Top Ten Surprises of the Obama-Karzai Meet on Afghanistan’s Future

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 US forces will be withdrawn from villages.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)

ABC News reports:

Posted in Afghanistan | 24 Responses | Print |

24 Responses

  1. C-130s are not helicopters. Was the intent to mention C-130s AND helicopters?

    As for other developments, the shutter has been triggered … now it’ll be a matter of getting the images developed and printed to see what actually goes on … a lot of work just to get revenge for two “Christian” missionaries detention, they who couldn’t mind their own business …

  2. C-130 refers, of course, to the workhorse Hercules turboprop fixed wing cargo aircraft. Not a rotary wing aircraft.
    You could improve clarity with an apostrophe, an “s” and a comma after “C-130” in item 4 above.

  3. don’t mean to be a downer, but:

    Item 5: the US promised to turn Parwan prison over last year, then reneged.

    Item 6: with some justification, Taliban says that the real power in Kabul is the US, and the “GIRoA” of Northern Alliance Tadjiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras are simply employees of the USA. They refuse to negotiate with Karzai and want direct talks with Obama and his representatives.
    Does it really matter if Obama and Karzai agree to collaborate on peace negotiations between themselves that don’t include Taliban ?
    And Taliban already have an office in Doha.

    Item 9: recall that ISAF policy is to count as a militant any males over 10 years old, if we happen to kill them.

    Item 10: I can see it now — a branch of Harvard in Khost, staffed by active US duty soldiers.

  4. Love to read your thoughts on Shaykh Professor Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri’s “Long March” and his upcoming Conference in Kabul, in which he has invited 500 scholars of Islamic Law to ponder whether suicide bombing is un-Islamic.

    There is no visible means of him affording either event, leading to interesting commentary in English-language Pakistani press.

  5. Rachel Maddow pointed out that should all of that nice stuff discussed today fall apart Obama will be able to look back and say he had announced the end of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in his 1st term.

    I think it is also true that the Russians said pretty much the same things when they announced they were leaving. They left enough weapons and ammunition that the Afghan government was able to fight on for a couple years. I think most of the “russian advisors” were talking by telephone during that time. Isn’t it interesting how the critical military weapons there haven’t changed in 30 years? (Apache gun ships, CH-47 helicopter, RPG, AK-47, C-130, Toyota Hilux trucks, opium $$$)

  6. What’s the tune for “Afghanization?”

    Second verse, same as the first:

    link to

    And from another angle,

    Whatever the program’s origins, Colby’s definition is comprehensive enough to include the many elements essential if Vietnamization were to succeed: improving and modernizing the armed forces, providing pacification of the rural areas, strengthening the political apparatus, delivering essential services to the populace, nurturing a viable economy, and, most important of all, ensuring security for the people. From these goals derived a host of subsidiary tasks: from expanding and improving the police and territorial forces to land reform, from control of inflation to hamlet and village elections, and from rooting out the Viet Cong infrastructure to increasing the rice harvest. Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker noted in a reporting cable that South Vietnam’s plan for community defense and local development had “three overall objectives: self-defense, self-government, and self-development, which explains why the Vietnamese refer to ‘Vietnamization’ as ‘the three selfs.'” (snip)

    In *No More Vietnams*, Richard Nixon recalled of Vietnamization that “our whole strategy depended on whether this program succeeded.” Thus, “our principal objectives shifted to protecting the South Vietnamese at the village level, reestablishing the local political process, and winning the loyalty of the peasants by involving them in the government and providing them with economic opportunity. General Creighton Abrams had initiated this shift in strategy when he took command of our forces in Vietnam in 1968,” Nixon acknowledged.

    Of course, the Americans could only help and, as Abrams once observed, they could only help so much. The rest was up to the Vietnamese.

    link to

    And of course Thieu, like Karzai, was a self-serving and corrupt persona who wisely, and like Karzai would be well advised to do, fled Saigon aboard a US chopper as the “strategy” ran its inevitable course.

    And to put it in the larger setting of the Game of RISK ™ as then being played,

    link to

    The main differences I can see between THIS tomfoolery-with-enormous-wealth-transfer-and-imperial-warpage-of-our-“free democracy,” and the one we label “The Vietnam War,” are that rather than learning from one futile effort to prosecute a land war in Asia at the end of an enormous supply line, against a xenophobic population with nationalist and tribal aspirations, our rulers focused on managing the media, planting an all-volunteer army/military, relying on contractors and other stuff to insulate us taxpayers from cognitive dissonance and any non-consumer-economy discomfort, and thus avoiding the “deep divisions in the nation” that led Tricky Dick (bless his practical-politician little heart) and his policy mavens to create the false front of “Vietnamization,” to give airbrushed cover and concealment to the scammers and idiots who “managed” the country, by fraudulent and incompetent stages, into an inevitably losing proposition.

    No, I don’t cheer for “the other side.” I have no joy at the failure of our institutions and rulers to avoid losing propositions and put the nation onto a long slide into post-imperial obscurity and virtual feudal impoverishment. We could have done so much better for ourselves and the rest of the world, but it’s not in our natures to keep Experienced Players from finding their inevitable way into the seats of power, patent and obscure.

    The “strategy” to date has made a few people really rich, and away we go again to the next situation where our rulers will punch another Tarbaby using our fists (not theirs). Don’t pick fights it’s clear from the beginning you are not going to win, let alone gain anything from (other than wealth transfer and personal power).

    • We do learn these lessons. You might remember that after Vietnam no American politician would even imply sending American troops overseas. That national revulsion of war lasted for a decade and then slowly dissipated until it was gone.

      We do learn but then we forget, unfortunately!

      • The so-called “Vietnam Syndrome” to which you refer did last for some time. It was put to rest, however, by the first Gulf War in 1991, a war which was entirely justified (and had the UN Security Council imprimatur) in pushing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, which he had invaded and occupied. Don’t forget, there were 35 allies, including Syria under Hafez Assad, in the coalition.

        One must be careful in stating categorical “lessons,” from Munich to Vietnam. There are exceptions to all so-called “lessons.” It also depends on the inclinations of the observer. For example, many who were against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were very much in favor of the US and NATO war against Serbia in 1999. And that war lacked a UN Security Council imprimatur, just as did the second Gulf War against Iraq. It would be interesting to ask those who were against the US war in Iraq why they approved of the 1999 war against Serbia, a nation that represented no threat to either the US or Europe.

        • “It also depends on the inclinations of the observer.” How well one ought to understand that… And it depends also on the lenses through which one observes, both in optical effects and tint.

          Some observers point out a whole lot of detail of the kind one advises us to be careful not to ignore in seeing “lessons” in various tranches of history. Like the words of our Ambassador, April Glaspie, now attempted to be obscured by a lot of spin and disavowal, essentially inviting Saddam to grab Kuwait. Yep, all of this incorporates huge amounts of complexity, all of which includes the kinds of volatility that make for financial profit and personal gain, with the pain and externalities to be borne by “others,” but it sure would seem that there are some fundamental major points and observations that can be made, relatively clear and simplistic, that repetitions of Idiot Behavior for all kinds of sub-rosa reasons are unlikely to produce a different category of outcome.

          Inability to deal with flexible, inventive asymmetry, on the part of our clumsy, bureaucratized, self-interested institutions

          Enormous supply lines, with lots of vulnerabilities and opportunities to siphon off huge amounts of wealth and materiel

          Bureaucratic “managers” with personal and organizational wants and goals, a virtual Tower of Babel with all the language problems that go along with all that complexity, facing people who are fighting on and for their own terrain and “freedom” from a cultural base that our rulers and managers disdain and do not understand

          Having “goals” and strategies made up in air-conditioned secure conference rooms, based on premises and preferences and biases that over the long haul lead repeatedly and inevitably to “XXXX-ization” and rationalization and obscuring of fault, and no change in the momentum and inertia of the war economy and ineluctable march toward imperial ambition and decline

          Detachment of the active Players, in their own closed and competing segments of the whole War Effort, from any goals or needs of the ordinary people whose labor and wealth creation supports all the Gamery, and from any consequences or accountability to the rest of us for doing Stupid and Idiotic and Greedy behind that screen of War Fog and Deniability and Compartmentalization

          Having a dogma that claims to see a rational and supportable and “legal” and “justified” course for all the Stupid that happens, with efforts to define the terms of the debate and thus control the “logic,” ain’t the same as understanding what-all goes on. And no, one doesn’t claim any kind of clairvoyance or wisdom to see all the operating parts of it, and yes, one am predisposed to observe a whole lot of bad and stupid and ineffectual behaviors and characteristics in all of this, but there sure seems to be a lot of fire where one seems to see smoke…

  7. 80 % eh?

    “WASHINGTON — As President Obama considers how quickly to withdraw the remaining 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan and turn over the war to Afghan security forces,

    a bleak new Pentagon report has found that only one of the Afghan National Army’s 23 brigades is able to operate independently without air or other military support from the United States and NATO partners.”

    link to

    • I think the 80/20 ratio means the Afghans go on bivouac, cook hot-dogs (chicken and beef of course) and roast marshmallows while the 20% NATO (USofA) actually meet the enemy(?). I second MarkF on the reality.

      • Arbusto, you must have seen that famous old movie, “Vietnam: The Drawdown.” Same script, same scenarios, much of the same equipment — different pejoratives, of course: “hajjis” and “towelheads” instead of “gooks” and “dinks,” and what did the “gooks” call US, and what do the people who live in the area called Afghanistan call US?

        There was an ARVN compound outside the US airbase at Phu Bai, or maybe it was Chu Lai, some of it runs together for me. This was in early 1968.

        The experienced chopper pilots knew not to overfly it, particularly at night, to avoid Green-on-Green (we gave them their uniforms) violence, in the form of streams of red tracers (we gave them their ammo, too) rising swiftly up to meet you.

        To ask again: “What the heck has all this been ‘about?'” And that it’s a whole bunch of people engaged in doing really complicated bureaucratic tasks and managing huge chunks of procurement and deployment and logistics and creating all kinds of plans and doctrines and the rest of it, while little political games got played out in DC and other capitals, is not an acceptable answer.

  8. Meanwhile, back in France, the same old dance goes on.

    Hollande has just announced that, out of fear of reprisals by extremists retaliating against the French murder of Muslim’s program in Mali and Somalia, “Security” will be ratcheted up at home.

    A perfect triple, you get to murder some Muslims, reassert colonial interest and legitimacy and strengthen the domestic Police State.

    How could a socialist interventionist possibly resist?

    • Ironic. Because Afganistan isn’t really a nation, the ANA regiments have no national pride, so indeed don’t mind letting NATO do the real work in defending their fake country.

      But because Americans do have national pride, we can’t just say we screwed up and can’t have our way in Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc., so we carry out this elaborate ritual to avoid saying we lost.

      I guess national pride without a genuine belief that the cause is worth self-sacrifice is the difference between that sorry show and what an impoverished, inexperienced US did in World War II. The whole postwar doctrine that we could avoid another major war by breaking up global affairs into little “preventative” wars that we could easily win has foundered on the immovable rocks of democratic psychology.

  9. Col Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis has a somewhat different take. link to

    A small excerpt will give the flavor. The whole thing (not long at all) is worth reading:

    “…What happened in this meeting in Washington was that Karzai and the Afghans got everything they wanted and promised nothing that they cannot walk away from once they get through “picking our pocket” in slow motion between now and the end of 2014.

    Karzai got any number of substantial concessions towards the notion of Afghan “sovereignty.”

    The most important of these was the assumption of control and security responsibility for the whole country’s territory by the Afghan forces. Are these forces ready and capable to do that? They probably are not is the correct answer. Will they ever be ready? Maybe not. 1 – Afghanistan is unlikely to ever have enough income to pay for the forces we have created for them. Where will they get their money if not from us, rare earths and oriental carpets? 2 – The apparent disparity between ethnic “nations” in Afghanistan and the composition of the “Afghan” Army is unpromising as a basis for the integrity of the state. …”

  10. And of course I, and I suspect a number of other people, are still waiting for what should be easy to succinctly articulate, exactly what “national interests” were and are in play in all of this Forever War idiocy.

    A lot of Smart People have observed that any involvement in mass war at this kind of level really needs to be based on an actual concern about an actual “national interest,” not just some Hegelian exercise of The Will, or chicken-hawk gaming, and a willingness of the productive population to sacrifice to protect that interest.

    And please don’t come back with something about “Everybody who matters, knows.” Polls of the broad spectrum of citizens kind of give the lie to that. And to justify $1+ trillion a year on some “need” to “head the Talibaninsurgenterrrorristas off at the pass” ain’t gonna fly, either, because what have “we” gotten from all those Foreign Interventions and Wars of Unknown Unknown Choice, except movement of the center of mass of political and social power up and out along the axes of wealth concentration, instability and ascendance of the Security State.

    And plain old POLICE activity sure seems to be the most effective means of detecting and foiling, where possible, and catching if not (and don’t pretend that droning and black ops and all the other grotesquely expensive and civilly intrusive crap “we” are paying for so many ways, is going to effectively end ‘terrorism,” as defined by the GreatGamers).

    • The GreatGamers know that the stakes are higher than just the defeat in Afghanistan. After the defeat there and Iraq and the failure to subdue Iran we are on the downward slope in the Middle East. Remember we did not just lose in Vietnam but not long after we lost our military bases the Philippines. So the loss was all of Southeast Asia, not just Vietnam, as a military sphere of influence. Once the ball starts to roll it is hard to stop.

      The same thing is progressing in the Middle East. Defeats in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran will be followed by the loss of our base in Bahrain and quasi bases in Saudi Arabia. The GreatGamers want to stop this progression anyway they can. They know that Israel is also on that list.

      This one fact prevents them from even thinking rationally about it. At least in SE Asia they could do a cost – benefit analysis and come to a rational decision. People on our side become insane when even thinking about the ramifications relating to our “special relationship”.

      I suspect that the end game of this Great Game will be a good bit uglier than it was in SE Asia.

      • “Remember we did not just lose in Vietnam but not long after we lost our military bases the Philippines.”

        Actually, it was quite a while after Vietnam. Vietnam fell in 1975, and the Philippine bases were vacated in 1991. You misrepresent the reason we left the bases in the Philippines, though. It had nothing to do with “losing” in Vietnam resulting in a cascading effect on the Philippines. The Philippines Foreign Minister, Raul Manglapus, and a majority of the Philippine cabinet and Congress, were quite willing to have the US remain. The problem was they were holding out for much more money than the US was willing to pay.

        Ironically, here is where Vietnam and other elements do come into play. Having lost Vietnam and long since not involved in that country, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, we no longer considered the bases in the Philippines as much of a strategic asset as before. Although we wanted to remain, we were not going to play the same old game of paying anything to keep them, because they were not seen as an absolute necessity. The Filipinos, however, thought we were playing the same game, and they thought they could get away with requesting exorbitant rent for the bases. We told them no and walked away. In other words, Raul Manglapus and his negotiators did not realize the game had changed and overplayed their hand.

      • Interesting how once the Game moved on to another Area of Operations (AOR, in milbabble), social and political and economic activity kind of reappeared, albeit not to the altogether liking of our Rulers (though Walmart LOVES the profit on clothing Made in Vietnam.)

        And if “we” lost some kind of “presence” in Southeast Asia, how come there’s all those US “assets” still committed there, and submarines and missiles still on line, and what were the reasons why “we” “lost” “our” bases in the Phillipines, again? Onaccounta the results of “our” efforts to make Uncle Ho say “uncle,” and prop up dictatorial kleptocrats in far-off place who were nominally “friendly to some US interests or other?”

        The Filipinos in 1991 declined to renew the 99 year lease “we” forced on them at the end of the War on Fading Empire Spain. (That ain’t the same thing as “losing bases by not being imperially aggressive enough, I don’t think.) This was after decades of “our” support for Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos as abusive dictators in a faux “democracy.” And the timely eruption of Mount Pinatubo, no doubt caused by “Communist insurgents,” wiped out Clark AFB and hammered Subic (along with killing a lot of Filipinos) and rebuilding at least of Clark was simply uneconomic.

        As I recall, VIETNAM offered around then to lease Cam Ranh Bay, which I think cost “us” half a trillion to build (one of many huge wealth transfers to largely corrupt contractors), a behavior repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere) back to us. The problem we have is that the Great Game would be best played as a board game or computer simulation, since the direction of play never, ever goes as the players claim to intend. Though many of them make huge personal gains and derive great personal satisfaction and clout from blowing up and gumming up and melting down the structures that might result in more decent lives for most of us. There and here.

        The Soviets were sold to us as model Players who had to be defeated at any cost (including Nuclear Winter) or then “contained” or then “detented” and now demolished by their very successful emulation of our own Mafia. Now we got cover stories about “secret Chinese arsenals” of copycat Cold War/Hot War weapons. As my First Sergeant used to sing out as he ordered us to increase the march pace to double-time with full field gear for the next couple of miles, “Here we go agaaaai-nn…”

        (Recourse to 3 x 5 card #113: “War is a racket.”)

        • JT,
          not everyone here is a military vet. They may not recognize Jody calls sung on the stroll back from the rifle range.
          Some served in the AF, some in the Navy, and some never served in the armed forces.
          TFor them, the song’s next line is, “Same old [stuff] again.”

          And no mention of war profiteering off the KBR construction of Cam Ranh Bay should omit the name “Lady” Bird Johnson, who personally made a Bundle.

      • I would disagree slightly in that we keep assuming the Middle East and Central Asia are the same thing. I think the US leadership views Afghanistan as an excuse to remain in Central Asia. That is a new game of energy resources, not the old game represented by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. US bigshots treated the former Soviet Moslem republics as spoils of war in the ’90s. A resurgent Russia is pushing us out. Our enemy there is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, led by Russia and China and their obvious energy interests.

        The question about the Middle East, to me, is whether we really are allies in a meaningful way with Saudi Arabia, given our submissive support of Israel. It seems that since Bush remained deaf to Saudi pleas around 2006-7 to save the Sunnis in Iraq, Saudi Arabia has stopped taking orders from us, and is using its vast wealth to buy a sphere of influence that also doesn’t take orders from us.

  11. Education and improved medical facilities is something that Afghanistan desperately needs.

    In the 1970s, Afghanistan had a lieracy rate only 5% – it has since improved to 36% – however higher education is still something sorely needed and outside the reach of many Afghans.

    The infant motality rate of Afghanistan is 166 per 1000 live births. Contrast this with the 4.8 per 1000 in Belgium and even lower in some other nations, such as Japan.

    Still, there has been improvement since the turbulent late 1970s when Mohammed Daoud, a relative of the last Afghan king was deposed as head of state and he and his family were executed in a menner closely similar to the last czar in Russia. Daoud’s successor, the Marxist Nur Muhammad Taraki, was assassinated several months later and his successor, the Columbia University-educated teacher Hafizullah Amin was killed in a KGB-inspired coup the same day the Red Army rolled into Afghanistan and installed one of Amin’s communist comrades, Babrak Karmal.

    The fact that Karzai’s government has been as stable as long as it has is something of a victory for the State Department. Direct negotiations with the Taliban could accelerate the stabilization of the country from a military and economic perspective.

    The warlord-rule era of such leaders as Gulbuddin Hekmytar are an example of why a stable democratic way of government is needed in Afghanistan. Hekmytar received hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from Saudi Arabia and the CIA in the 1980s to fight the Soviet-backed regimes – even though he achieved no major victories. He was included in the post-Marxist Afghan government that ruled from 1992-1996. After 9/11 he threw his support behind Osama Bin Laden and the U.S. military and intelligence establishments have never been able to locate him – despite detaining and questioning many of his relatives. While the Western press gave Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar virtually daily news coverage, important figures opposing American interests such as Hekmytar were largely ignored in the media despite havng a significant following among Afghans.

    In sum, America’s 30+ years of involvement in Afghanistan will not end anytime soon – however significant diplomatic and humanitarian progress has been made but plenty of difficulties remain.

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