corruption and poor governance, should the United
States continue to give it money? And if Pakistan continues to be "fireman
and arsonist," which Tomsen says it has been consistently over the
past three decades, should the United States disengage from it completely
and accept the consequences? As bad as things are now, they could easily
get much worse.
any book with the breadth of The Wars of Afghanistan will have a few nits
for the picking, but there are two reasons to read Tomsen's book carefully.
First, it is extremely well written; an entire career spent drafting State
Department cables miraculously failed to grind down the author's narrative
spirit. Second, and more important, Tomsen has often been right in the
past -- even, or especially, when many others were wrong.
for example, he was in favor of cooperating with the two moderate mujahideen
leaders Massoud and Abdul Haq when the U.S. government was against doing
so. He was against working with the decidedly nonmoderate Hekmatyar and
Hamid Gul, the ISI head who helped create several of the worst terrorist
groups still operating in the region today, when Washington was for it.
He was also right to sound the alarm about an obscure figure named Osama
bin Laden at a time when the U.S. government was turning a blind eye to
the ISI's support for him. Tomsen writes of the al Qaeda chief's sanctuary
in Pakistan, "[Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf and the ISI
practiced plausible deniability concerning bin Laden's whereabouts. They
knew exactly where he was." This is a bold claim, and much more so
for having been written long before the May 2 U.S. raid in Abbottabad
that killed bin Laden.
It is also
worth quoting at length a prediction Tomsen made while testifying to Congress
American-led military victory in Afghanistan which ousted the Taliban-al
Qaeda regime has not been followed up by an effective, adequately funded
reconstruction strategy to help Afghans rebuild their country and restore
their self-governing institutions. The initial enthusiasm genuinely felt
by the Afghan people that peace was returning has clearly faded. . . .
If present trends continue, five years from now Afghanistan is likely
to look very much like it does today: reconstruction stagnation, a weak
central government starved of resources, unable to extend its influence
to the regions where oppressive warlords reign, opium production soars,
and guerrilla warfare in Afghan-Pakistani border areas generated by Pakistan-backed
Muslim extremists continues to inflict casualties on coalition and Afghan
writes, even this take is overly optimistic.
track record, Americans should give a respectful hearing to his call for
a thorough policy reformulation -- something beyond tweaks to troop numbers
and counterinsurgency tactics. And given the merits of his book, they
should heed his warning not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Army Attracts Few Where Fear Reigns
By RAY RIVERA of the New York Times
Afghanistan Every morning, jobless young men gather by the hundreds
at the busy central square here in this southern city, desperate for whatever
work they can find. In other places, this would be an army recruiters
dream. Not so in Kandahar.
the men here have brothers and cousins in the insurgency, or are former
fighters themselves. Others fear what would happen to them or their families
if they joined the Afghan Army. I dont want to be killed by
the Taliban, Janan, 30, who like many Afghans goes by one name,
said on a recent day as he jostled with the crowd under a scorching sun.
NATO officials have long struggled to entice young men in the heavily
Pashtun south the Taliban heartland to join the Afghan Army.
Despite years of efforts to increase the enlistment of southern Pashtuns,
an analysis of recruitment patterns by The New York Times shows that the
number of them joining the army remains relatively minuscule, reflecting
a deep and lingering fear of the insurgents, or sympathy for them, as
well as doubts about the stability and integrity of the central government
in Kabul, the capital.
of tens of thousands of American troops, who have pushed the Taliban back
in much of the south, has done little to ease those concerns or to lift
recruitment. In some places, the numbers of southern Pashtun recruits
are actually shrinking, causing an overall decline of nearly 30 percent
in the past five months, compared with the same period a year ago.
deadline for the withdrawal of most foreign forces in 2014, the need to
enlist more southern Pashtuns is pressing if Afghanistan is to have a
national army that resembles the ethnic and geographic makeup of the country.
It is no small concern. The absence of southern Pashtuns reinforces the
impression here that the army is largely a northern institution
to be used against them and what Afghan and Western officials worry
is a dangerous division of the country.
you go and talk to ordinary Afghans in Kandahar, they believe the government
will collapse in a week or two, said Dr. Mahmood Khan, a member
of Parliament from Kandahar. People are still kind of under the
spell of the Taliban. They believe it is not only stronger than the government,
but that their intelligence is stronger. They can find out very soon if
your son or brother is serving in the army.
Pashtun southern and southeastern provinces Kandahar, Helmand,
Oruzgan, Zabul, Paktika and Ghazni make up about 17 percent of
Afghanistans total population, yet they contributed just 1.5 percent
of the soldiers recruited since 2009.
has been made, but merely in percentage terms; Kandahar and Helmand more
than doubled their number of recruits last year from the previous year.
The raw numbers, however, are discouraging, and Afghan officials worry
that the recent erosion of security in Kandahar City could reverse the
few gains they have made.
provinces are home to nearly two million people. Yet since 2009 they have
contributed fewer than 1,200 soldiers to the army, less than 1 percent
of the nearly 173,000 enlistees in that period. By comparison, Kunduz,
a northern province of about 900,000 people, enlisted more than 16,500
a province of more than 300,000 residents, had 14 recruits all of last
the vast majority of recruits come from provinces in the north and northeast,
where the insurgency is weaker. While the overall representation of Pashtuns,
Afghanistans largest ethnic group, in the army is equitable
they make up about 42 percent of the population and roughly the same percentage
of the army the vast majority come from a few northeastern provinces.
More than a third come from Nangarhar Province alone.
lure more southern Pashtuns, Ministry of Defense officials have made it
easier for them to qualify for officer candidate school and have assigned
two southern Pashtun generals to the region to focus on recruiting.
job is to reach out to their communities and explain why its not
only honorable, but its the right thing to do to join the army and
to send your sons to join the army, said Maj. Gen. D. Michael Day,
the Canadian Army officer in charge of military training for NATO. Because
unless the elders, unless some recognized authority figure says this is
what we should be doing, it doesnt get done.
campaign in the south has hampered those efforts. In the past two years,
suicide bombers and armed men on motorcycles have struck down dozens of
tribal elders sympathetic to the government, high-level officials and
even civil servants.
are afraid, said Abdul Ghani, deputy director of the Kandahar army
recruiting center. When we have assassinations and bombings every
day like we have now, it really affects recruiting.
operating out of a lonely cinder-block compound guarded by a machine-gun
tower, sends teams of recruiters into the city and outlying districts
every day armed with leaflets and posters. The increase in American troops
has made it easier for the teams to expand into more villages. Still,
about half of the provinces 16 districts remain cut off, Mr. Ghani
themselves live under constant threat. Last year a group of men beat a
recruiter after he spoke to a group of young people in a city bazaar.
So far, though, most have been lucky. They have not had the kind of attack
like the suicide bombing in March that killed 36 people at recruiting
center in Kunduz.
must also compete with drug lords: Kandahar and Helmand Provinces are
the countrys largest producers of opium, and recruiting, desertion
and even violence fluctuate with the poppy harvest.
recruiters have had the most difficulty is in persuading local mullahs,
Muslim religious leaders, to join in the effort.
word from a mullah is worth a thousand words from me, Mr. Ghani
said. But, he added, the mullahs are not helping us right now, because
they are afraid.
know if they preach for two or three days advocating for us, their heads
will be cut off.
with several mullahs in and around Kandahar, fear was evident in their
voices. Many simply refused to discuss recruiting.
I start telling people to send your sons to the Afghan Army, I am sure
Ill be asking for death, said Mullah Ramazan, who is from
Loya Wala north of Kandahar city. If someone seeks my suggestion
whether he should join the army or abandon it, I will not encourage him
or discourage him. I will simply say, Do what your heart tells you.
where recruiting has sharply fallen, to 14 last year from 60 enlistments
two years ago, plenty of young men have promised to enlist, if only they
could do so without anyone in their village knowing about it, said Col.
Karimullah Qurbani, director of the army recruiting center there. Unfortunately,
he said, recruitment screening rules make that impossible, requiring two
village elders to vouch for each recruit.
more than 60 percent of the armys southern Pashtuns came from Nimruz
and Farah, two of the most stable provinces in the south. But since March,
recruiting in both areas has sharply fallen by more than 50 percent
in Nimruz alone a symptom, local recruiters say, of the westward
movement of insurgents who have been pushed out of Helmand and begun intimidation
campaigns against potential recruits in the two provinces.
insurgents beheaded three villagers in Farah whom they accused of joining
the army, said Col. Sayed Mohammed, director of the army recruitment center
there. In fact they had no link with the army, he said. They
werent even with the army. They were ordinary villagers.
As the numbers
have fallen, some top Ministry of Defense officials have begun playing
down the importance of strong southern Pashtun representation in the army,
while at the same time maintaining that it is a priority.
NATO and Afghan officials have set the goal for the armys southern
Pashtun representation at a modest 4 percent, a reflection of the challenges
that lie ahead. Even without them, the army is on pace to meet its goal
of 195,000 soldiers by October 2012, NATO officials said.
Day is hopeful that the security improvements gained in the past eight
months will gradually begin paying more dividends in the months ahead
as the southern population becomes more tolerant of NATO and Afghan forces.
thing our analysis has shown us is no matter how good our recruiting is,
the southern Pashtun nation will wait and see, he said. They
Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, and Sangar Rahimi and Abdul
Waheed Wafa from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Douglass, my friend, reports from Vietnam
is a photo perfectly to illustrate my thesis that the Vietnam War was
stupid and that maybe the US won after all:
writes Douglass, I'm deep into Robert McNamara's 1995 book In Retrospect:
The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. McNamara was the former whizz
kid President of Ford Motor Company, who was Kennedy's and LBJ's Secretary
of Defence for over seven years of the Vietnam War. His fundamental thesis
was that that the Americans were asking themselves the wrong questions
over their Vietnam involvement - and not surprisingly getting the wrong
US Administrations thought the North Vietnamese were Communists first
and Nationalist second. There is some basis for this in the North Vietnamese
utterances and indeed in their later misguided attempts at ruling after
1975, but of course they were Nationalists first and foremost,
fighting the outmoded colonialism of Europe and the neo-colonialism of
the US-led West.
US has this peculiar optimistic messianic mission to save the world. The
Americans also seem to think that because someone speaks English, then
what they say must be true - especially if they are also Christian. Naively
they don't ask themselves if there is perhaps some hidden agenda -- and
there nearly always is. Americans believe they have the technology to
at the outset McNamara and Dean Rusk had submitted a memo to Kennedy pointing
out the dilemma:
is a strong South Vietnamese effort, [U.S. combat troops] may not be
needed; if there were not such an effort, U.S. forces could not accomplish
their mission in the midst of an apathetic or hostile population.
Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker Magazine
In the ten
years since American soldiers first landed in Afghanistan, their official
purpose has oscillated between building and destroying. The Americans
initially went in to defeat Al Qaeda, whose soldiers had attacked the
United States, and to disperse the Taliban clerics who had given the terrorist
group a home. Over time, the Pentagons focus shifted toward Afghanistan
itselftoward helping its people rebuild their society, which has
been battered by war and upheaval since the late nineteen-seventies. In
strategic terms, the U.S. has swung between counter-insurgency and counterterrorism.
Or, put another way, between enlightened self-interest and a more naked
Barack Obama, in his June 22nd speech announcing the beginning of the
end of the American war in Afghanistan, couched the conflict in the most
constricted terms. This is no great surprise. Obamas discomfort
with the Afghan war is visible whenever he talks about it. Last week,
he spoke with a palpable lack of passion, and indicated no long-term commitment
to the country. His message was clinical: Osama bin Laden is dead, Al
Qaeda is disabled, and American troops can begin coming home. We
are meeting our goals, the President said, in his most expansive
description of American progress. Certainly, the large majority of Americans
who believe that the war isnt worth fighting will have little inclination
to doubt him.
terseness had a purpose: it allowed him to skirt a more exhaustive, and
dispiriting, discussion of Afghan realities. Two years ago, Obama signed
off on the surge, which deployed an additional thirty-three thousand marines
and soldiers to Afghanistan. Though the surge is now at its peak, almost
every aspect of the American campaign is either deeply troubled or too
fragile to justify substantial reductions in military support. Its
true that, with the help of extra forces, the Americans have cleared large
areas of Taliban insurgents, many of whom had been operating without opposition.
This success has opened the parts of the country that are dominated by
Pashtunsits main ethnic groupto Afghan government control,
but it hardly constitutes victory. According to American officers, the
level of violence in Afghanistan this year is fifteen per cent higher
than it was at this time last year. The insurgents, far from being degraded,
appear to be as resilient as ever. And their sanctuaries in Pakistan,
where the Taliban leadership resides mostly unmolested, remain more or
Nor is there
any sign that Afghanistans Army will be able to maintain control
as the Americans leave. Although Afghan forces are growing in number,
they are virtually incapable of planning and executing operations on their
own. Exactly one Afghan battalionabout six hundred soldiersis
currently classified as independent. Ethnic divisions have
made the situation even worse: some units, packed with ethnic Tajiks from
the north, are said to need translators to operate in the Pashto-speaking
areas of southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban predominate. The number
of Afghan soldiers who quit or go AWOL remains alarmingly high. Most recruits
are illiterate. It is these men, along with members of Afghanistans
hapless police force, whom Obama expects to take the lead from the Americans
three years from now.
Afghanistans leaders are still known more for their criminality
and incompetence than for their ability to govern. After spending years
pushing President Hamid Karzai to crack down on corruption in his government,
the Americans and their NATO partners have largely given up. Last year,
Afghan prosecutors were prepared to indict as many as two dozen officials
on corruption charges. But the arrest of a single Presidential aide last
July was a fiascoafter Karzai publicly objected, the aide was released
and the charges against him dropped. Since then, not one senior Afghan
official has been brought to justice. Many of the best public-corruption
prosecutors have been harassed or reassigned. The Taliban insurgents are
supported to no small degree by the venality of Afghanistans leaders.
there is President Karzai himself, who appears to be increasingly estranged
not only from his NATO allies but also from reality. For years, American
officials put up with Karzais excesses and even apologized for them;
in so doing, they encouraged him to become more and more delusional. In
a speech earlier this month, Karzai suggested to an audience of his countrymen
that NATO forces were using nuclear weapons in Afghanistan, and accused
them of killing innocent civilians and damaging the environment. He said
of the Americans, They have come to our country for their own goals
and interests, and they are using our country.
not be difficult to say goodbye to a man like this. But what of the thirty
million other Afghans? The premise that anchored counter-insurgency strategy
in Afghanistanand in Iraqwas never explicitly humanitarian.
The idea was that America could succeed only by helping these countries
find a way to stand on their own. Otherwise, the places would collapse,
and wed have to go back. In Iraq, after many years of bloodshed,
the Americans seem to have found a formula for maintaining rudimentary
stability. In Afghanistan, after years of mismanagement and neglect, we
manifestly have not. The country remains riddled with violence, and negotiations
with the Talibana last-resort optionhave led nowhere. It is
not hard to imagine a repeat of the Afghan civil war, which engulfed the
country after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, and which ultimately
gave rise to the Taliban. Bloodied but unbroken, the Taliban hardly seem
like an army preparing to beg for peace. Their leaders greeted Obamas
words with a swift promise: Our armed struggle will increase.
moment, the prospect of all-out civil war in Afghanistan rests safely
on a distant horizon. Even after the thirty-three thousand troops have
departed, by the end of 2012, the Americans and their NATO partners will
have nearly a hundred thousand soldiers there. The effects of the drawdown
might not be visible for years. But the moment of maximum American influence
is passing without very much to show for it. These long wars will
come to a responsible end, the President said toward the end of
his speech. Thats an appropriately tortured construction for two
badly managed occupations. As a prediction for Afghanistan, though, it
seems more like a prayer. ?
at Kabul Hotel Deflates Security Hopes in Afghanistan
By ALISSA J. RUBIN, New York Times
Nazir Amini, an Afghan visiting from his home in Germany, had just
returned from the buffet with a bowl of ice cream when two men with an
AK-47 rifle and a machine gun started shooting guests around the pool
at the Intercontinental Hotel, one of the capitals most fortified
children screamed. Chairs tipped backward. Food slid onto the lawn as
people started to run. Mr. Amini said he saw police officers running,
too, tightly gripping their own AK-47s as they raced away from the gunmen.
said, Why dont you shoot? Shoot! he recalled.
But they just said, Get away from them. And we all ran
later, at least 21 people were dead, including the nine suicide bombers
who managed to penetrate several rings of security on Tuesday night to
carry out the attack. The assault has shaken public confidence in the
ability of Afghan forces, especially the police, to assume responsibility
for security, even here in the capital.
painted by Mr. Amini and several other guests at the hotel vividly demonstrated
the challenges facing the Afghan government as it prepares to defend its
country without NATO troops after 2014. Last week, President Obama announced
that the American military had inflicted enough damage on the insurgency
to allow him to begin withdrawing some troops. This week is supposed to
be the beginning of the transition to Afghan control, with Kabul, one
of the countrys safest cities, scheduled to be among the first places
to carry out the transfer.
talk about the transition to Afghan security, but the Afghan forces are
not ready to take over their security and their country, said Maulavi
Mohammadullah Rusgi, chairman of the Takhar provincial council in northern
Afghanistan, who was having dinner at the hotel with friends when the
attack commenced. Three of his friends were killed.
security forces cannot even protect a few people inside the hotel,
he said. How can they protect the whole country?
ended only after NATO helicopters joined the battle, killing three of
the insurgents on the hotels roof. Still, NATO officials took a
more sanguine view of the performance of the Afghan police, saying that
they had fought well, once they had their forces arrayed at the scene.
They acquitted themselves pretty well it could have been
a whole lot worse, said a Western official.
the hotel guests, many of whom jumped over the perimeter walls, plunged
into irrigation ditches or cowered in closets to escape the attackers,
the police response was not only slow, but also cowardly. Several witnesses
said police officers ran away or refused to shoot.
outside the hotel on Wednesday morning said that without the assistance
of the NATO forces, the mayhem would have gone on much longer.
main question in Kabul, and on the cusp of transition, is, Are they ready?
said another Western official here, referring to the police. The
Intercontinental attack introduces doubt, and if the transition is supposed
to be based on the security conditions, then the conditions havent
was clearly the intent of the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for
the attack. The difficulty the Afghan security forces faced in fending
off the assault and in putting out the fire that destroyed half the roof
of the building the blaze took more than an hour to tame
gave the insurgents a propaganda victory, even if the death toll was relatively
low compared with other spectacular attacks of recent years. The dead
included a Spanish pilot and at least two Afghan police officers.
the provincial council official from Takhar, said that even after the
shooting stopped at 5 a.m., the police were reluctant to enter the hotel,
defying the orders of their commander, the police chief, Mohammed Ayoub
police chief, Salangi, kept telling his people to march to go,
to go ahead into the hotel but they didnt go, he said.
and 11 friends were at dinner when the attack erupted.
the gunmen started shooting, he recounted, me and my friend
Judge Abdul Hanan jumped into a ditch, and I silenced my cellphone to
make sure the phone did not make noise so that the gunmen would not shoot
Judge Abdul Hanan got out of the ditch and bullets were coming from every
direction, and we heard his cellphone ringing, and I told another guy
who was with me inside the ditch, See, Judge Hanan is going to make
problems for us, and the gunmen will find out were here if the cellphones
later, when the shooting abated, Mr. Rusgi climbed out of the ditch to
ask Judge Hanan to turn off his phone. Then I saw he was bowing
toward the ground, and when I moved his head I saw blood all on his body,
and he was shot in his chest and belly, and at the same time his cellphone
was ringing and I think his family was trying to call him.
later Mr. Rusgi found two other friends, who had been shot in the head
as they tried to hide behind a tree.
for the Afghan National Directorate of Security, Lutfullah Mashal, said
that there were loopholes and negligence in the
hotel security. He suggested that the attackers might have been able to
penetrate the well-fortified hotel, which sits atop a hill overlooking
the capital, with help from guards at the compound or by disguising themselves
as laborers, because part of the hotel is under renovation. Since the
attack, the hotel has been closed, indefinitely.
lapses further weaken the publics confidence that Afghan forces
are ready to defend the country. Mr. Amini, who is a car dealer in Germany,
was deeply pessimistic.
countries have troops here, but security is still fragile you cannot
serve dinner in one of the largest and most secure restaurants in Kabul,
we are hearing about a security transition to Afghan forces, he
added. If they give the security responsibility to the current government
at 10:00 a.m., the government will collapse around 12 noon. They cannot
live without foreigners.
Call Us Occupiers When We're Dying for Your Country, U.S. Tells Karzai U.S.
Ambassador rebukes Karzai for `hurtful, inappropriate' rhetoric
By Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com
U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan warned Sunday that the American people
are growing weary of being viewed as "occupiers" by the leaders
of a country where so much American blood has been spilled.
candid and impassioned remarks came a day after President Hamid Karzai
in a televised speech accused U.S.-led foreign troops of being in the
country "for their own national interests."
Karzai met with Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi - on the first ever
official visit by Iran's top defense official - and the two discussed
problems arising from "the presence of foreign forces" in Afghanistan,
according to reports in Iranian state media. Last week Karzai held talks
with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of a Eurasian
summit in Kazakhstan, and similar sentiments were expressed.
1,500 U.S. troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan - some 177 this
year alone - since U.S.-led forces invaded to topple the Taliban regime
following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. More than 900 military personnel
from other nations have been killed over that period.
around 100,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan, and the first
in a series of phased withdrawals is due to take place in the coming weeks.
mentioning Karzai by name, Eikenberry took aim Sunday at the increasingly
harsh anti-coalition rhetoric emanating from the president, calling it
"hurtful and inappropriate." The ambassador, who will leave
his post over the summer, made the remarks at the end of a speech on the
future of U.S.-Afghan relations, delivered to several hundred students
at Herat University.
Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost in terms of lives
and treasure, when they hear themselves compared with occupiers, told
that they're only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the
brutal enemies of the Afghan people, my people in turn are filled with
confusion and they grow weary of our effort here," Eikenberry said.
and fathers of fallen soldiers, spouses of soldiers who have lost arms
and legs, children of those who've lost their lives in this country -
they ask themselves about the meaning of their loved one's sacrifice,"
he continued. "I have to tell you, when I hear some of your leaders
call us occupiers, I cannot look at these mourning parents, these mourning
spouses, these mourning children, and give them any kind of comforting
conceded that that the "learning curve has been steep" in what
is a "complex" situation. "But - in spite of our mistakes
- we are a good people whose aim is to help improve our mutual security
by strengthening your government, army and police, and economy."
on to list some of the accomplishments, including the building of schools,
clinics, roads, power stations, investment in educational training and
in the agricultural field, promoting trade and reviving culture, music
when we hear ourselves being called occupiers and worse, our pride is
offended and we begin to lose our inspiration to carry on," he told
the Herat University students.
the point your leaders believe that we are doing more harm than good,
when we reach a point that we feel our soldiers and civilians are being
asked to sacrifice without a just cause, and our generous aid programs
dismissed as totally ineffective and the source of all corruption . especially
at a time our economy is suffering and our needs are not being met, the
American people will ask for our forces to come home."
between Kabul and the coalition have been strained over a number of issues,
particularly civilian casualties. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
reported 368 conflict-related Afghan civilian deaths in May, attributing
82 percent of them to "anti-government elements" and 12 percent
to "pro-government forces."
been tightened to reduce the risk of civilian deaths, but Karzai late
last month lashed out again at the U.S. and NATO over civilian casualties,
especially those arising out of nighttime raids targeting insurgents.
they continue their attacks on our houses, then their presence will change
from a force that is fighting against terrorism to a force that is fighting
against the people of Afghanistan," he told a May 31 press conference
in Kabul. "And in that case, history shows what Afghans do with trespassers
and with occupiers."
By PATRICIA McARDLE, New York Times
Americans idealize green living and slow food.
But few realize that one of the most promising models for sustainable
living is not to be found on organic farms in the United States, but in
Afghanistan. A majority of its 30 million citizens still grow and process
most of the food they consume. They are the ultimate locavores.
12 months I spent as a State Department political adviser in northern
Afghanistan, I was dismayed to see that instead of building on Afghanistans
traditional, labor-intensive agricultural and construction practices,
the United States is using many of its aid dollars to transform this fragile
agrarian society into a consumer-oriented, mechanized, fossil-fuel-based
the Department of Energy carried out a study of Afghanistan. It revealed
abundant renewable energy resources that could be used to build small-scale
wind- and solar-powered systems to generate electricity and solar thermal
devices for cooking and heating water.
focus on those resources, the United States government has spent hundreds
of millions of dollars to build large diesel generators and exploit the
countrys oil, gas and coal reserves. The drilling of new oil wells
may provide unskilled, poorly paid jobs for some locals, but the bulk
of the profits will likely flow overseas or into the pockets of a few
warlords and government officials.
taxpayers dollars are also being used for energy-inefficient construction
projects. During my year in Afghanistan, I sat for hours in meetings with
local officials in remote mountain and desert locations, sweating or freezing
depending upon the season inside concrete and cinder-block
schools and police stations built with American aid. These projects are
required to adhere to international building codes, which do not permit
the construction of traditional earthen structures.
are typically built with cob a mixture of mud, sand, clay and chopped
straw molded to form durable, elegant, super-insulated, earthquake-resistant
structures. With their thick walls, small windows and natural ventilation,
traditional Afghan homes may not comply with international building codes,
but they are cooler in summer and warmer in winter than cinder-block buildings.
They also last a long time. Some of Afghanistans oldest structures,
including sections of the defensive wall that once surrounded the 2,000-year-old
Silk Road city of Balkh, are made of cob and rammed earth. In England,
people are still living in cob houses built before Shakespeare was born.
energy and sustainability arent just development issues. They are
security issues, too. Seventy percent of the Defense Departments
energy budget in Afghanistan is spent on transporting diesel fuel in armored
convoys. In a welcome attempt to reduce this dangerous and expensive dependence
on fossil fuel, the Marine Corps recently established two patrol bases
in Afghanistan operating entirely on renewable energy.
it is too little, too late. Had a renewable energy program been initiated
a decade ago, when the United States entered Afghanistan to help overthrow
the Taliban, Washington could have saved billions of dollars in fuel costs
and, more important, hundreds of lives lost in transporting and guarding
diesel fuel convoys.
advocating the construction of a pipeline to carry natural gas from Central
Asia, across Afghanistan and into Pakistan, the United States is also
helping to fund a 20th-century-style power grid that will compel Afghanistan
to purchase the bulk of its electricity from neighboring former Soviet
republics for decades to come. Even if this grid survives future sabotage
and political unrest in Central Asia, its power lines and transmission
towers will be carrying this imported electricity right over the heads
of rural Afghans and into Afghanistans major cities despite
the fact that the United States Central Command has identified the lack
of access to electricity in rural areas as a major obstacle to sustaining
the gains achieved by our counterinsurgency strategy.
development in Afghanistan has taken a back seat to quick wins
that can be reported to Congress as indicators of success: tractors that
farmers cant repair and that require diesel fuel they cant
afford; cheaply built schools; and smooth but wafer-thin asphalt, which
will never stand up to Afghanistans punishing climate without costly
nations dismiss Afghans centuries of experience in sustainability
and continue to support the exploitation of fossil fuels over renewable
energy, future generations of rural Afghans will be forced to watch in
frustrated silence as the construction of pipelines, oil rigs and enormous
power grids further degrades their fragile and beautiful land while doing
little to improve their lives.
after American forces have departed, it will be these rural farmers, not
Afghanistans small urban population, who will decide whether to
support or reject future insurgencies.
McArdle, a retired foreign service officer and Navy veteran, is the author
of the novel Farishta. She serves on the board of directors
of Solar Cookers International.
bank scandal in Afghanistan Kabul Bank: one big hole in the ground
from The Economist
wasteland that is "Business Bay", one of Dubai's most disastrous
property developments, are two enormous holes in the ground. They mark
what were to have been the foundations for a pair of 20-floor towers containing
luxury flats. Here, $40m belonging to depositors with accounts at Kabul
Bank was sunk. The stricken Afghan bank had for years been run as a giant
Ponzi scheme for the benefit of powerful shareholders.
Afghanistan's central bank spent $820 million of its reserves bailing
out Kabul Bank. The question now facing the government of President Hamid
Karzai is how it will recover the money from these worthless holes in
the ground, along with luxury Dubai villas bought at the top of the market,
and much else. In total, close to $1 billion is missing, thanks to a binge
of interest-free and mostly illegal insider lending to shareholders, including
one of Mr Karzai's brothers.
away of such sums is a huge blow in a land with an official GDP of just
$12 billion a year. The United States, through the IMF, is taking a tough
line, demanding that the foot-dragging government properly finance the
bail-out and prosecute those responsible. The IMF's insistence has sharply
slowed the flow of donor funds on which the Afghan government relies.
If the IMF remains unsatisfied, the country will suffer a cash crisis
within a month.
protest that, after months of wrangling, they have done much of what was
asked of them, including replacing the bank's management, stripping the
shareholders of their rights, and hiving off all the dodgy loans. The
finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal, has plans to raise taxes and pay off
the bill over eight years.
members of parliament have already rejected a budget that called for $73
million to be spent this year on just the first instalment. MPs argue
that the bill should be paid for by seizing and selling the shareholders'
not be easy. Massoud Ghazi, the bust bank's new head, says the shareholders
are deliberately concealing what they took. Loans were obscured by fake
documentation and by putting them in other people's names. Most foreign
experts agree that retrieving even half of the lost money would be an
achievement. Just $61 million has been recovered so far.
A $10 million
audit just begun by Kroll, a sleuthing agency, and underwritten by the
British government, should help. But a willingness to prosecute those
who took the money matters even more. Under United Arab Emirates law,
none of those luxury villas in Dubai can be seized until criminal prosecutions
are seen to have begun.
bank's shareholders, whether guilty or innocent, look untouchable thanks
to their political connections. They include the most senior among Afghanistan's
vice-presidents, Mohammed Fahim, a former warlord. Not only did members
of his family take out loans worth at least $78m. Mr Fahim is also a leading
light of the country's Tajiks, the largest ethnic group after Mr Karzai's
Pushtuns. Kabul Bank was a bastion of the northern, Tajik establishment.
Mr Fahim is reported by Western diplomats to have vowed last year that
he would "never let the Pushtuns take Kabul Bank."
the difficulties are suspicions that another northerner, Sherkhan Farnood,
the bank's whisky-swilling, poker-playing former chairman, has a "black
book" of dirt to dish on top politicians. At a time when many Tajik
leaders are spooked by fears that the government might rush a peace deal
with the Taliban insurgency, it is not surprising that Mr Karzai, in a
private meeting last month, begged shareholders to return the cash voluntarily.
insists the case is with the attorney-general. But, after letting off
one of Mr Karzai's top aides who was caught red-handed soliciting a bribe,
he inspires little confidence. One proposal is for a special court of
hand-picked judges instead. "We have done 95% of what they [the IMF]
have asked for," Mr Zakhilwal protests. No sign yet that the Fund
will relent on the remaining 5%.
else do you expect him to say?
he says we should stay in Afghanistan, he'll be appointed Ambassador to
Afghanistan. And his career will be advanced. He's going to tell us that
we should leave Afghanistan asap? That's like being appointed interim-CEO
and then publicly saying "The company's future is bleak. We're wasting
our time and money."
no. It's not going to happen. Here is our new CEO in Afghanistan.
C. Crocker, President Obama's nominee for ambassador to Afghanistan, during
his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, June 8, 2011.
to Wikipedia, Ryan Clark Crocker (born June 19, 1949) is a Career Ambassador
within the United States Foreign Service. He was the United States Ambassador
to Iraq until 2009; he previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan
from 2004 to 2007, to Syria from 1998 to 2001, to Kuwait from 1994 to
1997, and to Lebanon from 1990 to 1993.
successes in all those places!
United States currently spends about $10 billion a month in Afghanistan.
If you figure $10 million a new school or a community college, that's
one thousand new schools or community colleges the U.S. could build every
month. Or 12,000 schools a year. With the U.S. real unemployment running
over 15%, what should we spend our money on -- bombs and bullets in Afghanistan
or new places to re-train our hurting unemployed workers? To me, the answer
is so obvious, it's not even worth discussing. Heh, skip a few schools
and build some bridges, tunnels or roads. We need them too. Think of all
the new jobs.
the New York Times on his Senate confirmation hearings. I bolded the interesting
for Afghan Envoy Says U.S. Cant Afford to Abandon Effort
By ELISABETH BUMILLER and BRIAN KNOWLTON
President Obamas nominee for ambassador to Afghanistan offered
an unvarnished assessment on Wednesday of the nearly decade-old war, but
he told a skeptical Senate committee that the United States could not
afford to walk away anytime soon.
In his confirmation
hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ryan C. Crocker,
the nominee, said that the United States had abandoned Afghanistan once
before, after its war with the Soviet Union in 1989, with disastrous
consequences the rise of the Taliban. We cannot afford
to do so again, Mr. Crocker said.
nonetheless acknowledged a panoply of problems facing Afghanistan, including
government corruption that he said would become a second insurgency
if left unchecked. He said the United Statess goal in Afghanistan
was merely to help the Afghans create a good-enough government,
not necessarily a model democracy. While progress has been hard, he said,
the situation was not hopeless.
not out to, clearly, create a shining city on a hill, Mr. Crocker
sharp questions from the committee, particularly from its Democratic chairman,
John Kerry of Massachusetts, who expressed a growing sentiment on Capitol
Hill that the American commitment in money and troops to Afghanistan is
neither proportional to our interests or sustainable. The United
States currently spends about $10 billion a month in Afghanistan
and has 100,000 troops there.
testified at a moment when Mr. Obamas national security team is
debating how many American troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan next
month, the date set by the president for the beginning of force reductions
after he dispatched 30,000 additional American troops there in late 2009.
for the hearing, the committees majority issued a comprehensive
review of American nation-building efforts in Afghanistan that paints
a dim picture of poor planning and inefficiency. Much of the billions
of dollars spent on aid projects has been ill thought out and has fueled
corruption, the review says, while the efforts have drawn the best and
the brightest Afghans away from government jobs where they are badly needed.
calls for a new approach that will be sustainable even after a drawdown
of American troops, which may mean an ebb in the costly American
civilian presence as well.
was compiled by the Senate Foreign Relations Committees Democratic
majority staff and was released Wednesday, as the committee met to consider
whether to confirm Ryan Crocker, the former ambassador to Iraq, as envoy
Obama is preparing to announce a framework schedule for reducing American
troop strength in Afghanistan, against a backdrop of steadily rising public
concern over the high costs of the 10-year-old war.
money spent with too little oversight has fueled corruption and waste,
the report says. For example, one program authorizes the payment of up
to $100,000 a month to Afghan provincial leaders for local projects, a
tidal wave of funding that can be difficult to efficiently and fairly
absorb, it says. Foreign military and development funds now account for
such an overwhelming share of the Afghan economy equivalent to
97 percent of its gross economic product, by one estimate that
there is a real possibility of a severe economic depression when
foreign troops leave, according to the report.
Kerry urged the White House and Congress to work together on a multi-year
civilian assistance strategy for Afghanistan that would contribute to
a successful military drawdown and transition.
should meet three basic conditions before money is spent, he said.
Our projects should be necessary, achievable and sustainable.
cost upward of $500,000 a year to keep an American civilian employee or
contractor on the ground in Afghanistan, which in some cases makes
them too expensive to maintain, the committee report said.
Department and Agency for International Development, known as USAID, now
have about 1,300 civilian employees and contractors in Afghanistan, up
from 531 in January 2009. The government may want to consider a
smaller civilian footprint, the review suggested.
suggested a simple rule: Donors should not implement projects if
Afghans cannot sustain them.
American funds are now paying some of the most talented Afghans inflated
salaries of up to 10 times what they might make working for the
Afghan government, and these high salaries encourage a culture
of aid dependency while undermining efforts to improve the Afghan
government, the review says.
is not uniformly negative. The authors point to positive effects of the
American aid program a sevenfold increase in the number of children
being educated, for example. But they question some key assumptions behind
the nation-building work, specifically the notion that poverty, joblessness
and lack of education have fueled extremism and insurgency.
World Bank figures quoted in the report seem to contradict that assumption:
Some of the most insurgency-plagued Afghan provinces, like Helmand and
Kandahar, have relatively low poverty rates of less than 30 percent, while
more peaceful provinces in central and northern Afghanistan have poverty
rates as high as 58 percent, as in Balk Province.
is generally not the case that a lack of schools or roads drives conflict,
the report quotes Rajiv Shah, the administrator of USAID, as saying. Often
the situation is far subtler, having to do with local power dynamics or
At the Senate
confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Crocker seemed to infuse much of
what he said with caution.
Robert P. Casey Jr., Democrat of Pennsylvania, recalled having met with
Mr. Crocker in Iraq in 2007 and being told that he framed his mission
there as seeking sustainable stability. Mr. Crocker said that
he still supported that concept.
was not among those who have ever used the words winning or
victory, he said. Sustainable stability
were words, a concept, that I stood by then and would stand by now. We
can get to that.
Its going to be incremental, its going to be kind of
issue-by-issue, case-by-case. The State Department and USAID now
spend about $320 million a month in Afghanistan, for a total of $18.8
billion over the course of the war so far. That makes Afghanistan the
single largest recipient of American aid, ahead even of Iraq. Even so,
the aid figures are dwarfed by American military spending in the country.
dumb and costly footdragging in Afghanistan
by Harry Newton
bin Laden is dead. He was the main reason we invaded Afghanistan. What
now? Rid the country of the Taliban? Make more "military progress?"
Dismantle Al Qaeda?
of the last "good" war -- the Second World War. Unconditional
surrender was the goal. And we achieved it.
the goal now? To consolidate the power of a corrupt, hated government
-- the Karzai regime? To waste more precious American lives and scarce
only solution is:
announce we'll be 100% out by December 31, 2011 and make preparations
to be out by then.
offer all Afghans who worked for us, and fear for their lives after
we leave, the opportunity for them and their families to emigrate to
offer all returning military personnel the equivalent of the GI Bill
-- so they can all attend college or graduate school, or what other
education they feel will assist their new civilian careers.
problem we face is the military enjoys wars. It gets to play with new
toys and it gets promotions and pay raises. Read the following article
from yesterday's New York Times and ask yourself "What are these
people thinking? Do more delays make sense?"
Pullout Is Raised as Option for Afghanistan
By DAVID E. SANGER, ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER of the New York Times.
President Obamas national security team is contemplating
troop reductions in Afghanistan that would be steeper than those discussed
even a few weeks ago, with some officials arguing that such a change is
justified by the rising cost of the war and the death of Osama bin Laden,
which they called new strategic considerations.
considerations, along with a desire to find new ways to press the Afghan
president, Hamid Karzai, to get more of his forces to take the lead, are
combining to create a counterweight to an approach favored by the departing
secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates, and top military commanders in
the field. They want gradual cuts that would keep American forces at a
much higher combat strength well into next year, senior administration
of the war and Mr. Karzais uneven progress in getting his forces
prepared have been latent issues since Mr. Obama took office. But in recent
weeks they have gained greater political potency as Mr. Obamas newly
refashioned national security team takes up the crucial decision of the
size and the pace of American troop cuts, administration and military
officials said. Mr. Obama is expected to address these decisions in a
speech to the nation this month, they said.
drawdown of troops is one of many options Mr. Obama is considering. The
National Security Council is convening its monthly meeting on Afghanistan
and Pakistan on Monday, and although the debate over troop levels is operating
on a separate track, the assessments from that meeting are likely to inform
the decisions about the size of the force.
In a range
of interviews in the past few days, several senior Pentagon, military
and administration officials said that many of these pivotal questions
were still in flux and would be debated intensely over the next two weeks.
They would not be quoted by name about an issue that Mr. Obama had yet
to decide on.
new thinking, American officials were anticipating an initial drawdown
of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. Those advocating steeper troop reductions did
not propose a withdrawal schedule.
on his 12th and final visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary, argued
repeatedly on Sunday that pulling out too fast would threaten the gains
the American-led coalition had made in the 18 months since Mr. Obama agreed
to a surge of 30,000 troops.
would try to maximize my combat capability as long as this process goes
on I think thats a no-brainer, Mr. Gates told troops
at Forward Operating Base Dwyer. Id opt to keep the shooters
and take the support out first.
latest strategy review is about far more than how many troops to take
out in July, Mr. Gates and other senior officials said over the weekend.
It is also about setting a final date by which all of the 30,000 surge
troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
timetable would dictate the departure of all foreign troops by 2014, including
about 70,000 troops who were there before the surge, as agreed to by NATO
and the Afghan government.
H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, sounded a cautious
note about the state of the war in a telephone interview on Sunday. Although
General Petraeus said there was no question that the Americans
and the Afghans had made military progress in the crucial provinces of
Helmand and Kandahar in the south, he said the Taliban were moving to
reconstitute after the beating they took this past fall and winter.
always said they would be compelled to try to come back, General
Petraeus said, adding that the Taliban would be trying to regain
the momentum they had a year ago.
Petraeus declined to discuss the withdrawal of American forces in July
or the number he might recommend to the president. Late last week Adm.
Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that General
Petraeus had not yet submitted his recommended withdrawal number.
on force levels in Afghanistan could mirror how Mr. Obama handled the
withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Senior Pentagon officials noted
that after Mr. Obama set a firm deadline for dropping to 50,000 troops
in Iraq, he then let his commanders in Baghdad manage the specifics of
which units to order home and when. The argument over where to set those
bookends promises to be one of the most consequential and
contentious of Mr. Obamas presidency. It also has major implications
for his re-election bid.
At one end
of the debate is Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and, presumably, a
range of Mr. Obamas political advisers, who opposed the surge in
2009 and want a rapid exit, keeping in place a force focused on counterterrorism
At the other
end is Mr. Gates, who leaves office at the end of the month and who won
the 2009 debate over the troop surge along with Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton and senior commanders on the ground.
It is not
clear what Mrs. Clintons position is now as the internal debate
is rejoined, and Mr. Obamas team has changed considerably in the
past 18 months. Thomas E. Donilon, appointed national security adviser
last fall, was leery of the surge and is likely to lean toward a speedier
withdrawal, colleagues say.
Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, supports greater
use of unmanned drone technology and will have a voice as Mr. Gatess
nominated successor. General Petraeus is leaving his post in Afghanistan
shortly to head the C.I.A., assuming he is confirmed by the Senate this
In the past,
when administration officials were asked about the pace of withdrawal,
they often said it would depend on conditions on the ground
in other words, assessments of the strength of the Taliban, the
pace at which Afghan troops and police are prepared to take over and the
progress of the economic and political rebuilding of the country. Most
of those would weigh in favor of staying longer, one senior official
growing list of so-called strategic considerations amounts to countervailing
factors, senior officials said. Mr. Obama has said his goal is to dismantle
Al Qaeda so that it can never use Afghanistan again to initiate a Sept.
killing of Bin Laden, and with other members of the terrorist group on
the run as American officials pick up clues from data seized at the Bin
Laden compound, Mr. Obama can argue that Al Qaeda is much diminished.
to show Democrats that the cost of the war is declining is intense
so intense that Mr. Gates, during his travels, warned against undercutting
a decade-long investment by cutting budgets too rapidly.
Hastings: My Decade of Bin Laden
He got the carnage he hoped for. Now it's time to end the wars he provoked
from Rolling Stone
Laden's actions, and our reactions to them, have defined my adult life.
I was in New York City on September 11th, 2001, a senior in college. After
the towers collapsed, I walked 95 blocks to get as close to Ground Zero
as possible, so I could see first-hand the destruction that would define
our future. By the time I got to Baghdad four years later, very few Americans
believed that the people we were fighting in Iraq posed a threat to the
United States. Even the military press didn't bother lying about it anymore,
referring to our enemies as "insurgents" rather than "terrorists."
A woman I loved was killed in Baghdad in January 2007 Al Qaeda
in Iraq took credit for it and my younger brother fought for 15
months as an infantry platoon leader, earning a Bronze Star. Other friends,
both American and Iraqi, suffered their own losses: homes, limbs, loved
By the fall
of 2008, when I had moved on to Afghanistan, bin Laden and Al Qaeda were
barely footnotes to what we were doing there. "It's not about bin
Laden," a military intelligence official told me. "It's about
fixing the mess." This added to the growing despair Americans felt
about the war: If it wasn't about bin Laden, then what the fuck was it
about? Why were we fighting wars that took us no closer to the man responsible
for unleashing the horror of September 11th? A top-ranking military official
told me last year that he didn't think we'd ever get bin Laden. Yet each
time our presidents and generals told us why we were still fighting in
Iraq and Afghanistan, they always used bin Laden and September 11th as
an excuse. As long as they insisted on fighting these wars we didn't need
to fight, the wound to the American psyche wasn't allowed to heal.
the start, the idea of the War on Terror was a fuzzy one at best. We were
promised there would be no "battlefields and beachheads," as
President George W. Bush put it. It would be a secret war, conducted mostly
in the dark, no holds barred. And that's how it might have played had
we got bin Laden early on, dead or alive. But that's not what happened.
Instead, we went on a rampage in the full light of day. We got our battlefields
and beachheads after all. Kabul, Kandahar, Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi,
Najaf, Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra, Kabul and Kandahar again the list
went on and on. We couldn't find bin Laden, so we went after anyone who
looked like him, searching for other monsters to put down: the Taliban,
Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In the end,
bin Laden got the carnage he had hoped to unleash. Nearly 3,000 Americans
were killed on September 11th. Since then, 6,022 American servicemen and
women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 42,000 have
been wounded. More than 3,000 allied soldiers have died, along with some
1,200 private contractors, aid workers and journalists. Most of the killing
didn't take place in battles it was in the dirty metrics of suicide
bombs, death squads, checkpoint killings, torture chambers and improvised
explosive devices. Civilians on their way to work or soldiers driving
around in circles, looking for an enemy they could seldom find. We may
never know how many innocent civilians were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan
and Pakistan, but estimates suggest that more than 160,000 have died so
far. Al Qaeda, by contrast, has lost very few operatives in the worldwide
conflagration perhaps only "scores," as President Obama
said this month. In truth, Al Qaeda never had many members to begin with.
Not since Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand, setting
off World War I, has a conspiracy undertaken by so few been felt by so
of bin Laden's death, I congratulated my friends in the military and the
intelligence community, tweeted my appreciation to President Obama and
his team, then sat back and listened to the horns honking outside my apartment
in Washington. I thought of all the dead, and what adding this fucker's
name to the list actually means. My hope and it is not one I have
much hope in is that our political leaders will use bin Laden's
death to put an end to the madness he provoked. Withdraw our remaining
troops from Iraq, a country that never posed a threat to us. End the war
in Afghanistan, where we will spend $120 billion this year to prevent
the country from becoming a hideout for Al Qaeda. As bin Laden's death
makes clear, our true enemies will always find a hideout, no matter how
many people we torture and bribe and kill. For the past 10 years, we have
used the name Osama bin Laden to justify our wars. Perhaps, now that he
is dead, we can use it in the cause of peace.
is the objective now?
With no goal, Afghanistan is an expensive, deadly quagmire. The
only concrete goal I ever heard was "We're there to catch Osama."
we've caught him, why are we still there? Why are we still sacrificing
so many precious American lives and so much American money?
write our president a letter and tell him, "Please get out of Afghanistan
the White House. Clickhere.
is never a good answer."
So Why Are We Still There?
following New York Times article is about a highway America decided
to build in Afghanistan. The idea to build the highway and the highway
itself is an unmitigated disaster.This is yet another instance of us financing
our enemies. with precious money we clearly can't afford. As you read
this, think of how many American school teacher salaries the highway money
could pay for. And then think of the thousands of schoolteachers who are
losing their jobs all over America because local governments are desperately
short of money. The quote "there is never good answer" is a
quote from an unidentified military officer. It's the last sentence of
this article. I have bolded some of the more depressing parts. -- Harry
Afghanistan Road Project Is Marred by Unsavory Alliances
By ALISSA J. RUBIN and JAMES RISEN
Afghanistan When construction crews faced attacks while working
on a major American-financed highway here in southeastern Afghanistan,
Western contractors turned to a powerful local figure named simply Arafat,
who was suspected to have links to Afghanistans insurgents.
flush with American money, paid Mr. Arafat at least $1 million a year
to keep them safe, according to people involved in the project and Mr.
paid to Mr. Arafat bought neither security nor the highway that American
officials have long envisioned as a vital route to tie remote border areas
to the Afghan government. Instead, it added to the staggering cost of
the road, known as the Gardez-Khost Highway, one of the most expensive
and troubled transportation projects in Afghanistan. The 64-mile highway,
which has yet to be completed, has cost about $121 million so far,
with the final price tag expected to reach $176 million
or about $2.8 million a mile according to American officials. Security
alone has cost $43.5 million so far, U.S.A.I.D. officials said.
expenses and unsavory alliances surrounding the highway have become a
parable of the corruption and mismanagement that turns so many well-intended
development efforts in Afghanistan into sinkholes for the money of American
taxpayers, even nine years into the war. The road is one of the most
expensive construction projects per mile undertaken by U.S.A.I.D., which
has built or rehabilitated hundreds of miles of Afghan highways and has
faced delays and cost overruns on similar projects, according to the special
inspector general for Afghan reconstruction.
of warnings that Mr. Arafat was making a small fortune playing both sides
in the war and after recent queries by The New York Times about
payments to him American officials said they had finally moved
to cut him off in April.
the expense, a stretch of the highway completed just six months ago is
already falling apart and remains treacherous. The unfinished portion
runs through Taliban territory, raising questions about how it can be
completed. Cost overruns are already more than 100 percent, all
for a road where it was never certain that local Afghans wanted it as
badly as the American officials who planned it.
worst, the failures have financed the very insurgents that NATO and
Afghan forces are struggling to defeat. Some American officials and
contractors involved in the project suspect that at least some of the
money funneled through Mr. Arafat made its way to the Haqqani group, a
particularly brutal offshoot of the Taliban.
say that payoffs to insurgent groups, either directly or indirectly, by
contractors working on highways and other large projects in Afghanistan
are routine. Some officials say they are widely accepted in the field
as a cost of doing business, especially in areas not fully under the control
of the United States military or the Afghan government. As a result, contracting
companies and the American officials who supervise them often look the
it keep the peace? asked one United States military officer with
experience in volatile eastern Afghanistan. Definitely. If the bad
guys have a stake in the project, attacks go way down. The officer,
like many of the people interviewed, did not want to be named for fear
of retribution for criticizing a project that is considered a priority
by the American and Afghan governments.
suspected that Mr. Arafat had been staging attacks himself to extort more
money for protection, a vicious cycle of blackmail that contractors and
American officials acknowledged was a common risk.
In an interview,
Mr. Arafat confirmed that he had been fired, but he called accusations
that he had funneled money to the Haqqani group a lie and propaganda,
and he denied staging attacks.
that American taxpayers money has been going to someone with ties
to an insurgency that has killed American soldiers and Afghan civilians
is just one of the many problems of the Gardez-Khost Highway.
beginning in 2007, no one thought that building the road would be easy.
Traversing high, rugged terrain, the road rises to more than 9,000 feet.
In winter, it is buried in deep snow. In summer, it is covered by a thick
layer of chalky earth that engineers refer to as moon dust, which turns
to mud in the rain.
officials judged the original price tag of $69 million to be worth the
cost. The highway was seen as an important way to connect two mountainous
provinces in southeast Afghanistan Paktia and Khost and
wrest from the insurgents a route that they had long used to move money,
men and guns into Afghanistan from Pakistans tribal areas.
officials hoped that the road would better link Afghanistans strategic
border region to the central government in the capital, Kabul, and encourage
commerce. The military hoped it would provide faster access for supplies
and fresh troops.
interviews with more than 20 current and former American government officials,
as well as military officers, private contractors, Afghan officials and
local Afghan tribal leaders, show that despite the lofty goals the highway
project was troubled virtually from the start, and problems quickly mounted.
States Agency for International Development, which has financed the project,
turned it over to a joint venture of the Louis Berger Group, a New Jersey
consulting and construction services firm, and Black & Veatch, a construction
company in Kansas. In November, the Louis Berger Group paid one of
the highest fines ever in a wartime contracting case to the federal government
hired an Indian subcontractor, which was a joint venture of two companies,
BSC and C&C Construction, to handle the construction, and a South
African private security contractor, ISS-Safenet, to provide security.
Both sides in turn subcontracted to Afghans like Mr. Arafat, who did not
even have a registered company, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.
raised the costs as everyone took a share, and it was not long before
the money allocated for the project had been drained.
would be a string of subcontracts, where the subcontractors would take
a cut and subcontract it out again, said a civilian who worked with
the military on the project. And we had a problem that with the
final subcontractors, they didnt have enough money to get the work
the money was a problem. The Agency for International Development has
faced significant cuts in recent years and cannot conduct serious
oversight, said one military officer who was stationed near
the road. U.S.A.I.D. is a shell of its former self, the officer
said. Now, its just a big contracting mechanism.
of an Indian subcontractor stoked resentments among Afghans, who believed
the business should have been given to them, according to Afghan and American
both sides of the border are dominated by the Haqqani group, whose leaders
are from Khost, and Paktias powerful Zadran tribe. The Haqqani group
is the Taliban offshoot that has long acted as a proxy in Afghanistan
for Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani military and intelligence
service. Hiring a subcontractor from India Pakistans mortal
enemy in a region dominated by people with close ties to Pakistan
was like waving a red flag at Pakistans insurgent proxies.
among the problems was that construction began before the region was cleared
of insurgents. You are talking about pushing development before
theres security, said a former American government official
who was involved in the project.
you have military or politically driven timelines and locations which
make no sense, or which force us into alliances with the very malign actors
that are powerfully part of the broader battles we are fighting,
the official said. No one steps back and looks at the whole picture.
of starting work, a construction camp was hit with rocket-propelled grenades,
said Steve Yahn, the former chief engineer for the Gardez-Khost Highway
project. Afterward, the provincial governor and the police chief told
the Americans that if they had hired the right people for security, the
attack would never have happened. We got the message, Mr.
when Mr. Arafat and 200 of his men were brought in to protect work crews.
He was recommended by tribal elders from the Zadran tribe, said Paktias
governor, Juma Khan Hamdard.
is feared in the area and has deep roots there. A local businessman, who
asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said Mr. Arafat spent part
of his childhood in the same area as the sons of the insurgent leader
Jalaluddin Haqqani, who heads the group named for him, and had maintained
close ties with them.
all the building by the P.R.T.s, by the U.S., this area is strongly
under Haqqani influence it has been for years, said Gul Bacha
Majidi, a member of Parliament from Paktia, referring to the Americans
Provincial Reconstruction Teams, responsible for many development projects.
And if you are working there or living there, you must have links
U.S.A.I.D. worker described the area as a place where the American military
and development officers had no idea whom they were dealing with. The
Haqqanis were out there, HIG, Al Haq, ISI, the worker said, rattling
off a host of insurgent groups and the Pakistani intelligence agency,
which maintains ties to many of them. Everyone was there, and the
local population is as likely to sabotage a project as to protect it.
some suspected Mr. Arafat of arranging attacks himself. However, they
were reported up the American military chain of command like almost all
other attacks, without any hint that they might have been staged for the
purpose of squeezing money from the United States government.
In one instance
in 2009, Afghan soldiers searched a small car in Gardez and found it filled
with explosives, and the two men riding in it quickly explained that they
worked for Mr. Arafat. The explosives disappeared and the men were freed
before they could be handed over to the United States military, according
to an American official familiar with the case.
American contractor said that an Afghan worker had told him that he had
been ordered by security subcontractors to write night letters
anonymous death threats to the Americans working on the
highway to frighten them into paying more for security.
and other violence often broke out on paydays, said one American official
who worked on the road, adding that those were the only occasions when
many of the local security guards would show up, even though on paper
there were supposed to be nearly 1,000 guards.
paper, the G.K. road was paying an enormous security detail of local-hire
Afghans, said one United States official. The highway contractors
would make a big deal out of their camps getting hit from
time to time, and some of their guys would get shot in night attacks,
but every instance I ever heard about coincided with payment negotiations
with the Afghan security detail, of whom Arafat was the chief point of
contact, the official said.
It is impossible
to determine how many of the attacks on the highway may have been staged
by Mr. Arafat or his men. Despite all the money spent on security, however,
there have been 364 attacks on the Gardez-Khost Highway, including 108
roadside bombs, resulting in the deaths of 19 people, almost all of them
local Afghan workers.
insurgent connections appear to have been known to virtually everyone,
yet there was a conspiracy of silence among both the Americans and the
Afghans to keep the project running, contractors and others said.
inspector general first investigated Mr. Arafats ties to the insurgency
in 2009, but top agency officials concluded there was insufficient evidence
to take action against him, an official at the agency said.
United States military officers in the region declined to take action
against Mr. Arafat, even after they were warned about his ties to the
Haqqanis, said Matt Mancuso, an American contractor who was the liaison
between the security contractor, ISS-Safenet, and the United States military
was taken even though Mr. Arafat was on the United States militarys
joint prioritized effects list the record of those suspected of
ties to terrorism and singled out for capture or killing in early
2009 because of his suspected ties to the Haqqanis.
said he proposed a plan to lure Mr. Arafat onto an American base to be
captured so that he could collect the reward. He was told days later by
American military commanders that Mr. Arafat had been taken off the list.
He said he believed they removed Mr. Arafats name because they did
not want to risk instability along the highway.
Mr. Yahn said he believed that Mr. Arafat was dropped from the target
list after appeals from contractors working on the highway. We told
them, Hes keeping relative peace, and if hes killed
we are worried that there will be infighting and there will be more problems,
Mr. Yahn said.
money might the Haqqanis have received through their ties to Mr. Arafat?
said that during his time working on the project, ISS-Safenet paid Mr.
Arafat $160,000 a month to provide security for the road in Paktia Province.
The amount, he said, was grossly inflated above the legitimate costs of
As The New
York Times pressed U.S.A.I.D. and the military for information on the
project, American officials finally decided to disqualify Mr. Arafat as
a subcontractor, saying in response to queries that he was no longer
eligible to receive U.S.A.I.D. funds.
in April, the militarys Task Force 2010, which handles anticorruption
issues, disqualified one of the Afghan construction subcontractors working
on the road because of derogatory information, according to
Lt. Bashon Mann, a spokesman for the task force. The term derogatory
information referred to evidence that the local construction company
had ties to the Haqqani group and was paying it off.
Arafats dismissal may reduce the payments that may have been funneled
to the Haqqanis, some officials fear he may try to endanger the project
by sabotaging his successors, which could drive costs up further.
I have left the security of the road, its chaos there, Mr.
Arafat said. In fact, security officials have not seen any significant
incidents since Mr. Arafats departure, they said.
officer who asked not to be identified said that contractors working in
remote stretches of Afghanistan constantly faced such dilemmas. Do you
keep paying off insurgents, or others, to keep the peace, even though
they could use the money to buy weapons and sustain the insurgency?
a tradeoff, said the officer. Its Afghanistan; there
is never a good answer.
Another Dumb Reason to be in Afghanistan
article is from the April 7 issue of the Economist. It is a review of
two new books on Pakistan. The Economist calls Pakistan an important but
confusing country which has been driven, partly by American intervention
into strange ways.
A Hard Country. By Anatol Lieven. PublicAffairs; 558 pages; $35. Allen
Lane; £30. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad. By Bruce
Riedel. Brookings Institution Press; 180 pages; $24.95 and £16.99.
Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
IT IS a
shame that these books should be published at a time when the world is
riveted by events in the Middle East. Pakistans population is more
than half the size of the entire Arab world; for most of the past
three decades it has been involved in a war with a superpower, first against
it, and now on the same side as it; it suffers from an Islamic insurgency
that has killed 30,000 people over the past four years; it is regarded
by students of geopolitics as the most likely location of nuclear conflict;
and the reasons why it does not work as a country are many and fascinating.
with Pakistans story is that the country is one rather depressing
stage on from the Middle East. Its people have risen up bravely against
autocrats (three times over, if you count only the generals, or four if,
like some Pakistanis, you count Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as well) and had several
unsuccessful attempts at democracy. So it ricochets between military and
civilian governments, with a state that does not work very well but has
not collapsed, and an insurgency that is not turning into a civil war
but wont go away. Unlike the Middle East, it is not full of hope.
drama, colour and complexity, the place is hard to beat; and Anatol Lieven
captures the richness of the place wonderfully. His book has the virtues
of both journalism and scholarshipnot surprising, since Mr Lieven
used to be a reporter for the Times and is now at Kings College,
London. He has travelled extensively and talked widely, to generals, shopkeepers,
farmers, lawyers and bureaucrats.
the people he meets with both sympathy and scepticism, pointing to Pakistani
societys ability to generate within an astonishingly short space
of time several mutually incompatible versions of a given event or fact,
often linked to conspiracy theories which pass through the baroque to
the rococoa characteristic which anybody who has worked there
will recognise. He has a great affection for the country, which he describes
as a place that cries out for the combined talents of a novelist,
an anthropologist and a painter. Aside from occasional bits of horrible
writing, he does it justice.
that Pakistan is approaching the condition of a failed state is popular
these days. Mr Lieven rejects it. The state may be weak, but in his view
society is strong, which both holds the place together and frustrates
attempts to modernise it. For instance, Mr Lieven finds the official bit
of the legal systemthe police, lawyers and judgeshorribly
wanting. When I visited the city courts in Quetta, Baluchistan,
a majority of the people with whom I spoke outside had cases which had
been pending for more than five years, and had spent more than 200,000
rupees [$4,500] on legal fees and bribesa colossal sum for a poor
man in Pakistan.
turn to tribal courts, or to the Pakistani Taliban in areas where they
are strong. Few outsiders would recognise some of the tribal courts
decisions as justicegirls are traditionally given as compensation
for particularly serious crimesyet service is speedy and generally
reckoned to be superior to that provided by the state. Indeed, this is
one of the main reasons why the Talibans rise was, at least initially,
similarly, sits uncomfortably with traditional society. Politics is dominated
by big landowners and tribal chiefs, who regard their job not as developing
the countrys economy and civil institutions for the good of all
Pakistanis, but as distributing patronage to their clan or tribe; and
thats how government is run. Values diverge radically from those
normally associated with representative democracy. In 2008, three teenage
Baluch girls were shot and buried alive for refusing to marry the husbands
chosen for them by their tribes. A tribal chief, a senator belonging to
the Pakistan Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari, commented:
these are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend
them. Only those who commit immoral acts should be afraid. The man
was subsequently made a federal minister.
thinks growing resentment at the hierarchical nature of Pakistani society
has helped the Taliban. Educated Pakistanis would ask of some Islamist
on the rise: Who on earth can respect a former bus conductor as
a leader? The answer, says Mr Lieven in rather cross italics, is
another bus conductor It is precisely the lowly origins of
the Taliban which endear them to the masses.
Lieven reckons that because of the strength of traditional social bonds,
which tie individual to family, and family to tribe or clan, Pakistani
society is probably strong enough to prevent any attempt to change it
radically through Islamist revolution, which is all to the good.
Bruce Riedel is less sanguine. He regards a jihadist victory
in Pakistan as neither imminent nor inevitable [but] a real
possibility that needs to be assessed. It might come about, he reckons,
as a result of a military coup by an officer sharing the world- view of
General Zia ul Haq, or as a result of an insurgent victory; neither of
which Mr Lievens analysis suggests is likely.
Lieven knows Pakistan from the inside, Mr Riedel, who has advised no fewer
than four American presidents, knows power from the insidesomething
he is keen to share with the reader. Every chapter starts with some version
of We were aboard Air Force One en route to California when I began
briefing President Barack Obama
who can successfully suppress their irritation, his book provides a useful
account of the dysfunctional relationship between Pakistan and America.
The governments are supposedly close allies, yet betray each other with
monotonous regularity. After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, America
abandoned Pakistan for India. Pakistan both helps America in its war against
the Afghan Taliban andplaying both sidesallows Taliban fighters
to conduct attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistani territory. Pakistans
people regard America with deep suspicion, and Pakistans Taliban
is taking up the baton of global (and particularly anti-American) terror
from a weakened al-Qaeda.
the books disagree somewhat about Pakistans prospects, they are
not far apart on at least one important aspect of its past. Americas
interventions, argues Mr Riedel, have made it harder for Pakistanis
to develop a healthy democracy that can effectively fight terror,
by encouraging military interference in civilian affairs. It has
above all been the US-led campaign in Afghanistan, says Mr Lieven,
which has been responsible for increasing Islamist insurgency and
terrorism in Pakistan since 2001. These two books, in different
ways, sharply illustrate an uncomfortable truth about American foreign
policy: that the war in Afghanistan has helped foster in Pakistan exactly
the sorts of tendencies that America went into Afghanistan to wipe out.
year At War
The Endgame in Afghanistan
by James Dao, New York Times
Afghanistan The general arrived late, but in style, bursting into
a meeting with American commanders dressed in leather bomber jacket, riding
boots and creased corduroys. To his critics, he was a warlord in uniform.
But on this February day, he radiated the sly charisma of a congressman
on the stump.
series follows the deployment of one battalion in the northern Afghanistan
surge, chronicling the impact of war on individual soldiers and their
families back home.
This was my introduction to Gen. Abdul Rahman Saidkhail, the police chief
of Kunduz Province. When he first came to Kunduz last summer, replacing
a more cautious commander, the province seemed to be slipping into chaos,
with insurgents and criminal gangs controlling nearly as much real estate
as the government.
wary, American officers became fans, as the general led bold attacks on
insurgent redoubts over the winter and pressured low-level Taliban commanders
to switch sides. By February, districts that had been off limits except
to heavily armed American units were being patrolled by Afghan police
in early March, the general was dead, killed by a suicide bomber outside
the office where I had met him weeks before.
war in northern Afghanistan, just a few months before the United States
begins drawing down troops. Over the past year, I spent more than four
months in Kunduz with a photographer, Damon Winter, documenting the deployment
of an outfit from Fort Drum, N.Y., the First Battalion, 87th Infantry
of the 10th Mountain Division part of President Obamas Afghan
surge. Now northern Afghanistan is secure by Afghan standards, less Taliban-infested
than the south and east, where American troops, and media coverage, are
concentrated. But in its ethnic rivalries, strongman politics, government
corruption and unreliable security forces, Kunduz is also representative
of the challenges facing the American military as it tries to midwife
a stable nation.
Obama administration pledging to withdraw most American forces by 2014,
starting this summer, Kunduz offers some object lessons. Among them: the
battered Taliban remain a deadly force; the militias the Americans increasingly
rely upon are often as shady as the insurgents they fight; American technology
still cannot defend against some maddeningly simple weapons, mines and
I came to view General Saidkhail as a metaphor for the one-step-forward,
one-step-back nature of the long American mission.
about the general was messy. Intelligence reports suggested that he had
ties to insurgent leaders in his native Parwan Province. Pashtun leaders
thought that he played favorites to Tajiks and Uzbeks. His deep roots
in the Northern Alliance worried confidantes of President Hamid Karzai,
himself a Pashtun.
But he was
aggressive and, American officers say, effective. I left Kunduz in early
March convinced that it was more secure than when the 1-87 first arrived
11 months before. Over the winter, American and Afghan forces had cleared
many villages that were once Taliban-controlled, including Mullah Quli,
where the stoning of a young couple who had eloped last year became a
symbol of the Talibans resurgence.
had been impassable because of roadside bombs were de-mined, and people
who had fled the Taliban for the safety of Kunduz City returned home.
Commerce picked up. Nighttime cellphone service, once blocked by the Taliban,
was restored. Things had improved enough that the soldiers replacing the
1-87 speculated that they would be the last American unit in Kunduz.
But as the
assassination of General Saidkhail suggests, the security gains might
have been skin deep. The incoming American battalion is smaller than the
1-87 and will be unable to patrol important districts. Security in those
areas will be left to the local police, German forces and pro-government
police force, while growing, remains small and poorly equipped. The Germans
operate under restrictive rules that hamper their effectiveness. And the
village militias are untested, often corrupt and of questionable loyalty.
Just a few weeks ago, many of those militias were fighting alongside the
the winter offensives that pushed the Taliban out of much of Kunduz occurred
while the insurgents were least prepared to fight: in the cold, with little
vegetation for cover. By May, warm temperatures and leaves on the trees
will be back. So will the insurgents.
weeks, Taliban commanders who were reportedly chastised in Pakistan
for their poor performance during the winter began a terror campaign
that included killing not just General Saidkhail, but also more than 30
civilians near a police compound in the northern city of Imam Sahib and
more than 36 people at a military recruiting office in Kunduz City.
and terrorist bombings can be a perverse indication of progress, American
officials assert: signs of desperation. But they can also undermine faith
in the Karzai government.
No one understood
the tenuous situation better than General Saidkhail himself. We
may not be able to see the enemy, he told his district commanders
over lunch a few weeks before he died, but they are still here.
On a muggy
day last April, I accompanied a patrol of American soldiers into a remote
area near the Tajikistan border. The Americans had never visited these
villages but felt confident that they were safe. Why? Because they were
under the control of a militia leader known as Rozeboi.
a hulking man in his 30s who bore a resemblance to Tom Selleck, commanded
a couple of dozen fighters in Imam Sahib. The district is a vital gateway
to Central Asia for commerce in food and construction materials
as well as opium and weapons. American officials say many local officials
and militia leaders have a hand in the trafficking, Rozeboi included.
described an encounter with Rozebois fighters. The Americans had
raided a compound where they found antipersonnel mines and drugs. But
when they checked with Afghan authorities about the find, they were told
that the compound and its goods should be left to Rozebois
men. Such winks and nods are standard operating practice for a simple
reason: The Americans need militias to bolster shaky government forces.
Rozebois could be counted on to help American troops in a fight.
strategy for handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan government
rests on a similar strategy: putting local militias on the government
payroll. Such recruits are supposed to be vetted. But in the
months it will take to complete that process, American commanders are
counting on ragtag militias like Rozebois to fight the Taliban.
the militias are controlled by strongmen who traffic in drugs and weapons
and pay their soldiers by taxing the locals, as the Taliban do. Indeed,
several militias in Kunduz fought alongside the Taliban before switching
to the governments side.
Karzai government provide the food, clothing and salaries needed to keep
those militias friendly? If they do not have income, they will return
to their old bosses, the mayor of Imam Sahib, Sufi Manaan, warned
American officers in February. He should know. Some American commanders
believe that he has links to a militia that fought against their soldiers
I accompanied an American platoon trying to secure a hill in Imam Sahib
on the eve of parliamentary elections. The soldiers had received warning
that there were antipersonnel mines atop the hill. But Navy explosives
experts were confident that they could find them.
not. The first man wounded was one of the minesweepers himself. His metal
detector did not alert him to the plastic mine in the ground beneath his
feet. He lost both of them.
minesweeper was carried to a medevac helicopter, I made my way back up
the hill, stepping carefully in other mens tracks. There I met a
sergeant whose face betrayed a mixture of disgust and dismay. Youve
been in combat before, right? he asked me. So you know
about the futility.
of soldiers sat in trenches along the hills crest. One of them had
a camera mounted on his helmet. The video captured the men waiting anxiously
to leave, trying to avoid movements that might trigger other mines.
of them, Specialist Matt Hayes, walked toward the camera, looking, it
seems, for a bottle of water. Time for a new job, he muttered
as he stepped past the lens.
or two later, there is an explosion. The camera pans back to capture a
cloud of dust and the screams of Specialist Hayes. He had stepped on a
mine while making his way back to his trench. He lost his right leg.
the sergeant is at his side, no trace of futility in his voice as he comforts
the specialist with a joke. A tourniquet is applied, a morphine drip is
begun and the soldier is carried down by stretcher. The camera captures
what is left on the hill: Matt Hayess boot.
of the 1-87 returned to Fort Drum just in time for St. Patricks
Day. Specialist Hayes, moving nimbly on a prosthetic leg, took leave from
Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit his platoon mates. In Kunduz,
a new unit has begun patrolling in Imam Sahib. It has no plans to clear
the hill of mines.
By DEXTER FILKINS, the New York Times.
(a new book) Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan
by Bing West
Illustrated. 307 pages Random House. $28.
In the nine
years since the first American troops landed in Afghanistan, a new kind
of religion has sprung up, one that promises success for the Americans
even as the war they have been fighting has veered dangerously close to
defeat. Follow the religions tenets, give yourself over to it and
the new faith will reward you with riches and fruits.
The new religion,
of course, is counterinsurgency, or in the militarys jargon, COIN.
The doctrine of counterinsurgency upends the militarys most basic
notion of itself, as a group of warriors whose main task is to destroy
its enemies. Under COIN, victory will be achieved first and foremost by
protecting the local population and thereby rendering the insurgents irrelevant.
Killing is a secondary pursuit. The main business of American soldiers
is now building economies and political systems. Kill if you must, but
only if you must.
for COIN came in Iraq, where after years of trying to kill and capture
their way to victory, the Americans finally turned the tide by befriending
the locals and striking peace deals with a vast array of insurgents. In
2007 and 2008, violence dropped dramatically. The relative stability in
Iraq has allowed Americans to come home. As a result, counterinsurgency
has become the American militarys new creed, the antidote not just
in Iraq but Afghanistan too. At the militarys urging, President
Obama has become a convert, ordering thousands of extra young men and
women to that country, in the hopes of saving an endeavor that was beginning
to look doomed. No one in the Obama administration uses the phrase nation-building,
but that is, of course, precisely what they are trying to do or
some lesser version of it. Protect the Afghan people, build schools and
hold elections. And the insurgents will wither away.
wrong? Why hasnt the new faith in Afghanistan delivered the success
it promises? In his remarkable book, The Wrong War,
Bing West goes a long way to answering that question. The Wrong
War amounts to a crushing and seemingly irrefutable critique
of the American plan in Afghanistan. It should be read by anyone who wants
to understand why the war there is so hard.
of Wests book is the legwork hes done. Most accounts of Americas
wars, particularly those by former military officers, are written in the
comfort of an office in the United States. Not so here. At age 70, West,
the author of several books on Americas wars, went to Afghanistan
and into the bases and out on patrols with the grunts, waded through the
canals, ran through firefights and humped up the mountains. (At one point
he contracted cholera and was evacuated by helicopter.) Embedding with
American troops in God-forsaken places like Kunar and Helmand Provinces
is hard business. What drives this man? West is worth a book in himself.
But the legwork
pays off. West shows in the most granular, detailed way how and why Americas
counterinsurgency in Afghanistan is failing. And, in the places where
the effort is showing promise, he demonstrates why we dont have
the resources to duplicate that success on a wider scale. Mind you, West
is no antiwar lefty: hes a former infantry officer who fought in
Vietnam. An assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration,
he admires nay, adores Americas fighting men and women,
and he wants the United States to succeed. But the facts on the ground,
it appears, lead him to darker truths.
American troops in Garmsir, Marja and Nawa in Helmand Province; Barge
Matal in Nuristan; and the Korengal Valley in Kunar all in the
heart of the fight. His basic argument can be summed up like this: American
soldiers and Marines are very good at counterinsurgency, and they are
breaking their hearts, and losing their lives, doing it so hard. But the
central premise of counterinsurgency doctrine holds that if the Americans
sacrifice on behalf of the Afghan government, then the Afghan people will
risk their lives for that same government in return. They will fight the
Taliban, finger the informants hiding among them and transform themselves
into authentic leaders who spurn death and temptation.
happening. What we have created instead, West shows, is a vast culture
of dependency: Americans are fighting and dying, while the Afghans by
and large stand by and do nothing to help them. Afghanistans leaders,
from the presidential palace in Kabul to the river valleys in the Pashtun
heartland, are enriching themselves, often criminally, on Americas
largesse. The Taliban, whatever else they do, fight hard and for very
little reward. American soldiers, handcuffed by strict rules of engagement,
have surrendered the initiative to their enemies. Most important, the
Afghan people, though almost certainly opposed to a Taliban redux, are
equally wary of both the Americans and their Afghan leaders.
They will happily take the riches lavished on them by the Americans, but
they will not risk their lives for either the Americans or their own government.
The Afghans are waiting to see who prevails, but prevailing is impossible
without their help.
time, West shows the theory of counterinsurgency scraping up against the
hard and jagged ground of the real Afghanistan. In one instance, he examines
the work of a group of American soldiers and civilians, known as a provincial
reconstruction team, whose job was to provide development assistance to
Afghan locals in Asadabad (A-Bad to the Americans) in eastern Afghanistan.
It was overseen by a battalion known as the 1-32 and commanded by a lieutenant
colonel named Mark ODonnell. In June 2009, after the reconstruction
team had been working there for three years, an American supply truck
blew a tire on the main road. A crowd of Afghans gathered, and then suddenly
a grenade exploded, killing and maiming several Afghans. A riot ensued.
Kill the Americans! the Afghans shouted. Protect Islam!
Only later did a videotape of the incident show clearly that an Afghan
had tossed the grenade.
three years, the provincial reconstruction team had lived in a compound
a few blocks from the scene of the tragedy. The P.R.T. had paid over $10
million to hire locals, who smiled in appreciation. Every time a platoon
from 1-32 patrolled through town, they stopped to chat with storekeepers
and to buy trinkets and candy to give to the street urchins. Yet the locals
had turned on the soldiers in an instant. That the townspeople in A-Bad
who profited from American protection and projects would believe the worst
of ODonnells soldiers whom they knew personally
suggested that the Americans were tolerated but not supported, regardless
of their good works and money.
book is coming out just as the American military, fortified by the extra
troops, is claiming to be making significant progress in routing the Taliban
from their strongholds in the south. This may be true, but remember who
is doing most of the hard work: the Americans, not the Afghans themselves.
Its still an American war.
of Wests book promises a way out, but its a little
thin on exit strategies. His solution, tacked on to the final pages of
the book, is to transform the American mission to one almost entirely
dedicated to training and advising the Afghan security forces. Let the
Afghans fight. Our mistake in Afghanistan was to do the work of
others for 10 years, expecting reciprocity across a cultural and religious
West is not
the first to advocate such a course. But its not that simple, as
he well knows. Nothing in Afghanistan is. Nine years of training and investment
have created an Afghan Army fraught with the same corruption and lack
of cohesion as the rest of the country. As it is, the Americans are now
pouring more resources into the Afghan security forces than ever before.
At best, the Afghans are years away from taking over the bulk of the fighting.
And even that is a very fragile hope.
what? As The Wrong War shows so well, the Americans will spend
more money and more lives trying to transform Afghanistan, and their soldiers
will sacrifice themselves trying to succeed. But nothing short of a miracle
will give them much in return.
Filkins is a staff writer for The New Yorker.
-- "The Good War"
by Harry Newton
Obama compaigned on the promise of bringing the War in Afghanistan to
first major action was to send an additional 30,000 troops. My friends
in Washington tell me that his military advisors told him categorically
that the 30,000 would accomplish nothing to win the War or the Peace,
or whatever the U.S. was hoping to accomplish there. The military advisors
recommended strongly against the 30,000 surge.
only "accomplishment" of the surge would be to put another 30,000
Americans in serious harm's way.
why the additional 30,000?
friends' answer: "The decision was 100% political.. President Obama
wanted to show his party, the Democrats, the opposition party, the Republicans
and the American public that he could be tough.
he announced the 30,000 extra troops, he said he would begin withdrawing
American troops in July of 2011.
course, that's makes no sense. It alerted the Taliban of the day they
could begin to move back in.
logic? Obama said his thrust was training the Afghan police and military
who would, by July, 2011, be able to hold the Taliban back.
senior American politicians, like Senator Carl Levin, who is chairman
of the Senate Armed Services Committee, believe that we are succeeding
at that training. And that the Afghan forces will be able to hold the
Taliban back and the American military pullout will begin in July.
who told Obama not to send the 30,000, believes Obama will begin the pullout
in July -- though Levin has no idea whether it will be one American solider
or a thousand, or ten thousand.
how to make it more than less?
has no idea, other than writing Obama, who is, after all, Commander-in-Chief,
and can basically run the war in Afghanistan any way he feels like.
Obama at the White House. Maybe an avalanche of letters may do some good?
sad thing about Afghanistan is that it essentially has dropped off the
American political radar screen, to be replaced by an ailing economy,
with its high unemployment.
we spent the money we spent in Afghanistan inside America, we could have
built many bridges, new highways, wondereful mass transit systems and
employed many people in productive ways. As it is now, we have wasted
billions of dollars, lost 1,500 brave lives and wrecked the lives of 100,00
who have been wounded physically and emotionally in Afghanistan.
an American , I am not proud of this adventure. I wish I had a better
answer to bring this War to an quick end. For the moment, send Obama a
Taliban Admit to a Rift With Top Leaders
By CARLOTTA GALL of the New York Times
Afghanistan Recent defeats and general weariness after nine years
of war are creating fissures between the Talibans top leadership
based in Pakistan and midlevel field commanders, who have borne the brunt
of the fighting and are reluctant to return to some battle zones, Taliban
members said in interviews.
defeats with the influx of thousands of new American troops in the southern
provinces of Kandahar and Helmand last year, many Taliban fighters retreated
across the border to the safety of Pakistan. They are now coming under
pressure from their leaders to return to Afghanistan to step up the fight
again, a Taliban commander said. Many are hesitant to do so, at least
have talked to some commanders, and they are reluctant to fight,
one 45-year-old commander who has been with the Taliban since its founding
in 1994 said in an interview in this southern city. He spoke on condition
he not be identified because he was in hiding from American and government
forces. Definitely there is disagreement between the field commanders
and the leaders over their demands to go and fight.
point not just to the increasing stresses on the battlefield for midlevel
Taliban commanders like him, but also to the difficulty of ending the
insurgency as long as the Talibans top leadership has sanctuary
in Pakistan, which has long protected and sponsored the Taliban.
the border, and tightly controlled by Pakistans military and intelligence
agencies, the top Taliban leadership remains uncompromising. At the urging
of their protectors in Pakistan, Taliban members say, they continue to
push midlevel Taliban commanders back across the border to carry on the
insurgency, which extends Pakistans influence in southern Afghanistan.
commanders have little choice but to comply, as they also depend on sanctuaries
in Pakistan, where they maintain their families, say residents in Kandahar
who know the Taliban well. The Taliban commander said in his interview
that the field commanders would obey their orders to resume the fight,
however reluctant they might be.
In a meeting
across the border in Pakistan this month, Taliban leaders ordered each
commander to send four or five men back into their home areas to resume
operations by planting bombs, he said. While commanders are worried
for their lives, they have to go, or at least send some people,
the dissension in Taliban ranks stems from raids by American forces, which
have been specifically aimed at eliminating Taliban field commanders.
The raids have taken a toll on the quality of the Talibans fighting
forces and exacerbated differences between the fighters on the ground
and their leaders giving orders from their sanctuary in Pakistan.
supporter of the Taliban in Helmand Province said that the insurgents
had lost 500 fighters there last year, including virtually all the known
commanders. Those who survived remonstrated with the leadership in Pakistan
over why they had to sacrifice so many men.
of divisions between the Taliban leadership and its field commanders come
on top of reports from American military officials of new frictions within
the top Taliban leadership, which is believed to be based in the western
Pakistani city of Quetta.
In an assessment
of the war written in January to his troops, the commander of coalition
forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, said that there were numerous
reports of unprecedented discord among the members of the Quetta Shura,
the Taliban senior leadership body.
A NATO intelligence
officer in Kandahar said that he had received one report of a knife fight
in a Taliban leadership meeting in December, which he said was a sign
of growing internal tensions. People have to leave their guns outside
the meeting room, which explains why someone might pull a knife, the officer
cited divisions over a suicide bombing at a wedding in Kandahar Province
last year that was organized by a more radical field commander, without
the approval of the Taliban leadership. Some of the younger, more radical
commanders have come up through the ranks to replace those who have been
fighting in the fall, the Taliban commanders sometimes found their calls
for help going unanswered, according to American military officials. One
group, in Sia Choy, in the Zhare District of Kandahar Province, appealed
for help from commanders to no avail.
groups to the north, in Arghandab, also flatly refused to help, said Capt.
Matthew Crawford, a senior intelligence officer with the 101st Airborne
is a definite reluctance to come back into this area, Captain Crawford
said. I dont think they were prepared for how we approached
have eroded Taliban morale, said Maj. Chris Cavin, chief of operations
for the Second Brigade Combat Team from the 101st Airborne Division, fighting
created a sense of anxiety, he said. Now at night you start
thinking, Wow, that guy got taken, that guy got taken. You
have got to start switching places in the middle of the night. You have
got to start being careful how you communicate with others, because, are
you a target or not?
commander interviewed said he did not stay more than a day in any one
place. He looks like any other Afghan from the countryside, tall, bearded
and wrapped in a cotton shawl. He claims to have passed through military
and police checkpoints without difficulty.
leather shoes with no socks, despite the near freezing temperature, and
sat without hesitation on the cold floor of the unfurnished meeting place
for an interview.
that the Taliban forces had taken a battering in the recent fighting and
that some were losing heart. Compared to two years ago when people
were willingly going to fight, that mood is reduced, he said. We
are tired of fighting and we say this among ourselves. But this is our
vow, not to leave our country to foreigners.
commanders were even discussing the option of peace talks, but say they
will only negotiate with the Afghan government after foreign forces leave,
leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, recently exhorted his men in an audio tape
to keep fighting, the commander said.
words have a very powerful effect on us, the Taliban commander said.
We obey his orders, every Talib does, and we believe in him.
the setbacks, the commander made light of the Talibans loss of territory
around Kandahar in recent months. Taliban casualties were lower than claimed
by NATO forces, he said.
his men had pulled out and would wait and prepare for an offensive in
the spring when the weather is warmer and the trees provide cover, he
will not be difficult, he said. We do not bring in tanks and
heavy equipment. What we bring is very light and simple, he said.
In the end
the Taliban would return to their own land, he said. This is our
country, these are our people, and we have only to retreat and wait and
use other tactics.
Scale of Corruption tops even the worst estimates"
Greg Mitchell | January 13, 2011, The Nation Magazine
fifty days have passed since the WikiLeaks document release in late November,
this one centering on US diplomatic cables and quickly dubbed "Cablegate."
At this writing, not even 3,000 cables from the cache, which reportedly
holds more than 251,000 documents, have been published by WikiLeaks or,
in most cases, by its newspaper partners, and it's impossible to know
whether everything of prime importance has already emerged in the cherry-picking.
next court date in his sex-crime extradition case is not until February
7, and a major WikiLeaks releaserumored to focus on Bank of Americaseems
to have been pushed back, partly because of WikiLeaks' financial problems.
So it's an appropriate time to assess what we have learned so farabout
Assange and alleged leaker Bradley Manning (heroes? villains?), the media's
love-hate relationship with WikiLeaks and limits on civil liberties for
journalists and whistleblowers.
are the various threats and retreats inspired by the latest leak: the
likely US prosecution of Assange, along with calls by some pundits and
politicians for his execution or assassination; leading corporations such
as PayPal and Amazon cutting off services for WikiLeaks; Rep. Peter King's
call this week for a ban on American companies dealing with WIkiLeaks;
and our Justice Department's secret subpoenas for Twitter (and likely
other social networks) seeking information on some WikiLeaks supporters.
these issues and others are viewed by the public hinges significantly,
however, on the perceived value of the leaked cables. US officials, even
in charging foul, usually focus on the embarrassing loss of control and
secrecy, not the damaging content of the cables. And as with earlier WikiLeaks
bombshellsthe massive Iraq and Afghanistan "war logs"many
critics in the media soon labeled the Cablegate revelations minor, old
hat. Some of WikiLeaks' media partners, after a dozen days of heavy-duty
reporting, severely reduced coverage of the cables. Now most of them are
emerging via El País and the Norwegian daily Aftenposten.
then, it's important to review a small sample of what we have learned
thanks to WikiLeaks since April and the release of the "Collateral
Murder" US helicopter video, which showed the killing of two Reuters
journalists, among others. It's necessary to do this because most in the
US media, after brief coverage, provided little follow-up. Consider the
scope of even this very limited list of revelations (and I have not even
included the shockers that some feel helped spark this month's revolt
The Saudis, our allies, are among the leading funders of international
The scale of corruption in Afghanistan tops even the worst estimates.
President Hamid Karzai regularly releases major drug dealers who have
political connections. His half-brother is a major drug operator.
The Pentagon basically lied to the public in downplaying sectarian violence
in Iraq. Our military handed over many detainees they knew would be
tortured to the Iraqis. US authorities failed to investigate hundreds
of reports of torture and abuse by Iraqi police and military.
After the release of the Iraq logs, new tallies put the number of documented
civilian casualties there at more than 100,000. The Afghanistan logs
similarly showed many more civilians killed there than previously known,
along with once-secret US assassination missions against insurgents.
The British government assured Washington that our interests would be
protected in its "independent" public inquiry into the Iraq
The Pakistani government has allowed its intelligence unit to hold strategy
sessions with the Taliban. Despite longstanding denials, the United
States has indeed been conducting special ops inside Pakistan and taking
part in joint operations with the Pakistanis.
The Yemenis have lied to their own people, taking credit for air attacks
on militants in that countrybut it was the United States that
did the job. The Yemeni president gave us an "open door" to
combat terrorism. Washington has secretly shipped arms to the Saudis
for use in Yemen.
The Saudis, contrary to their public statements, want us to get even tougher
vs. Iran. So do some other countries in the regionor so they
say in private.
Our State Department asked our diplomats at the United Nations to spy
on others, including the secretary general, even aiming to retrieve
credit card numbers.
last we got to read in full the historic 1990 memo from US Ambassador
to Iraq April Glaspie before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf
The Obama administration worked with Republicans to protect Bush officials
who faced a criminal investigation in Spain for alleged torture.
Benedict XVI impeded an investigation into alleged child sex abuse within
the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Bribery and corruption mark the Boeing versus Airbus battle for plane
sales. "United States diplomats were acting like marketing agents,
offering deals to heads of state and airline executives whose decisions
could be influenced by price, performance and, as with all finicky customers
with plenty to spend, perks," the New York Times reported early this
Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.
US diplomats have been searching for countries that will take Guantánamo
detainees, often bargaining with them; the receiving country might
get a one-on-one meeting with Obama or some other perk.
Among several startling revelations about control of nuclear supplies:
highly enriched uranium has been waiting in Pakistan for more than three
years for removal by an American team.
The U.S. embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style
trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically
modified (GM) crops.
The British have trained a Bangladeshi paramilitary force that human rights
organizations consider a "government death squad."
go on and on; for an even longer list, and divided region-by-region, see
Joshua Norman's report  at CBS News. As the many key issues surrounding
WikiLeaks are debated in the weeks ahead, we must recognize what we would
have missed without the 2010 "document dumps."
another crucial aspect. "The reaction that the WikiLeaks episode
most deserves has been the least evident," observes former British
diplomat Carne Ross, who now runs the advisory group Independent Diplomat.
"The picture of the world revealed in the cables demands a sober
and informed reflection on the realities of policy-making.... The reactions
to WikiLeaks share one abiding characteristic, so obvious that it can
easily be overlooked, namely, an unwillingness to address with any sophistication
or seriousness the complex and ever-changing world that the United Statesand
all of usmust now deal with. The prevailing and lazy assumption
is implied but all too clear: that the foreign policy elite, and government,
should be left to get on with the job, with whatever secrecy that they
got to stop this war in Afghanistan." -- Richard Holbrooke on the
operating table. His last words.
News Alert, The New York Times Wed, January 19, 2011 -- 11:07 AM ET
Delays Afghan Parliament, Deepening Turmoil Over Election
Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan ordered a delay of at least a month in the
inauguration of the country's new parliament, after a special court he
personally appointed asked for more time to study electoral fraud and
hear complaints from losing candidates.
leaves Afghanistan without a parliament for at least five months after
its election, with the prospect of even further delays. It deepens the
country's political turmoil and puts Mr. Karzai at odds with his international
supporters and with two independent electoral commissions, which have
insisted that the election results they certified were valid.
In the meanwhile, Mr. Karzai effectively rules by decree.
News from Afghanistan is getting worse and worse.
Set Aside Rivalries on Afghan Border By
THOM SHANKER, New York Times
Rival militant organizations on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan
border have increasingly been teaming up in deadly raids, in what military
and intelligence officials say is the insurgents latest attempt
to regain the initiative after months of withering attacks from American
and allied forces.
assessments from the region assert that insurgent factions now are setting
aside their historic rivalries to behave like a syndicate,
joining forces in ways not seen before. After one recent attack on a remote
base in eastern Afghanistan, a check of the dead insurgents found evidence
that the fighters were from three different factions, military officials
In the past,
these insurgent groups have been seen as sharing ideology and inspiration,
but less often plans for specific missions.
intelligence assessments offer evidence of a worrisome new trend in which
extremist commanders and their insurgent organizations are coordinating
attacks and even combining their foot soldiers into patchwork patrols
sent to carry out specific raids.
reveals the resilience and flexibility of the militant groups. But at
the same time, officials say, the unusual and expanding alliances suggest
that the factions are feeling new military pressure. American and NATO
officials say these decisions by insurgent leaders are the result of operations
by American, Afghan and allied forces on one side of the border, and by
the Pakistani military and American drone strikes on the
commanders recently have been seeking even more latitude to operate freely
along the porous border, including inside Pakistan, and have consistently
warned that whatever gains they have made in the past few months are fragile.
One official said it was a wake-up call to find evidence,
after the attack on the forward operating base, that the fighters were
partisans from three factions with long histories of feuding: the Quetta
Shura Taliban of Mullah Muhammad Omar; the network commanded by the Haqqani
family; and fighters loyal to the Hekmatyar clan.
groups have begun granting one another safe passage through their areas
of control in Afghanistan and Pakistan, sharing new recruits and coordinating
their propaganda responses to American and allied actions on the ground,
military officials sought to cast these recent developments as a reaction
to changes in the American and allied strategies in the past year, including
aggressive military offensives against the insurgents coupled with attempts
to provide visible and reliable protection to the local Afghan population.
have been forced to cooperate due to the effect our collective efforts
have had on them, said Lt. Col. Patrick R. Seiber, a spokesman for
American and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan.
Seiber said insurgent commanders recognized that as the number of American
forces increased this year in Afghanistan, they would need to surge
as well. Veteran militant leaders, many with a long history of open
warfare against one another, have put aside differences when they
see a common threat, Colonel Seiber said.
past 90 days, signs of this new and advanced syndication among insurgent
groups have been especially evident in two provinces of eastern Afghanistan,
Kunar and Paktika. Pentagon and military officials said they had no specific
count of these combined attacks, but said the syndicated nature of cooperative
action went beyond just the raids.
cooperation among insurgent factions also is being reported inside Pakistan,
where many of the extremist organizations are based or where their leaders
have found a haven.
and NATO officials said they had seen evidence of loose cooperation among
other insurgent groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Tehrik-i-Taliban.
is a Punjabi group and is considered one of the most serious long-term
threats inside Pakistan. The Punjabi groups, many of which were created
by Pakistani intelligence to fight against Indias interests in Kashmir,
now appear to be teaming up with Pashtun groups like the Afghan and Pakistani
Taliban to fight their creators, the Pakistani intelligence and security
and military officials who routinely engage with their Pakistani counterparts
said officials in Islamabad, Pakistans capital, agreed with the
new American and NATO assessments.
is actually a syndicate of related and associated militant groups and
networks, said one American officer, summarizing the emerging view
of Pakistani officials. Trying to parse them, as if they have firewalls
in between them, is really kind of silly. They cooperate with each other.
They franchise work with each other.
of senior leaders of Al Qaeda, who are believed to be hiding in the tribal
areas of Pakistan, remains important as well, officials said.
are part of this very complex collusion that occurs between all of these
extremist groups, one American official said. Each group provides
certain value to the syndicate. Al Qaeda senior leadership provides ideological
inspiration and a brand name which is not all that tangible, frankly,
but its still pretty important.
said the loose federation was not managed by a traditional military command-and-control
system, but was more akin to a social network of relationships that rose
and faded as the groups decided on ways to attack Afghan, Pakistani, American
and NATO interests.
expanding relationships among insurgent groups are foremost a response
to increased American and allied attacks, another motivation is eliminating
the need for each group to guard its physical territory and money-generating
interests from the other extremist organizations.
do not want to have to defend that against each other, one NATO
cited information gathered on the ground confirming that insurgent groups
now allowed rivals free passage through their areas of control in exchange
for that right across the other groups turf. There also is intelligence
pointing to threads of financing that run from senior Qaeda leaders and
then pass among several of the insurgent organizations.
also warn of another response to the increase of American troop levels
in Afghanistan: larger numbers of insurgent foot soldiers are expected
to be ordered to remain in Afghanistan this winter to fight on, rather
than retreat to havens in Pakistan to await the spring thaw and a return
our intelligence is telling us, were probably going to see about
a 15 to 20 percent increase in the amount of attacks compared to the same
time frame of 2009, said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of
American and allied forces in eastern Afghanistan. We think many
are going to stay and try to fight.
16, 2010, From the Wall Street
War Review Finds Fragile Progress in Afghanistan
much-anticipated White House review of the Afghan war finds that "components"
of the administration's strategy are working but that gains are fragile
because of concerns about insurgent safe havens in Pakistan and
the challenge of developing independent Afghan security forces.
says the Taliban's momentum has been arrested in much of Afghanistan,
but those gains could be reversed.
those gains will require that we make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate
sanctuaries for violent extremist networks," according to a summary
of the report released by the White House. "Durability also requires
continued work with Afghanistan to transfer cleared areas to their security
House review of progress in the Afghan war puts off key decisions about
the pace of pulling troops out of the country and whether changes in strategy
there will be needed.
White House made clear it believes progress in Afghanistan has been substantial
enough to begin a troop drawdown, as planned, in July. Questions remain
about the number of troops that will be withdrawn, and from what parts
of the country. While many in the military would like to keep a robust
number of troops in Afghanistan, some in the White House want a faster
Barack Obama mandated the strategy review when he announced a surge of
30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan in December 2009, in what was
a defining moment of the president's foreign policy.
weeks, some officials have tried to play down the significance of the
review, saying it wasn't meant to be an opportunity to rewrite strategy.
stops short of proposing policy changes. Officials said the full effect
of the troop surge has only recently started to be felt and that it would
be premature to judge how the campaign will progress.
the review is focused on al Qaeda's central leadership in Pakistan. While
the military campaign in Afghanistan is focused almost entirely on defeating
the Taliban-led insurgency, the White House has insisted their overall
strategy is focused on al Qaeda.
says that the al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan is "smaller and less
secure" than it was a year ago. The report does not say how that
might have been achieved, but the Central Intelligence Agency has stepped
up dramatically the number of drone attacks it conducts in the tribal
areas of Pakistan.
to a September report to Congress, the White House appeared to tone down
its criticism of Pakistan, arguing that the U.S. is "laying the foundation
for a strategic partnership" even as it argues the only way to make
durable gains against al Qaeda is to eliminate the safe havens in the
country's tribal regions.
report accused Pakistan of intentionally avoiding confronting al Qaeda
and the Afghan Taliban in the North Waziristan tribal zone bordering Afghanistan,
a finding that drew a hostile response from Islamabad.
officials remain divided on how hard to push Pakistan to take more direct
action in North Waziristan, a haven for the Haqqani militant network,
which operates in eastern Afghanistan, and in Baluchistan, where the Taliban
makes its headquarters.
floods in Pakistan have pulled the focus of the country's military away
toward humanitarian relief, and U.S. officials said they didn't expect
the Pakistani military to expand its operations soon.
But a senior
defense official said: "For long-term stability, you need to get
at the safe havens, and the sooner the better."
House does not plan to release the full review, much of which remains
classified. But even in the summary document, the administration's nervousness
about Afghanistan's ability to provide governance and security is clear.
had progress. The question is: Is it fast enough? Is it sustainable? Will
we really be able to transition?" said a senior administration official
involved in the deliberations. "You can clear an area of the Taliban,
but then what?"
emphasizes the military's expanded special operations campaigns, both
to attack insurgent leaders and train local village security forces, arguing
both initiatives have reduced Taliban influence.
of the report cites "significant development challenges" with
Afghan security forces, but provides few specifics.
said the full report contains concerns about the ability of the Afghan
army and police to conduct independent operations.
process drew out lingering divisions within the administration that emerged
during Mr. Obama's lengthy 2009 Afghanistan review.
In a meeting
on Saturday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, supporters of the troop surge, argued that the current strategy
has shown progress, according to an official familiar with the deliberations.
But Vice President Joe Biden, who has long pushed for a counterterrorism-focused
strategy requiring fewer forces, sounded more skeptical notes.
Security Adviser Tom Donilon raised questions in meetings about the scope
of the mission, asking if the U.S. was trying to do too much.
In the end,
the debate was resolved in favor of highlighting military gains, particularly
in the south, the official familiar with the deliberations said.
House played down any differences among Mr. Obama's advisers. Spokesman
Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama asked for some changes to be made to the draft
after reviewing different sections but he didn't specify what those changes
House said issues raised in the report would be addressed in meetings
of the National Security Council and top military leaders. Those meetings
will determine the pace of the drawdown and could result in strategy changes.
news from Afghanistan just gets worse and worse:
14, 2010, from the New York Times.
of Afghan Relief Workers Stir Strategy Debate
By ROD NORDLAND
At least 100 relief workers in Afghanistan have been killed so
far this year, far more than in any previous year, prompting a debate
within humanitarian organizations about whether American military strategy
is putting them and the Afghans they serve at unnecessary risk.
the victims worked for aid contractors employed by NATO countries, with
fewer victims among traditional nonprofit aid groups.
Men from displaced families waited for aid from the World Food Program
and Unicef in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan, in February.
in the body counts of the two groups is at the heart of a question troubling
the aid community: Has American counterinsurgency strategy militarized
the delivery of aid?
calls for making civilian development aid a major adjunct to the military
push. To do that there are Provincial Reconstruction Teams in 33 of 34
provinces, staffed by civilians from coalition countries to deliver aid
projects. The effort is enormous, dominated by the Americans; the United
States Agency for International Development alone is spending $4 billion
this year, most of it through the teams.
P.R.T.s work from heavily guarded military compounds and are generally
escorted by troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance
aid workers worry that the P.R.T.s and the development companies
working for them are compromising their neutrality. Oxfam and 28 other
charitable groups signed a report last month, Nowhere to Turn,
that denounces the practice, saying it puts civilians at greater risk.
many instances, where P.R.T. projects have been implemented in insecure
areas in an effort to win hearts and minds, they put individuals
and communities at risk, the Oxfam report said.
Hofman, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan, said, This
assistance forces the beneficiaries to choose sides, and many people in
the disputed areas do not want to choose sides.
and its NATO civilian partners disagree. Earl Gast, the mission director
for U.S.A.I.D. in Afghanistan, said the United Nations and the International
Security Assistance Force had agreed on a clear distinction and clear
rules regarding humanitarian aid that it cant be militarized
and it cant be politicized.
are rules that we follow, Mr. Gast said.
the problem is the definition of humanitarian aid. Traditionally it means
life-saving emergency assistance, but the distinction is often unclear.
Providing medical care for disaster victims, for instance, is clearly
humanitarian, but building a medical clinic for war victims could be considered
either humanitarian or developmental aid, properly within the scope of
the civil-military effort.
complicating matters, many traditional relief groups have expanded their
efforts into development work, although they take pains to ensure that
their projects are not connected to the government or the military.
military and its supporters say traditional aid groups have neither the
capacity nor the willingness to bring large-scale aid programs to conflict
areas. This has resulted in a reliance on private development companies,
most of them profit-making, to deliver the aid programs paid for by NATO
has to go into the areas where the war is being fought, Mr. Gast
said. We recognize that some N.G.O.s dont have the capacity
and some of them dont want to, but there are other willing partners
who can go, he said, using the abbreviation for nongovernmental
A Dec. 1
report by Refugees International was highly critical. U.S.A.I.D.s
use of development contractors and frequent embeds with the military have
dangerously blurred humanitarian principles by associating such programs
with a party to the conflict, the group wrote.
contracted aid groups working for coalition government programs, which
nearly always employ armed guards and work in fortified compounds or from
military bases, the body count has been particularly severe. Eighty aid
contractors employed by the United States Agency for International Development
were killed and 220 wounded from January through early November of this
year. (In the same period, 410 American soldiers and Marines died.)
contractors were attacked on average 55 times a month a sevenfold
increase over 2009, Mr. Gast said. By contrast, 20 people employed by
charitable and humanitarian groups, which refuse to use armed guards or
work with the military, were killed during the first nine months of this
charitable aid workers were kidnapped by insurgents this year. All were
released unharmed, usually after negotiations involving local community
leaders who vouched for them, according to the Afghanistan NGO Safety
contractor who was kidnapped, Linda Norgrove, was killed during a botched
rescue attempt by American Special Forces troops.
and its supporters say the difference in body counts only reflects the
fact that the aid contractors work in dangerous areas where many nongovernmental
organizations are unwilling to operate.
organizations vigorously disagree. We are in 26 provinces,
said Ashley Jackson of Oxfam, and in Arghandab there are four N.G.O.s
working on health care and education. Arghandab is one of the most
dangerous areas in Kandahar, with a district-level team from the Provincial
Reconstruction Team running more than 50 aid projects. The P.R.T.s
presence makes it more dangerous to work there, Ms. Jackson said.
contend that insurgents do not distinguish between aid workers. Insurgents
have made clear both in their rhetoric and their actions that they target
N.G.O.s and aid workers, said Mark Jacobson, the deputy senior
civilian representative of NATO in Afghanistan.
officials counter that the very difference in casualties between private
contractors and charitable ones shows that the Taliban do make a distinction.
quite easy, said Mr. Hofman of Doctors Without Borders. We
dont use armed guards, we dont have barbed wire on our gates,
theres a clear logo on our cars, and we are not associated with
any program strengthening government. The government is just one of many
Without Borders has offices in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province,
where it runs a hospital. Those offices have never been attacked, while
a private development company, International Relief and Development, just
down the same street, has a fortified compound that has been attacked
by insurgents. In Kunduz, his group has not been attacked, but the company
DAI has been.
the traditional aid groups are particularly critical of the United Nations,
which they accuse of failing in its responsibility to make sure aid efforts
are not militarized. The United Nations recognizes the Afghan government
and is politically committed to it, but many of its agencies, including
Unicef and the World Food Program, are expected to deliver humanitarian
inherent in those two roles is typified by Robert Watson, who is both
the deputy special representative of the secretary general, a political
role, and the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs in Kabul.
agrees that the lines are often blurred. It makes it difficult for
us in the humanitarian community to demonstrate to those on the other
side of the conflict that we strive to be neutral intermediaries,
11, 2010, from the New York Times
Afghan Drug Lord Was C.I.A. U.S. Informer
When Hajji Juma Khan was arrested and transported to New York to
face charges under a new American narco-terrorism law in 2008, federal
prosecutors described him as perhaps the biggest and most dangerous drug
lord in Afghanistan, a shadowy figure who had helped keep the Taliban
in business with a steady stream of money and weapons.
the government did not say was that Mr. Juma Khan was also a longtime
American informer, who provided information about the Taliban, Afghan
corruption and other drug traffickers. Central Intelligence Agency officers
and Drug Enforcement Administration agents relied on him as a valued source
for years, even as he was building one of Afghanistans biggest drug
operations after the United States-led invasion of the country, according
to current and former American officials. Along the way, he was also
paid a large amount of cash by the United States.
At the height
of his power, Mr. Juma Khan was secretly flown to Washington for a series
of clandestine meetings with C.I.A. and D.E.A. officials in 2006. Even
then, the United States was receiving reports that he was on his way to
becoming Afghanistans most important narcotics trafficker by taking
over the drug operations of his rivals and paying off Taliban leaders
and corrupt politicians in President Hamid Karzais government.
In a series
of videotaped meetings in Washington hotels, Mr. Juma Khan offered tantalizing
leads to the C.I.A. and D.E.A., in return for what he hoped would be protected
status as an American asset, according to American officials. And then,
before he left the United States, he took a side trip to New York to see
the sights and do some shopping, according to two people briefed on the
between the United States government and Mr. Juma Khan is another illustration
of how the war on drugs and the war on terrorism have sometimes collided,
particularly in Afghanistan, where drug dealing, the insurgency and the
government often overlap.
To be sure,
American intelligence has worked closely with figures other than Mr. Juma
Khan suspected of drug trade ties, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, the presidents
half brother, and Hajji Bashir Noorzai, who was arrested in 2005. Mr.
Karzai has denied being involved in the drug trade.
drug lords have often been useful sources of information about the Taliban.
But relying on them has also put the United States in the position of
looking the other way as these informers ply their trade in a country
that by many accounts has become a narco-state.
of Mr. Juma Khan also shows how counternarcotics policy has repeatedly
shifted during the nine-year American occupation of Afghanistan, getting
caught between the conflicting priorities of counterterrorism and nation
building, so much so that Mr. Juma Khan was never sure which way to jump,
according to officials who spoke on the condition that they not be identified.
about Mr. Juma Khans relationship with the C.I.A., a spokesman for
the spy agency said that the C.I.A. does not, as a rule, comment
on matters pending before U.S. courts. A D.E.A. spokesman also declined
to comment on his agencys relationship with Mr. Juma Khan.
York lawyer, Steven Zissou, denied that Mr. Juma Khan had ever supported
the Taliban or worked for the C.I.A.
have been many things said about Hajji Juma Khan, Mr. Zissou said,
and most of what has been said, including that he worked for the
C.I.A., is false. What is true is that H. J. K. has never been an enemy
of the United States and has never supported the Taliban or any other
group that threatens Americans.
for the United States Attorneys Office for the Southern District
of New York, which is handling Mr. Juma Khans prosecution, declined
defending the relationship, one American official said, Youre
not going to get intelligence in a war zone from Ward Cleaver or Florence
Mr. Juma Khan, an illiterate trafficker in his mid-50s from Afghanistans
remote Nimroz Province, in the border region where southwestern Afghanistan
meets both Iran and Pakistan, was a big winner from the American-led invasion.
He had been a provincial drug smuggler in southwestern Afghanistan in
the 1990s, when the Taliban governed the country. But it was not until
after the Talibans ouster that he rose to national prominence, taking
advantage of a record surge in opium production in Afghanistan after the
detained by American forces after the 2001 fall of the Taliban, he was
quickly released, even though American officials knew at the time that
he was involved in narcotics trafficking, according to several current
and former American officials. During the first few years of its occupation
of Afghanistan, the United States was focused entirely on capturing or
killing leaders of Al Qaeda, and it ignored drug trafficking, because
American military commanders believed that policing drugs got in the way
of their core counterterrorism mission.
and heroin production soared, and the narcotics trade came to account
for nearly half of the Afghan economy.
Mr. Juma Khan had gained control over routes from southern Afghanistan
to Pakistans Makran Coast, where heroin is loaded onto freighters
for the trip to the Middle East, as well as overland routes through western
Afghanistan to Iran and Turkey. To keep his routes open and the drugs
flowing, he lavished bribes on all the warring factions, from the Taliban
to the Pakistani intelligence service to the Karzai government, according
to current and former American officials.
of his drug organization grew to stunning levels, according to the federal
indictment against him. It was in both the wholesale and the retail drug
businesses, providing raw materials for other drug organizations while
also processing finished drugs on its own.
officials first began to talk about him publicly in 2004, when Robert
B. Charles, then the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics
and law enforcement, told Time magazine that Mr. Juma Khan was a drug
lord obviously very tightly tied to the Taliban.
concern did not lead to any action against Mr. Juma Khan. But Mr. Noorzai,
one of his rivals, was lured to New York and arrested in 2005, which
allowed Mr. Juma Khan to expand his empire.
In a 2006
confidential report to the drug agency reviewed by The New York Times,
an Afghan informer stated that Mr. Juma Khan was working with Ahmed Wali
Karzai, the political boss of southern Afghanistan, to take control of
the drug trafficking operations left behind by Mr. Noorzai. Some current
and former American counternarcotics officials say they believe that Mr.
Karzai provided security and protection for Mr. Juma Khans operations.
denied any involvement with the drug trade and said that he had never
met Mr. Juma Khan. I have never even seen his face, he said
through a spokesman. He denied having any business or security arrangement
with him. Ask them for proof instead of lies, he added.
Khans reported efforts to take over from Mr. Noorzai came just as
he went to Washington to meet with the C.I.A. and the drug agency, former
American officials say. By then, Mr. Juma Khan had been working as an
informer for both agencies for several years, officials said. He had met
repeatedly with C.I.A. officers in Afghanistan beginning in 2001 or 2002,
and had also developed a relationship with the drug agencys country
attaché in Kabul, former American officials say.
He had been
paid large amounts of cash by the United States, according to people with
knowledge of the case. Along with other tribal leaders in his region,
he was given a share of as much as $2 million in payments to help oppose
the Taliban. The payments are said to have been made by either the C.I.A.
or the United States military.
Washington meetings were an opportunity for both sides to determine, in
face-to-face talks, whether they could take their relationship to a new
level of even longer-term cooperation.
think this was an opportunity to drill down and see what he would be able
to provide, one former American official said. I think it
was kind of like saying, O.K., what have you got?
C.I.A. wanted information about the Taliban, the drug agency had its own
agenda for the Washington meetings information about other Afghan
traffickers Mr. Juma Khan worked with, as well as contacts on the supply
lines through Turkey and Europe.
the Americans could justify bringing Mr. Juma Khan to Washington was that
they claimed to have no solid evidence that he was smuggling drugs into
the United States, and there were no criminal charges pending against
him in this country.
It is not
clear how much intelligence Mr. Juma Khan provided on other drug traffickers
or on the Taliban leadership. But the relationship between the C.I.A.
and the D.E.A. and Mr. Juma Khan continued for some time after the Washington
sessions, officials say.
when the drug agency contacted him again in October 2008 to invite him
to another meeting, he went willingly, believing that the Americans wanted
to continue the discussions they had with him in Washington. He even paid
his own way to Jakarta, Indonesia, to meet with the agency, current and
former officials said.
time, instead of enjoying fancy hotels and friendly talks, Mr. Juma Khan
was arrested and flown to New York, and this time he was not allowed to
It is unclear
why the government decided to go after Mr. Juma Khan. Some officials suggest
that he never came through with breakthrough intelligence. Others say
that he became so big that he was hard to ignore, and that the United
States shifted its priorities to make pursuing drug dealers a higher priority.
Department has used a 2006 narco-terrorism law against Mr. Juma Khan,
one that makes it easier for American prosecutors to go after foreign
drug traffickers who are not smuggling directly into the United States
if the government can show they have ties to terrorist organizations.
indictment shows that the drug agency eventually got a cooperating informer
who could provide evidence that Mr. Juma Khan was making payoffs to the
Taliban to keep his drug operation going, something intelligence operatives
had known for years.
indictment against Mr. Juma Khan said the payments were in exchange
for protection for the organizations drug trafficking operations.
The alleged payoffs were what linked him to the Taliban and permitted
the government to make its case.
some current and former American counternarcotics officials are skeptical
of the governments claims that Mr. Juma Khan was a strong supporter
of the Taliban.
was not ideological, one former official said. He made payments
to them. He made payments to government officials. It was part of the
plea negotiations are quietly under way. A plea bargain might keep many
of the details of his relationship to the United States out of the public
2, 2010, from today's New York Times
Describe Scale of Afghan Corruption as Overwhelming
This article is by Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins.
From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass
land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest
man is a distinct outlier.
the likely lineup of Afghanistans new cabinet last January, the
American Embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, appears
to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of
official helpfully explained to diplomats the four stages
at which his colleagues skimmed money from American development projects:
When contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits,
during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. In a seeming
victory against corruption, Abdul Ahad Sahibi, the mayor of Kabul, received
a four-year prison sentence last year for massive embezzlement.
But a cable from the embassy told a very different story: Mr. Sahibi was
a victim of kangaroo court justice, it said, in what appeared
to be retribution for his attempt to halt a corrupt land-distribution
It is hardly
news that predatory corruption, fueled by a booming illicit narcotics
industry, is rampant at every level of Afghan society. Transparency International,
an advocacy organization that tracks government corruption around the
globe, ranks Afghanistan as the worlds third most corrupt country,
behind Somalia and Myanmar.
collection of confidential diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and
made available to a number of publications, offers a fresh sense of its
pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge
it poses to American officials who have made shoring up support for the
Afghan government a cornerstone of Americas counterinsurgency strategy
make it clear that American officials see the problem as beginning at
the top. An August 2009 report from Kabul complains that President Hamid
Karzai and his attorney general allowed dangerous individuals to
go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court.
The embassy was particularly concerned that Mr. Karzai pardoned five border
police officers caught with 124 kilograms (about 273 pounds) of heroin
and intervened in a drug case involving the son of a wealthy supporter.
dilemma is perhaps best summed up in an October 2009 cable sent by Ambassador
Karl W. Eikenberry, written after he met with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the presidents
half brother, the most powerful man in Kandahar and someone many American
officials believe prospers from the drug trade.
meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan:
how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when
the key government officials are themselves corrupt, Ambassador
officials seem to search in vain for an honest partner. A November 2009
cable described the acting governor of Khost Province, Tahir Khan Sabari,
as a refreshing change, an effective and trustworthy leader.
But Mr. Sabari told his American admirers that he did not have the
$200,000-300,000 for a bribe necessary to secure the job permanently.
Massoud held the post of first vice president from 2004 to 2009; the brother
of the famous Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, he was discussed
as a future presidential prospect. Last year, a cable reported, Mr. Massoud
was caught by customs officials carrying $52 million in unexplained cash
into the United Arab Emirates.
cable is not a criminal indictment, of course, and in an interview, Mr.
Massoud denied taking any money out of Afghanistan. Its not
true, he said. Fifty-two million dollars is a pile of money
as big as this room. Yet while his official salary was a few hundred
dollars a month, Mr. Massoud lives in a waterfront house on Palm Jumeirah,
a luxury Dubai community that is also home to other Afghan officials.
When a reporter visited the dwelling earlier this year, a dark blue Rolls-Royce
was parked out front.
describe a country where everything is for sale. The Transportation Ministry
collects $200 million a year in trucking fees, but only $30 million is
turned over to the government, according to a 2009 account to diplomats
by Wahidullah Shahrani, then the commerce minister. As a result, individuals
pay up to $250,000 for the post heading the office in Herat, for example,
and end up owning beautiful mansions as well as making lucrative political
donations, said Mr. Shahrani, who also identified 14 of Afghanistans
governors as bad performers and/or corrupt.
another cable reports rumors that Mr. Shahrani himself was
involved in a corrupt oil import deal. He denied the rumors, saying
that they were inventions by two rivals who were among the most
corrupt in Afghanistan, the cable said.
diplomat who must sort out whose version of reality to believe. One cable
reported the American ambassadors attempt to size up Mr. Shahrani,
who later became the minister of mines. Ambassador Eikenberry noted
Shahranis extravagant home, suggesting that the Afghans knew best
who is corrupt, the cable said.
lay out allegations of bribes and profit-skimming in the organization
of travel to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, or pilgrimage; in a scheme to
transfer money via cellphones; in the purchase of wheat seed; in the compilation
of an official list of war criminals; and in the voting in Parliament.
Fatimie, the minister of health, told American diplomats in January that
members of Parliament wanted cash to confirm his appointment. Expressing
shock at the blatancy of these extortion attempts, Fatimie said MPs had
offered their own votes and the votes of others they could purportedly
deliver for $1,000 apiece, a cable said.
of the Kabul mayor, Mr. Sahibi, shows how complicated it can be to sort
out corruption charges. A Jan. 7 cable signed by Ambassador Eikenberry
gave an account sharply at odds with media reports, which treated the
prosecution as a landmark in the campaign for honest government.
referring to embassy interviews with Mr. Sahibi, said the charges against
him were based on a decision to lease a piece of city property to shopkeepers.
Three months after the lease was signed, another bidder offered $16,000
more. The loss of the potential additional revenue became
the massive embezzlement described by prosecutors, the cable
told the Americans he had been summoned to appear in court on Dec. 7 to
be assigned a hearing date. Instead, he said, he was given a four-year
sentence and a $16,000 fine.
As for the
motive behind his prosecution, Mr. Sahibi said that in less than two years
as mayor he had found files for approximately 32,000 applicants
who paid for nonexistent plots of land in Kabul city. He said he
halted the land program and invalidated the illegal claims of some
important people, who took their revenge through the bogus criminal
cable largely supported Mr. Sahibis version of events, saying that
the mayors official decision may have antagonized powerful
people who then sought the power of the state to discredit him.
Far from being a blow against corruption, the cable suggested, the case
was a travesty of justice.
corruption is made possible in part by a largely unregulated banking infrastructure
and the ancient hawala money transfer network that is the method of choice
for politicians, insurgents and drug traffickers to move cash around the
a cable signed by Ambassador Eikenberry said that the hawala favored by
the Afghan elite, New Ansari, is facilitating bribes and other wide-scale
illicit cash transfers for corrupt Afghan officials and providing
financial services to narco-traffickers through front companies in Afghanistan
and the United Arab Emirates. He asked Washington to send more investigators
and wiretap analysts to assist nascent Afghan task forces that were examining
task forces already faced significant obstacles. For instance, Afghanistans
interior minister asked that the American government take a low
profile on the New Ansari case to avoid the perception that investigations
were being carried out at the behest of the United States.
when the New Ansari investigators carried out a predawn raid on the house
of a top aide to President Karzai whom investigators heard soliciting
a bribe on a wiretap, Mr. Karzai intervened to release the man from jail
and threatened to take control of the anticorruption investigations. In
November, the Afghan government dropped all charges against the aide.
standoff between Kabul and Washington forced the Obama administration
to take stock of its strategy: was trying to root out corruption, at the
risk of further alienating Mr. Karzai, really worth it? And with American
troops set to begin leaving Afghanistan next summer, and the American
public having long ago lost the appetite for nation-building, was trying
to root out corruption a Sisyphean task?
President Obama acknowledged the dilemma. Are there going to be
occasions where we look and see that some of our folks on the ground have
made compromises with people who are known to have engaged in corruption?
he asked. There may be occasions where that happens.
cable described exactly such a compromise, reporting on a police chief
at a border crossing in southern Afghanistan, Col. Abdul Razziq, who was
reputed to be corrupt and good at his job.
officials, it said, walk a thin tightrope when working with this
allegedly corrupt official who is also a major security stabilizing force.
a presidential historian and emeritus professor at Northwestern, you're
well aware that the Democrats are facing the likelihood of an electoral
setback this Tuesday. Yet President Obama continues to be the object of
scathing criticism among Democrats, including yourself. Why won't you
give him credit for getting things done? He gets things done in a very crippled way. The health care plan and
the finance plan - he made so many bargains along the way.
him of excessive ingratiation, or "omnidirectional placation,"
as you wrote in a blog post for The New York Review of Books. As a black man with an odd name, he often had to ingratiate himself
in the companies that he kept, and he does. Beyond that, I think he may
have a principle of trying to compromise, but that has proved to be a
invited to the White House for an off-the-record dinner during Obama's
first year in office, along with some other presidential historians. Can
you tell us what advice you gave him? I
said, "Don't go into Afghanistan."
already there, so I assume you're referring to the deployment of additional
troops. How did he respond? He was very prickly. He said: "I'm not a
naïve optimist. I know of the difficulties. They're all being considered
and taken care of." He really cut off this conversation.
especially since you describe him as a placater. He's kept a pretty tight little circle around him. By the way, that
meeting with us was supposed to be the first of many. There have been
Leader Admits His Office Gets Cash from Iran
By DEXTER FILKINS and ALISSA J. RUBIN, New York Times.
President Hamid Karzai acknowledged on Monday that he regularly
receives bags of cash from the Iranian government in payments amounting
to millions of dollars, as evidence mounted of a worsening rift between
his government and its American and NATO supporters.
often hostile news conference, Mr. Karzai also accused the United States
of financing the killing of Afghans by paying private security
contractors to guard construction projects and convoys in Afghanistan.
He has declined to postpone a December deadline he set for ending the
use of private security forces despite urgent pleas from Western organizations,
including development organizations, that need protection here.
were the latest indication that American relations with Mr. Karzai were
badly frayed, despite diplomatic efforts to mend ties and improve governance
in Afghanistan. The tensions threaten to undermine President Obamas
goal of handing responsibility for the war against the Taliban to Mr.
Karzai and the Afghan military, allowing the United States to begin withdrawing
troops next year.
do give us bags of money yes, yes, it is done, Mr. Karzai
said, responding to questions about a report in The New York Times on
Sunday that Iran sends regular cash payments to his chief of staff, Umar
Daudzai. We are grateful to the Iranians for this.
has a price, he said.
Western officials said the Iranian payments were intended to drive a wedge
between Mr. Karzai and the United States and NATO.
Mr. Karzai held a volatile meeting with the NATO commander, Gen. David
H. Petraeus, as well as other senior Afghan and Western officials to discuss
the private security firms. Mr. Karzai stormed out of the session, saying
that he did not need the Wests help, according to people knowledgeable
about the confrontation.
Karzai has so far refused to modify the ban, although he has said that
he would consider requests to delay it on a case-by-case basis. In many
respects, his sharp words reflect a widespread feeling among Afghans,
especially in insecure areas, that foreign security firms are running
roughshod over them and intruding in culturally unacceptable ways on their
At the news
conference, Mr. Karzai lashed out at the United States, implying that
American officials had leaked information to The New York Times about
Iranian payments because of disagreements over the private security companies.
security companies, many of which are paid for by the United States, are
spreading chaos and unjustly killing Afghan civilians, Mr. Karzai said.
money dealing with the private security companies starts in the hallways
of the U.S. government, he said. Then they send the money
for killing here.
decree he issued in August, all private security firms must stop operations
by Dec. 17. The United States and other Western governments here say they
accept the ban, and they are trying to switch to the use of the Afghan
police and soldiers to protect their military convoys. But many Western
officials say the Afghan police and military are undertrained, overstretched
and ill equipped to provide proper protection for foreign interests.
asked for additional time to make the change, especially for civilian
development organizations. Those organizations say they will not be able
to continue work without security for employees, potentially endangering
several billion dollars worth of programs and projects.
president said security companies were responsible for a litany of bloody
crimes against the countrys people. When this money comes
to Afghanistan, it causes insecurity in Afghan homes and causes the killing
of Afghan children and causes explosions and terrorism in Afghanistan,
Mr. Karzai said.
several accusations against Western interests in Afghanistan and the news
media, even going so far as to say that the security companies were interchangeable
with the Taliban.
fact we dont know how many of the explosions are the fault of the
Taliban and how much by them, said Mr. Karzai, referring to the
distrust of the Western alliance has increased over the past several months
even as more soldiers have flowed into the country and more civilian development
workers have begun to carry out projects, leaving diplomats and military
officials increasingly frustrated and confused.
officials said they were disheartened but not surprised by the virulence
of his tone, and they said they would continue to try to find a solution
that allowed development projects to continue.
disappointing, but its vintage Karzai, said a Western official
in Kabul, adding that the accusations were hurtful when Western soldiers
and Marines were dying in the field. But when you are losing the
numbers we are as an alliance and then when you got your reliable partner
in Kabul saying such things, it sticks in the craw a bit.
payments are another significant source of tension. Mr. Karzai discounted
their importance, claiming that the cash transfers were well known, and
that he had even disclosed them to former President George W. Bush during
a meeting at Camp David. He says that he uses the money to pay expenses
incurred in the course of doing his job, including for special expenses
and helping people.
says others give him cash payments as well. The United States is
doing the same thing. They are providing cash to some of our offices,
Mr. Daudzai is the courier for the Iranian cash, which amounts to about
$1 million once or twice a year. The Times previously quoted
Afghan and Western officials as saying that Mr. Daudzai has received regular
payments from Iran that totaled about $6 million.
he does in return for the Iranian money, Mr. Karzai said: They have
asked for good relations in return and for lots of other things in return.
admission followed firm denials by members of his staff that such payments
existed. Irans ambassador to Afghanistan, Feda Hussein Maliki, also
denied that he or his government passed any money to Mr. Karzais
payments are not large, at least compared with the hundreds of billions
of dollars the United States has spent to oust the Taliban from power,
support Mr. Karzais government and fight a tenacious insurgency
intent on toppling Mr. Karzai.
officials say they are disturbed by Mr. Karzais close relationship
with Irans leaders, in part because of mounting evidence that the
countrys intelligence services are aggressively trying to undermine
the American-led mission here. NATO officials say that Iran is paying
for, arming and training Taliban fighters, as well as financing political
candidates in the parliamentary elections.
In his news
conference, Mr. Karzai also attacked The Times for publishing the report
about Iranian payments, even as he confirmed receiving such payments.
He urged the Afghan news media to defame The New York Times as they
Helped Turn Iraqis, but not without rarer element of trust
Tavernise, New York Times. (For the full article, click here.)
Iraq, Americans expected to be hailed as liberators, but they were resented
as occupiers, and Iraqis eventually turned to the Americans largely out
of exhaustion and despair. In Afghanistan, Americans were welcomed at
first, but as the war dragged on, Afghans lost faith in the Americans
ability to protect them and it is unclear whether that faith can
be restored. The lesson of Iraq is that without it, no strategy, however
well conceived, can be successful.
of Contractors Added to Wars Chaos in Iraq By JAMES GLANZ and ANDREW W. LEHREN, New York Times
Published: October 23, 2010 (For the full article, clickhere.)
now with many contractors discredited for unjustified shootings
and a lack of accountability amply described in the documents the
military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than
actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.
which describes many episodes never made public in such detail, shows
the multitude of shortcomings with this new system: how a failure to coordinate
among contractors, coalition forces and Iraqi troops, as well as a failure
to enforce rules of engagement that bind the military, endangered civilians
as well as the contractors themselves. The military was often outright
hostile to contractors, for being amateurish, overpaid and, often, trigger-happy.
often shot with little discrimination and few if any consequences
at unarmed Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces, American troops
and even other contractors, stirring public outrage and undermining much
of what the coalition forces were sent to accomplish.
the contractors bravado Iraq was packed with beefy men with
beards and flak jackets and for all the debates about their necessity,
it is clear from the documents that the contractors appeared notably ineffective
at keeping themselves and the people they were paid to protect from being
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF of the New York Times
A few vignettes
to explain why I believe Americas strategy in Afghanistan isnt
1: A home in Kabul where Im having tea with a remarkable woman,
Soora Stoda, who runs a logistics company serving the American military.
despises the Taliban and shudders as she remembers her terror as a seventh
grader when the Taliban stormed her secret school for girls. She said
Taliban thugs beat the girls and murdered the teacher, who was Ms. Stodas
Stoda, like all contractors, has to pay off the Taliban directly or indirectly
to work in insecure areas. She estimates that for every $1,000 her company
is paid for work in such places, some $600 often ends up in the hands
of the Taliban. Sometimes, its even more, she added.
she had a $200,000 contract to transport laptop computers to the American
military in Kandahar. The Taliban seized the shipment, and she says she
had to pay $150,000 to get it released.
the same with all contractors, and the upshot is that the American taxpayer
has become a significant source of financing for the Taliban, along with
drugs and donations from Gulf Arabs. With the money they milk from the
United States, the Taliban hire more fighters.
one way, it hurts the Taliban, Ms. Stoda said of the American presence.
In another way, it helps the Taliban.
expert here did the math for me. A single American soldier in Helmand
Province, he estimated, causes enough money to leak to the Taliban to
recruit another 10 fighters trying to kill that American.
2: A dusty shantytown in Kabul, where Im with a group of hundreds
of disgruntled men from war-torn Helmand Province.
say that they will probably end up joining the Taliban. My driver is nervous,
and my interpreter says that he thinks that the men are already Taliban.
me is that the men dont seem particularly ideological. They admire
the Talibans piety and ability to impose law and order, but they
regard many Taliban commanders as overzealous and brutal. They said they
were sickened when one commander recently beheaded seven of their fellow
say that their preference would be to get regular jobs and live in peace.
But there are no jobs, and now they are being told that they will be kicked
out of their camp. They say the threatened expulsion is the result of
a corrupt land deal by tycoons tied to the government of President Hamid
the government forces us out, then well have to go and join the
Taliban and fight, says Muhammad Ibrahim, a mullah.
man, Abdul Muhammad, says he thought about joining the Taliban four years
ago when his wife, three sons and two daughters were killed in an American
air attack (he acknowledges that Taliban were shooting at Americans from
the area). Instead, he came to Kabul because: I go to whomever is
strongest. He added: If they force me to leave here, I will
join the Taliban.
men say that they were recruited by the Taliban with a pitch that was
partly ideological we must fight the infidels who have invaded
our land! but also partly capitalist, promising hundreds
of dollars a month and fringe benefits of free food, tea and sugar.
counterinsurgency doesnt include enough counterrecruitment. Coalition
forces go to any expense to kill the Taliban and need to be equally assiduous
about providing jobs and outreach to prevent Afghans from joining the
3: A group of distinguished Afghans sit on a carpet with me in an office,
my heart by wondering aloud whether the Russians or the Americans were
worse for the Afghan people.
does development projects, acknowledged Hajji Gulamullah, a brigadier
general in the police force in Kabul. But not as many as the Russians
Mungal, a retired brigadier general in the army from Khost, added: If
you go to the villages and ask people who was better, the Russians or
the Americans, theyll say the Russians.
Soviet invasion helped destroy Afghanistan, while American troops these
days try hard to be respectful and avoid civilian casualties and
most Afghans acknowledge the difference when theyre in a reasonable
mood. But after nine years, many Afghans are sick of us. Some actually
suggest that America is in league with Osama bin Laden to keep Afghanistan
weak and divided.
visit to Afghanistan leaves me with 100 such vignettes suggesting to me
that our strategy in Afghanistan is unsustainable. Were inadvertently
financing our adversaries. Were backing a corrupt government that
drives people to the Taliban. And were more eager to rescue the
Afghans than the Afghans are to be rescued.
United States is paying for this nonsense. From
October's 5 New York Times:
Kin Use Ties to Gain Power in Afghanistan
Until recently, Taj Ayubis specialty was retail. Mr. Ayubi,
an Afghan immigrant, ran a furniture store in Leesburg, Va., and before
that, a thrift shop in Washington.
But today, Mr. Ayubis
specialty is foreign policy. He is the senior foreign affairs adviser
to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
Among Mr. Ayubis
qualifications for his post in Kabul are ties to President Karzais
extended family. His sister is married to a Karzai, and her sons are now
important junior members of the growing Karzai family network in Afghanistan.
In recent years,
dozens of Karzai family members and close allies have taken government
jobs, pursued business interests or worked as contractors to the United
States government, allowing them to shape policy or financially benefit
While the roles played
by two of President Karzais brothers Ahmed Wali Karzai, the
power broker of Kandahar, and Mahmoud Karzai, a prominent businessman
and investor in the troubled Kabul Bank have been well documented,
the extensive web of other family members has not previously been reported.
Most of them lived in the United States before going to Afghanistan, leveraging
the presidents position to put them at the center of a new oligarchy
of powerful Afghan families.
One of President
Karzais nephews is a top official in the intelligence service, giving
him authority over some of Afghanistans most sensitive security
operations. A brother of the president is an official in the agency that
issues licenses required for all Afghan corporations; an uncle is now
ambassador to Russia.
At least six Karzai
relatives, including one who just ran for Parliament, operate or are linked
to contracting businesses that collect millions of dollars annually from
the American government.
Other brothers, cousins,
nephews and in-laws wield influence in Kabul and the familys native
Kandahar, through government posts or businesses like trucking and real
expanding presence serves both to strengthen and to undermine President
Karzai, according to American and Afghan officials. Corruption allegations
taint his government, and Afghans routinely accuse him of turning a blind
eye to the activities of some of his relatives. They include Ahmed Wali
Karzai, who denies repeated accusations of ties to the drug trade, and
Mahmoud Karzai, whose business dealings are under investigation by American
A Survival Mechanism
But even if the extended
clan fosters resentment in Afghanistan, the family also helps fortify
a fragile presidency.
Ronald E. Neumann,
the United States ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, said he
believed that President Karzai intended to create a support network that
could help him survive after the withdrawal of American troops, the same
way that another Afghan president, Najibullah, survived for years after
Soviet troops withdrew in 1989.
Karzai is convinced
that we are going to abandon him, Mr. Neumann said. Whats
his answer? To create a web of loyalties and militia commanders and corrupt
families all knitted together.
he added, is part of his survival mechanism.
Mahmoud Karzai defended
his family, saying the Karzais worked hard and honestly
to help Afghanistan. You need people like us, he said in an
interview. Its very difficult to get qualified people to come
here, and work here. We cant build this country unless there are
people willing to take the risk.
say the Karzais and a handful of other well-connected families have benefited
from the billions of dollars that the United States has poured into the
country since 2001. That money has helped pay the salaries of some Karzais
who are government employees, kick-started real estate development and
construction projects involving family members and created demand for
businesses tied to the Karzais.
is part of the culture of this part of the world, said Ahmed Rashid,
a Pakistani author who has written extensively about Afghanistan. Right
now, Afghanistan is going through a phase of very primitive capital accumulation
by the countrys leading families.
Still, many relatives
are hedging their bets against the decline and fall of the Karzai government,
keeping their own families and homes outside of Afghanistan, either in
the United States, in Dubai or elsewhere, several relatives said in interviews.
And some are increasingly
critical of their kin, complaining that their rush back to Afghanistan
to stake a claim has been unseemly. As more Karzais have gained prominence
in Afghanistan over the last few years, some relatives have privately
begun to point fingers at one another for trading too heavily on their
connections to President Karzai, and accuse others of excessive political
ambition and insider dealing.
are over there in Afghanistan cashing in on their last name, said
Mohammad Karzai, a cousin of President Karzai who lives in Maryland. My
relatives have told me they cant understand why I dont come
over with them and get rich.
It is hard to quantify
how the Karzais may have prospered from their proximity to power. But
some appear to have significantly improved their circumstances.
Before 2001, Yama
Karzai, a nephew of the president, was living with his brothers in Quetta,
Pakistan, and receiving financial support from relatives in the United
States, Mohammad Karzai said. Today, Yama Karzai is a top Afghan intelligence
official and owns a house in Virginia, according to land records. He did
not respond to inquiries from The New York Times.
Hashim Karzai, a
cousin of President Karzai, now works as a consultant to Pamir Airways,
an airline based in Kabul that has been controlled by one of Mahmoud Karzais
business partners, and lives in Dubai on one of the luxurious Palm Islands.
In August, he rented the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, one block
from the White House, for his sons wedding to a niece of President
Karzai, according to Qayum Karzai, the brides father and the presidents
And Mahmoud Karzai,
widely considered to be the most well-connected business leader in Afghanistan,
said a residential real estate project he has been developing in Kandahar
was now worth $900 million, including the value of homes sold. The original
five partners, including Mr. Karzai, started with an investment of $4
million, he said. The Kandahar project set off a bitter dispute with the
Afghan Army, which claims ownership of the land used for the project.
One Afghan Parliament
member said family members exploited their connections to get in on favorable
business ventures. They have carte blanche to be partners with anyone
they want to; its the unwritten law, said the official, who
asked not to be named for fear of retribution. Anyone who wants
to start a business and has problems becomes partners with them.
Before the attacks
on Sept. 11, 2001, many members of the extended Karzai family were quietly
building new lives as American immigrants, and the familys center
of gravity had shifted from war-ravaged Kandahar to the Maryland suburbs
of Washington, where many of them settled in the 1970s and 80s.
Of the seven sons
of Abdul Ahad Karzai, a prominent Kandahar politician who lived in exile
in Quetta, Pakistan, until his 1999 assassination by the Taliban, only
one Hamid Karzai had never lived in the United States. By
2001, a generation of Karzais who had grown up in the United States and
knew little of Afghanistan was emerging.
But after the American-led
invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban in 2001 and lifted Hamid Karzai
from obscurity to the presidency, the familys migration pattern
reversed. Only one of his brothers, Abdul Wali Karzai, a biochemistry
professor at Stony Brook University in New York, declined to go back home.
Many others seized the opportunity.
The Obama administrations
attitude toward the Karzais has been deeply ambivalent. The White House
has sent mixed signals about whether to investigate or tolerate reports
of corruption of those around the president. While federal prosecutors
in New York are investigating Mahmoud Karzais business dealings,
no inquiry has been opened into Ahmed Wali Karzai even though many United
States officials have said they suspect that he benefits from drug trafficking.
Abdul Wali Karzai,
the Stony Brook professor, said that his family had been unfairly attacked,
but that the second-guessing of everything the Karzais did in Afghanistan
explained his refusal to join his brothers. The way the Afghan society
is structured, he said, anything I do would be subjected to
all kinds of rumors and false stories.
Power Behind the
Some family members
have had lower profiles than the three better-known brothers. Qayum Karzai,
for example, served as a member of Parliament from Kandahar and then as
President Karzais intermediary with the Taliban, while continuing
to own three restaurants in Baltimore. Today, he talks of opening a university
in Afghanistan. An Afghan business leader said Qayum Karzai had been a
behind-the-scenes force in Kabuls politics.
Qayum is the
interlocutor for the president with other political players in Afghanistan,
and with foreign powers, said the businessman, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity because he feared the consequences of talking publicly
about the presidents family. He is a sounding board.
another brother, lives in Ahmed Wali Karzais compound in Kandahar,
where he runs his own engineering consulting firm and Mahmouds real
estate project. Abdul Ahmad Karzai, who worked at the Baltimore-Washington
International Airport before his brother became president, now works for
the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, which issues corporate licenses.
Ahsan Karzi and Zabeh
Karzi, younger cousins of the president who grew up in Los Angeles, now
own a trucking company in Kandahar that has contracts with the United
States military, according to Mahmoud Karzai.
Two other cousins,
Rateb Popal and his brother Rashid Popal, own a security company that
has contracts with the American military. Ajmal Popal, the son of Abdullah
Popal, a former mayor of Kandahar and a Karzai relative, works for a company
that has contracts with the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
With so many Karzais
flooding back into the country, tensions and rivalries have emerged among
them, according to several family members. Rateb Popal, for example, has
been feuding with Mahmoud Karzai, and in interviews, Mr. Popal, who served
a prison sentence in New York on drug-related charges in the 1990s, accused
Mahmoud Karzai and the president of undermining his business deals.
had a good relationship with Hamid from the beginning, Rateb Popal
And Hekmat Karzai,
a cousin who now runs a research organization in Kabul, recently irritated
President Karzai. After the president denied reports earlier this year
that he had secretly met with an insurgent leader, Hekmat Karzai gave
a television interview in which he indirectly confirmed the supposed meeting,
according to Qayum Karzai.
Qayum Karzai said
the criticism of the family was unfair, adding that it had taken an emotional
toll. We have been on the political scene in Afghanistan for more
than 100 years, and never has our name been mentioned with narcotics or
wheeling or dealing, he said. We have always been identified
with the moderate traditions of Afghanistan. So this is very heartbreaking
to every family member.
Week in the War: Afghanistan, Sept. 22-28, 2010
September 28, 2010 | 2022 GMT
President Hamid Karzai called upon the Taliban to come to the negotiating
table Sept. 28 in an impassioned speech in which he said he would name
the members of the High Peace Council agreed upon at the June National
Council for Peace, Reconciliation and Reintegration. The list of the 68
members including clerics, former government officials and tribal
elders, with seven women among them was then released. Former Afghan
President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf and Haji Mohammad
Mohaqiq all warlords who resisted Taliban rule were on the
list. Hizb-i-Islami is reportedly represented, but it is not clear to
what extent former Taliban supporters made the cut.
day before, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance
Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, announced
that the Taliban had sought to enter discussions with Karzai. In remarks
reported by The New York Times, Petraeus claimed that very high-level
Taliban leaders reached out to the highest levels of the Afghan
strategy has long necessitated some manner of negotiated settlement. By
the time U.S. President Barack Obamas administration was deciding
upon a strategy, the Taliban movement never defeated in 2001
had resurged to the point that it could not be defeated with the resources
the United States was willing to dedicate to the conflict on a timetable
compatible with U.S. domestic political realities. What has evolved is
the understanding of just how broad and entrenched the Taliban have become.
Initial U.S. hopes of dividing the movement and hiving off reconcilable
elements have been overtaken by Kabuls and Islamabads attempts
to negotiate in a more comprehensive way with senior Taliban leaders like
Mullah Mohammad Omar.
There is no doubt that all manner of discussions are not only likely but
have already occurred behind closed doors. Indeed, smaller contingents
of the Taliban have already come forth to negotiate, and in some circumstances
have been integrated into the Afghan government and security forces. But
the Taliban have proven capable of maintaining considerable internal discipline,
even as they remain an amorphous and decentralized phenomenon. Salafi
Taliban in eastern Afghanistan have already released denials in response
to Petraeus statements, but the area is particularly noteworthy
because it is dominated by the Haqqani network, a group that is part of
the Taliban but also fairly distinct (it also has connections to al Qaeda).
Reports have surfaced before of a personal meeting between Sirajuddin
Haqqani and Karzai, and efforts to negotiate with the Haqqanis certainly
need to be monitored closely.
But it must
be remembered that overall, it is the United States and the Karzai government
that seek negotiation on a specific timeline. It is their strength that
is currently at its peak, and so far the Taliban do not appear to be feeling
pressured to negotiate meaningfully on Washingtons and Kabuls
timetables. Indeed, the Taliban have declared that Afghans look forward
to an impending Taliban victory. As a guerrilla force indeed, as
a guerrilla force that perceives itself to be winning the Taliban
are the ones that have the luxury of time. Thus, Pakistans involvement
and influence at the negotiating table the Pakistanization
of the conflict will probably be necessary to move the process
Karzais Sept. 28 speech and the actual assembly of the High Peace
Council, considerable ground has been covered regarding negotiation efforts
in recent days. It is not at all clear that meaningful progress is possible
anytime soon, but as political accommodation will both underlie and facilitate
an American drawdown, any progress in this realm will be significant.
Meanwhile, the pursuit of counterinsurgency-focused efforts continues,
with clearing efforts in the districts of Zhari and Panjwai west of the
capital city of Kandahar province. Like operations in Helmand province,
this will only mark the beginning of what is intended to be a sustained
security presence. The city of Kandahar and its environs have long been
a key focal point for the additional forces sent into Afghanistan. These
areas around the city of Kandahar, along with operations elsewhere in
the province and in neighboring Helmand province, are the main element
of the American-led military effort in Afghanistan.
border with Pakistan, U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle strikes have intensified,
averaging nearly one per day for the month of September so far. Whether
this is a result of the lowering of thresholds for conducting a strike
or a reflection of a new influx of actionable intelligence or both
is not clear. The United States certainly has the capacity to increase
strikes, but if it is doing so with a new stream of actionable intelligence,
that would be more significant. More than 100 militants supposedly have
efforts to increase the number of Western trainers for Afghan forces continue.
Six German Tornado reconnaissance fighters have been withdrawn and their
pilots and ground crews are being replaced with trainers. Lt. Gen. William
Caldwell, who is in charge of the training efforts, called Sept. 28 for
allies to contribute hundreds more trainers. Attrition and desertion are
still issues with the Afghan security forces, increasing significantly
the annual requirement for training which is central to the Vietnamization
of the conflict.
However, the main effort is only just ramping up to full strength and
full intensity, and winter is looming (the United States is on a tight
timetable and can be expected to sustain operations to the extent possible
through the winter months). Petraeus and others are already trying to
moderate expectations for the strategy review due at the end of the year,
instead emphasizing that it is too soon to see decisive results. So far,
the proof of concept efforts in places like Marjah and elsewhere
in Helmand province have been more difficult than anticipated, and progress
has been slow.
point of the review has long been to assess whether the current counterinsurgency-focused
strategy is working. There is little grounds for optimism on this point
when the U.S. timetable is taken into account. Tensions within the administration
chronicled in Bob Woodwards Obamas War are not
only alive and well, but appear to be re-intensifying as advances in the
war prove elusive. As a key benchmark in the progress of the war effort,
the review (which is already being prepared) will give the administration
the first opportunity for a strategic shift if it chooses to make a change.
Cover of The Week magazine, September 24, 1010
A book review from the print edition of the Economist
With the Worlds Armies in Afghanistan by Nick Allen.
The History Press; 288 pages; £18.99. Buy from Amazon.co.uk
to which Donald Rumsfeld, Americas former secretary of defence,
transformed war-reporting is not widely appreciated. By permitting over
700 journalists to witness Americas invasion of Iraq as embedded
reporters, he provided a remarkable level of media access that continues,
among American and allied forces, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
With the explosion of e-mails and blogs from the front, a huge amount
of battlefield information is now freely available.
risk in this is that embedded reporters, constrained by rules imposed
by their protectors, and often admiring of them, will produce biased accounts.
That is after all what Mr Rumsfeld wanted. Another is that by making war
so freely available to green freelancers and self-styled analysts, with
almost all expenses paid by their army hosts, embeds will generate lots
of bad journalism. This account by Nick Allen, a British journalist, of
his dozen visits with NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, illustrates both
of embedded reporting will find bits of it interesting. Few reporters
have embedded themselves with so many of the NATO-led forces minor
troop contributors, among them the armies of New Zealand, Estonia, Finland,
Norway and Sweden. Then again, few have wanted to, and Mr Allens
write-up mainly confirms how extremely minor their contribution is to
Afghanistan. Their smatterings of troops mostly provide modest policing
to some of Afghanistans safest places, while deployed in relative
comfort, and at enormous expense.
It is easy
to mock. But the fact that Finnish troops always have a sauna and the
Swedes are free to have sex with each other would seem less risible if
they were more useful. Some of these Europeans are at least objective
about NATOs campaign, perhaps because they have so little stake
in it. We are winning lots of tactical battles, says a pipe-smoking
Norwegian major. But in the long-term we are losing support because
people expect more than we just kick out the Taliban for a short time.
accounts of hard-fighting British and American troops are of a more familiar
genre, which has been better done by more accomplished journalists. He
describes some battle scenes quite well, but is a mediocre observer whose
analysis is often trite. These weaknesses exaggerate the tendency of all
embedded reporters to do down the enemy. Indeed Mr Allen, perhaps learning
from a lot of poorly educated squaddies, seems to consider most Afghans
to be grasping or witless. They are almost all faintly sketched. Introducing
a brigandish Pushtun, he writes, Cunning comes naturally in areas
where there is only the hard school of life for most inhabitants.
You get the idea.
But Mr Allen
is at least no stooge to NATOs troops. He is often angered by their
failings, and says so. Such criticism is generally more common than Mr
Rumsfeld would have liked. Despite much sympathetic reporting on Western
soldiers, especially by American newspaper journalists, embedded reporters
have generally portrayed the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns as the disasters
that they largely are. That is why the troops, especially British ones,
often dislike having journalists billeted among them, and Mr Allen misses
no opportunity to relate the slights he suffers as a result.
It is easy
to deride him, too. Yet, in an odd way, his petty grudges, clunky prose
and autistic notions of verisimilitude do at least mitigate the tendency
of those who have seen combat to glorify it. Trudging around Afghanistan
with Mr Allen, the war seems largely a waste of effort.
of Worsening Security in Afghanistan
is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war, with security
deteriorating in recent months, according to international organizations
and humanitarian groups.
Afghanistan Even as more American troops flow into the country,
Afghanistan is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war, with
security deteriorating in recent months, according to international organizations
and humanitarian groups.
of the country that were once completely safe, like most of the northern
provinces, now have a substantial Taliban presence even in areas
where there are few Pashtuns, who previously were the Talibans only
supporters. As NATO forces poured in and shifted to the south to battle
the Taliban in their stronghold, the Taliban responded with a surge of
their own, greatly increasing their activities in the north and parts
of the east.
charts and words come from the New York Times. You can read the article
continuing presence is worsening things there. Why are we still there?
(See below for explanations.)
betting that soon Karzai and his bunch of crooks will flee and abandon
the country to the Taliban and the coalition forces (i.e. the U.S. and
its few partners).At that point, we'll probably leave, and leave the Taliban
billions of dollars of arms, equipments, buildings and other booty.
idiots we will have been. -- Harry Newton.
The 10 civilian aid workers killed Aug. 5 in Afghanistan, from top
left: Glen D. Lapp, Tom Little, Dan Terry, Dr. Thomas L. Grams, Cheryl
Beckett, Brian Carderelli, Dr. Karen Woo, Daniela Beyer, Mahram Ali
and Ahmed Jawed.
or three more years of combat operations
Wall Street Journal
OUTPOST SENJARAY, Afghanistan Defense Secretary Robert Gates said
he envisions two or three more years of combat operations in Afghanistan
before the U.S. transitions to an advisory role, a mission likely to last
comments Friday at a military camp outside Kandahar were his most decisive
to date on the war's timeline. They came as he made a vigorous, public
case that the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy would prove to be working
by the time the Obama administration begins its next review of the war
Barack Obama announced a surge of 30,000 U.S. troops in December 2009,
bringing the current American force to about 100,000 today. But Mr. Obama
has pledged to begin drawing down the surge troops in July. The timeline
outlined by Mr. Gates Friday appeared to be an attempt to set expectations
that combat will continue in Afghanistan, without making it appear that
he supports an endless war.
Kin Asks U.S. to Bolster His Bank By
MATTHEW ROSENBERG And MARIA ABI-HABIB of the Wall Street Journal
top shareholder in Afghanistan's largest bank called on the U.S. to shore
up the lender after depositors withdrew about a third of its cash reserves
in two days, while the country sought to avert a destabilizing crisis
at a crucial moment in the fight against the Taliban.
Karzai, brother of Afghanistan's president and the third-largest shareholder
in Kabul Bank, urged the U.S. to calm the situation, saying the lender
could keep up with the pace of withdrawals for only a few more days.
could support Kabul Bank to the last penny, of course that would help,"
he said in an interview at his Kabul home. "The full faith and credit
of the U.S. government behind Kabul Bankwhat more do you want?"
said it has no plans to prop up Kabul Bank and has only sent in a small
team of experts to help the Afghan central bank sort out the mess. "While
we are providing technical assistance to the Afghan government, we are
taking no steps to bail out Kabul Bank," said White House spokesman
crowds of depositors gathered at Kabul Bank's branches to try to withdraw
If the withdrawals
continue apace, Mr. Karzai said, the bank would be effectively insolvent
by early next week. The bank has $1.3 billion in deposits, and its total
assets are almost equal to its liabilities. But the lender only had $500
million in cash on hand at the start of the crisis, he said. Its other
assetsincluding Dubai real estate investments of uncertain valuearen't
easily convertible into cash.
numbers were confirmed by a senior central bank official.
woes became public late Tuesday when word emerged that Afghanistan's central
bank had quietly forced out the bank's two top executives, and its biggest
shareholders, amid allegations that they made hundreds of millions
of dollars in often-clandestine loans to themselves and Afghan government
Afghan officials say they hope that even the worst-case scenarioKabul
Bank's collapsewould have a limited economic impact. Afghanistan's
economy is largely cash-based and the vast majority of financial transactions
are conducted through informal money-transfer firms, none of which are
thought to be in peril. Formal banks account for only a tiny sliver of
Afghanistan's financial activity.
those banks, Kabul Bank fills a special role: Hundreds of thousands of
soldiers, teachers and police are paid through the bank, and many of the
government's own accounts are kept there. President Hamid Karzai said
Thursday that paychecks continued to go out through the bank.
woes pose a threat to Afghanistan's nine other private banks, potentially
foiling years of American-backed efforts to build from scratch the kind
of banking system seen as essential to a healthy economy.
has close ties to the administration of President Hamid Karzai, and the
allegations of insider dealing at the bank thus pose a double challenge
for the U.S. Restoring the credibility of the corruption-riddled Karzai
administration is a pillar of the U.S. strategy here.
said they saw the activities at Kabul Bank as another sign of government-sanctioned,
comes down to the weak government. They issue licenses to people to open
banks to use as their own personal accounts," said one Kabul Bank
customer, who gave his name as Mohammed. He had been waiting for hours
in a packed Kabul Bank branch to collect the $3,000 in his account and
had yet to reach a teller.
Karzai, appearing Thursday at a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, repeated pledges by other officials to guarantee deposits
at Kabul Bank.
"is safe, people do not have to panic. The government of Afghanistan
is fully behind that bank," he said. "Even if the whole financial
situation in Afghanistan collapses, we have the money to support it, so
people do not have to be worried."
$1.3 billion in deposits represent more than a quarter of the $4.8 billion
that President Hamid Karzai said Thursday Afghanistan holds in hard currency
officials expressed doubt that the Afghan government could bear the strain
of propping up Kabul Bank without outside help. The government took
in less than $1 billion in revenue last year and relies on the U.S. and
other donors for much of its budget.
Bank were to run short of money, the cash for depositors "may well
come from the coffers of U.S. taxpayers and other international donors,"
said one U.S. official.
U.S. and Afghan officials said the need for U.S. help would be even more
pressing if Afghans begin to lose confidence in other bankswhich
doesn't yet appear to be happening.
in Kabul Bank's favor was the arrival of the Afghan weekend on Friday,
when banks, like most shops and offices, are closed. Mahmood Karzai said
he hoped cooler heads would prevail after the banks reopened Saturday.
At a separate
news conference, Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal blamed the bank's troubles
on alarmist reports in the foreign media. He told reporters it would "never
collapse." The large volume of withdrawals were "not a crisis,"
Karzai's account of the bank's financial situation painted a darker picture.
depositors have withdrawn about $177 million from the lenderabout
a third of its available cashin the two days since Afghan regulators
forced out its two top executives and placed a central bank official in
two Afghan soldiers waited to transfer their $200 salaries from the bank
to their families in Baghlan province, in the north. Despite the chaotic
crowd and no real lines, the soldiers took a number and were still waiting
to be called by one of the branch's 15 tellers two hours later.
are so many people, they are all worried the bank will collapse,"
said another customer, Adisha Mahmoud, the owner of an Afghan construction
company. Dressed in a light blue shirt and a pin-striped vest,Mr. Mahmoud
had been waiting for an hour, trying to withdraw the $40,000 he has on
deposit at the bank.
next story on what happened to all the money. ..
at Afghan Bank Jolt Financial System By
DEXTER FILKINS, the New York Times, published August 31, 2010
The Afghan government intervened to shore up a deeply troubled
bank on Tuesday, sending shock waves through the capital and prompting
fears that Afghanistans pervasive corruption had now put
the countrys entire financial system at risk.
Farnood and Khalilullah Frozi, the top executives of Kabul Bank, abruptly
left their jobs this week at the demand of officials at the Central Bank
of Afghanistan, after the discovery that Kabul Banks losses might
exceed $300 million. That number far exceeds the banks assets.
Bank installed its own chief financial officer, Masood Khan Musa Ghazi,
as the chief executive of the bank.
American officials expressed alarm not only at Kabul Banks financial
condition but also at the prospect of a collapse of confidence in Afghanistans
fragile financial system, which was built from scratch after the ouster
of the Taliban in 2001.
concern was that news of the banks financial irregularities, already
spreading through the capital, would prompt a run on the bank itself and
that the panic would spread to other financial institutions. Bank deposits
in Afghanistan are not guaranteed by the central government, officials
could be catastrophic for the country, a senior Afghan banking official
said. The next few days are critical. I am worried.
and its chairman, Mr. Farnood, lie at the heart of the political and economic
nexus that sustains and is sustained by the government of
President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Frozi was an adviser to Mr. Karzais
presidential re-election campaign last year, and Kabul Bank provided
millions to Mr. Karzais campaign.
investigators say that Mr. Farnoods unorthodox financial dealings,
which included lending tens of millions of dollars to himself and other
politically connected Afghans, have long been shielded from scrutiny by
his close ties to Mr. Karzai.
officials said the intervention by the Central Bank was personally approved
by President Karzai himself, after he was briefed about the details of
Kabul Banks financial condition and its irregularities.
and bank regulators say Kabul Bank is also tied to the inquiry into New
Ansari, the money-transfer firm, or hawala, that is suspected of moving
billions of dollars out of the country for Afghan politicians, drug traffickers
and insurgents. Kabul Bank used the firm, whose dealings are nearly impossible
to track, to transfer at least $60 million out of the country, a bank
bank to use a hawala to move money is inherently suspect, investigators
say, because a financial institution like Kabul Bank already has the means
to transfer the money electronically. Electronic transfers are easier
for regulators to follow.
Mr. Farnood nor Mr. Frozi could be reached for comment on Tuesday.
emphasized that the Afghan government had not taken over Kabul Bank. The
regulators said they were worried that the bank would not be able to cover
a run of withdrawals from nervous creditors.
and businessmen said other financial institutions here might be affected
by similar troubles; the shareholders of other banks also indulge in
the practice of lending large sums of money to themselves.
Afghan officials and businessmen described Kabul Bank as Mr. Farnoods
personal fief, which he used to reward himself, shareholders and political
allies who could advance his financial interests.
the beneficiaries was Mr. Farnood himself, the officials said. He invested
about $140 million of the banks money in the real estate market
in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, said Mahmoud Karzai, the presidents
brother and a Kabul Bank shareholder. Among those properties were more
than a dozen multimillion-dollar villas in Mr. Farnoods name, some
of them on Palm Jumeria, an island off Dubais coast, Mr. Karzai
real estate market collapsed in 2008, wiping out much of Mr. Farnoods
investment and leaving Kabul Bank with the losses. A senior Afghan banking
official said that the banks estimated losses were believed to be
about $300 million, with assets of about $120 million.
It is not
clear what Mr. Farnood did with all the properties he purchased, but he
made at least some of them available to his friends and allies. One of
them was Mahmoud Karzai, who owns about 7 percent of the bank. Speaking
in an interview from Dubai, Mr. Karzai said he had rented one of Mr. Farnoods
villas for the past year and a half.
said the banks troubles and Mr. Farnoods opaque dealings
had made him decide to vacate soon.
want to move to a different house, Mr. Karzai said. I want
to cut this out.
also lent some $100 million to Haseen Fahim, a shareholder. Mr. Fahim
is the brother of Muhammad Fahim, Afghanistans first vice president
and a close political ally of President Karzai. Haseen Fahim is the owner
of Gas Group, a large distributor of natural gas, and the developer of
several large construction projects.
am not completely aware of what he has done, Mr. Karzai said of
was a banker before Afghanistan had a modern financial system, opening
a hawala in the 1970s. A hawala allows a person in Afghanistan, say, to
hand someone a bundle of cash and have it instantly credited to an account
in another country say, in the United Arab Emirates.
typically operate outside any government regulation.
closed his hawala and started Kabul Bank in 2004. From the beginning,
the Afghan banking official said, Mr. Farnood ran Kabul Bank outside the
law, daring regulators to rein him in. Kabul Bank often exceeded the limit
of what it was allowed to lend on any particular project, and it sometimes
skirted collateral and deposit requirements.
Farnood is a very clever individual, the Afghan banking official
said. Keeping the bank in line with the law was a constant challenge
is known to be intimately connected to another financial institution,
Afghan United Bank, officials say.
Mr. Farnood would use a hawala to transfer money abroad, Mahmoud Karzai,
a shareholder, said he did not know. This a very legitimate question,
Mr. Karzai said. You should ask Sherkhan.
Ansari case has drawn close attention, and not only because American investigators
say the money trails lead to Afghan political elites, insurgents and suspected
criminals. One of the men arrested in connection with the inquiry is a
senior aide to President Karzai. The aide, Mohammed Zia Salehi, was released
in early August after investigators were pressured by President Karzai
say they hope they can avoid a meltdown of Kabul Bank and of the
countrys financial system. Mr. Farnood has promised to transfer
the title of all of his properties to the bank, Mr. Karzai said, which
would provide the bank with at least some assets to cover the loses. But
it is not clear, after the collapse of the Dubai property market, how
much Mr. Farnoods properties are worth.
and Mr. Frozi together owned more than half of the bank, meaning that
the other shareholders had little leverage with them, officials said.
It was only recently, as the banks losses mounted, that the two
men began to disagree.
and other Afghan officials said the departure of Mr. Farnood and Mr. Frozi
would allow the bank to finally be run properly. Without federal depositors
insurance, the senior Afghan banking official said, that might be the
only chance depositors had of getting their money back.
only government guarantee is the effective supervision of this bank,
Why the Taliban are Winning
With additional troops committed and a new strategy in place, the U.S.-led
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is making its last big
push to win the war in Afghanistan. But domestic politics in ISAF troop-contributing
nations are limiting the sustainability of these deployments while the
Taliban maintain the upper hand. It is not at all clear that incompatibilities
between political climates in ISAF countries and military imperatives
in Afghanistan can ever be overcome. And nothing the coalition has achieved
thus far seems to have resonated with the Taliban as a threat so dangerous
and pressing it cannot be waited out.
U.S. and allied troops are now in Afghanistan, some 30,000 more than the
number of Soviet troops at the height of their occupation in the 1980s.
The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is now at
the pinnacle of its strength, which is expected to start declining, one
way or another, by the latter half of 2011, a trend that will have little
prospect of reversing itself. Though history will undoubtedly speak of
missed or squandered opportunities in the early years of the U.S. war
in Afghanistan, this is now the decisive moment in the campaign.
It is worth
noting that nearly a year ago, then-commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan
and the ISAF Gen. Stanley McChrystal submitted his initial assessment
of the status of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan to the White House. In
his analysis, McChrystal made two key assertions:
+ The strategy
then being implemented would not succeed, even with more troops.
+ A new
counterinsurgency-focused strategy just proposed would not succeed without
no ambiguity. The serving commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan
told his commander in chief that without both a change in strategy and
additional troops to implement the new strategy, the U.S. effort in Afghanistan
would fail. Nowhere in the report, however, did McChrystal claim that
with the new strategy and more troops the United States would win the
war in Afghanistan.
the additional troops committed and a new strategy governing their employment,
the ISAF is making its last big push to reshape Afghanistan. But domestic
politics in ISAF troop-contributing nations are severely constraining
the sustainability of these deployments at their current scale. Meanwhile,
the Taliban continue to retain the upper hand, and the incompatibilities
of the political climates in troop-contributing nations with the military
imperatives of an effective counterinsurgency are becoming ever more apparent.
This leads to the question: What is the United States ultimately trying
to achieve in Afghanistan and can it succeed?
of U.S. troops into Iraq in 2007 and into Afghanistan in 2010 represent
very different military campaigns, and a look at the contrasts between
the two campaigns can be instructive. When the United States invaded Iraq
in 2003, Washington had originally intended to install a stable, pro-American
government in Baghdad in order to fundamentally reshape the region. Instead,
after the U.S. invasion destroyed the existing Iraqi-Iranian balance of
power, Washington found itself on the defensive, struggling to prevent
the opposite outcome a pro-Iranian regime. An Iran unchecked by
Iraq (a key factor in Irans rise and assertiveness over the last
seven years) and able to use Mesopotamia as a stepping-stone for expanding
its influence across the Middle East would reshape the region every bit
as much as a pro-American regime.
adversaries in Iraq were Sunni insurgents (including a steadily declining
pool of Baathist nationalists), al Qaeda fighters and a smattering of
other foreign jihadists and Iranian-backed Shiite militias. The Sunnis
provided support and shelter for the jihadists while fighting a pair of
losing battles they viewed as existential struggles simultaneously
taking on the U.S. military and the security forces of the Shiite-dominated
Iraqi government, with a Shiite Iran meddling all the while in Iraqi Shiite
foreign jihadists ultimately overplayed their hand with Iraqs Sunnis,
a decisive factor in their demise. Their attempts to impose a harsh and
draconian form of Islamism and the slaying of traditional Sunni tribal
leaders cut against the grain of Iraqi cultural and societal norms. In
response, beginning well-before the surge of 2007, Sunni Awakening Councils
and militias under the Sons of Iraq program were formed to defend against
and drive out the foreign jihadists.
At the heart
of this shift was Sunni self-interest. Not only were the foreign jihadists
imposing a severe and unwelcome form of Islamism, but it was also becoming
clear to the Sunnis that the battles they were waging held little promise
of actually protecting them from Shiite subjugation. Indeed, with foreign
jihadist attacks on the traditional tribal power structure, it was increasingly
clear that the foreign jihadists themselves were, in their own way, attempting
to subjugate Iraqi Sunnis for their own purposes. As the Sunnis began
to warm to the United States, they found themselves with very few options.
Faced with subjugation from many directions and having realized that the
way they held the upper hand in Iraq before 2003 was simply not recoverable,
the Sunnis came to see siding with the United States as the best alternative.
United States surged troops into Iraq in 2007, one of the main U.S. adversaries
in Iraq (the Sunnis) turned against another (al Qaeda and the jihadists).
While the surge was instrumental in breaking the cycle of violence in
Baghdad and shifting perceptions both within Iraq and around the wider
region, there were nowhere near enough troops to impose a military reality
on the country by force. Instead, the strategy relied heavily on capitalizing
on a shift already taking place: the realignment of the Sunnis, who not
only fed the U.S. actionable intelligence on the foreign jihadists but
also became actively engaged in the campaign against them.
appeared anything but certain in 2007, almost an entire segment of Iraqi
society had effectively changed sides to ally with the United States.
This alliance allowed the United States to hunt down jihadist leaders
and systematically disrupt jihadist networks while arming the Sunnis to
the point that only a unified Shiite segment with consolidated command
of the security forces could destroy them and even then, only with
considerable effort and bloodshed.
the marked shift in Iraq since the surge, the security gains remain fragile,
the political situation tenuous and the prospects of an Iraq not dominated
by Iran limited. In other words, for all the achievements of the surge,
and despite the significant reduction in American forces in the country,
the situation in Iraq and the balance of power in the region
is still unresolved.
understanding of the 2007 surge in Iraq in mind, let us examine the current
surge of troops into Afghanistan. In Iraq, the United States was forced
to shift its objective from installing a pro-American regime in Baghdad
to preventing the wholesale domination of the country by Iran (a work
still in progress). In Afghanistan, the problem is the opposite. The initial
American objective in Afghanistan was to disrupt and destroy al Qaeda,
and while certain key individuals remain at large, the apex leadership
of what was once al Qaeda has been eviscerated and no longer presents
a strategic threat. This physical threat now comes more from al Qaeda
franchises like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda
in the Islamic Maghreb.
words, while the original objective was never achieved in Iraq and the
United States has been scrambling to re-establish a semblance of the old
balance of power, the original American objective has effectively been
achieved in Afghanistan (though the effort is ongoing). Most of what remains
of the original al Qaeda prime that the United States set out to destroy
in 2001 now resides in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Despite or perhaps
because of the remarkably heterogeneous demography of Afghanistan,
there is no sectarian card to play. Nor is there a regional rival, as
there is in Iraq with Iran, that U.S. grand strategy dictates must be
prevented from dominating the country. Indeed, an Afghanistan dominated
by Pakistan is both largely inevitable and perfectly acceptable to Washington
under the right conditions.
American geopolitical interest in Afghanistan has always been and remains
limited: to prevent the country from ever again serving as a safe haven
for transnational terrorists. While counterterrorism efforts on both sides
of the border are ongoing, the primary strategic objective for the United
States in Afghanistan is the establishment of a government that does not
espouse transnational jihadism and provide sanctuary for its adherents
and one that allows limited counterterrorism efforts to continue indefinitely.
itself has little to do with this objective in Afghanistan anymore. The
challenge now is crafting circumstances in the country that are sufficient
to safeguard American interests. Given this objective, the enemy in Afghanistan
is no longer al Qaeda. It is the Taliban, which controlled most of Afghanistan
from 1996 to 2001 and provided sanctuary for al Qaeda until the United
States and the Northern Alliance ousted them from power. (It is important
to note that the Taliban were not defeated in 2001. Faced with a superior
force, they declined combat and refused to fight on American terms, only
to resurge after American attention shifted to Iraq.) But it is not the
Afghan Taliban per se that the United States is opposed to, it is their
support for transnational Islamist jihadists -- something to which the
movement does not necessarily have a deep-seated, non-negotiable commitment.
As a grassroots
insurgency, the Taliban enjoy a broad following across the country, particularly
among the Pashtun, the single-largest demographic segment in the country
(roughly 40 percent of the population). The movement has proved capable
of maintaining internal discipline (recent efforts to hive off reconcilable
elements have shown little tangible progress) while remaining a diffuse
and multifaceted entity with considerable local appeal across a variety
of communities. For many in Afghanistan, the Taliban represent a local
Afghan agenda and its brand of more severe Islamism while hardly
universal appeals to a significant swath of Afghan society. The
Talibans militias were once Afghanistans government-sponsored
military force. And as a light-infantry force both appropriate for and
intimately familiar with the rugged Afghan countryside, the Taliban enjoy
superior knowledge of the terrain and people as well as superior intelligence
(including intelligence from compromised elements of the Afghan security
forces). The Taliban are particularly well-suited for waging a protracted
insurgency and they perceive themselves as winning this one which
are winning in Afghanistan because they are not losing. The United States
is losing because it is not winning. This is the reality of waging a counterinsurgency.
The ultimate objective of the insurgent is a negative one: to deny victory
to survive, to evade decisive combat and to prevent the counterinsurgent
from achieving victory. Conversely, the counterinsurgent has the much
more daunting and affirmative task of forcing decisive combat in order
to end hostilities. It is, after all, far easier to disrupt governance
and provoke instability than it is to govern and provide stability.
the timetables dictated by political realities in ISAF troop-contributing
nations extremely problematic. Counterinsurgency efforts are not won or
lost on a timetable compatible with the current political climate at home.
Admittedly, the attempt is not to win the counterinsurgency in the next
year or the next three years (the U.S. timetable calls for troop withdrawals
to begin in July 2011). Rather, the strategy is now one of Vietnamization,
in which indigenous forces are assembled and trained to assume responsibility
for waging the counterinsurgency with sufficient skill and malleability
to serve American interests.
effort to which the bulk of ISAF troops are being dedicated and the effort
in which the ISAF hopes to demonstrate progress for domestic consumption
is the counterinsurgency mission, not the counterterrorism one. This effort,
specifically, is taking place in key population centers and particularly
in the Talibans core turf in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the
countrys restive south. The efforts in Helmand and Kandahar were
never going to be easy they were chosen specifically because they
are Taliban strongholds. But even with the extra influx of troops and
the prioritization of operations there, progress has proved elusive and
slower than expected. The fact is, the counterinsurgency effort is plagued
with a series of critical shortcomings that have traditionally proved
pivotal to success in such efforts.
of the problem is twofold. First, the core strengths of the Taliban as
a guerrilla force are undisputed, and the United States and its allies
are unwilling to dedicate the resources and effort necessary to fully
defeat it. To be clear, this would not be a matter of a few more years
or a few more thousand troops, but a decade or more of forces and resources
being sustained in Afghanistan at not only immense immediate cost but
also immense opportunity cost to American interests elsewhere in the world.
In reality (if not officially), the end objective now appears to be political
accommodation with the Afghan Taliban and their integration into the regime
originally was to take advantage of the diffuse and multifaceted nature
of the Taliban and hive off so-called reconcilable elements,
separating the run-of-the-mill Taliban from the hard-liners. The objective
would be to integrate the former while making the situation more desperate
for the latter. But from the beginning, both Kabul and Islamabad saw this
sort of localized, grassroots solution as neither sufficient nor in keeping
with their longer-term interests.
localized changing of sides has certainly taken place (in both directions,
with some Afghan government figures going over to the Taliban), the Afghan
Taliban movement has proved to have considerable internal discipline that
is no doubt bolstered by the widespread belief that it is only a matter
of time before the foreigners leave. This makes the long-term incentive
to remain loyal to the Taliban or, at the very least, not to so
starkly break from them that only brutal reprisal awaits when the foreign
forces leave very difficult to resist. So the negotiation effort
has shifted more into the hands of Kabul and Islamabad, both of which
favor a comprehensive agreement with the Afghan Talibans senior
the Enemy to Negotiate
is where the second aspect of the problem comes into play. While special
operations forces have been successful in capturing or killing some Taliban
leaders, the Pakistanis have so far continued to provide only grudging
and limited assistance, and there is no Afghan analogy to the Sunni Awakening
in Iraq. In addition to building up indigenous government forces, the
focus of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is on securing the countrys
key population centers, thereby denying the Taliban key bases of support.
The idea is that, as the Taliban continue to decline decisive combat and
resort to harassing attacks, local loyalties will have shifted by the
time ISAF forces leave and strengthened Afghan security forces will be
able to manage a weakened Taliban movement.
this entails much more than just temporarily clearing Taliban fighters
out of key population centers. The ISAF has made a concerted effort to
secure and protect such areas (including Kandahar, the second-largest
city in Afghanistan) from surreptitious intimidation as well as overt
violence and to guarantee not just stability but also jobs and adequate
governance. But the strategy requires that such transformations become
entrenched and durable on an extremely short timetable in a national population
that is anything but homogenous. Indeed, all three aspects of the ISAFs
concept of operations shifting local loyalties, weakening the Taliban
and putting capable Afghan security forces in place are proving
point here is that the United States does not intend to defeat the Taliban;
it seeks merely to draw them into serious negotiations. While deception
and feints are an inherent part of waging war, the history of warfare
shows that seeking to convince the enemy to negotiate without being dedicated
to his physical and psychological destruction can be perilous territory.
The failed attempt by the United States to drive North Vietnam to the
negotiating table through the Linebacker air campaigns is an infamous
case in point. Like those bombing campaigns, current U.S. counterinsurgency
efforts in Afghanistan appear to lack the credibility to be compelling
much less forceful enough to bring the Taliban to the table.
of military power, as Clausewitz taught, must be both commensurate with
the nations political objectives and targeted at the enemys
will to resist. The Talibans will to resist is unlikely to be altered
by an abstract threat to key bases of support, especially one that may
or may not materialize years from now and, in particular, when
the Taliban genuinely doubt both the efficacy of the concept of operations
and the national resolve. In any event, this is ultimately a political
calculation. The application of military force to that calculation must
be tailored in such a way as to bring the enemy to its knees to
force the enemy off balance, strike at his center of power and exploit
critical vulnerabilities. To be effective, this must be done relentlessly,
at a tempo to which the enemy cannot adapt. This is done to force the
enemy not to negotiate but to seriously contemplate defeat and
thereby seek negotiation out of fear of that defeat. Although Pakistan
has intensified its counterinsurgency efforts on its side of the border,
an international border and the Talibans ability to take refuge
on the far side of it further restricts, as it did in Vietnam, the American
ability to target and pressure its adversary. So far, nothing that has
been achieved appears to have resonated with the Taliban as a threat too
dangerous and pressing to wait out.
accommodation can be the result of both fear and opportunity. Force of
arms is meant to provide the former. And the heart of the problem for
the U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan is that the counterinsurgency strategy
does not target the Taliban directly and relentlessly to create a sense
of immediate, visceral and overwhelming threat. By failing to do so, the
military means remain not only out of sync with the political objectives
but also, given the resources and time the United States is willing to
dedicate to Afghanistan, fundamentally incompatible. As an insurgent force,
the Taliban is elusive, agile and able to seamlessly maneuver within the
indigenous population even if only a portion of the population actively
supports it. The Taliban is a formidable enemy. As such, they are making
the political outcome appear unachievable by force of arms or at
least the force of arms that political realities and geopolitical constraints
Prosecutor Fired in Afghanistan
By DEXTER FILKINS and ALISSA J. RUBIN of the New York Times
Afghanistan One of the countrys most senior prosecutors said
Saturday that President Hamid Karzai fired him last week after he repeatedly
refused to block corruption investigations at the highest levels of Mr.
Faqiryar, the former deputy attorney general, said investigations of more
than two dozen senior Afghan officials including cabinet ministers,
ambassadors and provincial governors were being held up or blocked
outright by Mr. Karzai, Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko and others.
account of the troubles plaguing the anticorruption investigations, which
Mr. Karzais office disputed, has been largely corroborated in interviews
with five Western officials familiar with the cases. They say Mr. Karzai
and others in his government have repeatedly thwarted prosecutions against
senior Afghan government figures.
official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Afghan prosecutors
had prepared several cases against officials suspected of corruption,
but that Mr. Karzai was stalling and stalling and stalling.
propose investigations, detentions and prosecutions of high government
officials, but we cannot resist him, Mr. Faqiryar said of Mr. Karzai.
He wont sign anything. We have great, honest and professional
prosecutors here, but we need support.
Mr. Karzai intervened to stop the prosecution of one of his closest aides,
Mohammed Zia Salehi, who investigators say had been wiretapped demanding
a bribe from another Afghan seeking his help in scuttling a corruption
chief of staff disputed Mr. Faqiryars characterization of the presidents
involvement, saying that the president had instructed the prosecutors
to move cases forward appropriately.
strongly deny that the president has been in any way obstructing the investigations
of these cases, said the chief of staff, Umer Daudzai. On
the contrary, he has done his bit in all these cases, and it is his job
to make sure that the justice is not politicized. And, unfortunately we
see in some of these cases that it is politicized.
did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday. Mr. Salehi could
not be reached for comment.
made his accusations amid a growing sense of alarm in the Obama administration
and in Congress over Mr. Karzais failure to take action against
officials suspected of corruption, but also as the administration debates
whether pushing too hard on corruption will alienate a government whose
cooperation it needs to wage war.
American and NATO money, Mr. Karzais government is widely regarded
as one of the most corrupt in the world. American officials believe that
the corruption drives Afghans into the arms of the Taliban.
In a two
hour interview at his home, Mr. Faqiryar said he and the other prosecutors
in his office were demoralized by the repeated refusal of Mr. Karzai and
Mr. Aloko to allow them to move against corrupt Afghan leaders.
said his prosecutors had opened cases on at least 25 current or former
Afghan officials, including 17 members of Mr. Karzais cabinet, 5
provincial governors and at least 3 ambassadors. None of the cases, he
said, have gone forward, and some have been blocked on orders from Mr.
Karzai. He did not elaborate on each case, and it was not clear whether
Mr. Aloko or Mr. Karzai were involved in all of the cases.
said he had intervened in the case of Mr. Salehi, an official on the National
Security Council, because the American-backed anticorruption agencies
were violating the civil rights of those they detained. He blamed foreign
contractors for the corruption, and threatened to take control of the
agencies, summoning the head of the one that arrested Mr. Salehi to the
presidential palace for questioning.
Western pressure, Mr. Karzai appeared to back off, saying he would allow
the anticorruption units to do their jobs.
a 72-year-old career prosecutor, said he was fired Wednesday by Mr. Karzai
after sending a midlevel prosecutor to speak about public corruption on
an Afghan television station. After Mr. Karzai watched the broadcast,
he called for the papers to authorize the dismissal, Mr. Faqiryar said.
Faqiryar said his abrupt departure was the culmination of a long-running
tug-of-war between him and his prosecutors on one side, and Mr. Karzai
and Mr. Aloko on the other.
began last year, Mr. Faqiryar said, when he went before the Afghan Parliament
and read aloud the names of at least 25 Afghan officials who were under
investigation for corruption. The list included some of the most senior
officials in Mr. Karzais government, including Mohammed Siddiq Chakari,
the former minister for hajj and Islamic affairs, and Rangin Spanta, who
is now the national security adviser.
Faqiryar returned from Parliament, he said he was summoned by Mr. Aloko,
who told him that Mr. Karzai was furious.
told me the president was not happy about this, Mr. Faqiryar said.
He said, I told you not to divulge this.
the presidents chief of staff, insisted that Mr. Faqiryar was not
dismissed. He said Mr. Faqiryar had been due to retire and that his papers
were signed weeks ago but just now came to the surface.
the corruption cases involved relatively minor transgressions. But Mr.
Faqiryar said his prosecutors had unearthed serious allegations of corruption
against several senior Afghan officials. In many of those cases, he said,
the prosecutors had substantiated the claims with ample evidence.
of the 25 Afghan officials have been charged, he said, and in no case
has a verdict been rendered. The cases of the other 22 have either been
blocked or are lying dormant for inexplicable reasons, he said.
One of the
most serious cases involves Khoja Ghulam Ghaws, the governor of Kapisa
Province, who was appointed by Mr. Karzai in 2007. According to Western
officials, Afghan prosecutors compiled a dossier against Mr. Ghaws that
included telephone intercepts and sworn statements from Americans and
Afghans working in the province.
to these officials, prosecutors have enough evidence to charge Mr. Ghaws
with colluding with insurgents and demanding kickbacks from contractors
working on American- and Afghan-financed development projects. Mr. Ghaws
is also a suspect in the killing of five members of a provincial reconstruction
team last year.
turned over the Ghaws case to Mr. Aloko, the attorney general, four months
ago, said a Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Aloko has refused to sign either the warrant to arrest Mr. Ghaws or
the warrant to search his house, the official said. Hes the
presidents ally, the official said of Mr. Ghaws. Obviously,
Karzai doesnt want the case to go forward.
insisted that Mr. Karzai had made the first move against Mr. Ghaws weeks
ago by signing a letter suspending him from his job and asking him
to appear before the attorney general. He could not explain why Mr. Ghaws
was still running the province and residing in the governors compound,
where he was interviewed last week by The New York Times.
In the interview,
Mr. Ghaws said he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
against Mr. Ghaws was raised two weeks ago by Senator John Kerry, the
Massachusetts Democrat, who traveled to Kabul in part to urge Mr. Karzai
to take action against corrupt officials.
In the interview,
Mr. Faqiryar confirmed the Western officials account, saying that
Mr. Ghaws has been allowed to remain free at Mr. Karzais insistence.
Karzai has not agreed, Mr. Faqiryar said of the Ghaws case. Aloko
said to me, You have to follow the president.
signed the arrest warrant of Mr. Salehi, the Karzai aide who was later
released, but only after Western officials insisted that he do so, Mr.
was arrested as part of the investigation into New Ansari, a money transfer
firm that American investigators say has shipped billions of dollars out
of the country for Afghan politicians, insurgents and drug smugglers.
is also blocking the arrest of Hajji Rafi Azimi, the vice chairman of
the Afghan United Bank and a key figure in the New Ansari case, Mr. Faqiryar
to Western officials, Mr. Azimi is suspected of helping pass tens of thousands
of dollars in bribes to Mr. Chakari, the former minister for hajj and
Islamic affairs. Prosecutors say Mr. Chakari extorted the bribes from
tour operators who arrange travel for Afghan pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi
Arabia in exchange for steering business to the tour operators.
was out of Afghanistan and could not be reached for comment. Mr. Chakari
fled the country last year as prosecutors prepared to arrest him and is
believed to be in Britain. Afghan officials have filed an arrest warrant
officials in Kabul say that Afghan prosecutors have tried to arrest Mr.
Azimi but have been prevented from doing so by key figures in the Karzai
government. In his interview, Mr. Faqiryar said Mr. Salehi had emerged
from his office in the presidential palace and asked Attorney General
Aloko to block Mr. Azimis arrest.
reason Mr. Aloko does not sign the arrest warrant for Mr. Azimi is because
Salehi told him not to, he said.
listed three cases of corruption among senior Afghan diplomats posted
in Canada, Germany and Britain, and said there were other cases as well.
In each of the three cases he said, they were suspected of stealing public
money. None of them, including two former ambassadors and a consul general,
have been prosecuted.
Saturday, an official at the Afghan Foreign Ministry confirmed that the
three diplomats had in fact taken public money. But, the official said,
at least two of them, the former ambassadors to Britain and Germany had
paid the money back.
career spanning 48 years, Mr. Faqiryar said he was looking forward to
good to be away from them and not held accountable for their wrongdoings,
Deny C.I.A. Payments
(AP) Afghanistans presidential office on Saturday condemned
American news media reports that Afghan government officials had received
payments from the C.I.A. in return for information.
from the spokesmans office called the reports part of an attempt
to divert attention from the greater priorities of fighting terrorism,
preventing civilian casualties, and disbanding private security companies.
believes that making such allegations will not strengthen the alliance
against terrorism and will not strengthen an Afghanistan based on the
law and rules, but will have negative effects in those areas, the
strongly condemn such irresponsible allegations which just create doubt
and defame responsible people of this country, it said.
York Times reported that the C.I.A. had been paying Mohammed Zia Salehi,
the chief of administration for Afghanistans National Security Council,
who was arrested last month as part of an investigation into corruption.
The Washington Post reported that the C.I.A. was making payments to a
large number of officials in President Hamid Karzais administration.
Rahimi contributed reporting.
Nonsense from General Petraeus
didn't fire him for speaking out of line. Does that mean this is The
New York Times, August 15, 2010: Petraeus Opposes a Rapid Pullout in
Afghanistan By DEXTER FILKINS
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces,
began a campaign on Sunday to convince an increasingly skeptical public
that the American-led coalition can still succeed here despite months
of setbacks, saying he had not come to Afghanistan to preside over a graceful
In an hourlong
interview with The New York Times, the general argued against any precipitous
withdrawal of forces in July 2011, the date set by President Obama to
begin at least a gradual reduction of the 100,000 troops on the ground.
General Petraeus said that it was only in the last few weeks that the
war plan had been fine-tuned and given the resources that it required.
For the first time, he said, we will have what we have
been working to put in place for the last year and a half.
in a series of interviews, on NBCs Meet the Press, General
Petraeus even appeared to leave open the possibility that he would recommend
against any withdrawal of American forces next summer.
yes, he said when the shows host, David Gregory, asked him
if, depending on how the war was proceeding, he might tell the president
that a drawdown should be delayed. The president and I sat down
in the Oval Office, and he expressed very clearly that what he wants from
me is my best professional military advice.
offered a preview of what promised to be an intense political battle over
the future of the American-led war in Afghanistan, which has deteriorated
on the ground and turned unpopular at home. Already, some Democrats in
Congress are pushing for steep withdrawals early on, while supporters
of the war say that a rapid draw-down could endanger the Afghan mission
Petraeus, in his interview with The Times, said American and NATO troops
were making progress on a number of fronts, including routing Taliban
insurgents from their sanctuaries, reforming the Afghan government and
preparing Afghan soldiers to fight on their own.
Petraeus, who took over last month after Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was
fired for making disparaging remarks about civilian leaders, said he believed
that he would be given the time and matériel necessary to prevail
here. He expressed that confidence despite the fact that nearly every
phase of the war is going badly and even though some inside the
Obama administration have turned against it.
president didnt send me over here to seek a graceful exit,
General Petraeus said at his office at NATO headquarters in downtown Kabul.
My marching orders are to do all that is humanly possible to help
us achieve our objectives.
Petraeuss public remarks, his first since taking over, highlight
the extraordinary challenges, both military and political, that loom in
the coming months. American soldiers and Marines are dying at a faster
rate than at any time since 2001. The Afghan in whom the United States
has placed its hopes, President Hamid Karzai, has demonstrated little
resolve in rooting out the corruption that pervades his government.
most important, the general will be trying to demonstrate progress in
the 11 months until Mr. Obamas deadline to begin withdrawing troops.
was chosen in part to win over critics of the war and to push the Afghan
government to reform more quickly. But as critical battles to reclaim
parts of the Taliban heartland have faltered, military commanders have
begun preparing to ask the White House to keep any withdrawals next year
to a minimum.
In the interview
with The Times, General Petraeus also suggested that he would resist any
large-scale or rapid withdrawal of American forces. If the Taliban believes
that will happen, he said, they are mistaken.
the enemy is fighting back, sees this as a very pivotal moment, believes
that all he has to do is outlast us through this fighting season,
the general said. That is just not the case.
campaign begun Sunday echoes the similarly high-profile efforts the general
undertook at the bloodiest phase of the war in Iraq. In early 2007, joining
a group of defense intellectuals and retired generals, General Petraeus
asserted that the anarchic situation in Iraq could be stabilized with
an infusion of tens of thousands additional American troops.
George W. Bush endorsed the effort and chose General Petraeus to lead
it. And, to the surprise of many, the campaign, known as the surge,
helped bring about a dramatic drop in violence that has largely held.
During the surge, General Petraeus sometimes skirted the traditional lines
separating the military and political worlds, testifying before Congress
and speaking almost weekly to Mr. Bush.
Petraeus has taken a lower public profile since Mr. Obamas inauguration.
His efforts on Sunday which will continue with more interviews
in the coming days represent his first attempt to convince the
American people that his efforts and those of the American soldiers and
Marines deployed here can succeed.
latest outreach campaign, which included an interview with The Washington
Post, highlighted his political strengths as much as his military ones.
He was careful, patient and disciplined sticking to his main points
traits that have won him widespread respect.
things, the general is fighting to preserve his own legacy, based on the
dramatic turnaround he helped orchestrate during the war in Iraq. The
hallmark of that strategy was its focus on protecting civilians, even
at the expense of letting insurgents walk away.
that approach is coming under growing criticism, mainly from people who
regard it as too expensive and open ended. Some in the Obama administration
have been advocating a move from counterinsurgency toward a strategy focused
on hunting and killing insurgents.
Petraeus has imported some hands from his Iraq days to help him. Brig.
Gen. H. R. McMaster, one of the most innovative officers in the Iraq war,
has taken charge of a task force assigned to attack corruption. Frederick
W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute one of the fathers
of the surge and more recently a critic of the Afghan government
has come to help as well.
of those experts suggests that General Petraeus intends to take a harder
line against corruption in the Karzai government, which ranks among the
biggest factors driving Afghans to the Taliban.
has promised over the years to root out corruption but has largely failed
to do so. He has refused requests from American officials to remove his
brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, as chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar
Province despite widespread reports of corruption. Last week, the president
tried to assert control over two American-backed Afghan anticorruption
units that are investigating Afghan officials.
Petraeus declined to discuss the status of Ahmed Wali Karzai, and he praised
President Karzais efforts to attack corruption. In any case, he
suggested, American leverage over Mr. Karzai is limited. President
Karzai is the elected leader of a sovereign country, he said. That
is how the people see him by and large; he is therefore and has
to be, for sure our partner.
medical mission ends in death for 10
By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer
8, 2010. KABUL, Afghanistan They hiked for more than 10 hours
over rugged mountains unarmed and without security to bring
medical care to isolated Afghan villagers until their humanitarian mission
took a tragic turn.
of the Christian medical team six Americans, two Afghans, one German
and a Briton were gunned down in a gruesome slaughter that the
Taliban said they carried out, alleging the volunteers were spying and
trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The gunmen spared an Afghan
driver, who recited verses from the Islamic holy book Quran as he begged
for his life.
doctors, nurses and logistics personnel were attacked as
they were returning to Kabul after their two-week mission in the remote
Parun valley of Nuristan province about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north
of Kabul. They had decided to veer northward into Badakhshan province
because they thought that would be the safest route back to Kabul, said
Dirk Frans, director of the International Assistance Mission, which organized
bodies including three women were found Friday near three
four-wheeled drive vehicles in a wooded area just off the main road that
snakes through a narrow valley in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan,
provincial police chief Gen. Agha Noor Kemtuz told The Associated Press.
One of the
dead Americans had spent about 30 years in Afghanistan, rearing three
daughters and surviving both the Soviet invasion and bloody civil war
of the 1990s that destroyed much of Kabul.
spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the AP that they killed the foreigners
because they were "spying for the Americans" and "preaching
Christianity." In a Pashto language statement acquired by the AP,
the Taliban also said the team was carrying Dari language bibles and "spying
the International Assistance Mission, or IAM, one of the longest serving
non-governmental organizations operating in Afghanistan, is registered
as a nonprofit Christian organization but does not proselytize.
the team had driven to Nuristan, left their vehicles and hiked for nearly
a half day with pack horses over mountainous terrain to reach the Parun
valley where they traveled from village to village on foot offering medical
care for about two weeks.
tragedy negatively impacts our ability to continue serving the Afghan
people as IAM has been doing since 1966," the charity said in a statement.
"We hope it will not stop our work that benefits over a quarter of
a million Afghans each year."
dead was team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York,
who has been working in Afghanistan for about 30 years and spoke fluent
Dari, one of the two main Afghan languages, Frans said. Little, along
with employees from other Christian organizations, were expelled by the
Taliban government in August 2001 after the arrest of eight Christian
aid workers two Americans and six Germans for allegedly
trying to convert Afghans to Christianity.
to Afghanistan after the Taliban government was toppled in November 2001
by U.S.-backed forces. Known in Kabul as "Mr. Tom," Little supervised
a network of IAM eye hospitals and clinics around the country largely
funded through private donations.
was a remarkable man, and very committed to helping the people of Afghanistan,"
said David Evans of the Loudonville Community Church, New York, who accompanied
Little on a 5,231-mile road (8,419-kilometer) trip to deliver the medical
team's Land Rover vehicles from England to Kabul in 2004.
raised their three girls there. He was part and parcel of that culture,"
been making such trips to Afghan villages for decades, offering vision
care and surgical services in regions where medical services of any type
has long been fraught with risk, but Evans said Little was a natural for
the job. He spoke the language, knew the local customs, and had the patience
and diplomatic skills to handle sticky situations.
relief organization, Bridge Afghanistan, said on its website that the
group included one of its members, Dr. Karen Woo, who gave up a job in
a private clinic in London to do humanitarian work in Afghanistan. A message
posted last March on the Bridge Afghanistan website said she was "flat
broke and living in a war zone but enjoying helping people in great need."
In a fundraising
blog posted last month, Woo said the mission to Nuristan would require
hiking with pack horses through mountains rising to 16,000 feet (5,000
meters) to reach the Parun valley, a harsh, isolated area about 9,500
feet (3,000 meters) above sea level where an estimated 50,000 people eke
out a primitive existence as shepherds and subsistence farmers.
expedition will require a lot of physical and mental resolve and will
not be without risk but ultimately, I believe that the provision of medical
treatment is of fundamental importance and that the effort is worth it
in order to assist those that need it most," she wrote.
area ... we will reach is one of great harshness but of great beauty also.
I hope that we will be able to provide medical care for a large number
the other foreigners were not released until the bodies could be brought
to Kabul for identification, Frans said.
the AP that he was skeptical the Taliban were responsible. He said the
team had studied security conditions carefully before continuing with
are a humanitarian organization. We had no security people. We had no
armed guards. We had no weapons," he said.
in Nuristan heard that foreigners were in the area and sent police to
investigate, according to Nuristan Gov. Jamaluddin Bader. The police provided
security for the final three or four days of the mission and escorted
them across the boundary into Badakhshan, he said. The escorts left after
the team told them that they felt safe in Badakhshan, he added.
he last talked to Little, over a scratchy satellite phone connection,
on Wednesday evening. On Friday, the Afghan driver who survived the attack
called to report the killings. A fourth Afghan member of the team was
not killed because he took a different route home because he had family
in Jalalabad, Frans said.
driver, Saifullah, told authorities that team members stopped for lunch
Thursday afternoon in the Sharron valley and were accosted by gunmen when
they returned to their vehicles, according to Kemtuz, the Badakhshan police
chief. The volunteers were forced to sit on the ground. The gunmen looted
the vehicles, then fatally shot them, Kemtuz said.
driver who survived "told me he was shouting and reciting the holy
Quran and saying 'I am Muslim. Don't kill me,'" Kemtuz said. The
gunmen let the driver go free the next day. A shepherd witnessed the carnage
and reported the killings to the local district chief, who then brought
the bodies to his home, Kemtuz said.
have been often targeted by insurgents.
23 South Korean aid workers from a church group were taken hostage in
southern Afghanistan. Two were killed and the rest were later released.
In August 2008, four International Rescue Committee workers, including
three women, were gunned down in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan.
2008, Gayle Williams, who had dual British and South African citizenship,
was killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle as she walked to work in the
capital of Kabul. In late 2009, a French aid worker was kidnapped at gunpoint
in the Afghan capital. Dany Egreteau, a 32-year-old worker for Solidarite
Laique, or Secular Solidarity, who was seen in an emotional hostage video,
was later released after a month in captivity.
This past month, much of the attention focused on Afghanistan centered
on the release of thousands of classified documents from the war
effort by WikiLeaks. While the consensus appears to be that nothing
significantly new was revealed by the release, the picture painted
by the documents remains rather bleak. NATO and the United States
now have 143,000 troops in Afghanistan, set to peak at 150,000 in
coming weeks as they take a counter-insurgency offensive into the
insurgents' southern strongholds. Taliban control remains difficult
to dislodge, and once removed from an area, Taliban forces often
return once larger forces leave a region, especially in rural areas
where local government presence remains small. Collected here are
images of the country and conflict over the past month, part of
an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. (47 photos total)
is the first photo. Australian soldiers carry a coffin of Pvt. Nathan
Bewes at their base in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province, south of Kabul,
Afghanistan on July 12, 2010. Bewes died in an improvised explosive
device blast in Uruzgan. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
The Lunatics Manual
By BOB HERBERT of the New York Times
to its credit, tells the story of a middle-aged lieutenant colonel who
had served multiple combat tours and was suffering the agonizing effects
of traumatic brain injury and dementia. He also had difficulty sleeping.
Several medications were prescribed.
On a visit
to an emergency room, he was given a 30-tablet refill of Ambien. He went
to his car and killed himself by ingesting the entire prescription with
a quantity of rum. He left a suicide note that said his headaches and
other pain were unbearable.
As if there
is not enough that has gone tragically wrong in this era of endless warfare,
the military is facing an epidemic of suicides. In the year that ended
Sept. 30, 2009, 160 active duty soldiers took their own lives a
record for the Army. The Marines set their own tragic record in 2009 with
52 suicides. And this past June, another record was set 32 military
suicides in just one month.
War is a
meat grinder for service members and their families. It grinds people
up without mercy, killing them and inflicting the worst kinds of wounds
imaginable, physical and psychological. The Pentagon is trying to cope
with the surge in suicides, but it is holding a bad hand: the desperate
shortage of troops has forced military officials to lower the bar for
enlistment, thus letting in people whose drug and alcohol abuse or other
behavioral problems would previously have kept them out. And the multiple
deployments (four, five and six tours in the war zones) have jacked up
stress levels to the point where many just cant take it.
have fought valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands have died and
many, many more have suffered. But the wars have been conducted as if
their leaders had been reading from a lunatics manual. This is not
Germany or Japan or the old Soviet Union that were fighting. But
after nearly a decade, neither war has been won and there is no prospect
of dollars are being squandered. George W. (Mission Accomplished)
Bush took the unprecedented step of cutting taxes while waging the wars.
And Barack Obama has set a deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan
without having any idea how that war might be going when the deadline
warfare as it might have been waged by Laurel & Hardy. Absent the
bloodshed, it would be hilarious. Id give a lot to hear Dwight Eisenhower
comment on the way these wars have been conducted.
the deadliest month yet for American troops in Afghanistan. Sixty-six
were killed, which was six more than the number who died in the previous
most deadly month, June. The nation is paying little or no attention to
those deaths, which is shameful. The president goes to fund-raisers and
yuks it up on The View. For most ordinary Americans, the war
is nothing more than an afterthought.
getting the worst of all worlds in Afghanistan: Were not winning,
and were not cutting our tragic losses. Most Americans dont
care because theyre not feeling any of the tragic losses. A tiny,
tiny portion of the population is doing the fighting, and those troops
are sent into the war zone for tour after tour, as if theyre attached
to a nightmarish yo-yo.
of shared sacrifice is in order, but neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Obama called
on Americans to make any real sacrifices in connection with either of
these wars. The way to fight a war is to mobilize the country not
just the combat troops behind an integrated wartime effort. To
do that, leaders have to persuade the public that the war is worth fighting,
and worth paying for.
have in Afghanistan is a war that most Americans believe is not worth
fighting and certainly not worth raising taxes to pay for. President
Obama has not made a compelling case for the war and has set a deadline
for the start of withdrawal that seems curiously close to the anticipated
start of his 2012 campaign for a second term.
time to bring the curtain down for good on these tragic, farcical wars.
The fantasy of democracy blossoming at the point of a gun in Iraq and
spreading blithely throughout the Middle East has been obliterated. And
its hard to believe that anyone buys the notion that the U.S. can
install a successful society in the medieval madness of Afghanistan.
who havent noticed, we have a nation that needs rebuilding here
at home. Maybe we could muster some shared sacrifice on that front.
time to bring the troops back, and nurse the wounded, and thank them all
for their extraordinary service. Its time to come to our senses
and put the lunatics manual aside.
I started this site
What I hope to accomplish
name is Harry Newton. I am 68. I am a successful American businessman.
With this site, I want to help bring our nine-year War in Afghanistan
to an early end. Over 1,000 American servicemen and women have been killed.
Over 40,000 have been hurt or maimed. This war is not worth a single additional
young life. Moreover, we can no longer afford the cost. Our country is
in a serious recession. I want us out ASAP. I believe there are ten basic
arguments against the War in Afghanistan:
The U.S. went to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11/2001 to find and kill
Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda group -- the perpetrators and murderers
of 9/11. Nine years later, bin Laden is still at large. And Al Qaeda
has dispersed. But al Qaeda hasn't made any successful attacks inside
the U.S. It's been stopped by conventional police work -- which is much
more effective and cost-efficient than occupying an entire country.
Presently, the U.S. has no clear objective for being in Afghanistan.
U.S. has no strategic interest in Afghanistan. No one in Afghanistan
can launch a nuclear missile against us. There is no oil. Afghanistan
has no natural resources beyond poppies and pomegranates. Lately there
is a talk of huge mining deposits. There are more efficient ways developing
mines than occupying an entire country. The normal way is to sign an
agreement with the local government. That could easily be done if and
when Afghanistan acquires a legitimate government.
bin Laden and Al Qaeda are no longer in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda long ago
spread to Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Europe. No one really
knows where bin Laden is.
Afghanistan, the U.S. is seen as supporting an ultra-corrupt administration,
whose senior members steal whatever monies they can lay their hands
on. They deposit those monies overseas, ready for the inevitable day
the corrupt officials (including the Karzai family) are forced to flea
the country. Little of these monies go to benefitting the Afghan people
in the way of roads, reliable electricity, sewage, safety, etc.
country and no army from Alexander the Great on has ever succeeded in
conquering and/or subduing Afghanistan long-term. Britain invaded Afghanistan
three times. Once it sent an army of 22,000. Only one soldier returned.
When asked, Afghans will say proudly their major skill is fighting.
Taliban, though nasty, pose no threat to the United States. Every time
the U.S. and its NATO allies kill a Muslim, it hands the Taliban its
most powerful recruiting tool: "The infidels have invaded our
lands, and are killing our people. We must jihad." The big
threat to the U.S. specifically and the world in general is the support
which roque nation states -- including Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia
-- provide to terrorist organizations, like Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Without money and weapons, these terrorist organizations would not exist.
is a sinkhole. Corruption is rampant. Most of our aid money disappears.
When we transport supplies into and around Afghanistan, we bribe the
Taliban and various warlords to allow our supply convoys through. In
this way, we finance our enemies. We also support the corrupt Karzai
government with our money and army. Without our support, the Karzai
Government would collapse overnight.
Afghanistan war is promoted by an increasing number of what I call "professional
careerists." These are people who make their career and their living
off the war. They live in and around Washington. They write endless
papers. They live in Asia, where they are contractors and employees
of various organizations whose job is to service the U.S. military and
the U.S. State Department. These organizations and their employees are
amazingly well-paid -- chiefly because they do things the military and
the State Department don't want to do themselves, or want to hide from
the American public and Congress. Many of these careerists maintain
their cushy arrangements by pushing fear -- The whole area will explode
into nuclear conflagration, etc. if we don't stay. This was an argument
used to justify the Vietnam war. Yet today Vietnam is an important trading
partner of the U.S. Many U.S. firms have factories there. I own a shirt
that was made there. In short, no one has any idea what would happen
should we and our NATO allies pull out of Afghanistan.
War in Afghanistan is a waste of precious American lives and precious
American dollars. At present we spend over $65 billion a year in Afghanistan.
That's actually three times Afghanistan's entire annual GDP. Despite
our best efforts, our military activities kill innocent Afghans regularly.
This does not endear us.
itself was founded by people who didn't like an outside power occupying
them and meddling in their affairs. That power was the British. Why
would the Afghans feel any different toward us?
web site, I have included articles I personally find informative. They
are not an exhaustive view of all the issues relating to Afghanistan.
They are a personal library. If you have favorites, please email me. I'll
29, 2010 from The Wall Street Journal
author recommends greater CIA involvement and less U.S. military involvement.
This is totally predictable, given his background -- namely he worked
at the CIA. Personally I think his approach has some merit, though I am
most reluctant to hand the CIA a blank check made up of my taxes. -- Harry
CIA Solution for Afghanistan There's
no 'victory' to be had there. But we can prevent it from becoming a haven
for al Qaeda with a covert strategy based on Predator drones and alliances
with local leaders. By JACK
military will not achieve anything resembling victory in Afghanistan,
no matter how noble the objective and heroic the effort.
to face this reality. We should start by developing a new covert action
plan to be implemented by the Central Intelligence Agency. The strategy
should focus on forging the kinds of relationships necessary to keep Afghanistan
from re-emerging as al Qaeda's staging ground once our forces depart,
and also on continuing the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
is any lasting lesson from the recent demise of Gen. Stanley McChrystal,
it's that the large and visible occupying army he commanded in Afghanistan
is simply the wrong force to wage the battles being fought there. The
British and the Russians know this too well.
the CIA's Afghan Task Forcewhich covertly channeled U.S. support
to the Afghans fighting to drive the Soviets out of their countryI
recognize the playbook our policy makers are using today. It didn't work
for the Soviets then, and it won't work for us now. However different
our current objective, our efforts are alarmingly similar to those of
the Russians. Instead of ignoring the lessons of that history, what we
need to do is to be more like ourselves in the 1980s and in the months
immediately following the attacks of 9/11.
the '80s we essentially ended the Cold War with a well-funded and broadly
supported covert action program. In 2001, under similar political circumstances,
a small band of CIA operators restored old ties to Afghan tribal leaders,
teamed up with U.S. Special Forces and, backed with U.S. air power, toppled
the Taliban in a matter of weeks.
in Afghanistan is better left unseen. Most Afghans, even those willing
to deal with us, would rather we get our military out of their country.
A covert action program would address this concern. It would also cost
less than a military effort in treasure and lives, and allow the U.S.
to continue to protect its interests and the interests of the Afghans
who desire nothing more than to see their country enter a period of calm.
covert action program should rest on worst-case scenarios. Afghanistan
will likely enter a period of heightened instability leading up to and
following our planned 2012 departure, so we should figure out now which
tribal leadersand, under specially negotiated arrangements, which
Taliban factionswe could establish productive relationships with.
We must also consider the possibility that our departure could precipitate
the eventual collapse of the Karzai government. Thus we should cultivate
relationships with leaders inside and outside the current regime who are
most likely to fill the power vacuum.
It's a good
bet that the CIA already has substantial relationships with many of these
personalities, particularly in areas where agency operators have long
enjoyed relative freedom of movement. Afghanistan is a tribal society,
not a nation state, and tribal interests are often easy to accommodate
with cash and other assets that help tribal leaders maintain their power.
Make no mistake: We're not talking about supporting advocates for Jeffersonian
democracy here. But these partnerships have proven dependable and highly
advantageous to U.S. policy makers in promoting regional stability in
of a revitalized covert action plan in Afghanistan must be based on an
updated Presidential Finding, which is required for any covert initiative.
The president himself would have to authorize ample funding for the remains
of the Karzai government, its opposition, tribal warlords and even some
Taliban elements, as long as they're willing to help us achieve our objectives.
The fact that many of them don't like each other will probably work to
our benefit and against our enemies in al Qaeda.
at the CIA helped me develop a few rules of engagement that I consider
critical to successful covert action programs. First, they must have sufficient
funding and bipartisan congressional approval. Second, a general consensus
backing the effort must exist among the American public. Third, there
must be robust support among key players and interest groups in the country
where our covert action program functions. Perhaps most importantly, the
rationale behind the program must be anchored in sound policy objectives.
mentioning that covert action has been controversial, and has many opponents
in and out of government. But such critiques often highlight flawed policy
rather than failed execution. The CIA's work in Chile during the 1970s
and in Central America during the 1980s are generally viewed as mistakes
or failures. But in both cases the agency was operationally successful.
The real issue was the flawed policy, which the CIA has no part in determining.
the executive and the public were justifiably disturbed by some of the
means used to carry out covert action since 9/11, including waterboarding
and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." Advocates for
the expanded use of covert action must be clear in their refusal to countenance
these practices, and in their commitment to strong oversight measures.
More generally, an updated covert strategy should establish clearer rules
of engagement. Predator drone attacks, which have been effective in killing
al Qaeda leaders, should be relied upon. Covert activities should not
be outsourced to private contractors, as has reportedly occurred in Afghanistan.
a return to a pre-9/11 version of Afghanistan is a realistic and achievable
goal as long as our strategy is calibrated to the Afghan political, cultural
and physical landscapes. A CIA-run covert action program is by nature
custom-tailored to the reality on the ground. As such, it is a highly
valuable tool that we should use to advance a modified objective in Afghanistan.
is a former CIA deputy director of operations and chief of the CIA Afghan
Task Force 1986-87. He is president of the Arkin Group, a private sector
intelligence company based in New York.
don't know the author. This email reads authentic. I'm glad he feels he's
acccomplishing something -- namely killing the bad guys. My problem is
there remains an apparently inexhaustible supply of bad guys. Our presence
in the area is their best recruiting tool. Still, you should read his
article. The sacrifices our troops make for us -- the American public
-- are seriously impressive. My position is simple: I support our troops
110%. I don't support their mission. Afghanistan is unwinnable -- whatever
the latest definition of of winning.
-- Harry Newton
Sand Fleas and Scorpions! From a Recon Marine in Afghanistan
the Sand Pit, it's freezing here. I'm sitting on hard, cold dirt between
rocks and shrubs at the base of the Hindu Kush Mountains , along the Dar
'yoi Pomir River , watching a hole that leads to a tunnel that leads to
a cave. Stake out, my friend, and no pizza delivery for thousands of miles.
I also glance
at the area around my ass every ten to fifteen seconds to avoid another
scorpion sting. I've actually given up battling the chiggers and sand
fleas, but the scorpions give a jolt like a cattle prod. Hurts like a
bastard. The antidote tastes like transmission fluid, but God bless the
Marine Corps for the five vials of it in my pack.
truth the Taliban cannot escape is that, believe it or not, they are human
beings, which means they have to eat food and drink water. That requires
couriers and that's where an old bounty hunter like me comes in handy.
I track the couriers, locate the tunnel entrances and storage facilities,
type the info into the handheld, shoot the coordinates up to the satellite
link that tells the air commanders where to drop the hardware. We bash
some heads for a while, then I track and record the new movement.
about intelligence. We haven't even brought in the snipers yet. These
scurrying rats have no idea what they're in for. We are but days away
from cutting off supply lines and allowing the eradication to begin.
of bin Laden waking up to find me standing over him with my boot on his
throat as I spit into his face and plunge my nickel-plated Bowie knife
through his frontal lobe. But you know me, I'm a romantic. I've said it
before and I'll say it again: This country blows, man. It's not even a
country. There are no roads, there's no infrastructure, there's no government.
This is an inhospitable, rock pit, shit hole, ruled by eleventh century
warring tribes. There are no jobs here like we know jobs.
offers two ways for a man to support his family: join the opium trade
or join the army. That's it. Those are your options. Oh, I forgot, you
can also live in a refugee camp and eat plum-sweetened, crushed beetle
paste and squirt mud like a goose with stomach flu, if that's your idea
of a party. But the smell alone of those 'tent cities of the walking dead'
is enough to hurl you into the poppy fields to cheerfully scrape bulbs
for eighteen hours a day.
living with these Tajiks and Uzbeks, and Turkmen and even a couple of
Pushtuns, for over a month-and-a-half now, and this much I can say for
sure: These guys, all of 'em, are Huns...actual, living Huns. They LIVE
to fight. It's what they do. It's ALL they do. They have no respect for
anything, not for their families, nor for each other, nor for themselves.
They claw at one another as a way of life. They play polo with dead calves
and force their five-year-old sons into human cockfights to defend the
family honor. Huns, roaming packs of savage, heartless beasts who feed
on each other's barbarism. Cavemen with AK-47's. Then again, maybe I'm
my ass off on this stupid hill because my lap warmer is running out of
juice, and I can't recharge it until the sun comes up in a few hours.
Oh yeah! You like to write letters, right? Do me a favor, Bizarre. Write
a letter to CNN and tell Wolf and Anderson and that awful, sneering, pompous
Aaron Brown to stop calling the Taliban 'smart.' They are not smart. I
suggest CNN invest in a dictionary because the word they are looking for
is 'cunning.' The Taliban are cunning, like jackals and hyenas and wolverines.
They are sneaky and ruthless, and when confronted, cowardly. They are
hateful, malevolent parasites who create nothing and destroy everything
else. Smart. Pfft. Yeah, they're real smart.
spent their entire lives reading only one book (and not a very good one,
as books go) and consider hygiene and indoor plumbing to be products of
the devil. They're still figuring out how to work a Bic lighter. Talking
to a Taliban warrior about improving his quality of life is like trying
to teach an ape how to hold a pen; eventually he just gets frustrated
and sticks you in the eye with it.
Snuffle will be up soon, so I have to get back to my hole. Covering my
tracks in the snow takes a lot of practice, but I'm good at it.
I tell you and my fellow Americans to turn off the TV sets and move on
with your lives. The story line you are getting from CNN and other news
agencies is utter bullshit and designed not to deliver truth, but rather
to keep you glued to the screen through the commercials. We've got this
one under control. The worst thing you guys can do right now is sit around
analyzing what we're doing over here, because you have no idea what we're
doing, and really, you don't want to know. We are your military, and we
are doing what you sent us here to do.
Recon Marine in Afghanistan
Semper Fi Freedom
is not free...but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share".
Jones' articles are always impressive. This piece gives a real flavor
of the war -- greater than what we get from most reporters. -- Harry
Down for the Count in Afghanistan But
the War Machine Grinds On and On and On By
Obamas Afghanistan strategy isnt working. So said a parade
of Afghanistan watchers during the flap over war commander General Stanley
McChrystals firing. But what does that phrase, so often in the media
these days, really mean? And if the strategy really isnt working,
just how can you tell?
to these questions raise even more important ones, including: Why, when
President Obama fires an insubordinate and failing general, does he cling
to his failing war policy? And if our strategy isnt working, what
about the enemys? And if nothing much is working, why does it still
go on nonstop this way? Lets take these one at a time.
do you mean by its not working?
is counterinsurgency or COIN, which, in fact, is really less of a strategy
than a set of tactics in pursuit of a strategy. Counterinsurgency doctrine,
originally designed by empires intending to squat on their colonies forever,
calls for elevating the principle of protecting the population
above pursuing the bad guys at all cost. Implementing such a strategy
quickly becomes a tricky, even schizophrenic, balancing act, as I recently
I just spent
some time embedded with the U.S. Army at a forward operating base near
the Pakistan border where, despite daily sig acts -- significant
activity of a hostile nature -- virtually every lethal American
soldier is matched by a nonlethal counterpart whose job it
is, in one way or another, to soften up those civilians for protection.
McChrystal himself played both roles. As the U.S. commander, he was responsible
for killing what he termed, at one point, an amazing number of people
who were not threats, but he also regularly showed up at Afghan President
Hamid Karzais palace to say, Sorry. Karzai praised him
publicly for his frequent apologies (each, of course, reflecting an American
act or acts that killed civilians), though angry Afghans were less impressed.
of the lethal activity that often goes awry is supposed to be counterbalanced
by the sorry part, which may be as simple as dispatching U.S.
officers to drink humble tea with local key leaders. Often
enough, though, it comes in the form of large, unsustainable gifts. The
formula, which is basic COIN, goes something like this: kill some civilians
in the hunt for the bad guys and you have to make up for it by building
a road. This trade-off explains why, as you travel parts of the country,
interminable (and often empty) strips of black asphalt now traverse Afghanistans
vast expanses of sand and rock, but it doesnt explain why Afghans,
thus compensated, are angrier than ever.
of course, are angry because they havent been compensated at all,
not even with a road to nowhere. Worse yet, more often than not, theyve
been promised things that never materialize. (If you were to summarize
the history of the country as a whole in these last years, it might go
like this: big men -- both Afghan and American -- make out like the Beltway
Bandits many of them are, while ordinary Afghans in the countryside still
wish their kids had shoes.)
forget the majority of Afghans in the countryside who have scarcely been
consulted at all: women. To protect Afghan women from foreign fighters,
Afghan men lock them up -- the women, that is. American military leaders
slip easily into the all-male comfort zone, probably relieved perhaps
to try to win the hearts and minds of something less than
half the population.
only in the last year or two that the Marines and the Army started pulling
a few American women off their full-time non-combat jobs and sending them
out as Female Engagement Teams (FETs) to meet and greet village women.
As with so many innovative new plans in our counterinsurgency war, this
one was cobbled together in a thoughtless way that risked lives and almost
have casually sent noncombatant American women soldiers -- supply clerks
and radio operators -- outside the wire, usually with little training,
no clear mission, and no follow up. Predictably, like their male counterparts,
they have left a trail of good intentions and broken promises behind.
So when I went out to meet village women near the Pakistan border last
week with a brand-new Army FET-in-training, we faced the fury of Pashto
women still waiting for a promised delivery of vegetable seeds.
This is hardly a big item like the government in a box that
General McChrystal promised and failed to deliver in Marja. Its
just seeds. How hard could that be?
did, however, open a window into a world military and political policymakers
have ignored for all too long. It turns out that the women of Afghanistan,
whom George W. Bush claimed to have liberated so many years ago, are still
mostly oppressed, impoverished, malnourished, uneducated, short of seeds,
and mad as hell.
among a plentiful crew of angry Afghans who are living proof that its
not working at all. Afghans, it seems, know the difference between
genuine apologies and bribes, true commitment and false promises, generosity
and self-interest. And since the whole point of COIN is to gain the hearts
and minds of the population,
those angry Afghans are a bad omen for the U.S. military and President
its not working for a significant subgroup of Americans in Afghanistan
either: combat soldiers. Ive heard infantrymen place the blame for
a buddys combat injury or death on the strict rules of engagement
(courageous restraint, as its called) imposed by General
McChrystals version of COIN strategy. Taking a page from Vietnam,
they claim their hands are tied, while the enemy plays by its own rules.
Rightly or wrongly, this opinion is spreading fast among grieving soldiers
as casualties mount.
also clear that even the lethal part of counterinsurgency isnt working.
Consider all those civilian deaths and injuries, so often the result of
false information fed to Americans to entice them to settle local scores.
To give just one example: American troops recently pitched hand grenades
into a house in Logar Province which theyd been told was used by
terrorists. Another case of false information. It held a young Afghan,
a relative of an Afghan agricultural expert who happens to be an acquaintance
of mine. The young man had just completed his religious education and
returned to the village to become its sole maulawi, or religious teacher.
The villagers, very upset, turned out to vouch for him, and the Army hospitalized
him with profuse apologies. Luckily, he survived, but such routine mistakes
regularly leave dead or wounded civilians and a thickening residue of
coming in from observers and colleagues in areas of the Pashtun south,
once scheduled to be demonstration sites for McChrystals cleared,
held, built, and better-governed Afghanistan, are generally grim. Before
his resignation, the general himself was already referring to Marja --
the farming area (initially trumpeted as a city of 80,000 people)
where he launched his first offensive -- as a bleeding ulcer.
He also delayed the highly publicized advance into Kandahar, the countrys
second largest city, supposedly to gain more time to bring around the
opposing populace, which includes President Karzai. Meanwhile, humanitarian
NGOs based in Kandahar complain that they cant do their routine
work assisting the citys inhabitants while the area lies under threat
of combat. Without assistance, Kandaharis grow -- you guessed it -- angrier.
province, where American soldiers mass for the well-advertised securing
of Kandahar, come reports that the Afghan National Army (ANA) is stealing
equipment -- right down to bottled drinking water -- from the U.S. military
and selling it to the Taliban. U.S. commanders cant do much about
it because the official American script calls for the ANA to take over
responsibility for national defense.
have complained all along about the ill-trained, uninterested troops of
the ANA, but the animosity between them seems to have grown deadly in
some quarters. American soldiers in Kandahar report that, for their own
security, they dont tell their ANA colleagues when and where theyre
going on patrol. Back in the 1980s, in the anti-Soviet jihad we supported,
we trained Afghan jihadists who have today become our worst enemies, and
now we may be doing it again.
accounts of what General McChrystal did best: taking out bad guys. Reportedly,
he was vigorously directing Special Forces assassinations of high
and mid-level Taliban leaders in preparation for peeling off
the good Taliban -- that is, those impoverished fighters only
in it for the money. According to his thinking, they would later be won
over to the government through internationally subsidized jobs. But assassinating
the ideological leaders, the true believers and organizers -- or those
we call the bad Taliban -- actually leaves behind leaderless, undisciplined
gangs of armed rent-a-guns more interested in living off the population
were supposed to protect than being peeled off into abject Afghan
poverty. From the point of view of ordinary Afghans in the countryside,
our good Taliban are the worst of all.
go on. If you spend time in Afghanistan, evidence of failure is all around
you, including those millions of American taxpayer dollars that are paid
to Afghan security contractors (and Karzai relatives) and then handed
over to insurgents to buy protection for U.S. supply convoys traveling
on U.S. built, but Taliban-controlled, roads. Strategy doesnt get
much worse than that: financing both sides, and every brigand in between,
in hopes of a happier ending someday.
why does Obama stick to this failed policy?
Maybe hes been persuaded by Pentagon hype. Replacing General McChrystal
with Centcom commander General David Petraeus brought a media golden-oldies
replay of Petraeuss greatest hits: his authorship of the Armys
counterinsurgency manual, updated (some say plagiarized) from a Vietnam-era
edition, and of Bushs 2007 surge in Iraq, an exercise
in sectarian cleansing now routinely called a success. If
you can apply the word success to any operation in Iraq, youre
surely capable of clinging to the hope that Petreus can find it again
David McKiernan, the general he ousted, McChrystal has already misapplied
the lessons of Iraq to the decidedly different circumstances
of Afghanistan and so producing a striking set of failures. A deal to
buy off the Shinwari Pashtuns, for instance, a tribe mistakenly thought
to be the equivalent of the Anbar Sunnis in Iraq, ended in an uproar when
they pocketed the money without firing a shot at a single Talib. Not so
surprising, considering that the people they were paid to fight are not
foreign invaders -- that would be us -- but their Pashtun cousins.
the surge into the Afghan south seems only to have further alienated the
folks who live there, while increasing violence against local residents.
It has also come at the expense of American troops in the east, the ones
I was recently embedded with, who face an onslaught of hostile fighters
moving across the border from Pakistan.
about the enemy strategy? Hows that working?
the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and various hostile fighters in Afghanistan drew
their own lessons from Petraeuss surge in Iraq: they learned to
deal with a surge not by fading away before it, but by meeting it with
a surge of their own. An American commander defending the eastern front
told me that hostile forces recently wiped out five border posts. They
opened the gate, he said, but with the American high command focused
on a future surge into Kandahar, whos paying attention? In fact,
as the battle heats up in the east, another official told me, they are
running short of helicopters to medevac out American casualties. In this
way, so-called strategy easily morphs into a shell game played largely
for an American audience at the expense of American soldiers.
the while Americas partner in this strategy, the dubious
President Karzai, consolidates his power, which is thoroughly grounded
in the Pashtun south, the domain of his even more suspect half-brother,
Ahmed Wali. In the process, he studiously ignores the parliament, which
lately has been staging a silent stop-work protest, occasionally banging
on the desks for emphasis. He now evidently bets his money (which used
to be ours) on the failure of American forces, and extends feelers of
reconciliation to Pakistan and the Taliban, the folks he now fondly calls
his angry brothers. As for the Afghan people, even the most
resilient citizens of Kabul who, like Obama, remain hopeful, say: This
is our big problem. Theyre talking, of course, about Karzai
and his government that the Americans put in place, pay for, prop up,
and pretend to be partners with.
Americas silent acceptance of President Karzais flagrantly
fraudulent election last summer -- all those stuffed ballot boxes -- seems
to have exploded whatever illusions many Afghans still had about an American
commitment to democracy. They know now that matters will not be resolved
at polling places or in jirga council tents. They probably wont
be resolved in Afghanistan at all, but in secret locations in Washington,
Riyadh, Islamabad, and elsewhere. The American people, by the way, will
have little more to say about the resolution of the war -- though it consumes
our wealth and our soldiers, too -- than the Afghans.
whats happening in Afghanistan more generally as a creeping Talibanization,
which Afghans say is working all too well. In Marja, in Kandahar, in the
east, everywhere, the Taliban do what we cant and roll out their
own (shadow) governments-in-a-box, ready to solve disputes, administer
rough justice, collect taxes, and enforce virtue. In Herat,
the Ulema of the West issue a fatwa restricting the freedom of women to
work and move about without a mahram, or male relative as escort. In Kabul,
the police raid restaurants that serve alcohol, and the government shuts
down reputable, secular international NGOs, charging them with proselytizing.
Taliban influence creeps into parliament, into legislation restricting
constitutional freedoms, into ministries and governmental contracts where
corruption flourishes, and into the provisional peace jirga tent where
delegates called for freedom for all imprisoned Taliban. Out of the jails,
into the government, to sit side by side with warlords and war criminals,
mujahideen brothers under the skin. Embraced by President Karzai. Perhaps
even welcomed one day by American strategists and President Obama himself
as a way out.
its so bad, why cant it be stopped?
gloom of American policy is never the whole story. There are young progressive
men and women running for Parliament in the coming September elections.
There are women organizing to keep hold of the modest gains theyve
made, though how they will do that when the men seem so intent on negotiating
them away remains a mystery. There are the valiant efforts of thoroughly
devout Muslims who wish to live in the twenty-first century. When they
look outward to more developed Islamic countries, however, they see that
their homeland is a Muslim country like no other -- and if the Taliban
return, it will only be worse.
development was supposed to have made it all so much better. But tales
abound of small, successful projects in education or health care, funded
by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and then dropped
without a single visit from USAID monitors afraid to leave their Embassy
fortress in Kabul. Regularly, USAID now hands over huge hunks of aid
money to big, impossibly ambitious, quick-fix projects run by the usual
no-bid Beltway Bandit contractors whose incompetence, wastefulness, unconscionable
profits, and outright fraud should be a national scandal.
is a process everyone knows but cant speak about because its
not part of the official script in which the U.S. must be seen as developing
backward Afghanistan, instead of sending it reeling into the darkest of
ages. Despairing humanitarians recall that Hillary Clinton promised as
secretary of state to clean house at USAID, which, she said, had become
nothing but a contracting shop. Well, heres a flash
from Afghanistan: its still a contracting shop, and the contracts
are going to the same set of contractors who have been exposed again and
again as venal, fraudulent, and criminal.
Obama sends more troops and a new commander to fight a fraudulent war
for a purpose that makes no sense to anyone -- except perhaps the so-called
defense intellectuals who live in an alternative Washington-based Afghanaland
of their own creation -- Clinton presides over a fraudulent aid program
that functions chiefly to transfer American tax dollars from the national
treasury to the pockets of already rich contractors and their congressional
cronies. If you still believe, as I would like to, that Obama and Clinton
actually meant to make change, then you have to ask: How does this state
of affairs continue, and why do the members of the international community
-- the U.N., all those international NGOs, and our fast-fading coalition
allies -- sign off on it?
only to look around in Kabul and elsewhere, as I did this month, to see
that the more American military there is, the more insurgents there are;
the more insurgent attacks, the more private security contractors; the
more barriers and razor wire, the more restrictions on freedom of movement
in the capital for Afghans and internationals alike; and the more security,
the higher the danger pay for members of the international community who
choose to stay and spend their time complaining about the way security
prevents them from doing their useful work.
And so it
goes round and round, this ill-oiled war machine, generating ever more
incentives for almost everyone involved -- except ordinary Afghans, of
course -- to keep on keeping on. Theres a little something for quite
a few: government officials in the U.S., Afghanistan, and Pakistan, for-profit
contractors, defense intellectuals, generals, spies, soldiers behind the
lines, international aid workers and their Afghan employees, diplomats,
members of the Afghan National Army, and the police, and the Taliban,
and their various pals, and the whole array of camp followers that service
round and round, this inexorable machine, this elaborate construction
of corporate capitalism at war, generating immense sums of money for relatively
small numbers of people, immense debt for our nation, immense sacrifice
from our combat soldiers, and for ordinary Afghans and those who have
befriended them or been befriended by them, moments of promise and hope,
moments of clarity and rage, and moments of dark laughter that sometimes
cannot forestall the onset of despair.
regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter. Her new book, War Is Not Over
When Its Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War, about her
work with women in post-conflict countries, is to be published by Metropolitan
Books in September. She is at work on her next book about what happens
when Americas wars come home. To visit her website, click here.
2010 Ann Jones
Fought and Wars Googled
By SCOTT SHANE of the New York Times.
THE countrys attention was riveted last week by the drama of the
generals: Stanley McChrystal, whose indiscretions in Rolling Stone got
him cashiered, and his boss, David Petraeus, who stepped in to take direct
command of the troubled Afghanistan counterinsurgency effort.
But a startling
scene in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday may have had more to say than
the command shake-up about the larger fight to contain Al Qaeda and its
allies, and the limits of any generals ability to affect its outcome.
At a plea
hearing, a defiant Faisal Shahzad admitted trying to blow up an S.U.V.
in Times Square on May 1. Calling himself a Muslim soldier,
he explained his motivation: avenging the war in Afghanistan
and American interventions in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.
am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the
Muslim people, Mr. Shahzad said.
confession raised two questions: Has the militarys still-expanding
fight against terrorism now become the fuel for terrorism, recruiting
more militants than it kills?
exactly does the Afghan war fit into the overall campaign against terror,
when the enemys cause can lure a man like Mr. Shahzad, a former
financial analyst for the Elizabeth Arden cosmetics company in Stamford,
Conn., and a naturalized American citizen? The questions take on particular
urgency because Mr. Shahzads flubbed bombing was the latest of a
dozen plots since last year aimed at American targets. And in case after
case, nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks, plotters have cited Americas
still-growing military entanglement in the Muslim world as proof that
the United States is at war with Islam.
major reason for these plots is that the war on terrorism has been going
on as long as it has, said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at
Georgetown University. After nine years, our enemies have become
more adept and sophisticated at exploiting the sentiments and images of
Obama has defined the United States interest in Afghanistan in terms
of protecting the American homeland. But General Petraeuss counterinsurgency
credo clear, hold, build is difficult enough
to pull off in the hostile terrain of Kandahar Province. It is impossible
on the infinite landscape of the Web, where Mr. Shahzad found the ideology
that led him to terror.
still focused on the nation and not the network, said John Arquilla,
professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School. You
can do brilliantly in Afghanistan and still not deal with the Faisal Shahzads
of the world.
Afghan strategy still commands broad support from Democrats and Republicans
and from outside specialists, who offer a familiar catechism.
the Taliban have taken the initiative again, only a concentrated NATO
effort can prevent their return to power, with a possible new base for
Al Qaeda, officials say. True, the dwindling Qaeda core is over the border
in Pakistan, but Mr. Obama has escalated drone strikes there to pick off
some terrorist leaders and keep the rest on the run.
in an age of virtual reality, Al Qaeda cant do large-scale training
and mobilization unless they control some terrain, said Max Boot,
a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who supports the current
policy. If the terror network attracts young Muslims now, he said, imagine
its appeal if NATO abandoned the field and the militants could claim victory.
would be a huge symbolic defeat for the United States, as it was for the
Soviet Union, said Mr. Boot, who is writing a history of guerrilla
war and terrorism. It would greatly embolden Al Qaeda.
of the current escalation of troops and drones point out as well that
even Mr. Shahzad was not turned into a terrorist solely by the Web. He
met face-to-face with leaders and trainers of the Pakistani Taliban before
crossing the line into violence. So allowing extremists more room to operate
on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border would be a dangerous
mistake, officials say.
scholars who study terror see the interplay of risks and benefits differently.
more deeply were involved in that region, the more likely it is
that well have terrorist attacks here, said Scott Atran, an
anthropologist who interviewed many young Muslim men about the lure of
terrorism for his new book, Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood,
and the (Un)Making of Terrorists.
lost, young guys see the resistance as heroic and glorious, Mr.
Atran said. Dont give them the thrill of fighting the greatest
army in the world.
in recent plots aimed at the United States are a diverse group, including
an Army psychiatrist of Palestinian ancestry spraying gunfire at Fort
Hood, Tex.; a popular coffee vendor from Afghanistan planning to blow
up the New York subway; the son of a prominent Nigerian banker trying
to take down an airliner over Detroit; and Mr. Shahzad, a Pakistani-American
who loaded his Nissan Pathfinder with fertilizer, propane and gasoline
in fortunately ineffectual combination.
all appear to have imagined themselves as warriors against the enemies
of their faith. Their national or ethnic loyalties had been supplanted
by loyalty to their co-religionists, the global community of Muslims,
known as the ummah.
Hasan, accused of killing 13 people in the Fort Hood shooting spree last
November, had quoted the Koran in a 2007 PowerPoint demonstration to explain
why some Muslim American soldiers might feel conflicted: And whoever
kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell.
Muslim groups can convince Muslims that they are fighting for God against
injustices of the infidels, Major Hasan wrote, then
Muslims can become a potent adversary; i.e. suicide bombing.
path to violence appears to involve less scripture than solidarity. We
Muslims are one community, Mr. Shahzad told the judge at his plea
hearing, explaining why he felt obliged to defend strangers in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza as well as the United States,
where he suggested that Muslims were singled out for government scrutiny.
the Obama administration smoothly handled the McChrystal flap and regrouped
behind its Afghanistan policy, word came in a report in The New York Times
on Friday of diplomatic maneuvering between Afghan and Pakistani leaders
that could result in a separate peace, potentially leaving the American
generals with 100,000 troops and no one to fight.
deftly, such a deal conceivably might allow Mr. Obama to exit Afghanistan
without fear of a Qaeda haven. But since the notion of an American-led
war on Muslims has gone viral, the virus would take years or perhaps decades
to burn out.
with terrorism is what the theorists call asymmetry. Hundreds of billions
of dollars, hundreds of thousands of troops, and the best generals on
the planet can be undercut by a disgruntled accountant, commanding the
worlds attention with a bomb that didnt even explode.
Hostage To Petraeus
from The Atlantic magazine.by Andrew Sullivan
us who hoped for some kind of winding down of the longest war in US history
will almost certainly be disappointed now. David Petraeus is the real
Pope of counter-insurgency and if he decides that he needs more troops
and more time and more resources in Afghanistan next year, who is going
to be able to gainsay him? That's Thomas P. Barnett's shrewd assessment.
Obama's pledge to start withdrawing troops in 2011 is now kaput. It won't
happen. I doubt it will happen in a second term either. Once Washington
has decided to occupy a country, it will occupy it forever. We are still,
remember, in Germany. But Afghanistan?
gamble on somehow turning the vast expanse of that ungovernable "nation"
into a stable polity dedicated to fighting Jihadist terror is now as big
as Bush's in Iraq - and as quixotic. It is also, in my view, as irrational,
a deployment of resources and young lives that America cannot afford and
that cannot succeed. It really is Vietnam - along with the crazier and
crazier rationales for continuing it. But it is now re-starting in earnest
ten years in, dwarfing Vietnam in scope and longevity.
there is simply no stopping this war machine, just as there is no stopping
the entitlement and spending machine. Perhaps McChrystal would have tried
to wind things up by next year -- but his frustration was clearly fueled
by the growing recognition that he could not do so unless he surrendered
much of the country to the Taliban again. So now we have the real kool-aid
drinker, Petraeus, who will refuse to concede the impossibility of success
in Afghanistan just as he still retains the absurd notion that the surge
in Iraq somehow worked in reconciling the sectarian divides that still
prevent Iraq from having a working government. I find this doubling down
in Afghanistan as Iraq itself threatens to spiral out of control the kind
of reasoning that only Washington can approve of.
we also know: Obama will run for re-election with far more troops in Afghanistan
than Bush ever had -- and a war and occupation stretching for ever into
the future, with no realistic chance of success. Make no mistake: this
is an imperialism of self-defense, a commitment to civilize even the least
tractable culture on earth because Americans are too afraid of the consequences
of withdrawal. And its deepest irony is that continuing this struggle
will actually increase and multiply the terror threats we face -- as it
becomes once again a recruitment tool for Jihadists the world over.
a war based on fear, premised on a contradiction, and doomed to carry
on against reason and resources for the rest of our lives.
is why you supported Obama -- to see the folly of nation-building extended
indefinitely to the least promising wastelands on earth, as the US heads
toward late-imperial bankruptcy. It is not a betrayal as such. But it
is, in my view, a huge and metastasizing mistake.
analysis highlights the mess in Afghanistan
President Barack Obama on June 23 accepted the resignation of command
from U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan
and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, following a
controversial interview with Rolling Stone Magazine. McChrystal's
resignation is a direct result of this interview and is not itself an
indictment of the status of the war he commanded or the strategy behind
it. But ultimately, the U.S. strategy is showing some potentially serious
issues of its own.
campaign was never expected to be an easy fight, and Helmand and Kandahar
provinces are the Taliban's stronghold, so progress there is perhaps the
most difficult in the entire country. But the heart of the strategy ultimately
comes down to "Vietnamization." Though raw growth numbers officially
remain on track for both the Afghan National Army and Afghan National
Police, according to testimony which U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David
Petraeus and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michelle Flournoy gave
before the U.S. Congress last week, there are serious questions about
the quality and effectiveness of those forces and their ability to begin
taking on increasing responsibility in the country.
a U.S. program to farm out more than 70 percent of logistics to Afghan
trucking companies appears to be funding both warlord militias independent
of the Afghan security forces and the Taliban itself. As STRATFOR has
discussed, this may be a valuable expedient allowing U.S. combat forces
to be massed for other purposes, but it also risks undermining the very
attempts at establishing good governance and civil authority that are
central to the ultimate success of the U.S. exit strategy not to
mention running counter to the effort to starve the Taliban of at least
some of its resources and bases of support.
is at the heart of the American challenge in Afghanistan, a fact that
was clear from the beginning of the strategy. Special operations forces
surged into the country (now roughly triple their number a year ago) and
are reportedly having trouble identifying and tracking down the Taliban.
Similarly, slower-than-expected progress in Marjah and the consequent
delay of the Kandahar offensive have raised serious questions about whether
the intelligence assumptions particularly about the local populace
underlying the main effort of the American campaign were accurate.
Security is proving elusive and the population does not appear to be as
interested or as willing to break with the Taliban and join the side of
the Afghan government as had been anticipated.
there have absolutely been tactical gains against the Taliban, and in
some areas local commanders are feeling the pinch, the Taliban perceive
themselves as winning the war and are very aware of the tight U.S. timetable.
Though the Taliban is a diffuse and multifaceted phenomenon, it also appears
to be maintaining a significant degree of internal discipline in terms
of preventing the hiving off of "reconcilable" elements, as
the Americans had originally hoped. Senior Pentagon officials including
Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have admitted as much:
It is simply too soon for meaningful negotiation with the Taliban. There
has been some recent movement, but nothing decisive or irreversible
and certainly nothing that yet shows strong promise.
the frustrations and elusive progress in the Afghan south, it is increasingly
clear that the political settlement that has always been a part of the
long-term strategy is becoming an increasingly central component of the
exit strategy. This is the U.S. State Department's main focus, and there
appears to be considerable U.S. support behind Afghan President Hamid
Karzai's reconciliation efforts. The Taliban appear to be holding together,
so negotiation with the Taliban as an entity (rather than hiving it apart)
may be necessary. And given the Taliban's position, this could come at
a higher price than once anticipated and then only if the Taliban
can be compelled to enter into meaningful negotiations on some sort of
co-dominion over Afghanistan.
Is Said to Doubt West Can Defeat Taliban
By DEXTER FILKINS, the New York Times.
Two senior Afghan officials were showing President Hamid Karzai
the evidence of the spectacular rocket attack on a nationwide peace conference
earlier this month when Mr. Karzai told them that he believed the Taliban
were not responsible.
president did not show any interest in the evidence none
he treated it like a piece of dirt, said Amrullah Saleh, then the
director of the Afghan intelligence service.
declined to discuss Mr. Karzais reasoning in more detail. But a
prominent Afghan with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on condition
of anonymity, said that Mr. Karzai suggested in the meeting that it might
have been the Americans who carried it out.
after the exchange, Mr. Saleh and the interior minister, Hanif Atmar,
resigned the most dramatic defection from Mr. Karzais government
since he came to power nine years ago. Mr. Saleh and Mr. Atmar said they
quit because Mr. Karzai made clear that he no longer considered them loyal.
the tensions, according to Mr. Saleh and Afghan and Western officials,
was something more profound: That Mr. Karzai had lost faith in the Americans
and NATO to prevail in Afghanistan.
reason, Mr. Saleh and other officials said, Mr. Karzai has been pressing
to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the countrys archrival,
Pakistan, the Talibans longtime supporter. According to a former
senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzais maneuverings involve secret
negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO
president has lost his confidence in the capability of either the coalition
or his own government to protect this country, Mr. Saleh said in
an interview at his home. President Karzai has never announced that
NATO will lose, but the way that he does not proudly own the campaign
shows that he doesnt trust it is working.
to the president say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last
summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined
that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzais behalf.
The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he
intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer
told me that he cant trust the Americans to fix the situation here,
said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last
year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.
could not be reached for comment Friday.
If Mr. Karzais
resolve to work closely with the United States and use his own army to
fight the Taliban is weakening, that could present a problem for Mr. Obama.
The American war strategy rests largely on clearing ground held by the
Taliban so that Mr. Karzais army and government can move in, allowing
the Americans to scale back their involvement in an increasingly unpopular
and costly war.
with Mr. Karzai have been rocky for some time, and international officials
have expressed concern in the past that his decision making can be erratic.
Last winter, Mr. Karzai accused NATO in a speech of ferrying Taliban fighters
around northern Afghanistan in helicopters. Earlier this year, following
criticism by the Obama administration, Mr. Karzai told a group of supporters
that he might join the Taliban.
officials tried to patch up their relationship with Mr. Karzai during
his visit to the White House last month. Indeed, on many issues, like
initiating contact with some Taliban leaders and persuading its fighters
to change sides, Mr. Karzai and the Americans are on the same page.
motivations appear to differ starkly. The Americans and their NATO partners
are pouring tens of thousands of additional troops into the country to
weaken hard-core Taliban and force the group to the bargaining table.
Mr. Karzai appears to believe that the American-led offensive cannot work.
At a news
conference at the Presidential Palace this week, Mr. Karzai was asked
about the Talibans role in the June 4 attack on the loya jirga and
his faith in NATO. He declined to address either one.
did it? Mr. Karzai said of the attack. Its a question
that our security organization can bring and prepare the answer.
he had confidence in NATO, Mr. Karzai said he was grateful for the help
and said the partnership was working very, very well. But
he did not answer the question.
are continuing to work on improvements all around, Mr. Karzai said,
speaking in English and appearing next to David Cameron, the British prime
NATO official said the resignations of Mr. Atmar and Mr. Saleh, who had
strong support from the NATO allies, were extremely disruptive.
said of Mr. Karzai, My concern is, is he capable of being a wartime
official said that American commanders had given Mr. Karzai a dossier
showing overwhelming evidence that the attack on the peace conference
had been carried out by fighters loyal to Jalalhuddin Haqqani, one of
the main leaders fighting under the Talibans umbrella.
was no doubt, the official said.
of Mr. Saleh and Mr. Atmar revealed a deep fissure among Afghan leaders
as to the best way to deal with the Taliban and with their patrons in
is a former aide to the late Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary commander
who fought the Soviet Union and the Taliban. Many of Mr. Massouds
former lieutenants, mostly ethnic Tajiks and now important leaders in
northern Afghanistan, sat out the peace conference. Like Mr. Saleh, they
favor a tough approach to negotiating with the Taliban and Pakistan.
like the overwhelming majority of the Taliban, is an ethnic Pashtun. He
appears now to favor a more conciliatory approach.
At the end
of the loya jirga, Mr. Karzai announced the formation of a commission
that would review the case of every Taliban fighter held in custody and
release those who were not considered extremely dangerous. The commission,
which would be led by several senior members of Mr. Karzais government,
excluded the National Directorate of Security, the intelligence agency
run by Mr. Saleh.
In the interview,
Mr. Saleh said he took offense at the exclusion. His primary job is to
understand the Taliban, he said; leaving his agency off the commission
made him worry that Mr. Karzai might intend to release hardened Taliban
conclusion is a lot of Taliban have been wrongly detained, they
should be released, Mr. Saleh said. We are 10 years into the
collapse of the Taliban it means we dont know who the enemy
is. We wrongly detain people.
also criticized the loya jirga. Here is the meaning of the jirga,
Mr. Saleh said. I dont want to fight you. I even open the
door to you. It was my mistake to push you into the mountains. The jirga
was not a victory for the Afghan state, it was a victory for the Taliban.
has been seeking to build bridges to the Taliban for months. Earlier this
year, the presidents brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, held secret meetings
with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Talibans deputy commander,
according to a former senior Afghan official.
to Gen. Hilaluddin Hilal, the deputy interior minister in an earlier Karzai
government, Ahmed Wali Karzai and Mr. Baradar met twice in January near
Spin Boldak, a town on the border with Pakistan. The meeting was brokered
by Mullah Essa Khakrezwal, the Talibans shadow governor of Kandahar
Province, and Hafez Majid, a senior Taliban intelligence official, General
analyst in Kabul confirmed General Hilals account. The senior NATO
official said he was unaware of the meeting, as did Mr. Saleh. Ahmed Wali
Karzai did not respond to e-mail queries on the meeting.
of that meeting was not clear, General Hilal said. Mr. Baradar was arrested
in late January in a joint Pakistani-American raid in Karachi, Pakistan.
But Mr. Karzais attempts to negotiate with the Taliban have continued,
doesnt think the Americans can afford to stay, General Hilal
said that Mr. Karzais strategy also involved a more conciliatory
line toward Pakistan. If true, this would amount to a sea change for Mr.
Karzai, who has spent his nine years in office regularly accusing the
Pakistanis of supporting the Taliban insurgency.
says he fears that Afghanistan will be forced into accepting what he called
an undignified deal with Pakistan that will leave his country
in a weakened state.
he considered Mr. Karzai a patriot. But he said the president was making
a mistake if he planned to rely on Pakistani support. (Pakistani leaders
have for years pressed Mr. Karzai to remove Mr. Saleh, whom they see as
are weakening him under the disguise of respecting him. They will embrace
a weak Afghan leader, but they will never respect him, Mr. Saleh
another way we finance
our own enemy
Taliban and/or Karzai's corrupt family gets a cut of every ounce of heroin
and opium we from them.
bribe them to allow our shipments through of guns, medicine and supplies
through -- the supplies necessary to fight them.
this makes zero sense. Read here.
Guards in Afghanistan Face an Investigation By DEXTER FILKINS of the New York Times.
SHAHR, Afghanistan For months, reports have abounded here that
the Afghan mercenaries who escort American and other NATO convoys through
the badlands have been bribing Taliban insurgents to let them pass.
a series of events last month that suggested all-out collusion with
pair of bloody confrontations with Afghan civilians, two of the biggest
private security companies Watan Risk Management and Compass Security
were banned from escorting NATO convoys on the highway between
Kabul and Kandahar.
took effect on May 14. At 10:30 a.m. that day, a NATO supply convoy rolling
through the area came under attack. An Afghan driver and a soldier were
killed, and a truck was overturned and burned. Within two weeks, with
more than 1,000 trucks sitting stalled on the highway, the Afghan government
granted Watan and Compass permission to resume.
president, Rashid Popal, strongly denied any suggestion that his men either
colluded with insurgents or orchestrated attacks to emphasize the need
for their services. Executives with Compass Security did not respond to
episode, and others like it, has raised the suspicions of investigators
here and in Washington, who are trying to track the tens of millions in
taxpayer dollars paid to private security companies to move supplies to
American and other NATO bases.
the investigation is not complete, the officials suspect that at least
some of these security companies many of which have ties to top
Afghan officials are using American money to bribe the Taliban.
The officials suspect that the security companies may also engage in fake
fighting to increase the sense of risk on the roads, and that they may
sometimes stage attacks against competitors.
raise fundamental questions about the conduct of operations here, since
the convoys, and the supplies they deliver, are the lifeblood of the war
funding both sides of the war, a NATO official in Kabul said. The
official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation
was incomplete, said he believed millions of dollars were making their
way to the Taliban.
is complicated by, among other things, the fact that some of the private
security companies are owned by relatives of President Hamid Karzai
and other senior Afghan officials. Mr. Popal, for instance, is a cousin
of Mr. Karzai, and Western officials say that Watan Risk Managements
largest shareholder is Mr. Karzais brother Qayum.
goal of the American-led campaign here is to prepare an Afghan state and
army to fight the Taliban themselves. The possibility of collusion between
the Taliban and Afghan officials suggests that, rather than fighting each
another, the two Afghan sides may often cooperate under the noses of their
think the insurgency and the government are separate, and that is just
not always the case, another NATO official in Kabul said. What
we are finding is that they are often bound up together.
companies, which appear to operate under little supervision, have sometimes
wreaked havoc on Afghan civilians. Some of the private security companies
have been known to attack villages on routes where convoys have come under
fire, Western officials here say.
show there are 52 government-registered security companies, with 24,000
gunmen, most of them Afghans. But many, if not most, of the security
companies are not registered at all, do not advertise themselves and do
not necessarily restrain their gunmen with training or rules of engagement.
Some appear to be little more than gangs with guns.
In the city
of Kandahar alone, at least 23 armed groups ostensibly security
companies not registered with the government are operating under
virtually no government control, Western and Afghan officials said. On
Kandahars chaotic streets, armed men can often be seen roaming about
without any uniforms or identification.
are thousands of people that have been paid by both civilian and military
organizations to escort their convoys, and they all pose a problem,
said Hanif Atmar, the Afghan interior minister. (Mr. Atmar resigned under
pressure from President Karzai on Sunday.) The Afghan people are
not ready to accept the private companies providing public security.
the gunmen are escorting convoys carrying supplies to American and NATO
bases, under a $2.2 billion American contract called Host Nation Trucking.
American officials award contracts to Afghan and American trucking companies
to transport food and other supplies to their bases around the country.
They leave it to the trucking companies to protect themselves.
As a result,
the trucking companies typically hire one of the security companies that
have sprung up to capture the extraordinarily lucrative market in escorting
convoys. The security companies typically charge $800 to $2,500 per
truck to escort a convoy on a long stretch of highway. The convoys often
contain hundreds of trucks each.
many of the security companies also have contracts to guard American military
is so good, in fact, that the families of some of Afghanistans most
powerful people, many of them government officials, have set up their
own security companies to get in on the action.
to Watan Risk Management, there is NCL Holdings, founded by Hamid Wardak,
the son of Rahim Wardak, the Afghan defense minister. Elite Security Services,
another NATO convoy escort service, is owned by Siddiq Mujadeddi, the
son of Sibghatullah Mujadeddi, the speaker of the Afghan Senate, officials
said. Asia Security Group, another private security company, was, at least
until recently, controlled by Hashmat Karzai, a cousin of the president.
companies methods are sometimes unorthodox. While at least some
of the companies are believed to be bribing Taliban fighters, many have
also been known to act with extreme harshness toward villagers or insurgents
who have tried to interfere with their convoys.
One of the
more notorious commanders of a private security outfit is an Afghan named
Ruhullah, who, like many Afghans, goes by one name. Mr. Ruhullah controls
a company called Commando Security, which escorts convoys between Kandahar
and Helmand Province to the west. While he is suspected of striking deals
with some Taliban fighters, Mr. Ruhullah is known to have dealt brutally
with those civilians or insurgents who have impeded the
flow of his trucks.
laid waste to entire villages, said an official at the Interior
Ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
the private security companies, including the one owned by Mr. Ruhullah,
appear to be under the influence of Ahmed Wali Karzai, a brother of President
Karzai and the chairman of the Kandahar Provincial Council. Though nominally
an American ally, Ahmed Wali Karzai has surfaced in numerous intelligence
and law enforcement reports connecting him to Afghanistans booming
He did not
respond to questions for this article, but he has denied any involvement
in Afghanistans narcotics trade.
official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Popals, the
nominal owners of Watan Risk Management, cooperate with Ahmed Wali Karzai
and Mr. Ruhullah. They are very, very close, he said.
in his interview, said he had no contact with anyone in President Karzais
immediate family. This is just politics, he said of the accusations
made against him.
and Afghan officials said that Ahmed Wali Karzai was moving rapidly to
bring the 23 unregistered security companies in Kandahar under his own
control. With the governments support, Ahmed Wali Karzai, together
with Mr. Ruhullah, plan to form an umbrella company, called the Kandahar
Security Force, that will broker business for the various individual companies,
a senior NATO official said.
wants a cut of every contract, the NATO official in Kabul said.
two groups of American investigators are focusing on potential bribes
to the Taliban: the House national security subcommittee, whose chairman
is Representative John F. Tierney, a Democrat from Massachusetts; and
another group working for NATO in Kabul.
practice of buying off the enemy may seem extraordinary, it is neither
unusual here nor unprecedented. Many Afghans, even those in the government,
have relatives, even brothers and sons, in the Taliban.
the Dollar Trail
officials believe that Afghan officials have paid bribes to the Taliban
before for instance, so that they will refrain from attacking the
transmission towers that make up the countrys cellphone network.
Officials familiar with the investigations say that most, if not all,
of the security companies actually do fight the Taliban.
they say, suggests that the Afghan security companies sometimes make deals
with insurgents when they feel they have to that is, where the
Taliban are too strong to be defeated.
rule seems to be, if the attack is small, then crush it, the Interior
Ministry official said. But if the presence of Taliban is too big
to crush, then make a deal.
the Watan executive, said that his security teams regularly fought the
Taliban, and died doing so. Last year, he said, his company lost 250 men.
We fight the Taliban, Mr. Popal said.
figures are difficult to come by, because statistics are kept only for
the Host Nation Trucking contract. American officials in Kabul say 27
security contractors were killed between April 2009 and May 2010, and
38 were wounded. Investigators say they are having a hard time putting
a dollar figure on the amount the Taliban may be receiving, in part because
the trucking companies are not required to report what they pay for security.
Trucking contractors pay security companies, which sometimes award subcontractors
to other companies, which sometimes do the same.
cant tell you about the sub to the sub to the sub, the senior
NATO official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
As a result,
much about the relationships between the security companies and the Taliban
is shrouded in mystery. Afghan and NATO officials say that anecdotal evidence
suggests that in order to keep their trucks moving and to keep
up their business some companies may sometimes pay Taliban fighters
not to attack, to sometimes mount attacks on competitors, or, as is suspected
in the case in Maidan Shahr, to attack NATO forces.
would be my expectation that people might create their own demand,
said Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, the commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan.
It is essential that these highways move freely without extortion
say that they are not certain what happened last month in Maidan Shahr,
but that some of the circumstances surrounding the case points to the
possibility of some sort of collusion with insurgents or criminals.
Halim Fedai, the governor of Wardak Province and the official who pushed
for the ban on Watan and Compass, said he was not sure what happened either.
But he noted that Watan Risk Management came under attack far less frequently
than the other security companies did.
they are just stronger, so the Taliban are afraid of them, he said.
official in Maidan Shahr, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said
that there were strong suspicions in the Afghan government that Watan
pays the Taliban, and that the company acts brutally to deal with threats
to its business.
people may have staged the attack themselves, he said.
American service members have now been killed in Afghanistan.
the War in Afghanistan Down
by Harry Newton
ime drags on, more American soldiers die in Afghanistan. There's more
corruption. There are more words written. Every week there's a new reason
why we have to be there. The reason being that last week's reason is not
longer valid. Al Qaeda (now in Pakistan and Yemen). A real democracy (Karzai
stole the latest election). What now? No one has ever succeeded in conquering
Afghanistan, or subduing it or giving it we want for it -- whatever that
could publish on this web site a thousand articles from eminent politicans,
diplomats, reporters and military officials. You'd read the endless words
and ask yourself, "So what do I do now?" And the answer is?
They don't tell you.
is one solution. Declare victory. And come home. This is not a new strategy.
We actually did it in Vietnam, except we were forced out. Here, sadly,
there's no one to force us out. In fact everyone -- our friends and our
enemies -- want us there. They all steal our money.
the latest "think" piece on Afghanistan. Mr. Friedman is an
eminent reporter for the New York Times. Normally he writes sentences
you and I can udnerstand. See if you can figure what he's trying to say.
Baby on Board
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
are many differences between Iraq and Afghanistan, but they do resemble
each other in one critical way. In both countries, the bad guys,
the violent jihadists, are losing. And in both countries, it still is
not clear if the good guys will really turn out to be good.
big question the Obama team is facing in both countries is: Should we
care? Should we care if these countries are run by decent leaders or by
drug-dealing, oil-stealing extras from The Sopranos
as long as we can just get out? At this stage, alas, we have to care
and heres why.
read a lot of analyses lately criticizing President Obama and Vice President
Biden for coming down so hard on Afghan President Hamid Karzais
corruption. Karzais the best weve got, goes the argument.
Hes helped us in our primary objective of degrading Al Qaeda and
done good things, like opening schools for girls. Sure, he stole his election,
but he is still more popular than anyone else in Afghanistan and would
have won anyway. (Then why did he have to steal it? Never mind.)
echoes the realist arguments during the cold war as to why we had to support
various tyrants. What mattered inside their countries was not important,
the argument went. What mattered is where they lined up outside in our
great struggle against Soviet Communism.
team took this kind of neo-realist approach to Afghanistan.
It had no desire to do state-building there. Once Karzai was installed,
President Bush ignored the corruption of Karzai and his cronies. All the
Bush team wanted was for Karzai to hold the country together so the U.S.
could use it as a base to go after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Frankly, this low-key approach made a lot of sense to me because I never
thought Afghanistan was that important. But, unfortunately, the Karzai
government became so rotten and incapable of delivering services that
many Afghans turned back to the Taliban.
So the Obama
team came with a new strategy: We have to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan
if we are going to keep Al Qaeda in check there and in Pakistan
and the only way to do that is by clearing them out of the towns and installing
decent Afghan police, judges and bureaucrats i.e., good governance
in the Talibans wake. Obamas view is that, to some
degree, idealism is the new realism in Afghanistan: To protect our hard-core
interests, to achieve even our limited goals of quashing Al Qaeda and
its allies, we have to do something that looks very idealistic
deliver better governance for Afghans.
wish we had opted for a less intrusive alternative; Im still skeptical
about the whole thing. But I understand the logic of the Obama strategy
and, given that logic, he was right to chastise Karzai even publicly.
If decent governance is the key to our strategy, it is important that
Afghans see and hear where we stand on these issues. Otherwise, where
will they find the courage to stand up for better governance? We need
to bring along the whole society. Never forget, the Karzai regimes
misgovernance is the reason were having to surge anew in Afghanistan.
Karzai is both the cause and the beneficiary of the surge. Im sure
the surge will beat the bad guys, but if the good guys are
no better, it will all be for naught.
In the cold
war all that mattered was whether a country was allied with us. What matters
in Obamas war in Afghanistan is whether the Afghan people are allied
with their own government and each other. Only then can we get out and
leave behind something stable, decent and self-sustaining.
the war in Iraq was, at its core, always driven more by idealism than
realism. It was sold as being about W.M.D. But, in truth, it was really
a rare exercise in the revolutionary deployment of U.S. power. The immediate
target was to topple Saddams genocidal dictatorship. But the bigger
objective was to help Iraqis midwife a democratic model that could inspire
reform across the Arab-Muslim world and give the youth there a chance
at a better future. Again, the Iraq story is far from over, but one does
have to take heart at the recent elections there and the degree to which
Iraqi voters favored multiethnic, modernizing parties.
Obama came to office looking at both Iraq and Afghanistan as places where
we need to be focused more on protecting our interests than promoting
our ideals, hes finding himself, now in office, having to promote
a more idealist approach to both. The world will be a better place if
it works, but it will require constant vigilance. When Karzai tries to
gut an independent election commission, that matters. When the Iraqi prime
minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, refuses to accept a vote count certified
by the U.N. that puts him in second place, that matters.
As I have
said before, friends dont let friends drive drunk especially
when were still in the back seat alongside an infant named Democracy.
Airstrike Is Said to Have Killed Afghan Civilians
By ROD NORDLAND of the New York Times
Afghanistan A NATO helicopter airstrike on Sunday against what
international troops believed to be a group of insurgents ended up killing
as many as 27 civilians in the worst such case since at least September,
Afghan officials said Monday.
repeated killing of civilians by NATO forces is unjustifiable, President
Hamid Karzais cabinet said in a statement. We strongly condemn
was carried out by United States Special Forces helicopters that were
patrolling the area hunting for insurgents who had escaped the NATO offensive
in the Marja area, about 150 miles away, according to Gen. Abdul Hameed,
an Afghan National Army commander in Dehrawood, which is part of Oruzgan
Province. General Hameed, interviewed by telephone, said there had been
no request from any ground forces to carry out an attack.
took place in an area under Dutch military control, and if Dutch forces
were involved in the incident it could have serious political repercussions
in the Netherlands, where the government collapsed Saturday over an effort
to extend the stay of 2,000 Dutch troops in Afghanistan.
But a Dutch
defense ministry spokesman in The Hague said Dutch forces were not involved
in calling the airstrike. The spokesman, who spoke in return for customary
anonymity, did not say who had called for air support.
did not immediately identify the nationality of the forces involved in
a group of suspected insurgents, believed to be en route to attack a joint
Afghan-ISAF unit, was engaged by an airborne weapons team resulting in
a number of individuals killed and wounded, the American-led international
force, also known as ISAF, said in a statement released Monday. After
the joint ground force arrived at the scene and found women and children,
they transported the wounded to medical treatment facilities.The
phrase airborne weapons team apparently referred to helicopters
rather than to fixed-wing aircraft.
Bashary, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the victims were
all civilians who were attacked by air while traveling in two Land Cruisers
and a pickup truck, which carried 42 people in all, near Khotal Chowzar,
a mountain pass that connects Daikondi Province with Oruzgan Province
in central Afghanistan.
said there were no Afghan forces known to be operating in the area where
the airstrike took place, but an investigation was under way to determine
who was involved.The cabinet statement, posted on the presidents
Web site in English and Dari, said there were 27 dead, including 4 women
and a child. Twelve people also were wounded. Mr. Bashary said only 21
dead had been confirmed so far, with 14 wounded and 2 missing, but he
said those were preliminary figures.
of the International Security Assistance Force, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal,
apologized to Mr. Karzai on Sunday night and ordered an investigation
into what had happened, the international force said. Mr. Karzais
office said in a statement that the president reminded the NATO
commander that the issue of civilian casualties was a major hurdle against
an effective war on terror and it must stop.
are extremely saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives, General
McChrystal said. I have made it clear to our forces that we are
here to protect the Afghan people, and inadvertently killing or injuring
civilians undermines their trust and confidence in our mission. We will
redouble our efforts to regain that trust.
General McChrystal announced a shift in policy greatly restricting the
use of airstrikes to reduce civilian casualties. The change meant airstrikes
would normally be used only to save the lives of coalition forces when
under attack, and would be carefully reviewed in advance. ...
Taliban are not stupid
by Harry Newton
have adopted new ideas:
snipers to kill American ground troops.
saying that American airpower is killing innocent Afgan civilians --
effectively grounding American airpower, our overwhelming strength.
very hard to fight these "weapons."
have no idea what "winning" this war means. Hence, we have no
idea what "victory" will look like.
Taliban are effectively funded by our (U.S.) money. The U.S. buys oil
from our "ally" Saudi Arabia. In turn, Saudi uses our money
to fund Madrassah -- schools the Taliban recruits from. These schools
teach no modern marketable business skills. The only employer is the Taliban,
which pays salaries, provides healthcare and security. Meantime, rich
Saudis are expected also to contribute personal monies to the Taliban
-- which they do in vast sums.
Taliban also gets money from poppy growing and cocaine and heroin production
-- for which the U.S. and Europe are the main customers. Prices are kept
artificially high because we have made these drugs illegal.
great empires -- from the Romans to the British, to the Russians -- were
ultimately toppled from their number one place by the financial burdens
of maintaining armies in remote places.
is no future or benefit for the U.S. in this "War."
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Cheney says President Obama is trying to pretend that we are not
at war with terrorists. There is only one thing I have to say about
that: I sure hope so.
if I had my wish, we would be on our way out of Afghanistan not in, we
would be letting Pakistan figure out which Taliban they want to conspire
with and which ones they want to fight, we would be letting Israelis and
Palestinians figure out on their own how to make peace, we would be taking
$100 billion out of the Pentagon budget to make us independent of imported
oil nothing would make us more secure and we would be reducing
the reward for killing or capturing Osama bin Laden to exactly what hes
worth: 10 cents and an autographed picture of Dick Cheney.
Am I going
isolationist? No, but visiting the greater China region always leaves
me envious of the leaders of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, who surely get
to spend more of their time focusing on how to build their nations than
my president, whose agenda can be derailed at any moment by a jihadist
death cult using exploding underpants.
just walk away? No, but we must change our emphasis. The war on
terrorists has to begin by our challenging the people and leaders
over there. If theyre not ready to take the lead, to speak out and
fight the madness in their midst, for the future of their own societies,
there is no way we can succeed. Well exhaust ourselves trying. Wed
be better off just building a higher wall.
As the terrorism
expert Bruce Hoffman noted in an essay in The Washington Post: In
the wake of the global financial crisis, Al Qaeda has stepped up a strategy
of economic warfare. We will bury you, Soviet Premier Nikita
Khrushchev promised Americans 50 years ago. Today, Al Qaeda threatens:
We will bankrupt you. And they will.
our oil dependence, our endless foreign aid in the Middle East have become
huge enablers of bad governance there and massive escapes from responsibility
and accountability by people who want to blame all their troubles on us.
Lets get out of the way and let the moderate majorities there, if
they really exist, face their own enemies on their own. It is the only
way they will move. We can be the wind at their backs, but we cant
be their sails. There is some hope for Iraq and Iran today because their
moderates are fighting for themselves.
noticed the most important peace breakthrough on the planet in the last
two years? Its right here: the new calm in the Strait of Taiwan.
For decades, this was considered the most dangerous place on earth, with
Taiwan and China pointing missiles at each other on hair triggers. Well,
over the past two years, China and Taiwan have reached a quiet rapprochement
on their own. No special envoys or shuttling secretaries of state.
Yes, our Navy was a critical stabilizer. But they worked it out. They
realized their own interdependence. The result: a new web of economic
ties, direct flights and student exchanges.
A key reason
is that Taiwan has no oil, no natural resources. Its a barren rock
with 23 million people who, through hard work, have amassed the fourth-largest
foreign currency reserves in the world. They got rich digging inside themselves,
unlocking their entrepreneurs, not digging for oil. They took responsibility.
They got rich by asking: How do I improve myself? Not by declaring:
Its all somebody elses fault. Give me a handout.
When I look
at America from here, I worry. China is now our main economic partner
and competitor. Sure, China has big problems. Nevertheless, I hope Americans
see Chinas rise as the 21st-century equivalent of Russia launching
the Sputnik satellite a challenge to which we responded with a
huge national effort that revived our education, infrastructure and science
and propelled us for 50 years. Unfortunately, the Cheneyites want to make
fighting Al Qaeda our Sputnik. Others want us to worry about some loopy
remark Senator Harry Reid made about the shade of Obamas skin.
is our national project going to be? Racing China, chasing Al Qaeda or
parsing Harry? Of course, to a degree, we need to both race China and
confront Al Qaeda but which will define us?
response to Sputnik made us better educated, more productive, more technologically
advanced and more ingenious, said the Johns Hopkins foreign policy
expert Michael Mandelbaum. Our investments in science and education
spread throughout American society, producing the Internet, more students
studying math and people genuinely wanting to build the nation.
does the war on terror give us? Better drones, body scanners and a lot
of desultory T.S.A. security jobs at airports. Sputnik spurred us
to build a highway to the future, added Mandelbaum. The war
on terror is prompting us to build bridges to nowhere.
keep thinking we can do it all be focused, frightened and frivolous.
We cant. We dont have the money. We dont have the time.
to get out of Afghanistan by Harry Newton
went into Afghanistan to stop Al Qaeda. But it moved to Pakistan, Yemen,
Somalia, Spain, Germany, Britain, and most recently the U.S. The terrorism
threat is now global. It is no longer a conventional land war. It is an
intelligence war -- protecting us from the next shoe, underwear or what-have-you
is increasingly irrelevant and increasingly expensive. It is unaffordable
for a country suffering its worst economic recession in 70 years since
the Great Depression.
preference is to declare victory and bring the troops homes within weeks.
But too many people in Washington have their careers (and income) tied
into this war. Hence getting out fast (and cheaply) is not acceptable
to them. They want to be paid more money to experiment with more American
lives -- so long as those lives are not theirs or their children's.
a more moderate course, I turn to The Nation, a magazine not known
for its conservative views. This piece make sense:
to Exit Afghanistan by
SELIG S. HARRISON, The Nation
the Taliban growing steadily stronger, 30,000 more US troops will not
lead to the early disengagement from the Afghan quagmire envisaged by
President Obama, even in the improbable event that Hamid Karzai delivers
on his promises of better governance. What is needed is a major United
Nations diplomatic initiative designed to get Afghanistan's regional neighbors
to join in setting a disengagement timetable and to share responsibility
for preventing a Taliban return to power in Kabul.
timetable should provide not only for the early withdrawal of all US combat
forces within, say, three years but also for the termination of US military
access to air bases in Afghanistan within five years. It should set the
stage, in short, for the military neutralization of Afghanistan.
commitment to categorical disengagement has long been demanded by Taliban
leaders as the condition for negotiations. It would test whether they
are ready for the local peace deals that the Obama administration appears
prepared to accept, or will insist on power-sharing in Kabul as the price
Even without a regional diplomatic framework, such a withdrawal timetable
would be desirable and will become increasingly inescapable; but its political
risks can be minimized by mobilizing regional support for the political
containment of the Taliban.
Russia, India, Iran and Tajikistan all helped the United States to dislodge
the Taliban in 2001. All of them, together with China, fear that a resurrected
Taliban regime would pose a terrorist threat and would foment domestic
Islamist insurgencies within their borders.
Russia faces nascent Islamist forces in its Muslim south. India worries
that Taliban control in Kabul would lead to more Pakistan-based attacks
like the 2008 one in Mumbai. The Shiite theocracy ruling Iran fears that
a Sunni Taliban regime would help the Sunni Jundullah separatist movement
in the Iranian part of Baluchistan and Salafi extremists in other non-Persian
ethnic minority regions. Tajikistan faces Sunni extremist groups led by
Hizb ut-Tahrir and is increasingly unsettled by an influx of Afghan refugees,
which could grow if the Taliban return to power. China is beset by Islamist
Uighur separatists in Xinjiang.
It is significant that all these neighboring countries are disturbed in
varying degree by the expansion of US air bases near their borders; they
recognize that no Taliban faction is likely to negotiate peace until the
United States and NATO set a timetable that covers both withdrawal of
their forces and closure of US bases. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's
March 2009 proposal for a regional conference, revived recently by Henry
Kissinger, has been ignored by potential participants because it assumes
the indefinite continuance of a US military presence.
Iran and India are already giving large-scale economic aid to Kabul. Both
might well increase it if US-NATO aid diminishes. New Delhi is helping
to train the Afghan police and is prepared to join the United States and
NATO in their faltering efforts to train the army.
China might well step up economic aid once the United States departs,
as Li Qinggong, deputy secretary general of the China Institute for National
Security Studies, hinted in a September 29 statement that also envisioned
talks on "how to dispose of the forces of al-Qaeda" if and when
the United States disengages and the possible establishment of "an
international peacekeeping mission." Beijing is investing $3 billion
in Afghanistan's Aynak copper mine and is "considering" a US
request for help in police training. As members of a regional grouping
known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, all of Afghanistan's neighbors
signed a March 27 statement spelling out detailed action plans for counterterrorism
and narcotics control.
The culmination of a UN-led regional diplomatic initiative would be an
agreement that would not only set a timetable for military disengagement
but would also bar the use of Afghanistan as a base for terrorism and
seek to neutralize it as a focus of regional and major power rivalries.
The agreement would be signed by the regional neighbors, the United States,
NATO and others, like Saudi Arabia, that are playing a role in Afghanistan.
Signatories would pledge to respect the country's neutrality, not to provide
arms to warring factions and to cooperate in UN enforcement of an arms
Neutrality was Afghanistan's traditional posture during the decades of
the monarchy, until Soviet intervention dragged it into global power rivalries.
"The best and most fruitful policy that one can imagine for Afghanistan,"
said King Nadir Shah in 1931, "is a policy of neutrality." The
late Zahir Shah continued this policy and expressed his dismay to me when
the Bonn Agreement of December 2001, following the ouster of the Taliban,
spoke only of "non-interference" and studiously avoided references
to "neutrality" and "nonalignment."
be sure, one of Afghanistan's neighbors, its historic adversary Pakistan,
created the Taliban and has continued to support it in the hope of establishing
an anti-Indian client state in Kabul. But Islamabad would have two powerful
reasons for joining in the accord and for stopping its aid. First, India,
like other signatories, would be barred from operating out of Afghanistan
militarily in the event of an India-Pakistan conflict and from using Afghanistan
as a base for supporting Baluch and other ethnic insurgents in Pakistan.
Second, the accord would be designed only to prevent the Taliban from
re-establishing control in Kabul and using its local strongholds as a
base for terrorist operations elsewhere, not to remove all Taliban influence
in Afghanistan itself. Thus, Pakistan would still have political allies
in future Afghan power struggles.
At present, the United States is dependent on Pakistan as a conduit for
shipping supplies to its forces in Afghanistan. Thus, even though Washington
gives more than $1 billion a year in military hardware and cash subsidies
to the Pakistani army, it has been unable to use the threat of an aid
cutoff to curb Pakistan's aid to the Taliban. Disengagement would free
the United States to use its aid leverage. Pressure from China, which
provides Islamabad with fighter aircraft, would also help assure Pakistani
participation in a regional accord. No UN monitoring system could completely
seal off arms aid to the rival Afghan factions or bring an end to the
competition between India and Pakistan for influence in Kabul; but a framework
for regional cooperation could prevent a return to anarchy and civil war.
principal obstacle to a regional neutralization accord is likely to be
the Pentagon's desire to have "permanent access" to its network
of Afghan bases near the borders of Russia, China, Iran and Central Asia
to facilitate intelligence surveillance as well as any future military
operations. Some of the seventy-four US bases in Afghanistan have been
developed for counterinsurgency operations and might be expendable. But
the big airfields at Bagram and Kandahar, which accounted for $425.7 million
in the fiscal 2008 Pentagon military construction budget alone, are expected
to expand steadily in the years ahead.
President Obama has yet to address the future of the air bases, and until
he does, no diplomatic cover for US disengagement will be possible. The
underlying issue that he confronts is what an "exit strategy"
means and whether the United States will be using Afghanistan to further
its global power projection long after he has left office and long after
the Taliban and Al Qaeda are forgotten.
this New York Times piece and ask yourself. How can we ever win this war
-- even if we knew what "winning" actually was? -- Harry
Behind Afghan Bombing, an Agent With
Pakistan The suicide bomber who killed seven C.I.A. officers and
a Jordanian spy last week was a double agent who was taken onto the base
in Afghanistan because the Americans hoped he might be able to deliver
top members of Al Qaedas network, according to Western government
had been recruited by the Jordanian intelligence service and taken to
Afghanistan to infiltrate Al Qaeda by posing as a foreign jihadi, the
But in a
deadly turnabout, the supposed informant strapped explosives to his body
and blew himself up at a meeting Wednesday at the C.I.A.s Forward
Operating Base Chapman in the southeastern province of Khost.
at the C.I.A. base dealt a devastating blow to the spy agencys operations
against militants in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, eliminating
an elite team using an informant with strong jihadi credentials. The attack
further delayed hope of penetrating Al Qaedas upper ranks, and also
seemed potent evidence of militants ability to strike back against
their American pursuers.
also jeopardize relations between the C.I.A. and the Jordanian spy service,
which officials said had vouched for the would-be informant.
service, called the General Intelligence Directorate, for years has been
one of the C.I.A.s closest and most useful allies in the Middle
In a telephone
interview, a person associated with the Pakistani Taliban identified the
bomber as Humam Khalil Mohammed, a Jordanian physician. Western officials
said that Mr. Mohammed had been in a Jordanian prison and that he was
recruited by the Jordanian spy service.
was not closely searched because of his perceived value as someone who
could lead American forces to senior Qaeda leaders, and because the Jordanian
intelligence officer had identified him as a potentially valuable informant,
the Western officials said.
officials and others who were interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity
because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
and former American officials said Monday that because of Mr. Mohammeds
medical background, he might have been recruited to find the whereabouts
of Ayman al-Zawahri, the Egyptian doctor who is Al Qaedas second
had traveled from Kabul, the Afghan capital, to Khost for a meeting with
the informant, a sign that the C.I.A. had come to trust the informant
and that it was eager to learn what he might have gleaned from operations
in the field, according to a former C.I.A. official with experience in
official said that the fact that militants could carry out a successful
attack using a double agent showed their strength even after a steady
barrage of missile strikes fired by C.I.A. drone aircraft.
agent operations are really complex, he said. The fact that
they can pull this off shows that they are not really on the run. They
have the ability to kick back and think about these things.
of the Jordanian intelligence officer, Capt. Sharif Ali bin Zeid, was
reported in recent days by Jordanian officials, but they did not confirm
exactly where he was killed or what he was doing in Afghanistan.
intelligence officials were deeply embarrassed by the attacks because
they had taken the informant to the Americans, said one American government
official briefed on the events.
said that the Jordanians had such a good reputation with American intelligence
officials that the informant was not screened before entering the compound.
author of Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice and a consultant
to the United States government about terrorism, said in a telephone interview
that Mr. Mohammed had used the online persona Abu Dujana al-Khorasani
and was an influential jihadi voice on the Web.
one of the most revered authors on the jihadists forums, Mr.
in the top five jihadists. Hes one of the biggest guns out there.
of the posts under his online persona, Mr. Mohammed used elusive language
filled with references to literature and the Koran to describe his support
for violent opposition to the United States-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
a fighter for God kills a U.S. soldier on the corner of a tank, the supporters
of Jihad have killed tens of thousands of Americans through their connection
to the opposition, he wrote in one posting.
said that Al Fajr Media, which is Al Qaedas official media distribution
network, conducted an interview with Abu Dujana al-Khorasani published
in Al Qaedas online magazine, called Vanguards of Khorasan.
of the bomber was first reported by Al Jazeera, which identified him as
Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi. The television network reported that
Mr. Balawi was taken to Afghanistan to help track down Mr. Zawahri.
was also embarrassing for Jordans government, which did not want
the depths of its cooperation with the C.I.A. revealed to its own citizens
or other Arabs in the region.
by the official Jordanian news agency said Captain Zeid was killed in
Afghanistan on Wednesday as he performed his humanitarian duty with
the Jordanian contingent of the U.N. peacekeeping forces.
States, and the C.I.A. in particular, are deeply unpopular in Jordan,
where at least half the population is of Palestinian origin and where
Washingtons support for Israel is roundly condemned.
II and his government, while working closely with Washington in counterterrorism
operations and providing strategic support for operations in Iraq, try
to keep that work secret.
Taliban had previously said the bomber was someone the C.I.A. had recruited
to work with them, who then offered the militants his services as a double
Intelligence Directorate has received millions of dollars from the C.I.A.
since the American invasion of Iraq, where the Jordanian spy agency played
a central role in the campaign against Iraqi insurgents.
In the past,
Jordanian officials have privately criticized American intelligence services,
saying they relied too heavily on technology and not enough on agents
capable of infiltrating operations. In 2006, the Jordanians were credited
with helping to locate and kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda
declined to comment about the circumstances of the bombing in Afghanistan.
and former American intelligence officials said the C.I.A. base in Khost
was used to collect intelligence about militant networks in the border
officers on the base used the information to plan strikes against Qaeda
and Taliban leaders, along with top operatives of the Haqqani network.
officials have been applying pressure to the government of Pakistan to
drive out the Haqqani network, whose fighters hold sway over parts of
Afghanistan, including Paktika, Paktia and Khost Provinces, and are a
serious threat to American forces.
former C.I.A. official said that Mr. Zeids presence on the Khost
base was a sign that the Jordanian intelligence agency was using a spy
to infiltrate militant networks in the region, and most likely to penetrate
cells of Arab Qaeda militants.
the Jordanian intelligence officer had been vouching for this guy, the
C.I.A. would definitely have wanted him on the base, said the former
of the seven C.I.A. officers killed in the attack arrived in a military
plane on Monday at Dover Air Force Base, where a private ceremony was
held. The event was attended by Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director,
as well as by family members of the slain officers.
December 6, 2009
failed. Obama commits another 30,000 of our finest young men and women.
Obama is committing 30,000 more troops to support:
dysfunctional and massively corrupt government of President Hamid Karzai,
which focuses on enriching themselves (on our aid monies). It has no
interest in governing or securing the safety of the Afghan population.
The Taliban offers security, hence it popularity with many Afghans.
Afghan Army whose soldiers are illiterate, under-nourished and dirt
poor. Many are motivated by cash sign-up bonuses and substantial meals.
Many desert the army once paid and fattened up. Attrition rates are
speech failed to produce one new reason for staying in Afghanistan, let
alone adding another 30,000 American boys and girls in the prime of their
lives -- all of whom are now in harm's way. Many will return in a body
bag. Many will return missing a limb. Many will return with serious long-term
safety of the American people is not an issue. On our own military's estimate,
there are only 100 members of Al Qaeda. And all have moved from Afghanistan
to Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and perhaps Sudan. It's not hard to hide 100
people. There are better ways of catching them than a massive troop increase
into the wrong country. For example, the Israelis traced and caught the
murderers of their athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
are two fundamental grounds for our not being in Afghanistan:
The moral ground. We're meddling in someone else's country. No one
likes foreign occupiers. Remember our own history: we kicked out the British.
We cannot succeed in achieving whatever our goal is -- however it's
defined. Obama's speech did not define a goal.
to read more on Afghanistan? Click on the articles in the left column.
I picked different writers and different publications. Read the material
to do something? Send the White House an email Go
your congressperson or senator an email. Ultimately we'll have to vote
Barack Obama out of office.
is Afghanistan? Some facts: Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest
and least developed countries. Two-thirds of the population lives on fewer
than $2 dollars a day. The biggest business is dealing with "aid"
money flowing in from the U.S. and other countries, but mostly the U.S.
The second biggest business is growing poppy for opium, morphine and heroin.
Some 3.3 million Afghans are involved in producing opium. Poppy production
and transport is taxed by, and funds the Taliban.
has no oil. We don't know whether it has other significant minerals, except
one: copper. China is sinking $3.5 billion into Afghanistan to exploit
one of the last remaining copper reserves on the planet. China has no
troops in Afghanistan and is not supporting the U.S.
Timeline, and the Talibans By
MAX HASTINGS, London
IT is hard
to be optimistic about the outcome of President Obamas troop surge
in Afghanistan. The additional forces sound large in headlines, but shrink
small in the mountains. The commitment is intended as an earnest indication
of Americas will. But neither the number of troops nor the timeline
that mandates a drawdown in less than two years is likely to impress the
Taliban, who think in decades, or for that matter the Afghan people.
on both sides of the Atlantic now privately believe we are in the business
of managing failure, and that is how the surge looks. The president allowed
himself to be convinced that a refusal to reinforce NATOs mission
in Afghanistan would fatally weaken the resolve of Pakistan in resisting
Islamic militancy. Meanwhile at home, refusal to meet the American generals
demands threatened to brand him as the man who lost the Afghan war. Thus
the surge lies in the realm of politics, not warfare.
As the president
said, the usual comparisons with Vietnam are mistaken. Todays United
States Army and Marine Corps are skilled counterinsurgency fighters. Their
commanders, especially Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan,
are officers of the highest gifts. Combat and casualties are on a much
smaller scale than in Southeast Asia four decades ago.
fact, however, is that military operations are meaningless unless in support
of a sustainable political system. One Indochina parallel seems valid:
that war was lost chiefly because Americas Vietnamese allies were
If we lose
in Afghanistan, it will not be because American soldiers are defeated,
but because our Afghans the regime of Hamid Karzai
cannot deliver to the people honest policing, acceptable administration
and visible quality of life improvements. Im hardly the first to
say this. Yet the yawning hole in Mr. Obamas speech at West Point,
and in American policy, is the absence of a credible Afghan domestic and
be hard to overstate the cultural chasm separating Afghans from their
foreign allies and expatriate returnees. Scarcely a single Western soldier
speaks their languages. In the entire country there are only a few hundred
competent administrators, and most of them are corrupt. Last year, I met
an Afghan minister who had spent more than half his young life as an exile.
He spoke and acted like a Californian. To Pashtun tribesmen, he must seem
like a Martian.
has been a disaster for our country, an Afghan businessman once
told me, in tones of withering scorn. Like most of his kind, he may live
in Kabul, but he has one eye on the airport.
there is great uncertainty about the impact of the surge. The Wests
purpose is not to remake Afghanistan, an impossible task, but to promote
regional stability and encourage the Pakistanis in their struggle against
importance of these objectives is not in doubt. The question is whether
they are attainable, and whether an increased troop commitment in Afghanistan
will do much to advance them. The Islamabad government sincerely, even
passionately, wants the United States and its allies to continue their
Afghan campaign. But among Pakistans vast population, the West is
much more unpopular indeed, hated than it was in 2006 or,
for that matter, 2001. There is a danger that the surge will intensify
that popular alienation, further fueling Islamic extremism and thus terrorism.
can be made toward regional stability without reducing tensions between
Pakistan and India. Indias dalliance with the Afghan government,
which has been given hundreds of millions of dollars in Indian aid, has
increased the deep paranoia of the Pakistani Army and intelligence service.
The status quo will only lead powerful elements of Pakistans security
forces to continue to support Islamic militants as proxies against India.
participants in the Afghan drama, even the most pessimistic, urge a precipitate
withdrawal. We are too deeply committed for that. What seems important
is to recognize that politics and diplomacy are the fundamentals, though
they cannot progress unless security improves. Even the most limited stabilization
program will founder unless all the regional powers, including Iran, become
parties to it. It is difficult to imagine that the Karzai administration
can raise its game sufficiently to gain a popular mandate strong enough
to stop the Taliban.
Obama said on Tuesday, Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based
popular insurgency. Yes, the Taliban command limited support, and
have relatively few hard-core fighters. But many Afghans, especially Pashtuns,
unite in dislike both for the Western occupiers and the Kabul
depends, as General McChrystal seems to recognize, on reaching accommodations
with the tribes from the bottom up, not the top down. The smartest surge
will be one of cash payments to local leaders. You can buy a lot of Afghans
for a small fraction of the cost of deploying a Marine company.
the greatest problem for Western policymakers is that Taliban leaders
watch CNN and Al Jazeera. They know that the British public has turned
against the war, probably irrevocably, and that American opinion is deeply
divided. They believe they have more patience than us, and they may be
troop surge was perhaps politically inescapable. But any chance of salvaging
a minimally acceptable outcome hinges not on what American and allied
soldiers can do on the battlefield, but on putting together a coherent
political strategy. Mr. Obamas speech represented a gesture to his
generals rather than a convincing path to success in Afghanistan.
is a former editor of The Daily Telegraph and the author of the forthcoming
good news is that more and more magazines and newspapers are coming out
against the Afghanistan War. The basic argument that everyone agrees on
is that the War is simply not worth the American lives we are losing and
the treasure we are spending -- far more each year than Afghanistan's
difficulty for me is figuring which of the many articles to drop onto
this web site. My goal is to portray the broadest spectrum of views on
the War. If you have items you'd like posted, please email me .
For now let's start with the lead article in the November 30 issue of
The New Yorker:
by Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker
the sixty-four years since V-J Day, the United States has fought five
wars big enough to be styled major. Two of these, Vietnam
(1962-75, by the most common reckoning) and Iraq (2003-11, with any luck),
were conceived in sin. Their beginnings were fatally compromised by deceptions
that congealed into lies, abetted by profound geostrategic misjudgments.
In Vietnam, illusions piled on illusions. The Tonkin Gulf incident was
not even an incident, since an incident, to be an incident, has to occur.
The fear that Communism would spread throughout Asia and beyond if it
was not stopped in Vietnam turned out to be groundless; so did the belief
that the other side was motivated more by totalitarian ideology than by
national feeling. The Iraq War, too, was midwifed by falsehoods and follies:
the falsehoods that the Baghdad regime possessed weapons of mass
destruction and that Saddam Husseins was a hidden hand behind
Al Qaeda and the attacks of September 11, 2001; the follies that the war
would be a cakewalk and, most seductively, that it would transform
the Middle East. In both wars, our enemy was only sometimes a conventional
army; as often, if not more so, it was an elusive guerrilla force that
was frequently indistinguishable from the civilian population.
two of our five big-scale wars, Korea (1950-53) and the Gulf War (1991),
were legitimate in their origins and (by the standards of mechanized slaughter)
scrupulous in their execution. The Korean police actiona
euphemism, but one that carried real meaning at a time when hopes for
a global order of international law were fresh and highwas fought
with the sanction (and partly under the flag) of the United Nations. The
Gulf War, too, had the sanction of the U.N. and its Security Council.
Four decades apart, the two wars shared many features, starting with the
moral and temporal clarity of their beginnings. Both were fought in response
to armed aggression across international borders. In both, the American
Administration resisted powerful political pressures to expand its objective
to include the destruction and conquest of the regime responsible for
the original aggression. And, after both, the cessation of hostilities
along the restored borders has held, even if its form does not quite deserve
the name of peace.
in Afghanistan scrambles the familiar categories so thoroughly that the
customary rubrics for making judgments dont fit. As in Korea and
the Gulf, we went to war to punish an unmistakable act of aggressionthis
time on our own soil. But the aggressor was not a state; it was a band
of freelance fanatics protected by a state. The goals of our response
were as clear as the morning of September 11th: to call to account those
who sent the murderers and the government that harbored them. Our action
had the backing of NATO, which, for the first time in its history, activated
the provision of its charter that declares an attack against one an attack
against all. The support of the international community was
nearly unanimous. Even Iran lent a hand.
election campaign, Barack Obama and the Democrats put forth a storya
narrative, as political reporters now like to sayabout
two wars. According to the story, the good war was the war
in Afghanistan. But it failed to fully achieve its principal goal because
at the crucial moment the Bush Administration, in its obsession with Saddam,
diverted resources and attention to Iraqa bad war. The
diversion allowed Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban leadership to slip
the noose at Tora Boraa guerrilla Dunkirk. I dont oppose
all wars, an Illinois state senator had famously told a rally on
the very afternoon in October, 2002, that the Iraq War Resolution was
introduced in Congress. Im opposed to dumb wars. Iraq
was a dumb war; Afghanistan was, or could be, a smart one.
considerable truth in the narrative. But it contained an almost subliminal
suggestion that somehow the clock could be turned backthat the events
of the Afghanistan wars first months could be replayed, this time
with a better outcome. When Obama moved into the White House, he brought
the narrative with him. In August, at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention,
he said of the conflict, This is not a war of choice. This is a
war of necessity. By October, he had ordered in thirty-four thousand
more troops, doubling the overall American deployment in Afghanistan.
But he had also begun an intensive review of the entire policy.
Day, at a full-scale meeting of his national-security team, Obama was
presented with four options. According to what little has leaked out from
under the closed doors, all four options called for more American troops,
from ten thousand at the lower end to forty thousand at the upper. Though
some in the Administration favor a smaller military footprint instead
of a larger one, that was not among the choices offered to the President.
For this fifth war, there was no fifth option.
rejected all four. He has apparently decided against anything like a quick
drawdown, but he wants a map that plots an eventual way out, not just
an abundance of ways further in. As he told an interviewer, there can
be no indefinite stay, no permanent protectorate.
And he has questions he would like answered.
So do the
rest of us. Does it make sense, for example, to spend lives and treasure
trying to eradicate safe havens in Afghanistan when Al Qaeda
has so many otherwell, options, from Sudan to Hamburg? Will a bigger,
longer, and presumably bloodier occupation advance or retard the ultimate
aim of discouraging Islamist terrorism? Will adding American troopsat
a million dollars a year per soldierencourage Afghans to fight for
themselves or prompt them to leave the fighting to us? Can Afghanistans
nominal government, with its President elected by fraud and its recent
rating as the second most corrupt on earth, be finessed or somehow remade?
we are already spending annually on Afghanistan is greater than its gross
domestic product. Are there nonmilitary ways we could deploy that sum
which would advance our goals as efficaciously? Would even forty thousand
additional troops suffice for anything resembling the ambitious nation-building
program that General Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander in
Afghanistan, has proposed? (Counterinsurgency theory suggests that it
would take more than ten times that many; would fortyor ten, or
twentythousand be only a first installment?) Any counterinsurgency
campaign, were told, requires a very long commitment. Is the voluntary
association of democracies called NATO, organized to deter war more than
to wage it, capable of sustaining a twenty or thirty years war?
For that matter, does the United Statesa decentralized populist
democracy struggling with economic decline and political gridlockhave
that capacity? And what about Pakistan?
has come under heavy criticism for taking the time to ponder the imponderables.
The urgent necessity, a respected Washington columnist wrote
the other day, is to make a decisionwhether or not it is right.
Really? Does the columnist suppose that a country unable to find the patience
for weeks (even months) of thinking could summon the stamina for years
(even decades) of killing and dying? What Obama seems to have discovered
is that this is no longer the war that began eight years ago. That war
was an act of retribution and prevention. But now who are we punishing?
What are we preventing? The old narrative is broken. The fifth war is
becoming a sixth.
Afghanistan is known as The Country of a Thousand Valleys
of eastern Afghanistan. Photo by Moises Saman for The New York Times
GDP in 2008 is estimated at $21.4 million.
There are 28.1 million Afghans.
Their per capita GDP is $760 -- the 172nd lowest in the world.
Two-thirds of the population lives on fewer than 2 US dollars a day.
The last election was rigged. Corruption is rampant.
What could American possibly want with or benefit from this country?
Envoy Urges Caution on Forces for Afghanistan By
ELISABETH BUMILLER and MARK LANDLER, New York Times
The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, who once served as
the top American military commander there, has expressed in writing his
reservations about deploying additional troops to the country, three senior
American officials said Wednesday.
of the ambassador, Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general, puts
him in stark opposition to the current American and NATO commander in
Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who has asked for 40,000 more
Eikenberry sent his reservations to Washington in a cable last week, the
officials said. In that same period, President Obama and his national
security advisers have begun examining an option that would send relatively
few troops to Afghanistan, about 10,000 to 15,000, with most designated
as trainers for the Afghan security forces.
option was one of four alternatives under consideration by Mr. Obama and
his war council at a meeting in the White House Situation Room on Wednesday
afternoon. The other three options call for troop levels of around 20,000,
30,000 and 40,000, the three officials said.
asked General Eikenberry about his concerns during the meeting on Wednesday,
officials said, and raised questions about each of the four military options
and how they might be tinkered with or changed. A central focus of Mr.
Obamas questions, officials said, was how long it would take to
see results and be able to withdraw.
wants to know where the off-ramps are, one official said.
pushed for revisions in the options to clarify how and when
American troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government.
He raised questions, officials said, about the exit strategy for American
troops and sought to make clear that the commitment by the United States
would not be open-ended.
One of the
biggest obstacles in reaching a decision, an official said, is uncertainty
surrounding the credibility of the Afghan government.
who requested anonymity in order to discuss delicate White House deliberations,
did not describe General Eikenberrys reasons for opposing additional
American forces, although he has recently expressed strong concerns about
President Hamid Karzais reliability as a partner and corruption
in his government. Mr. Obama appointed General Eikenberry as ambassador
tours in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, when he served as the top
American commander, and from 2002 to 2003, when he was responsible for
building and training the Afghan security forces General Eikenberry
encountered what he later described as the Afghan governments dependence
on Americans to do the job that then-President George W. Bush was urging
the Afghans to begin doing themselves.
officials said the low-end option of 10,000 to 15,000 more troops would
mean little or no significant increase in American combat forces in Afghanistan.
The bulk of the additional forces would go to train the Afghan Army, with
a smaller number focused on hunting and killing terrorists, the officials
option would essentially reject the more ambitious counterinsurgency strategy
envisioned by General McChrystal, which calls for a large number of forces
to protect the Afghan population, work on development projects and build
up the countrys civil institutions.
largely deprive General McChrystal of the ability to send large numbers
of American forces to the southern provinces in Afghanistan where the
Taliban control broad areas of territory. And it would limit the number
of population centers the United States could secure, officials said.
Eikenberry crossed paths with General McChrystal during his second tour
in Afghanistan, when General McChrystal led the militarys Joint
Special Operations Command, which conducted clandestine operations in
both Iraq and Afghanistan.
a senior military official said last year, was occasionally tense as General
McChrystal pushed for approval for commando missions, and General Eikenberry
was resistant because of concerns that the missions were too risky and
could lead to civilian casualties.
It was unclear
whether General Eikenberry, who participated in the Afghanistan policy
meeting on Wednesday by video link from Kabul, the Afghan capital, had
been asked by the White House to put his views in writing. It was also
unclear how persuasive they will be with Mr. Obama.
for the State Department declined to comment, while a spokesman for General
Eikenberry in Kabul could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
officials say that in recent meetings on Afghanistan at the White House,
the president has repeatedly asked whether a large American force might
undercut the urgency of training the Afghan security forces and persuading
them to fight more on their own.
As Mr. Obama
nears a decision, the White House is sending officials to brief allies
and other countries on an almost weekly basis. The administrations
special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke,
is heading to Paris, Berlin and Moscow. Other officials in his office
are meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing.
is expected to mull over his options during a trip to Asia that begins
Thursday. He is due back in Washington on Nov. 19 and could announce the
policy before Thanksgiving, officials said, but is more likely to wait
until early December.
Eikenberry has been an energetic envoy, traveling widely around Afghanistan
to meet with tribal leaders and to inspect American development projects.
He has been
pushing the State Department for additional civilian personnel in the
country, including in areas like agriculture, where the United States
wants to help wean farmers off cultivating poppies. The State Department
has tried to accommodate his requests, according to a senior official,
but has turned down some because of budget constraints and its desire
to cap the overall number of civilians in Afghanistan at roughly 1,000.
a significant role, along with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, in
persuading Mr. Karzai last month to accept the results of an election
commission, which called for a runoff presidential ballot.
never took place because Mr. Karzais main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah,
subsequently withdrew from the contest.
Eikenberry also angered Mr. Karzai early in the campaign when he appeared
at news conferences called by three of Mr. Karzais opponents. American
officials said Mr. Karzai viewed that as an inappropriate intrusion into
Afghanistans domestic politics.
House Afghanistan meeting lasted from 2:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m., and was
Mr. Obamas eighth session in two months on the subject.
A few hours
before the meeting began, the president walked through the rain-soaked
grass at Arlington National Cemetery, stopping by Section 60, where troops
from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.
It was Mr.
Obamas first Veterans Day since taking office, and in an address
at the cemetery he hailed the sacrifice and determination of the nations
this time of war, we gather here, mindful that the generation serving
today already deserves a place alongside previous generations for the
courage they have shown and the sacrifices that they have made,
Mr. Obama said.
David E. Sanger, Jeff Zeleny and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.
Mission to withdraw 600 of its foreign employees
United Nations' mission in Afghanistan announced Nov. 5 that it is withdrawing
600 of its foreign employees from the war-torn country due to security
concerns. The decision appears to have been prompted by an Oct. 28 armed
assault by Taliban militants on a private guesthouse housing 40 U.N. election
workers in Kabul that killed six U.N. employees.
officials said the move is temporary, and that these 600 employees will
relocate to offices in Central Asia and Dubai until the United Nations
is able to build a more secure compound to house all its employees. The
bulk of U.N. workers were residing in some 90 guesthouses spread throughout
Kabul, offering an array of soft targets for militant attacks. After the
Oct. 28 attack, those U.N. employees remaining in country will reside
in an EU-run police training facility.
that 5,600 of the 6,700 U.N. employees in Afghanistan are local Afghans,
the outflow of foreign U.N. employees may not have an immediate or dramatic
effect on U.N. operations in the country. Afghan nationals carry the bulk
of the load in operations in the field. However, this withdrawal comes
at a critical time in the U.S. debate over Afghanistan. The U.N. mission
in Afghanistan covers a range of activities, from election organization
to food distribution to lessons in local governance. Any time- and resource-intensive
counterinsurgency approach, like the one currently being advocated by
U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, requires personnel on the ground that
are able and willing to venture away from base and interact with the people.
Even though the foreign contingent of U.N. employees is only about 16
percent of the total U.N. presence in Afghanistan, a hearts and minds
campaign necessitates a more robust U.N. presence. Instead, the U.N. contingent
is making significant cuts at a crucial juncture of the war with no guarantee
Taliban has learned a valuable lesson from this experience. As STRATFOR
noted at the time of the attack, the Taliban has recognized the utility
of targeting aid workers. If the U.S. strategy is built on winning hearts
and minds, the Taliban counterstrategy is to do whatever it can to keep
those aid workers from reaching the population. The Taliban has strategically
pursued softer targets, such as dispersed U.N. guesthouses, focusing in
on a traditionally risk- and casualty-averse Western aid agency. This
follows a pattern seen previously in Iraq, where the U.N. withdrew its
personnel following the 2003 bombing of its office at the Canal Hotel,
which killed U.N. Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello. The psychological
impact of the attack on U.N. workers in Kabul was evidently severe enough
to elicit a withdrawal, a lesson that will not be lost on the Taliban
in pursuing additional soft targets.
the arguments in one short comment From
the Poet Mc Teagle, California,
were able to pacify and hold new territory by ruthlessly slaughtering
anyone who objected, and then colonizing the area with their own chosen
people. These elite colonists lead the way in creating a new and stable
society, loyal to Rome. China is doing this with Tibet.
are willing to do the same, with the same bloody ruthlessness, we will
fail. And there is no reason to do such a thing in this modern age.
Why we need
to throw away billions of dollars and thousands of lives to interfere
in an impoverished country containing nothing, absolutely nothing of value
is baffling. It is folly beyond belief.
in our government were clever, they would know enough to leave Afghanistan,
making that forsaken place Russia, Iran and Pakistan's problem, tying
up their people and their money. Why is our government so stupid?
official resigns over Afghan war
Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain says he no longer knows why
his nation is fighting
DeYoung Washington Post Staff Writer
October 27, 2009 When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year,
he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was
looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan.
former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served
in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department.
By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.
But last month,
in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became
the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which
he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.
Photo Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post
"I have lost
understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States'
presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the
department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our
current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not
upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."
The reaction to
Hoh's letter was immediate. Senior U.S. officials, concerned that they would
lose an outstanding officer and perhaps gain a prominent critic, appealed to
him to stay.
Karl W. Eikenberry brought him to Kabul and offered him a job on his senior
embassy staff. Hoh declined. From there, he was flown home for a face-to-face
meeting with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative
for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer," Holbrooke said
in an interview. "We all thought that given how serious his letter was,
how much commitment there was, and his prior track record, we should pay close
attention to him."
While he did not share Hoh's view that the war "wasn't worth the fight,"
Holbrooke said, "I agreed with much of his analysis." He asked Hoh
to join his team in Washington, saying that "if he really wanted to affect
policy and help reduce the cost of the war on lives and treasure," why
not be "inside the building, rather than outside, where you can get a lot
of attention but you won't have the same political impact?"
Hoh accepted the
argument and the job, but changed his mind a week later. "I recognize the
career implications, but it wasn't the right thing to do," he said in an
interview Friday, two days after his resignation became final.
some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," Hoh
said. Although he said his time in Zabul was the "second-best job I've
ever had," his dominant experience is from the Marines, where many of his
closest friends still serve.
plenty of dudes who need to be killed," he said of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
"I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys."
But many Afghans,
he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because
its troops are there -- a growing military presence in villages and valleys
where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt,
U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence,
and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted, he said, the United States
is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off
As the White House
deliberates over whether to deploy more troops, Hoh said he decided to speak
out publicly because "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people
in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, 'Listen, I don't think this is
what I'm getting into . . . what people are going to say about me," he
said. "I never thought I would be doing this."
-- from Marine, reconstruction expert and diplomat to war protester -- was not
an easy one. Over the weeks he spent thinking about and drafting his resignation
letter, he said, "I felt physically nauseous at times."
His first ambition
in life was to become a firefighter, like his father. Instead, after graduation
from Tufts University and a desk job at a publishing firm, he joined the Marines
in 1998. After five years in Japan and at the Pentagon -- and at a point early
in the Iraq war when it appeared to many in the military that the conflict was
all but over -- he left the Marines to join the private sector, only to be recruited
as a Defense Department civilian in Iraq. A trained combat engineer, he was
sent to manage reconstruction efforts in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit.
"At one point,"
Hoh said, "I employed up to 5,000 Iraqis" handing out tens of millions
of dollars in cash to construct roads and mosques. His program was one of the
few later praised as a success by the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq
In 2005, Hoh took
a job with BearingPoint, a major technology and management contractor at the
State Department, and was sent to the Iraq desk in Foggy Bottom. When the U.S.
effort in Iraq began to turn south in early 2006, he was recalled to active
duty from the reserves. He assumed command of a company in Anbar province, where
Marines were dying by the dozens.
Hoh came home
in the spring of 2007 with citations for what one Marine evaluator called "uncommon
bravery," a recommendation for promotion, and what he later recognized
was post-traumatic stress disorder. Of all the deaths he witnessed, the one
that weighed most heavily on him happened in a helicopter crash in Anbar in
December 2006. He and a friend, Maj. Joseph T. McCloud, were aboard when the
aircraft fell into the rushing waters below Haditha dam. Hoh swam to shore,
dropped his 90 pounds of gear and dived back in to try to save McCloud and three
others he could hear calling for help.
He was a strong
swimmer, he said, but by the time he reached them, "they were gone."
It wasn't until
his third month home, in an apartment in Arlington, that it hit him like a wave.
"All the things you hear about how it comes over you, it really did. .
. . You have dreams, you can't sleep. You're just, 'Why did I fail? Why didn't
I save that man? Why are his kids growing up without a father?' "
Like many Marines
in similar situations, he didn't seek help. "The only thing I did,"
Hoh said, "was drink myself blind."
What finally began
to bring him back, he said, was a television show -- "Rescue Me" on
the FX cable network -- about a fictional New York firefighter who descended
into "survivor guilt" and alcoholism after losing his best friend
in the World Trade Center attacks.
He began talking
to friends and researching the subject online. He visited McCloud's family and
"apologized to his wife . . . because I didn't do enough to save them,"
even though his rational side knew he had done everything he could.
the service at the funeral of a Marine from his company who committed suicide
after returning from Iraq. "My God, I was so afraid they were going to
be angry," he said of the man's family. "But they weren't. All they
did was tell me how much he loved the Marine Corps."
I'll carry for the rest of my life," he said of his Iraq experiences. "But
it's something I've settled, I've reconciled with."
Late last year,
a friend told Hoh that the State Department was offering year-long renewable
hires for Foreign Service officers in Afghanistan. It was a chance, he thought,
to use the development skills he had learned in Tikrit under a fresh administration
that promised a new strategy.
he brought home from Afghanistan, Hoh appears as a tall young man in civilian
clothes, with a neatly trimmed beard and a pristine flak jacket. He stands with
Eikenberry, the ambassador, on visits to northern Kunar province and Zabul,
in the south. He walks with Zabul Gov. Mohammed Ashraf Naseri, confers with
U.S. military officers and sits at food-laden meeting tables with Afghan tribal
leaders. In one picture, taken on a desolate stretch of desert on the Pakistani
border, he poses next to a hand-painted sign in Pashto marking the frontier.
The border picture
was taken in early summer, after he arrived in Zabul following two months in
a civilian staff job at the military brigade headquarters in Jalalabad, in eastern
Afghanistan. It was in Jalalabad that his doubts started to form.
Hoh was assigned
to research the response to a question asked by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during an April visit. Mullen wanted to know why
the U.S. military had been operating for years in the Korengal Valley, an isolated
spot near Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan where a number of Americans
had been killed. Hoh concluded that there was no good reason. The people of
Korengal didn't want them; the insurgency appeared to have arrived in strength
only after the Americans did, and the battle between the two forces had achieved
only a bloody stalemate.
Korengal and other
areas, he said, taught him "how localized the insurgency was. I didn't
realize that a group in this valley here has no connection with an insurgent
group two kilometers away." Hundreds, maybe thousands, of groups across
Afghanistan, he decided, had few ideological ties to the Taliban but took its
money to fight the foreign intruders and maintain their own local power bases.
what kind of shook me," he said. "I thought it was more nationalistic.
But it's localism. I would call it valley-ism."
'Continued . .
Zabul is "one
of the five or six provinces always vying for the most difficult and neglected,"
a State Department official said. Kandahar, the Taliban homeland, is to the
southwest and Pakistan to the south. Highway 1, the main link between Kandahar
and Kabul and the only paved road in Zabul, bisects the province. Over the past
year, the official said, security has become increasingly difficult.
By the time Hoh
arrived at the U.S. military-run provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in the
Zabul capital of Qalat, he said, "I already had a lot of frustration. But
I knew at that point, the new administration was . . . going to do things differently.
So I thought I'd give it another chance." He read all the books he could
get his hands on, from ancient Afghan history, to the Soviet occupation in the
1980s, through Taliban rule in the 1990s and the eight years of U.S. military
the Kandahar-based regional head of the U.S. PRTs in the south, considered Hoh
"very capable" and appointed him the senior official among the three
U.S. civilians in the province. "I always thought very highly of Matt,"
he said in a telephone interview.
with administration policy of decentralizing power in Afghanistan, Hoh worked
to increase the political capabilities and clout of Naseri, the provincial governor,
and other local officials. "Materially, I don't think we accomplished much,"
he said in retrospect, but "I think I did represent our government well."
Naseri told him
that at least 190 local insurgent groups were fighting in the largely rural
province, Hoh said. "It was probably exaggerated," he said, "but
the truth is that the majority" are residents with "loyalties to their
families, villages, valleys and to their financial supporters."
Hoh's doubts increased
with Afghanistan's Aug. 20 presidential election, marked by low turnout and
widespread fraud. He concluded, he said in his resignation letter, that the
war "has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and
modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional.
It is this latter group that composes and supports the Pashtun insurgency."
seemingly infinite, local groups," he wrote, the insurgency "is fed
by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault,
going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal
and external enemies. The U.S. and Nato presence in Pashtun valleys and villages,
as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun
soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency
he said at the end of the letter, "must be reassured their dead have sacrificed
for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept.
I have lost confidence such assurances can be made any more."
that he was taken aback by Hoh's resignation but that he made no effort to dissuade
him. "It's Matt's decision, and I honored, I respected" it, he said.
"I didn't agree with his assessment, but it was his decision."
similar respect, but declined through an aide to discuss "individual personnel
Francis J. Ricciardone
Jr., Eikenberry's deputy, said he met with Hoh in Kabul but spoke to him "in
confidence. I respect him as a thoughtful man who has rendered selfless service
to our country, and I expect most of Matt's colleagues would share this positive
estimation of him, whatever may be our differences of policy or program perspectives."
This week, Hoh
is scheduled to meet with Vice President Biden's foreign policy adviser, Antony
Blinken, at Blinken's invitation.
If the United
States is to remain in Afghanistan, Hoh said, he would advise a reduction in
He also would
suggest providing more support for Pakistan, better U.S. communication and propaganda
skills to match those of al-Qaeda, and more pressure on Afghan President Hamid
Karzai to clean up government corruption -- all options being discussed in White
to have some kind of governance there, and we have some obligation for it not
to be a bloodbath," Hoh said. "But you have to draw the line somewhere,
and say this is their problem to solve."
The above is
the full Washington Post story. It's available at the Post's website -- Washington
Dumb. And Dumber.
Another reason to close this useless war
14 Americans Die in Afghan Helicopter Crashes
(Oct 27, 2009) Fourteen Americans were killed in Afghanistan on
Monday in two separate incidents involving helicopters.
and three civilian employees of the U.S. embassy all of them Americans
were killed in a helicopter crash in western Afghanistan, military
officials said, and in southern Afghanistan, the midair collision of two
coalition helicopters resulted in the deaths of four American soldiers.
A spokeswoman said gunfire from insurgents was not to blame for the collision.
bring to 55 the total number of American troops killed in October in Afghanistan.
The previous high occurred in August, when 51 U.S. soldiers died and the
troubled nation held the first round of its presidential elections amid
a wave of Taliban insurgent attacks.
month of the Iraq conflict for U.S. forces was November 2004, when 137
Americans were killed during the assault to clear insurgents from the
city of Fallujah.
loss like this is extremely difficult for the families as well as for
those who served alongside these brave service members," said Navy
Capt. Jane Campbell, a military spokeswoman. "Our thoughts and prayers
are with the families and friends who mourn their loss."
of life followed one of the worst days of the war for U.S. forces in Afghanistan
since they launched air strikes in 2001 to oust the Taliban from power.
military helicopter which crashed was returning from the scene of a firefight
with suspected Taliban drug traffickers in western Afghanistan, killing
10 Americans including three Drug Enforcement Administration agents. In
a separate crash the same day, four more U.S. troops were killed when
two helicopters collided over southern Afghanistan.
marked the DEA's first deaths since it began operations here in 2005.
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium -- the raw ingredient
in heroin -- and the illicit drug trade is a major source of funding for
yet, for all of Americas time in Afghanistan for all the
money and all the blood the lack of accomplishment is manifest
wherever you go. In Garmsir, there is nothing remotely resembling a
modern state that could take over if America and its NATO allies left.
Tour the country with a general, and you will see very quickly how vast
and forbidding this country is and how paltry the effort has been.
finally, there is the government in Kabul. President Hamid Karzai, once
the darling of the West, rose to the top of nationwide elections in
August on what appears to be a tide of fraud. The Americans and their
NATO allies are confronting the possibility that the government they
are supporting, building and defending is a rotten shell.
his initial assessment of the country, sent to President Obama early
last month, McChrystal described an Afghanistan on the brink of collapse
and an America at the edge of defeat. To reverse the course of the war,
McChrystal presented President Obama with what could be the most momentous
foreign-policy decision of his presidency: escalate or fail. McChrystal
has reportedly asked for 40,000 additional American troops there
are 65,000 already here and an accelerated effort to train Afghan
troops and police and build an Afghan state. If President Obama cant
bring himself to step up the fight, McChrystal suggested, then he might
as well give up.
of the New York Times Magazine, October 18, 2009
resources, McChrystal wrote, will likely result in failure.
magnitude of the choice presented by McChrystal, and now facing President
Obama, is difficult to overstate. For what McChrystal is proposing is
not a temporary, Iraq-style surge a rapid influx of American troops
followed by a withdrawal. McChrystals plan is a blueprint for an
extensive American commitment to build a modern state in Afghanistan,
where one has never existed, and to bring order to a place famous for
the empires it has exhausted. Even under the best of circumstances, this
effort would most likely last many more years, cost hundreds of billions
of dollars and entail the deaths of many more American women and men.
thats if it succeeds. ...
many things could scuttle McChrystals plans: a Taliban more intractable
than imagined, the fractured nature of Afghan society and, no matter what
President Obama does, a lack of soldiers and time. But there is something
even worse, over which neither McChrystal nor his civilian comrades in
the American government exercise much control: the government of Hamid
Karzai, already among the most corrupt in the world, appears to have secured
its large victory in nationwide elections in August by orchestrating the
stealing of votes. A United Nations-backed group is trying to sort through
the fraud allegations, and American diplomats are trying to broker some
sort of power-sharing agreement with Karzai and his main rival, Abdullah
increasingly, McChrystal, as well as President Obama and the American
people, are being forced to confront the possibility that they will be
stuck fighting and dying and paying for a government that is widely viewed
I asked McChrystal about this, it was the one issue that he seemed not
to have thought through. What if the Afghan people see their own government
as illegitimate? How would you fight for something like that?
we are going to have to avoid looking like we are part of the illegitimacy,
the general said. That is the key thing. ...
month, I visited Richard Haass, one of the ideas chief proponents,
at his office in New York, where he is president of the Council on Foreign
Relations. (Before that, through June 2003, Haass was director of policy
planning at the State Department under President George W. Bush.)
is particularly persuasive, in part because he does not pretend to have
easy answers. After eight years of mismanagement and neglect, Haass says,
every choice the United States faces in Afghanistan is dreadful. The weight
of the evidence, he says, suggests that curtailing our ambitions is the
option least dreadful.
do I feel about Afghanistan?
Ambushed Marines' Aid Call 'Rejected'. Result: four more Marines DEAD.
As a young
Marine, I fought my war long ago in another far away little country, but
these guys are still my brothers. Young Marines flew out in a medevac
helo to pick up their comrades' bodies, just as I did so many times, so
many years ago.. The dead Marines were placed on the deck of the helicopter
at the feet of the crew for the long ride back to a temporary morgue.
The bodies weren't bagged yet, so the image of their dead buddies' faces
would be etched into memory for the rest of their lives. They'd know the
families back in the States weren't yet unaware their kids had just been
sacrificed for political expediency. It's a surrealistic feeling that
never goes away.
to our eyeballs in another fucking war, in another country that is NOT
a threat to our Nation. When are we going to learn our troops are not
disposable pawns to be squandered in practice wars?
How do I
feel? I'd like to bash somebody.
retired from the Air Force as a Major in 96.
"This pic was emailed to me a few years ago by one of my squadron mates
from Vietnam. It was taken at Marble Mountain Air Facility, near Danang
in '67. At that time I was a helicopter mechanic / gunner. My crew was flying
medical evacuation missions that day, and I was waiting outside our operations
shack for orders to launch."
of us who love F. Scott Fitzgerald must acknowledge that he did get one big
thing wrong. There are second acts in American lives. (Just ask Marion Barry,
or William Shatner.) The real question is whether everyone deserves a second
act. Perhaps the most surreal aspect of our great Afghanistan debate is the
Beltway credence given to the ravings of the unrepentant blunderers who dug
us into this hole in the first place.
clear: Those who demanded that America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan
to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 when there was no Qaeda presence in Iraq
bear responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan that ensued. Now they have
the nerve to imperiously and tardily demand that America increase its 68,000-strong
presence in Afghanistan to clean up their mess even though the number
of Qaeda insurgents there has dwindled to fewer than 100, according to the presidents
national security adviser, Gen. James Jones.
But why let facts
get in the way? Just as these hawks insisted that Iraq was the central
front in the war on terror when the central front was Afghanistan, so
they insist that Afghanistan is the central front now that it has migrated to
Pakistan. When the day comes for them to anoint Pakistan as the central front,
it will be proof positive that Al Qaeda has consolidated its hold on Somalia
this crowds spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer,
John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11.
Its not just that he echoed the Bush administrations constant innuendos
that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaedas attack on America. Or that he hyped
the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the
anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war
easily. Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would
probably get along in post-Saddam Iraq because there was not
a history of clashes between them.
mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over
the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade
Two years after
9/11 he was claiming that we could in the long term somehow muddle
through in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama
of wanting to muddle through there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated
in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the remarkable
success of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after
the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony truce ceding
territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumbs
up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little
about Afghanistan it didnt even merit a mention among the national security
planks on his campaign Web site.
He takes no responsibility
for any of this. Asked by Katie Couric last week about our failures in Afghanistan,
McCain spoke as if he were an innocent bystander: I think the reason why
we didnt do a better job on Afghanistan is our attention either
rightly or wrongly was on Iraq. As Tonto says to the Lone Ranger,
What do you mean we, white man?
Along with his
tribunes in Congress and the punditocracy, Wrong-Way McCain still presumes to
give America its marching orders. With his Senate brethren in the Three Amigos,
Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, he took to The Wall Street Journals
op-ed page to assert that we have no choice but to go all-in on
Afghanistan rightly or wrongly, presumably just as we had in Iraq.
Why? The U.S. walked away from Afghanistan once before, following the
Soviet collapse, they wrote. The result was 9/11. We must not make
that mistake again.
argument assumes perhaps correctly that no one in this country
remembers anything. So let me provide a reminder: We already did make that mistake
again when we walked away from Afghanistan to invade Iraq in 2003 and
we did so at the Three Amigos urging. Then, too, they promoted their strategy
as a way of preventing another 9/11 even though no one culpable for 9/11
was in Iraq. Now were being asked to pay for their mistake by squandering
stretched American resources in yet another country where Al Qaeda has largely
To make the case,
the Amigos and their fellow travelers conflate the Taliban with Al Qaeda much
as they long conflated Saddams regime with Al Qaeda. But as Rajiv Chandrasekaran
of The Washington Post reported on Thursday, American intelligence officials
now say that there are few, if any, links between Taliban commanders in
Afghanistan today and senior Al Qaeda members a far cry from the
tight Taliban-bin Laden alliance of 2001.
sleights of hand in the hawks arguments dont end there. If you listen
carefully to McCain and his neocon echo chamber, youll notice certain
tics. President Obama better make his decision by tomorrow, or Armageddon (if
not mushroom clouds) will arrive. We must win in Afghanistan
but victory is left vaguely defined. Thats because we will never build
a functioning state in a country where there has never been one. Nor can we
score a victory against the worlds dispersed, stateless terrorists by
getting bogged down in a hellish landscape that contains few of them.
perhaps, those clamoring for an escalation in Afghanistan avoid mentioning the
name of the countrys president, Hamid Karzai, or the fraud-filled August
election that conclusively delegitimized his government. To do so would require
explaining why America should place its troops in alliance with a corrupt partner
knee-deep in the narcotics trade. As long as Karzai and the election are airbrushed
out of history, it can be disingenuously argued that nothing has changed on
the ground since Obamas inauguration and that he has no right to revise
his earlier judgment that Afghanistan is a war of necessity.
more combat troops for Afghanistan also avoid defining the real costs. The Congressional
Research Service estimates that the war was running $2.6 billion a month in
Pentagon expenses alone even before Obama added 20,000 troops this year. Surely
fiscal conservatives like McCain and Graham who rant about deficits being generational
theft have an obligation to explain what the added bill will be on an
Afghanistan escalation and where the additional money will come from. But that
would require them to use the dread words sacrifice and higher
taxes when they want us to believe that this war, like Iraq, would be
The real troop
numbers are similarly elusive. Pre-emptively railing against the prospect of
half measures by Obama, Lieberman asked MSNBCs Andrea Mitchell
rhetorically last week whether it would be real counterinsurgency
or counterinsurgency light. But the measure Lieberman endorses
Gen. Stanley McChrystals reported recommendation of 40,000 additional
troops is itself counterinsurgency light. In his definitive recent field
manual on the subject, Gen. David Petraeus stipulates that real counterinsurgency
requires 20 to 25 troops for each thousand residents. That comes out, conservatively,
to 640,000 troops for Afghanistan (population, 32 million). Some 535,000 American
troops couldnt achieve a successful counterinsurgency in South Vietnam,
which had half Afghanistans population and just over a quarter of its
to Mitchell that we could train an enhanced, centralized Afghan army to fill
any gaps. In how many decades? The existing Afghan army is small,
illiterate, impoverished and as factionalized as the government. For his part,
McCain likes to justify McChrystals number of 40,000 by imbuing it with
the supposedly magical powers of the surge in Iraq. But its
rewriting history to say that the surge brought victory
to Iraq. What it did was stanch the catastrophic bleeding in an unnecessary
war McCain had helped gin up. Lest anyone forget, we still dont know who
has won in Iraq.
not Iraq. It is poorer, even larger and more populous, more fragmented and less
historically susceptible to foreign intervention. Even if the countries were
interchangeable, the wars are not. No one-size surge fits all. President Bush
sent the additional troops to Iraq only after Sunni leaders in Anbar Province
soured on Al Qaeda and reached out for American support. There is no equivalent
Anbar Awakening in Afghanistan. Most Afghans dont feel
threatened by the Taliban in their daily lives and arent asking
for American protection, reported Richard Engel of NBC News last week.
After eight years of war, many see Americans as occupiers.
want to see the fine print after eight years of fiasco with little accounting.
While McCain and company remain frozen where they were in 2001, many of their
fellow citizens have learned from the Iraq tragedy. Polls persistently find
that the country is skeptical about what should and can be accomplished in Afghanistan.
They voted for Obama not least because they wanted a new post-9/11 vision of
national security, and they will not again be so easily bullied by the blustering
hawks doomsday scenarios. That gives our deliberating president both the
time and the political space to get this long wars second act right.
I started this site
And what I hope to accomplish
22, 2009: My name is Harry Newton. I am 67.
I am a successful businessman. With this new site, I want to help bring America's
War in Afghanistan to an early end. I want our troops out ASAP. I believe there
are ten basic arguments against the War in Afghanistan:
U.S. has no strategic interest in Afghanistan. There is no oil. Afghanistan
has no natural resources (beyond poppies and pomegranates).
and Al Qaeda are no longer in Afghanistan. They long ago moved to Pakistan.
democracy to Afghanistan will never work. The country is tribal,
with no history of democracy.
country and no army from Alexander the Great on has ever succeeded in conquering
and/or subduing Afghanistan. Britain invaded Afghanistan three times. Once
it sent an army of 22,000. Only one soldier returned.
Taliban, though nasty, pose no threat to the United States.
is a sinkhole. Corruption is rampant. Most of our aid money disappears. We
support the Karzai government with our money. Without our money, the Karzai
Government would collapse overnight.
begun the War in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks
on the U.S. The stated aim of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was to find
Osama bin Laden. Despite eight years, the U.S. has not found bin Laden. Presently,
the U.S. has no clear objective in Afghanistan.
War in Afghanistan is a waste of precious American lives and precious American
dollars. At present we spend over $65 billion a year in Afghanistan. That's
actually three times Afghanistan's entire GDP.
our best efforts, our military activities kill innocent Afghanis regularly.
This does not endear us.
itself was founded by Americans who didn't like an outside power -- the British
-- meddling. Why would the Afghans feel any different?
Post's Bob Woodward recently reported:
A. McChrystal, USA
U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential
assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year
and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict will
likely result in failure, according to a copy of the 66-page document
obtained by The Washington Post.
A. McChrystal says emphatically: Failure to gain the initiative
and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months)
while Afghan security capacity matures risks an outcome where
defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.
was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now
being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.
an "industry" in Washington. If it were closed down and our troops
withdrawn, hundreds of thousands of military, of consultants, of suppliers would
find their jobs threatened, their incomes disappearing and their egos shattered.
But this War must be ended as quickly as possible.
The major predicted
"consequences" of ending the War are that the Taliban will take over
and allow Al Qaeda to re-establish terrorist training camps -- which will be
used to launch attacks on the west. The Taliban has been in control of vast
areas of Northern Pakistan for years. And Al Qaeda is based up there, and presumably
has re-established training camps there. Despite that, and because of superior
homeland security and intelligent police and intelligence work, the U.S. has
not sustained a terrorist event in over 8 years.
Further, I do
not believe our pulling out of Afghanistan will prove as disastrous to the Afghans
and to stability in the region as the self-interested Afghan-careerists are
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
This site contains the latest news from, and opinions about
Afghanistan. I do not believe in this War. I believe the U.S. and its partners
have nothing to gain from this endless war and should withraw immediately. I
have no ideas as to how to convince the U.S. and its partners to leave -- other
than publishing this web site as a public service. Harry Newton