Posted on 01/16/2013 by Juan Cole
Posted on 01/15/2013 by Juan Cole
An important problem with the narrative line of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the Central Intelligence Agency’s quest for Usama Bin Laden, is not just that it comes across as pro-torture but that it ignores the elephant in the room: Bad intelligence elicited by torture almost derailed that quest to put down al-Qaeda by diverting most resources to Iraq.
“Zero Dark Thirty” stands in a long line of Hollywood-Washington collaborations that essentially do the work of propaganda. The lineage includes Michael Curtiz’s 1942 “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart, which was produced under the Office of War Information’s guidelines; the director assigned it the government-prescribed theme of “III B (United Nations — Conquered Nations) Drama,” as Tanfer Emin Tunc argues.
The film is misleading precisely because it does what the Bush administration did not do. It stays with Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda. At one point a CIA official complains that there are no other working groups concentrating on al-Qaeda, that it is just the handful of field officers around the table. But he does not say that the Bush administration ran off to Iraq and closed down the Bin Laden desk at the CIA. Nor do any of the characters admit that bad intelligence, including that gathered by torture, helped send the United States off on the Great Iraq Wild Goose Chase.
I care about this issue in part for reasons of my own biography. As a Baby Boomer who was against the Vietnam War, I had never had much to do with the US government until the September 11 attacks. Had I not been on the doorstep of 50 when they took place, I might well have enlisted. I felt 9/11 profoundly, to my very soul, and was depressed about it for years. I wanted to do what I could to understand al-Qaeda and help destroy it. When RAND and other providers of speakers in Washington asked me to come out and talk to analysts from various government agencies, I was pleased to do it. At the time, Arabists and Islam experts in the US were not so numerous, and pernicious self-proclaimed experts had proliferated. There was a lot of Islamophobia around, and most Americans who did not know the Middle East first hand did not realize that al-Qaeda was a tiny fringe, not representative of Islam.
I don’t know if all those talks I gave in DC to inter-agency audiences were ever useful in fighting al-Qaeda, but I certainly hope so, and I was proud to do my bit in presenting an informed and analytical approach to fighting the phenomenon. I was trying to model for them social analysis as academics understand it. I was also honored to address people who were doing their best to confront a major security challenge.
But because I saw the Iraq War as a distraction from the fight against al-Qaeda, and was vocal about critiquing its prosecution, the Bush White House decided that it did not want me consulting in DC and tried to have me blackballed. The Bushies were fine with a phalanx of quacks and phony experts descending on the capital to charge millions for their crazed schemes. But having someone come to town who knew whereof he spoke was intolerable. In the end, the White House asked the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA to find dirt on me and try to destroy my reputation.
Bush and Cheney exploited al-Qaeda and the threat of terrorism to erode civil liberties at home and to reshape Iraq and its oil riches abroad. But they weren’t that interested in actually finding Bin Laden or rolling up al-Qaeda. Someone like myself, who could see that Iraq was a massive train wreck and that it actually prolonged al-Qaeda’s significance, was most inconvenient in 2005 and 2006.
So, I mind the the narrative of “Zero Dark Thirty” for personal reasons. It leaves out a key obstacle to the quest it recounts. Some of what is wrong with the film may derive from its beginnings, as a story about how the quest for Bin Laden failed. That premise had to be changed after May 2, 2011, of course. But a film that began with an exploration of failure should have highlighted the Iraq distraction and the bad intel from torture all the more.
I made this point when al-Qaeda operative Ibn Shaykh al-Libi died in a Qaddafi prison in 2009:
The best refutation of Dick Cheney’s insistence that torture was necessary and useful in dealing with threats from al-Qaeda just died in a Libyan prison. See also Andy Worthington.
Al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was captured trying to escape from Afghanistan in late 2001. He was sent to Egypt to be tortured, and under duress alleged that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda agents in chemical weapons techniques. It was a total crock, and alleged solely to escape further pain. Al-Libi disavowed the allegation when he was returned to CIA custody. But Cheney and Condi Rice ran with the single-source, torture-induced assertion and it was inserted by Scooter Libby in Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations.
If torture can mislead you into launching a war that results in hundreds of thousands of deaths, then it should be avoided, quite apart from the fact that it is illegal and that the United States is signatory to binding treaties specifying its illegality. (It is coming out that Bush-Cheney’s own CIA Inspector-General expressed the view that the Bush-era torture was medically unsound, did not produce the desired results, and contravened the UN Convention against torture.
Here is what Condi Rice told the Lehrer News Hour in 2002, based on the torture-induced statements of the late al-Libi:
‘ “We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of Al Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time,” Rice said. “We know too that several of the [Al Qaeda] detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to Al Qaeda in chemical weapons development.” ‘
In my book, Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East, I note that Gen. Bonaparte forbade the use of torture by French military interrogators in Cairo, on the grounds that it produced too much misinformation. Napoleon was not exactly squeamish. And even he would have been ashamed of the crew we had in Washington before last January.
End/ (Not Continued)
Critics such as Glenn Greenwald argued that the film assumes that torture yielded key intelligence, especially the identity of Bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti. Most intelligence officials say that the al-Kuwaiti lead did not come from waterboarding or other torture techniques,
In the end, I’m not entirely sure that the film shows torture succeeding for the CIA. In fact, al-Kuwaiti’s identity is confirmed by other techniques in the film. In one instance a man (“Ammar”) who was tortured to no effect is tricked into believing that he had already given up operational information. This kind of technique is called in intelligence work ‘false flag tradecraft,’ i.e. fooling an informant by feeding him or her a set of false premises. In part, this success comes from a rapport the man made with “Maya,” the relentless woman field officer. Again, in real life interrogations, such rapport and such false flag techniques are always more successful than torture.
In another scene, a Pakistani man who is interrogated begins by saying that he had been tortured in the past by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, and is willing to cooperate to avoid further mistreatment at American hands. I suppose that exchange serves as a suggestion that torture works in the long run, but what he gives the Americans is this case freely given.
The screenplay does, nevertheless, have a fascination with torture, and implies at several points its utility, as Karen Greenberg showed in these pages last week. Thus, when al-Kuwaiti’s true identity is established, a field officer complains that it can no longer be double-checked with detainees because President Obama had closed down the torture program. This odd complaint assumes that detainees who had protected his identity despite years of abuse and brutalization would have fingered al-Kuwaiti if only waterboarded a few times more.
That torture was ineffective in tracing Bin Laden was confirmed by Senator John McCain.
McCain wrote in 2011,
“I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda. In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.”
McCain was tortured while a POW in Vietnam and is among the few prominent American politicians to stand forthrightly against what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did in committing the US to war crimes. He is a critic of the film, and I think his view of this matter should be taken extremely seriously.
I did not like “Zero Dark Thirty” as a film. I found it emotionally thin, grim and relentless. It failed to establish an emotional connection to any of the characters, or to flesh them out as characters. The violence is deployed for the purposes of surprise rather than suspense, so that its dramatic effect is limited. It is episodic (we know that the Islamabad Marriott was blown up; shouldn’t the film present a theory as to why?) Any suspense is further blunted by our lack of connection to the protagonist. Whereas in “Argo,” my heart was in my mouth when the embassy employees were in danger, I just couldn’t summon that kind of interest in Jessica Chastain’s “Maya.” The characters remain undeveloped because this film is plot driven, but also because it is primarily didactic, intended to send a message. Unfortunately, instead of glorifying the genuine heroes who have mostly rolled up al-Qaeda (an evil organization that wants to kill your children), it covers many of them with the shame of war crimes.7 Retweet 159 Share 208 Google +1 13 StumbleUpon 1 Printer Friendly Send via email
Posted on 01/12/2013 by Juan Cole
1. President Obama moved the deadline for the end of US combat missions in Afghanistan up from July 31 to “this spring.” At that point, the Afghanistan National Army will take the lead in all military actions against Taliban and other militants. US troops will mainly be training the ANA or providing close air and logistical support. The troop withdrawal will be accelerated.
2. US forces will be withdrawn from villages.
3. Karzai reversed himself by pledging to at least try to get Afghans to accept immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts for any remaining US troops after December, 2014, the number of which Obama said would be ‘very limited.”
4. The Obama administration pledged to leave behind more military equipment for the Afghanistan National Army than earlier envisaged, including C-130 helicopters and other aircraft, according to Aimal Faizi, spokesman for President Karzai. (Pajhwok Afghan News)
5. The US agreed to turn over to the Afghanistan government the Bagram prison and other prisons, where the US holds large numbers of captured Taliban. These prisoners will be given to the Karzai government.
6. In Thursday discussions with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the US and Karzai agreed to build on so far desultory talks with the Taliban. Likewise, Karzai met with the acting head of the CIA, Michael Morell. It was agreed that the Taliban would be allowed to open a political office in Qatar, so that negotiations could be pursued with them, and that further political bureaus might be opened in Saudi Arabia or Turkey.(Pajhwok Afghan News)
7. The NATO military (ISAF) deputy head for operations and plans, Brig. Gen. Adam Findlay, says that 80 percent of military operations are now led and carried out by the Afghanistan army, while 20 percent of “complex offensives” are still led by ISAF. (Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News)
8. Findlay said that only 17 districts in the country accounted, he said, for half of all operations by Taliban and other militants.
9. Of civilian non-combatants killed in the fighting, Findlay reported, 84 percent were killed by the Taliban and other militants in 2012.
10. Karzai is asking the US to establish branches of American universities in the war-ravaged provinces of Afghanistan. He is confident that this step will improve the situation for his country. (Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News)1 Retweet 31 Share 11 Google +1 3 StumbleUpon 0 Printer Friendly Send via email
Posted on 01/11/2013 by Juan Cole
Pakistan on Thursday descended into the kind of violence that tends to occur in Iraq, with a distinct Sunni-Shiite cast to it. But the larger context was a spillover of enmities from Afghanistan.
Three bombs were set off in Quetta. The first targeted a pool hall in a Hazara Shiite neighborhood. When people came to the scene, including police and rescue workers, the attackers set off another bomb, killing many of the rescue workers.
People in Quetta complained bitterly about the lack of central government interest in their security problem. Pakistan’s government is weak and inefficient, and the government of President Asaf Ali Zardari is highly corrupt.
Baluchistan is a very lightly populated province, where only 8 million of Pakistan’s 180 million people live. Baluchistan as a territory, though, is huge and mostly desert and mountains, comprising 44% of Pakistan’s land mass. It is sort of like Pakistan’s Wyoming, only if Wyoming were nearly half the US. Baluchistan has natural gas, which its people feel is appropriated by other Pakistanis, so that they don’t benefit from it and even don’t have much electricity.
Its capital is Quetta, a city of 2 million. Quetta grew in the 1980s as Afghan refugees fled there, and after the US overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan, many of them relocated to Quetta.
Some 300,000 Hazara Shiites now live in Quetta, refugees from Afghanistan, which was occupied by the Soviets in the 1980s and then by the Taliban from the mid-1990s. Hazara are probably about 22 percent of Afghanistan’s 34 million people, that is, likely there are over 7 million of them. They are Shiites, unlike the Pashtuns and Baluch that are their neighbors, many of whom are hard line Sunnis. Afghans and Pashtuns often look down on Hazaras as menials.
Hazara speak Dari Persian and have distinctive East Asian facial features. They are said to be descendants of tho Mongol invaders of the 13th century.
There is a major Sunni-Shiite struggle in Pakistan that has cost minority Shiites hundreds of lives. The Taliban, hyper-Sunni fighters of Pashtun heritage, have a long set of grudges with the Shiites. There has been a deadly targetting of Hazara in Quetta for some years. The culprits are usually called Lashkar-e Jhagvi or Sipah-e sahaba (army of the Companions of the Prophet). They are technically banned but operate freely in the country.
On the other hand, Dawn newspaper blames one of the three blasts in Quetta on a Baluch separatist movement. [Not, as a kind reader pointed out, the bombings in the Hazara neighborhood but another one that struck Pakistani security forces.]
Some Baluch may be upset about 300,000 Shiite immigrants.
Likewise, there is a Saudi-Iran rivalry inside Pakistan, with the Saudis supporting hard line Sunnis and Iran supporting Shiites. In that regard, Thursday’s events in Pakistan are part of a larger Sunni-Shiite struggle that affects Syria and Bahrain, as well.
On the other hand, Quetta is a major smuggling thoroughfare between Pakistan and Iran, and you could imagine ethnic gangs involved in a turf war (the kind of thing that happens in Karachi).
There was also a bombing in Swat Valley, where the Taliban have been weakened but not expelled by the government.0 Retweet 17 Share 13 Google +1 0 StumbleUpon 0 Printer Friendly Send via email
Posted on 01/09/2013 by Juan Cole
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington for talks with the Obama administration on the gradual draw down of foreign troops from his country over the next two years. There are currently about 104,000 NATO and other outside troops in Afghanistan, including 68,000 Americans.
In a recent piece for CNN, I wrote:
“By summer of 2013, it is anticipated that the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan will draw to a close. By the end of 2014, only a few thousand U.S. troops will be left, and they will mainly supply close air support to the Afghanistan army when it engages in combat. Whether the some 350,000-strong Afghanistan security forces are up to the challenge of fighting the Taliban and other insurgents is a matter of great controversy. American officers in Kabul insist that the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) now takes the lead in 80 percent of operations against the enemy, up from 50 percent just last summer. But a recent Pentagon review admitted that only one of 23 ANA brigades is capable of functioning on its own, without U.S. or ISAF help. In 2012, some 300 were dying every month in battles with the Taliban and other militant groups. The ANA has low rates of literacy (a third the rate of the general population), high rates of drug use, and high rates of desertion. It is also disproportionately drawn from the Tajik, Dari Persian-speaking minority. Only 2 percent of the troops hail from Kandahar and Helmand Provinces in the Pashtun south, the strongholds of the Taliban.”
Earlier arguments about whether the US would keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after December 31, 2014, or only 3,000 have abruptly been eclipsed by a White House staffer’s announcement that the “zero option” is on the table. That is, the US may leave entirely.
This threat is likely intended to convince Karzai to withdraw his objections to granting extraterritoriality (immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts) to the remaining US troops. It was the refusal of the Iraqi government to grant such immunity that led to the complete withdrawal of US troops from that country at the end of 2011.
In Iraq, PM Nouri al-Maliki would have had to get extraterritoriality passed through his parliament (which nowadays is up in revolt against him), and that would have been impossible. The Iraqi parliament is full of Shiite nationalists and Sunni nationalists who were dying to see foreign soldiers out of their country.
The Afghan parliament is even weaker than the Iraqi, and Karzai can probably make his own deal with Washington. But he can’t act just as he pleases.
Karzai’s opposition among hard line Muslim fundamentalists are painting him as a traitor for signing any agreement at all with the US on the post-combat American troop presence. Karzai wants to negotiate a settlement with them, which is probably not impossible, but they say American troops remaining in their country is a deal breaker with regard to negotiations.
Nor can the president afford to alienate too many MPs in his own, weak parliament, since some of them are still movers and shakers in the country.
Will Karzai fold on the immunity issue and grant extraterritoriality to US troops? Or will he risk the departure of the Americans (whom he has sometimes admitted he does not like very much).
I don’t doubt that in the absence of a deal on immunity from prosecution in local courts of US troops, the Obama administration would be perfectly willing to pull them all out. Obama is a Pacific Rim president and is annoyed by the distractions of the Middle East, which he does not think is very important compared to China, Japan, the Koreas and the Philippines.
I wrote at CNN:
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” Ironically, the draw-down of Western forces may make it easier for warring Afghan factions to begin serious negotiations with one another over the shape of the future. The United States has reportedly given up on attempting to play a role in those talks, and is bequeathing the task of achieving a negotiated settlement to the Afghans themselves and to Pakistan. The Taliban and other insurgent groups have repeatedly said that the end of the foreign troop presence is a precondition for any serious talks. Perhaps light at the end of that tunnel will be enough to at least begin behind-the-scenes discussions. It is also possible, however, that the radicals will attempt to improve their eventual bargaining position by taking more territory from Karzai and his successor.
Posted on 12/17/2012 by Juan Cole
The American obsession with guns and violence is not unique, but it is distinctive. The US ranks 12th in the world for rate of firearm-related deaths. El Salvador, Colombia, Swaziland, Brazil, South Africa, the Philippines and some others are worse. But that is the company the US is in– not, say, relatively peaceful places like Japan, Singapore and the Netherlands.
It turns out that the Newtown shooter used a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle and he had lots of thirty-round high-capacity clips for it. Authorities have revealed that each of the 20 children and six adults he killed was shot multiple times, but given the number of clips Lanza brought with him, the number of victims could have been much, much higher. The Federal ban on weapons such as the Bushmaster, in place 1994-2004, was allowed to lapse by the George W. Bush administration and his Republican Congress, all of whom received massive campaign donations from the gun lobby. There is a Connecticut ban, but the maker of the Bushmaster used a loophole in the poorly written state law to continue to sell the gun in the state. The Bushmaster is manufactured by a subsidiary of the Wall Street hedge fund, Cerberus Capital Management, called the “Freedom Group”– which also owns Remington and DPMS Firearms. It is the largest single maker of semi-automatic rifles in the US, and they are expected to be a major growing profit center in the coming years. The Freedom Group was sued over the Washington, DC, sniper attacks, and paid $500,000 without admitting culpability.
So, the hedge funds are doing us in every which way.
But the weird idea of letting people buy military weaponry at will, with less trouble than you would have to buy a car, is only one manifestation of America’s cult of high-powered weaponry.
In 2011, US corporations sold 75% of all the arms sold in the international weapons market, some $66 billion of the $85 billion trade. Russia was the runner-up with only $4 billion in sales.
Saudi Arabia bought F-15s and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. Oman bought F-16s. The UAE got a missile shield. And, of course, Israel gets very sophisticated weapons from the US, as well.
The US share of the arms trade to the Middle East has burgeoned so much in the past decade that it now dwarfs the other suppliers, as this chart [pdf] from a Congressional study makes clear.
The University of Michigan “Correlates of War” project, run by my late colleague David Singer, tried to crunch numbers on potential causes of the wars of the past two centuries. Getting a statistically valid correlation for a cause was almost impossible. But there was one promising lead, as it was explained to me. When countries made large arms purchases, they seemed more likely to go to war in the aftermath. It may be that if you have invested in state of the art weapons, you want to use them before they become antiquated or before your enemies get them too.
So the very worst thing the US could do for Middle East peace is to sell the region billions in new, sophisticated weapons.
Moreover if you give sophisticated conventional weapons to some countries but deny them to their rivals, the rivals will try to level the playing field with unconventional weapons. The US is creating an artificial and unnecessary impetus to nuclear proliferation by this policy.
I first went to Pakistan in 1981. At that time it was not a society with either drugs or guns. But President Ronald Reagan decided to use private Afghan militias to foment a guerrilla war against the Soviets, who sent troops into Afghanistan in late 1979. Reagan ended up sending billions of dollars worth of arms to the Mujahidin annually, and twisting Saudi Arabia’s arm to match what the US sent. The Mujahidin were also encouraged by the US to grow poppies for heroin production so that they could buy even more weapons.
Over the decade of the 1980s, I saw the weapons begin to show up in the markets of Pakistan, and began hearing for the first time about drug addicts (there came to be a million of them by 1990). I had seen the arms market expand in Lebanon in the 1970s, and was alarmed that now it was happening in Pakistan, at that time a relatively peaceful and secure society. The US filled Pakistan up with guns to get at the Soviets, creating a gun culture where such a thing had been rare (with the exception of some Pashtuns who made home-made knock-offs of Western rifles). Ultimately the gun culture promoted by Reagan came back to bite the US on the ass (not to mention Afghanistan and Pakistan!) And not to mention the drugs.
Now the US views Pakistan as peculiarly violent, and pundits often blame it on Islamism. But no, it is just garden-variety Americanism. You’re welcome.7 Retweet 96 Share 184 Google +1 13 StumbleUpon 0 Printer Friendly Send via email
Posted on 12/13/2012 by Juan Cole
Jack Stevenson writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:
The US has been involved, covertly or openly, in military actions in Afghanistan since 1979, with no end in sight. Nor, after all these decades, is the news very good. A Taliban assassination attempt has put Afghanistan’s chief intelligence and security official in the hospital. A recent Pentagon review found that only one of the Afghanistan National Army’s 23 brigades can conduct operations independently of NATO. Violence is higher now than in 2009 before the “surge” ordered by President Barack Obama. And the Obama administration is negotiating for a 6,000 to 9,000-strong US troop presence in the country after the bulk of the American military withdraws by the end of 2014.
How long is long enough for this mission in a country that is not even as important to US security as the Congo?
Christmas Eve 1979. The Russians— the enemy America loved to hate— invaded Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter’s troubled presidency had one year remaining. President Carter signed a “presidential finding” authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to jump from intelligence gathering to an “operational” role in Afghanistan.
President Reagan reauthorized the Carter finding in 1981. Thus began 32 years of U.S. involvement in a belligerency in Afghanistan. The presidential finding authorized the CIA to ship weapons and other war materiel to the guerrillas and warlords who were willing to fight the Russians. Because America lacked direct access to Russian occupied Afghanistan and because the U.S. wanted to hide its involvement, American aid had to be delivered through Pakistan. The Pakistani military intelligence service (ISI) had extensive knowledge of Afghanistan, and the ISI routed the deliveries to the Afghan guerrillas.
A Communist faction had seized control of the Afghan government in 1978. The Russians sent advisors to the new government. One of Russia’s objectives was to modernize Afghanistan. The Russian-advised government required girls to attend school, and attempted land reform, and engaged in many policies that angered the rural population, especially in Pashtun areas. Several Russians were murdered, and the rebellion spread across the country. In late December 1979, Russia sent its Fortieth Army to Afghanistan to maintain control.
Afghanistan, the world’s leading producer of opium and heroin, is beset by feuding tribes and factions. The Afghan boundary with Pakistan was arbitrarily drawn by a British colonial agent. The boundary splits the influential Pashtun tribal group leaving some Pashtuns in Pakistan and some in Afghanistan. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have vital interests that differ from U.S. interests.
During the Reagan Presidency (1981-89), the U.S. sent large quantities of weapons to the several factions fighting the Russians. Money flowed freely from the U.S., from Saudi Arabia, and from numerous Muslim countries and charities. America warmly embraced Muslim radicals because they were willing to fight the Russians. We called the Muslim radicals “freedom fighters”. Muslim volunteers came from 43 countries to fight the Russians in Afghanistan including Osama bin Laden who recruited his own radical followers.
After 10 years of bitter and futile experience, the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan. They were gone by early 1989. President Herbert Walker Bush administration (1989-93) honored the US commitment to abandon the Mujahidin once the Russians were out, and saw no further US strategic interest in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan fell into chaos. Warlords struggled for power. A Pakistan-backed organization calling themselves the Taliban (means religious students) began to ruthlessly restore order. They were motivated by radical religious beliefs and imposed harsh rules, but the Taliban were grudgingly respected precisely because they were able to establish order.
After Osama bin Laden’s September 11, 2001, attack on the United States from Afghanistan, where the Taliban had given him refuge, President George W. Bush administration (2001-2009) sent U.S. military forces into Afghanistan and drove the Taliban out of Kabul, the capital. The Taliban were providing protection for Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda followers.
But then, forgetting bin Laden, the Bush administration shifted its military assets out of Afghanistan to facilitate the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Iraq had nothing to do with the attack on the United States. America’s reputation and democratic processes suffered a setback. The Afghan Taliban revived.
President Obama’s administration (2009- ) sent tens of thousands of additional U.S. military forces to Afghanistan, in a Pentagon-backed “surge” intended to accomplish a wide-ranging counter-insurgency mission .
Afghanistan poses no military threat to the United States. They have no army, air force, or navy with which they could invade the United States. It takes a champion propagandist to make people believe that Afghans constitute a serious military threat to the United States. (The 19 Egyptians and Saudis who attacked the Trade Towers in New York in 2001 were relatively sophisticated. They were financed by a wealthy Saudi. They entered the United States legally. They brought no military weapons with them. That does not describe a military operation. They should have been a problem for intelligence agencies and police.)
Guerrillas attempt to provoke government forces to react inappropriately or to overreact. The all-time high achiever on that score is Osama bin Laden. Our massively expensive response in the Middle East and Africa isn’t going to solve security problems in the United States. We spend $400 a gallon for fuel for our military vehicles in Afghanistan. We sent shrink-wrapped pallets of U.S. money to Iraq, and billions of dollars disappeared without accountability. If we were to change our policy and spend our money in the United States for the benefit of American citizens, including grievously wounded veterans, it would be a great Christmas gift.
Christmas Eve 2012. Thirty-two years and counting.
Jack Stevenson is a retired Civil Service employee. He worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA held a contract to provide technical advice to the Egyptian General Syndicate for Land Transport. During the Vietnam era, he served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, and he taught insurgency/counterinsurgency three years at the U.S. Army Infantry School.37 Retweet 25 Share 15 Google +1 0 StumbleUpon 0 Printer Friendly Send via email