• Symbolic Failure Point: Female Afghan Pilot Wants Asylum In The U.S.

    December 28, 2016 // 58 Comments »



    History loves little markers, tidy packages of symbolism that wrap up a big, complex thing.

    You know, the helicopter on the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon standing in for years of failed war, the Berlin Wall being knocked down to visually note the end the Cold War, that sort of thing.

    Well, the never-ending-gobsmacker of the Afghan War may have gotten its iconic moment.


    Crash and Burn

    Afghanistan’s first fixed wing female pilot, Captain Niloofar Rahmani, above, has applied for asylum in the U.S., citing worsening security conditions, and harassment by male colleagues. Rahmani says her family faces serious death threats from the Taliban and her father has had to go into hiding to avoid being killed. The Afghan government even stopped paying Rahmani’s salary, despite earmarks from the U.S. government for funding.

    Captain Rahmani noted, as something as an afterthought, the Taliban also continue to make gains across her country even as America’s War for Freedom enters its 16th year of freeing Afghanistan.

    Being a Propaganda Tool is Hard Work

    As icons went, America loved Rahmani.

    Rahmani was once widely hailed in Washington, D.C., where she received the Woman of Courage award from the State Department in 2015 and was personally praised by First Lady Michelle Obama. Rahmani was rolled into an Obama policy move to focus greater attention and resources on adolescent girls through the Let Girls Learn initiative which no one ever heard from again.

    The Afghan pilot was even celebrated as a “woman who builds peace, prosperity, and stability,” which just happened to also be a U.S. propaganda slogan for the Afghan war. And sure, what the hell, the State Department threw in that “she will not be intimidated and she will not be silenced.”

    Rahami also had her own Twitter, in English of course, but not updated in over a year. “Her” last tweet– “#Salute to the #daughter of nation #Flying #Officer #Marium embraced $shahadat today #Mianwali The few the proud…” And that Rahami was photogenic by coincidence was not unnoticed.

    The Captain summed it all up — her femaleness represented American goals of empowering women, her chosen career as a killer was in line with U.S. plans to destroy the Taliban, and her being in the Afghan Air Force seemed to justify the $3.7 billion U.S. tax dollars expended to create an indigenous Afghan fighting force.

    Mayday, Mayday!

    So it’s just a neat kick in the Uncle Sam ass for Rahmani, in the United States for all sorts of expensive training, to bail out and request asylum after 15 months in America training via photo ops and not fighting any Taliban. Why, it’s as if the entire war in Afghanistan itself was merely a lengthy exercise in Potemkin foreign policy…

    BONUS: Here’s George W. Bush posing with some Iraqi women of courage or whatever from that war. I love that photo.



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    Let’s Watch U.S. Government *ss Clowns Spend Your Money on Pakistani Dancing Videos

    September 17, 2016 // 18 Comments »


    This one’s a double play: the U.S. government is wasting your tax money on stupid videos while at the same time no doubt angering the very people they are somehow trying to impress.



    So the video above was made, using your tax dollars and on official government time, by the Public Diplomacy staff at the American Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. As you can see, a Pakistani traditional dancer was hired, and alongside him were placed various overweight American State Department officials to act like *ssclowns.

    See, they can’t do the dance right, so it’s a funny! It’s on YouTube! It’s groovy social media! And it has all of 380 hits!


    The saddest part is that the stated mission of Public Diplomacy staff abroad is to enhance America’s image, make us some friends, that hearts and minds stuff. So it is only in a parallel universe that the staff could imagine the video above could be helping with any of those goals. Indeed, in many parts of the world, fat American’s mocking a local tradition is not seen as funny at all, but actually as a serious insult.

    Oh yeah, the Taliban are like a big problem in Pakistan and they are no doubt seriously in favor of the Americans creating their propaganda videos for them.

    Maybe not in Pakistan. Maybe the Pakistanis have a wacky sense of humor roughly the same as a 28-year-old ex-sorority member now employed by the State Department who cannot conceive of how a skit that went over so well during senior year Rush Week would fail overseas.


    FUN FACT: Foreign governments with offices in the U.S. do not seem to make these kinds of videos. They seem almost exclusively, uniquely, the product of American diplomacy.



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    Don’t Trip on Those Milestones Strewn Across America’s Wars

    June 1, 2016 // 14 Comments »

    USCasualtiesC130DoverAFB


    Barack Obama called the drone assassination on May 21 of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, “an important milestone.”

    It might turn out to be. But I doubt it. My advice is every time you hear an American official use the term “milestone,” run the other way.

    For example, back in September 2014 Secretary of State John Kerry claimed the formation of a new Iraqi government then was “a major milestone” for the country. But on the same day that Obama was proclaiming his own milestone, protesters stormed the Green Zone in Baghdad seeking the end of that previous milestone government.


    But in case you’re not convinced, let’s take a look back at milestones and their companion, turning points, from the last Iraq War.

    “This month will be a political turning point for Iraq,” Douglas Feith, July 2003

    “We’ve reached another great turning point,” Bush, November 2003

    “That toppling of Saddam Hussein… was a turning point for the Middle East,” Bush, March 2004

    “Turning Point in Iraq,” The Nation, April 2004

    “A turning point will come two weeks from today,” Bush, June 2004

    “Marines Did a Good Job in Fallujah, a Battle That Might Prove a Turning Point,” Columnist Max Boot, July 2004

    “Tomorrow the world will witness a turning point in the history of Iraq,” Bush, January 2005

    “The Iraqi election of January 30, 2005… will turn out to have been a genuine turning point,” William Kristol, February 2005

    “On January 30th in Iraq, the world witnessed … a major turning point,” Rumsfeld, February 2005

    “I believe may be seen as a turning point in the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism.” Senator Joe Lieberman, December 2005

    “The elections were the turning point. … 2005 was the turning point,” Cheney, December 2005

    “2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq… and the history of freedom,” Bush, December 2005

    “We believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens, and it’s a new chapter in our partnership,” Bush, May 2006

    “We have now reached a turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror,” Bush, May 2006

    “This is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens.” Bush, August 2006

    “When a key Republican senator comes home from Iraq and says the US has to re-think its strategy, is this a new turning point?” NBC Nightly News, October 2006

    “Iraq: A Turning Point: Panel II: Reports from Iraq.” American Enterprise Institute, January 2007

    “This Bush visit could well mark a key turning point in the war in Iraq and the war on terror,” Frederick W. Kagan, September 2007

    “Bush Defends Iraq War in Speech… he touted the surge as a turning point in a war he acknowledged was faltering a year ago,” New York Times, March 2008

    “The success of the surge in Iraq will go down in history as a turning point in the war against al-Qaeda,” The Telegraph, December 2008

    “Iraq’s ‘Milestone’ Day Marred by Fatal Blast,” Washington Post, July 2009

    “Iraq vote “an important milestone,” Obama, March 2010

    “Iraq Withdrawal Signals New Phase, But War is Not Over,” ABC News, August 2010

    “Why the Iraq milestone matters,” Foreign Policy, August 2010

    “Iraq Milestone No Thanks to Obama,” McCain, September 2010

    “Hails Iraq ‘milestone’ after power-sharing deal, ” Obama, November 2010

    “Week’s event marks a major milestone for Iraq,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 2012

    “National elections ‘important milestone’ for Iraq,” Ban Ki Moon, April 2014

    “Iraq PM nomination ‘key milestone,'” Joe Biden, August 2014




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    Why Don’t the Candidates Talk About Afghanistan?

    April 19, 2016 // 13 Comments »

    Local Afghan

    Heading into its sixteenth year, with no endpoint in sight, America’s longest war is its least talked about.


    Afghanistan has not come up in any Republican or Democratic debate, except perhaps as one of a list of countries where Islamic State must be destroyed (left out is the reality that no Islamic State existed in 2001 when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban, who, by the way, are still not defeated.)

    For her part, the only mention of Afghanistan from Hillary Clinton is a vague statement last year of support for Barack Obama’s decision to keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan when he leaves the White House in 2017. Bernie Sanders’ web site has a long series of statement-lets that generally say things have not worked out well in Afghanistan, but stays away from much of a stance.

    Republican front runner Donald Trump, least at first, was more honest on the situation. “We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place. We had real brilliant thinkers that didn’t know what the hell they were doing. And it’s a mess. It’s a mess. And at this point, you probably have to stay because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave. Just as I said that Iraq was going to collapse after we leave.”

    However, once it was clear no one wanted to handle the truth, Trump quickly walked his statement back, denying that he had characterized U.S. entry into Afghanistan as a mistake and said he had only talked about Iraq.


    As the United States appears prepared for an indefinite presence in Afghanistan, what really is the situation on the ground 15 years in?

    The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, had a few thoughts on what has been achieved in those years, all at the cost of an estimated 149,000 Afghan deaths, alongside 3,515 American/Coalition deaths. No one really knows how much the U.S. has spent in dollars on the war, but one reasonable guess is $685 billion.


    Sopko, in remarks recently at Harvard University “The Perilous State of Afghan Reconstruction: Lessons from Fifteen Years” said:

    — Conditions are not, to put it mildly, what we would hope to see 15 years into a counterinsurgency and nation-building campaign.

    — Large parts of Afghanistan are effectively off-limits to foreign personnel.

    — Other consequences of insecurity are less headline-grabbing, but are still evil omens for the future of a desperately poor and largely illiterate country. Late last month, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Education was quoted as saying 714 schools have been closed and more than 2.5 million children were being denied schooling, mainly because of the war.

    — Bombings, raids, ambushes, land mines, and temporary seizures of key points can all serve to undermine the government’s credibility and affect security force and popular morale.

    — Security is where most of the U.S. reconstruction funding has gone, about 61% of the $113 billion Congress has appropriated since fiscal year 2002, or $68 billion.

    — As a result of the U.S. military draw down in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense has lost much of its ability to collect reliable information on Afghan security capability and effectiveness. We continue to rely on Afghan reporting on unit strengths, a concern because the rolls may contain thousands of “ghost” personnel whose costs we pay and whose absence distorts realistic assessments of Afghan capabilities.

    — Fifteen years into an unfinished work of funding and fighting, we must indeed ask, “What went wrong?” Citing instances of full or partial failures, is part of the answer. But no catalog of imperfections captures the full palette of pathologies or root causes.



    A lot of chew on there. Perhaps at some point the media, the voters, or the next debate moderators might inquire of the candidates what their current thoughts are.




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    Guantánamo Parole Board Clears Victim of Mistaken Identity — After 13 Years

    January 27, 2016 // 7 Comments »

    GITMO freedom flag


    This story makes me so angry that I can’t even come up with my usual snarky introduction. I only weep.


    The Guantánamo parole board approved the release of a Yemeni “forever prisoner,” dismissing intelligence that imprisoned the man for 13 years without trial. And if that level of evil and scorn for justice doesn’t radicalize a 100 people to join ISIS, then nothing can.

    The so-called Gitmo Periodic Review Board heard the case of Mustafa al Shamiri, 37. Intelligence analysts, I’ll say it again, 13 years ago, wrongly labeled him as a high level al-Qaida guy, because his name was similar to actual extremists. For 13 years of hell, like some modern-day Jean Valjean, he was known only as Detainee 434 by his American jailers.

    “In making this determination, the board noted that the most derogatory prior assessments regarding the detainee’s activities before detention have been discredited, and the current information shows that the detainee has low-level military capability.”

    The military says the U.S. “ally” Northern Alliance captured Shamiri in Afghanistan in late November 2001 and held him for a time in a crammed fortress near Mazar-i-Sharif. He was then rendered over to the U.S. Such renditions were typically paid for in cash bounty by the U.S. to stock up its offshore penal colony.


    Now look at him, Detainee 434 Mustafa al Shamiri:






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    Petraeus: ‘It’s Time to Unleash America’s Airpower in Afghanistan’

    January 21, 2016 // 10 Comments »

    petraeus


    In an Op-Ed printed in the Washington Post, former General David Petraeus says it is time to “unleash our airpower in support of our Afghan partners in the same way that we support our Iraqi and Syrian partners against extremists.”


    Petraeus went on to claim:

    At present, U.S. and NATO airpower in Afghanistan is used only to attack validated al-Qaeda targets, to counter specific individuals or groups who have attacked coalition forces previously and to respond directly to attacks on coalition forces. According to leaders on the ground, U.S. and NATO forces are otherwise not allowed to attack Taliban targets. The situation appears to be in flux in regard to Islamic State elements, but through 2015, they too could be targeted only under narrow circumstances.

    The former general, who lead the failed Surge in Iraq, and former head of the CIA, who was thrown out of the job after his extra-marital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, and after his being convicted of exposing classified information, went on to say:

    We have the tools in place to step up our game considerably. When combined with a motivated and competent ground force, airpower can be quite effective. This was witnessed in 2001, when U.S. airpower and special operatives worked with the Northern Alliance to oust the Taliban from power.

    So at this point one must ask the key question: has Petraeus had a stroke or is he on Acid, because otherwise his statements ignore reality, perhaps the laws of time and space themselves.



    To begin, Petraeus’ statement that airpower in 2001 “ousted the Taliban,” a statement made without apparent irony, would be hilarious if it was not utterly tragic. Petraeus seems to have missed a few meetings, at which he would have learned that since those victories in 2001 the Taliban has been doing just fine, thanks. The U.S. has remained inside the Afghan quagmire for more than 14 more years, and currently has no end game planned for the war. Air power, with or without “a motivated and competent ground force” (as if such a thing can ever exist in Afghanistan, we’ve been training and equipping there for 14 years), never is enough. There are examples to draw from going back into WWI.

    It is also unclear on what information Petraeus is basing his statements that the U.S. is broadly “not allowed to attack Taliban targets.” Petraeus only refers to “leaders on the ground” as his source. We’d sure like to hear more about that.

    And, David, how the hell did ISIS come into existence anyway, and how did they get into Afghanistan? U.S. have anything to do with that?

    I get it. I get why the failed options are still so attractive. Bombing and drones are believed by the majority of Americans to be surgical procedures that kill lots of bad guys, not too many innocents, and no Americans at all. As Washington regularly imagines it, once air power is in play, someone else’s boots will eventually hit the ground. A handful of Special Forces troops, American boots-sorta-on-the-ground, will turn the tide. Washington will collect and hold together some now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t “coalition” to abet the task at hand. It all sounds good, even though it is not.

    Petraeus failed in Iraq (that war is still going on and on) and he failed at CIA. Oh, and yes, in 2010 Petraeus served as the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, a period in which insurgent attacks on coalition forces spiked to record levels, and violence metastasized to previously stable areas.

    So the most important question of all is why anyone is still listening to David Petraeus?



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    Afghan Militia Loyal to Someone Behead Islamic State Fighters

    December 30, 2015 // 9 Comments »

    Judith_Beheading_Holofernes_by_CaravaggioHo, ho, ho, can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. That might as well be America’s war of terror slogan (copyright, 2001-2015.)


    So see if you can sort out the Good from the Bad. Pretend you’re Secretary of State and this is a puzzle Barack has asked you to solve. Here are the facts:

    Afghan militiamen loyal to no government but currently used by Haji Zahir, deputy speaker of the U.S.-created Afghan parliament, beheaded four Islamic State fighters and publicly displayed their severed heads. This ultra-violence highlights an increasingly brutal conflict as ISIS makes inroads in Afghanistan.

    The beheadings by the Afghans of ISIS are in retaliation for ISIS earlier beheading four of Zahir’s own Afghan fighters. In what is a great statement, Zahir said “If they behead you, behead your son, do you expect us to cook sweets for them? Sweets are not distributed during war. People die.”

    To make his point crystal clear, Zahir’s men placed the severed heads of the four ISIS fighters atop stacks of stones on the side of a main road.

    ISIS, for its part, continues to scoop up disaffected Taliban fighters, who are unhappy with their own group’s level of violence and are increasingly lured by ISIS’ signature brutality.


    So:

    — ISIS is now a thing in Afghanistan, after 14+ years of American occupation and nation building there. Fun facts: ISIS did not even exist when the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and the younger American soldiers now deployed there were in First Grade when the initial U.S. invasion kicked off;

    — The deputy speaker of the U.S.-created Afghan parliament has his own militia;

    — People sort of on the good Afghan side are doing the same brutal things such as beheadings without U.S. condemnation, as ISIS is doing elsewhere with U.S. condemnation, but that’s OK;

    — Afghanistan is so f*cked;

    — And so sorry to the 3,512 American and coalition deaths expended to create that free Afghanistan! Things will work out better in Syria, we promise.






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    British Library Won’t Hold Taliban Documents for Researchers Due to Anti-Terror Laws

    September 9, 2015 // 7 Comments »

    reaganmeetstalibanwhitehouse


    It was either Sun Tzu, or Clausewitz, or maybe General Tso who said: “Know Thy Enemy.”

    The advice is valid. Most military schools teach their students to read the enemy’s manifestos, study his propaganda, learn as much about him as possible to better know how to defeat him. During World War II, British soldiers and scholars studied Hitler’s Mein Kampf and other Nazi documents. Martial needs aside, a basic principle of scholars is open access to information, and for libraries, to collect primary source documents while they are still available.

    Yet fear now controls us, not thought.



    The British Library

    A decision by the British Library not to host a huge collection of Taliban-related documents, despite years of close involvement with the project, has added to concerns about Britain’s sweeping anti-terrorism legislation.



    Background

    Over nearly a decade, the researchers behind the Taliban Sources Project have painstakingly collected and translated into English more than a thousand newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, military and administrative documents, as well as handwritten poetry by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The group’s aim is to digitize the primary material, shedding light on the Taliban’s organization and the insurgency in Afghanistan. Altogether, the project’s ten-member team translated more than two million words of material.

    The researchers took the project to the British Library (and for those not familiar with that institution, consider it in lay terms on par with the Library of Congress in the United States) in 2012. After first accepting the collection three years ago, the library has now declined to take on the project, saying it had been legally advised it contains material that could be in breach of Britain’s anti-terrorism laws.

    The library recognizes the archive’s research value. But “it was judged that it contained some material which could contravene the Terrorism Act,” it said in a <a href="http://statement“>statement, “which would present restrictions on the library’s ability to provide access to the archive for researchers.”

    The UK Terrorism Act “places specific responsibilities on anyone in Britain who might provide access to terrorist publications,” the statement added, “and the legal advice received jointly by the British Library and other similar institutions advises against making this type of material accessible.”



    Knowing the Taliban

    The Taliban Sources Project focuses on material from 1994 to 2001 that “gives a unique window into the Taliban’s world views, their negotiations with foreign governments, how they viewed history,” said Felix Kuehn, an organizer of the project, adding that the material could help provide a more complete picture about the organization in the run-up to the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan.

    “Our knowledge of the Taliban in the 1990s is dominated by Western media coverage that was highly politicized, in part because information was not easily accessible,” Kuehn said.

    David Anderson, the independent reviewer for Britain’s anti-terrorism laws, said the Terrorism Act was a broad law that could be even more broadly interpreted “by police and lawyers who want to give cautious advice.” Such interpretations could easily impinge on academic freedom, he warned. “If this law were interpreted to prevent researchers from accessing Taliban-related material that would impact their academic work, it would be very regrettable,” he said. “That’s not how academics work.”



    Knowing the Enemy

    The Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 make it an offense “to collect material which could be used by a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism” and criminalize the circulation of terrorist propaganda. But under the laws, the police must show evidence that the owners intend to use the publication for terrorist purposes, and that they have a reasonable excuse to possess it, Anderson said.

    Know thy enemy? What happens when the enemy is us?



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    My Interview on Afghan-Taliban Talks: ‘Terrorists or not, labels less important than stopping war’

    July 15, 2015 // 3 Comments »

    reagan

    I had a chance to sit down with RT.com to talk about the peace talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban that are expected to start again after Ramadan ends. The negotiations are taking place after more than a decade of war. Here’s what we said.

    RT: Why is the Afghan government negotiating with Taliban terrorists in the first place?

    PVB:As a former diplomat, I think it’s critical people do talk. Look, this war has gone on for fourteen years between the US, the Taliban, the Pakistanis, the Afghans – the whole gang. There has got to be a way to bring it to a conclusion, and since the US has failed militarily to bring it to a conclusion, really the only answer now is some form of negotiation. Terrorist or not, the labels are less important than the idea of stopping this war.

    RT: The talks in Pakistan were said to have been very constructive, with negotiators reportedly even hugging each other afterwards. Can this diplomacy really bring peace to Afghanistan?

    PVB: I think the word “peace” is a little ambitious at this point of time. I prefer the word “resolution”. We are going to have a hard time saying this is a war that was won, or a war that settled something. But I think what we need now is to speak of resolution, a way for the US to disengage, a way for the Afghan government and the Afghans in the Taliban to talk to one another and try to work something out that will benefit the Afghan people.

    RT: US-led occupation forces ran the show in Afghanistan for 13 years. Were they even trying to make peace with the Taliban?

    PVB: It’s a good question and one I think people like you and people like me have been asking for all these years. We’re going to have to take a deep breath and say that it’s good that the negotiations have started, even though history would judge poorly the fact that it took all these years and all these deaths to get us to this point.

    RT: What about a military solution here? Has the US finally understood it’s not going to work?

    PVB: It took Washington a good part of those years to realize there is no military solution, but I’m sad to say it took Washington even more time to understand that it was going to have to negotiate with the people who are on the battlefield. I think that mindset of having to negotiate with “the enemy” was really a harder victory to achieve in Washington than the idea that the military solution wasn’t going to work.

    RT: Could talks with the militants have started sooner?

    PVB: Absolutely. They could have started much sooner, they could have started back in 2001. The US initial push into Afghanistan was actually very successful. The Taliban was driven out of all the major cities, they were driven up into the mountains, into the caves, into hiding and at that point of time I think there was in fact a negotiated political solution that might have avoided all the years of war. There were points no doubt along the way when some type of negotiations may have been possible. That’s all water under the bridge; it’s blood on everyone’s hands but again we are going to take a deep breath and say “Thank goodness, we finally got to the point where we are sitting down at a table rather than facing off across the battlefield.”

    RT: There’s also the threat posed by Islamic State in the region. There are reports that the group’s leader for Afghanistan and Pakistan has been killed in a US drone strike. The terrorist organization has said it wants to expand in the area. Who’s there to stop them?

    PVB: Islamic State has something to do with it, but perhaps in a different way. Certainly no one wants to see IS entering the conflict in Afghanistan. More people with more guns are not going to make anything better. But I suspect part of the motivation is to allow the US to focus more on IS in Iraq, in Syria and other places. The Afghan war is over; everyone knows that, it’s a matter of figuring out the right way to bring America’s role to some form of resolution.

    RT: Could IS be possibly welcomed in Afghanistan?

    PVB: IS has the potential to establish a foothold there. Keep in mind Afghanistan shares a huge border with Pakistan, so infiltration is not going to be physically a very difficult thing, and the Taliban have often welcomed outside help in their struggle. But at the end of the day I don’t think the Taliban have much interest in sharing power with IS, I don’t think the Taliban would have much tolerance for IS setting up any kind of permanent shelter there and I don’t think the Taliban at this point see themselves wanting to give away their successes against the US by giving America yet another reason to kick the war in Afghanistan up a notch. I suspect IS’s welcome in Afghanistan would be relatively short.



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    Let’s Waste $1.3 billion on the Afghan Police!

    January 14, 2015 // 6 Comments »

    Operation Enduring Freedom


    A big part of the U.S. plan to “win” in Afghanistan after only 13 years of effort rests on the Afghan National Police (ANP).

    Alongside the Afghan Army (RIP), the police are supposed to hunt down the Taliban and preserve order inside the cities. The army, for what it is worth, is supposed to hunt down the Taliban outside the cities. This is so that Afghanistan can develop a “civil society” where the army and the police are different things with different roles. Just here in the Homeland.

    For the funs, this was the same plan in Iraq, and how’d that work out?

    Well, it seems the police thing in Afghanistan is headed toward about as much success as it has enjoyed in Iraq. Also like Iraq, that failure is very expensive. Or so says what must be the most depressed group of people in the U.S. government, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR just released an audit of U.S.-funded salary payments for the Afghan National Police (ANP), which total $1.3 billion.


    The audit found:

    –The U.S. is spending over $300 million annually for ANP salaries with little assurance that these funds are going to active police personnel or that the amounts paid are correct.

    –There are almost twice as many ANP identification cards in circulation as there are active police personnel.

    –After nine expensive years of effort, an electronic human resources system has still not been successfully implemented.

    –Reports have disclosed inflated police rosters, payments being made to more police personnel than are authorized in particular locations, and police personnel receiving inflated salaries.

    –20 percent of ANP personnel are at risk of not receiving their full salaries because they are paid in cash by a non-governmental agent, where as much as half of these payments are possibly diverted.

    –U.S. officials confirmed that over the past year they accepted, without question, all personnel totals provided by the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MOI).

    –Independent monitoring groups may have artificially inflated the percentage of successfully verified ANP personnel from 59 percent to as much as 84 percent.

    –The U.S. plans to continue for an open-ended period of time (“Until hell freezes over”) handing over $300 million in annual funding for ANP salaries.




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    Did You Know We Won the Afghan War This Weekend?

    January 2, 2015 // 22 Comments »

    kiss


    Winning wars used to be much cooler.

    But hey, did you know we won the war in Afghanistan this past weekend? Or, at least we ended the war in Afghanistan this weekend? It is true. America’s longest war, clocking in at more than 13 years, (fun fact: the U.S. involvement in WWII, when we defeated the Nazis and the Japanese, only lasted three and a half years), is over.


    Live from Hawaii

    Seriously. While you were eating your Christmas roast beast, Your President was in Hawaii. From that forward deployment, Obama announced that “thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion… We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service. [We] have helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities, take the lead for their own security, hold historic elections and complete the first democratic transfer of power in their country’s history.”


    USA! USA! USA!

    Now, there is no journalism without fact-checking, so let’s dig in on the president’s statement. Afghanistan no longer is under threat from the Taliban, and all terrorism has been taken care of. Instead of an economy based on corruption, smuggling and opium production, Afghanistan is a thriving consumer society. Women walk the streets in mini-skirts, and elections happen without incident. An American can stroll among Kabul’s cafes and quaint bazaars with his head held high and his safety guaranteed by grateful Afghans. America and its allies’ investment of over 3,400 lives and four trillion dollars has paid off. Also, all the dead Afghans, whatever.

    Oh, wait, none of that is true.


    It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over

    And for a war that is over, the U.S. has over 10,000 troops stationed and still fighting in Afghanistan under a legacy defined as a “transition from a combat mission to a ‘noncombat mission in a combat environment’ with a definition that “remains as unclear as Afghanistan’s future.”

    The Taliban have obviously not heard all the good news out of Hawaii. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid characterized a hand-over event in Kabul as a “defeat ceremony” and added “We will fight until there is not one foreign soldier on Afghan soil and we have established an Islamic state.”

    Despite such gloom, it is obvious that America’s accomplishments in Afghanistan rank alongside its accomplishments in Iraq.



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    Is ISIS a Direct Threat to the U.S.?

    August 14, 2014 // 18 Comments »

    Is ISIS a Direct Threat to the U.S.? Doubtful.

    Get Afraid!

    First, a few samples of the fear-mongering rhetoric.

    “The militant Islamic State group could launch a direct attack on U.S. soil,” warned South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who claimed the militants are a “direct threat to our homeland… They are coming.” Graham, and his running dog accomplice John McCain, have never found a threat they could not exaggerate.

    “In reality, ISIS represents the most virulent form of Islamic jihad the planet has ever seen. These folks are not Muslims, they are animals, frankly… another 9/11 is imminent.” said Ali Khedery, who, as an advisor to five U.S. ambassadors in Iraq, is personally responsible for much of the mess there.

    “Every day that goes by, ISIS… becomes a direct threat to the United States of America. They are more powerful now than al Qaeda was on 9/11,” Representative Peter King said.

    R U Scared Yet?

    Well, that is all pretty terrifying. While the fear mongers depend on the idea that there is no way to prove a negative (i.e., ISIS will never attack the U.S., or Paraguay, or Bermuda), there is still room for rational thought. Here are a few of such thoughts:

    — ISIS has been in existence in some form since perhaps 2004, as part of Al Qaeda in Iraq. They formed their own organization, such as it is, in 2013. In the nine years of the U.S. Occupation of Iraq, no Mideast group launched an attack on the U.S. Nobody from the Taliban has shown up here since whenever, same for the groups unleashed after the U.S. attacked Libya. No Yemeni or Pakistani terrorists yet either. No Boko Haram, no Abu Sayyaf. Not even al Qaeda after 9/11. What’s different about ISIS?

    — Oh, the money? Yep, they seemed to have gotten ahold of a huge amount of Iraqi and U.S. currency, and American weapons, after the Iraqi Army gave up and ran away. Money can help, but in fact the 9/11 attacks may have cost about $400,000, and that included all that expensive flight training. Not small change, but certainly the kind of money that an international terror group could raise. Nope, no big change there either.

    — Many/most of the ISIS fighters are unsophisticated people with limited formal education, likely with no English skills and little if any experience outside their own areas. It seems unlikely they are the kind of people who will successfully obtain passports, travel to international airports, blend in, hop on planes, wander into the U.S., acquire weapons and navigate around America to strike important targets.

    — But what about the foreign fighters with ISIS? Aren’t there Americans among them who will return to the Homeland and carry out lone wolf attacks? Sure, that it always possible. But again, since 9/11, almost 13 years, it hasn’t happened. Is there something different about the ISIS Americans? Meanwhile, the very few acts of terrorism in the U.S. have been carried out by people already here, such as the hapless Boston kids, likely the post-9/11 anthrax attacks, and Major Hasan, a serving U.S. Army officer who shot up Fort Hood. We’ll leave aside the heavy death toll in America in the meantime by our own army of school mass shooters and workplace psychos.

    — And speaking of those Americans who have joined ISIS, perhaps the fear mongers might pause and consider what might encourage a young person to do that, and perhaps tackle the problem from the perspective.

    — Thinking ISIS will jump from the battlefields of Iraq to New York fails to understand the point of terrorism. ISIS has exactly what it wants already, and achieved its goal vis-vis the U.S. at almost no cost: they lured the Americans back into Iraq. What had been a struggle for territory among indigenous groups turned overnight into a jihad against the American crusaders, you know, the ones who promised to leave Iraq in 2011 and then instead came back?

    Nothing could be more helpful to ISIS in terms of recruitment, raising money and inspiring its forces than to recharacterize the conflict as something broader, with ISIS in the role of protector of Islam. If ISIS wants to kill Americans, they can do it right there at home.

    So sleep well America. ISIS is killing us over there because it is more convenient for them than killing us here. The rest is just fear mongering.




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    Classification: Hiding American War from Americans

    June 17, 2014 // 3 Comments »




    Our government classifies a lot of documents, some 92 million in 2011 alone.

    The ostensible point of all that classification is protect the nation’s secrets. Some of it even makes sense. Troop movements, nuclear things, identities of spies, traditional stuff you want to keep from your enemies. The purpose of classification is not to hide government mistakes or prevent embarrassing things from coming into daylight.

    The president even said so. Obama’s 2009 Executive Order on National Security Information made clear “In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error, or “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.”

    More Irony in a Nation Awash with It

    Yes, more irony in a nation awash with it. But seriously, when the point of classification is keeping the realities of America’s wars from Americans, that says we are the enemy. Today’s case in point:

    The top official in charge of the classification system decided that it was legitimate for the Marines to classify photographs that showed American forces posing with corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, and urinating on them. Many of the photos have already been published, but no matter, whatever hasn’t leaked out is now a secret. A kicker is that the “top official” who decides these things is some guy at the National Archives you’ve never heard of.

    That top official is allowed to be the final arbiter of what Americans can see of their wars because of Executive Order 13526, Section 5.5, which grants him alone the authority to make a report to the head of an agency, or to the designated senior agency official for classified national security information, if any members of the agency knowingly, willfully, or negligently classify or continue the classification of information in violation of the Order. So, in this case, he just did that, confirming in a simple letter that the Marines can keep the photos a secret.

    Support the Troops!

    The stated reason for the secrecy? To support the troops, of course. The rationale is that the release of additional images would make the Taliban somehow even angrier at the U.S. for occupying Afghanistan for 13 years and provoke more attacks. The same rationale, though a different legal manipulation, was used to keep additional photos of American torture at Abu Ghraib and images from the bin Laden kill locked up.

    A video of the Marines’ now-classified act is still on YouTube:




    Unless the Taliban can’t see YouTube from Afghanistan, they already know what happened.

    Another thing the Taliban also know is that the Marine Corps sniper captured on a YouTube video urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan was only reduced in rank after a court-martial. So, an act by a Marine that supposedly could cost American lives is punished merely by a reduction in rank. And even that mild rebuke took two years to happen. That couldn’t possibly stir anyone up in Afghanistan.

    We Got This

    The Taliban, as the Iraqis before them, know darn well what happened. It is even possible they know of atrocities by American troops that weren’t photographed as trophies of war and are thus unknown to Americans. Classifying the photos does not change the fact that the atrocities happened. It only tries (albeit crudely and stupidly) to hide those atrocities from the American people.

    BONUS: For anyone offended by the images above, or who thinks I should label this article NSFW because of the pee pee thing, please stop for a moment and acknowledge what you see here was done by Americans to people they just killed. In that sense only is it offensive and obscene.

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    Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Just Told Us How to Close Gitmo (But Obama Won’t Do It)

    June 4, 2014 // 13 Comments »

    Every media person knows to ensure maximum coverage for a story you put it out at the beginning of the week. That gives pundits five days on the job to comment and amplify it. Conversely, if you are compelled to release information that you’d like to not get that kind of play, dumping it on a Sunday is as good as anything else.

    So when you’re the president and you’ve just made another of those tough calls (bin Laden raid!) that risked American lives, in this case, to bring “one of our own” home from a foreign battlefield, it’s kind of odd that the news comes out as it did recently about the “rescue” of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from years of Taliban captivity. Where are the tense you-are-there photos of Obama in the Situation Room like with bin Laden? The info-graphics of the high-tech gear our brave Special Forces used in the op? The leaked stories about how agonizing it all was for the president?

    It was almost as if Obama was ashamed of what he did. Likely, he is. And it’s all because of Guantanamo.

    Bowe Bergdahl and the Taliban

    It remains very unclear how Bowe Bergdahl ended up with the Taliban. There are clear suggestions that he willfully left his own unit. Without surprise, Fox News has the inside story from “senior Pentagon officials” laying out that case. Some soldiers in his former unit straight-out called him a deserter who aided the enemy and put American lives in danger. Maybe yes, maybe no, but definitely not the issue.

    One way or another, the United States owes its service members the ride home. They may face military court, or simply return to their lives, but leaving anyone behind is not right. But questions over Bergdahl’s motivations and actions are not what embarrases Obama.

    Back to Guantanamo

    The process that led to Bowe Bergdahl’s heading home is where we need to focus, and it points right back at the scab of Guantanamo.

    Since Day One of his presidency, and often repeated over the last six years, Obama said he wants to close Guantanamo. He should. Gitmo is an ugly stain, an off-shore penal colony where America daily commits violations of international standards once done only by its scummiest enemies. Gitmo’s existence is a powerful recruiting tool for bad guys everywhere, living proof that what they say about America is true. One only need look at the limited pictures available, or read the dribs and drabs of information that come out. Guantanamo proves we are our own worst enemy, and theirs.

    So close it already. Wait– Obama says he’d love to, but for a couple of problems. The two primary ones, the president has often said, are that some/many/a few of the people held there are hardened terrorists. They can’t be released without some assurance they will not return to the battlefield, and that’s damned hard to find.

    The second thing Obama just can’t get around is Congress, whom he keeps saying has tied his hands on this.

    Bad Boys: What’re You Gonna Do?

    The thing is that all those “reasons” were tossed aside pretty casually this weekend to get Bowe Bergdahl home. Five Taliban prisoners at Gitmo, among the worst of the worst (the U.S. government previously called one of them “one of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained”), suddenly got approved for a flight out. Those hard-to-find assurances that the baddies would not return to the fight were rubber-stamped by the Emir of Qatar. The ever-supportive Susan Rice piped up with the details: “…The Taliban prisoners [are] being monitored and kept in a secure way in Qatar.” The assurances include a one-year travel ban out of Qatar. Right. So that’s sorted.

    Obama added “The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security.” The assurances are apparently recorded in a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Qatar, a copy of which Obama declined to release.

    There was not even much discussion over releasing the five. The process for getting there was rushed, according to U.S. intelligence officials. This time around there was no formal intelligence assessment for example of the risks posed by releasing the Taliban commanders. While some intelligence analysts looked at the issue, no community-wide intelligence assessment was produced.

    And About That Congress Thing

    As for Congress tying his hands, Obama was referring to statutory restrictions on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay. The statutes say the Secretary of Defense must determine that a transfer is in the interest of national security, that steps have been taken to substantially mitigate a future threat by a released detainee, and require the secretary notify Congress 30 days before any transfer.

    Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated unambiguously he did not notify Congress. At all. Just didn’t.

    Administration officials explained when Obama signed the bill containing the latest version of the Gitmo transfer restrictions into law, he issued a signing statement claiming that he could lawfully override them under his executive powers. Signing statements were made popular during the Bush-Cheney years, and are essentially a fuzzy addendum that even though the president is signing a bill into law to avoid a veto fight, he just may not follow the actual law he just signed if he does not wish to.

    Another “administration official” added the circumstances of a fast-moving exchange deal made it appropriate to act outside the statutory framework for transfers, even though that statutory framework for transfers does not provide for any such circumstances.

    A funny thing is that just five days ago, Hagel was asked about the release of some other prisoners out of Guantanamo. Uruguay had agreed to accept them, but Hagel was not sure:

    Hagel said he was taking his time in reaching a decision about six detainees Obama had discussed with Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, as well as other detainees, in order to be sure that releasing them was the responsible thing to do. “I’ll be making some decisions on those specific individuals here fairly soon,” he told reporters.

    Hagel said the U.S. Congress had assigned him the responsibility of notifying it of a decision to release detainees.

    “My name goes on that document. That’s a big responsibility,” he said. “I have a system that I have developed, put in place, to look at every element, first of all complying with the law, risks, mitigation of risk. Does it hit the thresholds of the legalities required? Can I ensure compliance with all those requirements? There is a risk in everything… I suspect I will never get a 100-percent deal.”

    What a difference a few days can make, right Chuck Hagel?

    Close Guantanamo

    It is time. The Bowe Bergdahl episode proved that Obama can close Guantanamo, and he can do it quickly. Assurances of America’s safety, even from nasty Taliban leaders, require just a stroke of a pen from characters like the Emir of Qatar. Hands tied by Congress? Obama just went ahead anyway and is sitting back watching Congress fume. That whole business about not negotiating with terrorists? Um, not anymore. The fact that Bergdahl was held in ally Pakistan for five years, just like they harbored bin Laden? Whatever. People the U.S. captures are not POWs under the Geneva Conventions but we still do prisoner swaps? It’s complicated. Swapping prisoners 5 for 1? No problem.

    There is nothing stopping Obama from closing Guantanamo now except Obama.

    Mr. President, how about this? There are now some 143 human beings still being held in Guantanamo. Next prisoner swap that comes up, why not trade 143 for 1 and kill two birds with one stone?




    BONUS: Susan Rice told CNN, when asked whether this meant that the United States could no longer claim that it does not negotiate with terrorists, that she “wouldn’t put it that way.”

    Rice also opined that Bergdahl “served with distinction,” despite significant evidence to the contrary.

    “We didn’t negotiate with terrorists,” Hagel said in an interview on NBC. Since the negotiations were handled mostly by Qatar, the United States did not negotiate directly with the Taliban. The administration’s announcement of Bergdahl’s release said only that negotiations began several weeks ago through the government of Qatar, and there was no indication of any direct contact between the United States and the Taliban.


    BONUS BONUS: Chuck Hagel, I’ve met you, and we all know your personal story. When you were a Senator, you and your staff went out of the way to do the right thing. I saw it. You had balls. So how do you live with yourself nowadays?



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    Happy Valentine’s Day: U.S. (Hearts) Karzai

    February 14, 2014 // 25 Comments »

    In an article headlined The U.S. Has Finally Outfoxed Hamid Karzai, the occasionally-respected Fiscal Times explains how for months Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a long-term security agreement with the United States, causing mounting frustration within the White House and the Pentagon. Now, according to the Times, “it appears as if President Obama and his advisers have finally outfoxed Karzai, marking the end of a long and tumultuous relationship.” The Times:

    The White House and DOD have decided not to make any agreement until after April’s presidential elections in which Karzai is not expected to be a candidate. They’ll only make a deal with Karzai’s successor.


    “If he’s not going to be part of the solution, we have to have a way to get past him,” a senior U.S. official said of the elected leader. “It’s a pragmatic recognition that clearly Karzai may not sign the (deal) and that he doesn’t represent the voice of the Afghan people.”

    By way of perspective, the U.S. has previously outfoxed Karzai by handing him fantastic amounts of unmarked cash and creating a massive, corrupt system in Afghanistan that bleeds the U.S. taxpayer while feeding even more money to Karzai and his family.


    (None of the above is satire. It is true. Here’s the satire part.)

    Karzai, however, is a sly old fox himself and is thus not easily outfoxed. Unbeknownst to U.S. authorities as the NSA was preoccupied with Beyonce’s selfies folder, Karzai has moved to Washington DC. While the Old Grey Fox first was just using the money he stole from the U.S. to buy up real estate (“giving back”), these days Karzai is shipping hundreds of his relatives, friends and his favorite hired gunmen into the DC suburbs.

    “It’s freaking dangerous in Afghanistan, and you crazy Americans want to keep the war going forever,” Karzai exclusively told this blog, “I’ve got ‘graveyard of empires’ printed right on my wallet so its not like the Ambassador doesn’t see it every time we meet, but that dude is crazy. ‘We don’t want another Vietnam, er, Iraq,’ he says. I guess his solution is that as long as the U.S. keeps killing Afghans they can say it’s not over and they haven’t lost. So anyway, who wants to be a part of all that? I’ll just pack up in April and let the next jerk to do this job sort it out. I still can’t figure out why the Taliban want this dump anyway.”

    “Despite all that, I still like the Ambassador personally. Funny guy. He once gave me a stack of Benjamins just to “like” the embassy Facebook page. Sometimes when the Ambo and I are just kicking back with a few 40’s he talks about the U.S. not wanting to lose the gains they’ve made over the last decade in this rat hole. I always end up with beer spraying out my nose when he says that. I mean, look out the window– that goat cost you Americans 75 billion dollars.”

    Karzai did get reflective at the end of the interview, remembering his first cash bribe from a then-junior CIA officer. “That guy is now running their whole op here,” said the president. “Twelve years goes by. They just grow up so fast.”

    “Anyway, I’m out of here. Somebody tell the U.S. Army ‘last man to die for a bad idea, turn off the light when you leave.’ That’s the expression you guys use in English, yes?” By the way, what do you think about BitCoin as an investment? I’m fat with cash right now and how many Rolexes do you really need?”



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    Delusions Drive (More) U.S. Aid to Afghanistan

    February 10, 2014 // 13 Comments »





    When a person sees things that aren’t there, hears voices that tell him to do irrational things and insists on believing things that simply are not supported by fact, most psychologists would label that person delusional and seek to help him regain his toehold on reality. When that person does all the same things regarding U.S. aid to Afghanistan, it is called statecraft.

    The Obama administration unveiled Monday yet another aid package for Afghanistan. The country remains one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries despite a dozen years of massive international aid efforts.

    The announcement from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) of three new development initiatives worth almost $300 million is part of a U.S. effort to ensure that Afghanistan, as its ‘war economy’ ends, won’t “reverse gains made over the last twelve years.”

    How Much We Have Already Spent

    To fully grasp the insanity of yet another initiative that drains taxpayer money into the open sore of Afghanistan, some numbers may help. Over the past twelve years the U.S. has given the Afghans some $100 billion in aid. About half of all “aid” goes directly to the Afghan military. There have also been significant amounts of aid delivered to Afghanistan by other countries and private donors.

    The Return on Investment: 80 Percent Never Gets There

    The aid money works out to be over $3300 per Afghan, assuming any of the money actually reaches an Afghan. The reality is, according to a Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction auditor, that 70-80% of the money is siphoned off by contractors as overhead.

    The Return on Investment: Losses to Corruption

    No one knows how much of the money disappears as bribes, graft or outright theft. However, a 2009 U.S. State Department cable disclosed on Wikileaks stated “While reports vary widely, records obtained from Kabul International Airport (KIA) support suspicions large amounts of physical cash transit from Kabul to Dubai on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. According to confidential reports, more than $190 million left Kabul for Dubai through KIA during July, August, and September.” A 2012 report showed $4.6 billion fled via the Kabul airport, about one-quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. The year before, $2.3 billion in cash left via the airport. In a single incident, the then-Afghan Vice President flew to Dubai with $52 million in unexplained cash.

    The Return on Investment: Funding the Taliban

    And that’s all the good news because as Douglas Wissing points out in his excellent book Funding the Enemy: How U.S. Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban, significant amounts of U.S. money are paying for the enemy to keep fighting. U.S. ignorance and naivete in the contracting process sends money to Taliban-affiliated subcontractors, and direct payoffs to warlords and others known to work with the Taliban are made for safe passage guarantees for military supplies.

    The Return on Investment: What the U.S. Government Believes

    Here’s what the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has to say for itself:

    Our work continues to be a vital support to Afghanistan in its efforts to ensure economic growth led by the private sector, establish a democratic and capable state governed by the rule of law, and provide basic services for its people. The Afghan people rejoice in peace and freedom. They are dedicated to working for a better future for the generations to come. USAID assistance is crucial to achieving this goal… Only investment in Afghanistan’s human capital – that is, in its people – will ultimately lead the country to prosperity, peace and stability on a long-term, sustainable basis.


    Delusional

    When I wrote my book on the waste and failure of the similar U.S. money hemorrhage in the Iraq War, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, there was no widespread agreement. Many people, both in and out of government, questioned my conclusions. Fair enough, though they were obviously proven wrong.

    With Afghanistan, it is difficult to find anyone, outside of a few true believers and U.S. government PR people, who believe the money spent on aid to Afghanistan is not a waste. What charitably could be called at the time a difference of opinion over Iraq allowed the taxpayer money to keep flowing. With Afghanistan, there is no charitable explanation.

    One service member characterized the situation as “A war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached.” That service member served in the British Army that was destroyed in Afghanistan in 1843.

    Delusional. That’s really the only word that applies.



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    We’re Sorry: Six Afghans Dead, US Still Losing War it Fails to Understand

    May 8, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    Since we said we’re sorry, this is OK, right?


    The New York Times tells us the American military expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday. The victims included the family’s mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys, according to Afghan officials. The American regional commander, Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus of the Marines apologized.


    It really should not be necessary to go over this again, but apparently some of you did not do the reading. So, when you are engaged in a counter insurgency struggle (COIN), the goal is to win the support of the people, in large part by protecting them from the other side, the Taliban in this case. If in fact you end up killing the people, they will not turn against the Taliban and will instead see you– US– as the problem, not the solution.


    Sure, in war, people make mistakes. That is true. It is also true that the side that keeps making the same mistakes over and over again loses.



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    Crocker to Taliban: Youse Guys are Wimps

    April 16, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    Ryan Crocker (seen dropping some killa ninja hand gestures on ‘ya at left), America’s Ambassador to Afghanistan is a dude, dude. He don’t take no sh*t from nobody. Check this smackdown:

    The Taliban, see, launched a wave of assaults on Kabul and three other provinces Sunday. Fighting in the Kabul district that houses allied embassies lasted into Sunday night. Bombs, suicide vests, AKs, the whole MFer.

    So what does America’s bad boy Ambassador have to say to ‘dem Taliban bitches: “The Taliban are very good at issuing statements, less good at fighting.”

    Da Man Crocker, is not the first time he lay smack on the Taliban. Following the all-day Taliban assault on the American Embassy in Kabul last September, Crocker said “If this is the best they can do, I find both their lack of ability and capacity and the ability of Afghan forces to respond to it actually encouraging in this whole transition process.”

    Crock’s bad-ass statements sound tough and cool, like a real manly diplomat should. Freakin’ Taliban, can’t do nothing right. But wait, gee, what’s it been for our war in Afghanistan, heading into ELEVEN FREAKING YEARS Ryan? After eleven years of fighting, trillions of dollars, thousands of lives and umpteen training missions for the Afghans, the Taliban can still stage a coordinated attack in central Kabul? That does not seem like a lack of ability or capability. The victories over the Taliban seem to be taking place closer and closer to home somehow. And how many more Americans have died in Afghanistan in between Crocker’s childish posturing?

    How well did grunting “Bring ‘em on!” work out when George Bush said it regarding Iraq? When he said it, only 23 Americans had died in Iraq. 4479 dead Americans and nine years later, he is still eating those words.

    What is lacking here is credibility. Lacking also is humility. Ryan Crocker, please just shut the freak up.



    (America, please note that my previous blog posting of some seven months ago about Ryan Crocker’s macho posturing was singled out by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security agents as a further example of my “poor judgement” and included in the Report of Investigation filed against me. Boy oh boy, seven more months from now am I gonna be in trouble when the next investigation uncovers this blog posting.)




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    Counterinsurgency Tips: A New Series

    February 21, 2012 // 3 Comments »

    Well, it looks like my previous posting of counterinsurgency tips was not enough, as some ‘Mericans a’fightin’ the ever-lasting gobsmacker of a war in Afghanistan just thought it would be OK to burn ’em up a bunch of unneeded Korans. This is a perfectly normal kind of mistake, since Americans always burn unneeded flags bibles garbage.

    A Western military official said the Korans were removed from a library at a detention center because they contained extremist messages. The reporters covering this story had no curiosity about exactly what that meant and so did not ask any questions as they took down dictation from the White House.

    One more fucking time now, and pay attention:

    Burning Korans is bad.

    Using Nazi symbolism is bad:



    Peeing on Taliban, also bad.



    It all reminds people of this:



    Any questions, please see your chain of command for more information! Otherwise, continue to follow the plan of the day.




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    Counterinsurgency Tips, No. 453: Nazi Stuff = Bad

    February 19, 2012 // Comments Off on Counterinsurgency Tips, No. 453: Nazi Stuff = Bad

    For those Marines who slept through their counterinsurgency lessons, let’s try again. Using Nazi symbology is bad:



    Peeing on Taliban, also bad.



    It all reminds people of this:



    Any questions, please see your chain of command for more information! Otherwise, continue to follow the plan of the day.




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    Counterinsurgency is not peeing on people…

    January 13, 2012 // Comments Off on Counterinsurgency is not peeing on people…

    The world is awash in urine-soaked statements by various idiots defending the Marines who peed on the bodies of dead Taliban. The defense is either a) the Taliban deserved it because they are our enemies or b) well, the Taliban have done worse things to us.

    Here’s some bonehead pundit saying she’d join in on the peeing. Here’s someone else saying it is OK.


    Here is why those statements are so wrong (beyond the obvious):

    The Taliban aren’t fighting a counterinsurgency war.

    We are.

    We are the invading foreigners trying to win the support of the people. Pissing on them is not a good way to do that.

    This is part of the whole losing proposition of such war– we have to get it right (almost) all the time to have a shot at winning.

    They can pee on us all that they want, because their task is to make us give up and go home.




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    Hip Hop COIN Diplomacy: Awww, P*ss on It

    January 12, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    Here is the viral video (social media!) that “purportedly” shows “alleged” US “Marines” Corps urinating on “what are believed to be” Afghan corpses. All of those words are in “quote marks” because the US is still “investigating” whether or not the video is “authentic.”

    “While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps,” ABC News quotes an official statement.

    So let’s watch and see for ourselves:



    If the embed is not showing up, follow this link to the video

    Anybody out there want to argue the video is not somehow “authentic”? The people in it dress like Marines, carry the right gear, are wearing the right boots, carrying the right weapons, same sense of humor as Marines (“Have a great day, buddy,” one of the alleged Marines can be heard saying on the footage.)

    A couple of points:

    –We can assume that this video is now on every cell phone in Afghanistan and is rocketing across the Middle East. The “bad guys” do not need to produce their own propaganda when we do it for them.

    –The expected statement from the US side, that these are “rogue” Marines, not representative of the many fine men and women in the Corps, will mean absolutely nothing to anyone outside the US. It is possible for something to be both true, and irrelevant, at the same time.

    –Most online boneheads will say things like “Well, the Taliban does worse things!” Yeah, but the Taliban is not trying to win a COIN war in a foreign country they invaded 10 years ago. Also, see above, it is possible for something to be both true, and irrelevant, at the same time.

    –About 90% of the US effort will be spent countering the domestic US reaction to the video, 9.9% that of our allies and 0.1% that of the Afghans themselves.

    –The US media will respond as trained, with only 0.1% still carrying the story in a few days. About 90% of Muslim world media will keep talking about this.

    –Absolutely nothing about this on US Embassy Kabul web site, Twitter or Facebook. So much for the use of social media. Can you say “we are irrelevant”?

    –All the happy talk hip hop diplomacy and smiley face 21st century Statecraft in the world can be rendered as useless as dust in the wind by acts like this. That’s what makes counterinsurgency such a dead end proposition. Our side has to only get it wrong once in awhile to lose.

    –As one online commenter, who identified himself as a veteran, said: “Thanks fellas, you just pissed away everything me and my boys fought for.”

    Abu Ghraib



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    Afghanistan Quotable Quotes for $500, Alex…

    December 20, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    I had the pleasure to read an early version of a book due out in March 2012 called Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban, by journalist Douglas Wissing.

    The book is a neat history of US engagement in Afghanistan, with abbreviated coverage of Afghan history from Alexander’s time through the Soviet invasion, followed by much more detailed chapters on the post-9/11 struggle. Wissing spent considerable time in Afghanistan and includes many personal anecdotes alongside the more formal presentation. His conclusion is sad: US money is funding the Taliban, via:

    — Dollars intended for reconstruction and rebuilding being siphoned off by corrupt officials;

    — Ignorance and naivete in the contracting process that sends money to Taliban-affiliated subcontractors;

    — USG/CIA collusion to allow farmers to continue to grow poppies;

    — Direct payoffs to warlords and others known to work with the Taliban, seeking short-term gains whilst sacrificing any hopes for long-term success.


    But never mind all that. The book is also chock full of interesting quotes about Afghanistan, so we’ll cheer ourselves up by playing “Afghanistan Quotable Quotes.” I’ll list the quotation, you guess who said it. Answers below.

    A) “It’s the perfect war, everyone is making money.”

    B) “This is a noble cause, and you will always be honored for seeing it through to the end.”

    C) “Easy to march into, hard to march out of.”

    D) “A war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity,brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached.”

    E) “The less the Afghans see of us, the less they dislike us.”

    F) “It will be over in three to four weeks.”

    G) “I took my revenge after a hundred years, and I only regret that I acted in haste.”

    H) “We were going to have to bomb them up to the stone age”

    I) “When I take action, it’s going to be decisive.”





    The Answers

    A) US intelligence official, sometime after 9/11

    B) Alexander the Great, on starting his invasion of Afghanistan, 329 BC.

    C) Alexander the Great, later in his invasion of Afghanistan.

    D) Chaplain, after the defeat of the British Army in Afghanistan, 1843.

    E) British Major General Fredrick Roberts, after the second British incursion into Afghanistan

    F) Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, as the Russians took a shot at conquering Afghanistan, 1979.

    G) Pashtun proverb.

    H) Unnamed Clinton administration official.

    I) George W. Bush




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    Book Review of The Valley’s Edge: A Year with the Pashtuns in the Heartland of the Taliban

    December 13, 2011 // 1 Comment »



    Dan Green’s new book, The Valley’s Edgetells two stories: his time as a State Department political reporter assigned to a rural Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan, and his later stint at the American Embassy in Kabul. The two tales– and the contrast between his early sense of accomplishment in the field and his later disgust at the bureaucracy in the Embassy– serve as bookends not only to his volume, but also to the seemingly endless war itself.

    Green spends about two thirds of his book on his work at the PRT, deep in Pashtun territory, nestled among the Taliban, 2005-2006. Violence is at angry but workable levels, allowing Green and his military team to develop projects and report on the messy, corrupt and complex local politics in his province. The stories give the reader a detailed look at the day-to-day work of counterinsurgency, literally, from the ground. A lot of work is done on the fly, in the spirit of positive improvisation, as the men and women try to find ways to affect change and build stability among the Afghans. While in hindsight the team accomplished relatively little of any lasting strategic value (no one else did either), the tone is positive and upbeat, more of a sense of trying alternatives than beating one’s head against a mud brick wall.

    The final portion of the book covers Green’s time in the real belly of the beast, the massive American Embassy in Kabul, 2009-2011. Here the whole tone of the book changes. Gone is the easy camaraderie of the PRT, the expeditionary spirit that might have a chance at yielding results, the inter-agency cooperation essential to a counterinsurgency fight. Replacing these things, Green finds, is a bloated State Department bureaucracy, much more concerned with creating memorandums of understanding and carving out bureaucratic territory than seeking any real solutions. Green departs Afghanistan somewhat bitter, and his writing successfully allows this to work its way through his otherwise objective prose.

    As many know, I wrote my own book on PRT work, albeit in Iraq, so some comparisons are in order. Between the two countries, at least during the time Green and I overlapped without knowing each other, Iraq’s reconstruction was run entirely by State, or at least State liked to believe that to be true. Though the military outspent us 10:1 on projects, the whole affair had a stuffy, State feel to it with no memory of anything better having preceded it. Neither reconstruction effort accomplished much, with the work in Iraq shut down arbitrarily as the US planned to withdraw while the PRTs in Afghanistan continue to plod ahead. My experience, as well as my book, was more personal, with my emotions well on display, and humor used in place of what some call a lack of historical detail. Green set out to write a proper history, and fills his volume with names, dates and places. His work is thus more valuable to a serious reader or a historian, perhaps at times at the expense of some readability.

    The sad, almost amazing thing is that despite the radical difference in approaches and writing styles, Green and I come to roughly the same conclusion: it didn’t work. Weighed down by bureaucracy, limited thinking, sloppy staffing and inter-agency fussing, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan are safe, stable places despite our spending $63 billion and $70 billion on PRT efforts, respectively. Lives were lost, decent Americans trying to do well, and many chances to do better were thrown away. Green’s book leaves you wondering what the final story of Afghanistan will look like when some future historian (or PRT officer) writes it, but it does not look good.

    As America continues its nation-building, counter-terror wars around the world, it is imperative that we all learn more about how they are waged on the “hearts and minds” civilian side. Dan Green’s The Valley’s Edgewill contribute well to your continuing education.



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    Afghan $4 Million Road to Nowhere

    November 16, 2011 // Comments Off on Afghan $4 Million Road to Nowhere

    In We Meant Well I chronicle an almost endless list of reconstruction projects that failed, either due to corruption, stupidity or both. In Iraq we spent millions to pave roads from nowhere to nowhere (waste), or to pave roads that did not exist (corruption), or in one instance I wrote about, pave a road that ended up making it easier for insurgents to shift fighters around and thus had to be unpaved at our own expense (both).

    The Miami Herald features a story about failed road work as part of the US’ efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan. The tale could easily be another chapter in We Meant Well, except that the loss of money is in the millions and climbing, the setting is Afghanistan and not Iraq, and that it shows no one learned anything from the debacle in Iraq.

    The Herald writes:

    From 2008 to 2010, the U.S. government paid $4 million to RWA, a consortium of three Afghan contractors – only to see it pave less than two-thirds of a mile on a road that’s supposed to stretch 17.5 miles. The contractors said the area had become too violent to work in, but U.S. and Afghan provincial officials think that two of the principals absconded to New Zealand and the Netherlands, having pocketed much of the cash.

    U.S. officials describe the Ghazni affair in positive terms: They saved the $6 million that remained on the contract for other projects, terminated RWA’s existing contracts and blackballed it from future work, and say they’re ready to cooperate with Afghan investigators should they decide to pursue legal action against the consortium.

    But it’s also a reminder that corruption, violence and political disputes continue to plague U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

    Last year, a McClatchy Newspapers investigation found that U.S. government funding for at least 15 large-scale Afghan programs and projects ballooned from just over $1 billion to nearly $3 billion – despite questions about their effectiveness or cost – in the headlong rush to rebuild the country and shore up its struggling government.



    The whole story is worth reading, on the Herald site. If you live in Detroit, or New Orleans, or anywhere in the US with crumbling infrastructure, try pretending to be Afghani to secure US government funding. It may work!



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    Want to See What Taliban Propaganda Looks Like?

    November 5, 2011 // Comments Off on Want to See What Taliban Propaganda Looks Like?

    The Taliban produces an online magazine of sorts, mostly full of stolen photos from around the Internet of the fighting and destruction in Afghanistan.

    The images are tough viewing, explicit photos of wounded and killed Americans and other Westerners, but do offer a very real look at what the war is about. Nothing is glorified, nothing is defiled, the pictures speak for themselves. Some of the most vivid images are frame grabs from a helmet cam video as the soldier steps on a mine (not shown here).

    My God, what horrors.

    Take a look at the full product online.



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    A Very Short History of US, Iraq and Iran

    October 31, 2011 // Comments Off on A Very Short History of US, Iraq and Iran

    Once upon a time, Iraq and Iran were enemies and fought a big, big war.

    Then the US eliminated that version of Iraq. Iran lost an enemy in 2003.

    As civil society collapsed in Iraq around the US’ ankles, Iran became more and more influential in Iraqi politics and society.

    Today Iraq is a friend, ally and economic partner of Iran.

    The US is at war with Iran, in part inside Iraq.

    Iraq is not at war with Iran. It is just providing the most recent stage.

    We caused this to happen when we invaded Iraq in 2003.

    Next Lesson is how the US eliminated Iran’s enemy the Taliban, and how that has worked out.



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    How Time Flies

    September 29, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    Just like fashion, if you hang on long enough, things come around full circle. Just like Qaddafi– 1980’s super villain freak, 2009 sticky handed friend of Condi Rice.

    Just as a reminder, in the 1980’s Saddam was our pal (shown here with a dapper Don Rumsfeld).



    And of course everybody’s favorite freedom fighters of the 1980’s the Taliban, shown here with ace face Ronnie Reagan.




    Just sayin’.



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    Insecurity

    September 22, 2011 // Comments Off on Insecurity

    When the Green Bay Packers visited the White House a few weeks ago to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl title, linebacker Desmond Bishop wasn’t with his teammates. He had forgotten his drivers license on the plane and without ID, was not allowsed past White House security.

    Really? Through the action of refusing entry to this semi-celebrity, the president was safer?

    I write this after a bought of air travel. We lined up, took off our shoes, were chastised for not pulling a laptop out of our bag while Kindles, smart phones and all matter of electronic stuff flowed through unmolested. We watched a befuddled older woman get pulled aside for having a 4 ounce tube of lotion (3 ounces is the allowed amount) in her bag. She was searched, told she was a bad person and then allowed to travel with the evil extra ounce as some sort of benevolent gift. Others had to drink their water or have it thrown away. There was a bin full of toothpaste and sunscreen in evil amounts.

    As we pass the 10th “anniversary” of 9/11, and count our soldier deaths in the thousands, and the number of people we have killed in the hundreds of thousands, it is worth a moment’s reflection before the media hyper drive takes off to think about what we have become. It seems to be one thing to be defeated by a bad guy, another altogether to have defeated ourselves. Yeah, bin Laden’s dead, along with the ever-long list of Number 2’s and 3’s and couriers and significant Taliban commanders, but in a way, so is a piece of us. George W. Obama. It’s a mug’s deal.



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    Good News: Taliban Won’t Target Pakistan’s Nukes

    May 25, 2011 // Comments Off on Good News: Taliban Won’t Target Pakistan’s Nukes

    In what passes as good news these days, the Taliban has no plans to attack Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, its spokesman declared, as the militants kept up their campaign to avenge Osama bin Laden’s death, ramming a pickup truck laden (Laden?) with explosives into a police station and killing six people.

    A larger assault earlier this week by the Pakistan Taliban on a naval base renewed fears that Pakistan’s sizable nuclear arsenal could be vulnerable. The Taliban’s spokesman dismissed those concerns, saying that “Pakistan is the only Muslim nuclear-power state.”

    Whew, I’m sleeping sounder tonight. Back to your bin Laden death celebrations, citizens.



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