Tag: Taliban

A Quick Thought on the Bergdahl Deal

Events are moving quickly on the Bergdahl deal. Congress is going to have hearings about whether Obama broke the law (when even noted liberal hack Jeffrey Toobin says that Obama “clearly broke the law”, I would say that Obama probably broke the law). The army is now going to investigate his disappearance. Homecoming parades have been cancelled. And the Obama people are, once again, bumfuzzled that not everyone is baking is their gloriousness.

But I wanted to peel off a question here. When discussing this case with my father-in-law today, he was puzzled that Obama would make this deal since he thought it would encourage more abductions. I said that the Obama people saw this as a straight-forward POW exchange. And then it hit me. This deal isn’t about Bergdahl. It isn’t about leaving no man behind. It isn’t about the Gitmo 5. And it’s not about distracting from the VA scandal (the lapdog media will take care of that).

This deal is about legitimizing the Taliban.

OK, that’s a bit harsh. It’s more accurate to say that this about setting the stage for post-war Afghanistan. Karzai is a lame duck and will soon be replaced. His successor may not last long after we leave. Either the Taliban will take over or they will be part of a power-sharing agreement. The United States has been negotiating directly with the Taliban for a while, trying to bring more moderate elements to the fore (the Taliban is not a monolithic organization, but is a coalition of powers ranging from somewhat moderate to absurdly extreme).

I think this is aimed directly at building a relationship with the Taliban. It is not a coincidence that this happened just after we announced the timetable for leaving Afghanistan. The Obama Administration has seen the writing on the wall — the Taliban will rule Afghanistan again. And they’re trying to establish a relationship with Afghanistan’s future government.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing only history will tell. I don’t think we have much of a choice. We can’t stay and nation-build in Afghanistan forever. The only force that will rid Afghanistan of fundamentalism is the Afghan people deciding they don’t want it anymore. Our main priority has to be making sure that terrorist organizations are not allowed to flourish in postwar Afghanistan.

Will this prisoner swap with the Taliban help? I’m very dubious. But I think that’s what’s going on here.

Drone Groaning

Young Master Poosh asked me yesterday to check out a new study on the wisdom and effectiveness of the US’s use of drone strikes in Pakistan and other places.  I had my doubts because it sounded like something a Soros-affiliated group would come up with, but I’m always up for a good read.  Or even a bad one (send me shit!  I need ideas!).

Anyhow, I was right.  It’s a left-wing academia thing assisted by Reprieve, known to me as a progressive grievance group.   But that got me more interested in reading it, not less.  After all, the Left has been pretty quiet about US tactics in the Global War on Terror (whatever that is) since, uh, well, I’m not entirely sure when they lost their curiosity about the appropriateness of our methods.   Weird.  At any rate, these fine liberals decided to start asking some questions that Congressional Democrats and their news media aren’t.

You can read all about it in this PDF called Living Under Drones.  It’s lengthy, but the major points are:

1. Drone strikes are killing civilians

2. They are terrorizing the civilians who don’t get killed

3. They don’t really work that well

4. They’re probably illegal

I think their research is actually quite good, assuming that their anonymous sources aren’t lying or fabricated.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt though.  At any rate, I am pleased to see that Obama and the press aren’t getting a pass from the same people who used to scream about Bush doing things like this.  On that basis alone, I take it on good faith.

If I have one problem with the report, it’s that it offers no alternatives to using drones to hunt militants in Pakistan.  The entire report criticizes their use, but spends no time saying what (if anything) might work better.   What they ironically failed to note is that the same reasons why drones are the only option for knocking off militants in Pakistan are the exact same problems that hindered their own research for the report.

Primary research in FATA is difficult for many reasons.

First, it is very difficult for foreigners physically to access FATA, partly due to the Pakistani government’s efforts to block access through heavily guarded checkpoints, and partly due to serious security risks.

Second, it is very difficult for residents of Waziristan to travel out of the region. Those we interviewed had to travel hundreds of kilometers by road to reach Islamabad or Peshawar, in journeys that could take anywhere from eight hours to several days, and which required passing through dozens of military and police checkpoint stops, as well as, in some cases, traveling through active fighting between armed non-state groups and Pakistani forces.

Third, mistrust, often justifiable, from many in FATA toward outsiders (particularly Westerners) inhibits ready access to individuals and communities.

Hmm.  It’s almost as if an area where the host government is uncooperative, road travel is insanely difficult, and the populace loathes outsiders might be ideal for covert, unmanned air operations.

What the authors really want is more transparency on this program, so they say.   How are targets being selected?  Who are we really killing?  How did the Administration come to the conclusion that this was allowed by international law?  Good questions, but there’s no way that either the Obama Administration or Pakistan’s government can answer those questions and still have the program work effectively since we’re officially not really doing it to begin with.

The drone program is one of those few things that the Obama Administration has done that I like.  When you blow the bad guys up, you get no messy problems that go with capturing them like indefinite detention, interrogation, and trials.  The same people who complained about those activities were either unaware of or willing to accept the fact that killing suspected terrorists on sight was the only thing that could be done if we were to keep the GWoT going.

Unfortunately, this method may be too perfect for the US government, you know?   Total secrecy, no risk of losing any pilots and having to explain why one is on Pakistan television with a gun to his head, no explanations of who was killed or why; just an assurance that “he was a militant and we totally didn’t kill any innocent people.”   Note that this has even been done to an American citizen (and total dirtbag, but still).  I don’t think we should give the Administration a complete license to kill on the soil of countries we’re not at war with (yet) with so little accountability or oversight.

Above all, I’ll say that the report has me convinced that the drone strikes probably have killed plenty of innocent people and are both legally and ethically questionable.  However, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to being able to stop doing them.  Americans approve of drone strikes–and the rest of Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy–in principle, like it when al Qaeda and Taliban guys get zilched out, and see no risk in doing any of it.   But at least somebody’s asking questions.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what we’re hoping to accomplish over there and how we’re doing it.  When you ask me to believe that this Administration should be trusted on terrorism matters, remember that Benghazi has shown us that it simply cannot.

The E-mail Was Probably a LOLcat

Once again, we see that good will always triumph because evil is dumb:

In a Dilbert-esque faux pax, a Taliban spokesperson sent out a routine email last week with one notable difference.He publicly CC’d the names of everyone on his mailing list.

The list, made up of more than 400 recipients, consists mostly of journalists, but also includes an address appearing to belong to a provincial governor, an Afghan legislator, several academics and activists, an Afghan consultative committee, and a representative of Gulbuddein Hekmatar, an Afghan warlord whose outlawed group Hezb-i-Islami is believed to be behind several attacks against coalition troops.

In recent weeks, the Taliban have increased the number of emails they send out, growing from just a handful every week, to several per day. Most of the emails are sent from Ahmedi’s account. The increase coincides with the end of the annual Taliban fighting season, prompting one local journalist to joke, “I guess when fighting season ends, emailing season begins.”

I don’t know how much help this will be in the War on Terror. My impression is that the journalists are not sympathizers but people the Taliban has chosen to send their declarations to. Still, I would not be surprised if some surveillance comes down on those on the list.

I Want My Money

Once again, we see that good will always triumph because evil is dumb:

Mohammad Ashan, a mid-level Taliban commander in Paktika province, strolled toward a police checkpoint in the district of Sar Howza with a wanted poster bearing his own face. He demanded the finder’s fee referenced on the poster: $100.

Afghan officials, perplexed by the man’s misguided motives, arrested him on the spot. Ashan is suspected of plotting at least two attacks on Afghan security forces. His misdeeds prompted officials to plaster the district with hundreds of so-called “Be on the Lookout” posters emblazoned with his name and likeness.

This is one of the advantages of fighting an enemy who think education and literacy are evil. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of terrorists being done in by extreme stupidity. There have been reports of Taliban suicide bombers accidentally detonating during group hugs.

Time to print up some more posters. Maybe we can get the guys who poisoned schoolgirls.

The Return of the Taliban

So it’s come to this:

Afghanistan’s president on Tuesday endorsed a “code of conduct” issued by an influential council of clerics that activists say represents a giant step backward for women’s rights in the country.

President Hamid Karzai’s Tuesday remarks backing the Ulema Council’s document, which allows husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances and encourages segregation of the sexes, is seen as part of his outreach to insurgents like the Taliban.

Both the U.S. and Karzai hope that the Taliban can be brought into negotiations to end the country’s decade-long war. But activists say they’re worried that gains made by women since 2001 may be lost in the process.

The hope is to bring the less insane factions of the Taliban into the coalition. But I suspect this ends with either a slightly less horrifying version of pre-invasion Afghanistan law or, at best, a tolerance of full shariah wherever people want to practice it.

I slept on this before posting and my two-word reaction as not changed: fuck ‘em.

We tried to fix the country. God knows we tried. We sacrificed thousands of our best citizens, hundreds of billions of dollars and ten years. We gave them every chance of progressing to, if not the 21st century, at least maybe the 18th. It was not good enough. A substantial fraction of the Afghan people want this. A substantial fraction are fine with a system that kills and mutilates women if they step out of line and keeps them and their children condemned to barbarism.

It pains me to abandon 15 million Afghan women and untold future generations to this. But I don’t see that there is anything we can do to prevent the nation’s suicide. Maybe we open up immigration for people willing to put all of it behind them. And we should maintain enough of an over-the-horizon presence to prevent the rise of another Al-Quada (although, without bin Laden, it’s unlikely another one could rise). But we’re done. The only thing that will stop this horror is when the Afghan people decide they’ve had enough.

More US Deaths In Afghanistan

Here is a question for the group ,” Does anyone think that Afghan forces will ever be combat ready and able to defend their own country against the Taliban? Does anyone think that the Afghan people will gain the will and the desire instilled by nationalistic pride to fight for and protect their own nation? I ask these questions because if the answer is NO, to either, then what’s the point?

At least 13 U.S. troops were killed in Kabul on Saturday when a suicide bomber struck a vehicle in a NATO military convoy, a U.S. military official said.

Details are sketchy, could be more US deaths and certainly more NATO and civilian deaths.

We see this phenomenon all the time in the investing world, called the sunk cost fallacy, where good money is thrown after bad because any diminution would be a sign of failure or a mistake, so instead of admitting a bad hand and folding, we go all in hoping (praying) that some serendipitous event will save us. We see this all time with economic aid, backing the wrong regime, the wrong tin horned dictator because at the time it seemed like a wise move. But when conditions change and events turn against us, the aid continues because, well, we stop it would prove that we (the government) was wrong, and would erode the confidence of the folks. With Afghanistan , it is too late.

Afghanistan is doomed because on both sides of the equation, ours and theirs, there is no credible foundation of competence. On Our side, we have this:

Washington has indicated its willingness to negotiate with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and now regards his involvement as crucial to the prospects for peace in Afghanistan, Hillary Clinton has said.

And on their side, we have this:

Afghanistan would back rival Pakistan in a war with America, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday.

What’s the old saying, “With friends like these……………….”?

Playing from a position of weakness, America has never been able to trust Karzai for the simple fact that he is a weasel, he is untrustworthy. State has always assumed that democracy is hard, an acquired skill with a sharp learning curve, but under proper supervision, boat loads of cash, and the patience of Job, something could be cabled together to resemble a free democratic state.

A worthy endeavor, and deserving of our patience and money, initially. But more and more stuff has been revealed about Karzai. He has always played both sides against the middle, taking our money and aid while offering to do our bidding, but ditto that with Iran, who’s interests are a bit different then ours.

Factor in that the Taliban is supplied with substantial funding from the local drug trade, and who is the head honcho, the Tony Montana of the drug trade? Karzai’s little brother. This “intimacy” that Karzai has with the Taliban, is not a secret, yet, we play ball with him like he is on our side, how stupid. Drugs and billions in cash flow in and out of Kabul, right under our noses, but he let’s us play soldier in his back yard, so we don’t interfere. But he does interfere with us, hindering out capabilities by demanding that the NATO led coalition stop carrying out night raids and limit airstrikes.

As it stand now, the official hand off date is 2014, the full transfer of the security responsibilities to the Afghan government, with the proviso that if the situation warrants and they are not ready, we stay longer, how encouraging? 9 years of training their security forces already, training folks who’s allegiance is a total crap shoot, training Afghans who is just as likely to turn that gun around and shoot his trainer, or after learning everything he can about our training and methods, go join the Taliban.

I think it is time that American forces apply my Iraq Doctrine, that we will stay in your flea bitten sand chocking loyalty challenged country but here is the deal, American forces stay behind great big walls, secured from suicide bombers, and we advise, that is all we do, advise. The heavy lifting, the going out on missions, going into harm’s way and doing the actual fighting, that is all on you. It is your country, it’s time to fight for it.

Kabul Under Attack

Hmmm:

Afghan and coalition forces battled Taliban militants who launched a brazen assault against high-profile coalition targets in central Kabul Tuesday.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN that they targeted “the U.S. Embassy, governmental organizations and other foreign organizations.”

“Our insurgents attacked in Kabul city,” Mujahid said as reports surfaced of violence in other parts of the city as well.

The strike occurred amid intelligence that insurgents might launch a high-profile attack in the capital around the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, a coalition officer and a senior ISAF official confirmed to CNN.

Forgive me, but, for the moment, I’ll resist the Tet Offensive narrative. This is a significant incident but, right now, it’s looking like a small number of insurgents — ten or so — half of whom were suicide bombers. This is far below the level the Taliban can usually muster. Let’s hope the damage — physical and political — isn’t as bad as CNN is making it out to be.

I guess I was not the only one to immediately wonder WTF..

What concern you ask? Well, how easy it was for 6 members of the Taliban to hold an entire Pakistani naval facility hostage for over 16 hours, destroy 2 P3C Orion anti-submarine warfare aircraft, kill over a dozen people, and in general to make the Pakistani military look as inept as I suspect it is. The good news is that the Pakistani military has regained control of the base, at least they claim to have done so. The bad news, and man is it bad, is that Pakistan is a nuclear country, and one has to wonder how secure they are in contrast. Could the Taliban, or any other group of terrorists, get nuclear materials this easily as well?

There are some troubling details about the raid. This was supposed to be a secure facility, so the raiders got primo intel from someone to pull this off. Maybe the ISI faction that’s pro Taliban was behind this. It embarrasses the military and makes them look weak in the eyes of the world. When the world reacts they can then claim Pakistan is being humiliated and consolidate their more radicalized faction’s control and power. I certainly hope our intel community isn’t just sleeping on their laurels, and actually are working hard to figure out what this was about. And in the mean time we should keep a close eye on Pakistan and let them know that any nuclear attack with materials from them, even when stolen, comes back to them getting blamed in the end. In the mean time lets beef up our relations with India. Or maybe not. If the Obama admin stays true to form, they would throw them under the bus like they have done so far with every one of our allies.

Time to rethink U.S. – Pakistani relations…

As I suspected and as the news hinted, it now looks like we finally got Osama because the US went at it alone instead of telling the Pakistanis we were going after him as was the case in the past. That’s because the Pakistanis were actually playing us and helping him.

American diplomats were told that one of the key reasons why they had failed to find bin Laden was that Pakistan’s security services tipped him off whenever US troops approached. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) also allegedly smuggled al-Qaeda terrorists through airport security to help them avoid capture and sent a unit into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.

The claims, made in leaked US government files obtained by Wikileaks, will add to questions over Pakistan’s capacity to fight al-Qaeda. Last year, David Cameron caused a diplomatic furore when he told Pakistan that it could not “look both ways” on terrorism. The Pakistani government issued a strongly-worded rebuttal.

But bin Laden was eventually tracked down and killed in compound located just a few hundred yards from Pakistan’s prestigious military academy in Abbotabad. The raid by elite US troops was kept secret from the government of Pakistan. Only a tight circle within the Obama Administration knew of the operation. In December 2009, the government of Tajikistan warned the United States that efforts to catch bin Laden were being thwarted by corrupt Pakistani spies.

Explains why the guy was so effective at hiding out for so long, despite our major effort to find and bag his ass. The Pakistanis played us, and played us good, and this revelation should reshape our policies and actions towards them. At a minimum we should stop giving them any money or aid. And we should be seriously concerned that so many in the military and intelligence agencies of a nuclear armed Pakistan are in bed with al Qaeda, a sworn enemy, that has repeatedly said it wants to nuke the west. Doesn’t this qualify Pakistan as a terror enabling state: our worse night mare? This is going to be one heck of a foreign policy problem for us. At least Pakistan now should be made aware that any WMD action by al Qaeda means we obliterate their country. Might serve as a deterrent, might not. We are dealing with insane religious fanatics and evil men here in most cases.

Think about it: how can we ever feel secure with al Qaeda having ties to a government that not only has sympathies for their cause, but has nukes? And what’s China’s role in all this? Pakistan is one of their proxies – against rival India – and I am sure China has going-ons there that are definitely not in our interest. Seriously, while the death of bin Laden is a big score, the revelations that come with it should make us wearier than ever that we can win this war against the terror enablers without resorting to a brutal “hammer them all down” approach. Does the west reach a point where it simply looks at the cost vs. return and decides that since these people want to drag us all back to a dark age that it’s us or them? These revelations are not good for anyone I think, but we can not ignore them. Looks like team Obama is going to have to do some serious growing up here.