From today, 1 AUG 13, I am only listing article titles and the link to the post on my blog, the articles listed from 11 JAN 13 are still available below.
Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State 21FEB14 http://bucknacktssordidtawdryblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/essay-anatomy-of-deep-state-21feb14.html /TWEET YOUR SENATORS ABOUT THEIR VOTE ON THE MILITARY JUSTICE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2013 #NOTINVISIBLE http://bucknacktssordidtawdryblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/tweet-your-senators-about-their-vote-on.html /10 Senate Democrats killed the bill, 11 Republicans bucked their party and voted for justice 7MAR14 http://bucknacktssordidtawdryblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/10-senate-democrats-killed-bill-11.html/THE MEN WHO REALLY RUN THE PENTAGON & F-35 INVESTIGATION & MORALLY BANKRUPT GENERALS & DRONE LOBBY14FEB14 http://bucknacktssordidtawdryblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-men-who-really-run-pentagon-f-35.html
/ Who Are We at War With? That’s Classified 26JUL13 http://bucknacktssordidtawdryblog.blogspot.com/2013/08/who-are-we-at-war-with-thats-classified.html / A steady aim on war powers 25JUL13 http://bucknacktssordidtawdryblog.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-steady-aim-on-war-powers-25jul13.html
WAR COST FROM BRAVE NEW FOUNDATION, THE PERMANENT WAR FROM THE WASH POST,
Obama announces reduced U.S. role in Afghanistan starting this spring 11JAN13
/Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations 25OKT12 / A CIA veteran transforms U.S. counterterrorism policy 24OKT12 / Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists 23OKT12 /Congress Set to Spend $3 Billion on Tanks, But Army Says It Doesn’t Want Them & 10&9OKT12 / EISENHOWER'S MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX SPEECH, HIS FAREWELL ADDRESS TO THE NATION 1960 / VIDEO SHINES LIGHT ON DRONE ATTACKS 4OKT12 & U.S. Drones Navigate Murky Legal Path In Pakistan 6OKT12
Obama announces reduced U.S. role in Afghanistan starting this spring 11JAN13
By Scott Wilson and David NakamuraPresident Obama moved Friday toward a faster reduction of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and laid the groundwork with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a small troop presence in the country after the American mission formally ends there in 2014.
Obama and Karzai, leaders who have often been at odds in recent years, brought into sharper focus the American endgame for its longest war. Appearing after a series of morning meetings, the two outlined steps to wind down the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan over the next two years, a show of unity that excluded any talk of new ambitions.
Speaking at the White House, Obama said Afghan forces would take the lead in securing the country this spring, several months ahead of what had been planned at a NATO summit last year.
Karzai also clarified his intention to eliminate a key obstacle to preserving some U.S. forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014, pledging to “go to the Afghan people and argue for immunity for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.” Obama’s inability to reach an immunity agreement, which protects U.S. forces from foreign prosecution, prevented him from keeping any troops in Iraq.
Although Obama did not say explicitly that the accelerated transition would allow him to more quickly pull the remaining 66,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, he made clear that the “nature of our work” in the country after nearly a dozen years of war would soon change.
“We achieved our central goal, or have come very close to achieving our central goal, which is to de-capacitate al-Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can’t attack us again,” Obama said. “At the end of this conflict, we are going to be able to say that the sacrifices that were made by those men and women in uniform has brought about the goal that we sought.”
The faster shift to a mostly advisory and training role will likely energize those within the White House, particularly among Obama’s civilian advisers, who have argued for a faster drawdown than some generals have recommended.
Obama will soon receive from Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a recommended schedule for troop reductions over the next two years. The U.S. president’s meetings with Karzai came as he prepares to set the final withdrawal timeline in the coming weeks and to discuss with the Afghan leader how he intends to do so.
Obama has ranked ending the war in Iraq and winding down the even-longer conflict in Afghanistan as key foreign policy achievements during his first term. Senior administration officials say bringing the war to a “responsible end,” as Obama said several times on Friday, is a top priority as he begins his second term.
His recent selection of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and Vietnam veteran, as defense secretary underscores Obama’s intention to focus less on fighting new battles in Afghanistan than on bringing home and caring for U.S. troops, many of whom have served several tours.
Asked Friday whether the human and financial cost of the Afghanistan war had been worth it, Obama recalled the 3,000 Americans who were “viciously murdered” by al-Qaeda, as well as the Afghans who were “brutalized” by the Taliban that controlled the country at the time.
“Have we achieved everything that some might have imagined us achieving in the best of scenarios? Probably not,” Obama said. “ This is a human enterprise, and, you know, you fall short of the ideal.”
But, he continued, “Have we been able, I think, to shape a strong relationship with a responsible Afghan government that is willing to cooperate with us to make sure that it is not a launching pad for future attacks against the United States? We have achieved that goal.”
Obama said any U.S. mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014 would focus solely on counterterrorism operations and training Afghan security forces, whose progress he described optimistically on Friday.
Obama would not specify how many troops he may leave in Afghanistan to accomplish those tasks, but he said it will be “a very limited mission, and it is not one that would require the same kind of footprint, obviously, that we’ve had over the last 10 years in Afghanistan.”
Within the White House, some officials are pushing to keep a force as small as 2,500 past 2014, far lower than the 10,000 to 30,000 that some U.S. officials and NATO allies were discussing as recently as a year ago. And Obama’s positive public assessment Friday will likely make it far more difficult for military officials to make the case for a more gradual drawdown than the White House wants.
Afghan forces have taken the lead in security operations in most of the country already, but Obama’s emphasis on the faster transition Friday suggested that he intends to use the shift to withdraw forces on an accelerated timeline. He called the spring transfer of responsibilities “a historic moment and another step toward full Afghan sovereignty.”
Karzai has complained frequently that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan threatens his country's independence, often drawing the anger of Obama and his senior advisers in doing so.
But unlike Iraq, Afghanistan has few natural resources and little national wealth, giving Karzai a greater incentive to push for an immunity agreement that would help keep U.S. troops and assistance in his country after 2014. On Friday, Karzai cited Turkey and Germany — two NATO countries that host large U.S. military bases — as possible post-war models for the U.S.-Afghan relationship.
Obama and Karzai hope to have the security agreement, including the immunity guarantee, finalized by November. That would help formalize the U.S. presence in Afghanistan before that country’s next presidential election, expected in the spring of 2014. The issue of American troops could become a feature of that campaign and complicate security negotiations if they have not concluded by then.
Asked on Friday how many U.S. forces should remain after 2014, Karzai said that is “an issue for the United States,” suggesting he would not negotiate vigorously over the number Obama settles on.
“Numbers are not going to make a difference to the situation in Afghanistan,” Karzai said. “The broader relationship will make a difference in Afghanistan and the region.”
Karzai and Obama said they had discussed the Afghan president’s efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with the Taliban, a process the White House refers to as “reconciliation.” The leaders agreed on allowing the Taliban to open an office in Qatar, where Karzai said direct peace talks with Afghan government negotiators will be held.
But Obama noted several times that the war is incomplete — both on the battlefield and in building a stable country.
As U.S. forces leave, Obama emphasized that he expects Afghan leaders to protect the rights of women to participate in public life in a Muslim nation where many are still forced to wear restrictive burqas and have limited avenues to education and jobs.
“The single-best indicator, or one of the single-best indicators, of a country’s prosperity around the world is how does it treat its women,” he said. “Does it educate that half of the population? Does it give them opportunity? When it does, you unleash the power of everyone, not just some.”
Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations
By Craig Whitlock,This is the third of three articles.
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti — Around the clock, about 16 times a day, drones take off or land at a U.S. military base here, the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.
Some of the unmanned aircraft are bound for Somalia, the collapsed state whose border lies just 10 miles to the southeast. Most of the armed drones, however, veer north across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, another unstable country where they are being used in an increasingly deadly war with an al-Qaeda franchise that has targeted the United States.
Camp Lemonnier, a sun-baked Third World outpost established by the French Foreign Legion, began as a temporary staging ground for U.S. Marines looking for a foothold in the region a decade ago. Over the past two years, the U.S. military has clandestinely transformed it into the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone, a model for fighting a new generation of terrorist groups.
The Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the legal and operational details of its targeted-killing program. Behind closed doors, painstaking debates precede each decision to place an individual in the cross hairs of the United States’ perpetual war against al-Qaeda and its allies.
Increasingly, the orders to find, track or kill those people are delivered to Camp Lemonnier. Virtually the entire 500-acre camp is dedicated to counterterrorism, making it the only installation of its kind in the Pentagon’s global network of bases.
Secrecy blankets most of the camp’s activities. The U.S. military rejected requests from The Washington Post to tour Lemonnier last month. Officials cited “operational security concerns,” although they have permitted journalists to visit in the past.
After a Post reporter showed up in Djibouti uninvited, the camp’s highest-ranking commander consented to an interview — on the condition that it take place away from the base, at Djibouti's lone luxury hotel. The commander, Army Maj. Gen. Ralph O. Baker, answered some general queries but declined to comment on drone operations or missions related to Somalia or Yemen.
Despite the secrecy, thousands of pages of military records obtained by The Post — including construction blueprints, drone accident reports and internal planning memos — open a revealing window into Camp Lemonnier. None of the documents is classified and many were acquired via public-records requests.
Taken together, the previously undisclosed documents show how the Djibouti-based drone wars sharply escalated early last year after eight Predators arrived at Lemonnier. The records also chronicle the Pentagon’s ambitious plan to further intensify drone operations here in the coming months.
The documents point to the central role played by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which President Obama has repeatedly relied on to execute the nation’s most sensitive counterterrorism missions.
About 300 Special Operations personnel plan raids and coordinate drone flights from inside a high-security compound at Lemonnier that is dotted with satellite dishes and ringed by concertina wire. Most of the commandos work incognito, concealing their names even from conventional troops on the base.
Other counterterrorism work at Lemonnier is more overt. All told, about 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians and contractors are assigned to the camp, where they train foreign militaries, gather intelligence and dole out humanitarian aid across East Africa as part of a campaign to prevent extremists from taking root.
In Washington, the Obama administration has taken a series of steps to sustain the drone campaign for another decade, developing an elaborate new targeting database, called the “disposition matrix,” and a classified “playbook” to spell out how decisions on targeted killing are made.
Djibouti is the clearest example of how the United States is laying the groundwork to carry out these operations overseas. For the past decade, the Pentagon has labeled Lemonnier an “expeditionary,” or temporary, camp. But it is now hardening into the U.S. military’s first permanent drone war base.
In August, the Defense Department delivered a master plan to Congress detailing how the camp will be used over the next quarter-century. About $1.4 billion in construction projects are on the drawing board, including a huge new compound that could house up to 1,100 Special Operations forces, more than triple the current number.
Drones will continue to be in the forefront. In response to written questions from The Post, the U.S. military confirmed publicly for the first time the presence of remotely piloted aircraft — military parlance for drones — at Camp Lemonnier and said they support “a wide variety of regional security missions.”
Intelligence collected from drone and other surveillance missions “is used to develop a full picture of the activities of violent extremist organizations and other activities of interest,” Africa Command, the arm of the U.S. military that oversees the camp, said in a statement. “However, operational security considerations prevent us from commenting on specific missions.”
For nearly a decade, the United States flew drones from Lemonnier only rarely, starting with a 2002 strike in Yemen that killed a suspected ringleader of the attack on the USS Cole.
That swiftly changed in 2010, however, after al-Qaeda’s network in Yemen attempted to bomb two U.S.-bound airliners and jihadists in Somalia separately consolidated their hold on that country. Late that year, records show, the Pentagon dispatched eight unmanned MQ-1B Predator aircraft to Djibouti and turned Lemonnier into a full-time drone base.
The impact was apparent months later: JSOC drones from Djibouti and CIA Predators from a secret base on the Arabian Peninsula converged over Yemen and killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric and prominent al-Qaeda member.
Today, Camp Lemonnier is the centerpiece of an expanding constellation of half a dozen U.S. drone and surveillance bases in Africa, created to combat a new generation of terrorist groups across the continent, from Mali to Libya to the Central African Republic. The U.S. military also flies drones from small civilian airports in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, but those operations pale in comparison to what is unfolding in Djibouti.
Lemonnier also has become a hub for conventional aircraft. In October 2011, the military boosted the airpower at the base by deploying a squadron of F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets, which can fly faster and carry more munitions than Predators.
In its written responses, Africa Command confirmed the warplanes’ presence but declined to answer questions about their mission. Two former U.S. defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the F-15s are flying combat sorties over Yemen, an undeclared development in the growing war against al-Qaeda forces there.
The drones and other military aircraft have crowded the skies over the Horn of Africa so much that the risk of an aviation disaster has soared.
Since January 2011, Air Force records show, five Predators armed with Hellfire missiles crashed after taking off from Lemonnier, including one drone that plummeted to the ground in a residential area of Djibouti City. No injuries were reported but four of the drones were destroyed.
Predator drones in particular are more prone to mishaps than manned aircraft, Air Force statistics show. But the accidents rarely draw public attention because there are no pilots or passengers.
As the pace of drone operations has intensified in Djibouti, Air Force mechanics have reported mysterious incidents in which the airborne robots went haywire.
In March 2011, a Predator parked at the camp started its engine without any human direction, even though the ignition had been turned off and the fuel lines closed. Technicians concluded that a software bug had infected the “brains” of the drone, but never pinpointed the problem.
“After that whole starting-itself incident, we were fairly wary of the aircraft and watched it pretty closely,” an unnamed Air Force squadron commander testified to an investigative board, according to a transcript. “Right now, I still think the software is not good.”
Djibouti is an impoverished former French colony with fewer than 1 million people, scarce natural resources and miserably hot weather.
But as far as the U.S. military is concerned, the country's strategic value is unparalleled. Sandwiched between East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, Camp Lemonnier enables U.S. aircraft to reach hot spots such as Yemen or Somalia in minutes. Djibouti’s port also offers easy access to the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
“This is not an outpost in the middle of nowhere that is of marginal interest,” said Amanda J. Dory, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for Africa. “This is a very important location in terms of U.S. interests, in terms of freedom of navigation, when it comes to power projection.”
The U.S. military pays $38 million a year to lease Camp Lemonnier from the Djiboutian government. The base rolls across flat, sandy terrain on the edge of Djibouti City, a somnolent capital with eerily empty streets. During the day, many people stay indoors to avoid the heat and to chew khat, a mildly intoxicating plant that is popular in the region.
Hemmed in by the sea and residential areas, Camp Lemonnier’s primary shortcoming is that it has no space to expand. It is forced to share a single runway with Djibouti’s only international airport, as well as an adjoining French military base and the tiny Djiboutian armed forces.
Passengers arriving on commercial flights — there are about eight per day — can occasionally spy a Predator drone preparing for a mission. In between flights, the unmanned aircraft park under portable, fabric-covered hangars to shield them from the wind and curious eyes.
Behind the perimeter fence, construction crews are rebuilding the base to better accommodate the influx of drones. Glimpses of the secret operations can be found in an assortment of little-noticed Pentagon memoranda submitted to Congress.
Last month, for example, the Defense Department awarded a $62 million contract to build an airport taxiway extension to handle increased drone traffic at Lemonnier, an ammunition storage site and a combat-loading area for bombs and missiles.
In an Aug. 20 letter to Congress explaining the emergency contract, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said that 16 drones and four fighter jets take off or land at the Djibouti airfield each day, on average. Those operations are expected to increase, he added, without giving details.
In a separate letter to Congress, Carter said Camp Lemonnier is running out of space to park its drones, which he referred to as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and other planes. “The recent addition of fighters and RPAs has exacerbated the situation, causing mission delays,” he said.
Carter’s letters revealed that the drones and fighter aircraft at the base support three classified military operations, code-named Copper Dune, Jupiter Garret and Octave Shield.
Copper Dune is the name of the military’s counterterrorism operations in Yemen. Africa Command said it could not provide information about Jupiter Garret and Octave Shield, citing secrecy restrictions. The code names are unclassified.
The military often assigns similar names to related missions. Octave Fusion was the code name for a Navy SEAL-led operation in Somalia that rescued an American and a Danish hostage on Jan. 24.
Another window into the Djibouti drone operations can be found in U.S. Air Force safety records.
Whenever a military aircraft is involved in a mishap, the Air Force appoints an Accident Investigation Board to determine the cause. Although the reports focus on technical questions, supplementary documents make it possible to re-create a narrative of what happened in the hours leading up to a crash.
Air Force officers investigating the crash of a Predator on May 17, 2011, found that things started to go awry at Camp Lemonnier late that night when a man known as Frog emerged from the Special Operations compound.
The camp’s main power supply had failed and the phone lines were down. So Frog walked over to the flight line to deliver some important news to the Predator ground crew on duty, according to the investigators’ files, which were obtained by The Post as part of a public-records request.
“Frog” was the alias chosen by a major assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command. At Lemonnier, he belonged to a special collection of Navy SEALs, Delta Force soldiers, Air Force commandos and Marines known simply as “the task force.”
JSOC commandos spend their days and nights inside their compound as they plot raids against terrorist camps and pirate hideouts. Everybody on the base is aware of what they do, but the topic is taboo. “I can’t acknowledge the task force,” said Baker, the Army general and highest-ranking commander at Lemonnier.
Frog coordinated Predator hunts. He did not reveal his real name to anyone without a need to know, not even the ground-crew supervisors and operators and mechanics who cared for the Predators. The only contact came when Frog or his friends occasionally called from their compound to say it was time to ready a drone for takeoff or to prepare for a landing.
Information about each Predator mission was kept so tightly compartmentalized that the ground crews were ignorant of the drones’ targets and destinations. All they knew was that most of their Predators eventually came back, usually 20 or 22 hours later, earlier if something went awry.
On this particular night, Frog informed the crew that his Predator was returning unexpectedly, 17 hours into the flight, because of a slow oil leak.
It was not an emergency. But as the drone descended toward Djibouti City it entered a low-hanging cloud that obscured its camera sensor. Making matters worse, the GPS malfunctioned and gave incorrect altitude readings.
The crew operating the drone was flying blind. It guided the Predator on a “dangerously low glidepath,” Air Force investigators concluded, and crashed the remote-controlled plane 2.7 miles short of the runway.
The site was in a residential area and fire trucks rushed to the scene. The drone had crashed in a vacant lot and its single Hellfire missile had not detonated.
The Predator splintered apart and was a total loss. With a $3 million price tag, it had cost less than one-tenth the price of an F-15 Strike Eagle.
But in terms of spilling secrets, the damage was severe. Word spread quickly about the mysterious insect-shaped plane that had dropped from the sky. Hundreds of Djiboutians gathered and gawked at the wreckage for hours until the U.S. military arrived to retrieve the pieces.
One secret that survived, however, was Frog’s identity. The official Air Force panel assigned to investigate the Predator accident couldn’t determine his real name, much less track him down for questioning.
“Who is Frog?” one investigator demanded weeks later while interrogating a ground crew member, according to a transcript. “I’m sorry, I was just getting more explanation as to who Frog — is that a person? Or is that like a position?”
The crew member explained that Frog was a liaison officer from the task force. “He’s a Pred guy,” he shrugged. “I actually don’t know his last name.”
The accident triggered alarms at the upper echelons of the Air Force because it was the fourth drone in four months from Camp Lemonnier to crash.
Ten days earlier, on May 7, 2011, a drone carrying a Hellfire missile had an electrical malfunction shortly after it entered Yemeni airspace, according to an Air Force investigative report. The Predator turned back toward Djibouti. About one mile offshore, it rolled uncontrollably to the right, then back to the left before flipping belly up and hurtling into the sea.
“I’ve never seen a Predator do that before in my life, except in videos of other crashes,” a sensor operator from the ground crew told investigators, according to a transcript. “I’m just glad we landed it in the ocean and not someplace else.”
Flying every sortie
The remote-control drones in Djibouti are flown, via satellite link, by pilots 8,000 miles away in the United States, sitting at consoles in air-conditioned quarters at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.
At Camp Lemonnier, conditions are much less pleasant for the Air Force ground crews that launch, recover and fix the drones.
In late 2010, after military cargo planes transported the fleet of eight Predators to Djibouti, airmen from the 60th Air Force Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron unpacked the drones from their crates and assembled them.
Soon after, without warning, a microburst storm with 80-mph winds struck the camp.
The 87-member squadron scrambled to secure the Predators and other exposed aircraft. They managed to save more than half of the “high-value, Remotely Piloted Aircraft assets from destruction, and most importantly, prevented injury and any loss of life,” according to a brief account published in Combat Edge, an Air Force safety magazine.
Even normal weather conditions could be brutal, with summertime temperatures reaching 120 degrees on top of 80 percent humidity.
“Our war reserve air conditioners literally short-circuited in the vain attempt to cool the tents in which we worked,” recalled Lt. Col. Thomas McCurley, the squadron commander. “Our small group of security forces personnel guarded the compound, flight line and other allied assets at posts exposed to the elements with no air conditioning at all.”
McCurley’s rare public account of the squadron’s activities came in June, when the Air Force awarded him a Bronze Star. At the ceremony, he avoided any explicit mention of the Predators or Camp Lemonnier. But his narrative matched what is known about the squadron’s deployment to Djibouti.
“Our greatest accomplishment was that we flew every single sortie the Air Force asked us to fly, despite the challenges we encountered,” he said. “We were an integral part in taking down some very important targets, which means a lot to me.”
He did not mention it, but the unit had gotten into the spirit of its mission by designing a uniform patch emblazoned with a skull, crossbones and a suitable nickname: “East Africa Air Pirates.”
The Air Force denied a request from The Post to interview McCurley.
The frequency of U.S. military flights from Djibouti has soared, overwhelming air-traffic controllers and making the skies more dangerous.
The number of takeoffs and landings each month has more than doubled, reaching a peak of 1,666 in July compared with a monthly average of 768 two years ago, according to air-traffic statistics disclosed in Defense Department contracting documents.
Drones now account for about 30 percent of daily U.S. military flight operations at Lemonnier, according to a Post analysis.
The increased activity has meant more mishaps. Last year, drones were involved in “a string of near mid-air collisions” with NATO planes off the Horn of Africa, according to a brief safety alert published in Combat Edge magazine.
Drones also pose an aviation risk next door in Somalia. Over the past year, remote-controlled aircraft have plunged into a refugee camp, flown perilously close to a fuel dump and almost collided with a large passenger plane over Mogadishu, the capital, according to a United Nations report.
Manned planes are crashing, too. An Air Force U-28A surveillance plane crashed five miles from Camp Lemonnier while returning from a secret mission on Feb. 18, killing the four-person crew. An Air Force investigation attributed the accident to “unrecognized spatial disorientation” on the part of the crew, which ignored sensor warnings that it was flying too close to the ground.
Baker, the two-star commander at Lemonnier, played down the crashes and near-misses. He said safety had improved since he arrived in Djibouti in May.
“We’ve dramatically reduced any incidents of concern, certainly since I’ve been here,” he said.
Last month, the Defense Department awarded a $7 million contract to retrain beleaguered air-traffic controllers at Ambouli International Airport and improve their English skills.
The Djiboutian controllers handle all civilian and U.S. military aircraft. But they are “undermanned” and “over tasked due to the recent rapid increase in U.S. military flights,” according to the contract. It also states that the controllers and the airport are not in compliance with international aviation standards.
Resolving those deficiencies may not be sufficient. Records show the U.S. military is also scrambling for an alternative place for its planes to land in an emergency.
Last month, it awarded a contract to install portable lighting at the only backup site available: a tiny, makeshift airstrip in the Djiboutian desert, several miles from Lemonnier.
A CIA veteran transforms U.S. counterterrorism policy
By Karen DeYoung,This is the second of three articles.
In his windowless White House office, presidential counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan is compiling the rules for a war the Obama administration believes will far outlast its own time in office, whether that is just a few more months or four more years.
The “playbook,” as Brennan calls it, will lay out the administration’s evolving procedures for the targeted killings that have come to define its fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It will cover the selection and approval of targets from the “disposition matrix,” the designation of who should pull the trigger when a killing is warranted, and the legal authorities the administration thinks sanction its actions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.
“What we’re trying to do right now is to have a set of standards, a set of criteria, and have a decision-making process that will govern our counterterrorism actions — we’re talking about direct action, lethal action — so that irrespective of the venue where they’re taking place, we have a high confidence that they’re being done for the right reasons in the right way,” Brennan said in a lengthy interview at the end of August.
A burly 25-year CIA veteran with a stern public demeanor, Brennan is the principal architect of a policy that has transformed counterterrorism from a conventional fight centered in Afghanistan to a high-tech global effort to track down and eliminate perceived enemies one by one.
What was once a disparate collection of tactics — drone strikes by the CIA and the military, overhead surveillance, deployment of small Special Forces ground units at far-flung bases, and distribution of military and economic aid to threatened governments — has become a White House-centered strategy with Brennan at its core.
Four years ago, Brennan felt compelled to withdraw from consideration as President Obama’s first CIA director because of what he regarded as unfair criticism of his role in counterterrorism practices as an intelligence official during the George W. Bush administration. Instead, he stepped into a job in the Obama administration with greater responsibility and influence.
Brennan is leading efforts to curtail the CIA’s primary responsibility for targeted killings. Over opposition from the agency, he has argued that it should focus on intelligence activities and leave lethal action to its more traditional home in the military, where the law requires greater transparency. Still, during Brennan’s tenure, the CIA has carried out hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan and opened a new base for armed drones in the Arabian Peninsula.
Although he insists that all agencies have the opportunity to weigh in on decisions, making differing perspectives available to the Oval Office, Brennan wields enormous power in shaping decisions on “kill” lists and the allocation of armed drones, the war’s signature weapon.
When operations are proposed in Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, it is Brennan alone who takes the recommendations to Obama for a final sign-off.
As the war against al-Qaeda and related groups moves to new locations and new threats, Brennan and other senior officials describe the playbook as an effort to constrain the deployment of drones by future administrations as much as it provides a framework for their expanded use in what has become the United States’ permanent war.
“This needs to be sustainable,” one senior administration official said, “and we need to think of it in ways that contemplate other people sitting in all the chairs around the table.”
A critical player
There is widespread agreement that Obama and Brennan, one of the president’s most trusted aides, are like-minded on counterterrorism policy.
“Ever since the first couple of months, I felt there was a real similarity of views that gave me a sense of comfort,” Brennan said. “I don’t think we’ve had a disagreement.”
But the concentration of power in one person, who is unelected and unconfirmed by Congress, does not sit well with critics.
To many in the international legal community and among human rights and civil liberties activists, Brennan runs a policy so secret that it is impossible for outsiders to judge whether it complies with the laws of war or U.S. values — or even determine the total number of people killed.
“Brennan says the administration is committed to ‘greater transparency,’ ” Human Rights Watch said in response to a speech he gave in May about drones. But despite “administration assertions that ‘innocent civilians’ have not been injured or killed, except in the ‘rarest of circumstances,’ there has been no clear accounting of civilian loss or opportunity to meaningfully examine the administration’s assertions.”
Although outsiders have criticized the policy itself, some inside the administration take issue with how Brennan has run it. One former senior counterterrorism official described Brennan as the “single point of failure” in the strategy, saying he controls too much and delegates too little.
A former top Defense Department official sounded a similar note. “He holds his cards incredibly close,” he said. “If I ask for the right one to be seen, he’ll show it to me. But he’s not going to show me everything he’s got in his hand.”
Michael E. Leiter, who headed the National Counterterrorism Center until mid-2011, described Brennan as a forceful leader and “a critical player in getting this president comfortable with the tools of the trade.”
Leiter said that he and Brennan “disagreed not infrequently” on fleeting issues, including interpretations of a piece of intelligence or how to respond to a specific threat. But there was a more significant issue: Leiter said Brennan was less focused on root causes of radicalization, in part because of how Brennan and the White House defined his job.
Leiter was one of the few people who allowed his name to be used among the nearly dozen current and former senior national security officials interviewed for this article. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity under restrictions imposed by the administration or because they were not authorized to discuss certain issues.
For each of Brennan’s critics, there are many associates who use the words “moral compass” to describe his role in the White House. It is Brennan, they say, who questions the justification for each drone attack, who often dials back what he considers excessive zeal by the CIA and the military, and who stands up for diplomatic and economic assistance components in the overall strategy.
Brennan’s bedrock belief in a “just war,” they said, is tempered by his deep knowledge of the Middle East, Islam and the CIA, and the critical thinking forged during a classic Jesuit education.
Some White House aides describe him as a nearly priest-like presence in their midst, with a moral depth leavened by a dry Irish wit.
One CIA colleague, former general counsel John Rizzo, recalled his rectitude surfacing in unexpected ways. Brennan once questioned Rizzo’s use of the “BCC” function in the agency’s e-mail system to send a blind copy of a message to a third party without the primary recipient’s knowledge.
“He wasn’t joking,” Rizzo said. “He regarded that as underhanded.”
Brennan, 57, was born in the gritty New Jersey town of North Bergen, across the Hudson River from Midtown Manhattan. His Irish-immigrant parents, now in their early 90s, were strict and devout Catholics, traits his brother Tom said Brennan embodied from an early age. “It was almost like I had two fathers,” Tom Brennan said.
John Brennan’s formative experiences at Fordham University, where he earned a degree in political science, included a summer in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, and a junior year at the American University in Cairo, where he studied Arabic and the region that would dominate his intelligence career and greatly influence his White House tenure.
In 1980, soon after receiving a master’s degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin, Brennan answered a CIA recruitment ad in a newspaper. By the middle of the decade, he had spent two years in Saudi Arabia and was among the agency’s leading Middle Eastern analysts.
“He was probably the hardest-working human being I ever encountered,” said a former senior CIA official who worked for Brennan on the Middle East desk. Brennan, he said, was regarded as insightful, even imaginative, but had a seriousness that set him apart.
In 1999, after a second tour in Saudi Arabia as CIA station chief, he returned to headquarters as chief of staff for then-Director George J. Tenet. In 2001, he became deputy executive director, just months before a team of al-Qaeda operatives — most of them from Saudi Arabia — used four hijacked U.S. airliners to kill nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11.
‘I . . . do what I think is right’
Brennan’s belief in his competence and probity has sometimes led to political blind spots. Tenet tapped him in 2003 to build the new CIA-based Terrorist Threat Integration Center to bridge pre-Sept. 11 intelligence gaps. But Brennan was bypassed by the Bush administration a year later for two key jobs — head of the National Counterterrorism Center and deputy to the new director of national intelligence — largely because of his criticism of the Iraq war.
As a private citizen after leaving government, Brennan spoke publicly about counterterrorism controversies of the day. He defended the CIA’s rendition of suspected terrorists as “an absolutely vital tool” but described waterboarding as within “the classic definition of torture.” Brennan also criticized the military as moving too far into traditional intelligence spheres.
His career in government appeared to be over until he was invited in late 2007 to join the nascent presidential campaign of Barack Obama. Although Obama and Brennan did not meet until after the election, their first conversation during the transition revealed profound harmony on issues of intelligence and what the president-elect called the “war against al-Qaeda.”
But when Brennan’s name circulated as Obama’s choice to head the CIA, he again came under political fire — this time from liberals who accused him of complicity in the agency’s use of brutal interrogation measures under Bush. Spooked by the criticism, Obama quickly backtracked and Brennan withdrew.
“It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration such as preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include waterboarding,” he wrote in an angry withdrawal letter released to the media.
Several former intelligence colleagues said that, although Brennan had criticized the CIA interrogation methods after he left the government, they could not recall him doing so as a senior executive at the agency.
Brennan was given responsibility in the White House for counterterrorism and homeland security, a position that required no Senate confirmation and had no well-defined duties. At the outset, colleagues said they wondered what his job would be.
But to a young administration new to the secret details of national security threats and responsibilities, Brennan was a godsend.
And for the man passed over for other posts, it was vindication. “I’ve been crucified by the left and the right, equally so,” and rejected by the Bush administration “because I was not seen as someone who was a team player,” Brennan said in the interview.
“I’m probably not a team player here, either,” he said of the Obama administration. “I tend to do what I think is right. But I find much more comfort, I guess, in the views and values of this president.”
Brennan and others on the inside found that Obama, hailed as a peacemaker by the left and criticized by the right as a naive pacifist, was willing to move far more aggressively than Bush against perceived extremists.
Yemen is a ‘model’
From the outset, Brennan expressed concern about the spread of al-Qaeda beyond South Asia, particularly to Yemen, according to administration officials involved in the early talks.
U.S. counterterrorism policy had long been concentrated on Pakistan, where the Bush administration had launched sporadic CIA drone attacks against senior al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Within two years, Obama had more than tripled the number of strikes in Pakistan, from 36 in 2008 to 122 in 2010, according to the New America Foundation.
Eventually, Obama and Brennan decided the program was getting out of hand. High-value targets were becoming elusive, accusations of civilian deaths were rising, and strikes were increasingly directed toward what the angry Pakistanis called mere “foot soldiers.”
But with Pakistan’s adamant refusal to allow U.S. military operations on its soil, taking what was considered a highly successful program out of CIA hands was viewed as counterproductive and too complicated. Although CIA strikes in other countries and military strikes outside Afghanistan require Obama’s approval, the agency has standing permission to attack targets on an approved list in Pakistan without asking the White House.
Although the administration has “wrestled with” the Pakistan program, it was always considered an initiative of the previous administration, a senior official said. In Yemen, the Obama team began to build its own counterterrorism architecture.
The turning point came on Christmas Day in 2009, when a Nigerian trained by Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group, penetrated post-Sept. 11 defenses and nearly detonated a bomb aboard a Detroit-bound airliner.
In the wake of the failed attack, Brennan “got more into tactical issues,” said Leiter, the former NCTC head. “He dug into more operational stuff than he had before.”
Brennan made frequent visits to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, its closest neighbor and the dominant regional power. He used his longtime contacts in the region to cement a joint U.S.-Saudi policy that would ultimately — with the help of Yemen’s Arab Spring revolt — bring a more cooperative government to power. He often spoke of the need to address “upstream” problems of poverty and poor governance that led to “downstream” radicalization, and pushed for economic aid to buttress a growing military and intelligence presence.
Yemen quickly became the place where the United States would “get ahead of the curve” on terrorism that had become so difficult to round in Pakistan, one official said. As intelligence and military training programs were expanded, the military attacked AQAP targets in Yemen and neighboring Somalia using both fixed-wing aircraft and drones launched from a base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
Despite Brennan’s professed dismay at the transformation of the CIA into a paramilitary entity with killing authority, the agency was authorized to operate its own armed aircraft out of a new base in the Arabian Peninsula.
Beginning in 2011, discussions on targeting, strikes and intelligence that had been coordinated by a committee set up by Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were gradually drawn into the White House under Brennan, who, according to several accounts, struggled to pare back increasingly expansive target lists in Yemen. At one meeting last year, one senior official said, Obama weighed in to warn that Yemen was not Afghanistan, and that “we are not going to war in Yemen.”
Today, Brennan said, “there are aspects of the Yemen program that I think are a true model of what I think the U.S. counterterrorism community should be doing” as it tracks the spread of al-Qaeda allies across Northern Africa.
As targets move to different locations, and new threats “to U.S. interests and to U.S. persons and property” are identified in Africa and elsewhere, Brennan described a step-by-step program of escalation. “First and foremost, I would want to work through local authorities and see whether or not we can provide them the intelligence, and maybe even give them some enhanced capability, to take action to bring that person to justice,” he said.
For those governments that are “unwilling or unable” to act, he said, “then we have an obligation as a government to protect our people, and if we need then to take action ourselves . . . we look at what those options are as well.”
In late August, Brennan said he saw no need “to go forward with some kind of kinetic action in places like Mali,” where al-Qaeda allies have seized control of a broad swath of territory. Since then, Brennan and other officials have begun to compare the situation in Mali to Somalia, where drone and other air attacks have supplemented a U.S.-backed African military force.
An opaque process
Where Obama and Brennan envision a standardized counterterrorism program bound by domestic and international law, some others see a secretive killing machine of questionable legality and limitless expansion.
Many civil libertarians and human rights experts disdain claims by Brennan and others that the drone program has become increasingly transparent, noting that the administration has yet to provide even minimal details about targeting decisions or to take responsibility for the vast majority of attacks.
“For more than two years, senior officials have been making claims about the program both on the record and off. They’ve claimed that the program is effective, lawful and closely supervised,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said last month in appealing repeated court refusals to force the administration to release more information.
Some critics have described it as immoral, rejecting the administration’s claims that few civilians have been among the nearly 3,000 people estimated to have been killed in drone attacks. There is ample evidence in Pakistan that the more than 300 strikes launched under Obama have helped turn the vast majority of the population vehemently against the United States.
None of the United States’ chief allies has publicly supported the targeted killings; many of them privately question the administration’s claim that it comports with international law and worry about the precedent it sets for others who inevitably will acquire the same technology.
To the extent that it aspires to make the program’s standards and processes more visible, the playbook has been a source of friction inside the administration. “Other than the State Department, there are not a lot of advocates for transparency,” one official said. Some officials expressed concern that the playbook has become a “default” option for counterterrorism.
The CIA, which declined to comment for this article, is said to oppose codifying procedures that might lock it into roles it cannot expand or maneuver around in the future. Directors at most national security agencies agree on targeting rules that are already in place, an official close to Brennan said. But “when it’s written down on paper, institutions may look at it in a different way.”
The CIA, which is preparing a proposal to increase its drone fleet, considers Brennan “a rein, a constrainer. He is using his intimate knowledge of intelligence and the process to pick apart their arguments that might be expansionary,” a senior official outside the White House said.
Two administration officials said that CIA drones were responsible for two of the most controversial attacks in Yemen in 2011 — one that killed American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and a second a few days later that killed his 16-year-old son, also an American citizen. One of the officials called the second attack “an outrageous mistake. . . . They were going after the guy sitting next to him.”
Both operations remain secret and unacknowledged, because of what officials said were covert-
action rules that tied their hands when it came to providing information.
Some intelligence officials said Brennan has made little substantive effort to shift more responsibility to the military. But Brennan and others described a future in which the CIA is eased out of the clandestine-killing business, and said the process will become more transparent under Defense Department oversight and disclosure rules.
“Deniable missions” are not the military norm, one official said.
Said Brennan: “I think the president always needs the ability to do things under his chief executive powers and authorities, to include covert action.” But, he added, “I think the rule should be that if we’re going to take actions overseas that result in the deaths of people, the United States should take responsibility for that.”
One official said that “for a guy whose reputation is focused on how tough he is on counterterrorism,” Brennan is “more focused than anybody in the government on the legal, ethical and transparency questions associated with all this.” By drawing so much decision-making directly into his own office, said another, he has “forced a much better process at the CIA and the Defense Department.”
Even if Obama is reelected, Brennan may not stay for another term. That means someone else is likely to be interpreting his playbook.
“Do I want this system to last forever?” a senior official said. “No. Do I think it’s the best system for now? Yes.”
“What is scary,” he concluded, “is the apparatus set up without John to run it.”
Greg Miller and Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists
By Greg Miller,Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”
The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.
Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.
Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.
“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do. . . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”
That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism. Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero.
Meanwhile, a significant milestone looms: The number of militants and civilians killed in the drone campaign over the past 10 years will soon exceed 3,000 by certain estimates, surpassing the number of people al-Qaeda killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Obama administration has touted its successes against the terrorist network, including the death of Osama bin Laden, as signature achievements that argue for President Obama’s reelection. The administration has taken tentative steps toward greater transparency, formally acknowledging for the first time the United States’ use of armed drones.
Less visible is the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war. Spokesmen for the White House, the National Counterterrorism Center, the CIA and other agencies declined to comment on the matrix or other counterterrorism programs.
Privately, officials acknowledge that the development of the matrix is part of a series of moves, in Washington and overseas, to embed counterterrorism tools into U.S. policy for the long haul.
White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.
CIA Director David H. Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones, U.S. officials said. The proposal, which would need White House approval, reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-Sept. 11 focus on gathering intelligence.
The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, which carried out the raid that killed bin Laden, has moved commando teams into suspected terrorist hotbeds in Africa. A rugged U.S. outpost in Djibouti has been transformed into a launching pad for counterterrorism operations across the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.
JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command’s targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a “national capital region” task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists.
The developments were described by current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
These counterterrorism components have been affixed to a legal foundation for targeted killing that the Obama administration has discussed more openly over the past year. In a series of speeches, administration officials have cited legal bases, including the congressional authorization to use military force granted after the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as the nation’s right to defend itself.
Critics contend that those justifications have become more tenuous as the drone campaign has expanded far beyond the core group of al-Qaeda operatives behind the strikes on New York and Washington. Critics note that the administration still doesn’t confirm the CIA’s involvement or the identities of those who are killed. Certain strikes are now under legal challenge, including the killings last year in Yemen of U.S.-born al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son.
Counterterrorism experts said the reliance on targeted killing is self-perpetuating, yielding undeniable short-term results that may obscure long-term costs.
“The problem with the drone is it’s like your lawn mower,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and Obama counterterrorism adviser. “You’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.”
An evolving database
The United States now operates multiple drone programs, including acknowledged U.S. military patrols over conflict zones in Afghanistan and Libya, and classified CIA surveillance flights over Iran.
Strikes against al-Qaeda, however, are carried out under secret lethal programs involving the CIA and JSOC. The matrix was developed by the NCTC, under former director Michael Leiter, to augment those organizations’ separate but overlapping kill lists, officials said.
The result is a single, continually evolving database in which biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations are all catalogued. So are strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols.
Obama’s decision to shutter the CIA’s secret prisons ended a program that had become a source of international scorn, but it also complicated the pursuit of terrorists. Unless a suspect surfaced in the sights of a drone in Pakistan or Yemen, the United States had to scramble to figure out what to do.
“We had a disposition problem,” said a former U.S. counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix.
The database is meant to map out contingencies, creating an operational menu that spells out each agency’s role in case a suspect surfaces in an unexpected spot. “If he’s in Saudi Arabia, pick up with the Saudis,” the former official said. “If traveling overseas to al-Shabaab [in Somalia] we can pick him up by ship. If in Yemen, kill or have the Yemenis pick him up.”
Officials declined to disclose the identities of suspects on the matrix. They pointed, however, to the capture last year of alleged al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame off the coast of Yemen. Warsame was held for two months aboard a U.S. ship before being transferred to the custody of the Justice Department and charged in federal court in New York.
“Warsame was a classic case of ‘What are we going to do with him?’ ” the former counterterrorism official said. In such cases, the matrix lays out plans, including which U.S. naval vessels are in the vicinity and which charges the Justice Department should prepare.
“Clearly, there were people in Yemen that we had on the matrix,” as well as others in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the former counterterrorism official said. The matrix was a way to be ready if they moved. “How do we deal with these guys in transit? You weren’t going to fire a drone if they were moving through Turkey or Iran.”
Officials described the matrix as a database in development, although its status is unclear. Some said it has not been implemented because it is too cumbersome. Others, including officials from the White House, Congress and intelligence agencies, described it as a blueprint that could help the United States adapt to al-Qaeda’s morphing structure and its efforts to exploit turmoil across North Africa and the Middle East.
A year after Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta declared the core of al-Qaeda near strategic defeat, officials see an array of emerging threats beyond Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia — the three countries where almost all U.S. drone strikes have occurred.
The Arab spring has upended U.S. counterterrorism partnerships in countries including Egypt where U.S. officials fear al-Qaeda could establish new roots. The network’s affiliate in North Africa, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has seized territory in northern Mali and acquired weapons that were smuggled out of Libya.
“Egypt worries me to no end,” a high-ranking administration official said. “Look at Libya, Algeria and Mali and then across the Sahel. You’re talking about such wide expanses of territory, with open borders and military, security and intelligence capabilities that are basically nonexistent.”
Streamlining targeted killing
The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.
Before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States recoiled at the idea of targeted killing. The Sept. 11 commission recounted how the Clinton administration had passed on a series of opportunities to target bin Laden in the years before the attacks — before armed drones existed. President Bill Clinton approved a set of cruise-missile strikes in 1998 after al-Qaeda bombed embassies in East Africa, but after extensive deliberation, and the group’s leader escaped harm.
Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.
This year, the White House scrapped a system in which the Pentagon and the National Security Council had overlapping roles in scrutinizing the names being added to U.S. target lists.
Now the system functions like a funnel, starting with input from half a dozen agencies and narrowing through layers of review until proposed revisions are laid on Brennan’s desk, and subsequently presented to the president.
Video-conference calls that were previously convened by Adm. Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been discontinued. Officials said Brennan thought the process shouldn’t be run by those who pull the trigger on strikes.
“What changed is rather than the chairman doing that, John chairs the meeting,” said Leiter, the former head of the NCTC.
The administration has also elevated the role of the NCTC, which was conceived as a clearinghouse for threat data and has no operational capability. Under Brennan, who served as its founding director, the center has emerged as a targeting hub.
Other entities have far more resources focused on al-Qaeda. The CIA, JSOC and U.S. Central Command have hundreds of analysts devoted to the terrorist network’s franchise in Yemen, while the NCTC has fewer than two dozen. But the center controls a key function.
“It is the keeper of the criteria,” a former U.S. counterterrorism official said, meaning that it is in charge of culling names from al-Qaeda databases for targeting lists based on criteria dictated by the White House.
The criteria are classified but center on obvious questions: Who are the operational leaders? Who are the key facilitators? A typical White House request will direct the NCTC to generate a list of al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen involved in carrying out or plotting attacks against U.S. personnel in Sanaa.
The lists are reviewed at regular three-month intervals during meetings at the NCTC headquarters that involve analysts from other organizations, including the CIA, the State Department and JSOC. Officials stress that these sessions don’t equate to approval for additions to kill lists, an authority that rests exclusively with the White House.
With no objections — and officials said those have been rare — names are submitted to a panel of National Security Council officials that is chaired by Brennan and includes the deputy directors of the CIA and the FBI, as well as top officials from the State Department, the Pentagon and the NCTC.
Obama approves the criteria for lists and signs off on drone strikes outside Pakistan, where decisions on when to fire are made by the director of the CIA. But aside from Obama’s presence at “Terror Tuesday” meetings — which generally are devoted to discussing terrorism threats and trends rather than approving targets — the president’s involvement is more indirect.
“The president would never come to a deputies meeting,” a senior administration official said, although participants recalled cases in which Brennan stepped out of the situation room to get Obama’s direction on questions the group couldn’t resolve.
The review process is compressed but not skipped when the CIA or JSOC has compelling intelligence and a narrow window in which to strike, officials said. The approach also applies to the development of criteria for “signature strikes,” which allow the CIA and JSOC to hit targets based on patterns of activity — packing a vehicle with explosives, for example — even when the identities of those who would be killed is unclear.
A model approach
For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.
During Monday’s presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney made it clear that he would continue the drone campaign. “We can’t kill our way out of this,” he said, but added later that Obama was “right to up the usage” of drone strikes and that he would do the same.
As Obama nears the end of his term, officials said the kill list in Pakistan has slipped to fewer than 10 al-Qaeda targets, down from as many as two dozen. The agency now aims many of its Predator strikes at the Haqqani network, which has been blamed for attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
In Yemen, the number of militants on the list has ranged from 10 to 15, officials said, and is not likely to slip into the single digits anytime soon, even though there have been 36 U.S. airstrikes this year.
The number of targets on the lists isn’t fixed, officials said, but fluctuates based on adjustments to criteria. Officials defended the arrangement even while acknowledging an erosion in the caliber of operatives placed in the drones’ cross hairs.
“Is the person currently Number 4 as good as the Number 4 seven years ago? Probably not,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official involved in the process until earlier this year. “But it doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.”
In focusing on bureaucratic refinements, the administration has largely avoided confronting more fundamental questions about the lists. Internal doubts about the effectiveness of the drone campaign are almost nonexistent. So are apparent alternatives.
“When you rely on a particular tactic, it starts to become the core of your strategy — you see the puff of smoke, and he’s gone,” said Paul Pillar, a former deputy director of the CIA’s counterterrorism center. “When we institutionalize certain things, including targeted killing, it does cross a threshold that makes it harder to cross back.”
For a decade, the dimensions of the drone campaign have been driven by short-term objectives: the degradation of al-Qaeda and the prevention of a follow-on, large-scale attack on American soil.
Side effects are more difficult to measure — including the extent to which strikes breed more enemies of the United States — but could be more consequential if the campaign continues for 10 more years.
“We are looking at something that is potentially indefinite,” Pillar said. “We have to pay particular attention, maybe more than we collectively have so far, to the longer-term pros and cons to the methods we use.”
Obama administration officials at times have sought to trigger debate over how long the nation might employ the kill lists. But officials said the discussions became dead ends.
In one instance, Mullen, the former Joint Chiefs chairman, returned from Pakistan and recounted a heated confrontation with his counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Mullen told White House and counterterrorism officials that the Pakistani military chief had demanded an answer to a seemingly reasonable question: After hundreds of drone strikes, how could the United States possibly still be working its way through a “top 20” list?
The issue resurfaced after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. Seeking to repair a rift with Pakistan, Panetta, the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left and would be able to wind down the drone campaign.
A senior aide to Panetta disputed this account, and said Panetta mentioned the shrinking target list during his trip to Islamabad but didn’t raise the prospect that drone strikes would end. Two former U.S. officials said the White House told Panetta to avoid even hinting at commitments the United States was not prepared to keep.
“We didn’t want to get into the business of limitless lists,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who spent years overseeing the lists. “There is this apparatus created to deal with counterterrorism. It’s still useful. The question is: When will it stop being useful? I don’t know.”
Karen DeYoung, Craig Whitlock and Julie Tate contributed to this report.
The U.S. has more than enough combat tanks in the field to meet the nation’s defense needs – so there’s no sense in making repairs to these now, the Army’s chief of staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told Congress earlier this year.http://dailyagenda.org/2012/10/10/congress-set-to-spend-3-billion-on-tanks-but-army-says-it-doesnt-want-them/
If the Pentagon holds off repairing, refurbishing or making new tanks for three years until new technologies are developed, the Army says it can save taxpayers as much as $3 billion.
CNN was allowed rare access to what amounts to a parking lot for more than 2,000 M-1 Abrams tanks. Here, about an hour's drive north of Reno, Nevada, the tanks have been collecting dust in the hot California desert because of a tiff between the Army and Congress.
The U.S. has more than enough combat tanks in the field to meet the nation's defense needs - so there's no sense in making repairs to these now, the Army's chief of staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told Congress earlier this year.
If the Pentagon holds off repairing, refurbishing or making new tanks for three years until new technologies are developed, the Army says it can save taxpayers as much as $3 billion.
That may seem like a lot of money, but it's a tiny sacrifice for a Defense Department that will cut $500 billion from its budget over the next decade and may be forced to cut a further $500 billion if a deficit cutting deal is not reached by Congress.
Why is this a big deal? For one, the U.S. hasn't stopped producing tanks since before World War II, according to lawmakers.
Plus, from its point of view the Army would prefer to decide what it needs and doesn't need to keep America strong while making tough economic cuts elsewhere.
"When a relatively conservative institution like the U.S. military, which doesn't like to take risks because risks get people killed, says it has enough tanks, I think generally civilians should be inclined to believe them," said Travis Sharp a fellow at the defense think tank, New American Security.
But guess which group of civilians isn't inclined to agree with the generals on this point?
To be exact, 173 House members - Democrats and Republicans - sent a letter April 20 to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, urging him to continue supporting their decision to produce more tanks.
That's right. Lawmakers who frequently and loudly proclaim that presidents should listen to generals when it comes to battlefield decisions are refusing to take its own advice.
If the U.S. pauses tank production and refurbishment it will hurt the nation's industrial economy, lawmakers say.
"The combat vehicle industrial base is a unique asset that consists of hundreds of public and private facilities across the United States," the letter said. The outlook for selling Abrams tanks to other nations appears "stronger than prior years," the letter said. But those sales would be "inadequate to sustain the industrial base and in some cases uncertain. In light of this, modest and continued Abrams production for the Army is necessary to protect the industrial base."
Lima, Ohio, is a long way from this dusty tank parking lot. The tiny town in the northwestern part of the Buckeye State is where defense manufacturing heavyweight General Dynamics makes these 60-plus-ton behemoths.
The tanks create 16,000 jobs and involve 882 suppliers, says Kendell Pease, the company's vice-president of government relations and communications. That job figure includes ancillary positions like gas station workers who fill up employees' cars coming and going to the plant.
Many of the suppliers for tank manufacturing are scattered around the country so the issue of stopping production or refurbishment becomes a parochial one: congressional representatives don't want to kill any jobs in their districts, especially as the economy struggles during an election year.
"General Dynamics is not the industrial base," Pease said. "It is small vendors."
But General Dynamics certainly has a stake in the battle of the tanks and is making sure its investment is protected, according to research done by The Center for Public Integrity, a journalism watchdog group.
What its reporters found was General Dynamics campaign contributions given to lawmakers at key times, such as around congressional hearings, on whether or not to build more tanks.
"We aren't saying there's vote buying" said Aaron Metha, one of the report's authors. "We are saying it's true in pretty much all aspects of politics - but especially the defense industry. It's almost impossible to separate out the money that is going into elections and the special interests. And what we found was the direct spike in the giving around certain important dates that were tied to votes."
Pease said General Dynamics is bipartisan in its giving and there is nothing suspicious in the timing of its donations to members of the House and Senate. The giving is tied to when fundraisers are held in Washington - which is also when Congress is in session, he said.
Lawmakers that CNN interviewed denied that donations influenced their decisions to keep the tanks rolling.
Rep. Buck McKeon, a Republican from California and chairman of the House armed services committee, said he didn't know General Dynamics had given him $56,000 in campaign contributions since 2009 until CNN asked him about it.
"You know, the Army has a job to do and we have a job to do," McKeon said. "And they have tough choices because they've been having their budget cut."
McKeon said he's thinking about the long range view. "... If someone could guarantee us that we'll never need tanks in the future, that would be good. I don't see that guarantee."
Similarly, his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who has received $64,000 from General Dynamics since 2001, said he is worried about the workforce if the Lima plant is closed for three years.
"Listen, we don't want to play Russian Roulette with the national security of this country," Reyes said.
Odierno explained to the committee that it would be cheaper to shut down the tank plant and then restart it in 2017. But his plea was ignored.
"Lima would cost us $2.8 billion just to keep that open and our tank fleet is in good shape and we don't need to because of the great support that we have gotten over the last two years," he told the committee.
But General Dynamics said it will cost a lot less to keep the plant open. Pease said the Army hasn't factored in the huge costs of closing the plant and the potential loss of skilled workers who will be needed come 2017 when the Army plans to remodel the Abrams tank.
"It's not whether they need those tanks, it's how much it costs to restart it," said Pease. General Dynamics, he said, will survive with or without refurbishing tanks over the next three years.
So how did Congress respond to Gen. Odeirno's request to shut down production until 2017?
The answer came in the proposed congressional budget for next year. It includes $181 million for tanks the Army doesn't want or need now. That begs another question: who will likely get the money for the 70 or so tanks covered by that contract when it goes out for bid?
"General Dynamics would probably get the contract for it anyway because they are kind of the ones that are out there leading the way on this," said McKeon.
The Army tank battle sends an unsettling message to the Defense Department, says Sharp, with the defense think tank. But it's a message that may not surprise a public weary from decades of battles and horse-trading that have defined Capitol Hill.
"The fact that the military is having such a hard time getting this relatively small amount of money to be saved, I think is an indication of the huge uphill fight that the military faces when it comes to Congress," Sharp said. "Congress is going to fight tooth and nail to protect defense investments that benefit their constituents and the people that live in their states."
Maybe the next time the generals go up to the Hill, they should take a cue from the well-protected tanks parked in California. Perhaps they might consider wearing body armor.
CNN's Sara Anwar contributed to this report.
EISENHOWER'S MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX SPEECH, HIS FAREWELL ADDRESS TO THE NATIONPublic Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040 / DRONE STRIKE HORROR 4OKT12 /
EISENHOWER'S MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX SPEECH, HIS FAREWELL ADDRESS TO THE NATION
Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040
My fellow Americans:
Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.
This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.
Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.
Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.
My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.
In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.
Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.
But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.
The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.
Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.
So -- in this my last good night to you as your President -- I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.
You and I -- my fellow citizens -- need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.
AFGHANISTAN WAR DIARY & RETHINK AFGHANISTAN ARTICLES AND INFORMATION
U.S. Casualties In Afghanistan Rise Past 2,000 As Long-Term Costs Of War Remain Unknown 30SEP12 /
Horror Hospital: The Most Shocking Photos And Testimony From The Dawood Military Hospital Scandal 27JUL12 & Report: U.S. General Ignored "Auschwitz-like" Conditions At Afghan Hospital 24JUL12 / MILITARY CONTRACTOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING- DOCUMENTS RELEASED UNDER FOIA FROM THE ACLU 27JUN12 / RETHINK AFGHANISTAN PLAYLIST FROM BRAVE NEW FOUNDATION / 10 YEARS IN AFGHANISTAN: WATCH THE VIDEO "NO MORE WAR" FROM SOJOURNERS 30SEP11 / AFGHANISTAN WEEKLY DIGEST 14JUL11 / KING DAVID'S WAR 2FEB11 / TWO PICTURES FROM AFGHANISTAN SAY EVERYTHING ABOUT THE WAR 14JAN11 / WHY PEACE IS CONTROLLED BY MEN (BUT SHOULDN'T BE) 13JAN11 / OBAMA AND GOPers WORKED TOGETHER TO KILL BUSH TORTURE PROBE 16DEZ10 / BUSH'S BIGGEST WMD LIE? 19NOV10 / THE U.S. SOLDIER WHO KILLED HERSELF AFTER REFUSING TO TAKE PART IN TORTURE 15SEP10 / CHURCHES CALL TO END THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN & A CALL TO END THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN BY THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES 9NOV10 / GROUND TRUTH FROM AFGHANISTAN 26JUN10 / LEAKED REPORTS PAINT 'AN UNVARNISHED AND GRIM' PICTURE OF THE AFGHAN WAR 26JUN10 / AFGHAN WAR DIARY - WIKILEAKS 25JUN10 / A BRIEF REFRESHER ON THE TALIBAN'S WORST-KEPT SECRET 30JUL10 / 5 PASSAGES FROM THE WIKILEAKS "AFGHAN DIARY" THAT BRING THE BIZARRE, TRAGIC REALITY OF WAR TO LIFE 7AUG10 / WIKILEAKS IRAQ WAR LOGS: SECRET FILES SHOW HOW U.S. IGNORED TORTURE 23OKT10
U.S. Casualties In Afghanistan Rise Past 2,000 As Long-Term Costs Of War Remain Unknown
But whether caused by IED, or rocket-propelled grenade, or automatic rifle fire, the casualties are mounting toward a grim milestone. According to a count by the Associated Press, two thousand Americans have given their lives in Afghanistan during a war that has lasted almost 11 years.
The Pentagon announced the latest casualty Sunday: Sgt. 1st Class Riley G. Stephens, a 39-year-old from Tolar, in north central Texas. Assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C., he was killed by enemy small arms fire, the Pentagon said.
American battle casualties have mounted steadily despite a frenetic, decade-long effort by the Pentagon to defeat or defend against the deadly IEDs, often primitive devices made of homemade explosives buried in a plastic bucket, wired to detonation cord with two cast-off flashlight batteries.
Just over 40 percent of American battle casualties in Afghanistan have been caused by IEDs, according to a count by the Brookings Institution. Until recently, the Defense Department had routinely published similar data on the causes of battlefield casualties, but the data was taken off its website because of its sensitive nature, an official told The Huffington Post.
While the official Defense Department count of American deaths in Afghanistan, currently at 1,657, lags behind the AP count, both vastly understate the tragedy and the true human cost of war.
American battle casualties, including dead and wounded, have mounted to 55,216 since the United States launched a war in Afghanistan 11 years ago and then initiated eight years of deadly fighting in Iraq by invading in 2003.
The roster of American wounded -- over 17,000 in Afghanistan and 32,000 in Iraq -- include some 17,000 young Americans with multiple severe wounds. Through July 2012, the Defense Department recorded 1,655 amputations due to battle injuries, acording to data drawn up for The Huffington Post by the U.S. Army Surgeon General. The wounds include those with disabling genital wounds.
But the carnage spreads far beyond physical wounds. According to the Armed Forces Health Survillance Center,
3,299 American troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have been diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury since 2003. That data almost certainly understates the number suffering from mild, moderate or severe brain injury because the military didn't begin testing for TBI on the battlefield until 2007. Even now, precise diagnosis of TBI is not possible, according to the Defense Department's senior TBI specialist.
In cold cash, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost American taxpayers $1.4 trillion. But that's only a down payment, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which estimates that the cost of health care for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans will reach between $40 billion and $55 billion.
Other demands for education, housing and pension benefits will drive the Department of Veterans Affairs' long-term costs into the trillions of dollars, some officials believe.
But any measure of the war's dead, including some 20,000 Afghan civilians and perhaps 100,000 Iraqi civilians, will necessarily fall far short of the true cost of young lives cut off, of grieving families, of children without a parent.
Nor can the burden on the survivors, the 2.5 million Americans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, be properly weighed. Even senior officials at the Pentagon and the VA say privately they cannot accurately describe what life will be like for the severely wounded and their families, who face decades of complex medical care and uncertain rehabilitation.
While the technology of prosthetic limbs has advanced dramatically since 2001, the long-term effects of living with artificial limbs is not known. Nor are the long-term physical and emotional costs of those who have suffered deep burns in IED explosions and are living with extensive and often painful scarring.
Even less is known about the long-term effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Recent studies have suggested that some forms of TBI may subject the wounded to a greater likelihood of degenerative brain disease later in life. But few long-term studies have been completed and the Obama administration recently announced a $100 million boost in research on military brain injury.
Horror Hospital: The Most Shocking Photos And Testimony From The Dawood Military Hospital Scandal 27JUL12 & Report: U.S. General Ignored "Auschwitz-like" Conditions At Afghan Hospital 24JUL12
( http://bucknacktssordidtawdryblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/another-runaway-general-army-deploys.html ). He is a disgrace to our nation and the US Military and must face charges for his crimes in Afghanistan.
The investigation also revealed that Lt. General William B. Caldwell, then commander of the $11.2 billion dollar a year Afghan training program, tried to block the probe and ordered a cover-up.
There are currently two ongoing investigations looking into the Dawood Military Hospital abuses: one centered around the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, the other concerned with Caldwell’s politically-motivated decision to delay investigations into the hospital until after the 2010 elections.
What follows is a very disturbing look inside the Dawood National Military Hospital. It was compiled with sworn eye-witness testimony from the three U.S. Army colonels who blew the whistle on the scandal, as well as never-before published photos obtained by BuzzFeed.
The photos and corresponding descriptions were collected by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan.
The images are extremely graphic.
Colonel Gerald Nicholas Carozza: “Patients were lying in filth, in some cases starving and with grotesque bed sores. One patient was on the brink of starving to death.”
A patient's untreated wound.
“The Patients’ Bill of Rights posters were found ripped off the walls lying on the ground torn to pieces ‘to allow for painting of the walls.’”
"The Auschwitz like conditions at the National Military Hospital.”
Maggots began falling out of this patient's wounds. He died a week later.
Colonel Schuyler K. Geller: "Afghan soldiers’ families have sold their farms and indentured themselves for healthcare in the US- and coalition-supported Daoud Khan Hospital.”
Colonel Mark Fassl: "Open baths of blood draining out of soldiers' wounds, the feces on the floor."
Col. Fassl: "How could we be allowing this type of suffering to go on?"
Col. Geller: “Today, not just in 2010 or 2011, individuals...who perpetrated...unspeakable abuses upon Afghan soldiers, civilians and family members walk the halls of the Daoud Khan hospital unrepentant, unscathed, enriched, and still unprosecuted."
emperic or target Abx therapy, no cultures, no antibiotics."
Rep. John Tierney: "How many people went through that hospital and saw those conditions and said nothing?"
Col. Carozza: “The evidence is clear to me that this was politics with a small p - personal career driven politics."
Col. Geller: “When Col Pagel, accompanied by a young USMC Capt. attorney, asked me if there was any reason to believe LTG Caldwell delayed the investigations into the NMH I replied: ‘Any reason to believe? I know it for a fact.’”
Col. Carozza: "Lt. Gen. Caldwell screamed at these three officers, waving his finger at them for trying to bring in the DOD IG." Caldwell responded: "There is nothing wrong in this command that we can't fix ourselves."
Col. Carozza: “General Caldwell had the request withdrawn and postponed until after the election and then, after the election, tried to intimidate his subordinates into a consensus that it need not move forward at all."
"How could we make this request with elections coming?" Caldwell reportedly said, referring to President Obama. "He calls me Bill."
Caldwell is now running the U.S. Army North Command and is the senior commander of Texas’ Fort Sam Houston.
Of the above photos of patients, only 3 have been previously published. U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan have submitted approximately 70 photos of the abuses for investigation.
Military Contractor Human Trafficking - Documents Released Under FOIA 27JUN12
|REPORT: Victims of Complacency: The Ongoing Trafficking and Abuse of Third Country Nationals by U.S. Government Contractors|
The complaint can be found at www.aclu.org/human-rights/military-contractor-human-trafficking-complaint
The FOIA request can be found at www.aclu.org/human-rights/military-contractor-human-trafficking-foia-req...
Released FOIA Documents
HERE is the link to the RETHINK AFGHANISTAN video playlist available on YouTube, feel free to share.
Thousands of Lives.
Billions of Dollars.
Next Friday, October 7, 2011, marks 10 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan in the name of the “War on Terror.” Sadly, this summer President Obama announced he’ll continue our military presence in the country until 2014, and Congress has agreed to follow his lead.
Where do we go from here?
We’ve put together a short video based on Isaiah 2:4, which reads:
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore."
We hope the video is useful to you for reflecting on where we find ourselves at this point in history and as a tool to start conversations with your church, your friends, and even your family.
CIA says officer first U.S. combat death
First American soldier killed in battle in Afghanistan
Last Updated: Saturday, January 5, 2002 | 9:22 AM ETA U.S. soldier killed Friday in Afghanistan was the first American military death directly caused by enemy fire in the three-month-long conflict.
Sgt. First Class Nathan Ross Chapman, 31, a Green Beret, was on a mission in a remote area near the Pakistan border when he was killed.
"The mission he was on, part of a team, was to co-ordinate with local tribal elements in the vicinity of Gardez and Khowst in order to facilitate co-operation between our forces and the local tribal elements in that region," said Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander in charge of the military operation in Afghanistan.
Franks said no other U.S. soldiers were wounded in what he described as an exchange of small arms fire, however, there are reports a CIA officer was wounded during the same incident. Franks said it was still unclear whether enemy troops were killed or injured during the firefight.
While Franks said he was troubled by the death, he said that overall he was pleased so few U.S. troops have been killed or injured.
"I'm thankful every day we haven't lost more people than we have in this fight," he said.
Franks warned that the war in Afghanistan is far from over, saying there was much dangerous work still to be done.
Five other members of the U.S. military had previously been killed and several injured, but those casualties were blamed on accidents, or U.S. bombs that fell off target.
Mike Spann, a CIA operative also was killed during an uprising by Taliban prisoners in November.
Also on Friday, Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said Mullah Mohammad Omar is surrounded near the city of Baghran in central Afghanistan.
Omar is the former spiritual leader of the Taliban.
Some reports had said Omar was captured, but there is no confirmation of that.
The Pentagon says it cannot confirm Omar's whereabouts, but it would oppose any deal that would allow him to escape.
In Kandahar, Abdullah told reporters that the situation concerning Omar will be made clear sometime in the next two days.
Coalition casualties in Afghanistan
|Coalition deaths in Afghanistan by country USA: 1,717* |
New Zealand: 4
Czech Republic: 4
South Korea: 2
In addition to these deaths in Afghanistan, another 29 U.S. and one Canadian soldier were killed in other countries while supporting operations in Afghanistan. The total also omits the 62 Spanish soldiers returning from Afghanistan who died in Turkey on May 26, 2003, when their plane crashed.
During the first five years of the war, the vast majority of coalition deaths were American, but between 2006 and 2010, a significant proportion were amongst other nations, particularly the United Kingdom and Canada which have been assigned responsibility for the flashpoint provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, respectively. This is because in 2006, ISAF expanded its jurisdiction to the southern regions of Afghanistan which were previously under the direct authority of the U.S. military. As Robert Gates pointed out on June 10, 2011, in his "last policy speech" as U.S. Secretary of Defense, "more than 850 troops from non-U.S. NATO members have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. For many allied nations these were the first military casualties they have taken since the end of the Second World War." Additionally, there have been 54 fatalities among troops from the non-NATO contributors to the coalition (Australia, Sweden, Finland, Georgia, South Korea, Jordan and New Zealand).
With 711 Operation Enduring Freedom and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) deaths, 2010 was the deadliest year for foreign military troops since the U.S. invasion in 2001, continuing the trend that has occurred every year since 2003.
In 2009, there were 7,228 improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Afghanistan, a 120% increase over 2008, and a record for the war. Of the 512 foreign soldiers killed in 2009, 448 were killed in action. 280 of those were killed by IEDs. In 2010, IED attacks in Afghanistan wounded 3,366 U.S. soldiers, which is nearly 60% of the total IED-wounded since the start of the war. Of the 711 foreign soldiers killed in 2010, 630 were killed in action. 368 of those were killed by IEDs, which is around 36% of the total IED-killed since the start of the war to date. Insurgents planted 14,661 IEDs in 2010, a 62% increase over the previous year.
Details regarding the fatalities
United StatesOf the United States deaths, more than 1,415 have died in hostile action. Included in these numbers are 12 CIA operatives that were killed in Afghanistan: seven in a suicide bomb attack on a military base, two in an ambush, one in a shooting attack at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, one in a prison uprising in November 2001, and one in an accident. The independent website iCasualties has put the number of U.S. deaths at 1,648. This number is by four higher than the Department of Defense's tally which is 1,644, when including the intelligence operatives.
As of September 29, 2011, 14,239 United States soldiers have been wounded in action in Afghanistan.
AustralianThe Australian forces in Afghanistan have suffered 29 fatalities. 199 soldiers have been wounded.
BritishAs of September 19, 2011, the British forces have suffered 382 fatalities and 1,781 wounded in action, another 3,418 have suffered from disease or non-battle injuries. Of these, 338 soldiers were killed as a result of hostile action, while 44 are known to have died either as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents, or have not yet officially been assigned a cause of death pending the outcome of an investigation. The vast majority of fatalities have taken place since the redeployment of British forces to the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province in 2006, as only five men died between April 2002 and early March 2006.
CanadianCanada's role in Afghanistan, consisting of operations against the Taliban and other insurgents in southern Afghanistan (Kandahar Province), has resulted in the largest number of fatal casualties for any single Canadian military mission since the Korean War. A total of 156* members of the Canadian Forces have died in Afghanistan between February 2002 and June 24, 2011. Of these, 130 were due to enemy actions, including 97 due to IEDs or landmines, 22 due to RPG, small arms or mortar fire, and 12 due to suicide bomb attacks. Another six Canadian soldiers died due to friendly fire while conducting combat operations. An additional 27 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan as a result of accidents or non-combat circumstances; 6 in vehicle accidents, 4 unspecified non-combat-related deaths, 3 suicide deaths, 2 in a helicopter crash, 2 from accidental falls, 2 from accidental gunshots and 1 death from an illness. 615 soldiers have been wounded in action and 1,244 have received non-battle injuries since April 2002.
In addition to these troop deaths in Afghanistan, 1 Canadian soldier was found dead of non-combat-related causes at Camp Mirage, a forward logistics base in the United Arab Emirates near Dubai.
DanishDenmark, a NATO member, has about 750 troops in Afghanistan, mostly stationed in Helmand province as part of NATO's International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).
Denmark is the country in ISAF that has had the largest number of casualties compared to the country's population. Out of all the countries, Denmark is also the nation which has the largest percentage of its soldiers who have died. Also, Denmark is also among the nations with most troops deployed relative to size.
Denmark's first three deaths were the result of an accident during the disposal of a Soviet-era anti-aircraft missile in 2002. With a new mandate issued by the Danish parliament in 2006, Danish military operations have transformed from relatively safe non-combat operations in the centre of the country to combat operations alongside the British contingent in the violent southern Helmand province. 34 soldiers have been killed in various hostile engagements or as a result of friendly fire, and 7 have been killed in non-combat related incidents, bringing the number of Danish fatalities to 41. More than 100 soldiers have been wounded in action.
DutchA total of 25 Dutch servicemen were killed in Afghanistan. The first two Dutch fatalities were soldiers killed in an accidental helicopter crash in 2006. Since then, one pilot died in a non-hostile F-16 crash, and one soldier committed suicide at Kamp Holland. In 2007, one soldier was accidentally killed when a Patria armoured vehicle overturned at a river crossing near Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan. After that 19 soldiers were killed in action between 2007 and 2010. Finally, the last soldier to die was from an illness a month before the contingent withdrew from the country in December 2010. 140 soldiers were wounded in action.
EstonianEight Estonian soldiers have died in Afghanistan: seven have been killed in action and one in an accident. 43 soldiers have been wounded in action.
FrenchA total of 75 French soldiers have died thus far. 57 soldiers have been killed in action, of the others: seven have died in vehicle accidents, one in a helicopter crash, two committed suicide, two have drowned, one was killed by a lightning strike, two died from a non-hostile gunshot wound, one died in an accidental explosion, one died in friendly fire, and one died of unknown causes.
The largest number of soldiers killed was when French troops were ambushed in the area of Sirobi, some 50 km (30 miles) east of Kabul, in August 2008. Ten French troops were killed and a further 21 wounded in the attack - the heaviest loss of troops France has suffered since deploying to Afghanistan in 2001.
GeorgianGeorgia has thus far suffered 10 deaths and 38 injuries. The first Georgian fatality occurred on September 5, 2010, when 28 years old colonel Mukhran Shukvani was killed in an IED attack. Corporal Alexandre Gitolendia was also seriously wounded in the attack, bringing Georgian casualties to 1 KIA and 1 WIA. Four more Georgian soldiers were killed by a landmine during combat operations on October 1, 2010, in Helmland. On February 21, 2011 Georgia lost another soldier, George Avaliani, while two others were wounded. On March 14, 2011, one of the two injured died in a hospital in Germany and on May 27, 2011 another soldier died. On June 21 a ninth Georgian soldier died of injuries sustained during an attack. On August 31, 2011, junior sergeant Rezo Beridze got killed by sniper fire during a patrol mission, bringing the total fatal casaulties of the Republic of Georgia to 10. 
GermanA total of 53 German soldiers and 3 police officers were killed. 245 service personnel have been wounded in action.
HungarianSeven Hungarians died in Afghanistan. Two EOD members were killed by IEDs. Two were killed in a convoy attack by the Taliban. Two died in a vehicle accident during a convoy-escort task. One died because of heart attack.
ItalianA total of 44 Italians have died in Afghanistan: 31 killed in action (one died a week after being wounded during a raid to rescue him after being captured), seven died in vehicle accidents, two of a heart attack, one due to an accidental weapon discharge, one of illness, one in an accidental airplane crash and one committed suicide.
JordanianA member of the Jordanian spy agency Dairat al-Mukhabarat al-Ammah, was killed in the Forward Operating Base Chapman attack. Also, a Jordanian soldier was killed and three were wounded while escorting a humanitarian convoy in Logar province on May 22, 2011.
New ZealandTwo New Zealand soldiers have been killed in Bamyan Province. The first soldier to be killed was Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell who was killed after his convoy was ambushed on a notorious stretch of road in the province. The second soldier to be killed was Private Kirifi Mila when the Humvee he was in rolled down a 30-metre cliff. A member of the New Zealand SAS was killed in Kabul on 18 August 2011. Another memeber of the New Zealand SAS was killed on 27 September 2011 in Wardak province.
Norwegian10 Norwegian soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan.
Polish27 Polish soldiers (including a military civilian medic) have been killed in action, one died in a vehicle accident and one died due to a non-combat cause. At least 100 soldiers have been wounded in action.
Romanian19 Romanian soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan. More than 40 soldiers have been wounded in action.
SwedishFive Swedish soldiers have been killed in action since 2005. Three in two separate IED incidents and two in a ambush by a ANP uniform wearing insurgent. Several local translators working with the Swedish PRT have been killed.
SpanishOf the Spanish deaths, 17 died in August 2005 when the Eurocopter Cougar helicopter they were travelling in crashed, 12 were killed in separate attacks by insurgents, two died from natural causes, and two died in vehicle accidents. Another 62 died in a Yak-42 plane crash in Turkey on their way back to Spain from Afghanistan.
South KoreanA South Korean officer was shot by a fellow officer for not following an order to speak quietly on the telephone. Another South Korean soldier, Sergeant Yoon Jang-ho, was killed in a suicide bomb attack at Bagram Air Base.
TurkishThe Turkish Army suffered its first deaths on July 14, 2009, when two soldiers were killed in a road traffic accident in Faryab province, between Mazar-i Sharif and Kabul. One of the two killed was the commander of the Turkish contingent of ISAF troops in Afghanistan.
|Coalition deaths in other countries as the result of the war Spain: 62 |
A Canadian soldier was found dead of non-combat-related causes at a forward logistics base in the United Arab Emirates near Dubai.
62 Spanish soldiers died in a Yak-42 plane crash in Turkey on their way back to Spain from Afghanistan.
- War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
- Afghan War order of battle
- British Forces casualties in Afghanistan since 2001
- Canadian Forces casualties in Afghanistan
- Criticism of the War on Terror
- German Armed Forces casualties in Afghanistan
- Civilian casualties of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
- List of aviation accidents and incidents in the War in Afghanistan
- International public opinion on the war in Afghanistan
- Operation Enduring Freedom
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- Taliban insurgency
- Tarnak Farm incident
- ^ a b c d e "Operation Enduring Freedom". iCasualties.org. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ U.S. Defense Department. "Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) U.S. Casualty Status."
- ^ a b "Enduring Freedom Casualties". CNN. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- ^ Robert Gates (June 10, 2011). "Reflections on the status and future of the transatlantic alliance". Security & Defence Agenda. Retrieved 2011-06-13. "Consider that when I became Secretary of Defense in 2006 there were about 20,000 non-U.S. troops from NATO nations in Afghanistan. Today, that figure is approximately 40,000. More than 850 troops from non-U.S. NATO members have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. For many allied nations these were the first military casualties they have taken since the end of the Second World War."
- ^ Day, Thomas L.; Landay, Jonathan S. (December 28, 2009). "U.S. intelligence: 'Time is running out' in Afghanistan". McClatchy Washington Bureau. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ Vanden, Tom (2009-03-16). "Poll: More view Afghan war as 'mistake'". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ U.S. intelligence: 'Time is running out' in Afghanistan
- ^ Vanden, Tom (2011-01-10). "Afghan insurgents match surge with more IEDs". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ Whitlock, Craig (January 26, 2011). "Number of U.S. casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan skyrocketed from 2009 to 2010". The Washington Post.
- ^ "Operation Enduring Freedom | Afghanistan". iCasualties. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "Australian Operation in Afghanistan - Department of Defence". Australian Government, Department of Defence. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ Five diggers wounded in Afghanistan
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- ^ "Operation Iraqi Freedom | Iraq | Fatalities By Nationality". iCasualties. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "Dansk soldat er dræbt i Afghanistan". DR. 2011-07-10.
- ^ John Pike. "First female Danish soldier killed in Afghanistan". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "Another Dutch soldier dies in Afghanistan". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. 2010-05-22. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
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- ^ "Afghanistan | Välisministeerium". Vm.ee. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "Operation Iraqi Freedom | Iraq | Fatalities By Nationality". iCasualties. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
- ^ Tenth Georgia Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Retrieved: September 1, 2011
- ^ Seth Robson. "U.S. training a dual mission for Georgians". Stripes.com. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "28-Year-Old Georgian Officer Dies in Afghanistan - News Agency InterpressNews". New.interpressnews.ge. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ Georgian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Accessed 10/1/2010.
- ^ "Georgian Soldier Died in Afghanistan - News Agency InterpressNews". Interpressnews.ge. 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ Georgian Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Retrieved: June 21, 2011
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- ^ "Georgian Soldier Succumbs Afghan Injuries". Civil.ge. 2001-07-01. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ http://mod.gov.ge/index.php?page=77&lang=1&type=1&Id=1127
- ^ "Grundlagen" (in (German)). bundeswehr.de. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
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- ^ "Jordanian officer dies, 3 injured in Afghanistan bomb blast". Petra.gov.jo. 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "SAS soldier killed in suicide strike". New Zealand Herald. 20 August 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- ^ "Operation Enduring Freedom Norway Fatalities". Icasualties.org. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "No Operation". Presstv.ir. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ The Associated Press (2010-06-23). "2 Romanian soldiers killed in Afghanistan after explosive device hits their vehicle | The Associated Press - Breaking News, New Brunswick, Canada". canadaeast.com. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "Two Romanian soldiers killed in Afghanistan :: EMG :: SEE news". Emg.rs. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ http://english.defense.ro/misiuni/memoriam.php
- ^ a b thinkSPAIN "Spanish soldier killed in Afghanistan accident "
- ^ "Afghanistan News January 30, 2003". Afghanistannewscenter.com. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20090629181329/http://icasualties.org/OEF/byNationality.aspx?hndQry=South+Korea
- ^ "Internet Edition". The Daily Star. 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ "DoD Identifies Army Casualty". News Release. U.S. Department of Defense. September 27, 2003. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- ^ Fox News. May 21, 2007. http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_wires/2007May21/0,4675,CIAFallenOfficers,00.html.
- ^ "Sailor from Amarillo missing in Indian Ocean". Associated Press. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Online. 2001-11-29. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
- Defense Department Casualty Page
- NATO ISAF Press Releases
- Operation Enduring Freedom: Fatalities
- Casualties in Afghanistan & Iraq
- CNN.com - Operation Enduring Freedom Casualties
- US War Watch - Afghanistan casualties tracked by US War Watch
- CBC News Indepth: Afghanistan, Canadian casualties
- British military fatalities in Afghanistan in OEF and ISAF (BBC News)
- Casualty Counter: Afghanistan Casualty Counter
- "War Against Terrorism" in Afghanistan
- Casualty Monitor - Tracking the war in Afghanistan
Casualties and losses
Bagram torture and prisoner abuse · Guantanamo Bay detention camp · Salt Pit · Dasht-i-Leili massacre · Shinwar shooting · Hyderabad airstrike · Nangar Khel incident · Deh Bala wedding party bombing · Azizabad airstrike · Wech Baghtu wedding party attack · Granai airstrike · Kunduz airstrike · Narang night raid · Khataba raid · Uruzgan helicopter attack · Sangin airstrike · FOB Ramrod 'kill team' · Tarok Kolache · Manogi airstrike
Afghanistan Weekly Digest: Ahmed Wali Karzai. Veterans. NATO.by Hannah Lythe 07-14-2011
- Afghan president’s half brother killed by a bodyguard: “President Hamid Karzai’s half brother, the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan and a lightning rod for criticism of corruption in the government, was assassinated Tuesday by a close associate.”
- Veterans face high unemployment after military service: “Unemployment among recently returned veterans, already in double digits, is poised to get worse as more soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan. The jobless rate for veterans who served at any time since September 2001 — called Gulf War-era II veterans — was 13.3 percent in June, up from 12.1 percent the month before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In June 2010 it was 11.5 percent.”
- Petraeus confident as he leaves Afghanistan: “Just days away from the end of his tour as the supreme military commander in Afghanistan, and the end of a 37-year military career, Gen. David H. Petraeus said he was leaving in the belief that his plan to turn around the war and hand over security to the Afghans could be achieved.”
- NATO says airstrike in Afghan province killed women and children: “NATO forces said Thursday that they had unwittingly killed several women and children a day earlier during an early morning air attack against militants in a remote corner of eastern Afghanistan. The American-led coalition also said it was investigating separate reports of civilian deaths in a nearby province.”
- White House changes policy on condolence letters for military suicides: “For several administrations at least, the White House has declined to send letters of condolence to families of troops who committed suicide, even if those suicides occurred in combat zones. The policy was based on concerns within military circles that recognizing such deaths would encourage more suicides. But it infuriated many of those families, who felt they should have received the same kinds of letters sent to families of every service member killed in action.”
King David's War 2FEB11
Petraeus has a new plan to finish the war: Double down on a failed strategy
The Runaway General: The Rolling Stone Profile of Stanley McChrystal That Changed History by Michael Hastings
The hearing started to get interesting after 45 minutes, when Sen. John McCain took the floor. McCain wanted Petraeus, the supreme commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, to say that the deadline President Obama had set for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan — July 2011 — was a bad idea. But the general, while no fan of the deadline, was too shrewd to be drawn into such an obvious spat with his commander in chief. As he evaded McCain's badgering with an almost Clintonian ease, the senator grew increasingly frustrated.
This article appears in the February 17, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue will be available on newsstands and in the online archive February 4th.
"Do you believe that we will begin a drawdown of forces in July 2011, given the situation as it exists today?" McCain prodded.
"It's not given as the situation exists today," Petraeus corrected. "It's given as projections are for that time."
"You believe we can begin a drawdown in July of 2011 under the projected plans that we have?" McCain persisted, rephrasing his question for the third time.
"That is the policy, and I support it," Petraeus answered, taking a sip of water.
The Generals' Revolt: Rolling Stone's 2009 Story on Obama's Struggle With His Own Military
"I understand you're supporting the policy," McCain pressed. He again pushed Petraeus for an answer, and even resorted to quoting his old foe, Vice President Joe Biden: "In July of 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out — bet on it." But a minute later, McCain's expression suddenly changed from one of exasperation to befuddlement. Petraeus had fainted, slumping forward in his chair. "Oh my God," McCain gasped.
The general regained consciousness a few seconds later, and was escorted out of the hearing room with the help of his aides. After recovering from a combination of dehydration and jet lag, he returned under his own power a half-hour later. But the committee, shaken by the unexpected turn of events, decided to adjourn for the day.
Revenge of the Puppet: Rolling Stone's 2010 Story on Hamid Karzai
To those watching, it was shocking to see Petraeus in such a vulnerable state. As a soldier, he had survived being shot in the chest during a training accident in 1991, had broken his pelvis jumping out of an airplane in 2000, and was considered by many to be a hero for engineering the last-ditch "surge" in 2007 that enabled U.S. forces to stage a face-saving withdrawal from the disastrous war in Iraq. In reality, though, it had been a tough year for Petraeus. He had undergone two months of radiation treatment for prostate cancer — a fact he kept private for fear of giving the Taliban a propaganda edge. He had also fallen out of favor with the Obama administration, which was keeping him at arm's length. Under Bush, the general had enjoyed direct and regular access to the White House, speaking with the president once a week during the height of the Iraq War. But Obama and his top advisers were furious at Petraeus for working to "box in" the president during a strategic review the year before, effectively forcing Obama to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The White House was also worried about rumors that Petraeus planned to run for president in 2012. ("They saw him as a general on his white horse," another senior U.S. military official tells me.) Petraeus, the golden boy under Bush, found himself out of the loop for the first time. A month earlier, in a moment of frustration, he reportedly told his spokesman that the White House was "fucking with the wrong guy."
But all of that was about to change. Seven days after Petraeus collapsed during his Senate testimony, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the war in Afghanistan, was summoned back to Washington. McChrystal and his top advisers had been quoted making a host of critical comments about the White House in a profile published in Rolling Stone, and the general's career was suddenly on the line. No one knew whether McChrystal would keep his job; NATO officials had prepared two press releases — one for if he stayed, another for if he was fired. Even the military's top brass was kept out of the loop: Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, viewed as particularly untrustworthy by the Obama administration, was frantically calling NATO headquarters in Brussels to find out what was happening across the Potomac at the White House.
On June 23rd, McChrystal entered the Oval Office. According to a source familiar with the conversation, Obama told the general, "You've done a very good job, but . . . " and then informed McChrystal that he would accept his resignation. Afterward, the president held a meeting of the National Security Council. "I've accepted Stan McChrystal's resignation," Obama told those gathered in the room, according to a senior administration official who attended the session. There was a shocked silence. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had all lobbied hard to keep McChrystal onboard. In the end, it was the president himself, heeding the advice of Biden and National Security Adviser James Jones, who had decided that the general had to go.
Osama's Prodigal Son: The Dark, Twisted Journey of Omar bin Laden
Then Obama made an equally startling announcement: He was placing Petraeus, the commander who had so skillfully undermined him during the strategic review the year before, in charge of the war in Afghanistan. Petraeus had arrived at the White House that morning "with no indication at all" that he was about to get tapped to replace McChrystal, according to a senior military official close to the general. "He walked into a more or less regular NSC meeting," the official says, "and walked out with a new job." The question that Petraeus had been trying to avoid when he collapsed at the Senate hearing a week earlier — When are we getting out of Afghanistan? — was suddenly one he would be forced to answer, and quickly.
Obama and Petraeus met for 40 minutes. A press conference was scheduled in the Rose Garden to break the news — but the announcement couldn't be made public until Obama allowed the general to fulfill one simple request.
How We Lost the War We Won: Rolling Stone's 2008 Journey Into Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan
"Before we announce this," Petraeus told the president, "I better call my wife."
For a brief moment, the appointment of Petraeus united civilian and military leaders in Washington, who had been at war with each other over the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan. Within the Obama administration, doubts about McChrystal's ability to lead had been festering privately for months. In May, a month before the blowup, one White House official had told me that Petraeus was "the one who should really be in charge." The general was widely seen as having enough clout in Washington to alter the course of the war, as he had done in Iraq. If Petraeus can't do it, the thinking went, then no one can — and no one back home could blame Obama for losing with Petraeus in charge.
Photos: Embedded With the Taliban
The irony is that Petraeus had literally written the book on counterinsurgency, the strategy that was failing so miserably in Afghanistan. After serving two years in Iraq, where he oversaw training of the Iraqi army and police, Petraeus returned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 2005. Fed up with what he saw as the Pentagon's outdated, Cold War mentality, he took it upon himself to assemble a handful of the military's most dynamic thinkers and to develop a new field manual, called FM 3-24, which became the basis for America's policy in Iraq. "Counterinsurgency is not just thinking man's warfare," the manual grandly declares of the doctrine now known as COIN. "It is the graduate level of war."
The Insurgent's Tale: Rolling Stone's 2005 Profile of a Soldier Reconsidering Jihad
As McChrystal's boss, Petraeus had also been intimately involved in applying COIN to Afghanistan. During the summer of 2009, he met secretly with McChrystal in Belgium while his subordinate penned an assessment that declared the war on the brink of "mission failure." Petraeus, who graduated two years ahead of McChrystal at West Point, was both a friend and rival to the younger general. Serving under Petraeus in Iraq, McChrystal had overseen the lethal Special Forces operations that had made the surge a tactical success. But once he took charge in Afghanistan, he had struggled to implement the strategy pioneered by his boss. The Taliban, it seemed, were far less cowed by counterinsurgency than Iraq's fractious opposition.
Taking over from McChrystal, Petraeus moved quickly to institute his own, more aggressive version of COIN — one that calls for lots of killing, lots of cash and lots of spin. He loosened the restrictions McChrystal had placed on the rules of engagement, giving U.S. soldiers the green light to use artillery, destroy property and defend themselves more vigorously. He drastically upped the number of airstrikes, launching more than 3,450 between July and November, the most since the invasion in 2001. He introduced U.S. tanks into the battle, unleashed Apache and Kiowa attack helicopters, and tripled the number of night raids by Special Forces. The fighting was calculated to force the Taliban to the bargaining table and reduce NATO casualties, which soared to 711 last year — the highest of the war.
On the political front, Petraeus knew that his primary weapon was money. Unlike McChrystal, who had bent over backward to appease President Hamid Karzai, Petraeus had no qualms about hurting Afghan feelings. Within weeks of assuming command, he went toe-to-toe with Karzai, pushing through a controversial initiative to arm and fund Afghan militias that effectively operate as local gangs, outside the control of the Afghan army and police. He also doled out cash to jump-start reconciliation talks with the Taliban, which had gone nowhere over the past nine years. "Petraeus is big enough," says a senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy. "When Karzai pushes, he pushes right back."
Above all, Petraeus launched a full-scale offensive to reshape how Congress and the American people view the war. One lesson he learned during the surge in Iraq is that it's not what's happening on the battlefield that counts — it's what people in Washington think is happening. As Petraeus wrote in The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam, his 1987 doctoral dissertation at Princeton, "What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred." Success lies in finding the right metrics, telling the right story, convincing the right people we're not losing. The key to victory, Petraeus concluded, is "perception."
After taking over in Afghanistan, the general sat down for interviews with virtually all of the major networks, and his staff is currently grappling with another 130 interview requests. (Petraeus declined to be interviewed for this story.) He also began quietly maneuvering to ditch what he viewed as a major obstacle to success in Afghanistan: the July 2011 deadline that President Obama had set to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.
The White House had announced the date in December 2009, slipping it into a major speech on the war that the president gave at West Point. According to U.S. military officials, who were angered by the announcement, Obama's advisers added the date to the speech without checking with them. The reason: The White House felt it needed to set a public benchmark so it wouldn't get boxed in again by the Pentagon, as it had been during the strategic review earlier that year. "They felt like they got jammed," says a senior U.S. official, "and they didn't want to get jammed again."
In public, Petraeus began walking back the 2011 deadline, saying it wasn't a "sure thing" that the war would be over by 2014. That put him directly at odds with the vice president, who was insisting that U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by 2014 "come hell or high water." In November, at a NATO summit in Lisbon, Petraeus also lobbied U.S. allies to support his plan for prolonged fighting and nation-building. By the end of the conference, NATO's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was telling reporters, "One thing must be very clear: NATO is in this for the long term." The Lisbon summit, says one U.S. official, "finally got everyone's mind off July 2011."
If Petraeus really wanted to extend the war, however, he knew he would have to derail the latest Afghanistan review, a declassified version of which was made public in December. The White House hoped the review, originally billed as a major event, would settle the primary sticking point it had with the Pentagon: How soon, and in what numbers, would U.S. troops begin to leave Afghanistan? As the review started over the summer and barreled forward through the fall, staffers at the National Security Council in Washington and at ISAF headquarters in Kabul pulled 14-hour days to put together a document they could agree on.
From the outside, the process appeared to lack the drama of the highly publicized 2009 review. But behind the scenes, say U.S. officials familiar with the debate, the infighting was just as fierce. Petraeus and his staff squared off against a handful of key players in the White House, most of them closely aligned with Vice President Joe Biden, who has pressed for a faster withdrawal. It was "the optimists versus the pessimists," as one U.S. official who worked on the review puts it. Although the metrics used to judge progress in Afghanistan are classified, U.S. officials familiar with the review say Petraeus focused on a few key statistics to make his case: the growing number of Taliban commanders being killed and captured, evidence that the local population is becoming more receptive to U.S. troops, and signs that more Taliban fighters are joining the government. Military commanders in Afghanistan also stressed what they see as security gains in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. As Petraeus and his allies in the Pentagon sought to reshape the review to their liking, they had "daily battles with the White House," says one U.S. official.
During the review process, Petraeus also clashed with America's intelligence community over what is really going on in Afghanistan. The CIA wasn't buying the military's spin about progress, and the new National Intelligence Estimate — a document that distills the insights of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies — threatened to repeat the "grim" assessment it had offered two years earlier. So the general set out to remake the NIE to his liking. "Petraeus and his staff completely rewrote it," says a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the assessment, which remains classified. Every time the CIA or the NSC cited something negative, Petraeus pushed to include something positive. "There was much more back-and-forth between the military and the intelligence community than usual," says another official who has read the NIE. "The draft I saw reflected this debate."
Thanks to such internal maneuvering, the strategic review did little to clarify the timetable for withdrawal. The final report, in fact, says almost nothing. We are making progress, but that progress is fragile and reversible. We have broken the momentum of the Taliban, but there will still be heavy fighting next year. The troops will start coming home soon, but they won't start coming home soon. We aren't "nation-building," the president says, though we'll stay in Afghanistan past 2014 to build its nation. It was, in the end, a nonreview review, which suited Petraeus just fine, giving him more time to shape the outcome not just in Kabul, but in Washington. As the general had spelled out in his doctoral dissertation, winning the hearts and minds of Congress is what matters most. Or as one U.S. military official puts it, "If anyone can spin their way out of this war, it's Petraeus."
During his time in Iraq, Petraeus earned the nickname King David, for the imperious manner in which he ruled over the ancient city of Mosul. In Afghanistan, a more apt honorific might be the Godfather. To get America out of the war, Petraeus has turned to the network of warlords, drug runners and thieves known as the Afghan government, which the general himself has denounced as a "criminal syndicate." Within weeks of assuming command, Petraeus pushed through an ambitious program to create hundreds of local militias — essentially a neighborhood watch armed with AK-47s. Under Petraeus, the faltering operation has been expanded from 18 districts to more than 60, with plans to ramp it up from 10,000 men to 30,000.
In Afghanistan, however, arming local militias means, by definition, placing guns in the hands of some of the country's most ruthless thugs, who rule their territory with impunity. In the north, Petraeus is relying on Atta Mohammed Noor, a notorious warlord-turned-governor considered to be one of the most powerful men in Afghanistan, to prepare militias for a long fight with the Taliban. Smaller militias in the region — which have been likened to an L.A. "gang" by their own American advisers — are also getting U.S. training. In the east, where violence has significantly increased, efforts to back local strongmen have already resulted in intertribal violence. And in the south, Petraeus has given near-unconditional support to Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president's brother and one of the country's most unsavory gangsters.
"The Americans have backed so many warlords in so many ways, it's very hard to see how you unscramble the egg now," says John Matisonn, a former top U.N. official who left Kabul last June. "There has never been a strategy to get rid of the warlords, who are the key problem. The average Afghan hates them, whether they're backed by the Taliban or the Americans. They see them as criminals. They know that the warlords are fundamentally undermining the rule of law."
The militia strategy that Petraeus is pursuing is essentially one of outsourcing — and no one better represents the plan's disdisturbing downside than Col. Abdul Razzik, who runs the border town of Spin Boldak in southern Afghanistan. Although Razzik's militia is not officially part of the new program being ramped up by Petraeus, the general has singled him out as a model ally in the region. Razzik played a key role during the recent U.S. offensive in Kandahar, and Petraeus himself paid a visit to the colonel last fall. According to Razzik — who, despite his lower rank, also refers to himself as a general — he and Petraeus hit it off, meeting for an hour and a half and exchanging ideas on how to win the war. "General Petraeus and I have very similar opinions," Razzik tells me during a recent interview in an office at his base a few miles from the Pakistani border. "I want to kill the Taliban, he wants to kill the Taliban."
At just under five feet nine, with a neatly trimmed beard and a sly smile, the 34-year-old Razzik is a bundle of charisma. A photo of President Karzai hangs above his desk, which is empty of papers, and his black desktop Dell computer is switched off. Razzik doesn't know how to read, so paper and the Internet would only get in the way of his work, which is basically kicking Taliban ass by any means necessary. By most accounts, he's been doing a pretty bang-up job of it, leading a series of operations in the country's most dangerous province. "We don't take prisoners," Razzik boasts. "If they are trying to kill me, I will try to kill them. That's how I order my men." He pauses, as if recalling the recent PR training he received from U.S. officials. "If they submit and say they made a mistake," he adds, "then, yes, we will take them prisoner."
Exactly how Razzik became the most powerful figure in his province is a bit blurry. By his account, he began fighting the Taliban in 1995, when the religious fundamentalists killed his uncle and took his 11-year-old brother prisoner. Hiding in the sandy mountains south of town, Razzik was taken in by shepherds of his own tribe. He then snuck north to Kabul and Herat, where he fought the Taliban for a few months before returning to Spin Boldak. In 2002, thanks in part to his tribal connections, he was named chief of the border police. With Hamid Karzai as his patron — along with the president's brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, the provincial chief of Kandahar and a suspected drug runner — Razzik consolidated his power, creating one of the most stable districts in Afghanistan. It was a vital district as well, and its proximity to Pakistan offered ample opportunities for self-enrichment for an ambitious young warlord. U.S. military and diplomatic officials soon came to believe that Razzik had become a central figure in a large-scale drug ring, shipping opium over the border. More disturbing reports also started to filter up the chain of command concerning executions and "indiscriminate tactics against men, women and children," according to a human rights official who specializes in Afghanistan.
Razzik's reputation as a killer grew during a military offensive in 2006, when the young commander reportedly terrorized the population of a rival tribe. "People began to say he was here to kill every Noorzai he could find," according to a local elder, in a recent report from the New America Foundation. But the aggressive tactic backfired: "In our area," another elder reported, "the Taliban went from 40 to 400 in days." According to local reports, Razzik's men also stopped 16 civilians on their way to a New Year's celebration and summarily executed them. Razzik was briefly suspended while his men were investigated, but the results of the inquiry were never made public. As Razzik took a leading role in operations around Kandahar last year, more human rights abuses were reported, though eyewitness testimony was hard to come by. "We hear complaints about Razzik," another human rights official tells me, "but people are too afraid of retribution to come forward." A recent report by Human Rights Watch singled out Razzik, coming to the same conclusion. "In Afghanistan, an ordinary person can't do anything," one Afghan civilian told the human rights group. "But a government person can do what he wants — killing, stealing, anything."
The swirling allegations of graft and criminality did give NATO pause. Last February, a deputy to U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry met with a number of U.S. officials charged with combating corruption in Afghanistan, including Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, then serving as McChrystal's intelligence chief. According to a leaked State Department cable, the meeting was intended to figure out how to handle "prominent Afghan malign actors" or "corrupt/criminal Afghan officials." Three Afghan officials — including Razzik and Ahmed Wali Karzai — were specifically discussed based on information from "intel and law-enforcement files." By embracing Razzik, U.S. officials acknowledged, they were undercutting any chance for legitimate governance. "By ascribing unaccountable authority to Razzik," another cable noted, "the coalition unintentionally reinforces his position through its direct and near-exclusive dealings with him on all major issues in Spin Boldak."
U.S. officials briefly considered ways to sideline Razzik and Karzai. Capture them? Take them out? Charge them with corruption? At a minimum, according to a leaked cable, officials thought they should give them a slap on the wrist by limiting their public appearances and cutting off high-profile visits from congressional delegations. That, the cable concluded, would "help change perceptions held by parts of the Afghan public that the U.S. supports, explicitly or implicitly, known corrupt officials."
Once Petraeus assumed command, however, any pretense of even the most minimal punishment became a joke. Razzik received a high-profile visit not only from Petraeus but from Eikenberry as well — which included a photo op. He was also rewarded with more funding and military support, including a dedicated Special Forces team to personally advise him. "Sometimes I travel in the American helicopters," he says with pride. By supporting Razzik, Petraeus is pushing the limits of American law: A condition in the supplemental spending bill passed last year to fund the war explicitly states that no taxpayer money can go to units where there is "credible" evidence of human rights violations. Yet instead of holding Razzik accountable for his crimes, U.S. officials have gone into overdrive to refurbish his image. In October, an American commander in Spin Boldak told The Washington Post that Razzik is a modern-day "Robin Hood." The following month, another U.S. commander gushed to The Wall Street Journal that the young warlord is a "folk hero." In perhaps the most honest assessment, Maj. Gen. Nick Carter endorsed Razzik as "Afghan good enough" — a play on a phrase imported from the Iraq War, "Iraq good enough," which basically suggests a high-grade level of shittiness.
When it comes to American strategy, Razzik represents a trade-off. "On one side," a U.S. official in Kabul tells me, "you have State, DEA, FBI saying, 'Hey, this guy is a smuggler, a criminal, he's letting drugs in over the border.' On the other side, there's the CIA and the military, who are saying, 'This guy is giving us good intel in Panjwaii or Zabul, or wherever else.' " At best, arming known gangsters like Razzik is a short-term fix, designed to give Petraeus a way to gradually lower U.S. casualties and convince the media to go along with the narrative of success. "It's a shortcut to get out," says Thomas Ruttig, a former U.N. official who now runs the Afghan Analyst Network. "Behind us, the flood. Most of what's happening now is driven by an American policy to get out of Afghanistan."
The problem is that the militia program undercuts what is supposed to be a central tenet of counterinsurgency — which, according to a memo issued by Petraeus in August, requires drawing the local population away from the enemy by providing them with "accountable governance." Razzik and his ilk, by contrast, are essentially warlords-in-training, a specter that terrifies Afghans, conjuring up memories of the bad old days when the warlords raped, ruled and pillaged at will. "It reminds me of Soviet times," says Gardesh Saheb, a prominent Afghan journalist. "The militias are a very bad experience for the Afghans. All of the people, all the analysts, all the political groups are against this process. It looks like the end of the communist regime. It's a big mistake."
Arming local warlords also fuels existing rivalries and sets the stage for another Afghan civil war: One of the most high-profile cases from last year ended in disaster when a militia outside Jalalabad, emboldened by an influx of U.S. aid, killed 13 members of another tribe. In dozens of interviews, the only Afghans I met who fully support the militia program are members of the militias. "Americans are always choosing stupid friends here," says Izzatullah Wasifi, a former governor and anti-corruption chief. "Razzik has killed hundreds of people, and Karzai and the rest are all crooked. They're seeking a weak and fragmented state for their own self-interest. We are heading to another civil war. To get stuck in this shit? That's a shame."
There is no question that Petraeus has succeeded, at least for now, in calming the chaos in southern Afghanistan. Over the past few weeks, the fighting in and around Kandahar has subsided somewhat. Afghan officials credit the lull to NATO's ongoing operations around the city, the help of Abdul Razzik and the arrival of winter. Even the Taliban admit that the U.S. crackdown has forced them to flee to Pakistan, although sources close to the insurgents tell me that many are simply hiding in Kandahar, waiting for their next opportunity to strike.
But if the "clear" part of the U.S. operation is succeeding, the "hold and build" aspect of the plan still worries Afghan and American officials. The only way to prevent a return of the Taliban, according to counterinsurgency theory, is to establish a legitimate government. But during the summer, as the U.S. ramped up its offensive, the city was devastated by a Taliban campaign of assassinations that targeted anyone who worked for the government or its allies. At least one high-level killing was occurring every day, an astonishing and unprecedented leap in violence. In the time I was there in December — a slow week — there were two targeted assassinations and one major bombing.
The killings mean it will be harder for Petraeus to implement his counterinsurgency strategy, since there are fewer friendly Afghans left to counter the insurgency. I was shown a list of 515 tribal elders and religious figures who have been assassinated over the past nine years, gutting the ranks of the Afghans whom Petraeus hopes to rely on. A media adviser for the mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Hayder Hamidi, dismisses the notion that things are better now. "Better?" he scoffs. "I didn't say better. I said there have been only two targeted killings this week. This calm will not last forever. We have had military operations again and again, and this is not a solution to the problem."
The mayor's office is in a dark, dank building, one of those office complexes in conflict zones that seem to be permanently under construction. "This has been the worst year," Hamidi tells me. After two of his deputy mayors were gunned down last year, and he was almost killed in a bombing right outside his office, nearly a third of his staff of 76 quit. (He also had to fire 10 other staffers for corruption.) He hasn't had any luck filling the vacant slots — partly, he says, because he can only pay his employees 3,500 Afghanis a month, or about $80 — half of what they can earn in a local militia. The central government in Kabul, he says, has promised to give his staff raises, but it's been months and he hasn't received the extra funds. Kabul has also been slow to fund his police force, he adds. It's this reality that prompts a U.S. official to tell me, "There's talk of transition next year. But in Kandahar, there's not going to be anything to transition to in a year."
I ask the mayor, who is close to Ahmed Wali Karzai, what he thinks of the corruption accusations against the president's brother. He responds indignantly. Karzai is a victim of "propaganda," he says, and Razzik is a "hero." The real corruption, he insists, is elsewhere — among other Afghan officials and Western reconstruction agencies. "There are killers, enemies of society, sitting in our peace jirga," he says, referring to a government-organized conference that was held in Kandahar earlier that week. He also has few kind words for the $250 million in reconstruction funds being poured into the city: He accuses a Canadian firm of blowing $1.9 million on a solar-power system that doesn't work, and a large development firm, IRD, of wasting millions on a program to harvest grapes.
The mayor is of two minds regarding the prospects of success in Afghanistan. The Taliban, he concedes, still have deep roots in the police force and plenty of funding from Pakistan and Iran. On the other hand, his public spiritedness prompts him to insist that this coming summer will be more peaceful than the last. He has even come up with a new slogan he wants to promote for Kandahar: "Tourism, not terrorism."
Petraeus has never been a man to lack con- fidence. He once sent an autographed picture of himself to a reporter he went jogging with, and signed copies of his photos go for up to $825 on eBay. After his speedy approval by Congress last summer, Petraeus returned to CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, to pack his bags and thank his staff. He sounded "psyched" and looked like "a man on a mission, not dreading Afghanistan at all," according to a source close to Petraeus. Those who know him say privately that he would never have run for president in 2012, but that hasn't stopped speculation that he'll be in the mix in 2016. He joked at a right-wing think tank about running for president, and "Petraeus for President" T-shirts are already available online.
Petraeus is fond of citing his experience during the Bush administration; in meetings, the general "mentions Iraq every five minutes," as one Afghan official puts it. But it didn't take long after Petraeus arrived in Kabul for him to get something of a shock: This war, it quickly became clear, is nothing like the last one he fought. "It's taken him a few months," says one U.S. official involved in the Afghan strategy, "but I think he's finally realized that Afghanistan is not Iraq. Afghanistan is much, much harder."
In Iraq, Petraeus had a tough-minded and brave leader in Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, and a reliable diplomatic partner in Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador. But in Afghanistan, both President Karzai and Ambassador Eikenberry have been standing in the way of the narrative the general is trying to sell. Petraeus has responded by pressuring Karzai to beef up local militias and negotiate with the Taliban, straining the relationship almost to the breaking point. At a meeting in October attended by Petraeus and other senior U.S. officials, Karzai stormed out of the room after an intense back-and-forth over whether Western security companies should be banned from Afghanistan, which would effectively shut down all development projects. According to an Afghan official with knowledge of the meeting, Karzai told him that "he didn't care if Petraeus took his projects or his troops home." (The president also threatened, yet again, to join the Taliban.) A few weeks later, according to an Afghan official, Karzai refused to fly with Petraeus to the NATO summit in Lisbon.
"Karzai is crazy — or crazy like a fox," says Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the leading opposition figure. "He's too skillful at playing games and too retarded when it comes to the rationale. He can't play the role the people of Afghanistan and the international community expect him to play. He will get deeper and deeper into this problem and drag us down as well."
Petraeus has kept his distance from Eikenberry, who has been among the administration's strongest critics of the military's plan in Afghanistan. An embassy spokesman says the ambassador and the general are "very close," but U.S. officials familiar with their relationship describe it as "lukewarm" and "so-so." Eikenberry has been rendered increasingly ineffective in recent months, following the release of WikiLeaks cables in which he criticized Karzai, as well as comments he made to Bob Woodward in Obama's Wars saying Karzai was "off his meds." One State Department official in Kabul describes the atmosphere at the U.S. Embassy as "rudderless," with many of Eikenberry's top deputies operating in a " micromanaged culture of fear." Even Eikenberry's own people have been telling the White House he's useless: In October, a senior official from the embassy met in Washington with Gen. Doug Lute, a top player at the National Security Council, and told him that Eikenberry's relationship with Karzai is "completely destroyed."
Throughout the strategic review last year, all Eikenberry did "was whine," according to a senior U.S. official involved in the process. In recent weeks, military officials have started to do some whining of their own, complaining to the media that the ambassador isn't doing enough to back counterinsurgency. U.S. officials describe Eikenberry's tenure as one of the great tragedies of the war — that a man widely respected for his knowledge of Afghanistan was unable to stop a military strategy he foresaw was doomed to fail. In Kabul, rumors of his imminent departure abound; a former U.S. ambassador recently came just short of publicly calling for his resignation, a sentiment that Afghan officials express privately. Insiders speculate that only McChrystal's sudden firing, followed by Richard Holbrooke's untimely death in December, have kept Eikenberry in the job.
With the death of Holbrooke, the president's special envoy, the administration lost one of its best diplomatic weapons to put pressure on the Pakistanis — seen as key to shutting down Taliban safe havens and orchestrating peace talks in Afghanistan. More than any other top U.S. official, Holbrooke had been "chipping away" in Pakistan, as one State Department official puts it, making at least a dozen trips to the region in the past two years and slowly building the relationships needed to resolve the most daunting diplomatic challenge of the entire U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Petraeus called Holbrooke his "wingman" — a term of endearment that amused Holbrooke. But as a U.S. official told me a few weeks before the envoy's death, Holbrooke believed that diplomacy, not war, should take center stage in foreign policy. "Since when did the diplomat become the general's wingman?" Holbrooke was reported as saying. "It's supposed to be the other way around!"
At the start of the Iraq war, Petraeus famously offered a prescient observation about the impending military disaster. Speaking to a reporter during the early days of the invasion, the general noted that the Bush administration had no real exit strategy in place. "Tell me how this ends," he said.
So far, Petraeus has failed to answer that question in Afghanistan, even while he has tripled the scope of the fighting, essentially creating a new war of his own. Both the U.N. and the Red Cross say that violence is the worst it's been in nine years, and security across the country is deteriorating. In December, a group of highly respected Afghanistan experts published an open letter to President Obama, saying that negotiations, not an increase in military operations, are the only way out. "We are losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Pashtun countryside," they wrote. "What was supposed to be a population-centered strategy is now a full-scale military campaign causing civilian casualties and property damage." In the most shocking incident, a U.S. unit destroyed an entire Afghan village last fall, obliterating it with 42,900 pounds of bombs.
Political pressure to get out is building. Polls now show that two-thirds of Americans — a record level — don't think the war is worth fighting. In Congress, 102 Democrats voted against funding for the war last year, up from 32 in 2009. A host of think tanks are expressing serious doubts: The left-leaning Center for American Progress calls for an "accelerated withdrawal," and the bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations concludes that "at best, the margin for U.S. victory is likely to be slim."
Inside the White House, according to officials familiar with the debate, Obama is prepared to go head-to-head with the military to get his way. At the end of last year, he replaced his national security adviser, Gen. James Jones — who had failed to keep the president from being steamrollered by the Pentagon during the strategic review — with Tom Donilon, a trusted friend who is said to have serious doubts about the war. Donilon is closely tied to Joe Biden; his brother is a top aide to the vice president, and his wife is Jill Biden's chief of staff. His appointment was a clear signal to the Pentagon about Obama's determination to begin winding down the war — which is why Defense Secretary Gates reportedly said that Donilon's selection would be a "disaster."
In Washington, the internal debate now centers on how many troops are actually going to leave. Too low, and the number won't satisfy the Democratic base. Too high, and it will provide ammunition to Petraeus and his GOP allies. In the past few weeks, two high-profile Republican delegations have visited Afghanistan — including four Tea Party senators and GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. Both delegations received the royal treatment — Petraeus' media operation distributed photos of Romney's visit, and ISAF announced his arrival on Twitter — and both returned insisting that Obama must keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan until Petraeus gives the OK to withdraw.
But despite its "stay the course" rhetoric, even the Pentagon is studying ways to get out. Last summer, Rolling Stone has learned, the Defense Department commissioned a report from U.S. military officials and diplomatic advisers looking at various "end states" in Afghanistan — in short, what the country will look like when we leave. A U.S. official who was asked for input on the document says that "it was an attempt to get the withdrawal strategies." A draft of one paper, obtained by Rolling Stone, describes a plan to split Afghanistan into seven regions, each centered around a major city, with both "insurgents" and "local strongmen" in the new governments. "This is not to sanction warlordism," the paper states, "but an acknowledgment that local strongmen have a part to play in the initial stage of rebalancing the state." A Pentagon spokesman insists that "no such scenario is being contemplated by senior leadership," but sources close to Gates say he reacted "positively" to the plan.
Warlordism certainly seems to be the way America is heading in Afghanistan. If, as Obama insists, we are not engaged in "nation-building," then it doesn't really matter what kind of government we leave behind in Kabul, as long as they let us use their country as a base for killing Al Qaeda. Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Islamabad, recently called for balancing a "small but capable Afghan army" with local militias "sometimes disparaged as warlords" — all to provide "a platform for U.S.-led counterterror operations." In the end, despite the counterinsurgency doctrine's emphasis on good governance, the conclusion of every occupation ultimately comes down to the conqueror's desire for stability, rather than the human rights of the conquered.
Which raises the question: Why risk the lives of 150,000 troops and waste another $120 billion to get there? "America promised us democracy and human rights," says Ahmad Berkazai, who serves as media adviser to the mayor of Kandahar. "If America is fighting for that, they should stay. If they are not — if they are going to leave behind militias and warlords — then they should leave now."
Either way suits Col. Abdul Razzik. Back in Spin Boldak, our interview over, I pose for a picture with him. I admire his watch — a black, diamond-encrusted Concord — and he takes me outside to show off his base. The parking lot is full of Humvees and armored SUVs, all provided by the Americans. Razzik points out a fort on top of a small, rocky hill behind his headquarters. "That's an old British castle," he says. "It's about 90 years old." We stare at the ruins, a remnant of the last Western power to see its visions of empire end in the graveyard of Afghanistan.
I ask Razzik what his plans for the future are. "It is the happiest time in my life," he says. "I am the police chief here, and I am in my own country." Then he asks if I need an escort for the trip back. I politely decline, and thank him for his time. A few minutes later, as we are driving back to Kandahar, my translator notices that we're being followed by two green Ford Rangers, courtesy of Col. Razzik. It's his job, after all, to offer us a semblance of security as we find our way out.
On October 6, Flynn’s unit approved use of HIMARS, B-1, and A-10s to drop 49,200 lbs. of ordnance on the Taliban tactical base [read: village] of Tarok Kalache… In the coming days, the villagers will be compensated and meet with local contractors approved by the district governor to begin rebuilding the homes.••• Flattening people’s homes creates reconstruction jobs in Afghanistan. Now, this might seem abhorrent, but “what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”
Kabul’s luxury Serena Hotel is one of the more swanky sanctuaries in the Afghan capital.… For five months last year, the Serena also served as the headquarters for an American contracting company with no previous experience in Afghanistan that is being paid $15 million by USAID to revamp Afghanistan’s archaic judicial system and convince Afghans that they can trust their government…••• Gee, why don’t people trust the government?
The Tetra Tech DPK consultants burned through $300,000 for five months of housing at the Serena Hotel while they waited for their permanent compound to be done.
Passed on October 31, 2000, more than a decade ago, that “landmark” resolution was hailed worldwide as a great “victory” for women and international peace and security. In a nutshell, SCR 1325 calls for women to participate equally and fully at decision-making levels in all processes of conflict resolution, peacemaking, and reconstruction. Without the active participation of women in peacemaking every step of the way, the Security Council concluded, no just and durable peace could be achieved anywhere.
“Durable” was the key word. Keep it in mind.
Most hot wars of recent memory, little and big, have been resolved or nudged into remission through what is called a power-sharing agreement. The big men from most or all of the warring parties -- and war is basically a guy thing, in case you hadn’t noticed -- shoulder in to the negotiating table and carve up a country’s or region’s military, political, and financial pie. Then they proclaim the resulting deal “peace.”
But as I learned firsthand as an aid worker in one so-called post-conflict country after another, when the men in power stop shooting at each other, they often escalate the war against civilians -- especially women and girls. It seems to be hard for men to switch off violence, once they’ve gotten the hang of it. From Liberia to Myanmar, rape, torture, mutilation, and murder continue unabated or even increase in frequency. In other words, from the standpoint of civilians, war is often not over when it’s “over,” and the “peace” is no real peace at all. Think of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the notorious “rape capital of the world,” where thousands upon thousands of women are gang-raped again and again although the country has officially been at “peace” since 2003.
In addition, power-sharing agreements among combatants tend to fray, and half of them unravel into open warfare again within a few years. Consider Liberia throughout the 1990s, Angola in 1992 and 1998, Cambodia in 1997, and Iraq in 2006-2007. At this moment, we are witnessing the breakdown of one power-sharing agreement in the Ivory Coast, and certainly the femicidal consequences of another, made in 2001, in Afghanistan.
It is this repeated recourse to war and the unrelenting abuse and neglect of civilians during fleeting episodes of “peace” that prompted the Security Council to seek the key to more durable solutions. They recognized that men at the negotiating table still jockey for power and wealth -- notably control of a country’s natural resources -- while women included at any level of negotiations commonly advocate for interests that coincide perfectly with those of civil society. Women are concerned about their children and consequently about shelter, clean water, sanitation, jobs, health care, education, and the like -- all those things that make life livable for peaceable men, women, and children anywhere.
The conclusion is self-evident. Bring women to the table in decision-making roles in equal numbers with male participants and the nature of peace negotiations changes altogether. And so does the result. Or at least that’s what the Security Council expects. We can’t be sure because in more than a decade since SCR 1325 was enacted, it has never been put to the test.
At the time, at the exhilarating dawn of a new millennium, the whole world applauded SCR 1325 as a great achievement of the United Nations, pointing the pathway to world peace. Later, when men in war-torn countries negotiated peace, often with the guidance of the U.N., they forgot all about it. Their excuse was that they had to act fast, speed being more important than justice or durability or women. At critical times like that, don’t you know, women just get in the way.
Peace? Not a Chance
My special concern is Afghanistan, and I’m impatient. I’d like a speedy conclusion, too. It’s been nine years since I started doing aid work there, and in that time several of the young Afghan women who were my colleagues and became my friends have died of illnesses they would have survived in better times under the auspices of a government that cared about the welfare of its citizens. Even its women citizens.
Yet now, whenever I present my modest proposal for the implementation of SCR 1325 to American big men -- thinkers, movers, and shakers -- who lay claim to expertise on Afghanistan, most of them strongly object. They know the theory, they say, but practice is something else again, and they are precluded from throwing their weight behind SCR 1325 by delicate considerations of “cultural relativism.” Afghanistan, they remind me, is a “traditional” culture that regards women as less than human. As Westerners, they say, we must be particularly careful to respect that view.
Yet the eagerness of Western men to defer to this “tradition” seems excessive, and their tenderness for the sentiments of bearded men who couldn’t clear airport security in Iowa City strikes me as deliberately obtuse, especially since very few of the Afghan men who actually governed Afghanistan between 1919 and 1989 would have shared their sentiments.
Afghan culture is -- and is not -- traditional. Modern ideas, including the idea of equality between the sexes, have been at the heart of internal Afghan cultural struggles for at least a century. In the 1920s, King Amanullah founded the first high school for girls and the first family court to adjudicate women’s complaints about their husbands; he proclaimed the equality of men and women, banned polygamy, cast away the burqa, and banished ultra-conservative Islamist mullahs as “bad and evil persons” who spread propaganda foreign to the moderate Sufi ideals of Afghanistan. His modern ideas cost him his crown, but Afghans still remember Amanullah and his modern, unveiled Queen Suraya for their brave endeavor to drag the country into the modern world.
Thousands of Afghan citizens have shared King Amanullah’s modern views, expressed later by successive leaders, kings and communists alike. But at least since 1979, when the United States and Saudi Arabia joined Pakistan in promoting the ideology and military skill of Islamist extremists who sought to return the country to the seventh-century world of the prophet, Afghanistan’s liberal modernists have taken flight for North America, Europe, and Australia.
Last summer in Afghanistan I talked with many progressive men and women who were running for parliament, hoping to push back against the inordinate power of the Afghan executive in the person of President Hamid Karzai. To them, he seems increasingly eager to do deals with the most extreme Islamists in opposition to all their progressive dreams for their country.
Yet in August, when President Karzai flagrantly stole the presidential election, President Obama telephoned to congratulate him and the U.S. officially pronounced the fraudulent election results “good enough.” We might ask: In this contest between entrenched Islamist extremists and progressives who favor equality and democracy, why is the United States on the wrong side? Why are we on the side of a mistaken notion of Afghan “tradition”?
Our Big Man in Kabul
In 2001, the U.S. and by extension the entire international community cast their lot with Hamid Karzai. We put him in power after one of those power-sharing conferences in Bonn, Germany, to which, by the way, only two Afghan women were invited. We paid hundreds of millions of dollars to stage two presidential elections, in 2004 and 2009, and looked the other way while Karzai’s men stuffed the ballot boxes. Now, it seems, we’re stuck with him and his misogynist “traditions,” even though a growing number of Afghanistan watchers identify the Karzai government as the single greatest problem the U.S. faces in its never-ending war.
We could have seen this coming if we had kept an eye on how President Karzai treats women. George W. Bush famously claimed to have “liberated” the women of Afghanistan, but he missed one: Hamid Karzai’s wife. Although she is a gynecologist with desperately needed skills, she is kept shut up at home. To this day, the president’s wife remains the most prominent woman in Afghanistan still living under house rules established by the Taliban. That little detail, by the way, should remind you of why you ought to care what happens to women: they are the canaries in the Afghan political coal mine.
And what has President Karzai done for the rest of the women of Afghanistan? Not a thing.
That’s the conclusion of a recent report issued by the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC), an association of prominent aid and independent research groups in Afghanistan, including such highly respected non-governmental organizations as Oxfam, CARE, and Save the Children. The Afghan researchers who did the study conducted extensive interviews with prominent male religious scholars, male political leaders, and female leaders locally, provincially, and nationally.
The report notes that President Karzai has supported increasingly repressive laws against women, most notoriously the “Taliban-style” Shia Personal Status Law, enacted in 2009, which not only legitimizes marital rape but “prevents women from stepping out of their homes” without their husband’s consent, in effect depriving them of the right to make any decisions about their own lives. The report points out that this law denies women even the basic freedoms guaranteed to all citizens in the Afghan Constitution, which was passed in 2004 as part of a flurry of democratic reforms marking the start of Karzai’s first term as elected president. The democratizing spasm passed and President Karzai, sworn to defend that Constitution, failed to do the job.
In fact, Karzai’s record on human rights, as the HRRAC report documents, is chiefly remarkable for what he has not done. He holds extraordinary power to make political appointments -- another indicator of the peculiar nature of this Afghan “democracy” our troops are fighting for -- and he has now had almost 10 years in office, ample time to lead even the most reluctant traditional society toward more equitable social arrangements. Yet today, but one cabinet ministry is held by a woman, the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, which incidentally is the sole government ministry that possesses only advisory powers. Karzai has appointed just one female provincial governor, and 33 men. (Is it by chance that Bamyan -- the province run by that woman -- is generally viewed as the most peaceful in the country?) To head city governments nationwide, he has named only one female mayor. And to the Supreme Court High Council he has appointed no woman at all.
Karzai’s claim that he can’t find qualified women is a flimsy -- and traditional -- excuse. Many of his highest-ranking appointees to government offices are notorious war criminals, men considered by the great majority of Afghan citizens to have disqualified themselves from public office. The failure of many of his male appointees to govern honestly and justly, or even to show up for work at all, is a rising complaint of NATO commanders who find upon delivery of “government in a box” that the box is pretty much empty.
If fully qualified women are in short supply, having been confined and deprived for years thanks to armed combat and the Taliban government, isn’t that all the more reason for a president sworn to uphold equality to act quickly to insure broad opportunities for education, training, jobs, and the like? The HRRAC report sensibly recommends “broad sociopolitical reform” to provide “education and economic opportunities for real women’s leadership.” Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, former minister of finance, former president of Kabul University, and presidential contender, spoke in favor of such a “sensible and regular process.” As he noted, however, “Our government is not a sensible government.”
Flimsy, too, is the argument that Afghanistan’s cultural traditions eliminate women from public service. Uzra Jafari, the mayor of Daikundi, reports that the city’s inhabitants did not believe a woman could be a mayor, but they soon “accepted that a woman can serve them better than a man.” “Social obstacles can be overcome,” she says, “but the main problem is the political obstacles. We have problems at the highest levels.” The problem, in other words, is President Karzai, the only person in Afghanistan who has the power to install women in political offices and yet refuses to do so. In short, the president is far more “traditional” than most of the people.
Without the support of male leadership, women leaders (and their families) become easy targets for harassment, threats, intimidation, and assassination. When such threats come from the ultra-Islamist men who dominate the Afghan parliament, they prevent women parliamentarians from uniting in support of women and, in most cases, from speaking out as individuals for women’s rights. Death threats have a remarkable silencing effect, disrupting the processes of governance, yet President Karzai has not once taken a stand against the terrorist tactics of his cronies.
The Brotherhood of Men
Let’s acknowledge that there are limits to what the West can and cannot do in the very different and more traditional culture of Afghanistan. Judging by what we have already done, it seems to be perfectly all right for the West -- aka the U.S. -- to rain bombs upon this agrarian country, with its long tradition of moderate Sufism, and impose an ultraconservative Islamist government and free market capitalism (even at the expense of indigenous agricultural markets) through the ministrations of thousands of highly paid private American “technical assistants.” But it is apparently not okay for any of those multitudinous, extravagantly paid American political and economic consultants to tweak the silken sleeve of President Karzai’s chapan and say, “Hamid, my man, you’ve gotta get some more women in here.” That would be disrespectful of Afghan traditions.
I don’t buy it. What we’re up against is not just the intractable misogyny of President Karzai and other powerful mullahs and mujahideen, but the misogyny of power brokers in Washington as well.
Take, for example, the second most popular objection I hear from American male experts on Afghanistan when I raise my modest proposal. They call this one “pragmatic” or “realistic.” Women can’t come to the negotiating table, they say, because the Taliban would never sit down with them. In fact, Taliban, “ex-Taliban,” and Taliban sympathizers sit down with women every day in the Afghan Parliament, as they have in occasional loya jirgas (deliberating assemblies) since 2001. Clearly, any Taliban who refuse altogether to talk with women disqualify themselves as peace negotiators and should have no place at the table. But what’s stunning about the view of the American male experts is that it comes down on the other side, ceding to the most extreme Taliban misogynists the right to exclude from peace deliberations half the population of the country. (Tell that to our women soldiers putting their lives on the line.)
Yet these days every so-called Afghanistan expert in Washington has a plan for the future of the country. Some seem relatively reasonable while others are certifiably delusional, but what almost all of these documents have in common is the absence of the word “women.” (There are a few tiny but notable exceptions.)
In the Loony Tunes category is former diplomat and National Security Council Deputy Robert D. Blackwill’s “Plan B in Afghanistan” appearing in Foreign Affairs, which calls for the U.S. military to flee the south, thus creating a “de facto partition” of Afghanistan and incidentally abandoning -- you guessed it -- “the women of those areas,” as well as anyone else in the south who wants “to resist the Taliban.” This scenario may call to mind images of helicopters departing the American embassy in Saigon in 1975, but Blackwill clings to his “strategy,” calling the grim fate of those left behind “a tragic consequence of local realities that are impossible for outsiders to change.”
In the relatively reasonable category is the plan of the Afghanistan Study Group: “A New Way Forward: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan.” Its first recommendation says, “The U.S. should fast-track a peace process designed to decentralize power within Afghanistan and encourage a power-sharing balance among the principal parties.” Whoops! No mention of women there. And power sharing? We know where that’s headed. Afghanistan, the undisputed small arms capital of the world, might easily spontaneously combust into civil war.
But what becomes of women? Even Matthew Hoh, who resigned his position in 2009 as a political officer in the foreign service to protest U.S. policy in Afghanistan, and now heads the Afghanistan Study Group, can’t seem to imagine bringing women to the negotiating table. (He says he’s “working on it.”) Instead, the Study Group decides for women that “this strategy will best serve [their] interests.” It declares that “the worst thing for women is for Afghanistan to remain paralyzed in a civil war in which there evolves no organically rooted support for their social advancement.” Well, no. Actually, the worst thing for women is to have a bunch of men -- and not even Afghan men at that -- decide one more time what’s best for women.
I wonder if it’s significant that the Afghan Study Group, much like the Bonn Conference that established the Karzai government in the first place, is essentially a guy club. I count three women among 49 men and the odd “center” or “council” (also undoubtedly consisting mostly of men). When I asked Matthew Hoh why there are so few women in the Study Group, he couldn’t help laughing. He said, “This is Washington. You go to any important meeting in Washington, it’s men.”
Maybe the heady atmosphere engendered by all those gatherings of suits in close quarters was what inspired Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to abandon all discretion recently and declare that the promise of equal protection in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not extend to protecting women against sex discrimination. If states enact laws discriminating against women, he opined, such laws would not be unconstitutional. (You can be sure some legislators have gotten right to work on it.)
That opinion puts Justice Scalia cozily in bed with former Chief Justice Shinwari, President Karzai’s first appointee to head the Supreme Court of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who interpreted Article 22 of the Afghan Constitution, which calls for men and women to have equal rights and responsibilities before the law, to mean that men have rights and women have responsibilities to their husbands. (Could this mean that the United States is a traditional culture, too?)
Women leaders in Afghanistan complain that their government does not see them as “human,” but merely uses them as tokens or symbols, presumably to appease those international donors who still rattle on about human rights. George W. Bush used Afghan women that way. Obama doesn’t mention them. Here in the U.S. you take your choice between cynical exploitation, utter neglect, and outright discrimination.
In Afghanistan, Karzai names a High Peace Council to negotiate with the Taliban. Sixty men. The usual suspects: warlords, Wahhabis, mujahideen, long-bearded and long in the tooth, but fighting for power to the bitter end. Thomas Ruttig of the Afghan Analysts Network reports that among them are 53 men linked to armed factions in the civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s including 13 linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami, currently allied with the Taliban. An additional 12 members of the High Peace Council held positions in the Taliban’s Emirate government between 1996 and 2001.
Under some international pressure, Karzai belatedly added 10 women, the only members of the High Peace Council with no ties to armed militias past or present; they represent the interests of civil society, which is to say the people who might actually like to live in peace for a change and do their utmost to sustain it. The U.S. signed off on this lopsided Council. So did Hillary Clinton, a woman who, as Secretary of State, has solemnly promised again and again never to abandon the women of Afghanistan, though she never remembers to invite them to a conference where international and Afghan men decide the future of their country.
Okay, so my modest proposal doesn’t stand a chance. The deck is stacked against the participation of women, both there and here. Even I don’t expect men in power to take seriously the serious proposition that women must be equally and fully involved in peacemaking or you don’t get durable peace. Too many men, both Afghan and American, are doing very nicely thank you with the present traditional arrangements of our cultures. So, searching blindly for some eventual exit and burdened by their misbegotten notions of "peace," U.S. and NATO officials busy themselves repeatedly transporting to Kabul, at vast expense, a single high-ranking Taliban mullah to negotiate secret peace and power-sharing deals with President Karzai. American officials tout these man-to-man negotiations as evidence that U.S. strategy is finally working, until the “mullah” turns out to be an imposter playing a profitable little joke on the powers that be. Afghan women, who already suffer the effects of rising Taliban power, are not laughing.
Consider this. We’re not just talking about women’s rights here. Women’s rights are human rights. Women exercising their human rights are simply women engaging in those things that men the world over take for granted: going to school, going to work, walking around. But in Afghanistan today -- here’s where tradition comes in again -- almost every woman and girl exercising her rights does so with the support of the man or men who let her out of the house: father, husband, brothers, uncles, sons. Exclude women from their rightful equal decision-making part in the peacemaking process and you also betray the men who stand behind them, men who are by self-definition committed to the dream of a more egalitarian and democratic future for their country.
The sad news from Afghanistan is that a great many progressives have already figured out their own exit strategy. Like generations of Afghans before them, they will become part of one of the world’s largest diasporas from a single country. Ironically, I’ll bet many of those progressive Afghan men will bring their families to the United States, where women appear to be free and it’s comforting to imagine that misogyny is dead.
[Note on further reading: The HRRAC report on “Women and Political Leadership” can be found online in .pdf format by clicking here.]
Obama and GOPers Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe 1DEZ10
The previous month, a Spanish human rights group called the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners had requested that Spain's National Court indict six former Bush officials for, as the cable describes it, "creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture." The six were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon's former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel. The human rights group contended that Spain had a duty to open an investigation under the nation's "universal jurisdiction" law, which permits its legal system to prosecute overseas human rights crimes involving Spanish citizens and residents. Five Guantanamo detainees, the group maintained, fit that criteria.
Soon after the request was made, the US embassy in Madrid began tracking the matter. On April 1, embassy officials spoke with chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, who indicated that he was not pleased to have been handed this case, but he believed that the complaint appeared to be well-documented and he'd have to pursue it. Around that time, the acting deputy chief of the US embassy talked to the chief of staff for Spain's foreign minister and a senior official in the Spanish Ministry of Justice to convey, as the cable says, "that this was a very serious matter for the USG." The two Spaniards "expressed their concern at the case but stressed the independence of the Spanish judiciary."
A sickening feeling every time he thought about it? Really? Let's rewind the video back to a moment that crystallized the Bush-Cheney era. It was March 24, 2004. Washington's political and media elite had gathered at the Washington Hilton for the annual Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner, which is something of a cousin to the yearly White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. As thousands of DC's swells enjoyed their surf-and-turf meal, Bush was the entertainment. The tradition is that at such affairs the president is the big speaker, and he has to be amusing, poking fun at himself and his political foes.
Bush was no fan of such gatherings, and he and his aides had decided he ought to narrate a humorous slide show, instead of doing a stand-up routine. Large video screens flashed pictures of him and his aides, which he augmented with funny quips. One showed him on the phone with a finger in his ear. He explained this shot by saying he spends "a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies." There were humorous bits about his mother and Dick Cheney.
Then Bush displayed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office. His narration: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." The audience laughed. But the joke wasn't done. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. "Nope," he said. "No weapons over there." More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: "Maybe under here." Laughter again.
Bush was actually joking about the missing weapons of mass destruction. He was making fun of the reason he had cited for sending Americans to war and to death, turning it into a running gag. His smile was wide and his eyes seemed bright, as the audience laughed. At the time I wrote,
Few [in the crowd] seemed to mind. His WMD gags did not prompt a how-can-you silence from the gathering. At the after-parties, I heard no complaints.I wondered what the spouse, child or parent of a soldier killed in Iraq would have felt if they had been watching C-SPAN and saw the commander-in-chief mocking the supposed justification for the war that claimed their loved ones. Bush told the nation that lives had to be sacrificed because Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be used (by terrorists) against the United States. That was not true. (And as [WMD search team leader David] Kay pointed out, the evidence so far shows these weapons were not there in the first place, not that they were hidden, destroyed or spirited away.) But rather than acknowledge he misinformed the public, Bush jokes about the absence of such weapons.In yet another act reminiscent of Soviet-style revisionism, Bush in his book does not mention this dinner and his performance there. If he indeed felt ill whenever he pondered the missing WMDs—as he insists in his memoirs—how could he turn this into a crass punchline? Asking that question provides the answer. He is fibbing in his book. Moreover, this small episode is proof of a larger truth: Bush's chronicle is not a serious accounting of his years as the decider. As for the hundreds of thousands of readers who shelled out $35.00 for the book, expecting the former president to level with them, the joke is on them.
Of course, we now know from the torture memos and the US Senate committee probe and various press reports, that the "Gitmo-izing" of Iraq was happening just at the time Alyssa got swept up in it.
Spc. Alyssa Peterson was one of the first female soldiers who died in Iraq. Her death under these circumstances should have drawn wide attention. It's not exactly the Tillman case, but a cover-up, naturally, followed.
Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native, served with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. She was a valuable Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq. According to official records, she died on September 15, 2003, from a "non-hostile weapons discharge."
A "non-hostile weapons discharge" leading to death is not unusual in Iraq, often quite accidental, so this one apparently raised few eyebrows. The Arizona Republic, three days after her death, reported that Army officials "said that a number of possible scenarios are being considered, including Peterson's own weapon discharging, the weapon of another soldier discharging, or the accidental shooting of Peterson by an Iraqi civilian." And that might have ended it right there.
But in this case, a longtime radio and newspaper reporter named Kevin Elston, not satisfied with the public story, decided to probe deeper in 2005, "just on a hunch," he told me in late 2006. He made "hundreds of phone calls" to the military and couldn't get anywhere, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request. When the documents of the official investigation of her death arrived, they contained bombshell revelations.
Here's what the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston worked, reported:
The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: "She said that she did not know how to be two people; she... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire."
"Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."
She was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. "But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle," the documents disclose.
The official report revealed that a notebook she had written in was found next to her body, but blacked out its contents.
The Army talked to some of Peterson's colleagues. Asked to summarize their comments, Elston told me: "The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties. That was the consistent point in the testimonies, that she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those techniques were." In one document, Peterson's first sergeant recalls: "It was hard for her to be aggressive to prisoners/detainees, as she felt that we were cruel to them."
Elston said that the documents also refer to a suicide note found on her body, which suggested that she found it ironic that suicide prevention training had taught her how to commit suicide. He filed another FOIA request for a copy of the actual note. It did not emerge.
Peterson, a devout Mormon--her mother, Bobbi, claims she always stuck up for "the underdog"--had graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and was sent to the Middle East in 2003, reportedly going in place of another soldier who did not wish to go.
A report in The Arizona Daily Sun of Flagstaff--three years after Alyssa's death--revealed that Spc. Peterson's mother, reached at her home in northern Arizona, said that neither she nor her husband Richard had received any official documents that contained information outlined in Elston's report.
In other words: Like the press and the public, even the parents had been kept in the dark.
Kayla Williams, an Army sergeant who served with Alyssa, told me me that she talked to her about her problems shortly before she killed herself. Williams also was forced to take part in torture interrogations, where she saw detainees punched. Another favorite technique: strip the prisoners and then remove their blindfolds so that the first thing they saw was Kayla Williams.
She also opted out, but survived, and is haunted years later. She wrote a book about her experience in the military, Love My Rifle More Than You.
Here's what Williams told Soledad O'Brien of CNN: "I was asked to assist. And what I saw was that individuals who were doing interrogations had slipped over a line and were really doing things that were inappropriate. There were prisoners that were burned with lit cigarettes."
When I wrote a piece about Peterson last year, her brother, Spencer Peterson, left a comment:
Alyssa is my little sister. I usually don't comment on boards like this, and I don't speak for the rest of my family (especially my folks), but I think she probably did kill herself over this. She was extremely sensitive and empathetic to others, and cared a lot more about the welfare and well-being of the people around her than she cared about herself.... Thank you to everyone for your continued support of our troops and our family. Alyssa's death was a tremendous loss to everyone who knew her, and we miss her sweet and sensitive spirit. No one is happier than I am that (many of) our troops are coming home from Iraq, and I pray that the rest of our brave soldiers return home safely as soon as possible. Support our troops--bring them home!Kayla Williams told me me she spoke with Alyssa Peterson about the young woman's troubles a week before she died--and afterward, attended her memorial service.
So what caused Alyssa Peterson to put a bullet in her head in September 2003 after just a few weeks in Iraq? And why were the press and the public not told about it? Because Alyssa's suicide note and contents from her journal have not been released, we can't say for certain how to weigh the factors that led to her death.
Chelsea Russell, who studied Arabic with Peterson at a military facility in Monterrey, California, told me that she found Alyssa to be an especially "sincere and kind person" but she had come to question her Mormon faith a few months before getting shipped to Iraq. "I believe that Alyssa was at a crossroads at the time of her death," Russell added. " I don't know if she had strong emotional support in Iraq. Questioning her own religious beliefs, her military colleagues, and her part in the war may have been too much for her."
While Kayla Williams managed to escape the torture machine, she told me that she is still haunted by the experience and wonders if she objected strongly enough. (Here is background on U.S. soldier convicted of homicide for an incident in Iraq in November 2003. A video that opens with the Peterson case here. )
Williams and Peterson were both interpreters--but only the latter was in "human intelligence," that is, trained to take part in interrogations. They met by chance when Williams, who had been on a mission, came back to the base in Tal Afar in September 2003 before heading off again. A civilian interpreter asked her to speak to Peterson, who seemed troubled. Like others, Williams found her to be a "sweet girl." Williams asked if she wanted to go to dinner, but Peterson was not free--maybe next time, she said, but then time ran out.
Their one conversation, Williams told me, centered on personal, not military, problems, and it's hard to tell where it fit in the suicide timeline. According to records of the Army probe, Peterson had protested, and asked out of, interrogations after just two days in what was known as "the cage"--and killed herself shortly after that. This might have all transpired just after her encounter with Williams, or it might have happened before and she did not mention it at that time--they did not really know each other.
Peterson's suicide on September 15, 2003--reported to the press and public as death by "non-hostile gunshot," usually meaning an accident--was the only fatality suffered by the battalion during their entire time in Iraq, Williams reports. At the memorial service, everyone knew the cause of her death.
Shortly after that, Williams (a three-year Army vet at the time) was sent to the 2nd Brigade's Support Area in Mosul, and she described what happened next in her book. Brought into the "cage" one day on a special mission, she saw fellow soldiers hitting a naked prisoner in the face. "It's one thing to make fun of someone and attempt to humiliate him. With words. That's one thing. But flicking lit cigarettes at somebody--like burning him--that's illegal," Williams writes. Soldiers later told her that "the old rules no longer applied because this was a different world. This was a new kind of war."
Here's what she told Soledad O'Brien of CNN:
"They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds so that I was the first thing they saw. And then we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood. And it really didn't seem to make a lot of sense to me. I didn't know if this was standard. But it did not seem to work. And it really made me feel like we were losing that crucial moral higher ground, and we weren't behaving in the way that Americans are supposed to behave."As soon as that day ended, she told a superior she would never do it again.
In another CNN interview, on Oct. 8, 2005, she explained: "I sat through it at the time. But after it was over I did approach the non-commissioned officer in charge and told him I think you may be violating the Geneva Conventions.... He said he knew and I said I wouldn't participate again and he respected that, but I was really, really stunned..."
So, given all this, what does Williams think pushed Alyssa Peterson to shoot herself one week after their only meeting? The great unknown, of course, is what Peterson was asked to witness or do in interrogations. We do know that she refused to have anything more to do with that after two days--or one day longer than it took for Williams to reach her breaking point.
Properly, Williams (left) points out that it's rarely one factor that leads to suicide, and Peterson had some personal problems. "It's always a bunch of things coming together to the point you feel so overwhelmed that there's no way out," Williams says. "I witnessed abuse, I felt uncomfortable with it, but I didn't kill myself, because I could see the bigger context. I felt a lot of angst about whether I had an obligation to report it, and had any way to report it. Was it classified? Who should I turn to?" Perhaps Alyssa Peterson felt in the same box.
"It also made me think," Williams says, "what are we as humans, that we do this to each other? It made me question my humanity and the humanity of all Americans. It was difficult, and to this day I can no longer think I am a really good person and will do the right thing in the right situation." Such an experience might have been truly shattering to Peterson, a once-devout Mormon.
Referring to that day in Mosul, Williams says, "I did protest but only to the person in charge and I did not file a report up the chain of command." Yet, after recounting her experience there, she asks: "Can that lead to suicide? That's such an act of desperation, helplessness, it has to be more than that." She concludes, "In general, interrogation is not fun, even if you follow the rules. And I didn't see any good intelligence being gained. The other problem is that, in situations like that, you have people that are not terrorists being picked up, and being questioned. And, if you treat an innocent person like that, they walk out a terrorist."
Or, maybe in this case, if an innocent person witnesses such a thing, some may walk out as a likely suicide.
Churches Call to End the War in Afghanistan from SOJO 18NOV10 & A CALL TO END THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN BY THE NAT COUNCIL OF CHURCHES 9NOV10
In his December 2009 speech on Afghanistan, President Obama announced that he was sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, but that
… these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.In recent weeks, however, the military and now the administration are backpedaling from that statement as fast as they can. A news story yesterday reported that ”The White House on Tuesday unveiled a plan for Afghanistan that foresees U.S. troops remaining there until at least the end of 2014.” Another asked, “Is 2014 the new 2011 for Pentagon war planners?” saying, “Senior U.S. military officials are increasingly deemphasizing the July 2011 deadline set by President Obama earlier this year for beginning U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, instead talking up a 2014 date ….”
With this rapid change of message, it is good news to read that the National Council of Churches Governing Board last week passed a resolution, “A Call To End The War In Afghanistan.” While urging that development aid be continued and that the human rights situation be carefully monitored, the resolution:
… Calls upon the President of the United States to negotiate a withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan to be completed as soon as possible without further endangerment to the lives and welfare of U.S. and NATO troops, Afghan troops and Afghan civilians …That is welcome news. The church has been largely been silent on the war, and it is time for its voice to be heard. The war in Afghanistan has gone on for too long, at the cost of too many deaths and too many resources desperately needed elsewhere. May this statement be the first of many actions toward ending the war.
Duane Shank is the senior political advisor at Sojourners.
A CALL TO END THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
ADOPTED BY THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES GOVERNING BOARD,
NOVEMBER 9, 2010, IN NEW ORLEANS
The War in Afghanistan – dubbed “Operation Enduring Freedom” at its onset – has been raging 10 since October 7, 2001. It is the longest war in U.S. history. The war began with significant popular support and in its initial stages was the lead story moved daily on U.S. media. Today, the story no longer tops the agenda of public interest. President Obama has set a deadline of July 2011 for the tactical end of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. The President has rejected calls from politicians, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, to cancel the deadline and set an open‐ended commitment to U.S. military involvement, but he is under continuing pressure to change his mind. It is the considered view of the National Council of Churches and its 36 member communions that the war must end as soon as possible – in July 2011 or before – and that the United States must hereinafter pursue a policy of just peace in all of its foreign engagements.
After nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan, it is clearly too late to correct the mistakes and miscalculations of the past. But we set before the churches a call to greater vigilance in the future. It is no mere cliché that history repeats itself, and there is little doubt that U.S. presidents and military leaders will again be tempted to choose war over diplomacy as a means of redressing grievances. When those circumstances arise, may the church, which too often has been silent in the face of war, be prepared to offer its Christian witness that war is always contrary to the will of God, and that there are alternatives to war that wise leaders must seek.
The War in Afghanistan, titled “Operation Enduring Freedom,” is one critical response of the United States to the al‐Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. The United States committed itself to a military operation with the expressed cognizance of further consideration given to economic, political and diplomatic alternatives to end the war. The war continues at this time on several fronts due to a growing resurgent presence by Taliban forces in the country. The cost
of the war to the United States as well as to Afghanistan is measured in the balance of human life and precious national resources. The effects on both resources have been staggering. From late 2001, and relative to the process of justifying an increased U.S. military presence in the Middle East, the Christian churches have expressed serious and informed reservations about how just the war has been and continues to be. (See appendix)
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
That the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, Cognizant of the valiant and courageous efforts of women and men of many nations who have served in Afghanistan as military personnel, diplomats and humanitarian workers, such as Church World Service and others, with the aim of bringing peace, justice and stability to Afghanistan, and
Concerned for the spiritual, physical and mental health of the veterans of this war, yet Convicted by our common discernment that war and violence fall short of God’s will for methods of rooting out tyranny and injustice, and deeply grieved by the loss of life, homes and property in Afghanistan since U.S. and NATO forces launched “Operation Enduring Freedom,” a war against the Taliban in October 2001, and concerned that continued U.S. and coalition military operations against Afghan insurgents will solidify resistance and stimulate support for Taliban and al‐Qaeda terrorists, and mindful of the millennia‐long history of failed efforts by foreign powers to defeat entrenched and insular Afghan forces by military means,
and deeply convicted that we must reaffirm our witness to Christ’s commandment to love our enemies, Therefore calls upon the President of the United States to negotiate a withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan to be completed as soon as possible without further endangerment to the lives and welfare of U.S. and NATO troops, Afghan troops and Afghan civilians; and urges the President of the United States to continue to monitor the human‐rights situation in
Afghanistan in the context of the United Nations declaration to use all available diplomatic means to protect the population from crimes against humanity, and to employ military means of protection only as a last resort; and urges the President of the United States to continue, upon invitation of the Afghan government, the American support of the development of medical facilities, schools and other
essential institutions in Afghanistan; and calls upon the President of the United States to appoint a commission composed of high ranking government, military and religious leaders to discern and recommend policies through which the United States will pursue the goals of a just peace; and calls upon the member communions of the National Council of Churches to engage in further study of the war in Afghanistan, the factors that led up to it, and the opportunities for nonmilitary engagement with the people of Afghanistan to under gird a safe and stable way of life; and calls upon the member communions of the National Council of Churches to articulate to one another and to government authorities the concept of a “Just Peace” as a proactive strategy for avoiding premature or unnecessary decisions to employ military means of solving conflicts.
Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly, December 6, 1963
Imperatives of Peace and the Responsibilities of Power, adopted by the General Board, February 21, 1968
Human Rights, The Fulfillment of Life in the Social Order, adopted by the General Board, November 17, 1995
Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century, A Policy Statement on the United Nations, adopted by the General Assembly, November 11, 1999
Out of the Ashes and Tragedy of September 11, 2001, a statement adopted by the General Assembly, November 15, 2001
Resolution on the Threat to Civil and Religious Liberties in Post‐9/11 America, adopted by the General Assembly, November 9, 2005
Resolution on the Responsibility to Protect, adopted by the Governing Board, September 24, 2007
Most Americans, including the estimated 45 million persons who worship in the 100,000 congregations related to the 36 member communions of the National Council of Churches, have vivid and painful memories of the circumstances that led to the war in Afghanistan. On September 11, 2001, al‐Qaeda operatives hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. A fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 persons died in the attacks.
Although none of the 19 hijackers were Afghan nationals, Afghanistan was the al‐Qaeda base and President George W. Bush quickly drew up plans to invade Afghanistan as a means of combating terrorism. “Operation Enduring Freedom,” the war in Afghanistan, commenced on October 7, 2001.
While there is no doubt that Operation Enduring Freedom was supported by persons of faith, including many members of churches related to NCC member communions, including church leaders, have nonetheless expressed profound concerns about the war. Costs in lives and property continue to mount, as does the political instability that continues in Afghanistan despite – or perhaps because of – the U.S. and NATO presence there. Neither the initial motivation to go to war nor the more recent decisions to escalate military operations in Afghanistan are consistent with the criteria some churches support for entering into a “just war.” Indeed, the decision to go to war was made without a considered deliberation about peaceful alternatives, including forms of economic sanction and diplomatic pressure.
Costs. Apart from the billions of dollars the United States has spent on the War in Afghanistan since 2001ii, the cost in terms of lives has been staggering. Precise figures are difficult to confirm. A report (http://icasualties.org/oef ), based larger on Department of Defense sources, indicates that more than 2,070 coalition members were killed between 2001 and 2010, with Americans accounting for at least 1,275 of those deaths. Another source claims to have “conservative” counts estimating the number of persons killed – Afghan troops and civilians, U.S. troops, Coalition troops, contractors and journalists – at more than 19,600.
Just War. When U.S. and British air forces began a bombing campaign, “Operation Enduring Freedom,” against Taliban forces in October 2001, polls indicated a large majority of Americans – including persons of Christian faith – supported the military effort as an appropriate retaliation for the terror attacks of September 11. Among the leaders of most NCC member communions, however, there was even then considerable doubt that the retaliation satisfied the generally accepted criteria for a “just war”, including
• The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.
• All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.
• There must be serious prospects of success.
• The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be
evaluating this condition.)
When many of the communions that form the National Council of Churches met in 1948 to form the World Council of Churches, the world looked to the gathering for a comment on the recently concluded Second World War and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our comment was blunt: “War is contrary to the will of God.” Moreover, the churches said in 1948: There is a settled Christian conviction that the use of force, however unavoidable it may be for the fulfillment of the distinctive tasks of the state, is in itself absolutely opposed to the commandment of love. It can only be used as the lesser of two evils in reliance on divine
forgiveness. (Christian Responsibility in a World of Power, The Amsterdam Series, 1948, p. 207.)
As the world reeled with the implications of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the churches prayerfully sought to apply their theological convictions to current realties. On November 15, 2001, in the midst of the Afghanistan invasion, a statement adopted by the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service in Oakland, Calif. expressed the sense of the churches that, instead of war, it would be wiser to address the political, economic and cultural injustices that give rise to unrest and terrorism:
It is time for us as an ecumenical community to make a renewed commitment to a
ministry of peace with justice, and to make real in these days the call of Jesus, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44) In his Beatitudes, Jesus calls us, his followers, to be merciful if we are to receive mercy; he reminds us that the peacemakers are blessed and will be called children of God. And, he proclaims us "the light of the world"; our good works should be a beacon to others so they may give glory to God. (Matthew 5:1‐4 16).
We lift up "Pillars of Peace for the 21st Century," a 1999 Policy Statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. We reaffirm and highlight the Statement’s call to build a culture of peace with justice characterized by these convictions:
1. "the transcending sovereignty and love of God for all creation and the expression of that love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, whose mission was to reveal understanding about that divine presence, to proclaim a message of salvation and to bring justice and peace;
2. the unity of creation and the equality of all races and peoples;
3. the dignity and worth of each person as a child of God; and
4. the church, the body of 130 believers, whose global mission of witness, peacemaking and reconciliation testifies to God’s action in history."
Just Peace. Not all member communions of the National Council of Churches subscribe to or believe in a doctrine that regards war as ever justifiable – for example, the Historic Peace Churches and growing minorities within other Christian traditions. Indeed, the perspective that war can ever be just is disputed by many Christians in the U.S. and around the world.
The Historic Peace Churches believe that the life and teachings of Jesus Christ are a trustworthy ethical guide when faced with the issues of war and violence in our world. In Jesus’ life and teachings, as communicated in the gospels and the New testament, it is clear that love for the enemy must be the norm – and this is not compatible with military action.
In fact, the World Council of Churches in its first Assembly in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in 1948 provided a glimpse to where that worldwide ecumenical body has come in its thinking about an appropriate response of Christianity toward warfare and violence. The first Assembly’s clear statement that “War is contrary to the will of God” presaged current work by the WCC that may well entirely replace the concept of “just war” with an understanding of “just peace.” While the just war position only defines criteria under which the use of force is acceptable, a just peace perspective describes foundations for nonviolent conflict and the building of justice, reconciliation, and abundant life. The engagement of “just peace” is not merely a reaction to conflict. “Just peace” is proactive, requiring governments and other authorities to address in advance those conditions that may lead to future violence: poverty, hunger, economic injustice, climate change and many more.
One outcome of this historic and emerging stream of thought has been the initiation of the Decade to Overcome Violence (2000‐2010). However, the events of this decade – specifically the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ‐‐ led the World Council of Churches to wrestle anew with the ethics of war and violence, and the WCC is now drafting an ecumenical declaration on just peace – a major document that is expected to reflect a crucial shift in global
Christian teaching on the issue of war. For an increasing number of Christians, there are no gospel criteria that may adequately justify
going to war. Instead, these Christians earnestly seek a just peace that is grounded in the God who loves all creation and all the peoples of the earth, and that seeks the help of the Holy Spirit to love the enemy and friend alike.
While the church’s message of justice and peace is firmly based on a common understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the incarnational love of God, it is nonetheless important to consider the implications of the gospel in a world where evil reigns. If the United States and NATO forces were to withdraw unconditionally from Afghanistan, what would be the effect?
Most analysts express concern that the current government of President Hamid Karzai is too Taliban and al Qaeda forces would soon regain control of the country. If President Karzai’s government falls, one fear is the re‐establishment of safe havens in Afghanistan for al‐Qaeda and other terrorist factions whose goals are to strike at the vital interests of American and European societies. Perhaps an even more imminent and compelling scenario of a Taliban restoration is the bloodbath that might be inflicted on women and men who failed to observe fundamentalist religious law, and the abusive subjugation of women and girls. In these
situations, what is the moral obligation of the United States, and what must be the counsel of the churches?
Responsibility to Protect. Atrocities on a civilian population inspired by religion are a frightening and unacceptable outcome, in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The National Council of Churches has endorsed the “Responsibility to Protect,” a declaration adopted by the United Nation’s General Assembly in 2005 that “each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” and that the international community, through the UN, should “take collective action” to prevent these
crimes “should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations” from these crimes.
The NCC resolution on the Responsibility to Protect, adopted September 24, 2007, recognizes “that war is always a failure to find peaceful resolution to conflict” and encourages the U.S. government and the international community “always to first seek non‐violent means of intervention, and exhaust all opportunities for peaceful resolution, as a means of protecting those threatened by genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
A STRATEGY OF PEACE
Committed to our call to be Christ’s witnesses for peace and love in an unredeemed world, we believe it is imperative to raise the question as to whether military intervention by powerful outside forces is the most effective way of compelling governments to live within the acceptable guidelines of civilized nations. In addition, armed conflict has increasingly involved non‐state actors, such as insurgencies and terrorist groups, the actions of which are not bound by these guidelines, thus creating an additional set of moral and ethical issues and responses. Given the limitations of military solutions to threats in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the member communions of the National Council of Churches welcome and endorse peaceful efforts already undertaken by the United States and its allies to strengthen the infrastructure and support the development of well‐trained law enforcement specialists, health‐providers and educators in Afghanistan. Bombs and guns can destroy lives and infrastructures, but that kind of devastation may be the most frightening nightmare of all. And bombs and guns can also sow hatred and
resolve in the hearts of those we call our enemy – and one of the safest predictions we can make is those who hate us will remain in their native Afghanistan long after we are gone. In the long‐run, we believe, peaceful partnerships and humanitarian aid will be far more effective in achieving our goals of eliminating extremist insurgents. A peaceful American partnership in
Afghanistan will go a long way towards effectively refuting claims by insurgents and al Qaeda combatants that we are an occupying power intent on destroying Afghan way of life. It is our faith that convicts us that arms and violence are not the way to assure security, but even the most pragmatic observers will conclude that clinics and schools are more powerful alternatives against extremism than guns and bombs
Ground Truth from Afghanistan
So when Wikileaks posts 92,000 classified US military reports detailing assorted aspects of the war, it is disheartening to see bloggers and commentators dismiss this document dump as not much that's new. In a post headlined "Underwhelmed by Wikileaks," Tom Ricks writes,
A huge leak of U.S. reports and this is all they get? I know of more stuff leaked at one good dinner on background.The "this" he referred to was a New York Times story based on these documents that reported that that Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long suspected Pakistan's intelligence service of secretly helping the Afghan insurgency. And Ricks cites a dismissive posting by Mother Jones' Adam Weinstein: "I mean, when Mother Jones yawns, that's an indication that you might not have the Pentagon Papers on your hands." The Center for New American Security's Andrew Axum (a.k.a. Abu Muqawama) took a similarly sarcastic view, noting last night when the story broke: "I'm going to bed, but if I were to stay up late reading more, here is what I suspect I would discover: 1. Afghanistan has four syllables. 2. LeBron is going to the Heat..." Andrew Sullivan writes, "What do we really learn from the Wikileaks monster-doc-dump? I think the actual answer is: not much that we didn't already know." But Sullivan does concede that this material is "rivetingly explicit" and "confirmation of what anyone with eyes and ears could have told you for years." The Economist blogged,"while this unvarnished heap of military intelligence adds a lot of colour to our understanding of the war in Afghanistan, the first headlines to have come streaming from the mess of it tell us little that we did not know already."
Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010
- Release date
- July 25, 2010
The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers, and mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related details.
The document collection is available on a dedicated webpage.
The reports cover most units from the US Army with the exception of most US Special Forces' activities. The reports do not generally cover top secret operations or European and other ISAF Forces operations.
We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.
The data is provided in HTML (web), CSV (comma-separated values) and SQL (database) formats, and was rendered into KML (Keyhole Markup Language) mapping data that can be used with Google Earth. Please note that the checksums will change.
- Complete dump of the website, HTML format 75 MB
- All entries, CSV format 15 MB
- (SHA1: d6b82f955a7beb9589f92e9487c74669d1912a34)
- Raw data in comma-separated value format for further processing.
- All entries, SQL format 16M MB
- (SHA1: 9463f73ebbcd3f95899a138d6ba9817e1b6b800d)
- Raw data in SQL format for further processing.
- All entries, KML format 16 MB
- (SHA1: 34562c0c7722522161e40330d80ac9082014845f)
- This archive contains all events in one KML file. This file needs much memory if opened with Google Earth.
- All NATO entries, KML format 209 kB
- (SHA1: 088ff8999a316f30e5e398021375fa3b4fc6349e)
- Contains the events that were tagged with NATO.
- Entries by month, KML format 16 MB
- (SHA1: 01a5c0639e1e1e844b10e962a44849b2a521d092)
- This archive provides the entries split by month. This makes it easier to browse the data in Google Earth on low power machines.
- Entries with scale filter, KML format 981 kB
- (SHA1: 4669c721b87775a44472f6688e768305c686beff)
- File that will show a scale corresponding to the number of incidents in Google Earth. Each incident begins with a 0.5 base score, and 0.1 has been added for each incident involving humans. This set of data provides only events that have a scaling of 1.5.
- Insurance file 1.4 GB
- (SHA1: cce54d3a8af370213d23fcbfe8cddc8619a0734c)
- View source
- IVAW NEWSLETTER 4AUG10
Wikileaks documents reveal "the everyday squalor and carnage of war"Debate continues about the massive number of Wikileaks documents released last week providing detailed field reports from the front lines in Afghanistan. While much of the public discussion is focused on the source of the leak and whether it was a justifiable act, we here at IVAW feel that the media should be focusing on something else.
What stands out to us at IVAW is the regular, seemingly commonplace occurance of civilian death depicted in the body of Wikileaks documents.
These documents reveal the truth about the bloody battle for Afghanistan, characterized by lengthy and repeated deployments by our troops and exposure to human trauma by both soldiers and Afghan people on a mass scale. With all the talk of timetables for withdrawal, we know that the human trauma of these wars has no end in sight. Yet, this trauma is too often sanitized by the time it reaches the public view.
That is why IVAW is partnering with the Institute for Public Accuracy to expose the details of incidents depicted in the leaked field reports by Wikileaks.
Help us with this effort by making a donation today.
In a recent interview on Democracy Now, Wikileaks' founder, Julian Assange put out a call: "We really need the public, other journalists and especially former soldiers to go through this material and say, 'Look, this connects to that,' or 'I was there. Let me tell you what really happened. Let me tell you the rest of the detail.' And over the next few days, we'll be putting up easier- and easier-to-use search interfaces, the same ones that our journalistic teams use to extract this data."
These search tools will allow any soldier or veteran to look through the trove of documents on Wikileaks and find reports of incidents they were involved in to check for their accuracy and provide more details.
IVAW members are answering the call to humanize these 'war incidents.' Right now, we are mobilizing our membership to look through the relevant Wikileaks materials, and provide additional information for the public. Four members have already come forward with their stories and are speaking to members of the media.
On Monday, the Netherlands became the first NATO ally to remove all of its troops from Afghanistan. At a time when the global public is increasingly turning against the war, your donation today will help us continue this important work.
The White House and the Pentagon are decrying this latest leak as potentially endangering the lives of those presently on the ground in Afghanistan. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated recently that Wikileaks and its leak source "might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family." Yet, he does not question the blood on the hands of our government from the thousands of civilians killed in Afghanistan.
When Wikileaks released its "Collateral Murder" video in April that depicted the killing of Reuters journalists and other civilians, IVAW members Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord who served in that unit spoke out. And before that, IVAW members told their stories through our Winter Soldier testimonies. As veterans who have to live with what we were part of in Afghanistan and Iraq on a daily basis, speaking out about it is our solemn duty. By doing so, we hope that other soldiers will come forward and do the same.
Your help today will allow more soldiers and veterans to continue changing the Afghanistan war from an abstraction to a reality for the American and global public.
Thank you for your support.
Iraq Veterans Against the War
A Brief Refresher on the Taliban's Worst-Kept Secret
That context is especially useful now. I explored the Taliban's history in my 2005 book The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11 , which asked, did US 'allies' help make the attacks possible?" Most of what follows is adapted from that book.
As meticulously described by Steve Coll in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 book Ghost Wars, the covert operation took place under the zealous leadership of then-CIA Director William J. Casey, to whom Afghanistan represented an opportunity to fight the Soviets right on their own border. It was an opportunity for Pakistan, as well: As Soviet journalist Artyom Borovik wrote in his 1990 book The Hidden War, Pakistan's leader General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq "saw in the Afghan conflict a unique opportunity to obtain a sharp increase in US military and financial aid to Pakistan. The Pakistani generals regarded the entrance of Soviet troops into Afghanistan as 'Brezhnev's gift.'" Over the next seven years, Reagan would engineer more than $7 billion  in aid to Pakistan.
One of those in attendance was a wealthy Saudi named Osama Bin Laden. "I settled in Pakistan in the Afghan border region," he said in a 1998 interview with Agence France-Presse . "There I received volunteers who came from the Saudi kingdom and from all over the Arab and Muslim countries. I set up my first camp where these volunteers were trained by Pakistani and American officers. The weapons were supplied by the Americans, the money by the Saudis." Later, he said, "I discovered that it was not enough to fight in Afghanistan, but that we had to fight on all fronts, communist or western oppression."
In his 1992 book Afghanistan The Bear Trap, Mohammad Yousaf, the ISI operations chief for the Afghanistan campaign, wrote that most of the US money and supplies for the militant forces were channeled right to the ISI, which then made the decisions as to which commanders in Afghanistan got what weapons. The ISI maintained four base commands within Afghanistan, and they in turn reached out to smaller units, organized around clans and villages.
As reported in the Asian edition of the Financial Times , in the early 1980s, the ISI even "started a special cell for the use of heroin for covert actions"—initiated, according to the article, "at the insistence of the Central Intelligence Agency." This cell "promoted the cultivation of opium and the extraction of heroin in Pakistani territory as well as in the Afghan territory under mujahideen control for being smuggled into the Soviet controlled areas in order to make the Soviet troops heroin addicts. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the ISI's heroin cell started using its network of refineries and smugglers for smuggling heroin to the Western countries and using the money as a supplement to its legitimate economy. But for these heroin dollars, Pakistan's legitimate economy must have collapsed many years ago....Not only the legitimate State economy, but also many senior officers of the Army and the ISI benefited from the heroin dollars."
By the time Mikail Gorbachev pulled Soviet forces out of Afghanistan in 1989, reports and complaints about the growing force of militant Islamic volunteers began to come back to the CIA. But with the Soviet withdrawal, and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of the Cold War, the United States lost all interest in Afghanistan. It left behind  a heavily armed, heavily mined, and destitute country in a state of virtual anarchy. As the leaders of former mujaheddin factions fought one another for control, Afghan and Pakistani students were building a new political movement, which would call itself the Taliban. This movement grew up around the thousands of madrassahs, or religious schools, that had taken root within Pakistan along the northwestern Afghan border. The founders of the new Taliban had no trouble finding recruits in the madrassahs, and in the crowded refugee camps on the Afghan-Pakistani border, and they soon became a force to reckon with within the warring factions in Afghanistan.
Among those keeping their eye on the growing Taliban movement was the ISI, long a major instrument of Pakistani foreign policy. The jihadists within the Pakistani government, and especially within the intelligence service, were unstinting in their support of the Taliban, and the ISI as a whole looked upon the Taliban with increasing favor. The ISI would be instrumental in bringing the Taliban to power, and would continue to provide them aid and advice in managing the country once they had assumed control. As Ahmed Rashid describes, it, at times, Afghanistan almost seemed to be an administrative appendage of Pakistan.
At the same time, the cadre of militant Islamic guerrilla fighters who had converged from across the Islamic world were determined to maintain Afghanistan as a headquarters for future jihads. The time was ripe for the completion of what would prove a deadly troika joining the Pakistani secret service, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda.
"It is unlikely," the Commission continues, "that Bin Laden could have returned to Afghanistan had Pakistan disapproved. The Pakistani military and intelligence services probably had advance knowledge of his coming, and its officers may have facilitated his travel... Pakistani intelligence officers reportedly introduced Bin Laden to Taliban leaders in Kandahar, their main base of power, to aid his reassertion of control over camps near Khowst, out of an apparent hope that he would now expand the camps and make them available for training Kashmiri militants" for Pakistan's ongoing standoff with India.
Bin Laden himself acknowledged his debt to the ISI, which he surely must have had in mind when he told ABC, in a 1999 interview , "As for Pakistan, there are some governmental departments which, by the grace of God, respond to Islamic sentiments of the masses in Pakistan. This is reflected in sympathy and cooperation. However, some other governmental departments fell into the trap of the infidels. We pray to God to return them to the right path."
Cementing his relationship with the new Taliban regime (to which he brought considerable monetary support), Bin Laden helped expand the jihadist training camps in the safe sanctuary of Afghanistan; these camps, according to US intelligence estimates, trained 10,000 to 20,000 fighters between his 1996 return and September 11, 2001.
In February 1998, Bin Laden issued his famous fatwa. Less than six months later, on August 7, 1998, Al Qaeda carried out its most devastating terrorist attacks up to that time, on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing 224 and injuring more than 5,000. In the days following the embassy bombings, the CIA learned military and extremist groups would be gathering on August 20 at a camp near Khost in eastern Afghanistan. The reports said Bin Laden was expected. As Steve Coll recounts, this appeared to be the moment to respond with force to the embassy attacks and kill Bin Laden. The Clinton Administration planned a surprise cruise missile attack on the camp—but it turned out to be anything but a surprise. The US's Tomahawk missiles killed twenty-odd Pakistani jihad fighters, but Bin Laden and other leaders were not there. According to Coll, the ISI knew of the attacks, and there were suggestions that it had warned Bin Laden.
At the time, the ISI was headed by Hamid Gul (who resurfaces in the WikiLeaks documents as a liaison between the ISI and the Taliban). By all appearances, Gul was dedicated to protecting the Taliban, which in turn maintained close ties with Al Qaeda. In his 2004 book Against All Enemies, former terrorism "czar" Richard Clarke writes, "I believed that if Pakistan's ISID [ISI] wanted to capture bin Laden or tell us where he was, they could have done so with little effort. They did not cooperate with us because ISID saw al Qaeda as helpful to the Taliban. They also saw al Qaeda and its affiliates as helpful in pressuring India, particularly in Kashmir. Some, like General Hamid Gul, ... also appeared to share bin Laden's anti-Western ideology."
Yet when the United States repeatedly asked the ISI to provide Bin Laden's location for a US attack, Paskistani intelligence officers told the CIA that Al Qaeda no longer trusted them, so they could not pinpoint his whereabouts. According to Coll, "The Americans doubted this. . . . Pakistan's army and political class had calculated that the benefits they reaped from supporting Afghan-based jihadist guerrillas—including those trained and funded by Bin Laden—outstripped the costs, some of Clinton's aides concluded. As one White House official put it bluntly, 'Since just telling us to fuck off seemed to do the trick,' why should the Pakistanis change their strategy?" The CIA, in tracking Bin Laden, had desperately—and foolishly—turned to its old ally the ISI, which had been so useful during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
But the situation a decade later was quite different. Now, the United States wanted the Pakistanis to help them quell the rise of Islamic extremism, rather than encourage it. Some lip service was given to cooperation on both sides. The Pakistani government wanted to preserve a decent relationship with the United States, especially in 1998, when it was conducting tests of nuclear weapons. But it never took any real action to limit the ISI's support of the Taliban or Al Qaeda. And the ISI, always an entity unto itself, did worse than nothing. There can be little doubt that many ISI operatives were functioning, in effect, as double agents, getting information from the CIA, and passing it on either directly to Bin Laden, or to the Taliban, which in turn informed Bin Laden. ISI operatives were clearly involved in destroying enemies that threatened the Taliban. In early 1999, after Abdul Haq, a respected anti-Soviet fighter and Pashtun warlord, became an independent voice and stood up against the Taliban, the ISI called on him and told him to shut up. Haq paid them no heed. On returning later, he found his children and wife murdered. Several sources trace the attack to the ISI. The ISI would subsequently be implicated in Haq's murder, as well as the murder of legendary Northern Alliance mujahedeen leader Ahmed Shah Massoud.
When General Pervez Musharaff took power in a 1999 coup, he appointed as his new ISI chief Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmed. Always a strong supporter of the Taliban, Mahmoud himself soon found new meaning in religion and started calling himself a "born again Muslim." As Steve Coll writes, by the summer of 2000, the longstanding relationship between the ISI and the CIA had "turned icy."
According to the 9/11 Commission report, based on testimony from Khalid ShEikh Mohammed and other captured operatives, a major strategy debate took place in the spring and summer of the 2001. The Taliban's debating partner was Al Qaeda, and subject was the wisdom of launching the planned direct attacks on the United States.
As the Taliban leadership became aware of the attack plans, they initially opposed them. Their first priority was defeating the Northern Alliance, which continued to control portions of Afghanistan and launch attacks on the Taliban. They were depending on military equipment and support from Al Qaeda. An attack on the United States might be counterproductive in that it would draw the US into an Afghan conflict on the side of the Northern Alliance.
Taliban leader Mullah Omar also opposed Bin Laden's plans on ideological grounds, preferring to attack Jews and not necessarily the United States. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed also subsequently claimed that Omar was under pressure from Pakistan to keep Al Qaeda operations inside Afghanistan. Matters came to a head at an Al Qaeda shura council meeting. While several top Al Qaeda leaders sided with the Taliban, Bin Laden overrode his opponents, asserting that Omar had no authority to stop jihads outside of Afghanistan's borders.
Given the Taliban's intimate knowledge of the plan for the 9/11 attacks—the debate within the top ranks of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, a shura council meeting, and the suggestion Pakistan was pressuring Omar to keep Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan—it seems that the ISI must have known what was about to happen. It did nothing to warn its old friends in the CIA of the worst attack ever to take place on American soil.
In a so-called ally, this was treachery of the highest order. Yet even in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and in the midst of the Afghanistan war, the ISI has clearly continued to support the Taliban, with relatively little resistance either from its own government or from the United States.
As Peter Galbraith, former UN deputy special representative in Afghanistan, wrote earlier this week in the Guardian , "President Bush could have forced Pakistan to break the ISI-Taliban nexus but did not." Bush was dealing with President Pervez Musharraf who, Galbraith says, "as the country's military dictator, presumably did control the ISI. Bush, who liked to talk tough but rarely was, preferred to accept Musharraf's false assurance that Pakistan was not supporting the Taliban connection to the unpleasant task of having to put pressure on an ally."
Obama, on the other hand, is dealing with a civilian government that has reason to genuinely hate the Taliban: President Asif Ali Zardari's wife, Benazir Bhutto, was murdered by Taliban-linked militants (possibly with the tacit complicity of ISI officials). But Galbraith believes that, "Zardari does not control the ISI."
Statements from the Obama administration in response to the WikiLeaks documents seem not to acknowledge any gap between the Pakistani government and its rogue intelligence agency. Instead they emphasize positive developments in the relationship between the two countries—behaving, to all appearances, as if the past 30 years of history simply did not exist. According to a report in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal , "US officials contend that in the past several months, Pakistan's stance has become much more nuanced than portrayed in the WikiLeaks reports." These unnamed officials claim that they are aware of past problems and that "everyone's eyes are wide open." They also insist, however, that "the two nations have made strides in deepening military and civilian ties... In return, the US has pledged billions of dollars in new military and civilian aid."
This article is adapted from The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11: What the 9/11 Commission Report Failed to Tell Us,  by James Ridgeway (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005).