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Posts Tagged ‘hamid karzai’

Collapsing Afghanistan & Pakistan Refuse to Cooperate with Obama Photo Op

May 2nd, 2012 Comments off

President Barack Obama sneaked in and out of Afghanistan by the cover of night, his advance security team clearly too worried about the situation in Kabul to allow him to appear in public by day. And they would have been right, since shortly after Obama departed, Taliban hit a foreign workers’ guest house (which was very secure) and killed 6 people, announcing that Obama is not welcome in Afghanistan.

The ostensible purpose of the trip was to sign a [pdf] Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai. The SPA is essentially an executive order, not a treaty, since Obama did not take it to Congress. On the Afghan side, I think it is also an executive order and was not approved by the Afghanistan parliament. Although the White House assures us that it has the force of law, it clearly falls short of being a binding treaty.

The agreement designates “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” as a major non-NATO ally of the United States, the same status as is enjoyed by Egypt, Kuwait, Pakistan and a handful of other countries.

The document speaks of commitment to democracy, but Karzai stole the last presidential election, and there were serious allegations of irregularities in the most recent parliamentary elections, as well.

The document pledges that the US will have no permanent bases in Afghanistan, but the issue won’t even come up again for discussion until a decade or a decade and a half. There are roughly 88,000 US troops in Afghanistan, but that will come down to some 69,000 by September, and then most of those will leave by the end of 2013.

In the meantime, the US will have access to Afghanistan bases and will provide special forces for the continued fight against “Taliban” (most of the ones we call that aren’t), as well as continuing to train the Afghan army.

And more importantly to pay for it (roughly $4 billion a year). Afghanistan cannot afford the enormous army being created for it, so it will go on being supported by ‘strategic rent’ from outside powers or it will collapse.

Obama’s four-fold strategy for Afghanistan is sickly if not dead. It consisted of:

1. Finding a way to replace the eratic and undependable Hamid Karzai with someone else (perhaps Abdullah Abdullah, former foreign minister of the Northern Alliance).

But Karzai stole the last presidential election and is still there, and Obama had to grin and bear it.

2. Conduct a massive counter-insurgency strategy, rooting out the Taliban and winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans for a new political order.

I don’t think there is any reason to believe that ‘counter-insurgency’ succeeded. The hearts and minds were un-won by night raids (sometimes with a mistaken target), peeing on corpses of dead Taliban, burning Qur’ans at Bagram base, etc., etc.

3. Train up a capable new Afghanistan National Army.

The army, now 187,000 strong, suffers from being 86% illiterate, and from being disproportionately Tajik (Dari Persian-speaking Sunnis not respected by the majority Pashtuns), and from having almost no buy-in from Qandahar and Helmand provinces (Taliban strongholds). It loses the equivalent of counties in the east to the Taliban and can’t seem to fight independently of US troops. Only one ANA military unit is assessed as able to fight independently, out of nearly 100). It is bloated, over-equipped, but under-trained and lacking in initiative and apparently esprit de corps. That this army can defeat the Taliban or even just keep Karzai from being hanged when the US and NATO depart is not at all a sure thing.

4. Use drone strikes to hit al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the tribal belt of Pakistan, while pressuring Pakistan finally to step up and help defeat the Taliban.

Actually the drone strikes have created a strong backlash in the Pakistani public, jealous of their national sovereignty. When the US air force inadvertently hit 24 Pakistani troops in December, the Pakistani parliament stopped NATO supply trucks from using the Pakistan route from Karachi to the Khyber pass, marooning thousands of tons of military equipment intended for the Afghanistan National Army. Parliament is recommending against letting the US ship military goods through Pakistan, and against allowing further drone strikes.

Ordinarily foreign policy is an executive prerogative, but the executive in Pakistan is paralyzed by a constitutional crisis, with the Supreme Court holding the Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, in contempt because he hasn’t moved against President Asaf Ali Zardari for corruption.

Obama just disregarded the parliamentary report and used drones again in Pakistan, to public dismay.

Pakistan is not going well, and neither, really, is Afghanistan.

So, Mitt Romney, who is jumping up and down like a little boy in the background, shouting ‘Me, too!’, ‘Me, too!’, seems unaware that he is me-tooing a policy that is in deep trouble with the exception of the killing of Bin Laden last year.

Obama told the US troops there that everyone over here knows of their sacrifices and deeply appreciates them. Alas, I fear few Americans are paying attention to Afghanistan. The war is unpopular now with the public, including even Republicans (so Mitt has little chance of picking up leverage here). I seldom see it reported on on television, and even a lot of newspapers are basically ignoring it. You wouldn’t know we had nearly 90,000 troops fighting and dying abroad.

So although Afghanistan and Pakistan have not gone well for Obama, there is likely no US political gain to be had on either side from the misery of those two countries.

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It’s Springtime in Kabul for the Taliban

April 16th, 2012 Comments off

The Taliban kicked off their spring offensive with numerous coordinated attacks in the capital of Kabul and well as in some provinces.

Aljazeera English has video:

This sort of tactic makes a lot of noise, but typically has no practical benefit for a guerrilla movement. The Sunni Arab Islamic State of Iraq has been blowing up Baghdad regularly but we’ve seen no sign of it interfering with the consolidation of power by PM Nouri al-Maliki. Perhaps it has even backfired and created momentum for al-Maliki.

One local Afghan newspaper was left puzzling as to the purpose of these attacks, which, like those in Baghdad, likely have not hope of tactical success. The article speculates that the Taliban are trying to keep the US boots on the ground, just as President Hamid Karzai is, so as to extract strategic rent from the ongoing Western presence in Afghanistan. That is, some allege that the attacks in Kabul were motivated by a desire to draw the US into a longer-term occupation, so that the Taliban can be assured of having someone to fight. (Seems unlikely to me, but interesting that it appeared in the Afghan press. And, I don’t think it would work. Most Americans, even Republicans, want out, and I think most US troops will be out by 2014…)

The USG Open Source Center translated an article from Pashto in the Islamic press about the attacks:


Afghan ministry says 17 militants killed in Kabul attacks
Afghan Islamic Press
Monday, April 16, 2012 …
Document Type: OSC Translated Text . . .

Text of report by private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency

Kabul, 15 April: Ministry of Interior: 17 militants have been killed in Sunday’s attacks.

The Afghan Ministry of Interior in their latest statement on Sunday, 15 April, said that 17 militants have been killed in today’s attacks and two others have been arrested.

The statement, which AIP received late in the evening, says that the militants targeted three areas in Kabul city in which four militants have been killed.

The statement further adds that 11 police soldiers and five civilians have sustained injures in this incident.

The Ministry of Interior has not confirmed any other casualties except for the killing of the terrorists only.

The statement also adds that four other terrorists have been gunned down in shoot-out between the militants and security guards of PRT in Jalalabad and also adds that three people have been killed as a result of a car explosion.

According to the statement, a terrorist who tried to flee the area was detained by the security forces.

The Ministry of Interior confirms the injury of four civilians in Jalalabad incident.

The statement also says that three assailants have been killed in Sunday’s attack that took place in Gardez city capital of Paktia Province and adds that three policemen and five civilians have been wounded in this attack.

The statement also reported about another incident in Logar Province in which three attackers were killed in Pol-e Alam area of the Province and adds that another terrorist have been arrested. The statement also confirms the injury of only three policemen in this incident.

Although the Ministry of Interior did not report killing of any one from the security forces, Zabihollah Mojahed, the Taleban spokesman, claims killing tens of policemen, army soldiers and a number of foreigners in today’s attacks. Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) has not received any confirmation from independent sources.

(Description of Source: Peshawar Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto — Peshawar-based agency, staffed by Afghans, that describes itself as an independent “news agency” but whose history and reporting pattern reveal a perceptible pro-Taliban bias; the AIP’s founder-director, Mohammad Yaqub Sharafat, has long been associated with a mujahidin faction that merged with the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate” led by Mullah Omar; subscription required to access content; http://www.afghanislamicpress. com)

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Why don’t we have better Reporting on the Afghanistan Army? It is our Best Hope for Getting Out

March 19th, 2012 Comments off

With the Qur’an-burning scandal, the Panjwai massacre, repeated demonstrations against the United States, and Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai’s increasingly strident anti-American pronouncements, it seems clear that the US is likely to be withdrawing from that country soon. The Obama administration, its “counter-insurgency” strategy crafted by current CIA head David Petraeus in flames, still hopes for a soft landing. Republican candidates have shown no appetite for staying in Afghanistan either (Newt Gingrich says that Afghans should be ‘left to their miserable lives,’ presumably as punishment for their ingratitude at being militarily occupied by the US and its western allies for over a decade).

I haven’t seen good recent reporting, however, on what seem to me the key elements in a successful US withdrawal, i.e. one that does not lead to another Afghan civil war, one that doesn’t leave the country a playground for regional interests, one that does not result in a takeover by the Taliban.

The centerpiece of US policy is the building up of the Afghanistan National Army, with a target set by President Obama of 260,000. This troop level cannot be sustained by the Afghan government budget, and so guarantees that foreign sources will be necessary to fund the army for years and perhaps decades to come. Is that course really plausible?

What is the current troop strength? How much of the country is the ANA responsible for now (the US and NATO have been turning provinces over to it one by one)? How many tanks does the ANA now have? How many helicopter gunships? What is the ethnic composition of the officer corps now? How loyal are they to Karzai? Who is the army chief of staff and how good is he?

Well, the easy part is that the army chief of staff is General Sher Mohammad Karimi, who is a very worried man. He was graduated from Britain’s prestigious Sandhurst military academy, but also studied in Egypt and Russia. He is worried about US hamfistedness, as with the scandal over the burning of the Qur’an, or the video of US troops pissing on fallen Taliban warriors’ bodies, and the way the Taliban are taking full propaganda advantage. He is worried about presiding over hundreds of thousands of largely illiterate, poorly trained troops (Afghanistan’s literacy rate is 28%, the troops’ literacy rate is about 10%).

Karimi is also concerned about the scaling down of US and NATO plans for support of his military, with recent maximum troop strength now being pegged at 230,000. He wants a bigger army and wants ongoing artillery and close air support.

All of these positions make me concerned about Karimi and the aftermath. He cannot possibly hope to depend on foreign rent so heavily, and on a gigantic, swollen army. If I were Karimi, I’d get NATO to buy me as many tanks and artillery pieces as they would right now, and train the men on them like crazy (for defense of main cities). More emphasis on light, mobile, forces backed by helicopter gunships for fighting in the more rugged areas is also necessary (for taking the fight to the enemy). It was only when the Soviets learned to fight that way that they even began to hold their own, back in the mid-1980s. (The Karzai government is fixated on getting F-16s fighter jets, which are useless for counter-insurgency.)

Depending on big Western aid budgets and Western close air support is unwise. Afghanistan in 2016 may not be a budget priority abroad. And the country cannot hope to support this enormous military establishment all by itself. It would swallow up the whole national budget.

The recruitment drive for the army had stalled out at 170,000 by last September. There were enormous numbers of troops going AWOL in 2010. The last figure I saw suggested that only two percent of the ANA is drawn from the provinces of Helmand and Qandahar, strongholds of the old Taliban. That kind of resistance to national integration could prove fatal, since even ANA troops therefore would look to locals like foreign occupiers.

Reporting on the ANA performance on the ground is sketchy. Karimi alleges that 60% of military operations are now carried out by the ANA independently of NATO, but I doubt very many important battles are pursued without Western support. It is being alleged that an operation led by ANA forces and supported by Afghanistan National Security Forces and a British unit against Taliban in Gereshk, Helmand, went well, with the fundamentalist guerrillas scattering before the ANA advance. If this report is true, and if it is representative, it would indicate progress in ANA capabilities, but obviously they still needed British backup.

It is the cohesiveness, efficiency, and counter-insurgency capabilities of the Afghanistan National Army that will go a long way toward determining the future of the country. We need more good reporting about what exactly is going on with the ANA.

What I can find out on the web suggests to me that the troops need more education. Why not a University of Maryland type educational program for them such as US GIs have access to? (Obviously in Afghanistan it would be elementary and high school education that most need). They need better armor and light aircraft and training on them. They need better esprit de corps. Karimi is excited about plans for a Sandhurst-style officer training academy in Kabul, but the quality and initiative of his fighting troops is just as important.

The US public is uninterested in or tired of Afghanistan. Obama should give up on a US-led attempt at counter-insurgency (winning hearts and minds, indeed) and instead put all its eggs in the basket of ensuring that the ANA and the national police have the capacity to do their jobs.

That capacity depends on perhaps a smaller but better trained and equipped force that is learning to act more independently. Karimi is playing the bureaucrat in a rentier state, expecting ongoing big money from outside sources. It isn’t likely to arrive. And his clear dependence on the US and NATO for back up and air support is unrealistic in the extreme. He needs to change his leadership style, or Afghanistan needs a different kind of military leader.

I was referred by some readers to the ISAF site for info on the Afghanistan army. Yes, I know. Click and see if that does it for you.

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Taliban talks off; Karzai tells NATO to pull back – The Associated Press

March 15th, 2012 Comments off

The Associated Press

Taliban talks off; Karzai tells NATO to pull back
The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The American campaign in Afghanistan suffered a double blow Thursday: The Taliban broke off talks with the US, and President Hamid Karzai said NATO should pull out of rural areas and speed up the transfer of security
Panetta Stresses Importance of Staying Course in AfghanistanVoice of America
Afghan Taliban Halts US Talks Over 'Unacceptable' TermsBusinessWeek
Karzai presses US on security; Taliban breaks off talksUSA TODAY
ABC Online –MiamiHerald.com –Washington Post
all 1,604 news articles »

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Karzai plans to hold peace talks with Taliban in Saudi Arabia

January 30th, 2012 Comments off

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has planned to meet with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia in an attempt to restart peace talks.
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Afghan president to hold talks with Taliban

January 29th, 2012 Comments off

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has plans to hold a meet with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia to restart peace talks, a media report said.
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Reuters: ‘Taliban liaison office opens in Qatar’

December 28th, 2011 Comments off
“Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, in a note to foreign missions, has set out ground rules for engaging the Taliban after Kabul grew concerned that the United States and Qatar, helped by Germany, had secretly agreed with the Taliban to open an office in the Qatari capital, Doha.

U.S. officials have held about half a dozen meetings mostly in Germany and Doha with representatives of Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, this year to prepare the way for face-to-face talks between the group and the Afghan government… 
The government would prefer such an office in either Saudi Arabia or Turkey, both of which it is close to, but was not averse to Doha as long as the authority of the Afghan state was not eroded and the office was only established for talks, officials said.
“We are saying Saudi or Turkey are preferable, we are not saying it has to be there only. The only condition is it should be in an Islamic country,” said a government official.
President Hamid Karzai’s administration recalled its ambassador from Doha last week, apparently angry that it had been kept in the dark about the latest round of contacts with the insurgent group.
Officials said Kabul was also deeply concerned about reports that the United States was considering the transfer of a small number of Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay military prison to Doha as a prelude to the talks.
“We are a sovereign country, we have laws. How can you transfer our prisoners from one country to another. Already it’s a violation to have them in Guantanamo Bay,” the official said.
The Afghan government wanted the prisoners to be returned to its custody, the official said….”



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Afghan president cancels UK visit following major attacks

December 7th, 2011 Comments off

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has cancelled his European visit in the wake of double sectarian attacks that rocked Afghanistan Tuesday, killing 60 people, including women and children.
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Clinton and Ghalyun

December 7th, 2011 Comments off
I so enjoyed watching the footage of Hillary Clinton while she was lecturing Burhan Ghalyun and his friends from the Ikhwan’s Syrian National Council about women’s rights and democracy.  They have turned into little Hamid Karzai’s, no more.  She was lecturing on how the new Syria has to respect women’s and minority rights the way solid US ally, Saudi Arabia respects him. Ghalyun and comrades nodded their heads in approval.  

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Brother of Hamid Karzai

July 13th, 2011 Comments off

I am not sure that i will be able to blog much this week.  The death of Hamid Karzai’s brother really hit me hard.  It was so unexpected.  Here was this most corrupt puppet of occupation, all vibrant and criminal and then died just like that.  I am beyond consolation.  Really really sad.  I mean, if Prince Sultan dies this week, I may as well leave for a remote island in the Arabian sea.

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