Tag Archive | "COIN"

War Crimes in Afghanistan? Time To Investigate

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on Firedoglake or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed here are my own.

A few weeks ago, Rep. Darrell Issa, the new Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House GOP’s self proclaimed “chief watchdog,” released his agenda for upcoming investigations in the new congress. Some of the issues he intends to focus on are dubious and partisan, but others slated for investigation are very serious.

One of these serious issues is the war in Afghanistan. Politico reported at the time:

Rep. Darrell Issa is aiming to launch investigations on everything from WikiLeaks to Fannie Mae to corruption in Afghanistan in the first few months of what promises to be a high-profile chairmanship of the top oversight committee in Congress. [...]

The sweeping and specific hearing agenda shows that Issa plans to cut a wide swath as chairman, latching onto hot-button issues that could make his committee the center of attention in the opening months of the 112th Congress. By grabbing such a wide portfolio — especially in national security matters — Issa is also laying down a marker of sorts, which could cement his panel as the go-to place for investigations.

Great, if there’s one thing we need, it’s a “go-to place for investigations” in congress, especially concerning national security.  And certainly most everyone agrees that “corruption in Afghanistan”, referring here to waste, fraud, and abuse by US military contractors, could benefit from much stronger oversight in congress.

But here’s the problem: the bloody occupation of Afghanistan has been dragging on for ten long years now, the long-term cost is estimated to be in the trillions. The catastrophes we’re facing are much, much worse than losing a million or two here or there in graft. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

Axis of Agreement Watch: Joe Klein’s “Lucky” Strategy

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on Firedoglake or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Last month we had the phony Afghanistan strategy review in Washington, and thanks to Politico, we got a shiny new buzzword: The “Progressive-Realist-Centrist Axis of Agreement”. It’s a fancypants way of saying “conventional wisdom”, roughly synonymous with the “Establishment” or Digby’s “Village”. Whatever the out-of-touch think tankers, journalists, and politicians in DC happen to think this week, that’s the “Axis of Agreement”.

The strategy review was Washington’s way of unveiling it’s brand new Axis of Agreement on the war in Afghanistan, transitioning from last year’s platinum mega-hit “COIN” (or counter-insurgency) to the new 2011 narrative. I wrote:

[The] review is not really a review of the military strategy, it’s an act of political theater. This is not the Commander in Chief and his generals tallying up their data and fine-tuning their tactical approach, this is the whole class turning in a book report so they get an A. [...]

[This] year’s line is “effective, affordable, and sustainable”. That means 30,000-ish troops, training police, drones ‘n Pakistan ‘n stuff, and also negotiating with the Taliban (ooh, controversy!).

Well, it’s a new year, and it’s time for the media wing of the Axis of Agreement to start turning it’s Afghanistan homework. A perfect example of this is Joe Klein’s new piece for Time titled “What It Will Take To Finish The Job In Afghanistan”. Here’s the plan: Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

Afghanistan: Hearts and Minds and Blood and Anger

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Our troops in Afghanistan have some questions about the strategy in Afghanistan. Spencer Ackerman reports:

Some considered the war a distraction from broader national security challenges like Iran or China. Others thought that its costs — nearly ten years, $321 billion, 1243 U.S. deaths and counting — are too high, playing into Osama bin Laden’s “Bleed To Bankruptcy” strategy. Still others thought that it doesn’t make sense for President Obama simultaneously triple U.S. troop levels and announce that they’re going to start coming down, however slowly, in July 2011. At least one person was convinced, despite the evidence, that firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal meant the strategy was due for an overhaul, something I chalked up to the will to believe.

But if there was a common denominator to their critiques, it’s this: None understood how their day-to-day jobs actually contributed to a successful outcome. One person actually asked me if I could explain how it’s all supposed to knit together.

I’m wondering the same thing. It’s never been clear to me exactly how a massive foreign military occupation translates to a stable, secure and democratic society in Afghanistan. How does one lead to the other, how do we get from A to B? Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

America’s Broken Response to Pakistan

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

The scale of Pakistan’s flooding disaster is beyond imagination:

More people have been affected by Pakistan’s catastrophic floods than any other natural disaster on record — over 20 million and counting. That’s more than were affected by the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and this year’s earthquake in Haiti combined.  As millions of dislocated Pakistanis search for shelter and food and as health conditions deteriorate and disease spreads, the need for an immediate, large-scale humanitarian response is urgent.  And this is just the beginning.  Once the floodwaters subside from Pakistan’s swollen rivers, the task of rebuilding will be staggering – with a price tag in the billions, and lasting for years to come.

From a humanitarian standpoint, the disaster should be a fierce call to action like nothing else in our lifetime. But that’s not the primary US concern in foreign policy, is it? Charity and human decency are great, but we care about terrorism, security, and American dominance:

The effectiveness of the response to these relief and rebuilding challenges will have serious implications for the wellbeing of the country’s citizens, for the peace and stability of Pakistan and the entire South Asian region, and for U.S. national security.

There’s no way around it, this is a national security issue for the United States. Galrahn explains over at Information Dissemination:

There is a long history of natural disaster playing a significant role in the global security condition, or influencing war, or having a significant and generational impact on nations. When considering the scope and geography of this disaster, it would be difficult to suggest that the monsoon floods of 2010 won’t have a huge impact on the security of Pakistan, or a significant impact in influencing the war in Afghanistan, or a huge generational impact on Pakistan. [...]

Pakistani people know the United States unmanned drone very well thanks to their newspapers and our actions in that country against Al Qaeda and affiliates. Here is a chance to put a positive visible symbol of US power over Pakistan at a time the need far exceeds local capacity – and we can’t do it why?

Actually, we know why we can’t do it. We’ve known for years. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

Rethink Afghanistan: Amnesty and Reconciliation for Militarists

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

We’ve entered a new phase in the debate over the war in Afghanistan. Bernard Finel writes:

Conventional wisdom in Afghanistan is changing. Just a few months ago, calling for a smaller footprint approach focused on counter-terrorism was labasted as “half-assed” and worse. And people calling for such an approach were accused of being ignorant and labeled as extreme peaceniks. But times change, I guess because it is becoming increasingly clear that we are moving in the direction of this position.

He’s referring to the fact that the counterinsurgency strategy is now being scaled back to focus more on assassinations, kidnappings, and so forth – what Vice President Biden calls “Counter-terrorism Plus”. The problem Finel raises is that the folks who were once so fiercely touting COIN’s nation building are now the same people claiming to be all in favor of CT-Plus and its lighter footprint. He labels them as “vaguely sociopathic” for their apparent change of heart.

I know we get a kick out of ridiculing these people. It’s aways fun to look back and realize you’ve been right about something. Who doesn’t want to preen around declaring how smart they are because of what they said back in two-thousand-and-whatever. I do it. We all do it.

But not this time. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

I read in the paper that you don’t care about Afghanistan

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

I’m not perfect. I don’t get everything right, not by a long shot. For example, remember my optimistic response to Thomas Ruttig’s pessimistic report on the Kabul Peace Jirga? Turns out I was super wrong about that. I understand this blogosphere of ours is an open debate, and I’m willing to reassess how I may have misjudged whatever the situation is on any given day.

So when I see a headline in the New York Times like “In Midterm Elections, Afghan War Barely Surfaces“, something that directly contradicts my analysis, I’m more than happy to take a look and see what we have to learn. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

Anti-War, at Home and Abroad

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Sign the Petition – “I vote and I demand my elected officials end this war”

By now, the full implications of the data contained in the 91,000 Wikileaks files are starting to sink in. Americans have been questioning the war for some time now, and they’re finally putting their foot down and demanding an end. Thousands of calls are pouring in to Congress from around the country, all demanding a NO vote on today’s war funding vote, and thousands more are signing our petition declaring “the Wikileaks ‘War Logs’ are further evidence of a brutal war that’s not worth the cost. I vote, and I demand my elected officials end this war by Dec. 2011.”

Sure, war supporters gave it the old college try. The White House and other political leadership stressed that the leaks contained no new information, incidentally clearing up once and for all the confusion we had over whether they were ignorant or merely incompetent and negligent prosecutors of US foreign policy. Some even tried to deflect the argument on to Wikileaks operator Julian Assange, as if the leak coming from him – or Paris Hilton or Spider-Man – has anything to do with the information it contained.

But their arguments are for naught, the war is now simply indefensible. The facts are on our side, and these leaks do nothing else if not confirm and validate the criticism so far levied against the war in Afghanistan. The effect is to make the IPS headline, “Leaked Reports Make Afghan War Policy More Vulnerable,” seem something like the understatement of the century. Gareth Porter writes:

Among the themes that are documented, sometimes dramatically but often through bland military reports, are the seemingly casual killing of civilians away from combat situations, night raids by special forces that are often based on bad intelligence, the absence of legal constraints on the abuses of Afghan police, and the deeply rooted character of corruption among Afghan officials.

The most politically salient issue highlighted by the new documents, however, is Pakistan’s political and material support for the Taliban insurgency, despite its ostensible support for U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

You could pick just one of those things Porter mentions and it could spell catastrophe for the war. Instead we have all of it. It does more than make the war policy more vulnerable, it puts any war supporting politician in Washington in serious electoral peril. We should take this opportunity, then, to understand what exactly is happening with the anti-war movement.

If left to their own devices, the mainstream media will craft their own stupid and obnoxious narratives about “lefty insurgencies” or “anti-incumbent fever,” and this will poison the eventual policy outcome. If we understand the facts now, and see this as not only a US political dilemma, but as part of a global anti-war movement now finally winding up at President Obama’s doorstep, then we can begin to accelerate our withdrawal more responsibly than the standard media narratives might allow (Get out now! No, stay forever!).

It is not simply a reaction to a failed policy, it is an articulation of an independent vision of selfish foreign and domestic policy interests. Americans, our NATO allies, and even our progressive allies in Pakistan are all working to end the war. It is not for ideology or partisan gain, it is purely in their own selfish interest, in our interest, to end the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

Afghanistan: No “opportunity and justice” without free expression

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

In his remarks on the new Afghanistan strategy last year, President Obama spoke very highly of Afghan sacrifices in our war. Afghans, he told us, “seek the promise of a better future” and deserve not only security, but “opportunity and justice.”

These are empty political phrases that Americans take for granted, but what about the Afghan audience? Are they actually getting the better future we promised? Aside from the obvious violence and misery caused by the occupation and insurgency, can Afghans count on even basic civil liberties like freedom of expression?

Nasim Fekrat writes [emphasis mine]:

Six years after the Afghan constitution was passed and nine years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghan journalists struggle with threats from the government, political parties, militants, and occasionally foreign forces. Afghan society has also played a role in self-censorship, perpetuated by the lack of a vibrant independent media. Without an independent media, freedom of expression is meaningless. And in Afghanistan, limitations on the media will only serve to bolster the views of powerful fundamentalists, and empower the belief among Afghans that the international community, which promised to institutionalize the freedom of expression and with it, democracy, has failed them.

Afghanistan needs a free press, not only for the sake of their journalists’ lives, but it’s absolutely fundamental to improving their government, their laws, and their society as whole. A free media allows citizens to become educated about politics and legislation, it allows victims of crime and corruption to tell their story through an impartial watchdog, and it allows a debate forum open enough for ideas like democracy and humans rights to compete, without fear, against the ideas of extremists and militants. No matter how many battles we win or terrorist commanders we kill, Afghanistan will never get a better future without these fundamental rights. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

McChrystal’s revenge: Everyone hates Karl Eikenberry

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Supporter’s of General McChrystal’s counterinsurgency policy are heart-broken over his firing. Not that they don’t agree with it, very few COINdinistas took the position that McChrystal should be permitted to undermine civilian control of policy as he did so plainly in the Rolling Stone piece. Support for McChrystal came instead in the form of “he’s our only hope” and warnings about ruining the war effort. Nevertheless, McChrystal was fired, and now his supporters want revenge.

The target of this vengeance is quite clear: Karl Eikenberry, US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Take a look at these snippets from across the blogosphere, keeping mind that this is just a sample of the anti-Eikenberry sentiment out there.

Josh Shahryar:

When McChrystal finally got troops, he had to figure out a way around Eikenberry’s meddling into what was supposed to be his operation.

Bouhammer:

So now I am waiting for that POS Eikenberry to be fired along with that ineffective Holbrooke. The relationship between the military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan is a two-way street. If the Ambassador and Special Envoy don’t get along with Karzai and cannot influence him or even get a meeting with him then they need to be FIRED asap and some people need to be put into place that can be effective at their job and get along with the military leadership.

Anonymous at Danger Room:

In fact, one e-mails: “It would be a travesty if we fired McChrystal and kept Eikenberry.”

Not only is McChrystal the “only one with any sort of relationship with [Afghan president Hamid] Karzai,” says this civilian advisor to the McChrystal-led International Security Assistance Force. Eikenberry “has no plan, didn’t get COIN [counterinsurgency] when he was the commander and still doesn’t.” Plus, the advisor adds: “The Embassy hates Eik. That’s not necessarily an indictment (I’m no fan of the Embassy). But it contributes to the dysfunction and it means that half the Embassy is focused on keeping Eik in line.”

Streetwise Professor:

Eikenberry was a backstabber from day one.

See the narrative building? McChrystal was doing a good job (they’ve leaked red meat to give pro-McChrystal progressives some lefty cover), it was that “POS Eikenberry” and his “meddling” that are really at fault. He’s a backstabber and dysfunctional. McChrystal’s violation of the relationship between civilian government and the military is no longer at issue, it’s practically ignored.  They’ve moved on to the blame game.

So McChrystal’s supporters want a scalp of their own, and they’ve chosen Eikenberry as their target. McChrystal and Eikenberry have been feuding for some time now, so it’s no surprise he draws the most wrath from the general’s dismissal. But if we actually look closer at the tension between Eikenberry and McChrystal, we see that the Eikenberry-haters are way off base. Their attacks are, at best, childish displays of sour grapes, and at worst, a fundamental misunderstanding of their own strategy. Ambassador Eikenberry is not at fault here. In fact, Eikenberry was right all along. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

Crazy COIN Strategy: US-Pakistani Nuclear Deal

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Our strategy in Afghanistan is pretty bad, but aside from the obvious broken logic of creating peace through war, I wouldn’t say it qualifies as “crazy”. Counterinsurgency is weird in its ability to co-opt humanitarian arguments about human rights and so forth, but it’s still somewhat rational considering the military is, after all, a war making institution.

But I nearly spit out coffee this morning reading through the new RAND report – “Counterinsurgency in Pakistan” by Seth G. Jones and C. Christine Fair.

Of course, it’s COIN, so I was prepared for most of the usual junk (“population-centric” bloody occupations, learn from Algeria or the Philippines or [insert incomparable favorite country from a bajillion years ago], etc). This report even had a lot of good stuff going for it, including a very honest assessment of Pakistan’s domestic unrest issues (disappearances, land ownership, foreign tariffs, etc) as well as thoughtful examinations of the history of US-Pakistan diplomatic “persuasion” techniques.

And then it got crazy fast:

The United States should consider more politically valuable initiatives, given the willingness and equities of other regional parties. While an effective U.S. role in reaching an Indo-Pakistani accommodation on Kashmir is unlikely, partly because of Indian opposition, there are at least two initiatives that could benefit Pakistan.

First is a criteria-based civilian nuclear deal for Pakistan. Pakistan complained about the exceptionalism of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, in which India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and place its civil nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. In exchange, the United States agreed to work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India. Pakistani officials argued that its sacrifices in cooperating with the United States should merit comparable consideration. Pakistan legitimately fears that the agreement may allow India to improve and expand its nuclear weapon arsenal. Pakistan sought to undermine the Indo-U.S. deal, arguing that it would spark an arms race on the subcontinent.

That’s right, in exchange for “doing more” against the militant elements in the region, the US should give Pakistan more nukes. The report is very honest about it: It’ll be just like the deal with India, in which the US basically subsidizes the civilian nuclear industry, and “inspects” it, while the military program remains completely separate and unaccountable. Better yet, the military no longer has to compete with the civilian power industry for materials, so they’re free to weaponize countless stockpiles of enriched uranium that we specifically agree to not inspect.

That’s happening in India right now. And this report says we should do that with Pakistan. For real. This is where I look around, wondering if that sounds as crazy to you as it does to me, because apparently the folks at RAND find nuclear proliferation to be totally normal. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

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