As the “fighting season” for the tenth full year of US forces being in Afghanistan comes to a close, the Defense Department has released its most recent report (pdf, required every Friedman Unit by law) on “progress” in the war. Although the military does its best, as always, to couch its report in language describing progress against goals which always must be redefined in order to claim any progress, those who have been paying attention knew from the report prepared early this year by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis that the vaunted surge of troops in Afghanistan, despite being billed as guaranteed to work as well as the Iraq surge, has been a complete failure.
Here are the latest results on enemy initiated attacks, on a monthly basis:
Note that in order to not remind us of how violence escalated in Afghanistan while our troops were present, this figure cuts off the early years of the war. A similar chart, with the early years included (but showing events on a daily basis rather than monthly, so the scale is different) can be seen in this post from early last year. However, by cutting off the early years, the Defense Department allows us to concentrate on the surge and its abject failure. Obama’s surge began with his order in December, 2009, so this graph gives us 2009 as the base on which to compare results for the surge. Despite a small decrease in violence from the peak in 2010, both 2011 and 2012 are worse than 2009, the last pre-surge year.
Daniel Davis explains how the reduction in violence in Iraq was unrelated to the surge or Petraeus’ vaunted COIN strategy. From my February post on the Davis report:
Once we realize the fact that the surge in Afghanistan has not worked, the natural question arises of why it didn’t since the Iraq surge is so widely credited with turning around the violence trend there. After all, both surges have been sold as the model for the new COIN centered around the idea of protecting the population.
The answer here is that we were sold lies about the underlying forces behind the decrease in violence in Iraq. In short, violence decreased for reasons mostly unrelated to the surge and the new COIN approach. From page 57:
“As is well known, the turning point in 2007 Iraq came when the heart of the Sunni insurgency turned against al-Qaeda and joined with US Forces against them, dramatically reducing the violence in Iraq almost overnight. The overriding reason the Sunni insurgency turned towards the United States was because after almost two years of internal conflict between what ought to have been natural allies – al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the greater Sunni insurgency – a tipping point was reached whereby the Iraqi Sunnis finally and decisively turned against AQI. Had this unnatural split not occurred, by all accounts I have been given on both the Iraqi side and the US military side, “we would still be fighting in Iraq today,” in the words of two officers I know who fought there.”
There simply has been no turning against insurgents in Afghanistan in the same way there was in Iraq. The COIN strategy has been the same in both places, so it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the military’s current version of COIN alone is insufficient to end violence in Afghanistan.
The Petreaus-Allen-Broadwell-Kelley scandal very conveniently will prevent this evidence of failure receiving the attention it deserves. Should Congress decide to take a realistic look at Afghanistan, it’s hard to see how they can conclude anything other than that our presence has accomplished nothing but death and destruction. Getting out now rather than two years from now is the only responsible decision.
In a holiday document dump, President Obama transmitted Minimum Standards for Insider Threat Detection Programs. As mere citizens, we don’t get to see those standards. We only get to see the memo accompanying them, which leaves us guessing what–if anything–to make of the timing and content of the memo. In addition to Steven Aftergood’s general overview, Falguni Sheth, Kevin Gosztola, and Jesselyn Radack have some thoughts.
The simplest explanation for the timing of the memo is that’s when the Insider Threat Task Force developing them finished the Standards. The Standards were due a year after Obama ordered the creation of them on October 7, 2011.
Sec. 6.3. The Task Force’s responsibilities shall include the following:
(a) developing, in coordination with the Executive Agent, a Government-wide policy for the deterrence, detection, and mitigation of insider threats, which shall be submitted to the Steering Committee for appropriate review;
(b) in coordination with appropriate agencies, developing minimum standards and guidance for implementation of the insider threat program’s Government-wide policy and, within 1 year of the date of this order, issuing those minimum standards and guidance, which shall be binding on the executive branch;
That would mean they were due 45 days before Obama transmitted them. Perhaps the delay can be explained by either the election or a review within the White House (and I’m wonder whether Obama’s victory influenced how Obama received these Standards).
So it could well be that this memo was released as a holiday dump through sheer chance, Obama finishing up business before taking time with the family.
The timing of the transmittal might also be explained by personnel changes. James Clapper and Eric Holder (or their designees) would be the mandatory co-Chairs of the Task Force. While reports suggest Holder will stick around for another year, it’s unclear whether Clapper will be.
But then there’s the possibility that the Petraeus scandal influenced this release.
As a threshold matter, the EO mandating these Standards includes CIA involvement (by designees of but not the Director himself) on both the Task Force and Steering Committee on Insider Treats. It also reserves the authority of the Director of CIA with regards to security of information systems under an earlier EO and a National Security Directive. What happens where you’re in the middle of rolling out an Insider Threat Detection Program and one of the key players involved in it is embroiled in an insider threat investigation himself?
The EO also allows the Director of National Intelligence to “issue policy directives” to help the agencies of the Intelligence Community comply with this.
With respect to the Intelligence Community, the Director of National Intelligence, after consultation with the heads of affected agencies, may issue such policy directives and guidance as the Director of National Intelligence deems necessary to implement this order.
Perhaps such “policy directives” no longer seem like such a good idea if the CIA Director can’t even limit his threat profile.
Then there’s the possibility that the behavior of one of the players in the scandal demonstrated that the Standards are not yet being met. While reportedly Petraeus and Paula Broadwell only shared a GMail account–and therefore there is no allegation that they used the classified networks addressed in the EO–we have fewer details about what network General Allen was using to exchange sexy-time emails with Jill Kelley. Furthermore, whlie we know Broadwell had classified information on her computer and in her house, we don’t have much detail on this, either. As a Reserve Officer, her behavior may well have demonstrated holes in the program implemented by DOD.
In other words, it may be that the Standards had been languishing for 45 days after they were completed, but the Petraeus scandal identified that the Insider Threat Detection should have but did not identify some of the activities going on. That might have created some urgency for Obama to transmit them, so he could start cracking heads at the agencies where they standards were not being met. Obama’s memo also promises the standards will “provide the workforce with insider threat awareness training,” so it’s possible the Administration believes that if just its top Generals had a bit more training they might not destroy their careers by compromising security. Though, as Marc Ambinder explained, because he was in the chain of command for the nuclear football, Petraeus would have had extensive indoctrination on potential threats.
Or maybe it’s something else entirely.
With General John Allen now floating in some sort of purgatory where he has been tainted by figures in the Petraeus scandal, the “orderly” transition planned for Allen to step up to commanding NATO and General John Dunford to move up to replace Allen in Afghanistan is stalled at least in part. And while Washington has come to such a complete halt over this scandal that Howard Kurtz may well have taken an interest in a penis or two that may have voted Republican, leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken advantage of the distraction in Washington to take concrete steps toward the kind of political reconciliation that will be essential once US forces have been (at least mostly) withdrawn from the area.
From the AP story carried by the Washington Post:
Pakistan freed several Taliban prisoners at the request of the Afghan government Wednesday, a move meant to facilitate the process of striking a peace deal with the militant group in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said.
The release of the prisoners — described as mid- and low-level fighters — is the most encouraging sign yet that Pakistan may be willing to help jumpstart peace talks that have mostly gone nowhere, hobbled by distrust among the major players involved, including the United States.
Wednesday’s release of the Taliban militants came in response to a personal request by Salahuddin Rabbani, the head of an Afghan government council for peace talks with the Taliban, said a Pakistani government official and an intelligence official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media about the release.
We get more from Reuters:
Afghan officials have suspected that Pakistan has been holding Afghan Taliban members in jail to retain some control over peace efforts and have a say in any settlement.
Those in detention include former Justice Minister Mullah Nooruddin Toorabi and Mullah Jahangirwal, former secretary of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Allahdat Tayab, an ex-deputy minister, Afghan High Peace Council officials say.
“We have asked Pakistan to release them because they were the policy makers of the Taliban and close aides to Mullah Omar,” Habibullah Fawzi, a senior member of the Afghan peace team, told Reuters.
Their release could encourage a number of Taliban commanders and fighters to join peace efforts, he said. Afghan embassy officials in Islamabad said the names of about 10 Afghan Taliban militants had been floated.
We learn from Dawn that the talks will continue today:
Talks between the peace delegation led by Mr Rabbani and Pakistani officials would continue on Wednesday when the two sides are expected to come up with a joint statement on the progress made by them.
A Pakistani official, who had been briefed on the talks, told Dawn that “significant progress has already been made”.
The release of Taliban detainees in Pakistan has been a longstanding Afghan demand for catalysing the slow moving process.
A keen follower of the negotiations, who didn’t want to be named, said the release of prisoners was a positive step, which would provide the right environment for reconciliation.
Who could have guessed that getting all of Washington distracted by a tawdry sex scandal could have set just the right conditions for significant peace talks to break out? There are even hints from Khaama that this breakout of peace talks might even expand to include the Haqqani network.
The old adage that “fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity” seems to have been turned on its side here. Even though it may have been under his desk, David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell appear to have been fucking for peace, since their affair has disengaged the US war machine long enough that those who must make peace once we are gone have decided to start the process ahead of schedule.
Here’s the first inkling of something Jim and I have been speculating about: that Jill Kelley may have some tie to intelligence, which led the FBI to take Paula Broadwell’s harassing emails to her more seriously.
A military officer who is a former member of Petraeus’s staff said Kelley was a “self-appointed” go-between for Central Command officers with Lebanese and other Middle Eastern government officials. She was a fixture at social and charity events involving Central Command officials in Tampa.
Add that to the news that DOD learned of General Allen’s emails with Kelley via his NATO command vetting. Why would FBI, in the course of such vetting, be reading Allen’s emails in the first place unless Kelley had become some kind of trigger? (Indeed, it may not be–or not just be–that some of the emails included flirtation.)
If Kelley had some tie with intelligence, then it would explain why the FBI investigated a catfight, particularly given Broadwell’s comments indicating close awareness of Petraeus’ location. And it would explain why this got escalated into a National Security concern so quickly. And it would explain why Kelley thinks she needs the assistance of Abbe Lowell.
Gen. John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defense official said early Tuesday was “inappropriate communication’’ with Jill Kelley, the woman in Tampa who was seen as a rival for David H. Petraeus’s attentions by Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus.
In a statement released to reporters on his plane en route to Australia early Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that the F.B.I. had informed him on Sunday of its investigation of General Allen.
Mr. Panetta turned the matter over to the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct its own investigation into what the defense official said were 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, many of them e-mails between General Allen and Ms. Kelley, who is married with children.
Really, at this point, what can you even say about the secret storm soap opera that roils within the rarified brass air of the US Military? This was just the last hit for a night that saw the emergence of the Shirtless FBI Guy (now under investigation himself by the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ) to a nightime search of Paula Broadwell’s home by the FBI.
There are too many tentacles, evolving too quickly, to go too deep on all the facts that have rolled out even in the last twelve hours. But the General Allen/Jill Kelley bit is fascinating. Remember, the handful of emails Paula Broadwell sent to Kelley reportedly did not mention Petraeus by name. This latest report at least raises the possibility Broadwell was referring to an inappropriate relationship between Kelley and Allen, and not Kelley and Petraeus. I am not saying such is →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading