Friday, December 3, 2010

The Afghan Front: Iran's payroll

The Guardian: "WikiLeaks: Afghan MPs and religious scholars 'on Iran payroll'"

US embassy cables reveal Tehran's alleged efforts to influence Afghan politicians, religious scholars and Taliban militants (...) >>>

Dec. 3, 2010

The Taliban imposter -

Asia Times: "Oops ... wrong man!"

Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the "senior Taliban leader" flown secretly to Kabul and paid a large amount of money to open negotiations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and President Hamid Karzai's administration, was not who he claimed to be.

The man was probably a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta in Balochistan province and may have been planted by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Afghan officials now say. The ISI has dismissed the accusation as "preposterous". (...) >>>

Nov. 27, 2010

UN-approved, NATO-backed, EU-compliant -

FEATURE -MacLeans.CA: "Where ‘nice’ Obama has got us", vintage Mark Steyn

(...) After 2003, Afghanistan became the good war, the one everyone claimed to have supported all along, if mostly retrospectively and for the purposes of justifying their “principled moral opposition” to Bush’s illegal adventuring against Saddam. Afghanistan was everything Iraq wasn’t: UN-approved, NATO-backed, EU-compliant. It’d be tough for even the easiest nickel ’n’ dime military incursion to survive that big an overdose of multilateral hogwash, and the Afghan campaign didn’t. Instead of being an operation to kill one of the planet’s most concentrated populations of jihadist terrorists, it decayed into half-hearted nation-building in which a handful of real allies took the casualties while the rest showed up for the group photo. (...) >>>

Jul 4, 2010

Obama is demanding respect - Paraphrasing Obama's own clarification: we can't accept that there might be a perception that the military is not under firm control of the civil authorities. I.e. Obama had to show authority. What Obama doesn't understand, is that only men with natural authority can afford to pardon. The war effort is now subordinated and suffers because the President feels the need to prove that he is a figure of authority. Rather like, demanding respect. It's becoming a pattern. The Washingon Times take it like this:
A commander in chief whose leadership was less in doubt could have made a quip about the article and moved on, but Mr. Obama is exceptionally image-conscious. So, rather than dismiss the article, he dramatically summoned Gen. McChrystal from the battlefront and took his resignation while sympathetic bloggers peddled analogies to Truman and Lincoln and their incorrigible generals that do not bear close scrutiny. (...) >>>
The following are the comments on the matter of our regular commentator on all things military, retired US Army Colonel, Dr Sam Holliday of the Armiger Cromwell Center -
There is universal agreement that it was a good decision to have General David Petraeus taking over in Afghanistan. Yet this change will not insure success. The opportunity must be seized. Two other changes are needed.
As President Obama said, we must have a united team. Since the major weakness has been with the civilian part of the team, success will require the replacement of Karl Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke with a single person who will work effectively with General Petraeus to achieve stability in the region.
Henry Kissinger has identified the other change needed. To date the counterinsurgency strategy has attempted to work through the central government in Kabul. However, as Kissinger noted in the Washington Post on 24 June: "The attainable outcome is likely to be a confederation of semi-autonomous, regions configured largely on the basis of ethnicity, dealing with each other by tacit or explicit understanding." The counterinsurgency strategy is flexible; it can--and must--be adjusted to this reality.

For more on this issue see Withdrawl Strategy for Afghanistan, 21 Nov 2009

Enduring America: "The Politics Behind McChrystal’s Removal — and Why It’s Bad for the War"

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is in charge no more. After two days of intense talks about his departure, he tendered his resignation as the man in charge of NATO troops in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama –– angered by remarks about the White House and the US ambassador in Kabul made by the general and his aides to Rolling Stone magazine— graciously accepted the resignation. He immediately Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the US troop surge policy in Iraq in 2008 that likely salvaged the war there, in his stead. Has a crisis been averted? Probably not.

Even though President Obama saved face and probably made small gains with the hawkish portion of the US electorate — just in time for the November mid-term elections, I might add –– the decision will have dire consequences for Obama’s war plan in Afghanistan. The reason is quite simple; nothing was actually done in the past days to understand the reasons why Gen. McChrystal made his remarks or to address the issues.

The situation with McChrystal and the White House is a by-product of two distinct but interrelated issues. The first is Gen. McChrystal’s relationship with President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief. The second is his relationship with the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ret. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, who was largely ignored in this fiasco by US media. (...) >>>

Jun 24, 2010

The McChrystal plot is thickening - Item rooted in prior entries on April 5 and 11 (scroll down) -


Rolling Stone’s advance of an article with controversial remarks by Gen. Stanley McChrystal about President Barack Obama’s prosecution of the war will be on the screen for days to come. Apparently the general opened up to a freelancer and held little back when it came to deriding vice-president Joe Biden and ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry. Eikenberry retired from the US Army as a Lieutenant General.* But war correspondent Michael Yon had begun to ask questions about the leadership in Afghanistan weeks ago.

The Washington Post said McChrystal “is quoted in an upcoming profile in Rolling Stone magazine as saying that Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, had ‘betrayed’ him by sending a diplomatic cable to Washington last fall dismissing Karzai as ‘not an adequate strategic partner.’ The cable came as McChrystal was recommending that President Obama increase U.S. forces and ties with the Afghan government.” (...) >>>

The mineral 'ruse' - the Left is spinning this release of information calculated to prolongue US 'occupation' of Afghanistan -

Cato: "Are Afghan Riches a Curse?", by Nita Ghei

Afghanistan may have mineral deposits worth more than $900 billion, according to a recent report — a fortune for the poverty-stricken nation. It is a fortune that is unlikely to be extracted to the benefit of the Afghan people. Without the rule of law and effective government institutions, the country will not see the massive investments in infrastructure and mining necessary to extract this mineral wealth.

As economists from Milton Friedman to Mancur Olson have pointed out, the difference between rich and poor countries is not a matter of resources; it's a matter of institutions. Countries ruled by laws that respect property rights, and with institutions that augment and facilitate free exchange, tend to prosper. Countries where property rights are precarious, and where the risk of appropriation of property by the state is high, tend to remain poor.

If the state is likely to seize your investment or profit, why would you invest in a business in hopes of a long-term payoff? On the other hand, the higher the probability that you will be able to keep your profit and income, the greater the incentive to invest and work hard. (...) >>>

Jun 22, 2010

Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets with Secre...Image via Wikipedia
Something's brewing in Kabul? - What to make of the news the last couple of days? First we here a Clintonian buddy of Richard Holbrooke's in the State Dept., Peter Gailbraith, has delivered a dead fish to Hamid Karzai (the two have been exchanging mutual allegations of election fraud); then we hear Karzai's brother has been outed by the O regime as a CIA agent, followed by rumors that the regime has also threatened to uninvite Karzai to the White House "as a warning"; and now the Times has it that Karzai is pondering to delay or even cancel NATO's Kandahar offensive — one of the biggest of the nine-year war — after being confronted by elders who said it would bring strife, not security, to his home province. See also the preceding entry of Karzai going rogue. Something's brewing ... probably the O Team looking for an excuse to drop the Afghan NATO project. The Times article's wrap up is telling:
“President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner,” General Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan wrote in a telegram that was later leaked.

Apr 11, 2010

Karzai going rogue -

BlackListedNews: "No joke: Karzai threatens to join the Taliban"

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has slammed Western backers for the second time in a week, accusing the United States of interference, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. In a private meeting with up to 70 Afghan lawmakers Saturday, Karzai also warned that the Taliban insurgency could become a legitimate resistance movement if foreign meddling in Afghan affairs continues, the Journal said, citing participants in the talks. During the talks, Karzai, whose government is supported by billions of dollars of Western aid and 126,000 foreign troops fighting the Taliban, said he would be compelled to join the insurgency himself if the parliament does not back his bid to take over Afghanistan's electoral watchdog.

His comments came less than a day after Karzai sought to defuse tensions over his earlier anti-foreigner outburst by assuring US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton he was committed to working with the United States. Kabul and Washington said they were putting behind them the incident which saw Karzai publicly claim last week that foreigners orchestrated election fraud. The latest remarks were sure to further erode an already fragile relationship. During a brief, unannounced visit to Kabul on Monday, Obama urged Karzai to rid his government of its pervasive corruption. (...) >>>

Apr 5, 2010

Commentary Magazine: "Taking Tea with the Taliban", by Michael Rubin

Feb. 1, 2010

A promising approach: Although this might not be a perfect solution, it does show some movement towards stability in some districts which can become ink spots to achieve stability in provinces, and than maybe even expanded to all of Afghanistan. It just might provide the security shield needed. It is certainly better than wasting blood and treasure on "economic and political development" through the central government. Just wondering how long before this effort is undermined by foreign policy establishment and the advocates of "soft power".

NYT: "Afghans Answering the Call to Fight"

Jan. 3, 2010

Is NATO repeating the mistakes of Bosnia? In the Bosnia campaign the UN was included in the command and control structure and it was an unmitigated disaster, culminating in the sacking of "safe haven" Srebrenica. But this post sounds eerily familiar:

Belmont Club: "Blood red tape"

The NYT featured a guest editorial from a former US Army officer who described possibly the next revolutionary doctrine in military affairs: counterbureaucracy. (...) During Desert Storm, the Air Force had a 72-48 hour OODA Loop. But in the cut and thrust war against terrorism, where targets are fleeting and minutes matter, forty eight hours is no longer a fast enough reaction time for anything. Minutes count.

But minutes are elusive because the campaign in Afghanistan is managed through the convoluted lines of authority of a multinational coalition campaign fought on a joint basis. Here authorizations must cross international, interservice and cross-cultural boundaries with legal processes layered over everything. The wonder isn’t that the Army couldn’t catch this Taliban commander. The wonder is how they can catch anyone at all. (...) >>>

Politeia: "Road to Nationhood" - Part II: ""On Development Aid, Stability and Unification", by Dr Sam Holliday

The visit of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Afghanistan on 8 December 2009, unfortunately suggests that US policy will not basically change. Or if there is to be a change toward decentralization of power, it was well hidden.

Gates spoke of continued support for Harmid Karzai and the building, training and retention of the security forces controlled by the central government, Afghan Army and the Afghan "National" Police. (...) >>>

Dec. 18, 2009

Politeia: "Road to Nationhood" - Part I: "Losing the war is not an option", by Arend Jan Boekestijn (original article in Dutch)

Pundits are fond to cite George Orwell lately: the fastest way to end a war is to lose it. Afghanistan has divided the West. We have acted so recklessly that it appeared at times as if losing the war was indeed the object. But it would have dire consequences for Western security.

For those who are taking pleasure in debunking Obama: losing the war in Afghanistan is no option. As long as Europe seeks strength in diversity, appeasement and cashing in on peace divident we shall have to settle for Obama. Defeat is nothing less than an affirmation of the jihadists' view that the decadent West has no staying power. (...) >>>

Dec. 11, 2009

FEATURE - Der Spiegel is throwing another light in the situation in Afghanistan. Diplomacy is in tatters and Karzai is treated like a governor of an imperial eparchy. The author sees the parties condemned to each other, but in the perspective of deliberate destruction of the war, it makes perfect sense.

Spiegel: "Why America Is Stuck With Karzai", by Susanne Koelbl

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his ally, the United States, are hopelessly at odds, and yet they are condemned to the mutual pursuit of success in Afghanistan. (...) >>>

The strategy to lose a war: J.D. Longstreet trumps my cynicism. Sad, but here it is. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton put it: "We're no longer in the business of spreading democracy" (as an antidote to terrorism, that vile Neocon doctrine!):

Faultline USA: "Obama Dithers. US Troops Die - “Broken Arrow” for US Troops in Afghanistan?"

Pay close attention over the next few months for you are about to see how Democrats lose a war. History will be made as the world’s only super power, led by a socialist President and a socialist controlled Congress, feed our soldiers into a meat-grinder in order to turn public opinion against the war. As soon as a sufficient percentage of Americans declare their distaste for the war in Afghanistan, Obama will declare the war cannot be won – thus -- creating an excuse to bring US troops home from Afghanistan in defeat and disgrace. So far, Obama has rejected every single option placed before him by the military. (...) >>>

Nov. 16, 2009

American Diplomacy: "Afghan Federation", by Sam Holliday

Our country needs a strategy for Afghanistan; even though there is no certainty any specific strategy will insure stability in South Asia. Whether General McChrystal gets all or only some of the troops he requested, it may be necessary to modify his counterinsurgency strategy. Therefore, a shift to a federation for Afghanistan should be considered seriously.

Clarity on a strategy is long overdue. It was thought that a strategy for Afghanistan had been determined in March when General McChrystal was selected to be Obama’s military commander in Afghanistan. It was assumed that the president would support Generals McChrystal and Petraeus in their efforts to win what the president had repeatedly called a “war of necessity”.

Yet recent events show there is no clear policy or strategy for Afghanistan. While the White House states that it is still committed to disrupting al-Quada and denying that terrorist organization safe haven in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is confusion on how this is to be accomplished. This confusion has many negative consequences. (...) >>>

Oct. 26, 2009

"The good war" may soon be the abandoned war ...

Obama interpretes his winning the Nobel Peace Prize as "call to action" ... It fits the Tranzie One World paradigm perfectly to abandon the Afghanistan war. The following narrative is under construction: "we're not fighting Islamic zealots, but freedom fighters; the Taliban is not the main enemy ... Let's go home".

Commentary Magazine Blog: "E.J. Dionne, Then & Now", by Peter Wehner

In his most recent column, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr. reports that at a White House dinner with a group of historians at the beginning of summer, Robert Dallek offered a “chilling comment” to President Obama:

“In my judgment,” he recalls saying, “war kills off great reform movements.” The American record is pretty clear: World War I brought the Progressive Era to a close. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was waging World War II, he was candid in saying that “Dr. New Deal” had given way to “Dr. Win the War.” Korea ended Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, and Vietnam brought Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society to an abrupt halt. . . . Dallek’s point helps explain why Obama is right to have grave qualms about an extended commitment of many more American troops to Afghanistan . Obama was elected not to escalate a war but to end one. The change and hope he promised did not involve a vast new campaign to transform Afghanistan

Dionne goes on to argue against the war not because it will prevent nationalized health care from getting through but because the Afghanistan war might come to define his presidency “more than any victory he wins on health care.” So you can now add Mr. Dionne to the pundits who once thought Afghanistan was the “good war” but now view it as the Inconvenient War. (...) >>>

Oct. 9, 2009

The dispensible mission: In the last entry in this dossier we concluded that Afghanistan is no longer a priority for the Obama administration. We now know that Gen. McChrystal's report has been gathering dust since August. In the Netherlands a national debate has just concluded that they'll be pulling the plug on the ISAF Uruzgan mission next year, but may be willing to take on another, minor role if Pres. Obama requested it; this much against the wishes of the Left who always deemed the Afghanistan mission as "unethical" as the Iraq War. Obama meanwhile had other priorities. In the following video Roger L. Simon talks to indep. journalist Michael Yon: we're on the brink and the war is now as good as lost.

Update: Just a few days after jotting down this note Dutch Parliament voted to break up camp in Uruzgan at the end of current mission.

PJM: "Michael Yon's Afghanistan Report Card: "We're on the brink..."

Oct. 3, 2009

No longer a priority ...

Der Spiegel: "'This Is No Longer a War of Necessity'"

Richard Haass, the president of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, talks to SPIEGEL about new approaches to the Afghanistan war, the country's decreasing significance in the war on terror and why Pakistan is more important to American interests. (...) It is fine for generals and civilians to ask for more resources. One of their responsibilities is to speak truth to power if they think they need more resources to accomplish the mission. To do that in public is not appropriate, though. The president deserves to have these issues debated in private.

Whoever leaked General McChrystal's memorandum, acted unfairly and unprofessionally (...) we need to be more confident that doing more militarily in Afghanistan will produce more results. It is not clear that will be the case. Secondly, we need to challenge the assumption that what happens in Afghanistan is critical for the global effort against terrorism. (...) That is not clear either. Even if terrorists were to be denied Afghanistan, they could operate out of other countries. We should also reconsider whether what happens in Afghanistan is essential for the future in Pakistan which, frankly, matters more to the United States. Pakistan's internal dynamics will count for more when it comes to determining Pakistan's trajectory. I believe the president is right to slow down the decision process. (...) >>>

Sept. 28, 2009

Strategy Page: "Here Is The Plan"

One vital Taliban goal is to convince the rest of the world that Afghanistan is an unsafe place for foreigners. That's nothing new. The region has always been awash in outlaws and bandits. The only law, in most of the country, is tribal custom. And that can change at the whim of whatever strongman is running things in an area you are travelling through.

Running Afghanistan has always been all about getting the tribes to get along. That isn't happening now because several back the Taliban (which draw their manpower from all over the south), and several more back drug lords (and the enormous wealth that goes with that). Most of the tribes are content to back the government, as long as they have something to show for it. Everyone wants to get paid (...) >>>

Sept. 25, 2009

The comprehensive, 'regional' Afghanistan Conference is kicking off in The Hague. In attendance are over 70 countries (including Iran) and NGOs. According to the Dutch Foreign Minister the idea is to shift the responsibility from the US to the UN. The strategy: parley with the 'moderate Taliban'. That's right! Throw the victims under the bus ...

It is our pleasure to provide you with the new White Paper of the White House Interagency Policy Group's Report on U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, presented by U.S. President Barack Obama on March 27, 2009 with a fresh new approach towards Afghanistan and Pakistan - now called AfPak - which is in line with many of the recommendations of the World Security Network Foundation for FATA, Pakistan and Afghanistan as promoted for many years (see our newsletters below). (...) >>>

Mar 30, 2009

Weekly Std: "Yes, We Can - In the 'graveyard of empires,' we are fighting a war we can win", by Max Boot, Frederick Kagan, and Kimberly Kagan

If you believe the headlines, Afghanistan is "the graveyard of empires," a "quagmire" and a "fiasco," the place where President Barack Obama will meet his "Vietnam." In the media's imagination, the Taliban are on the march, and Kabul is on the verge of falling to a resurgent insurgency that already controls much of the countryside. Increasing numbers of voices, on both the left and the right, counsel that the war is unwinnable and that we need to radically "downsize" our objectives in order to salvage something from a failing war effort lest we go the way of the Russians or British, previous conquerors who foundered in this merciless land of violence and fanaticism. (...) >>>

Mar 17, 2009

Nat'l Review: "Planning Victory in Afghanistan - Nine principles the Obama administration should follow", by Frederick W. Kagan - FEATURE

(...) Afghanistan is in many respects harder to understand than Iraq was. Even with a good strategy and sufficient resources, success will almost certainly come much more slowly. But as a great man said two years ago, hard is not hopeless. The keys to finding the right approach lie in nine fundamental principles. (...)


Read it all >>>

Feb 10, 2009

Times Online: "Obama puts brake on Afghan surge"
President Barack Obama has demanded that American defence chiefs review their strategy in Afghanistan before going ahead with a troop surge. T here is concern among senior Democrats that the military is preparing to send up to 30,000 extra troops without a coherent plan or exit strategy. (...) Obama promised an extra 7,000-10,000 troops during the election campaign but the military has inflated its demands. Leading Democrats fear Afghanistan could become Obama’s “Vietnam quagmire”. If the surge goes ahead the military intend to limit the mission to fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and leave democracy building and reconstruction to Nato allies and civilians from the State Department and other agencies. The United States has been pushing Britain to send several thousand more troops but there is just as much disagreement and confusion among British defence chiefs over the long-term aim. Gordon Brown is set to receive a full briefing this week.(...) >>>

Feb 8, 2009


- Steven Pressfield Blog: "War and Reality in Afghanistan"

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