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Old 07-16-2007, 03:03 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by Diemen
a safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas
Just to further gloomify the picture--the present political situation in Pakistan doesn't inspire much hope that this "key tool" will disappear anytime soon either.
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Old 07-18-2007, 03:26 PM   #17
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Bush Aides See Failure in Fight With Al Qaeda in Pakistan

By MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID E. SANGER
New York Times, July 18


WASHINGTON — President Bush’s top counterterrorism advisers acknowledged Tuesday that the strategy for fighting Osama bin Laden’s leadership of Al Qaeda in Pakistan had failed, as the White House released a grim new intelligence assessment that has forced the administration to consider more aggressive measures inside Pakistan. The intelligence report, the most formal assessment since the Sept. 11 attacks about the terrorist threat facing the United States, concludes that the United States is losing ground on a number of fronts in the fight against Al Qaeda, and describes the terrorist organization as having significantly strengthened over the past two years.

In identifying the main reasons for Al Qaeda’s resurgence, intelligence officials and White House aides pointed the finger squarely at a hands-off approach toward the tribal areas by Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who last year brokered a cease-fire with tribal leaders in an effort to drain support for Islamic extremism in the region. “It hasn’t worked for Pakistan,” said Frances Fragos Townsend, who heads the Homeland Security Council at the White House. “It hasn’t worked for the United States.”

While Bush administration officials had reluctantly endorsed the cease-fire as part of their effort to prop up the Pakistani leader, they expressed relief on Tuesday that General Musharraf may have to abandon that approach, because the accord seems to have unraveled. But American officials make little secret of their skepticism that General Musharraf has the capability to be effective in the mountainous territory along the Afghan border, where his troops have been bloodied before by a mix of Qaeda leaders and tribes that view the territory as their own, not part of Pakistan.

“We’ve seen in the past that he’s sent people in and they get wiped out,” said one senior official involved in the internal debate. “You can tell from the language today that we take the threat from the tribal areas incredibly seriously. It has to be dealt with. If he can deal with it, amen. But if he can’t, he’s got to build and borrow the capability.”

The bleak intelligence assessment was made public in the middle of a bitter Congressional debate about the future of American policy in Iraq. White House officials said it bolstered the Bush administration’s argument that Iraq was the “central front” in the war on terror, because that was where Qaeda operatives were directly attacking American forces. The report nevertheless left the White House fending off accusations that it had been distracted by the war in Iraq and that the deals it had made with President Musharraf had resulted in lost time and lost ground.

While the assessment described the Qaeda branch in Iraq as the “most visible and capable affiliate” of the terror organization, intelligence officials noted that the operatives in Iraq remained focused on attacking targets inside that country’s borders, not those on American or European soil.

In weighing how to deal with the Qaeda threat in Pakistan, American officials have been meeting in recent weeks to discuss what some said was emerging as an aggressive new strategy, one that would include both public and covert elements. They said there was growing concern that pinprick attacks on Qaeda targets were not enough, but also said some new American measures might have to remain secret to avoid embarrassing General Musharraf.

Ms. Townsend declined to describe what may be alternative strategies for dealing with the Qaeda threat in Pakistan, but acknowledged frustration that Al Qaeda had succeeding in rebuilding its infrastructure and its links to affiliates, while keeping Mr. bin Laden and his top lieutenants alive for nearly six years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The intelligence report, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, represents the consensus view of all 16 agencies that make up the American intelligence community. The report concluded that the United States would face a “persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years.” That judgment was not based on any specific intelligence about an impending attack on American soil, government officials said. Only two pages of “key judgments” from the report were made public; the rest of the document remained classified.

Besides the discussion of Al Qaeda, the report cited the possibility that the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, a Shiite organization, might be more inclined to strike at the United States should the group come to believe that the United States posed a direct threat either to the group or the government of Iran, its primary benefactor.

At the White House, Ms. Townsend found herself in the uncomfortable position of explaining why American military action was focused in Iraq when the report concluded that main threat of terror attacks that could be carried out in the United States emanated from the tribal areas of Pakistan. She argued that it was Mr. bin Laden, as well as the White House, who regarded “Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.”

Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state, acknowledged that Al Qaeda had prospered during the cease-fire between the tribal leaders and General Musharraf last September, a period in which “they were able to operate, meet, plan, recruit, and obtain financing in more comfort in the tribal areas than previously.” But Mr. Boucher also described General Musharraf as America’s best bet, and several administration officials on Tuesday cited his recent aggressive actions against Islamic militants at a mosque in Islamabad.

The growing Qaeda threat in Pakistan has prompted repeated trips to Islamabad by senior administration officials to lean on officials there and calls by lawmakers to make American aid to Pakistan contingent on a sustained counterterrorism effort by General Musharraf’s government. Some members of Congress argue that concern for the stability of General Musharraf’s government had for too long dominated the White House strategy for dealing with Pakistan, thwarting American counterterrorism efforts. “We have to change policy,” said Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee who has long advocated a more aggressive American intelligence campaign in Pakistan.
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Old 07-18-2007, 03:36 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by Diemen


I rather like Dennis Kucinich's plan that unico posted a week ago or so. It's got a few problems (like how to form an international peace keeping force when we've squandered much of our international goodwill), but it's certainly a good starting point in my eyes.

http://kucinich.us/iraqplan
i you b/c you dennis! i think the international community would embrace us once again once this plan is implemented. i'd like to think the whole community isn't going to give the next prez a hard time for this administration's mistakes. hopefully people will help him/her to try and clean up the mess they made if asked.
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Old 08-09-2007, 03:11 PM   #19
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Musharraf Rejects State of Emergency

By Pamela Constable and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post, August 9


KABUL -- Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf, under intense pressure from his own advisers and the U.S. government not to curtail civil liberties, has rejected the option of imposing a state of emergency to deal with a deepening political crisis, top government officials said Thursday.

Musharraf skipped a peace conference in Afghanistan that drew hundreds of tribal leaders from both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border, electing instead to huddle with personal and political advisers in Islamabad on how to combat deteriorating security conditions and the growing threat of violence by Islamic extremists at home. Senior government officials said Wednesday that an emergency declaration was being considered. But after a call early Thursday from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and dire warnings from his own advisers that such a move would have disastrous consequences, Musharraf appeared to abandon the idea.

"President Pervez Musharraf after hectic consultations with his colleagues has decided that emergency should not be declared in the country," Minister for Information and Broadcasting Muhammad Ali Durrani told Pakistani television, according to the country's official news service. "The main objective of the government is to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country . . . The President is very clear that steps like emergency can hinder the democratic process and should therefore be avoided," Durrani said.

Under the country's constitution, the president may impose emergency rule if Pakistan faces a severe internal or external threat. Such a decree could restrict freedom of speech and movement. Elections, now scheduled by year's end, could be postponed or suspended. Military analysts in Pakistan said emergency rule would not be accepted by the great majority of the public.

In Kabul, meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai opened the peace conference without Musharraf, who sent Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in his place. Karzai told the jirga, or tribal council, that the growing Taliban insurgency has taken a heavy toll on the people of Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported. "People are dying daily. Our schools are burning, our mullahs are dying," Karzai said in a 40-minute speech delivered in the same white tent where the country's post-Taliban constitution was hammered out in 2004. He accused militants of abducting and killing women in the name of the Taliban and Islam, and of barring girls from going to school. The extremism, Karzai added, is now creeping across the border into Pakistan, where al-Qaeda is feared to have regrouped.

Taliban leaders and tribal elders from the most volatile region in Pakistan's border region are boycotting the conference, which drew 350 delegates from Afghanistan and about 300 from Pakistan. The main focus is security and terrorism, but talks will include economic development and battling the drug trade as well.

Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup in October 1999 and has since been a key ally in the U.S. fight against terrorism. Analysts say he has ruled with a relatively light hand, seeking to co-opt both political and religious groups while bending the laws to his political aims. He has hoped to be reelected by Parliament to another five-year term without having to give up his position as army chief. But in the past several months, Musharraf's popularity has declined, as a pro-democracy movement has gained speed. At the same time, radical Islamic organizations have turned violently against his government. Students seeking to impose Islamic law on the country seized a mosque complex in Islamabad last month. Security forces crushed the rebellion, but a spate of retaliatory bombings and other attacks left more than 300 people dead.

In Washington, the once-praised Musharraf has come under increasingly harsh criticism for failing to crack down on violent Islamic groups, many in the tribal region along the Afghan border. For the first time, U.S. officials have threatened to send troops into Pakistan to pursue insurgents, while Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama levied a similar warning.

South Asia experts said they were perplexed and concerned by Musharraf's apparent consideration of emergency rule, a device that recalls harsher periods of military control in Pakistan.
Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said such a move would seem "more like a sign of weakness than a sign of strength" for the Islamabad government. He said that there appeared to be no obvious reason for a crackdown and that the government would need to justify such a move.

In the past, Musharraf has tended to dismiss Islamic insurgency as a homegrown Afghan problem and has often criticized President Karzai for failing to halt the revival of the Taliban militia. Karzai, in turn, has accused Pakistan of fomenting the insurgency and offering a haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. The four-day peace parley this weekis an attempt to overcome some of the enmity. Afghan officials insisted Wednesday that the meeting would not be derailed by Musharraf's absence. The idea of the jirga emerged from a September 2006 meeting in Washington between President Bush, Karzai and Musharraf that focused on ways to combat rising border violence. Aziz met with Karzai and addressed the delegates Thursday, then returned to Pakistan.
A bit of good news, and this will guardedly raise hopes that Musharraf is coming to accept that he has no viable choice but to "submit" to the democratic process--though it's not a good sign that he withdrew from the peace conference. But this situation will get worse before it gets better.
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Old 08-09-2007, 03:44 PM   #20
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That's what I thought of when I read the Ron Paul bit. Also, certain 24 plots.
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Old 08-09-2007, 05:50 PM   #21
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Quote:
Book Review: The Al Qaeda Reader

By Reza Aslan
slate, Aug. 6


Why do they hate us?

Americans have been asking this question for nearly six years now, and for six years President Bush and his accomplices have been offering the same tired response: "They hate us for our freedoms." With every passing year, that answer becomes less convincing.

Part of the problem has to do with the question itself. Who exactly are they? Are we referring to al-Qaida and its cohorts? Are we talking about Iran, Syria, and the other nation-states whose interests in the Middle East do not properly align with America's? Or perhaps we mean Hamas, Hezbollah, or the myriad religious nationalist organizations across the Muslim world that share neither the ideology nor the aspirations of global, transnational groups like al-Qaida, but that have nevertheless been dumped into the same category: them.

But what is most surprising about this question is how little interest anyone seems to have taken in examining the answers that are already on offer in multiple languages, through various media outlets, and on the Internet, from the very they who allegedly hate us so much. A spate of books has appeared over the last year, gathering the words of America's enemies. The first and best of these is Messages to the World, a collection of Osama Bin Laden's declarations translated by Duke University professor Bruce Lawrence, in which Bin Laden himself dismisses Bush's accusation that he hates America's freedoms. "Perhaps he can tell us why we did not attack Sweden, for example?"

Now comes a second, more complete collection, The Al Qaeda Reader, edited and translated by Raymond Ibrahim, a research librarian at the Library of Congress. Unlike Lawrence, Ibrahim includes writings from both Bin Laden and his right-hand man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. And while both volumes provide readers with a startling series of religious and political tracts that, when taken together, chart the evolution of a disturbing (if intellectually murky) justification for religious violence, Ibrahim's collection is marred by his insistence that his book be viewed as al-Qaida's Mein Kampf. The comparison between the scattered declarations of a cult leader literally dwelling in a cave and the political treatise of the commander in chief of one of the 20th century's most powerful nations may be imprecise, to say the least. But Ibrahim's point is that we can learn about al-Qaida's intentions by reading their words, that a book like this can help Americans better understand the nature of the anger directed toward them.

In the most general sense, this is certainly true. But whether a hodgepodge of interviews, declarations, and exegetical arguments can be read as a sort of jihadist manifesto is debatable. While these writings provide readers with page after page of, for example, arcane legal debates over the moral permissibility of suicide bombing, they do not really get to the heart of what it is that al-Qaida wants, if it wants anything at all. Al-Qaida's nominal aspirations—the creation of a worldwide caliphate, the destruction of Israel, the banishing of foreigners from Islamic lands—are hardly mentioned in the book. It seems the president of the United States talks more about al-Qaida's goals than al-Qaida itself does. Rarely, if ever, do Bin Laden and Zawahiri discuss any specific social or political policy.

What al-Qaida does lay out, however, are grievances—many, many grievances. There is the usual litany of complaints about the suffering of Palestinians, the tyranny of Arab regimes, and the American occupation of Iraq. But again, legitimate as these complaints may be, there is in these writings an almost total lack of interest in providing any specific solution or policy to address them.
Indeed, al-Qaida's many grievances against the West are so heterogeneous, so mind-bogglingly unfocused, that they must be recognized less as grievances per se, than as popular causes to rally around. There are protests about the United Nations' rejection of Zimbabwe's elections, the Bush administration's unwillingness to sign up to the International Criminal Court, and America's role in global warming. (To quote Bin Laden: "You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases, more than any other country. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and industries.") Zawahiri's many complaints include the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, which he calls "a historical embarrassment to America and its values," as well as the United Kingdom's anti-terrorism laws, which "contradict the most basic principles of fair trial." There is even a screed against America's campaign-finance laws, which, according to Bin Laden, currently favor "the rich and wealthy, who hold sway in their political parties, and fund their election campaigns with their gifts."

Most Americans would agree with many of these complaints. And that's precisely the point. These are not real grievances for al-Qaida (it does not bear mentioning that Bin Laden is probably not very concerned with campaign finance reform). They are a means of weaving local and global resentments into a single anti-American narrative, the overarching aim of which is to form a collective identity across borders and nationalities, and to convince the world that it is locked in a cosmic contest between the forces of Truth and Falsehood, Belief and Unbelief, Good and Evil, Us and Them. In this regard, al-Qaida has been spectacularly successful, thanks in no small part to the assistance of the divisive "Clash of Civilizations" mentality of our own politicians. In fact, far from debunking al-Qaida's twisted vision of a world divided in two, the Bush administration has legitimized it through its own morally reductive "us vs. them" rhetoric.

In the end, this is the most important lesson to be learned from these writings. Because, if we are truly locked in an ideological war, as the president keeps reminding us, then our greatest weapons are our words. And thus far, instead of fighting this war on our terms, we have been fighting it on al-Qaida's.

Don't believe me? Ask Bin Laden:

"Bush left no room for doubts or media opinion. He stated clearly that this war is a Crusader war. He said this in front of the whole world so as to emphasize this fact. … When Bush says that, they try to cover up for him, then he said he didn't mean it. He said, 'crusade.' Bush divided the world into two: 'either with us or with terrorism' … The odd thing about this is that he has taken the words right out of our mouths."

Odd, indeed.
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Old 08-10-2007, 09:46 AM   #22
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interesting that many of their grievances are over things post 9/11. What were the grievances pre-9/11?
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Old 08-11-2007, 05:53 PM   #23
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^ Pretty much what the next-to-last bolded part above says...Western support of dictatorships in the Middle East, of Israel over the Palestinians, domination of the UN, the Gulf War etc.

Feature article on Afghanistan from today's New York Times--it's very long, though I did cut out a few anecdotes:
Quote:
How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad

By DAVID ROHDE and DAVID E. SANGER

A year after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition, a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to survey what appeared to be a triumph — a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets and brutal repression by religious extremists. With a senior American diplomat, R. Nicholas Burns, leading the way, they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters, with little fear for their safety. They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders. At a briefing from the United States Central Command, they were told that the Taliban were now a “spent force.” “Some of us were saying, ‘Not so fast,’ Mr. Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled. “A number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society to just disappear as a political and military force.”

But that skepticism never took hold in Washington. Assessments by the Central Intelligence Agency circulating at the same time reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports. The American sense of victory was so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan were packing their guns and preparing for the next war, in Iraq. Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.

Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25% this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan. They have scored some successes recently, and since the 2001 invasion, there have been improvements in health care and education, as well as the quality of life in the cities. But Afghanistan’s embattled president, Hamid Karzai, said in Washington last week that security in his country had “definitely deteriorated.” One former national security official called that “a very diplomatic understatement.”

President Bush’s critics have long contended that the Iraq war has diminished America’s effort in Afghanistan, which the administration has denied, but an examination of how the policy unfolded within the administration reveals a deep divide over how to proceed in Afghanistan and a series of decisions that at times seemed to relegate it to an afterthought as Iraq unraveled.
...............................................................................
At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

As defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed credit for toppling the Taliban with light, fast forces. But in a move that foreshadowed America’s trouble in Iraq, he failed to anticipate the need for more forces after the old government was gone, and blocked an early proposal from Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state, and Mr. Karzai, the administration’s handpicked president, for a large international force. As the situation deteriorated, Mr. Rumsfeld and other administration officials reversed course and cajoled European allies into sending troops.

When it came to reconstruction, big goals were announced, big projects identified. Yet in the year Mr. Bush promised a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan, the country received less assistance per capita than did postconflict Bosnia and Kosovo, or even desperately poor Haiti, according to a RAND Corporation study. Washington has spent an average of $3.4 billion a year reconstructing Afghanistan, less than half of what it has spent in Iraq, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The White House contends that the troop level in Afghanistan was increased when needed and that it now stands at 23,500. But a senior American commander said that even as the military force grew last year, he was surprised to discover that “I could count on the fingers of one or two hands the number of U.S. government agricultural experts” in Afghanistan, where 80% of the economy is agricultural. A $300 million project approved by Congress for small businesses was never financed by the administration.

Underlying many of the decisions, officials say, was a misapprehension about what Americans would find on the ground in Afghanistan. “The perception was that Afghans hated foreigners and that the Iraqis would welcome us,” said James Dobbins, the administration’s former special envoy for Afghanistan. “The reverse turned out to be the case.”
.....................................................................
On April 17, 2002, Mr. Bush traveled to the Virginia Military Institute, where Gen. George C. Marshall trained a century ago. “Marshall knew that our military victory against enemies in World War II had to be followed by a moral victory that resulted in better lives for individual human beings,” Mr. Bush said, calling Marshall’s work “a beacon to light the path that we, too, must follow.” Mr. Bush had belittled “nation building” while campaigning for president 18 months earlier. But aware that Afghans had felt abandoned before, including by his father’s administration after the Soviets left in 1989, he vowed to avoid the syndrome of “initial success, followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure...We’re not going to repeat that mistake,” he said. “We’re tough, we’re determined, we’re relentless. We will stay until the mission is done.” The speech, which received faint notice in the United States, fueled expectations in Afghanistan and bolstered Mr. Karzai’s stature before an Afghan grand council meeting in June 2002 at which Mr. Karzai was formally chosen to lead the government.

Yet privately, some senior officials, including Mr. Rumsfeld, were concerned that Afghanistan was a morass where the United States could achieve little, according to administration officials involved in the debate. Within hours of the president’s speech, Mr. Rumsfeld announced his own tough-love approach at a Pentagon news conference. “The last thing you’re going to hear from this podium is someone thinking they know how Afghanistan ought to organize itself,” he said. “They’re going to have to figure it out. They’re going to have to grab ahold of that thing and do something. And we’re there to help.”

But the help was slow in coming. Despite Mr. Bush’s promise in Virginia, in the months that followed his April speech, no detailed reconstruction plan emerged from the administration. Some senior administration officials lay the blame on the National Security Council, which is charged with making sure the president’s foreign policy is carried out. The stagnation reflected tension within the administration over how large a role the United States should play in stabilizing a country after toppling its government, former officials say.

After the fall of the Taliban in December 2001, Mr. Powell and Ms. Rice, then the national security adviser, argued in confidential sessions that if the United States now lost Afghanistan, America’s image would be damaged, officials said.
In a February 2002 meeting in the White House Situation Room, Mr. Powell proposed that American troops join the small international peacekeeping force patrolling Kabul and help Mr. Karzai extend his influence beyond the capital. Mr. Powell said in an interview that his model was the 1989 invasion of Panama, where American troops spread out across the country after ousting the Noriega government. “The strategy has to be to take charge of the whole country by military force, police or other means,” he said. Richard N. Haass, a former director of policy planning at the State Department, said informal talks with European officials had led him to believe that a force of 20,000 to 40,000 peacekeepers could be recruited, half from Europe, half from the United States.

But Mr. Rumsfeld contended that European countries were unwilling to contribute more troops, said Douglas J. Feith, then the Pentagon’s under secretary for policy. He said Mr. Rumsfeld felt that sending American troops would reduce pressure on Europeans to contribute, and could provoke Afghans’ historic resistance to invaders and divert American forces from hunting terrorists. Mr. Rumsfeld declined to comment.
...............................................................................
Ultimately, Mr. Powell’s proposal died. “The president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, the national security staff, all of them were skeptical of an ambitious project in Afghanistan,” Mr. Haass said. “I didn’t see support.” Mr. Dobbins, the former special envoy, said Mr. Powell “seemed resigned...I said this wasn’t going to be fully satisfactory,” he recalled. “And he said, ‘Well, it’s the best we could do.’ ” In the end, the United States deployed 8000 troops to Afghanistan in 2002, with orders to hunt Taliban and Qaeda members, and not to engage in peacekeeping or reconstruction. The 4000-member international peacekeeping force did not venture beyond Kabul.

As an alternative, officials hatched a loosely organized plan for Afghans to secure the country themselves. The United States would train a 70,000-member army. Japan would disarm some 100,000 militia fighters. Britain would mount an antinarcotics program. Italy would carry out changes in the judiciary. And Germany would train a 62,000-member police force. But that meant no one was in overall command, officials now say.
Many holes emerged in the American effort. There were so few State Department or Pentagon civil affairs officials that 13 teams of C.I.A. operatives, whose main job was to hunt terrorists and the Taliban, were asked to stay in remote corners of Afghanistan to coordinate political efforts, said John E. McLaughlin, who was deputy director and then acting director of the agency. “It took us quite awhile to get them regrouped in the southeast for counterterrorism,” he said of the C.I.A. teams.

Sixteen months after the president’s 2002 speech, the United States Agency for International Development, the government’s main foreign development arm, had 7 full-time staffers and 35 full-time contract staff members in Afghanistan, most of them Afghans, according to a government audit. 61 agency positions were vacant. “It was state-building on the cheap, it was a duct tape approach,” recalled Said T. Jawad, Mr. Karzai’s chief of staff at the time and Afghanistan’s current ambassador to Washington. “It was fixing things that were broken, not a strategic approach.”

In October 2002, Robert Grenier, a former director of the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence center, visited the new Kuwait City headquarters of Lt. Gen David McKiernan, who was already planning the Iraq invasion. Meeting in a sheet metal warehouse, Mr. Grenier asked General McKiernan what his intelligence needs would be in Iraq. The answer was simple. “They wanted as much as they could get,” Mr. Grenier said. Throughout late 2002 and early 2003, Mr. Grenier said in an interview, “the best experienced, most qualified people who we had been using in Afghanistan shifted over to Iraq,” including the agency’s most skilled counterterrorism specialists and Middle East and paramilitary operatives. That reduced the United States’ influence over powerful Afghan warlords who were refusing to turn over to the central government tens of millions of dollars they had collected as customs payments at border crossings. While the C.I.A. replaced officers shifted to Iraq, Mr. Grenier said, it did so with younger agents, who lacked the knowledge and influence of the veterans. “I think we could have done a lot more on the Afghan side if we had more experienced folks,” he said.

A former senior official of the Pentagon’s Central Command, which was running both wars, said that as the Iraq planning sped up, the military’s covert Special Mission Units, like Delta Force and Navy Seals Team Six, shifted to Iraq from Afghanistan. So did aerial surveillance “platforms” like the Predator, a remotely piloted spy plane armed with Hellfire missiles that had been effective at identifying targets in the mountains of Afghanistan. Predators were not shifted directly from Afghanistan to Iraq, according to the former official, but as new Predators were produced, they went to Iraq. “We were economizing in Afghanistan,” said the former official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “The marginal return for one more platform in Afghanistan is so much greater than for one more in Iraq.”

The shift in priorities became apparent to Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon’s former comptroller, as planning for the Iraq war was in high gear in the fall of 2002. Mr. Rumsfeld asked him to serve as the Pentagon’s reconstruction coordinator in Afghanistan. It was an odd role for the comptroller, whose primary task is managing the Pentagon’s $400 billion a year budget. “The fact that they went to the comptroller to do something like that was in part a function of their growing preoccupation with Iraq,” said Mr. Zakheim, who left the administration in 2004. “They needed somebody, given that the top tier was covering Iraq.”

In an interview, President Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, insisted that there was no diversion of resources from Afghanistan, and he cited recently declassified statistics to show that troop levels in Afghanistan rose at crucial moments — like the 2004 Afghan election — even after the Iraq war began. But the former Central Command official said: “If we were not in Iraq, we would have double or triple the number of Predators across Afghanistan, looking for Taliban and peering into the tribal areas. We’d have the ‘black’ Special Forces you most need to conduct precision operations. We’d have more C.I.A. ...We’re simply in a world of limited resources, and those resources are in Iraq,” the former official added. “Anyone who tells you differently is blowing smoke.”

As White House officials put together plans in the spring of 2003 for President Bush to land on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and declare the end of major combat operations in Iraq, the Pentagon decided to make a similar, if less dramatic, announcement for Afghanistan. On May 1, hours before Mr. Bush stood beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner, Mr. Rumsfeld appeared at a news conference with Mr. Karzai in Kabul’s threadbare 19th-century presidential palace. “We clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities,” he said. “The bulk of the country today is permissive, it’s secure.” The Afghanistan announcement was largely lost in the spectacle of Mr. Bush’s speech. But it proved no less detached from events on the ground.

Three weeks later, Afghan government workers who had not been paid for months held street demonstrations in Kabul. An exasperated Mr. Karzai publicly threatened to resign and announced that his government had run out of money because warlords were hoarding the customs revenues. “There is no money in the government treasury,” Mr. Karzai said. At the same time, the American-led training of a new Afghan Army was proving far more difficult than officials in Washington had expected. The new force, plagued by high desertion rates, had only 2000 soldiers. The Germans’ effort to train police officers was off to an even slower start, and the British-led counternarcotics effort was dwarfed by an explosion in the poppy crop. Already, small groups of Taliban fighters had slipped back over the border from Pakistan and killed aid workers, stalling reconstruction in the south. A senior White House official said in a recent interview that in retrospect, putting different countries in charge of different operations was a mistake. “We piecemealed it,” he said. “One of the problems is when everybody has a piece, everybody’s piece is made third and fourth priority. Nobody’s piece is first priority. Stuff didn’t get done.”

A month after his announcement in Kabul, Mr. Rumsfeld presented a new strategy to the White House aimed at weakening warlords and engaging in state-building in Afghanistan. In some ways, it was the approach Mr. Rumsfeld had rejected right after the invasion. Pentagon officials said that Mr. Rumsfeld’s views began to shift after a December 2002 briefing by Marin Strmecki, an Afghanistan expert at the Smith Richardson Foundation, who argued that Afghanistan was not ungovernable and that it could be turned into a moderate, Muslim force in the region. Mr. Strmecki said that the United States needed to help Afghans create credible national institutions and that Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group and historically the Taliban’s base of support, needed a more prominent role in the government. Mr. Rumsfeld, according to aides, was impressed by Mr. Strmecki’s emphasis on training Afghans to run their own government and hired him.

Then another personnel change helped alter Afghanistan policy. Mr. Khalilzad, an Afghan-American who was a senior N.S.C. official and a special envoy to Iraq exiles, was appointed ambassador to Afghanistan. Mr. Khalilzad said he accepted the job after Mr. Bush promised to greatly expand resources in Afghanistan. “We had gotten the president to a significant increase,” Mr. Khalilzad recalled. A leading neo-conservative, Mr. Khalilzad could get Ms. Rice or — if need be — Mr. Bush on the phone. He had been a counselor to Mr. Rumsfeld and had worked for Dick Cheney when Mr. Cheney was the first President Bush’s defense secretary. “Zal could get things done,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, a former American military commander in Afghanistan. When Mr. Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Thanksgiving 2003, he brought nearly $2 billion — twice the amount of the previous year — as well as a new military strategy and private experts to intensifying rebuilding.

They started a reconstruction plan dubbed “accelerating success” that involved the kind of nation-building once dismissed by the administration. General Barno expanded “Provincial Reconstruction Teams” to build schools, roads and wells and to win the “hearts and minds” of Afghans. The teams amounted to a smaller version of the force that Mr. Powell had proposed 18 months earlier. By January 2004, Afghanistan had reached a compromise on a new Afghan Constitution. With American backing, Mr. Karzai weakened several warlords. In October 2004, Mr. Karzai, who had been appointed president, was elected. At the same time, NATO countries steadily sent more troops to Afghanistan, and soon Mr. Rumsfeld, needing for troops for Iraq, proposed that NATO take over security for all of Afghanistan.

By the spring of 2005, Afghanistan seemed to be moving toward the success Mr. Bush had promised. But then, fearing that Iraq was spinning out of control, the White House asked Mr. Khalilzad to become ambassador to Baghdad. Before departing Afghanistan, Mr. Khalilzad fought a final battle within the administration. It revealed divisions within the American government over Pakistan’s role in aiding the Taliban, a delicate subject as the administration tried to coax Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to cooperate. In an interview on Afghan television, Mr. Khalilzad noted that Pakistani journalists had recently interviewed a senior Taliban commander in Pakistan. He questioned Pakistan’s claim that it did not know the whereabouts of senior Taliban commanders — a form of skepticism discouraged in Washington, where the administration’s line had always been that General Musharraf was doing everything he could. “If a TV station can get in touch with them, how can the intelligence service of a country, which has nuclear bombs, and a lot of security and military forces, not find them?” Mr. Khalilzad asked. Pakistani officials publicly denounced Mr. Khalilzad’s comments and denied that they were harboring Taliban leaders. But Mr. Khalilzad had also exposed the growing rift between American officials in Kabul and those in Islamabad.

Mr. Grenier said that when he was the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad, the issue of fugitive Taliban leaders was repeatedly raised with senior Pakistani intelligence officials in 2002. “The results were just not there,” he recalled. “And it was quite clear to me that it wasn’t just bad luck.” Pakistan had backed the Taliban throughout the 1990s as a counterweight to an alliance of northern Afghan commanders backed by India, Pakistan’s bitter rival. Pakistani officials also distrusted Mr. Karzai.

Deciding that the Pakistanis would not act on the Taliban, Mr. Grenier said he had urged them to focus on arresting Qaeda members, who he said were far more of a threat to the United States. “From our perspective at the time, the Taliban was a spent force,” he said, adding, “We were very much focused on Al Qaeda and didn’t want to distract the Pakistanis from that.” But Mr. Khalilzad, American military officials and others in the administration argued that the Taliban were crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan and killing American troops and aid workers. “Colleagues in Washington at various levels did not recognize that there was the problem of sanctuary and that this was important,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

But it was not until 2006, after ordering a study on Afghanistan’s future, that Mr. Bush strenuously pressed General Musharraf on the Taliban. Later, Mr. Bush told his aides he worried that “old school ties” between Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban endured, despite the general’s assurances. The Pakistanis, one senior American commander said, were “hedging their bets...They’re not sure that we are staying,” he added. “And if we are gone, the Taliban is their next best option” to remain influential in Afghanistan.
........................................................................................
In September 2005, NATO defense ministers gathered in Berlin to complete plans for NATO troops to take over security in Afghanistan’s volatile south. It was the most ambitious “out of area” operations in NATO history, and across Europe, leaders worried about getting support from their countries. Then, American military officials dropped a bombshell. The Pentagon, they said, was considering withdrawing up to 3000 troops from Afghanistan, roughly 20% of total American forces. NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said he had protested to Mr. Rumsfeld that a partial American withdrawal would discourage others from sending troops.

In the end, the planned troop reduction was abandoned, but chiefly because the American ground commander at the time, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, concluded that the Taliban were returning and that he needed to shift troops to the east to try to stop them. But the announcement had sent a signal of a wavering American commitment.
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To sell their new missions at home, British, Dutch and Canadian officials portrayed deployments to Afghanistan as safe, and better than sending troops to Iraq. Germany and Italy prevented their forces from being sent on combat missions in volatile areas. Those regions were to be left to the Americans, Canadians, British and Dutch.

Three months after announcing the proposed troop withdrawal, the White House Office of Management and Budget cut aid to Afghanistan by a third. A senior administration official said all of the money allocated to Afghanistan the previous year had not been spent. “There was an absorption problem,” Ms. Rice said. Mr. Neumann, then the ambassador, said he argued against the decision. Even so, American assistance to Afghanistan dropped by 38%, from $4.3 billion in fiscal 2005 to $3.1 billion in fiscal 2006, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service.

By February 2006, Mr. Neumann had come to the conclusion that the Taliban were planning a spring offensive, and he sent a cable to his superiors. “I had a feeling that the view was too rosy in Washington,” recalled Mr. Neumann, who retired from the State Department in June. “I was concerned.” Mr. Neumann’s cable proved prophetic. In the spring of 2006, the Taliban carried out their largest offensive since 2001, attacking British, Canadian and Dutch troops in southern Afghanistan. Hundreds of Taliban swarmed into the south, setting up checkpoints, assassinating officials and burning schools. Suicide bombings quintupled to 136. Roadside bombings doubled. All told, 191 American and NATO troops died in 2006, a 20% increase over the 2005 toll. For the first time, it became nearly as dangerous, statistically, to serve as an American in Afghanistan as in Iraq.

Mr. Neumann said that while suicide bombers came from Pakistan, most Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan were Afghans. Captured insurgents said they had taken up arms because a local governor favored a rival tribe, corrupt officials provided no services or their families needed money.

After cutting assistance in 2006, the United States plans to provide $9 billion in aid to Afghanistan in 2007, twice the amount of any year since 2001. Despite warnings about the Taliban’s resurgence from Mr. Neumann, Mr. Khalilzad and military officials, Ms. Rice said, “there was no doubt that people were surprised that the Taliban was able to regroup and come back in a large, well-organized force.”

In July 2006, NATO formally took responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan. To Americans and Europeans, NATO is the vaunted alliance that won the cold war. To Afghans it is little more than a strange, new acronym. And NATO and the Americans are divided over strategy. The disagreement is evident on the wall of the office of Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the commander of the 35,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan, where he keeps a chart that is a sea of yellow and red blocks. Each block shows the restrictions that national governments have placed on their forces under his command. Red blocks represent tasks a country will not do, like hunting Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Yellow blocks indicate missions they are willing to consider after asking their capitals for approval.

In Washington, officials lament that NATO nations are unwilling to take the kinds of risks and casualties necessary to confront the Taliban. Across Europe, officials complain the United States never focused on reconstruction, and they blame American forces for mounting air attacks on the Taliban that cause large civilian casualties, turning Afghans against the West.

The debate over how the 2001 victory in Afghanistan turned into the current struggle is well under way. “Destroying the Al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan was an extraordinary strategic accomplishment,” said Robert D. Blackwill, who was in charge of both Afghanistan and Iraq policy at the National Security Council, “but where we find ourselves now may have been close to inevitable, whether the U.S. went into Iraq or not. We were going to face this long war in Afghanistan as long as we and the Afghan government couldn’t bring serious economic reconstruction to the countryside, and eliminate the Taliban’s safe havens in Pakistan.” But Henry A. Crumpton, a former C.I.A. officer who played a key role in ousting the Taliban and became the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, said winning a war like the one in Afghanistan required American personnel to “get in at a local level and respond to people’s needs so that enemy forces cannot come in and take advantage...These are the fundamentals of counterinsurgency, and somehow we forgot them or never learned them,” he added. He noted that “the United States has 11 carrier battle groups, but we still don’t have expeditionary nonmilitary forces of the kind you need to win this sort of war...We’re living in the past.”

Among many current and former officials, a consensus is emerging that a more consistent, forceful American effort could have keep the Taliban and Al Qaeda’s leadership from regrouping. Gen. James L. Jones, a retired American officer and a former NATO supreme commander, said Iraq caused the United States to “take its eye off the ball” in Afghanistan. He warned that the consequences of failure “are just as serious in Afghanistan as they are in Iraq...Symbolically, it’s more the epicenter of terrorism than Iraq,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in Afghanistan, you’re sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N. and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated.”
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Old 08-11-2007, 06:12 PM   #24
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Everything's coming up roses...

But why aren't your reporting the good news that's coming out of Afghanistan?
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Old 08-14-2007, 08:52 AM   #25
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What woud this entail? Propaganda? Financial aid?
How do you fight a war against groups of people that aren't a part of a particular country?

I'm not suggesting propaganda or financial aid. I mean much more covert-type missions without large military forces.
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