Those who spread corruption should be tried and prosecuted. Corruption is a very dangerous enemy of the state. …Afghan ministers should be professional and servants of the people. The government officials should register their earnings.
Just for the record, Hamid Karzai had roughly a million fraudulent votes thrown out in the election. You can learn all about Fahim and Khalili in a Human Rights Watch report titled (and I’m not even kidding) Blood-Stained Hands which details the war crimes for which they and their subordinates were responsible. So by all means, gentlemen, explain to us how you’re going to lead Afghanistan into a new era of peace, prosperity and transparency.
As Matthew Hoh noted in his resignation letter, the corruption at the very top in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is only the most visible symptom of the rot that’s set in within the Afghan state from top to bottom, which includes:
Glaring corruption and unabashed graft;
A President whose confidants and chief advisors comprise drug lords and war crimes villians, who mock our own rule of law and counternarcotics efforts;
A system of provincial and district leaders constituted of local power brokers, opportunists and strongmen allied to the United States solely for, and limited by, the value of our USAID and CERP contracts and whose own political and economic interests stand nothing to gain from any positive or genuine attempts at reconciliation; and
The recent election process dominated by fraud and discredited by low voter turnout, which has created an enormous victory for our enemy who now claims a popular boycott and will call into question worldwide our government’s military, economic and diplomatic support for an invalid and illegitimate Afghan government.
The Afghan government is not worth one more American life or dollar. This cartel is a very large part of the problem, not the solution, in Afghanistan. We should be reducing, not increasing, or military commitment in that country, post haste.
Tomorrow I’ll be interview Matthew Hoh on the situation in Afghanistan. Until then, here’s another clip of his conversation with Daniel Ellsberg about the need for us to start the drawdown.
James Vega–writing for The Democratic Strategist, co-edited by William Galston, Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira–just published a 2,600+ word memo arguing that “Obama’s final decision” to “approve a significant increase in the number of troops” would not be a “betrayal” of the Democratic base.
Democrats — Don’t be misled. The media is going to call Obama’s new Afghan strategy a “betrayal” of the Democratic base — but it’s not. It’s actually a decisive rejection of the Republican/Neo-Conservative strategy of the “Long War”
…Based on current reports, Obama’s final decision will approve a significant increase in the number of troops – the exact number depending on the number of major cities to be covered and the degree of protection to be provided for the major road highways. For the many critics who believe that sending large numbers of additional U.S. troops may actually be counterproductive, this is a clear disappointment. But it is also already clear that Obama’s strategy will do several other important things.
It will establish specific criteria for success and failure.
It will define the mission in a concrete and specific way that can be openly debated and revised.
It will include an explicit “exit strategy” rather than an open-ended commitment.
Obama’s specific plan for Afghanistan may turn out to be right or wrong – there are entirely reasonable and cogent arguments that a smaller military “footprint” could actually enhance our ability to achieve our ultimate objectives more than a larger one. But, in any case, the method Obama has used to reach his decision is one that has profoundly undermined the basic foundations of the strategy neoconservatives have been following to embroil America in a perpetual “Long War” – an endless series of open-ended, military campaigns that drag on for decades, constantly requiring more and more troops to achieve hopelessly vague and unquantifiable objectives of fundamental social and cultural transformation across the Muslim world.
Again, total garbage. Decision-making processes are important, true. Asserting civilian control over the military is fundamental to the health of our democratic republic, true. But these issues are totally separate from the question of whether or not sending more troops is a betrayal of the president’s base.
Memo to the memo-writers: you might want to refer to well-documented Democratic public opinion since your About Us section says you:
“seek to publish substantial articles that draw strategic conclusions from the latest public opinion and demographic research conducted by the academic community and commercial public opinion polling firms as well as from the leading think-tanks and policy institutes across America.”
If President Obama sends more troops, he “betrays” his base. The end. This is not complicated.
Writing 2,600+ words to take the long way around doesn’t change a “no” to a “yes.” The very least you could do to sell this attempted Jedi mind trick would have been to fabricate a poll. At least then you wouldn’t be patronizing the majority of Democrats whose names you use to get your analysis in the door in order to stab us in the back.
I’m convinced that when we look back on the key events on the road out of Afghanistan, we’ll mark Matthew Hoh’s resignation as one of the milestones. Hoh’s resignation letter is a devastating four-page indictment of the misguided U.S. policy in that country, and his experience in Anbar, Iraq gave his views heft in the debate about whether an Iraq-style “surge” provided a template for “success” in Afghanistan. Do yourself a favor: if you haven’t yet read the letter, do so.
Matthew Hoh recently sat down with Daniel Ellsberg for a Brave New Conversation, the trailer for which you can see above. I’ll interview Hoh later this week to get his thoughts on the way forward in Afghanistan and the reaction to his resignation. For now, though, enjoy the conversation.
The Progressive Caucus just sent a letter to President Obama asking for a meeting to discuss “a comprehensive rethinking of our military mission, a complete redesign of our reconstruction and stabilization strategy and a courageous reconciliation strategy for Afghanistan.”
Signed by Congresswomen Lee and Woosley and Congressmen Grijalva, Honda and McGovern, the letter lists several concerns about the ongoing mission in Afghanistan, including:
the prospect of additional troop commitments without a clear mission and without criteria with which to evaluate success;
the failure of foreign aid to rebuild Afghan “institutions, infrastructure, and individual capacity”;
the lack of legitimacy of the Afghan government, demonstrated and worsened by the stolen election, corruption in aid distribution and “foreign intelligence and security alliances.”
The letter comes as the president prepares to announce his decision regarding the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. This is the latest of several high-profile attempts by current and former U.S. officials to push back against calls for another troop increase in Afghanistan:
Matthew Hoh recently resigned his post as the top civilian official in Afghanistan’s Zabul province in a letter widely circulated by Ambassador Holbrooke;
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, recently sent a now-public set of cables to Washington, D.C., cautioning the president against sending more troops to support the corrupt Karzai regime;
There’s political space for the president to refuse to increase troops, and growing public support for bringing them home. If the president put his considerable public charisma behind a policy of de-escalation, he could relieve his presidency of a burden that threatens to sink it.
KABUL — U.S. and Afghan officials have agreed on a new nationwide strategy that will funnel millions of dollars in foreign aid to villages that organize “neighborhood watch”-like programs to help with security.
Oh hey, a Neighborhood Watch program! That sounds like a great idea, right? Get those local citizens out in the streets, have ‘em keep an eye out for criminality and report it to local law enforcement, do community service projects, that sort of thing. Good idea, U.S. and Afghan officials!
The plan will provide an incentive for Afghan tribal leaders to form their own militias and guard against Taliban insurgents, says Mohammad Arif Noorzai, an adviser to President Hamid Karzai on security and tribal issues.
Wait, what? That doesn’t sound like calling in graffiti artists or phoning in a tip about a shady-looking person at the convenient store. Let’s ask Nathan Hodge for more details:
In Afghanistan’s Wardak Province, the U.S. military has overseen a modest experiment in giving Kalashnikovs, cash, and power to local militias to keep insurgents out of rural communities.
Now the Afghan government and the U.S. military are set to try the experiment on a much larger scale. Reporting from Kabul, Jim Michaels of USA Todaydescribes the Community Defense Initiative, a program to create “neighborhood watch”-style militias in more villages throughout Afghanistan.
What the hell is the matter with you people?! Who looks at Afghanistan and says, “I know what this place needs! More Kalashnikovs!”
Just your standard Neighborhood Watch membership incentive…
And what is wrong with Jim Michaels?! Why would you think that a program to arm roving bands of local heavies with automatic rifles should be described as a “neighborhood watch”-like program? Only about halfway through the article do we find out that he borrows this little euphemism for a cash-and-bullets payoff scheme came from a NATO characterization. Jim! Do you get paid to do stenography for NATO? I thought you were a journalist. I only ask because it took me about 2 minutes to confirm my suspicion that the actual Neighborhood Watch program does not in fact hand out Kalashnikov rifles and bullets to local Joe Blows.
El Guapo: Not the best strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan…
Senior sources say local intelligence shows the [Taliban] claim is false, however. In addition, witnesses contacted by The Sunday Times say other factors lay behind the massacre.
According to two Afghans who knew him, Gulbuddin had complained of being brutally beaten, sodomised and sexually abused by a senior Afghan officer. A policeman named Ajmal, a friend of the gunman, said Gulbuddin had been constantly tortured. “He was being used for sexual purposes,” said Ajmal.
When Gulbuddin opened fire with a machine gun, his target was his alleged abuser. According to the Afghan sources, the five British soldiers were killed simply because they were present and considered to be the man’s protectors.
In sexually repressed Pashtun society, it is common for those in dominant positions to take young men as sexual partners — known as bacha bazi — even though the penalty for anyone caught engaging in a homosexual act is brutal.
Patrick Cockburn explains that many “Afghan villagers prefer to deal with the Taliban rather than the government security forces is that the latter have a habit of seizing their sons at checkpoints and sodomizing them.” What’s worse, coalition officials have been covering it up:
Western military officials eager to show success in training the Afghan army and police have reportedly suppressed for years accounts from Canadian troops that the newly trained security forces are raping young boys.
Specialist Hutchison’s child was placed with CPS, then, so she could go help shore up a regime heavily populated with predators that would love to get their hands on her little boy.
Supposedly, we’re in Afghanistan to protect women. What garbage. We’re not even in Afghanistan to protect little boys, much less the hapless women of that country. In fact, we’re there to protect the political power of what women’s rights groups call “The Rule of the Rapists.” And these are equal opportunity rapists, let me tell you: men, women, little girls and boys. With the budget of the government of Afghanistan totaling a pittance, and with 75 percent of that pittance being devoured by graft, these predators will stride around, leering at their next victims wearing clean, pressed new uniforms and shiny new sidearms paid for by the taxpayers of the United States.
In our fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida, our desired ends are justifying the most repulsive of means. We’re in bed with the rapists.
I have a question for the people of faith making policy for the U.S. government: If you died tomorrow, do you imagine that any of your complicated rationalizations for sending guns and young people and money to this horror show will suffice to explain yourself to your God?
News reports indicate that you plan to send between 34,000 and 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
We urge you to reconsider this decision.
Expanding the war in Afghanistan will make Americans less safe, not more so.
Less than 100 members of Al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan. The Karzai government we once supported is controlled by warlords and is riddled with corruption. Pakistan’s stability will be gravely imperiled by an expansion of the war. Hundreds if not thousands of troops will be killed, along with countless civilians. Anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world will be inflamed by civilian bloodshed, facilitating recruitment by terrorist organizations.
The war will cost billions of dollars when we can least afford it, and will stymie your domestic agenda.
The cost of sustaining a military force in Afghanistan is $1 million per soldier per year – that’s close to $100 billion dollars annually with the troop increase. With the economy in shambles, the deficits generated by these enormous costs will compromise your domestic legislative agenda both fiscally and politically.
The United States has no vital interest in Afghanistan. If you choose to further escalate troop levels in Afghanistan, you will be making the biggest mistake of your presidency.
Please reject General McChrystal’s troop requests and begin the process of exiting U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Two very hopeful stories broke this evening that show that the non-escalation factions in the Obama Administration can play the leaking game, too.
First, we have this Washington Postpiece that describes Ambassador Eikenberry’s strong warnings to the president about adding more troops in Afghanistan before Karzai cleans up his act (ha ha ha ho ho hee hee hee hum):
The U.S. ambassador in Kabul sent two classified cables to Washington in the past week expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai’s government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban’s rise, senior U.S. officials said.
…Eikenberry has expressed deep reservations about Karzai’s erratic behavior and corruption within his government, said U.S. officials familiar with the cables. Since Karzai was officially declared reelected last week, U.S. diplomats have seen little sign that the Afghan president plans to address the problems they have raised repeatedly with him.
U.S. officials were particularly irritated by a interview this week in which a defiant Karzai said that the West has little interest in Afghanistan and that its troops are there only for self-serving reasons.
…Eikenberry also has expressed frustration with the relative paucity of funds set aside for spending on development and reconstruction this year in Afghanistan, a country wrecked by three decades of war. …The ambassador also has worried that sending tens of thousands of additional American troops would increase the Afghan government’s dependence on U.S. support at a time when its own security forces should be taking on more responsibility for fighting.
BBC’s reports that Eikenberry said more troops was “not a good idea.”
Eikenberry’s no peacenik. He was a lieutenant-general in charge of training the Afghan army before Obama tapped him to be the U.S. ambassador. Technically a U.S. ambassador is the head honcho for the United States in a given country. If the ex-military ambassador says we should think twice about sending more troops into his country of responsibility, you better take it seriously.
Next, we have this hopeful AP article that asserts that the president is choosing, “none of the above,” as his option in the multiple choices presented to him by the Pentagon:
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
I wonder if this strange feeling in my gut is this “hope” thing I keep hearing so much about.
According to the source, Abdullah will likely announce this weekend that he will boycott the runoff presidential election slated for November 7, a runoff that had been scheduled after intense diplomatic arm twisting by the United States. [emphasis mine]
One hopes a CNN reporter simply failed to choose his/her words carefully and meant instead “drop out of” the race, because if Abdullah is going so far as to boycott the race, Afghanistan could become a much more dangerous place than it is already. Recall that earlier this year, Abdullah supporters were promising protests “with Kalashnakovs” if he simply lost in a fair vote, and, as if to prove their point, reports indicated a frightening flow of weapons toward Abdullah’s political base. Now we’re potentially talking about him urging people not to participate and declaring the entire runoff process illegitimate.