Poetry from Rawclyde!
We love Obamacare !
by Matthew Rosenberg
New York Times
October 28, 2013
KABUL, Afghanistan — A bungled attempt by the Afghan government to cultivate a shadowy alliance with Islamist militants escalated into the latest flash point in the troubled relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, according to new accounts by officials from both countries.
The disrupted plan involved Afghan intelligence trying to work with the Pakistan Taliban, allies of Al Qaeda, in order to find a trump card in a baroque regional power game that is likely to intensify after the American withdrawal next year, the officials said. And what started the hard feelings was that the Americans caught them red-handed.
Tipped off to the plan, United States Special Forces raided an Afghan convoy that was ushering a senior Pakistan Taliban militant, Latif Mehsud, to Kabul for secret talks last month, and now have Mr. Mehsud in custody.
Publicly, the Afghan government has described Mr. Mehsud as an insurgent peace emissary. But according to Afghan officials, the ultimate plan was to take revenge on the Pakistani military.
In the murk of intrigue and paranoia that dominates the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Pakistanis have long had the upper hand. A favorite complaint of Afghan officials is how Pakistani military intelligence has sheltered and nurtured the Taliban and supported their insurgency against the Afghan government.
Now, not content to be merely the target of a proxy war, the Afghan government decided to recruit proxies of its own by seeking to aid the Pakistan Taliban in their fight against Pakistan’s security forces, according to Afghan officials. And they were beginning to make progress over the past year, they say, before the American raid exposed them.
Although Afghan anger over the raid has been an open issue since it was revealed in news reports this month, it is only now that the full purpose of the Afghan operation that prompted the raid has been detailed by American and Afghan officials. Those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss secret intelligence matters.
The thinking, Afghan officials said, was that the Afghans could later gain an advantage in negotiations with the Pakistani government by offering to back off their support for the militants.
Aiding the Pakistan Taliban was an “opportunity to bring peace on our terms,” one senior Afghan security official said.
From the American standpoint, though, it has exposed a new level of futility in the war effort here. Not only has Washington failed to persuade Pakistan to stop using militants to destabilize its neighbors — a major American foreign policy goal in recent years — but its failure also appears to have persuaded Afghanistan to try the same thing.
Worse still, for American officials, was the Afghans’ choice of militant allies. Though the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are operationally distinct, they are loosely aligned; the Pakistani insurgents, for instance, pledge allegiance to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the founder of the Afghan Taliban. In the estimation of American officials, support for one invariably bleeds into assistance for the other.
At the same time, the Pakistan Taliban shares its base in the tribal areas of Pakistan with a number of Islamist groups that have tried to mount attacks in the West, including the remnants of Al Qaeda’s original leadership. The Pakistan Taliban have also showed a willingness to strike beyond the region, unlike the Afghan Taliban. Mr. Mehsud, for instance, is suspected of having a role in the foiled plot to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in 2010, American officials said.
American officials said they were also worried that the Afghan actions would give credibility to Pakistani complaints that enemies based in Afghanistan presented them with a threat equivalent to the Afghan insurgency. No one in the Western intelligence community believes the comparison to be anywhere close, given that the Afghan Taliban insurgency, with help from its Pakistani allies, has killed tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan in the past 12 years, including more than 2,000 Americans.
“What were they thinking?” said one American official of his Afghan counterparts.
Both Afghan and American officials said the Afghan plan to aid the Pakistan Taliban was in its preliminary stages when Mr. Mehsud was seized by American forces. But they agree on little else.
American officials interviewed about the raid say they saved Afghanistan from folly. Pakistan’s use of militants has left that country torn by violence with group after group spinning out of the government’s control — the Pakistan Taliban being Exhibit A. The Americans also said it was not clear how much help the Afghans could actually provide the Pakistan Taliban.
In the Afghan telling, the theft of their prized intelligence asset is an egregious example of American bullying, and President Hamid Karzai remains furious about it. Afghan officials assert that Mr. Mehsud’s continued detention could still derail a pact to keep American troops here beyond next year, despite the progress toward reaching a deal made during talks this month between Mr. Karzai and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said that Mr. Mehsud had been in contact with officials from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, for “a long period of time.”
The Pakistan Taliban leader “was part of an N.D.S. project like every other intelligence agency is doing,” Mr. Faizi said in an apparent reference to the support provided to the Afghan Taliban by Pakistan intelligence. “He was cooperating. He was engaged with the N.D.S. — this I can confirm.”
Mr. Faizi did not elaborate on the nature of the cooperation. But two other Afghan officials, when asked why they were willing to discuss such a potentially provocative plot, said Mr. Mehsud’s detention by the United States had already been exposed — it was first reported by The Washington Post — ruining his value as an intelligence asset and sinking their plan.
As a consolation, the Afghan officials said they now wanted Pakistan to know that Afghanistan could play dirty as well. One said they would try again if given the opportunity.
Afghan officials dismissed American admonishments about the dangers of working with militants as the kind of condescension they have come to expect. No one in Mr. Karzai’s government was naïve enough to believe they could turn the Pakistan Taliban into a reliable proxy, said a former Afghan official familiar with the matter.
“I would describe what we wanted to do was foster a mutually beneficial relationship,” the former official said. “We’ve all seen that these people are nobodies — proxies.”
Another Afghan official said the logic of the region dictated the need for unseemly alliances. The United States, in fact, has relied on some of Afghanistan’s most notorious warlords to fight the insurgency here, the official tartly noted.
“Everyone has an angle,” the official said. “That’s the way we’re thinking. Some people said we needed our own.”
Afghan officials said those people included American military officers and C.I.A. operatives. Frustrated by their limited ability to hit Taliban havens in Pakistan, some Americans suggested that the Afghans find a way to do it, they claimed.
So Afghanistan’s intelligence agency believed it had a green light from the United States when it was approached by Mr. Mehsud sometime in the past year.
After months of negotiations with Mr. Mehsud, the intelligence agency struck an initial deal, two Afghan officials said: Afghanistan would not harass Pakistan Taliban fighters sheltering in mountains along the border if the insurgents did not attack Afghan forces.
Still, the Afghans decided to keep their relationship with Mr. Mehsud a secret and did not tell American officials.
An American official briefed on Mr. Mehsud’s case said there was “absolutely no way” any American would encourage the Afghans to work with the Pakistan Taliban or do anything that could result in attacks on Pakistani forces or civilians, the official said.
“If they thought we’d approve,” the American official added, “why did they keep it a secret?”
Afghaneeland psychonaut reporting, sir!
Yes, the vehicle is ready, we’re on our way
Yes, we’re afloat but it’s not a boat or a plane
I believe it’s a bubble of some kind in my mind…
The crew, a bunch of schoolyard girls, is hand picked
Grown-up now, wearing guns instead of pantaloons
I love them until they talk & then I groan
Click the switch! Left rudder! Take off that flag!
Smooth sailing now, a crisp delight, horizon filled
There it is, we’re there now, sinking into the quick-sand
Of a cross-eyed, tongue-tied, bitter bitter land
Ahh, partners now, grinding hard, Afghanistan!
Watch out, boom, I’ve lost a leg, my eye is gone
We haven’t been here five minutes yet & I’m a vet
Ahhh, my crew, they stay cheerful, they massage my nose
The luckiest man on the planet asleep in 2 dozen foxholes…
My tongue is loose, my cock a goose, the night doesn’t end
One eye won’t shut, the medic salts the other one
Cuts it up & feeds it to the villagers at the gate
Who complain about everything but it is only fate…
(Text: Copyright Clyde Collins 2013)
by Thom Shanker
New York Times
October 27, 2013
BRUSSELS — After months of tense negotiations over the size and role of a postwar presence in Afghanistan, senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials say they are planning a more minimalist mission, with a force consisting of fewer combat trainers and more military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid are not squandered or pilfered.
The shrinking ambitions for the postwar mission reflect fears that the United States Congress and European parliaments might cancel their financial commitments — amounting to more than $4 billion a year, the largest single military assistance program in the world — unless American and NATO troops are positioned at Afghan military and police headquarters to oversee how the money is spent in a country known for rampant corruption.
The reduced scope is also a result of conflicting interests among military and political leaders that have been on display throughout the 12-year war. Military commanders have advocated a postwar mission focused on training and advising Afghans, with a larger number of troops spread across the battlefield. Political leaders in Washington and other NATO capitals have opted for smaller numbers and assignments only at large Afghan headquarters.
Any enduring NATO military presence in Afghanistan “is tied directly to the $4.1 billion and our ability to oversee it and account for it,” a senior NATO diplomat said. “You need enough troops to responsibly administer, oversee and account for $4 billion a year of security assistance.”
The senior diplomat — who, like other military officials, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the alliance’s deliberations — described continued financing of Afghan security forces as vital to avoid political chaos and factional bloodshed after NATO’s combat role ends in December 2014. “It’s not just the shiny object, the number of troops,” he said. “Perhaps much more meaningful is, does the funding flow?”
NATO has endorsed an enduring presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with two-thirds expected to be American. That is well below earlier recommendations by commanders, but senior alliance officials say larger numbers are unnecessary given the more limited goals now being set by political leaders.
The postwar plan depends on a security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan concerning the number, role and legal protection of American troops. But one lesson of the war in Iraq is that domestic politics in the war zone and in Washington can scuttle a security deal, resulting in zero American troops remaining. Afghanistan’s desire to assure the continued flow of billions of dollars in assistance is one reason American and NATO officials are expressing guarded optimism that an agreement will be reached.
A traditional Afghan council is expected to meet in the coming weeks to pass its judgment on the proposed United States-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement.
NATO officials say they are acutely aware that Afghanistan has been the scene of spectacular corruption, including bank fraud, drug trafficking and bribery for services, all of which undermines the credibility of the Afghan government and its Western benefactors.
The problems run to the very top of the Afghan government. Many of President Hamid Karzai’s most senior aides and cabinet ministers have grown wealthy in the past dozen years, parlaying political power into lucrative businesses serving foreign militaries and development projects — or simply demanding a cut of business from other Afghans, much as organized crime bosses offer protection in exchange for regular payoffs.
The NATO personnel overseeing the security aid would be assigned to Afghan ministries and military headquarters, where they would review payments to make sure the money went to its intended purposes, like fuel, supplies and training. They would review money allotted to and disbursed by those programs and provide regular reports to NATO leaders assessing whether the goals of the assistance were being met.
Military officials said that initial plans had envisioned a far larger enduring presence of foreign trainers and advisers, who would have been spread across the country and embedded within small units of Afghan troops as they carried on the tactical fight against the Taliban. Only over time would foreign troops have been reduced and withdrawn back to headquarters.
Under the new plans, NATO military personnel would be assigned only to the headquarters of the two security ministries, defense and interior; to the six Afghan National Army corps headquarters; and to the similar number of national police headquarters. They would also be well represented in army and police training institutions.
With that more restricted mission in mind, NATO has approved outlines for a smaller force than commanders advocated. Just before his retirement last spring, the top officer of United States Central Command, Gen. James N. Mattis, told the Senate that he recommended keeping 13,600 American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, resulting in an overall allied troop level of more than 20,000.
Military officials still hope the current plans will allow them to carry out a substantial mentoring mission from the larger headquarters and training centers, and some said the emphasis on financial accountability was overstated.
“While we do need to oversee the money to maintain donors’ confidence, a critical component of our presence is capability development,” one American military officer said. “If we are at the corps level and in the four corners, we could provide the right level of train, advise and assist, and ensure that the funds led to combat effectiveness.”
Pentagon officials say they want at least some American commandos to remain to carry out counter-terrorism missions, unilaterally or in coordination with Afghan forces.
Allied military personnel who support a larger deployment say the United States and NATO have an obligation to send foreign advisers into the field with tactical-level units to ensure that forces armed by the coalition operate at standards deserving of financial support from other countries.
These officers note that the Afghan army is still developing its tactical prowess, evolving in its leadership skills and learning how to wage a war against an insurgency that hides among civilians. It has significant gaps in capability, especially in air transport and medical evacuation. There are concerns that assigning foreign advisers only to large headquarters may prevent the hands-on mentoring that field units need and allow Afghan troops to return to illegal and immoral methods learned over brutal years of Soviet and jihadist fighting.
Even so, some Afghanistan policy experts, including former military commanders, say the focus on the money makes sense.
David W. Barno, a retired lieutenant general who spent 19 months as the senior American officer in Afghanistan, agreed that sustained financial assistance was the “strategic center of gravity.”
“The most important thing we can do is keep writing checks so the Afghan National Security Forces can remain funded — fuel, food, weapons, salaries,” said General Barno, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “If that continues, they will be at least able to maintain a stalemate with the Taliban, and that is enough to keep the state up and running.”
…They suspected that however loudly the 1-91 Cav officers may have tooted their own bugle about their counterinsurgency accomplishments, their fifteen months’ worth of effort wasn’t about to undo decades’, if not centuries’, worth of habits and traditions of self-preservation. (p.392)
…The United States had gotten itself in the middle of a variety of blood, land, and tribal feuds, Brown believed, and the government of Afghanistan itself had very little, if any, interest in making serious efforts in that region. The insurgency was actually gaining strength, especially in the remote rural areas of eastern Afghanistan. (p.408)
…On May 21, 2012, President Obama and the NATO allies announced that in the summer of 2013, Afghan government forces ~ ready or not ~ would take the lead on providing security throughout the country, and that U.S. combat forces would see their mission end come midnight, December 31, 2014. (p.608)
I once had a student
Who would sit alone in her house at night
shivering with worries
And, come morning,
She would often look as though
She had been raped
By a ghost.
Then one day my pity
Crafted for her a knife
From my own divine sword.
I have become very proud
Of this student.
For now, come night,
Not only has she lost all her fear,
Now she goes out
Just looking for
The Great Sufi Master
Afghan National Army (ANA) female officers take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC) in Kabul, October 8, 2013. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)
by Thom Shanker
New York Times
October 22, 2013
BRUSSELS — A senior American military officer warned Tuesday that insurgent groups are expected to carry out an unusually aggressive campaign of violence in Afghanistan this winter, angling to create maximal disruption ahead of next year’s presidential elections and as Western forces continue to withdraw.
Afghanistan’s rugged terrain and heavy snowfall have historically resulted in a summer fighting season followed by a winter lull, with the Taliban using the cold-weather months to rest, retrain and try to further their agenda by quietly spreading political influence at the village level.
This winter, militant groups are expected to continue their traditional influence campaign. But in an interview on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers here, the senior American officer said that intelligence reviews and Afghan reports painted a picture of a concerted insurgent effort to disrupt the elections, planned for April 2014.
“We’re not in the ‘nonfighting season’ now,” said the official, speaking anonymously under ground rules usually in place at such NATO meetings. “We are actually transitioning to a winter campaign.”
The insurgent winter campaign is expected to include “attempts at high-profile attacks, attempts at targeted killings of political officials, election officials and candidates” rather than traditional battlefield engagements, the military official said.
A transparent and inclusive vote in April is viewed as central to the credibility of the Kabul government. American officials in particular had urged the Afghan government not to push the vote into summer, cautioning that any delay might make it easier for insurgents to disrupt the vote.
But the assessment shared Tuesday by the senior American officer was the first indication that the Taliban are also viewing the vote as a critical strategic point, to the degree that they would change their usual operations to focus on it.
At the same time, relations between the Afghan government and the United States are at a particularly delicate stage. A grand council, or loya jirga, of Afghan elders and powerful officials is expected to meet in coming weeks to recommend whether to accept a bilateral security agreement with the United States. If the agreement is then approved by Parliament, it will allow thousands of troops to remain after the NATO combat mission officially ends in December 2014.
There are around 50,000 American troops in Afghanistan, but that level will drop to 34,000 by February under orders from President Obama. As part of a commitment to helping the Afghans secure the elections, the number of American troops would then hold steady at the 34,000 level and not drop further until next July, according to the senior official.
NATO has endorsed an enduring force of 8,000 to 12,000 troops to advise, assist and train Afghan forces. It is expected that about two thirds of those troops would be American. But it is thought that no coalition nations would extend the mission without the United States remaining under a new security agreement with the Afghans.
At the crux of the debate are two American demands: to maintain legal jurisdiction over American troops, and to be able to continue direct counterterrorism missions on Afghan soil.
American officials said counterterrorism missions would be coordinated with and even carried out in partnership with Afghan forces. But there has been no wavering on American insistence on legal jurisdiction, which would shield United States troops against Afghan prosecution.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met in Brussels on Tuesday with the Afghan defense minister, Bismullah Khan Mohammadi. Mr. Mohammadi expressed confidence that the bilateral security agreement would be approved, American officials said.
But in the meeting, Mr. Hagel was firm that American jurisdiction over its forces “is a must” for the agreement, according to a senior Pentagon official.
We love Obamacare
Col. Sheena Johnson, homesick for the USA, comforted by Rawclyde!
I’ve never been to Afghanistan. I’ll never go to Afghanistan. When I was in the U.S. Army fer 4 years (1980-1984), they sent me to Hawaii to support support during peace time. Hard duty. But somebody had to do it.
A few years back, the Taliban government wouldn’t hand over Ben Laden, so our government with our military wiped them out ~ and Afghanistan became our broken nation to rebuild ~ and NATO has partnered with us. So now we’re all in Afghanistan. Lots of us just don’t know it.
Welcome to Afghanistan ~ one tough nut to crack. How’s it feel, American? How’s it feel trying to rebuild Afghanee Land on the cheap in the image of yourself? Are you in denial?
We’re rebuilding Afghanistan in the image of ourself because its the only way we know how to rebuild a nation ~ and this particular nation is such a basket case that all we can really do is fill it with hardboiled eggs, say “Happy Easter,” and leave. It’s taking us about twelve years. Hopefully we can leave unlike the way we left Saigon. We got chased out of there. Hopefully we can leave Afghanistan somewhat more smoothly ~ maybe somewhat like we left Iraq. We’re trying very hard ~ except for the Tea-Party Republicans in the US House of Representatives. They shut our government down for two weeks recently. It’s like they don’t even know we’re at war in Afghanistan. Their shutdown of the government probably helped the Taliban & their assorted cronies kill more Americans ~ maybe like us draft-dodgers did in Vietnam. So I guess many of us are guilty at one time or another.
I always end up having to explain ~ if I was a draft-dodger yesteryear, how is it that I was in the US Army too? Well, I draft-dodged. Then later I lied my way into the Army. They knew I was lying about never having been a fugitive of the selective service system. They wanted good liars at the time. I’d make a good spy.
I wouldn’t go to Vietnam. We were the aggressor. However, the Soviet Union was the “aggressor,” incidentally in Afghanistan, when I enlisted. I was also unemployed and needed a job. I was 30 years old. 1980. I was a crazy boy. I still am at 63.
My older brother, Dill, hates reading about this worse than I hate writing about it. He volunteered, US Army, went to Vietnam. He was a helicopter mechanic & crew-chief at Pleiku & came back a silent sergeant ~ became an airline mechanic and in due time retired ~ a regular guy ~ married twice ~ two sons. And our family is proud of him.
About two weeks after he got home from the Vietnam War, I showed him an article in Time Magazine about Pleiku getting run over in the TET Offensive. He barely missed a big boom boom. He didn’t say anything. He just read the paragraph & quietly became a right winger. I became a left winger. And the eagle happily flutters its wings as it swoops across the canyon.
My little brother is an artist. My big sister was a holistic masseuse. Now she is an old lady. We’re all getting pretty old now.
The theme of Old Timer Chronicle II has something to do with, obviously, Afghanistan. The reason for this is ~ I have a TV now but Afghanistan is rarely mentioned on the news. It’s not mentioned too often in newspapers either lately. Yet we still have people there in harm’s way. So, kind of like a newspaper editor, I’m kind of covering the war until we leave there, hopefully as scheduled come November, 2014.
After all, the US Army is the only entity that ever really payed me to write. They made me a journalist for a while.
! My gal on leave !
Col. Sheena Johnson, U.S. Army
Col. Sheena Johnson, U.S. Army
Col. Johnson reads to you from
a tome told true by Jake Tapper:
One of the elders from the Mandigal shura, an ancient man with a thick white beard, had been staring right into Tucker’s eyes as he spoke. Tucker could feel his simmering glare; the old man was looking at him with an expression that seemed to him to be saying, Look at this stupid fucking kid yelling at us. The twenty-four-year-old lieutenant could only imagine the war and poverty that had marked this man’s life, only guess how little he must care about being barked at by some young pup in yet another occupier’s foreign tongue.
“We’re here for only a short time,” Tucker said, “Then we’re going to return to America, where we have happy lives ~ where our roads are paved, our children go to school, and our police protect us. You, however, will continue to struggle with violence, as will your children and their children. If you want to make a difference, let us know. We’re here to help.”
The Americans left Urmul and returned to the outpost…
Col. Sheena Johnson, U.S. Army