Afghanistan Bars Rosenberg From Leaving Over Times Report on Coup Plan

With the latest deadline for Afghanistan to resolve its election crisis and put into place a government that can sign a Bilateral Security Agreement now only two weeks from tomorrow (when the NATO Summit convenes in Wales), the pressure on Afghan officials is leading to breakdowns on many fronts. Violence continues in the vote recount process and sniping back and forth in the press over outright insurrection is reaching new levels (note in this article that Abdullah supporters are favoring power sharing while Ghani’s side is pushing the constitution, suggesting Ghani feels confident of winning the recount).

Against this uncertain background, Matthew Rosenberg’s story published late Monday on the New York Times website and appearing in Tuesday’s paper (on page A7, not very prominent placement) remarkably led to him being summoned and questioned by the attorney general’s office in Afghanistan. Further, it appears that Rosenberg will not be allowed to leave the country until he answers questions (he has refused so far) regarding the sources for his article.

The article that has upset the attorney general states that various unnamed government figures are floating the idea of an interim government since the election recount is taking so long to resolve. (Note that Hamid Karzai’s term in office already has officially expired.) Although the plan is referred to as a “soft coup”, the idea is that there would be a quick return to democracy. Further, Rosenberg goes to great lengths to point out that the entire exercise seems to be more of a warning to the Abdullah and Ghani camps to resolve things quickly rather than an actual attempt to seize power:

A coterie of powerful Afghan government ministers and officials with strong ties to the security forces are threatening to seize power if an election impasse that has paralyzed the country is not resolved soon.

Though it is unusual to telegraph plans for what could amount to a coup — though no one is calling it that — the officials all stressed that they hoped the mere threat of forming an interim government would persuade the country’s rival presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, to make the compromises needed to end the crisis.

The Times describes Rosenberg’s treatment during the questioning:

The senior prosecutor who summoned Mr. Rosenberg, Gen. Sayed Noorullah Sadat, whose title is general director of crimes against external and internal security, asked him to identify anonymous government sources quoted in the article, which he declined to do.

Mr. Rosenberg objected to General Sadat’s insistence that he sign a statement without a lawyer present. Mr. Rosenberg then asked to leave the interrogation room and was initially refused permission to do so, until the prosecutors conferred with a higher-ranking official.

They declined to name that official. “It’s a confidential source,” said another general who was present at the interrogation. He declined to give his own name as well, but was later identified as Gen. Abdul Salem Ismat, who works in General Sadat’s directorate. (Although the attorney general’s office is a civilian agency, some officials retain the ranks they gained in police or military agencies.)

The attorney general’s office is on very shaky ground here:

During the interrogation on Tuesday, General Sadat was unable to name any criminal offense that was under investigation, or cite any laws that had been broken.

“Right now, there’s no case, no legal charges, there’s nothing,” he said. But he did not rule out the possibility of charges in the future.

The State Department criticized the Afghanistan government’s actions.

Hmm. No offense under investigation, no law broken, no case, no charges, and yet Rosenberg was brought in. I’m guessing the State Department criticism was something along the lines of “Who do you think you are, Ferguson?” At least he wasn’t teargassed.

Update: Just after this was posted, it was announced that Rosenberg has now been expelled from Afghanistan:

The attorney general of Afghanistan on Wednesday ordered the expulsion of an American correspondent for The New York Times, Matthew Rosenberg, and banned him from re-entering the country.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
3 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    No, it’s not “Ferguson” there. Rosenberg is still alive. And, they have a military that uses deadly force on protesters, not just cops with tear … oops.

  2. emptywheel says:

    Or maybe Yemen–though in the case the journos were probably thrown out with the consent of the US.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    The Sep 4-5 NATO Summit will definitely be a turning point, the most recent of many. Big decisions will be made in Wales about a faraway place and its people that the ex-colonials making the decisions don’t know diddly about. (I hope they don’t welsh on it.)
    .
    Will these stuffed shirts speak the truth and just say: F**k it, we lost, let’s get out. –Or will they paper over the defeat as Taliban retakes control of the country’s remote provinces. Who will be the last westerner to die for a lost cause? Nobody at the Wales summit, that’s for sure.
    .
    Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asserts that the summit takes place at another turning point in international relations and is “one of the most important” in Nato’s 65-year history, and SecState Kerry has also stated that the summit will be a ‘turning point’ for the Alliance. “We are at a crucial point in history: our peace and security are once again being tested …by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”
    .
    How about the nearly thirteen year US aggression against Afghanistan? What is that, chopped liver? The US didn’t like it when Russia attacked and occupied Afghanistan. I can do it better myself! –the US said, mistakenly.
    .
    Anyhow, back to turning points.
    Other Afghan turning points are legendary.
    *Jun 16, 2014: Dunford: The next several weeks will be important.
    *May 2, 2014: Dempsey Calls Election ‘Turning Point’ for Afghan Forces
    *Mar 27, 2014: Obama: 2014, therefore, is a pivotal year
    *Apr 5, 2014: Gateway House: Afghanistan: At a Turning Point
    *Apr 2, 2014: Kerry called the elections “a pivotal moment after more than a decade of sacrifice and struggle.”
    *Nov 15, 2013: Hillary Clinton: ‘Turning point’ for Afghan women
    *May 3, 2013: Kerry: This is a pivotal moment for both Afghanistan and Pakistan
    *Mar 8, 2013: Hagel: I believe that we are at a very important moment in this campaign
    *Mar 8, 2013: NYPost: [Hagel’s] unannounced visit comes at a turning point in the conflict.
    *Dec 12, 2012: Panetta: We’re at a turning point. You know, we’ve been in war for 10 1/2 years, almost 11 years, since 9/11. It’s the longest period of warfare in the history — continuous period of warfare in the history of this country. And we’re now seeing a turning point: brought the war in Iraq to an end. In Afghanistan, where I’ll go next, get a chance to look at the campaign plan that General Allen put in place to ultimately draw down in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
    *Dec 14, 2012: Panetta: In many ways, look, we’re at a turning point.
    *Nov 20, 2012: Panetta: We are at a turning point after 10 years of war — over 10 years of war.
    *Sep 27, 2012: Panetta: We did turn a very important corner.
    *Sep 17, 2012: Panetta: Let me just say a few things. As I’ve said before, I think we’re at a turning point, certainly after 10 years of war,
    *June 7, 2012: Panetta: We are, as I said, at a turning point after 10 years of war.
    *May 3, 2012: Panetta: 2011 was really a turning point. In 2011 the Taliban was weakened significantly. They couldn’t organize the kind of attacks to regain territory that they had lost, which is something they have done in the past. So they’ve been weakened.
    * April 18, 2012: Panetta: As I’ve said, 2011 was a real turning point. It was the first time in five years that we saw a drop in the number of enemy attacks.
    * April 17, 2012: Panetta: NATO at ‘Pivotal Point’ in Afghan Mission
    * December 14, 2011: Panetta was less than 34 miles from the Pakistan border when he told U.S. troops they have reached a turning point in the war.
    * April 21, 2011: Gates: ” I think it’s possible that by the end of this year we will have turned a corner just because of the Taliban being driven out, and, more importantly, kept out.”
    * May 9, 2011: MajGen John Campbell, now the new Afghan commander: “But I really do think that as people look back, and they’ll say 2010 was the year in Afghanistan. It’s the year that we finally put more resources in here. We had the right leadership, the right strategy. And I think that was a turning point.”
    * March 15, 2011: “FOB DELHI: International troops in Afghanistan face the prospect of a spring offensive by the Taliban every year – but this time the US-led alliance believes it could mark a real turning point in its favour.”
    * February 20, 2010: “Western officials believe that a turning point has been reached in the war against the Taliban, with a series of breakthroughs suggesting that the insurgents are on the back foot for the first time since their resurgence four years ago.”
    * Sep 29, 2009: NPR: A Turning Point For Afghan War, And For Obama
    * Sep 9, 2009: Exum: A Grim Turning Point in Afghanistan?
    * August 31, 2009: “Monday marks the end of August, a month with both good and bad news out of Afghanistan — and the approach of a key turning point.“
    * February 6, 2008: “But the ties that bind NATO are fraying badly – and publicly – over just how much each member state wants to commit to turning Afghanistan around. ‘It’s starting to get to a turning point about what is this alliance about,’ says Michael Williams, director of the transatlantic program at the Royal United Services Institute in London.”
    * July 23, 2007: “Taken together these may reflect a turning point in how the war in Afghanistan is to be waged.”
    * September 12, 2006: “The Afghan front is at a critical turning point that imperils many of the hard-fought successes of the early phase of the conflict and the prospects for snaring bin Laden.”
    * September 22, 2005: “Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s foreign minister, called the recent parliamentary elections ‘a major turning point‘ on his country’s path to democracy.”
    * January 27, 2004: “A statement from U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called the enactment of the constitution a ‘turning point for the Afghan nation.’”
    * February 26, 2003: “The growing aggressiveness by guerrillas is a relief for US forces, who greet the possibility of a real engagement with the Taliban as a possible turning point in the war. ‘We want them to attack us, so we can engage them and destroy them,’ says one Special Forces soldier from the US firebase at Spin Boldak, who took part in the initial firefight that led to Operation Mongoose.
    * December 2, 2002: “But in ‘Bush at War’ there’s a glaring omission. Woodward misses the turning point in the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda forces. It’s as though the most important scene had been left out of a movie, say, where Clark Kent turns into Superman.”

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