…The U.S. Army is soon to issue a handbook instructing soldiers to copy Mr. Obama’s example of when and how to defer to an alien ideology that stands against everything Americans are taught, whether by faith, ethics, morals or another code of good conduct.
The new manual, which runs to 75 pages, orders American military personnel to refrain from saying anything to offend the Taliban in Afghanistan, to be careful not to criticize the practice of sexual relations with children, the abuse of women, beheadings, massacres of girls and the killing of “unbelievers” and Muslims who Taliban enforcers regard as insufficiently devout in the faith. Holding to what they have been taught, whether at Sunday school or a mother’s knee, is presumably OK for American soldiers, at least for now. But they must keep such ideas to themselves.
The manual, issued in the name of the U.S. Government, obviously at the command of the commander in chief, suggests that Western ignorance and arrogance and not the Taliban are responsible for the surge in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the soldiers of the allied coalition.
U.S. troops should prepare for “psychologically challenging conditions” in Afghanistan, and be prepared for “stressors” that some American soldiers have remarked from previous deployments, such as finding Afghan security forces “profoundly dishonest and [having] no personal integrity,” and “gutless in combat,” and “ignorant and basically stupid.”
The manual’s bottom line, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is that “troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with [the Afghans]. Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [coalition] forces to effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead towards . . . violence.”
The Army, citing “etiquette,” specifically orders soldiers to avoid “conversation topics” such as “anything related to Islam, mention of (more…)
Via Michael Yon, a raw scene of combat as soldiers in Afghanistan try to get a wounded comrade evacuated.
Yon guesses the footage was shot with a helmet camera.
If intense scenes and profanity offend you, don’t watch.
“I’m bringing to you and to the people of the United States the gratitude of the Afghan people for the support that your taxpayers’ money has provided Afghanistan over the past decade and for the difference that it has made to the well-being of the Afghan people,” he told Obama.
Getting out of the opium poppy business would be a more sincere thank you.
Via Michael Yon, former Marine Tim Lynch in Afghanistan:
“The Taliban killed 13 women and children today with an IED in Uruzgan and I think they got 8 yesterday – but that’s all cool here because they’re the Taliban and we’re the big fat retarded kid on the block who gets bullied everyday but still shows up to fork over even more lunch money while assuming at some point everyone will like us because we’re so xxxxx generous.”
Five Taliban detainees held at the US Guantanamo Bay military prison have agreed to be transferred to Qatar, a move Afghanistan believes will boost a nascent peace process, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman has said.
The inmates told a visiting Afghan delegation they were willing to be transferred to the Gulf state, and it was now up to the US whether they were freed, said Aimal Faizi.
Let’s hope the US is not dumb enough to believe letting these five go will accomplish anything.
Or that the Taliban will honor any negotiations — if your religion encourages you to die for Allah, why wouldn’t it allow you to lie for Allah?
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has had a couple of busy days. First, he blabs that Israel will likely bomb Iran’s nuclear weapons plant by spring.
Thanks for blowing the big surprise.
Then he rattles a whole bunch of parties by claiming the US plans to end its combat role in Afghanistan by mid 2013.
…One senior NATO official briefing reporters explained the U.S. plan this way: Panetta “said that the combat role will come to an end. But he also said that combat will continue, and that’s exactly what I am saying.”
Glad you cleared that up.
Note to Big Baloney: where is the mockery? Or did you spend it all on “Rummy”?
Someone, please invent a time machine that yanks these men into the modern world.
Hamid (Jethro) Karzai has pardoned a woman who was raped by a family member but then jailed for adultery, a statement from the presidential palace has said, in a case that highlights deep concerns about women’s rights in the country.
The 21-year-old, known as Gulnaz, had earlier been offered release from prison if she married her attacker and eventually agreed to this condition, but her lawyer said the release granted this week did not depend on her going through with the wedding.
It was not clear whether she still intended to marry the man who raped her, her cousin’s husband, who is serving a seven-year prison term for the crime, her lawyer Kimberley Motley added.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s palace issued the statement pardoning Gulnaz late on Thursday, a rare pardon in such a case in staunchly conservative Muslim Afghanistan.
Michael Yon has a terrific post from Afghanistan with some great photography.
As the Afghan war wears on and politicians, diplomats and generals thrust and parry about an endgame, one thing is clear: The outcome of this war will be decided by the last man standing.
Who that will be, and what has to happen before everyone else quits the field, are the questions that remain unanswered.
Today, spring 2011, we are making net progress in Afghanistan. I first began writing from here in 2006. In these five years I’ve brought you unending negative news on the matter of how well the Unites States and our allies have succeeded in meeting our goals in the war. But now, for the first time, the tide may be turning. Different enemy factions in this theater have been taking a brutal beating.
Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller quotes the NYT:
Stirred up by a trio of angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at Florida church [sic], thousands of protesters overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said…
Unable to find Americans on whom to vent their anger, the mob turned instead on the next-best symbol of Western intrusion — the nearby United Nations headquarters. “Some of our colleagues were just hunted down,” said a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, confirming that the attack.
So they attacked representatives of the UN, which is bombing Muslims, because they couldn’t find representatives of America, which is also bombing Muslims but more importantly is where some weirdo burned a Koran a few weeks ago.
Chinese advisers are believed to be working with Afghan Taliban groups who are now in combat with NATO forces, prompting concerns that China might become the conduit for shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, improved communications and additional small arms to the fundamentalist Muslim fighters.
A British military official contends that Chinese specialists have been seen training Taliban fighters in the use of infrared-guided surface-to-air missiles. This is supported by a May 13, 2008, classified U.S. State Department document released by WikiLeaks telling U.S. officials to confront Chinese officials about missile proliferation.
China is developing knock-offs of Russian-designed man-portable air defense missiles (manpads), including the QW-1 and later series models. The QW-1 Vanguard is an all-aspect, 35-lb. launch tube and missile that is reverse-engineered from the U.S. Stinger and the SA-16 Gimlet (9K310 Igla-1). China obtained SA-16s from Unita rebels in then-Zaire who had captured them from Angolan government forces. The 16g missiles have a slant range of 50,000 ft. The QW-1M is a variant that incorporates even more advanced SA-18 Grouse (9K38 Igla) technology.
So far, there has been a curious absence of manpad attacks on NATO aircraft in Afghanistan. One reason is that the Russian equipment still in place is out of date and effectively no longer usable, the British official says. Another may be that the possession of such a weapon is a status symbol, so owners are reluctant to use it. However, the introduction of new manpads could change that equation.
The site of the Altamont Speedway, where four died and scores were injured in an infamous 1969 rock concert, isn’t far from Fremont, the largest city in Alameda County, California. But the area has changed dramatically in 40 years. The raceway itself is long gone; so are the hippies, most of the farms, and the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll culture. In their place, the first thing that a tourist might notice is that Fremont—along with other cities in this county just south of San Francisco Bay—now hosts enormous Indian, Pakistani, Vietnamese, and Chinese populations, as well as smaller clusters of a dozen other nationalities. In fact, this city of 217,000 is among the nation’s most ethnically and culturally diverse. Some 136 languages are spoken at home by children who attend Fremont schools, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and white, native-born Americans constitute only 38 percent of the city’s residents.
One of Fremont’s most surprising and least accessible ethnic enclaves is its Afghan population, probably the largest in the Western world. To outsiders, the Afghans of Fremont seem to be a tight-knit community, faring relatively well in a new and very different place. But those who know them well see a more troubling picture. Though some Bay Area Afghans are enormously successful and have integrated fully into American life, many are not assimilating. Far too many exist in a state of suspended animation between Afghanistan and America—anxious, uprooted, belonging totally to neither culture, intensely competitive with one another but even more suspicious of outsiders. Among those concerned: local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which have quietly intensified their scrutiny of the area’s Afghan community, worried about possible ties with Islamic terrorism.
For people whose native country routinely makes front-page news, the Afghans of Fremont exist in relative obscurity. With a handful of exceptions, they hold no prominent posts in American political and cultural institutions and have no influential groups to lobby Washington or even city hall. There are no Afghan state senators, members of Congress, mayors, or even school board members. Many of the community’s “spokesmen” speak mainly among themselves; the organizations that they represent have few members and are little more than good intentions on a business card. “In many ways, the community is still politically invisible,” says Abdul Naseer Yasiri, a recent immigrant who heads the Afghan Cultural Association.
As a community, these Afghans are also enormously understudied, except by law enforcement. After 9/11, journalists descended on Fremont, writing stories about “Little Kabul”—a short strip along Fremont Boulevard, really little more than a grocery store, jewelry shop, bookstore, and a couple of clothing shops that sold such items as long-sleeved tunics and head scarves for women and native hats called pakol for men. In 2003, Fremont got another jolt of publicity when the young Afghan author Khaled Hosseini set part of his best-selling novel, The Kite Runner, in the Fremont area…
For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.
But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.
“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…”
Many have charged that President Obama’s decision to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan 10 months from now is hampering our war effort. But now it’s official. In a stunning statement last week, Marine Corps Commandant James Conway admitted that the July 2011 date is “probably giving our enemy sustenance.”
A remarkably bold charge for an active military officer. It stops just short of suggesting aiding and abetting the enemy. Yet the observation is obvious: It is surely harder to prevail in a war that hinges on the allegiance of the locals when they hear the U.S. president talk of beginning a withdrawal that will ultimately leave them to the mercies of the Taliban.
How did Obama come to this decision? “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics,” an Obama adviser told the New York Times’ Peter Baker. “He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”
If this is true, then Obama’s military leadership can only be called scandalous. During the past week, 22 Americans were killed over a four-day period in Afghanistan. This is not a place about which decisions should be made in order to placate members of Congress, pass health care and thereby maintain a president’s political standing. This is a place about which a president should make decisions to best succeed in the military mission he himself has set out.
But Obama sees his wartime duties as a threat to his domestic agenda. These wars are a distraction, unwanted interference with his true vocation — transforming America.
Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele was absolutely right. Afghanistan is Obama’s war and, judging by other recent Democratic ventures in military affairs, isn’t likely to turn out well.It has been idiotically claimed that Steele’s statement about Afghanistan being Obama’s war is “inaccurate” — as if Steele is unaware Bush invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11. (No one can forget that — even liberals pretended to support that war for three whole weeks.)
Yes, Bush invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11. Within the first few months we had toppled the Taliban, killed or captured hundreds of al-Qaida fighters and arranged for democratic elections, resulting in an American-friendly government.
Then Bush declared success and turned his attention to Iraq, leaving minimal troops behind in Afghanistan to prevent Osama bin Laden from regrouping, swat down al-Qaida fighters and gather intelligence.
Having some vague concept of America’s national interest — unlike liberals — the Bush administration could see that a country of illiterate peasants living in caves ruled by “warlords” was not a primo target for “nation-building.”
By contrast, Iraq had a young, educated, pro-Western populace that was ideal for regime change.
If Saddam Hussein had been a peach, it would still be a major victory in the war on terrorism to have a Muslim Israel in that part of the globe, and it sure wasn’t going to be Afghanistan (literacy rate, 19 percent; life expectancy, 44 years; working toilets, 7).
But Iraq also was a state sponsor of terrorism; was attempting to build nuclear weapons (according to endless bipartisan investigations in this country and in Britain — thanks, liberals!); nurtured and gave refuge to Islamic terrorists — including the 1993 World Trade Center bombers; was led by a mass murderer who had used weapons of mass destruction; paid bonuses to the families of suicide bombers; had vast oil reserves; and is situated at the heart of a critical region.
Having absolutely no interest in America’s national security, the entire Democratic Party (save Joe Lieberman) wailed about the war in Iraq for five years, pretending they really wanted to go great-guns in Afghanistan. What the heck: They had already voted for the war in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 when they would have been hanged as traitors had they objected.
The obsession with Afghanistan was pure rhetoric. Democrats have no interest in fighting any war that would serve America’s interests. (They’re too jammed with their wars against Evangelicals, Wal-Mart, the Pledge of Allegiance, SUVs and the middle class.) Absent Iraq, they’d have been bad-mouthing Afghanistan, too.
So for the entire course of the magnificently successful war in Iraq, all we heard from these useless Democrats was that Iraq was a “war of choice,” while Afghanistan — the good war! — was a “war of necessity.” “Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan!” “He got distracted by war in Iraq!” “WHERE’S OSAMA?” and — my favorite — “Iraq didn’t attack us on 9/11!” (more…)
The Washington Post publishes a long list of fact check requests sent to Gen. McChrystal before the Michael Hastings’ interview occurred. One could draw some legitimate inferences from them, in no particular order of importance:
1) Rolling Stone did not ask for confirmation of the most damaging slurs against superiors like Obama, Biden, Holbrooke, etc., which might suggest (you think?) that all along they were going to publish a very different narrative than the one implied by their rather tame queries for confirmation.
2) The reporter, Michael Hastings, has recently offered, postfacto, a few interviews, perhaps summed up by his suggestions that he is a very principled reporter who usually does not do “puff pieces” in order to gain access — unlike lesser others to whom he mock apologizes in advance should his more honest hard-hitting exposes have now endangered their genres. Not quite.
It is clear that Hastings ingratiated himself to McChrystal’s staff as a kindred unconventional spirit — and for some bizarre reason, the latter actually believed that this newfound embedded pal with whom they joshed around with was going to write a sort of inside encomium on their hipster commander, hence their strange, almost slavish cooperation.
If anything, I find the obsequious sort of reporter who gains intimate access with the implicit understanding that he will be largely complimentary more intellectually honest than a disingenuous Hastings, who burrows in under false impressions, and masquerades his ego-driven desire for fame and status by a sort of pseudo-”sh-t happens” bohemianism. It is just a question of how one chooses to sell his soul — or as my grandfather used to say about fruit packers (and who could have advised McChrystal), “it’s always better dealing with an upfront crook.”
3) There are a lot of errors in Hastings’ draft that are corrected by McChrystal’s staff — and these are all, except in one instance, the non-controversial ones, suggesting (you think?) Rolling Stone did not want the staff to know of the disaster that was coming. Note again how sneaky Rolling Stone was — asking for matter-of-fact confirmations of mostly mundane things that are intended to cement the picture of McChrystal as a gifted warrior of the sort that might even appeal to Rolling Stone’s audience: a misunderstood Obamian that likes martial arts and wars with stuffy DC superiors. (I imagine that the staff wanted Hastings to know — off the record rather than to publish — that McChrystal voted for Obama as a sort of added incentive to deify their boss.)
4) So in just one case, Rolling Stone tips its hand by asking for confirmation of the fact that McChrystal voted for Obama; they are told explicitly by the staff that such information is inappropriate for publication (but apparently not for background information), and why — and so asked that it not be printed, suggesting their growing worry (you think?) that a mildly controversial fact would be published (which turned out to be tame in comparison to what they did not dream was about to be unleashed). Again, note the stupidity: a military officer is at the 11th hour asking Rolling Stone not to publish an embarrassing fact about Gen. McChrystal’s political affiliation — and they seem to assume that good old Rolling Stone would not! (Sort of like asking the Taliban not to bury too many IEDs.)
Or something even more valuable. Jammie Wearing Fool:
One can imagine hyperventilating environmentalists reaching for the pharmaceutical lithium when they read this today. Can it be long until someone accuses us of being in Afghanistan so we can steal their minerals?
The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.
The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.
While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.
“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”
And from The New York Times
A stepped-up campaign of American drone strikes over the past three months has battered Al Qaeda and its Pakistani and Afghan brethren in the tribal area of North Waziristan, according to a mid-ranking militant and supporters of the government there.
The strikes have cast a pall of fear over an area that was once a free zone for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, forcing militants to abandon satellite phones and large gatherings in favor of communicating by courier and moving stealthily in small groups, they said.
The drones, operated by the C.I.A., fly overhead sometimes four at a time, emitting a beelike hum virtually 24 hours a day, observing and tracking targets, then unleashing missiles on their quarry, they said.
The strikes have sharpened tensions between the local tribesmen and the militants, who have dumped bodies with signs accusing the victims of being American spies in Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, they said.
The impact of the drone strikes on the militants’ operations — on freedom of movement, ability to communicate and the ease of importing new recruits to replace those who have been killed — has been difficult to divine because North Waziristan, at the nether reaches of the tribal area, is virtually sealed from the outside world.
None of those interviewed would allow their names to be used for fear for their safety, and all were interviewed separately in a city outside the tribal areas. The supporters of the government worked in positions where they had access to information about the effects of the drone campaign.
Along with that of the militant, the accounts provided a rare window on how the drones have transformed life for all in the region.
By all reports, the bombardment of North Waziristan, and to a lesser extent South Waziristan, has become fast and furious since a combined Taliban and Qaeda suicide attack on a C.I.A. base in Khost, in southern Afghanistan, in late December.
In the first six weeks of this year, more than a dozen strikes killed up to 90 people suspected of being militants, according to Pakistani and American accounts. There are now multiple strikes on some days, and in some weeks the strikes occur every other day, the people from North Waziristan said.
The strikes have become so ferocious, “It seems they really want to kill everyone, not just the leaders,” said the militant, who is a mid-ranking fighter associated with the insurgent network headed by Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani. By “everyone” he meant rank-and-file fighters, though civilians are being killed, too.
Tactics used just a year ago to avoid the drones could not be relied on, he said. It is, for instance, no longer feasible to sleep under the trees as a way of avoiding the drones. “We can’t lead a jungle existence for 24 hours every day,” he said.
Militants now sneak into villages two at a time to sleep, he said. Some homeowners were refusing to rent space to Arabs, who are associated with Al Qaeda, for fear of their families’ being killed by the drones, he said.
As the saying goes, there’s nothing happier than a dog with a job.
Two members of the Austrian special forces join Nato’s Operation Cold Response, one of Europe’s biggest military exercises, in Narvik, Norway.
Dropping from 10,000ft, they glide in order to land unnoticed. The dogs often carry cameras and are trained to attack anyone carrying a weapon.
“Dogs don’t perceive height difference, so that doesn’t worry them. They’re more likely to be bothered by the roar of the engines, but once we’re on the way down, that doesn’t matter and they just enjoy the view,” said the dog handler. “It’s something he does a lot. He has a much cooler head than most recruits.”
Commandos from 14 countries, including British special forces and Royal Marines, took part in the Nato exercise. The use of dogs in High Altitude High Opening missions was pioneered by America’s Delta Force, which trained the animals to breathe through oxygen masks during the jump.
Who says President Obama hasn’t accomplished anything since taking office? To his Nobel Peace Prize and two Grammys, we can add a sports record, Politico reports:
Obama has only been in office for just over nine months, but he’s already hit the links as much as President Bush did in over two years.
CBS’ Mark Knoller–an unofficial documentarian and statistician of all things White House-related–wrote on his Twitter feed [Saturday] that, “Today – Obama ties Pres. Bush in the number of rounds of golf played in office: 24. Took Bush 2 yrs & 10 months.”
Yes, we can!
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports from Kabul that “eight American troops were killed in two separate bomb attacks Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, making October the deadliest month of the war for U.S. forces since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban.”
We know what you’re thinking, but this is not Obama’s fault. Afghanistan is someone else’s mess, so why don’t you grab a mop? As White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN last week:
It’s clear that basically we had a war for eight years that was going on, that’s adrift. That we’re beginning at scratch, and just from the starting point, after eight years. . . . Before you commit troops, which is–not irreversible, but puts you down a certain path–before you make that decision, there’s a set of questions that have to have answers that have never been asked. And it’s clear after eight years of war, that’s basically starting from the beginning, and those questions never got asked. And what I find interesting and just intriguing from this debate in Washington, is that a lot of people who all of a sudden say, this is now the epicenter of the war on terror, you must do this now, immediately approve what the general said–where, before, it never even got on the radar screen for them.
Hang on a second. It has now been 51 weeks since Obama was elected president, and more than nine months since he took office, and he’s just now getting around to asking the “questions . . . that have never been asked”?
But that’s not really fair to Obama. After all, he has a busy schedule, what with golf games and pitching the International Olympic Committee and date nights and Democratic fund-raisers and health care and the U.N. Security Council and Sunday morning talk shows and saving the planet from global warming and celebrating the dog’s birthday and defending himself against Fox News and all.
“I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm’s way,” FoxNews.com quotes the president as telling servicemen. As for the servicemen who are already in harm’s way: Jeez, guys, be patient! He’ll figure out what to do about Afghanistan as soon as he gets around to it.
Dick Cheney responded to the Obama White House contention that it inherited an Afghan policy that was adrift, that they were in effect starting from scratch.
They were lying. Cheney:
In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that repeatedly went into the country, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team.
They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt. The new strategy they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them. They made a decision – a good one, I think – and sent a commander into the field to implement it.
So, in the interest of the nation, Bush kept quiet and let Obama take credit for the strategic plan for Afghanistan. Obama’s behavior since demonstrates how petty and political his vision is.
The Obama folks fired back with this:
“What Vice President Cheney calls ‘dithering,’ President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public. I think we’ve all seen what happens when somebody doesn’t take that responsibility seriously,” Gibbs said Thursday.
Presumably Gibbs was referring to Iraq. Two things: one, Iraq has become the first Arab democracy in history. Two, Bush took 18 months before invading Iraq. During that time, multiple diplomatic efforts were attempted. Plenty of consideration, some of it agonizing, went into the war decision.
For many, Cheney epitomizes evil. To me, he’s a public servant who met his responsibility with sober maturity.
FULL TEXT CHENEY SPEECH
Thank you all very much. It’s a pleasure to be here, and especially to receive the Keeper of the Flame Award in the company of so many good friends.
I’m told that among those you’ve recognized before me was my friend Don Rumsfeld. I don’t mind that a bit. It fits something of a pattern. In a career that includes being chief of staff, congressman, and secretary of defense, I haven’t had much that Don didn’t get first. But truth be told, any award once conferred on Donald Rumsfeld carries extra luster, and I am very proud to see my name added to such a distinguished list.
To Frank Gaffney and all the supporters of Center for Security Policy, I thank you for this honor. And I thank you for the great energy and high intelligence you bring to as vital a cause as there is – the advance of freedom and the uncompromising defense of the United States.
Most anyone who is given responsibility in matters of national security quickly comes to appreciate the commitments and structures put in place by others who came before. You deploy a military force that was planned and funded by your predecessors. You inherit relationships with partners and obligations to allies that were first undertaken years and even generations earlier. With the authority you hold for a little while, you have great freedom of action. And whatever course you follow, the essential thing is always to keep commitments, and to leave no doubts about the credibility of your country’s word. (more…)
Former Senator Bob Kerrey is urging Obama (for whom he campaigned and invested much hope for Muslim World bridge-building and a smooth Iraq-war wind-down) to buck up — and live up to his word. He offers some praise for the president. (This is the price one pays perhaps for getting the attention of those in the White House who might influence the president.) But he then delivers a rhetorical jujitsu: Can’t he be more like George W. Bush? He writes of Bush’s courage in pursuing the surge in Iraq in the face of Republican losses and a media firestorm:
Failure in Iraq loomed, as public opinion for the effort to help the democratically elected government survive had faded thanks to a series of tactical blunders and inaccurate assessments of what would be needed to accomplish the mission. Then, against all reasonable predictions, President Bush chose to increase rather than decrease our military commitment. The “surge,” as it became known, worked. Victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. From what I have seen, President Obama has the same ability to step outside the swirl of public opinion and make the right decision.
What is at stake, Kerrey argues, is whether Obama can cut through the cant about another Vietnam (the war hero explains: “This war is not Vietnam. The Taliban are not popular and have very little support other than what they secure through terror”) and keep his word. He argues: “When it comes to foreign policy, almost nothing matters more than your friends and your enemies knowing you will keep your word and follow through on your commitments. This is the real test of presidential leadership.”
President Obama is prepared to accept some Taleban involvement in Afghanistan’s political future and is unlikely to favour a large influx of new American troops being demanded by his ground commander, a senior official said last night.
Mr Obama appears to have been swayed in recent days by arguments from some advisers, led by Vice-President Joe Biden, that the Taleban do not pose a direct threat to the US and that there should be greater focus on tackling al-Qaeda inside Pakistan.
Listening to Biden? He just wants a fig leaf for his moral weakness.
Mr Obama’s developing strategy on the Taleban will “not tolerate their return to power”, the senior official said. However, the US would only fight to keep the Taleban from retaking control of the central government — something the official said it is now far from capable of — and from giving renewed sanctuary to al-Qaeda.
Bowing to the reality that the fundamentalist movement is too ingrained in national culture, the Administration is prepared, as it has been for some time, to accept some Taleban role in parts of Afghanistan, the official said.
The Taliban “ingrain” themselves via intimidation. Locals don’t fight back if they feel outnumbered and unprotected — exactly what Obama’s position telegraphs to them.
What a disgrace. Anyone wanting to get a sense of who the Taliban are, watch this film, the first made in Afghanistan after 2001.
Powerline posts about Democrat war policies. How bizarre that gasbag Joe Biden gets taken seriously on foreign policy.
Biden argued against Reagan putting missiles in Europe (which helped forced the end of the Soviet empire), voted against the first Gulf War (which kept Saddam from controlling more than 25% of the world’s oil) and told everyone who’d listen that Iraq must be partitioned into three countries.
The editors of the Washington Post examine the “Pakistan First” policy being championed by Vice President Biden in response to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Under this approach, the U.S. would put Afghanistan on the “back burner” and attack al Qaeda targets in Pakistan with drones or special forces, while backing the government of Pakistan as it attempts to pacify and develop parts of Pakistan where Al Qaeda and the Taliban are flourishing.
This, of course, is the latest variation on an old Democratic play — accept defeat in the war we’re fighting under the guise of focusing on some other military action so as to avoid the appearance of weakness. It wasn’t long ago that the Democrats were promoting an “Afghanistan First” policy as a pretext for abandoning Iraq.
Thus has the Democrats’ defeatist two-step become a defeatist three-step.
To make matters worse, the shell game the Dems are playing now lacks even the surface plausibility of the “Afghanistan First” policy. When it came to Iraq and Afghanistan, one could argue that the real enemy was to be found in the latter venue. When it comes to Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s essentially the same enemy, and ceding Afghanistan to that enemy would have major and adverse implications for Pakistan.
This is the point the Post’s editors make. They note that Pakistan’s leaders consider the Taliban’s advances in Afghanistan to be, in the words of the Pakistani foreign minister, “a mortal threat to their country.” The Post also reminds us that elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services are sympathetic to the Taliban. If the U.S. retreats in Afghanistan, these elements will be strengthened at the expense of the pro-Western government.
At that point, Biden and his fellow Democratic defeatists can abandon Pakistan on the theory that the government no longer supports our efforts. We can then implement our “Indonesia First” strategy.
Much was made of the president’s infrequent personal contact with his commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. As a result, while embarrassing himself in Copenhagen, Obama did manage to slip in less than half an hour of a chat with McChrystal. But, not to worry, we’ve been told: McChrystal sends him lots of memos.
Unfortunately, Obama’s relationship, if this report is to believed, isn’t that much better with Gen. David Petraeus. In the Obama administration, “General Petraeus’s relationship with Mr. Obama is nothing like his bond with Mr. Bush.” And we don’t see Petraeus on the Hill or out explaining our mission to the American people. Instead he’s laying low and fending off speculation that he might run for president in 2012.
All this leaves open the question as to where Obama’s military experts’ strategic advice is coming from. Unlike his opponent in the presidential campaign, the president lacks military or any significant national-security experience of his own. Who then has his ear and what knowledge are they imparting? Well, Joe Biden is very vocal. (This is not comforting, given Biden’s track record on Iraq, to those who would like to get Afghanistan right.) Perhaps sensing that he was too low on gurus and too short on any military support to reject McChrystal’s recommendation, Obama recently made a big show of bringing in Colin Powell — who used to be in favor of using overwhelming force (he had a doctrine named after himself about not trying to fight wars on the cheap or without adequate troops) but now is among the “skeptics” of McChrystal’s counterinsurgency plan. (Powell wasn’t game on the surge either, so he gets some points for consistency.)
It’s not exactly an impressive display of expertise for a president who was going to assemble the best and the brightest in order to get the very best advice, stripped of ideology and politics.
…The Democrats and their cheerleaders in the punditocracy used to scream for President George W. Bush to listen to his generals. Then Bush got better generals, listened to them, and avoided defeat in Iraq. Obama, it seems, is bent on ignoring his generals.
Mark Bowden, author of Blackhawk Down:
President Bush made a courageous decision in the summer of 2006 to reverse direction, but not the reversal sought by Congress (including then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden), the American public, the overwhelming majority of the press (including this newspaper), and even most of his own military advisers. Instead of cutting our losses and pulling out of Iraq, as we did in Vietnam, Bush doubled down. He invested more troops and, more important, embraced an entirely new strategy.
And Bush was right. What had happened beneath all of the politics was a small revolution in war-fighting philosophy, championed and implemented by an unlikely military leader, Gen. David Petraeus, a soldier/intellectual molded as much by the think tank as the battlefield. He calls the movement his “Counterinsurgency Nation,” and it has rewritten the way America fights. It is not a completely new idea – there are few of those in the study of war – but its basic principles came into clearer and clearer focus as a new generation of military officers fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its guiding principle is simple: The prize in these countries is not territory, but people.
Now President Obama must decide whether to let this new generation of battle-tested soldiers apply what it has learned to Afghanistan. Those who argue that the methods employed in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan are right and wrong. They are right that the two conflicts are not identical. What worked in Iraq will not apply in all cases in Afghanistan. But they are wrong to assume the lessons of Iraq have no application in Afghanistan. The counterinsurgency consensus grew out of experience in both wars. America’s new military leaders have been managing both conflicts simultaneously for most of this decade, and the hard-won lessons they have learned derive from both.
I am not a military expert, but I suspect that most wars that last for more than a few weeks follow a roughly similar trajectory. Established generals misjudge the war, and once the battle is joined, a generation of younger leaders discovers the truth, adapts by hard necessity, making life-and-death decisions on the battlefield, and learns, often by trial and error, how to define and fight the new war on its own terms. If the national leadership is smart enough to embrace this knowledge and experience, as Bush was, the tide turns.
There are a number of excellent studies that document this turnabout, notably Thomas Ricks’ The Gamble, Linda Robinson’s Tell Me How This Ends, and Kimberly Kagan’s The Surge. The Iraq war is not over, of course. It remains to be seen if Iraqis can forge a nation from its various contending factions, but there is no denying the extraordinary reversal engineered by Bush, Petraeus, and the remarkable soldiers who have risked and all too often sacrificed life and limb for the last six years. They accomplished it amid a persistent chorus of critics and doomsayers – doomed was actually the word then-Sen. Biden used to describe Petraeus’ chances in April 2006.
Counterinsurgency doctrine is as warm and fuzzy as war can get. It embraces distinctly liberal, humanistic values like protecting civilians, cultural sensitivity, and rigid adherence to ethical standards and the law. It is geared toward partnership, not dominance, and always seeks to minimize violence. In Iraq it rapidly (in months) isolated the murderous extremists who were trying to provoke civil war. The new effort set up a sharp contrast between their methods and goals and America’s. As one Marine officer, Col. Julian Dale Alford, said
REPUBLICAN HAWKS were Barack Obama’s foil in 2007 and 2008. They may prove his salvation in 2009 and 2010.
Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq and those who supported it made him the darling of the Democratic base, and turbocharged his drive to the White House. As a candidate for president, he repeatedly condemned the war as a fiasco and declared that President Bush’s “surge’’ would not only fail to improve conditions in Iraq, but would actually make them worse. In August 2007, when his rival Hillary Clinton told the Veterans of Foreign Wars that the surge appeared to be working, Obama maintained that the war was as futile as ever. As The New York Times headlined its story the next day: “Obama Sees a ‘Complete Failure’ in Iraq.’’
A complete failure that includes the first and only elected democratic government in the Arab world.
Not to mention a genocidal tyrant who was tried, convicted and executed.
But the antiwar liberals who adored Obama the candidate when he vowed to pull the plug on the war in Iraq are not nearly as enamored of Obama the president when he calls for enlarging the war in Afghanistan.
…“This is a war of necessity,’’ the president insisted – “not only a war worth fighting,’’ but one “fundamental to the defense of our people.’’ He warned that “those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again,’’ and that “if left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.’’ Earlier this year Obama ordered 21,000 additional US personnel to Afghanistan. By year’s end, troop levels there will be at 68,000 – the most ever – and General Stanley McChrystal, the theater commander, is thought to be on the point of asking for more.
Two recent national polls show plummeting support for the war. In a Washington Post-ABC News survey, 51 percent of the public says the conflict in Afghanistan is “not worth fighting,’’ and only 24 percent is willing to send more troops. A CNN/Opinion Research poll finds even wider opposition to the war – 57 percent, the highest since US involvement in Afghanistan began.
Drill down into those numbers, however, and you find a gaping partisan/ideological divide. “Majorities of liberals and Democrats alike now . . . solidly oppose the war and are calling for a reduction in troop levels,’’ the Post observes. By contrast, Republicans and conservatives “remain the war’s strongest backers.’’ A majority of conservatives not only supports the war but even approves Obama’s handling of it. The CNN poll puts Republican support for the war at 70 percent, as against the 74 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents who are opposed.
Nuclear Pakistan is right next door. Conservatives understand the consequences of letting the Taliban retake Afghanistan.
Stunning news from Moscow: Russian news agencies are reporting that the government of Kyrgyzstan will close Manas Air Base, a vital conduit for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
RIA-Novosti quotes Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev as saying that his government “has made the decision to end the term for the American base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan.” (The RIA-Novosti news report, which followed a press conference in Moscow, has not been translated into English; the Associated Press has a summary.)
If true, it would be a major setback for U.S. operations. In 2005, Air Force Col. Randy Kee, the commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at Manas, told me the Kyrgyz base had become the “primary logistics hub” for Operation Enduring Freedom after neighboring Uzbekistan closed Karshi Khanabad airbase (better known as “K2″) to U.S. forces. The United States has been working to open a northern supply line to Afghanistan in the face of ongoing insurgent attacks along the Khyber Pass route through Pakistan; Manas is a key link in the air bridge resupplying Afghanistan.
Obviously, we’ll have more on this as it develops.
You may remember Kyrgyzstan as the place where wife stealing takes place (no need for eHarmony). Here’s an interesting documentary from Frontline about it.
Michael Yon, courageous independent reporter and author of Moment of Truth in Iraq, has just returned to the United States from Afghanistan. National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez checked in with him about the president’s trip there this weekend and his own findings (more of which he will be writing about on his website, www.michaelyon-online.com).
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You just got back from Afghanistan with Defense Secretary Gates and I know you have a lot of writing to do. But to give us a preview: What were you most struck by there?
MICHAEL YON: Yes, there is much writing to do, but there is always time for NRO. What struck me about the trip was the straight talk from Secretary Gates — in a bit of a contrast with the administration’s typical cautiousness in discussing the situation there. On this trip, I found his assessments on Iraq entirely consistent with my observations — and I have been saying and writing for months that the Iraq war is over. Neither Secretary Gates nor Generals Petraeus or Odierno have put it so flatly, of course — and one can understand that they have good reasons for speaking conservatively. But the war is over nevertheless. At Manama, in Bahrain, I spoke for a couple hours with Fred Kagan, whose observations on Iraq I greatly respect. I don’t want to put words into Mr. Kagan’s mouth, but I suspect he would likely agree that the war in Iraq is over.
Iraq is now an ally of the United States. (Proof positive: Prime Minister Maliki tried to block that second shoe that was thrown at President Bush at their joint press conference over the weekend.) In Manama, Secretary Gates was advocating for lender countries to dismiss Saddam-era debt. The days are gone when Iraq and the United States shoot missiles at each other. The days of cooperation have already begun. I am very optimistic about our current relationship with Iraq.
On Afghanistan, I found Secretary Gates to be just as forthcoming and honest, as I am working hard to firm up my understanding of that war. But at this point, I am less optimistic about our prospects there. I’ll likely spend most of 2009 in that region, and will be watching closely.
Secretary Gates talked with me privately, and over the course of that conversation, my confidence grew that we have the right leadership team in place — leaders who will make the wise and often difficult decisions that are based on facts on the ground, rather than political realities back at home. I am confident in Secretary Gates and his top generals.
LOPEZ: In his press conference there, George Bush made reference to the potential for a flourishing democracy in Afghanistan. Is that remotely possible?
YON: Well . . . I’ve found President Bush’s recent comments on Iraq to be accurate. But I remain uneasy about Afghanistan, and my visit did not make me feel any better about the place, though it’s clear that our soldiers think they are making progress. I think this issue is one of framing: I see Afghanistan as a century-long effort, because Pakistan and the region as a whole need to be brought forward. On the military side, we’ve got the right general in charge — General Petraeus. I heard him speak last week in Manama and had a chance to ask a couple of questions, and he demonstrated a nuanced understanding of our problems there. His team is working on solutions. In the short term, I think the fighting will greatly increase during 2009, at a minimum. One thing is certain: NATO is proving largely worthless.
Read it all.