Tag Archive | "Rethink Afghanistan"

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

Conservatives Turn Against Afghanistan War, Max Boot Goes Insane

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.

Something very interesting has been happening with conservatives lately. They’re turning against the war in Afghanistan.

Sure, the majority of Americans have been opposed to the war for some time now, predominantly made up of Democrats and progressives.  But there was always that nagging little problem of the Republican base, specifically their ferocious pro-war attitude.

They carry a lot of weight in the public discourse, so their powerful vocal support for the war would often drown out the (vastly more popular) critical voices. But not anymore. 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

Pakistan: Diplomacy vs Giving It All Away

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.

How are we going to deal with Pakistan when they’re openly flaunting their proxy war against the United States? How should we respond when they say stuff like “we know where the [Taliban] shadow government is”? Or this:

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.

Again, “we protect the Taliban.” Pakistan protects the Taliban. That’s in addition to them training and equipping various Taliban militias and even funding suicide attacks and IEDs against American troops. We, as in you the American tax payer, give Pakistan billions of dollars in aid and weaponry, including directly reimbursing them for their army operations (down to paying for the bullets fired). And yet they’re killing our troops and protecting insurgents/terrorists.

Our relationship with Pakistan is deeply, deeply flawed. How do we fix this?

Spencer Ackerman suggests diplomacy, and I wholeheartedly agree. The American people are howling at the gates of congress to end these trillion dollar, decade-long wars of occupation and aggression, and there is simply no conceivable military solution to any of our problems – whether that’s Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or even Iran. Diplomacy has to be the way to go.

Ackerman helpfully gives us his “opening gambit,” his desired/hypothetical US response to the Pakistani statement above about protecting the Taliban. Here’s his complete “diplomacy” statement:

An envoy from the administration needs to say: We’re on board with that sentiment 100 percent! Pakistan should under no circumstances be cut out of a deal. We’re happy to see that you guys talk to Hamid Karzai’s government now without the binding mechanism of our trilateral summitry. Believe us, we want you doing that, because it should convince you that Pakistan has an interlocutor in Karzai, not an obstacle to Pakistani interests in a post-conflict Afghanistan.

Look, we get it: you sponsor the Taliban because you want strategic depth on your eastern border. You can get that from Karzai; and we’re here to help you get it! Pakistan can have a role in South Asia commensurate with the great power that it is!


And because we’re so sincere about that, we want you involved in the peace talks in a very specific way. We want you to deliver the Taliban and the Haqqanis to the table, under whatever circumstances of amnesty work for you. Then we want you to guarantee that in a post-war Afghanistan, they’re not backsliding on their commitments to backsliding on al-Qaeda. We’re going to put that on you. Look at that: you get an important role in Afghanistan, and it allows us to bring the war to a steady conclusion on mutually-agreeable terms. You win, we win, Karzai wins, the Taliban… kind of win (yeah, we said it), our mutual enemies in al-Qaeda (and the Pak Taliban!) lose. Now who wants flood relief?


Oh, and in case we need to say it: if we start seeing al-Qaeda slipping back into the country, it’s wrath-of-God time.

“We’re on board 100 percent!” Boy, that should really scare the hell out of the Pakistanis. Ackerman, for whatever reason, seems to interpret “diplomacy” as “giving Pakistan everything it could possibly want.” This is incorrect. In negotiations, you start with the extreme of what you want, and then negotiate down to something like a compromise. Ackerman has done exactly the opposite.

Let’s take the statement line by line. Continue Reading

Posted in Anti-war

Forget the Generals, Americans are committed to Ending War

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.

General Petraeus began his rogue propaganda tour earlier this week, and it’s caused quite a stir among policy wonks about the crisis in civilian-military relations. Bernard Finel and Jason Fritz, in particular, have had a fascinating discussion on the origins of the civ-mil crisis. I admit the crisis is deeply troubling, certainly for a President struggling against a reputation for weakness. But I took a slightly more stubborn line to the renegade Petraeus:

We’ve heard this propaganda from Petraeus before, it’s nothing new. They’ve been shoveling this garbage on us for years. Now the majority of Americans are pushing for an exit, and no matter what any rogue general says, we’re ending the war in Afghanistan.

In other words, bring it on. Well, Petraeus did bring it, and now we have our first public poll conducted (partially) after his campaigning began. As expected, he’s failing.

A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan – a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same.

Even a heavy media push by Petraeus can’t deter the movement to end the war. When they sell us war, we push back. We’re done listening to this nonsense about “oil spots” or progress or breaking Taliban momentum or whatever it is they’re hocking this week. We’re ending the war, period. 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

Obama can’t control his Generals – Time for Congress to step in

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.

One of the best parts of learning about foreign countries and their cultures is the sudden realization that these places aren’t actually foreign at all. You’re not studying an opaque alien world, you’re only looking in the mirror. As Americans, it fills us with hope to look across at, say, our progressive allies in Pakistan and note that they’re working hard, just like us, to correct and reform their country’s policies. But are we also capable of seeing the negative parallels? It’s all well and good to lecture the Pakistanis about total military subservience to a strong civilian government, but what about our own weak President and our own anti-democratic generals?

American military officials are building a case to minimize the planned withdrawal of some troops from Afghanistan starting next summer, in an effort to counter growing pressure on President Obama from inside his own party to begin winding the war down quickly.

With the administration unable yet to point to much tangible evidence of progress, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who assumed command in Afghanistan last month from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is taking several steps to emphasize hopeful signs on the ground that, he will argue, would make a rapid withdrawal unwise. Meanwhile, a rising generation of young officers, who have become experts over the past nine years in the art of counterinsurgency, have begun quietly telling administration officials that they need time to get their work done.

When something like this happens in Pakistan, we completely lose our s**t and call them a failed state, a tyrannical dictatorship, a collapsing nuclear-armed time bomb full of apocalyptic religious fanatics and corrupt, out-of-touch plutocrats. When it happens here, it’s called a “media blitz.” Oh you know, General Petraeus is just out there to “counter the growing pressure” by the American people, and hopefully force the Commander-in-Chief’s hand on war making policy. The young officer corps is simply pressuring your elected politicians to give them more time to occupy foreign lands and engage in aggressive wars. Totally normal, everything is fine.

It’s time for Congress to wake up. Petraeus needs to be reminded of exactly who he works for. The generals don’t tell us what to do, we tell them what to do. This is not Pakistan, this is the United States, and if President Obama is too weak to preserve our civilian-military order, then Congress is obligated to enforce its constitutional authority over the power – and the purse – of war. 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

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