In Midnight Signing Ceremony, Obama Promises at Least Ten More Years of War in Afghanistan May 2, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan government, afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, al-Qaeda, bin Laden, Karzai, roger hollander, Taliban
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One thing crystal clear in secretive US-Afghan ‘strategic partnership agreement': War not even close to ending
President Obama’s secret trip to Afghanistan, shrouded in secrecy for security reasons, culminated in a midnight meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the signing of a ‘strategic partnership agreement’, the full details of which have not been made available to either the American or Afghan public.
US President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan late Tuesday on a surprise visit and signed a ‘strategic partnership agreement’ with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a midnight ceremony. (AFP)
“If ever there was an image to convey the limits of the UK-US success in Afghanistan, it was the way that Barack Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of the liberating, Taliban-scattering forces was forced to skulk into Kabul last night under the cover of darkness,” writes the Telegraph‘s Peter Foster. “After landing at Bagram Airbase just after 10pm local time, there was a low-level, cover-of-darkness of helicopter insertion to the Presidential Palace where the ten-page deal (which contains no specifics on funding or troop levels) was signed around midnight.”
The agreement, broadly understood, codifies the ongoing conditions under which the US government agrees to operate in Afghanistan and will guide policies on the management of military bases, authority over detainees, the execution of night raids and other security operations, and will set conditions for troop levels and residual US forces that will remain in Afghanistan even after a ‘withdrawal’ commences in 2014. The agreement also deals with ongoing financial support for the Afghan government and military into the future.
Though Obama spoke optimistically of ‘light of a new day’ in Afghanistan and many media reports heralded the agreement as a ‘signal to the end of war’, more sober analysts arrived at more troubling conclusions.
“Interestingly,” writes Jason Ditz at Anti-war.com, “with the ink now drying on the document and the US officially committed to the occupation of Afghanistan for another decade, officials are continuing to tout 2014 as the “end” of the war. This speaks to how the 2024 date, though openly discussed by the Karzai government in Afghanistan and privately acknowledged as part of the secret pact, has not been publicly presented to the American public. When they will officially spring it on us remains unclear.”
“While the world may accept that the US and Afghan governments have some ‘state’ or ‘noble’ considerations for not revealing the contents of the US/Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement, how about the democratic consideration of involving Afghans in their own future?” asked Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who is currently on a peace walk from Madison, Wisc. to Chicago, where she will arrive in time for the upcoming NATO Summit.
“The SPA is likely to prolong fighting in the region,” Kelly added, “because the Taliban and neighboring countries have clearly stated that they won’t accept US foreign troop presence. Also, many Afghans wonder if the US and NATO want to protect construction of the TAPI [Trans-Afghanistan] pipeline, which the 2010 NATO summit approved of and the New Silk Road which Hilary Clinton has promised the US will construct.”President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sign a strategic partnership agreement at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
US veteran Sgt. Jacob George, who served in Afghanistan but now speaks out against the war, argued the agreement speaks to the futility of US military efforts in Afghanistan that began with the US invasion in 2001. “The agreement actually allows for sustaining a ‘post-conflict’ force of 20,000 to 30,000 troops for a continued training of indigenous forces. They are pretending this is something new, but it’s not. That’s what I was doing in 2001 — and 2002, 2003 and 2004. This is just disastrous, for ten years, with the greatest military the world has ever seen, we’ve been unable to defeat people with RPGs. And a year after Bin Laden was killed, we’re still planning to keep tens of thousands of troops there.”
Andrey Avetisyan, Russian ambassador to Kabul, speaking to the Telegraph newspaper ahead of the agreement, revealed concern for the long-term impacts of a sustained US military presence. “Afghanistan needs many other things apart from the permanent military presence of some countries. It needs economic help and it needs peace. Military bases are not a tool for peace.”
“Does anyone think our staying until 2024 is going to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan?” ask Kevin Martin and Michael Eisenscher in an op-ed today on Common Dreams. “We’ve already been there for eleven years – the longest war in our country’s history. What do we really have to show for it? We’ve spent almost $523 billion. Almost 2000 Americans have been killed and another 15,300 wounded. 1000 NATO troops have lost their lives.” Eisenscher is National Coordinator of U.S. Labor Against the War and Martin is the executive director of Peace Action.Dec. 19, 2001 — Marine Lt. Ronald Reed of Virginia waits inside his fighting position on the perimeter of the bombed-out airport in Kandahar. More than eleven years later, an end to the disaster that is the US war in Afghanistan is nowhere in sight. (Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times)
They continue: “Staying through 2024 will be a hard sell to the majority of Americans. According to last week’s Pew Research public opinion poll, only about a third of those polled think U.S. troops should stay in Afghanistan ‘until the situation there is stabilized’ (whatever that means). About two-thirds of Obama supporters, and almost as many swing voters (who make up nearly a quarter of the electorate), want a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops, while Mitt Romney supporters are split just about evenly.”
Today also marks the one year anniversary of the US killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Martin and Eisensche conclude: “It’s not clear what the year since the killing of Bin Laden has done to improve U.S. or Afghan security. It’s even less clear what staying for another dozen years will do for either country. The time to bring U.S. forces home is now, not 2014, and certainly not 2024.”
And Robert Naiman, Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy, asks in his analysis at Common Dreams, ‘What Did We Get for 381 US Dead Since the Death of bin Laden?‘ and writes:
In his speech, President Obama said, “As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline.” I’m delighted that President Obama supports the principle of a firm timeline. But it’s far from obvious that we actually have a “firm timeline,” and if we do, exactly what it is. Certainly there is no timeline for when all U.S. troops will be withdrawn. President Obama did seem to imply that we can be sure that there will be no U.S. troops involved in “combat” in Afghanistan after December 31, 2014. But they may be involved in “counterterrorism,” which presumably is combat, and “training,” and if you ask the military what “training” is, they will say it includes embedding with Afghanistan troops who are engaged in combat. So “training” is also combat. And therefore it is far from obvious that we actually have a “firm timeline” for anything. […]
In his speech, President Obama said: “we are pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my Administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We have made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws. “
Isn’t this essentially the same policy that Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was proposing in October 2006 when he said that the Afghan Taliban couldn’t be defeated militarily and that the U.S. should bring “people who call themselves Taliban” into the Afghan government? Why have we waited almost six years to adopt this policy? Are we really going to get a much better deal now than we could have had six years ago? If so, will the difference be sufficient to justify the additional sacrifice of the last six years?
If we stopped the killing now, how sure are we that the political deal that would result would be much worse for us than the deal that will result if we keep killing? Shouldn’t someone have to answer that? What if we tried having an offensive cease-fire for 30 days, just as an experiment, to see if it facilitated peace talks? What exactly would be the downside of giving that experiment a try?
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The ‘mother lode’ of Afghan lithium is so thinly dispersed it will take moving hundreds of tons of rock to obtain a pound of lithium, and cost more money than it will be worth.
This idea of Afghan lithium was shot down by the market more than a year ago.
“Obama Promises Ten More Years of War in Afghanistan.”
A political campaign promise everybody knows Obama will keep.
Serial Catastrophes in Afghanistan Threaten Obama Policy January 4, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: afghan insurgency, Afghanistan, afghanistan cia, afghanistan government, afghanistan surge, Afghanistan War, al-Qaeda, cia, civilian casualties, drone missile, juan cole, Karzai, mchrysstal, roger hollander, student protests, Taliban
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You probably won’t see it in most US news outlets, but on Monday morning in Kabul and Jalalabad, hundreds of university students demonstrated against US strikes this weekend that allegedly killed a number of civilians. I want to underline the irony that the students in Tehran University are protesting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while students in these two Afghan cities are calling for Yankees to go home. Nangarhar University in Jalalabad only has a student body of about 3200, so ‘hundreds’ of students protesting there would be a significant proportion of the student body.
The demonstrations could be a harbinger of things to come, but there was worse news. CIA field officers blown up, four US troops killed Sunday, and the rejection of most of the cabinet nominees by parliament, all signal rocky times ahead.
The past two weeks have seen the situation in Afghanistan deteriorate palpably, raising significant questions about the viability of the Obama-McChrysstal plan for the country. The chain of catastrophes has been reported in piecemeal fashion, but taken together these events are far more ominous than they might appear on the surface.
First, the US military launched a raid in Kunar Province two days after Christmas on a village a night, in which President Hamid Karzai alleged that 10 civilians, some 8 of them schoolchildren, had been killed (some say dragged out of their beds and executed). The NYT reported the head of a Kabul delegation to the village saying,”They gathered eight school students from two compounds and put them in one room and shot them with small arms.” (The spokesman is a former governor of Kunar and now a close adviser to President Hamid Karzai– i.e. not exactly a pro-Taliban source). The charitable theory is that in a nighttime raid, US troops got disoriented and hit the wrong group of young men.
The outraged Afghan public saw this raid as an atrocity, and on Wednesday December 30, they mounted street protests against the US in Jalalabad, an eastern Pashtun city, and Kabul. In Jalalabad, hundreds of university students blocked the main roads, and then marched in the streets, chanting “Death to Obama” and “Death to America,” and burning Obama in effigy. (If they go on like that, the anti-imperialist Pashtun college students of Jalalabad may attract the support of Fox Cable News . . .)
Even while the protests were taking place in Jalalabad and Kabul, a NATO missile strike on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province was alleged to have killed as many as 7 more civilians, some of them children. Now the Afghan public was really angry.
Then on Thursday, all hell broke loose when a high-level Pashtun asset who had been informing to the CIA on the location of important al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives detonated a vest bomb at FOB Chapman in Khost province, a CIA forward base. The attacker killed 7 field officers and one Jordanian intelligence operative detailed to the base. Those experience field officers were on the front lines in the fight against al-Qaeda and their loss is a big blow to counter-terrorism. It is true that they had been drawn in to a campaign of assassination, but it is the president who gave them that task–unwisely, in my view.
The use of a double agent not only to misinform but actually to kill the most experienced counter-terrorism officers in the region showed the sophistication of tactical thinking in the Afghan insurgency.
The CIA’s dependence on a double agent who finally openly betrayed them raises troubling questions about US strategy and tactics in the region. Such informants essentially direct CIA drone missile strikes.
You could imagine Siraj Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network in Khost and over the border in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, inserting such a double agent into FOB Chapman and then using the CIA. For instance, what if a middling member of the Haqqani network launched a challenge to Siraj’s leadership and that of his ailing father, Jalaluddin (an old-time ally of Reagan who was warmly greeted in the White House in the 1980s)? Wouldn’t it be easy enough just to have the double agent tell the CIA that the challenger is a really bad guy in cahoots with al-Qaeda? Boom. Drone strike kills Taliban leaders in North Waziristan. In this way, Siraj could have used the US to eliminate rivals and become more and more powerful. And how many double agents have given up a few Arab jihadis who had fallen out with the Haqqanis, but then deliberately followed this up with bad intel on some innocent village, making the name of the US mud among the Pashtuns.
The drone strikes shouldn’t be run by the CIA, and probably shouldn’t be run at all. It could well be that savvy old-time Mujahidin trained in CIA tradecraft in the 1980s are having our young wet behind the ears field officers for lunch.
In short, is the bombing at FOB Chapman the tip of an iceberg of misinformation, on which the Titanic of Obama’s AfPak policy could well founder?
Aljazeera English has video of these dramatic events leading up to the New Year, including the anti-US demonstrations, which looked big and significant to me on satellite television.
A soldier of the Afghan army shot an American soldier, further raising suspicions between the two supposed partners. Then a Canadian unit and embedded journalist were blown up.
There were more errant US strikes over the weekend, producing the demonstrations in Kabul and Jalalabad on Monday morning.
Then there were two other pieces of information coming out in the past few days that suggest all is not well.
First, a report on the Afghanistan Army threw cold water all over the idea that it could be enlarged and trained to provide security in the country any time soon. High desertion rates, illiteracy, working half days, refusal to stand and fight against the enemy, and other factors just made that prospect remote. But such training, and the substitution of the Afghan National Army for NATO and US forces is the centerpiece of the Obama-McChrystal plan.
Finally, the Afghan parliament rejected 17 of the 24 nominees to the cabinet offered by President Karzai. The speaker of the House, Yunus Qanuni, supported Karzai’s rival, Abdullah Abdullah, in August’s presidential elections– which many Afghans believe Karzai stole. This rejection was the Abdullah faction’s chance to humiliate Karzai in revenge.
Aljazeera English has video on the rejection of 70 percent of the cabinet, including the old time warlord of Herat, Ismail Khan, and a key women’s affairs minister.
But the step means that we go into the winter with 17 ministries headless. Having an increasingly competent Afghan government to partner with was another key element of the Obama plan. There is not one.
So, the US is killing schoolchildren far too often, enraging the Afghan public. It has provoked a studnet protest movement against it in Jalalabad and Kabul. Its informants are double agents. Its supposed partner, the Afghan army, mostly doesn’t actually exist and couldn’t be depended on to show up to anything important; and that is when they aren’t taking potshots at US troops; and there is no Afghan government as we go into 2010.
President Obama may have a lot on his plate, but Afghanistan could make or break his presidency. If he doesn’t view what has happened there while he was in Hawaii with alarm and begin thinking of alternative strategies, he could be in big trouble.
© 2010 Juan Cole
Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan ceo, afghanistan election, afghanistan government, Afghanistan War, afghanstan occupation, George Bush, hamid karzai, jeremy scahill, roger hollander, zalmay khalilzad
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05.19.09 – 4:17 PM, www.commondreams.org
This story that is developing with the big oil-Bush buddy Zalmay Khalilzad is amazing in how crude it is. Khalilzad of course was one of Bush’s top diplomatic henchmen in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere and an original signer of the Project for a New American Century, whose global conquest agenda was adopted as official US policy under Bush. Well, good ol’ Zal apparently wants to be president of Afghanistan, but he missed the May 8 deadline to file. So, instead, he is now cooking up a plan with the US-puppet president, Hamid Karzai, to become the “chief executive officer of Afghanistan.” That is not a joke. That is exactly how The New York Times described Khalilzad’s desired position:
The position would allow Mr. Khalilzad to serve as “a prime minister, except not prime minister because he wouldn’t be responsible to a parliamentary system,” a senior Obama administration official said. Taking the unelected position would also allow Mr. Khalilzad to keep his American citizenship.
Administration officials insisted that the United States was not behind the idea of enlisting Mr. Khalilzad to serve in the Afghan government, and they gave no further details on what his duties might be.
A plan that puts Mr. Khalilzad near the top of a Karzai government would provide the Obama administration with a strong conduit to push American interests in Afghanistan…
You cannot make this stuff up.
It was bad enough that the US imported Hamid Karzai who would be ripped to shreds in about 2 seconds if the US military pulled out of Afghanistan. Now, the Obama folks want to actually impose tolerate one of Bush’s cronies as a non-elected “CEO” of an occupied country where his job is described in corporate terms so that he can “push American interests.”
Yet More “Plus ça change…” You Can Believe In March 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About Pakistan, About War, Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan escalation, afghanistan government, afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, Barack Obama, foreign policy, gates, hillary clinton, jones, mullen, obama bush, obama militarism, pakistan, pakistan government, Petraeus, plus ca change, rahm emmanuel, roger hollander, stockholm syndrome, w.e.b.du bois, war
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Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com, March 29, 2009
“Good morning. Today, I am announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“This marks the conclusion of a careful policy review that I ordered as soon as I took office. My Administration has heard from our military commanders and diplomats. We have consulted with the Afghan and Pakistani governments; with our partners and NATO allies; and with other donors and international organizations. And we have also worked closely with members of Congress here at home. Now, I’d like to speak clearly and candidly to the American people. “
These are the opening sentences in Barack Obama’s March 27 speech in which he announced the escalation of the U.S. occupation and agression in Afghanistan. Note the list of people and institutions with whom the President consulted before coming to a decision about his policy: military commanders and diplomats, Afghan and Pakistani governments, partners and Nato allies, donors and international organizations, members of Congress. There is one glaring omision: THE AMERICAN PEOPLE . Not to mention world public opinion. Note that Obama has a tendeny to speak down people rather than listen to them. As with his excluding from consideration a single-payer national health plan, which is favored by a vast majority of Americans, for President Obama a peaceful and diplomatic solution in Afghanistan/Pakistan which for most Americans is a fervent hope, is “off the table.”
The lead in a Time Magazine article covering the speech suggested that George Bush must have left an old speech lying around in his desk.
When Obama was criticized from the left prior to his inauguration for retaining the key members of the Bush team of militarists and war profiteers (Gates, Petraeusl, Mullen, Jones) and adding Hawks such as Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emmanuel, he countered by declaring that he would be making the decisions and not his advisors (Obama the Decider). Well, if Obama ever was indeed a peacenik, he surely has since succumbed to the Stockholm Syndrome in a big way.
Yet More “Plus ça change…” You Can Believe In.
“There was a day when the world rightly called Americans honest even if crude; earning their living by hard work; telling the truth no matter whom it hurt; and going to war in what they believed a just cause after nothing else seemed possible. Today we are lying, stealing and killing. We call all this by finer names: Advertising, Free Enterprise, and National Defense. But names in the end deceive no one; today we use science to help us deceive our fellows; we take wealth that we never earned and we are devoting all our energies to kill, maim and drive insane men, women, and children who dare refuse to do what we want done. No nation threatens us. We threaten the world.” (italics added)
These words could have been written today, but they weren’t. They appeared forty one years ago in the Autobiography of the Afro-Aerican activist and historian, W.E.B. Du Bois. Plus ça change… plus c’est la même chose. I despair to say it, but our nation’s first Afro-American president is turning out to be a traitor to his heritage.
Question: is there any difference at all between the foreign policy of President Obama and his predecessor? Only if you believe that the part’s of Obama’s speech on Afghanistan/Pakistan that spoke of investment in non-military programs constitute more than window-dressing. I don’t. I believe that with respect to the militaristic policies of peace candidate Barack Obama, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
New Afghan Plan? Replace Bush Puppet w/ Obama Puppet March 23, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: afghanistan corruption, afghanistan government, afghanistan occupation, afghanistan puppet, afghnaistan war, bush puppet, ewen macaskill, holbrooke, julian borger, kabul government, Karzai, karzai corruption, Karzai government, obama puppet, president obama, roger hollander
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Published on Monday, March 23, 2009 by The Guardian/UK
US Will Appoint Afghan ‘Prime Minister’ to Bypass Hamid Karzai
White House plans new executive role to challenge corrupt government in Kabul
The US and its European allies are preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the Guardian has learned.
The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposed that money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many US and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president will win re-election in August.A revised role for Karzai has emerged from the White House review of Afghanistan and Pakistan ordered by Barack Obama when he became president. It isto be unveiled at a special conference on Afghanistan at The Hague on March 31.
As well as watering down Karzai’s personal authority by installing a senior official at the president’s side capable of playing a more efficient executive role, the US and Europeans are seeking to channel resources to the provinces rather than to central government in Kabul.
A diplomat with knowledge of the review said: “Karzai is not delivering. If we are going to support his government, it has to be run properly to ensure the levels of corruption decrease, not increase. The levels of corruption are frightening.”
Another diplomat said alternatives to Karzai had been explored and discarded: “No one could be sure that someone else would not turn out to be 10 times worse. It is not a great position.”
The idea of a more dependable figure working alongside Karzai is one of the proposals to emerge from the White House review, completed last week. Obama, locked away at the presidental retreat Camp David, was due to make a final decision this weekend.
Obama is expected to focus in public on overall strategy rather than the details, and, given its sensitivity, to skate over Karzai’s new role. The main recommendation is for the Afghanistan objectives to be scaled back, and for Obama to sell the war to the US public as one to ensure the country cannot again be a base for al-Qaida and the Taliban, rather than the more ambitious aim of the Bush administration of trying to create a European-style democracy in Central Asia.
Other recommendations include: increasing the number of Afghan troops from 65,000 to 230,000 as well as expanding the 80,000-strong police force; sending more US and European civilians to build up Afghanistan’s infrastructure; and increased aid to Pakistan as part of a policy of trying to persuade it to tackle al-Qaida and Taliban elements.
The proposal for an alternative chief executive, which originated with the US, is backed by Europeans. “There needs to be a deconcentration of power,” said one senior European official. “We need someone next to Karzai, a sort of chief executive, who can get things done, who will be reliable for us and accountable to the Afghan people.”
Money and power will flow less to the ministries in Kabul and far more to the officials who run Afghanistan outside the capital – the 34 provincial governors and 396 district governors. “The point on which we insist is that the time is now for a new division of responsibilities, between central power and local power,” the senior European official said.
No names have emerged for the new role but the US holds in high regard the reformist interior minister appointed in October, Mohammed Hanif Atmar.
The risk for the US is that the imposition of a technocrat alongside Karzai would be viewed as colonialism, even though that figure would be an Afghan. Karzai declared his intention last week to resist a dilution of his power. Last week he accused an unnamed foreign government of trying to weaken central government in Kabul.
“That is not their job,” the Afghan president said. “Afghanistan will never be a puppet state.”
The UK government has since 2007 advocated dropping plans to turn Afghanistan into a model, European-style state.
Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who will implement the new policy, said it would represent a “vastly restructured effort”. At the weekend in Brussels, he was scathing about the Bush administration’s conduct of the counter-insurgency. “The failures in the civilian side … are so enormous we can at least hope that if we get our act together … we can do a lot better,” he said.