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Resistance Rabble-Rouser Rohrabacher Refused Entry to Afghanistan

Rohrabacher playing dress-up in Afghanistan. (Rohrabacher photo via Mother Jones)

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) tried to pull a fast one over the weekend and sneak in as a “last minute replacement” on a Congressional delegation to Afghanistan. The problem was that, as BBC reported, the rest of the delegation had visas for entry but Rohrabacher did not. Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai learned that Rohrabacher had joined the group prior to it leaving Dubai for Kabul, and he instructed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ground the flight until Rohrabacher was removed.

I find it really hard to believe that Rohrabacher did not plan to be a part of the trip from the start, but wanted to avoid advance publication of his plans. Back in January, Rohrabacher, along with his usual co-conspirators Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA), somehow managed to get Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) to lend a patina of “bipartisanship” to a meeting held in Berlin that many viewed as a call to partition Afghanistan and to arm opposition groups such as the Northern Alliance. This meeting made Karzai “incredibly angry”, giving Rohrabacher good reason to try to stay below Karzai’s radar. Further, Rohrabacher also held a Congressional hearing on establishing an independent Balochistan, which, if drawn according to cultural lines, would take territory from Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

The full list of Congressmembers on the weekend trip to Afghanistan has not been disclosed, but the fact Politico reports that it was headed by Gohmert supports my suspicion that Rohrabacher planned to attend all along. The timing for additional meddling in US-Afghanistan relations could not have been worse, because Sunday was when it was announced that the US and Afghanistan had finally reached agreement on the outlines of a long term agreement for US support after the withdrawal of fighting forces. Rohrabacher seems to be quite entertained by Karzai’s response. Returning to the Politico article: Read more

US Achieves Sham Agreement Trifecta With Afghanistan

It is becoming a signature of the Obama administration that as self-imposed deadlines approach, the quality of agreements reached drops precipitously. Recall that Obama had worked furiously to be able to announce a mortgage fraud settlement in this year’s State of the Union speech. He missed that deadline by several weeks on the actual agreement, and so at the last minute developed the Schneiderman Mortgage Fraud Task Force to have something to announce in the speech.  Nearly three months later, the “task force” does not yet have the basics of an office, telephone number or executive director, but Obama got his big announcement.

With public opinion on the war in Afghanistan so low that even Republicans now see it as not worth the cost, Obama has been determined to have a long term agreement in place with Afghanistan prior to the upcoming NATO summit next month in Chicago, perhaps as a move to prevent calls for a strategic reassessment prior to November’s elections. The agreement has been broken into three pieces. Earlier, agreements on the handover of prisons and on night raids have been executed and we learned yesterday that an agreement on long term support for Afghanistan has been reached and is ready for approval.

Although stated as giving Afghanistan full control over operations, the prison agreement keeps the US in full control of veto power over the release of any prisoners, so the handover is far from complete in terms of who makes critical decisions. Similarly, the night raid agreement purports to put night raids completely under Afghan control, but US forces can still enter Afghan homes once Afghan forces invite them. Crucially, “planning and execution of future raids will still rely heavily on U.S. intelligence”, suggesting to me that the US is likely to maintain the lead role in choosing targets.

The early description of Sunday’s agreement on long term support for Afghanistan paints this agreement as the ultimate sham, as virtually all details appear to be subject to later change:

After more than a year of negotiations, U.S. and Afghan officials reached an agreement Sunday affirming the United States’ commitment to Afghanistan for a decade after its formal troop withdrawal in 2014.

The document, which must be reviewed by the Afghan parliament and U.S. security agencies and signed by both nations’ presidents, does not specify troop numbers or funding levels, but it offers a broad guarantee that the U.S. role here will not end as abruptly as some feared it might.

/snip/

But the specifics of the U.S. commitment have yet to be formally outlined and could be governed by future agreements.

Maybe Schniederman will be put in charge of filling in the details on the agreement, since he’s not very busy these days.

Disclosure of US Troops Posing With Body Parts Newest Threat to Afghanistan Stability

As I pointed out on Monday, the preferred story line surrounding the weekend Taliban attacks across Afghanistan was that Afghan security forces repulsed the attacks with little to no help from outside forces. In fact, Australia used this moment of public confidence in the capabilities of Afghan forces to announce that they would speed up withdrawal of their “forces” (with only 1500 troops there, the Australians hardly represent a true presence), joining NATO allies Canada and Norway, which already have withdrawn, and France, Germany and Britain, who have announced their withdrawal timetables.

Building on the weekend’s success story about Afghan capabilities, a major AP story this morning discusses US and NATO plans for the hand-off of security responsibility to Afghanistan:

The United States and its NATO allies are readying plans to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year as President Barack Obama and fellow leaders try to show that the unpopular war is ending.

/snip/

This week’s sessions are meant to stitch together U.S. and NATO agreements on the pace of U.S. and allied combat withdrawal next year. U.S. and Afghan officials have already said they expect a shift to an Afghan military lead in combat operations by the middle of 2013, although the U.S. stresses that it will still have a large number of forces in Afghanistan as backup.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said Wednesday that the Afghans are on track to take the lead in securing the country by the end of 2013. Azimi said the Afghan Army has already reached its target number of 195,000 troops. Including police and other forces, Afghan security forces now number about 330,000.

A major test of the claim that conditions in Afghanistan are stabilizing will now come from the latest revelation of atrocities by US troops. The Los Angeles Times today published photos of multiple incidents of US troops posing with dismembered bodies of Afghan insurgents killed by roadside bombs:

The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan’s Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse’s severed legs.

/snip/

Two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man’s hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter” next to other remains and took a picture.

Given the recent responses to the disclosures of US troops urinating on dead insurgents and burning sacred books, this latest disclosure seems likely to generate a new round of violent protests. This also seems to be the sort of event that sparks further “green on blue” attacks (pdf) where Afghan forces kill NATO forces.

New green on blue killings would be a major setback to the claim that Afghan forces are nearing the ability to take over full responsibility for security, even though the official US line on such events is that they are “isolated incidents“. Similarly, increased attacks by the Taliban would go against Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s is explanation to his “brothers” that their attacks only increase the odds of foreign forces staying longer in Afghanistan.

NATO Response to Taliban Attacks: Pump Up Image of Afghan Forces

Because it is clear that the Obama administration steadfastly refuses to address its rapidly failing Afghanistan strategy prior to November’s elections, NATO is forced to labor under the increasingly difficult prospect of handing over security responsibility to Afghan forces as the surge of NATO troops is drawn down this summer and then remaining combat troops are withdrawn over the next two years. In a desperate attempt to make that process less ludicrous, NATO chose to respond to this weekend’s coordinated attacks by the Taliban by burnishing the image of Afghan security forces. After suffering greatly from repeated “isolated incidents” of Afghan forces killing NATO forces and with the devastating reports of the ineptitude and duplicity of Afghan forces from Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, the tarnished image of Afghan forces threatens to derail the planned “victory” scenario of departing Afghanistan by handing over security to Afghan forces.

AP seems to be cooperating very well with the NATO narrative, as its article this morning on the attacks carries the headline “Afghan-led forces beat back brazen Taliban attack“. Yet, even their article makes it clear the Afghan forces are hardly operating on their own:

Some international forces could be seen taking part in operations to secure and retake buildings in the capital — NATO troops embedded in Afghan units as “trainers” or “mentors.” And two coalition helicopters were seen firing on the building in the center of Kabul.

That admission is meant to be overlooked, as it immediately follows praise for the Afghan forces:

U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, praised the Afghan security forces’ response to the attacks.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker added to the information operation, praising Afghan security forces even as he was pinned inside his Embassy by the violence. From the New York Times:

The American ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, speaking to CNN from a locked-down American Embassy, praised the Afghan security forces as having “acquitted themselves very, very well, very professionally.”

Yup. Pay no attention to those embedded “mentors”, just keep saying the Afghan troops were the ones who repulsed these attacks. And Crocker didn’t stop there. He went on to say that all this training we’re doing is going so well, we just might need to extend it (so that its failure is never exposed?):

He added that attacks like this strengthened the case for Americans staying until the Afghans were fully ready to handle the situation on their own.

Oops, be careful there Mr. Ambassador. The current information operation is meant to build up the perceived capability of Afghan forces, not cast doubt on them.

The Washington Post also is helping NATO put out its story that Afghan forces primarily were responsible for repelling the Taliban attacks. The story there carries the headline “Afghan security forces kill 36 insurgents to quell spate of deadly attacks” and General Allen is allowed to present his spin in favor of the Afghans: Read more

Opening Week: Baseball and Bombs

The Yankees and Red Sox both finally won games yesterday after starting their seasons 0-3, while the Taliban have opened their season with a new offense.

The very fact that the US has been in Afghanistan so long that the press uses matter-of-fact phrasing to refer to the opening of fighting season demonstrates the depravity to which this war has descended. Today saw a number of bomb attacks across Afghanistan, with the death toll approaching 20 at the time of this writing.

The opening of the season, as described by the Washington Post:

At least 18 people, including police and civilians, were killed in attacks in Afghanistan on Tuesday, a spate of violence that coincides with the start of the country’s traditional fighting season.

Reuters notes the opening in this way:

Suicide bombers killed at least nineteen people in attacks across Afghanistan on Tuesday, including 11 Afghan police, as insurgents ramped up violence ahead of the traditional summer fighting months.

To their credit, the New York Times avoided the season cliche, but their article was centered on the Herat bombing alone.

In crafting its new version of “victory” language, NATO is claiming that the Taliban will not be carrying out a spring offensive this year aimed at large NATO bases. Instead, as today’s bombings demonstrate, it appears that the targets will be Afghan security forces, government officials and civilians.

Returning to the Reuters article:

A NATO spokesman on Monday said insurgents had so far shown no sign of planning a repeat of last year’s unified spring offensive against foreign and Afghan forces, preferring isolated attacks on small units and bases.

The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the Helmand attack, saying it had been targeting the district governor and police chief, as well as other government officials.

Attacking Afghan police units and local authorities will make the planned exit of NATO forces much more difficult if these attacks result in fewer Afghans being willing to serve in these positions, since the stated strategy is to hand over authority to them as NATO forces withdraw.

So far, I’ve found no evidence that anyone has formed a fantasy league for the fighting in Afghanistan, so we haven’t completely plumbed the depths of how low this can go.

Update: Oh my. Alissa Rubin has updated her New York Times article so that it now covers the whole string of bombings, not just Herat. The new opening paragraph:

In a further sign that the insurgents’ spring offensive is under way, suicide bombers struck in western and southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing as many as 18 people, according to Afghan officials in Herat and Helmand, where the attacks took place.

 

US Announces “Guardian Angel” Program to Protect Sleeping Troops Day Before Sleeping Afghans Killed

It was announced on Thursday that among a number changes General John Allen, Commander of US troops in Afghanistan, put into place is a program to provide additional security over US troops as they sleep. Remarkably, on the very next day, nine Afghan policemen were gunned down by an apparent Taliban infiltrator. Perhaps Afghan security personnel are even more in need of guardian angels.

Here is the description of the “Guardian Angel” program from The Telegraph:

US military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned “guardian angels” to watch over troops as they sleep, among a series of other increased security measures, in the wake of rogue Afghan soldiers targeting Nato forces.

The added protections are part of a directive issued in recent weeks by Gen John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, to guard against insider threats, according to a senior military official.

The so-called guardian angels provide an extra layer of security, watching over the troops as they sleep, when they are exercising, and going about their day.

Among the new measures introduced, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons in several Afghan ministries. They have also been told to rearrange their office desks so they face the door.

As described, these security measures are an acknowledgment that green on blue killings of US and other NATO forces by Afghans are an increasing problem. Further complicating the prospects for Afghan security personnel to take over as NATO troops withdraw, however, is an incident today in which an Afghan police officer drugged and then killed nine of his colleagues before apparently collecting all their weapons and then speeding off in a truck to rejoin the Taliban. This is the third green on green attack this month and could turn out to be a huge deterrent to recruiting an Afghan security force of the size needed under the current plan for NATO withdrawal and handoff of security.

From the New York Times:

A member of an Afghan militia promoted by the American military to protect rural villages drugged his colleagues and killed at least nine of them as they slept on Friday, the third deadly incident involving the irregular guard force in March.

The killings added to concerns about the militia, known as the Afghan Local Police. Touted by American military commanders as a way to give Afghans a larger stake in battling the insurgency, the local police program has been assailed by rights advocates and many Afghans for bringing former Taliban and criminal elements into positions of armed authority.

Reuters documents the shooter rejoining the Taliban: Read more

Rohrabacher, Gohmert and King Invade National Press Club

Map from Wikimedia Commons

Lacking both the authority and the means to carry out their own invasion of Pakistan to secure the independence of Balochistan, Republican Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Louie Gohmert (TX) and Steve King (IA) instead invaded the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Tuesday for a press conference. Freedom for Balochistan is the latest quest for Rohrabacher, who has a history of being profoundly wrong in how he pursues freedom for various peoples.

One should never forget that as a speech-writing aide to Reagan, Rohrabacher was in on the ground floor of the “Freedom Fighter” effort in Afghanistan that funded Osama bin Laden:

Rohrabacher’s Afghanistan history dates back to his days as a speechwriter and presidential adviser in the Reagan White House, where he helped shape the Reagan Doctrine—the policy of arming resistance movements to undermine Soviet influence, with the mujahideen serving as Exhibit A. “I’d be there with guys in full Afghan garb in the executive dining room of the White House,” he recalls.

Of course, Rohrabacher wants to relegate his role in advancing bin Laden’s career to the dustbin. However, his approach in demonizing his current foe, the government of Pakistan, is just as wrong-headed as the decision to fund and arm bin Laden. From yesterday’s press conference:

“The government of Pakistan is radical Islam,” and has been providing weapons and resources to radical Muslim elements who use them against Americans, Rohrabacher said. “They are the evil force, they are the radicals.”

Wow. In all my blogging about Pakistan, I’ve totally missed the part about how the mullahs run the government. I was under the impression that Pakistan has a secular, civilian government. In fact, it appears that this government is making significant strides in avoiding the military coups that have befallen all previous Pakistani civilian governments.

But Rohrabacher was not alone in bringing forth profoundly wrong ideas at the press conference. Here is Gohmert:

Gohmert accused Pakistan of supplying the Taliban through Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan. Supporting an independent Balochistan could close of that supply route, he said. “The enemy of my enemy should be my friend,” he said.

That’s tremendous strategy from Gohmert. A look at the map above reveals that once Balochistan is “free” (and following the desires of Rohrabacher, Gohmert and King in all their actions, one presumes), there is just no way that supplies from Pakistan could get to Taliban forces in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Read more

Latest “Isolated Incident” Raises Death Toll to 15 NATO Troops Killed by Afghan Troops This Year

Reacting to the killing of two senior NATO officers inside the previously secure Interior Ministry building in Kabul, Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney on February 27 continued to insist that the ongoing killing of NATO troops by Afghan troops is just a series of “isolated incidents”. This stance is necessary in order for Obama administration and Pentagon officials to continue their attempts to hide the retroactively classified report “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility” (pdf) which clearly describes the cultural barriers which contribute to the disturbing trend of green on blue killings. Sadly, today marks another “isolated incident”, with the killing of two more NATO soldiers by a man “in an Afghan army uniform”:

A man wearing an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO troops in southern Afghanistan on Monday, military officials said, the latest in a string of shootings that have undermined trust between allies.

The gunman was killed by NATO troops shortly after he opened fire on a group of foreign troops, the military said in a statement. A military spokesman said officials were investigating whether the man was an Afghan soldier or an infiltrator wearing the uniform. No other details were released.

So-called “green on blue” shootings have become a rising threat this year, following a series of incidents that have created distrust between Afghan forces and their international coalition partners. The most significant was last month’s burning of Korans by U.S. troops. The episode sparked violent riots and prompted the Taliban to call on Afghan security forces to open fire on foreign troops.

From Reuters, we get an update on the fratricide statistics, along with an observation on the importance of this trend:

Before Monday’s attack, 13 members of the NATO-led force had been killed this year in what appeared to be attacks by members of Afghan forces, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, General John Allen, told a U.S. senate committee last week.

About 70 members of the NATO force have been killed in 42 insider attacks from May 2007 to January this year.

The shootings raise new concern about the reliability of Afghan forces and their ability to take over security responsibilities by the end of 2014, when most Western combat forces leave.

So far, there has been no indication from the Obama administration that the clearly increasing trend of fratricide or other catastrophic events like the Panjwai Massacre will prompt a review of strategy in Afghanistan until after the November election. However, there is a hint that the Pentagon realizes they now stand on the precipice, as the blood money paid to the survivors in Panjwai is significantly higher than what was paid in previous incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan: Read more

McCain, Lieberman and Graham Attempt to Revive Mass Delusion on Afghan “Success”

Where is this "success" which McCain, Lieberman and Graham tout?

In yesterday’s post, I pointed out the craven political decision to delay a strategic reassessment of the war strategy in Afghanistan until after the election in November. Just in case that was not enough stupidity already emanating out of Washington regarding Afghanistan, today we have the collected wisdom of John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham informing us that not only is there success in the war effort in Afghanistan, but the US must listen closely to them in order to sustain that success. In preparation for reading the recommendations from our trio of uninvited experts, it is useful to look once again at the accompanying chart, where we see the steady increase in violent events in Afghanistan. The surge of troops in early 2010 did not reverse the trend of increasing violence. In fact, violence jumped by an even larger amount in the first year of the surge than in previous years. No benefit of the surge accrued in 2011, either, as the number of violent events continued to increase.

But McCain, Lieberman and Graham would have us believe that there is “success”:

Significant military progress has been made in Afghanistan — progress that we have personally witnessed over repeated visits. Four years ago, southern Afghanistan was overrun by the Taliban, and our coalition lacked the resources and the strategy necessary to break their momentum. Today, that situation has been reversed, thanks to the president’s surge of forces, the leadership of talented military commanders, and the courage and perseverance of our troops.

Similarly, our effort to build the Afghan National Security Forces — which was under-resourced and disorganized four years ago — has been overhauled. Growing numbers of Afghan units are increasingly capable of leading the fight.

Of course, given the current clusterfuck that is reality in Afghanistan, our mentors of mendacity were forced to open their piece with a nod to the growing desire by most Americans to get out sooner rather than later:

A series of tragic events in Afghanistan has increased the desire of a war-weary public to end our mission there. As heart-wrenching as these events have been, they do not change the vital U.S. national security interests at stake in Afghanistan, nor do they mean that the war is lost. It is not. There is still a realistic path to success if the right decisions are made in the coming months.

And just what is the “realistic path to success” that is being offered for our consideration? Read more

Despite Afghanistan Spiraling Out of Control, Allen Wants No Drawdown Acceleration Until After Election

There can be no doubt that American troops in Afghanistan have become nothing more than political pawns for the Obama administration. Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, General John R. Allen, who commands US forces in Afghanistan, made it clear that there will be no increase in the rate of troop drawdown from Afghanistan before the end of the year — a move that even the New York Times identifies as likely being more political than strategic:

The top allied commander in Afghanistan told Congress on Tuesday that he would not be recommending further American troop reductions until late this year, after the departure of the current “surge” forces and the end of the summer fighting season.

That timetable would defer one of the thorniest military decisions facing President Obama — the pace at which the United States removes its forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 — until after the November elections.

If strategic reviews were based on changes in operating conditions (remember the old catchphrase “conditions on the ground”?), then the current situation would rightly call for immediate action. However, since the Obama administration senses that any adjustments in the strategy for Afghanistan now would be a tacit admission that the current strategy has flaws, the craven decision is to delay the review until after the November elections have taken place. It appears that the lives of our troops are a lower priority than winning the election.

That no real progress is being made in terms of reducing violence in Afghanistan was made crystal clear by the valiant truth-telling from Lt. Col. Daniel Davis. In addition, despite attempts to retroactively classify a key report on the ongoing cultural clash between US and Afghan forces, fratricide appears to be on a path of increasing frequency, as well.

In a Defense Department release coinciding with Allen’s testimony, we have more denial of the cultural clash:

Recent incidents have been deplorable, but they will not stand in the way of accomplishing goals in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force commander said here.

Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen also said the incidents do not represent the actions of the vast majority of U.S. military personnel who have served in Afghanistan.

Three incidents have been lumped together, the general said: desecration of corpses, the accidental burning of Qurans and the murder of 16 Afghans in Kandahar province. “It’s important to understand that while tragic, these few incidents do not represent who we are,” Allen said during an interview. “The Afghan people know that, the Afghan government knows that, and more importantly, the Afghan national security forces know who we are.”

Allen emphasized that U.S. and Afghan forces have been working together for years, and many Afghans and Americans have close working relationships. Read more