Archive for the ‘Taliban’ Category

Abdullah and Ghani reach agreement on power-sharing, national unity government in Afghanistan

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

In what constitutes a big foreign policy success for President Barack Obama and the United States, Afghan presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have reached agreement on a power-sharing arrangement.

See

Rod Nordland, “Afghan Presidential Rivals Finally Agree on Power-Sharing Deal,” New York Times, September 20, 2014.

Under the agreement, Ghani will assume the position of President, while Abdullah will assume the new position of Chief Executive Officer, with primary responsibility for the execution of government policies. Top posts will be shared equally among the followers of the two candidates.

Nordland reports,

The draft agreement obtained by The Times has changed slightly since it was written, according to diplomats and campaign officials, but the key points are unaltered in the latest version initialed Saturday night. The agreement gives substantial powers to the newly created position of chief executive officer, defining it as having “the functions of an executive prime minister.”

The agreement also creates a council of ministers, headed by the chief executive and including two deputies and all cabinet ministers. “The Council of Ministers will implement the executive affairs of the Government,” the agreement states. In addition, while the president would head his cabinet, which also includes the ministers, “The CEO will be responsible for managing the Cabinet’s implementation of government policies, and will report on progress to the President directly and in the Cabinet.”

Another clause calls for “parity in the selection of personnel between the President and the CEO at the level of head of key security and economic institutions, and independent directorates.”

Significantly, the U.S.-brokered agreement was achieved in large part as a result of the leadership and efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry.

The deal opens the way to the inauguration of President Ghani in the next few days, the signing of the Status of Forces agreement with the U.S. which will allow the continuation of military assistance beyond 2014, and the financial and military support accompanis it.

A strong U.S. presence and active role in brokering differences between the two candidates and their followers will be required if the agreement is to take hold, and the great distrust between the opposing camps is to be overcome.

The agreement marks a great success, if not of the democratic electoral process in Afghanistan, at least in terms of avoiding the great disaster that would have occurred had it not been reached.

The inauguration og Ghani will also mark the first peaceful transition of power in as long as anyone can remember, with President Hamid Karzai giving up the formal reigns of power which he has held for the last 12 years.

The Trenchant Observer

Karzai reportedly involved in massive fraud favoring Ghani in Afghan presidential run-off

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Stunning details of the massive fraud in the Afghan presidental run-off election have been published in the New York Times, in an article by veteran Afghan correspondent Carlotta Gall.

It appears that President Hamid Karzai was deeply involved in the fraud, which greatly and implausibly favored Ashraf Ghani, as his opponent Abdullah Abdullah has charged since shortly after the second-round election was held.

See

(1) “Leading Afghan presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, narrowly escapes assassination in Kabul,” The Trenchant Observer, June 6, 2014.

(2) “Afghanistan Presidential Election: Abdullah Calls for Halt to Vote-Counting Alleging Fraud by the Electoral Commission,” The Trenchant Observer, dJune 18, 2014.

(3) “Obama Snubs Abdullah During Latter’s Trip to Washington,” The Trenchant Observer, May 22, 2010.

(4) “NEWS TO NOTE Deal by U.S. with Pakistan Military to Undercut Abdullah in Final Discussions?” The Trenchant Observer, November 11, 2009.

(5) “KARZAI’S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL IN AFGHANISTAN—THE REAL EXTENT OF THE ELECTORAL FRAUD, ABDULLAH’S CHANCES, AND WASHINGTON’S RESPONSE,” the Trenchant Observer, October 16, 2009.

See also other articles listed on the Afghanistan page, in the upper right-hand corner of the home page, which can be reached by clicking on the banner above.

The Trenchant Observer

Battle over electoral fraud in Afghanistan (updated July 7, 2014)

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

This is probably the last chance for the United States, NATO, and other ISAF countries to avoid losing the Afghan war.

To succeed in averting a collapse in legitimacy, they must fully and with great candor discuss openly the alleged fraud at each voting table, and absolutely insist on a full recount of all votes in dispute–voting station by voting station, with full representation of all parties concerned.

Hamid Karzai was “awarded” the presidency of Afghanistan in 2009 as the result of 1) massive fraud in the first-round election, reportedly organized by him and his supporters; 2) enormous international pressures which led to a very partial and skewed recount which, though it did not reveal the full extent of the fraud, reduced Karzai’s “official” vote count sufficiently to require a second-round runoff with Abdullah Abdullah; and 3) Abdullah’s withdrawal from the run-off, when his demands for reform of the electoral bodies were not met, and also apparently after having been subjected to great pressure from the United States.

In the first-round elections held in April of this year, Abdullah emerged with 45% of the votes as opposed to his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, who received just under 32% of the vote.

In the second-round election held recently, as the vote count proceeded, Abdullah denounced what he alleged was a massive fraud then underway being orchestrated by Ghani and Karzai acting in collusion with electoral officials. The chief electoral official, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, was forced to resign after Abdullah released tapes allegedly showing him and other officials issuing instructions for ballot stuffing.

Much is at stake in whether Abdullah succeeds in gaining a full elimination of fraudulent votes before results are announced. It is no exaggeration to say that the legitimacy and cohesion of the government which emerges from the vote count may determine the chances for the United States’ and ISAF nations’ project in Afghanistan to avoid either a Taliban takeover or a civil war, or a combination of the two.

President Obama seems totally removed from this process, recalling his tightly-managed Afghanistan policy review in 2009, when the ongoing fraud in that year’s election was apparently not even discussed by those involved in the policy review.

This is probably the last chance for the United States, NATO, and other ISAF countries to avoid losing the Afghan war.

To succeed in averting a collapse in legitimacy, they must fully and with great candor discuss openly the alleged fraud at each voting table, and absolutely insist on a full recount of all votes in dispute–voting station by voting station, with full representation of all parties concerned.

In 2009 the United States and its allies took the easier path, accepting Karzai’s refusal to reform the electoral commission and the electoral complaints commission before a second-round run-off, and pressuring Abdullah to withdraw.

This looks like another massively fraudulent election, with the U.S., its allies and the U.N. Mission in Afganistan looking the other way.

Ghani’s numbers do not pass the smell test.

See Margherita Stancati (Kabul), “Afghan Candidate Boycotts Count of Votes; Abdullah, a Karzai Rival, Alleges Fraud in Presidential Runoff, Citing Outsize Turnout in Opponent’s Areas of Support,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2014 (Updated 7:40 p.m. ET). Stancati reported,

“Yusuf Nuristani, chairman of the IEC , which organized the election and is counting the votes, said Saturday’s turnout was up from 6.6 million in the first round. While turnout was largely the same or lower in much of the country, the IEC’s initial tallies indicated a dramatic surge —in the areas of eastern Afghanistan that are Mr. Ghani’s base.

“In the eastern province of Khost, for example, initial IEC tallies showed that more than 400,000 voters cast ballots on Saturday, up from 113,000 in the first round.

“According to the 2012-13 data compiled by Afghanistan’s central statistics office, Khost’s entire population is 549,000—and, given Afghanistan’s demographic structure, at least one-third of them are children.

“In the nearby province of Paktika, 390,000 voters cast their ballots on Saturday, up from 180,000. The province’s population is 414,000.”

See also, “Afghanistan Presidential Election: Abdullah Calls for Halt to Vote-Counting Alleging Fraud by the Electoral Commission,” The Trenchant Observer, June 18, 2014.

Without the acceptance by Abdullah’s supporters of the election results, any future Ghani-Karzai government will have the same weaknesses as the current government of Karzai. Karzai will continue to manipulate the tribal and warlord alliances to keep Ghani and the current political elite in power in Kabul. Ghani will owe his survival to Karzai. But without the continuing presence of the U.S. military in significant numbers to hold things together, such a Karzai-Ghani strategy is not likely to succeed.

Whatever illusions the Americans may have about getting rid of Karzai, while keeping the present political elite of “Corrupt-istan” in power as Karzai pulls the strings from behind the scenes, are likely to evaporate as the new government loses the support of Abdullah’s voters and the Northern Alliance.

Without their support, it is difficult to see how a new government might hold together and succeed in maintaining the allegiance of its soldiers.

See “U.S. National Intelligence Estimate points to dire future in Afghanistan,” The Trenchant Observer, January 8, 2014.

Obama may walk away from Afghanistan the same way he walked away from Iraq in 2011.

Yet it is hard to see how the Democrats, after losing the two wars that have been the focus of Americans’ attention since 2001 and 2003, respectively, could hold back the tide of a Republican sweep of Congress and the presidency in 2016, with Republicans running on a strong national security platform.

To repeat: What Obama and the U.S. do in the next several weeks to ensure a full and accurate vote count in Afghanistan, and what they have to say about it publicly, are likely to have a decisive impact on the success or lack thereof of the Afghanistan project that has been underway since 2001.

See

(1) Adam Ahmed, “Afghanistan Election Dispute Draws More Calls for Vote Audit,” New York Times, July 6, 2014.

(2) “Afghanistan Presidential Election: Abdullah Calls for Halt to Vote-Counting Alleging Fraud by the Electoral Commission, The Trenchant Observer, June 18, 2014.

(3) “Leading Afghan presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, narrowly escapes assassination in Kabul,” The Trenchant Observer, June 6, 2014.

(4) “KARZAI’S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL IN AFGHANISTAN—THE REAL EXTENT OF THE ELECTORAL FRAUD, ABDULLAH’S CHANCES, AND WASHINGTON’S RESPONSE,” The Trenchant Observer, October 16, 2009.

For deeper insights into the present crisis, consider the following articles and their implications:

(5) “Obama Snubs Abdullah During Latter’s Trip to Washington,” The Trenchant Observer, May 22, 2010.

(6) “The real problem with U.S. policy toward Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai and the CIA,” The Trenchant Observer, November 26, 2013.

The Trenchant Observer

Leading Afghan presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, narrowly escapes assassination in Kabul

Friday, June 6th, 2014

The leading candidate in Afghanistan’s presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, narrowly escaped assassination today in Kabul. Abdullah led the first round of the election with some 45% of the votes. The second round or run-off election will be held on June 14.

The assassination attempt underscores how critical the security situation remains in Afghanistan, even in Kabul.

See Yaroslav Trofmov and Ehsanullah Amiri, “Afghan Presidential Front-Runner Escapes Assassination Attempt; Two Explosions Targeted Abdullah Abdullah as He Left Campaign Event in Kabul,” Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014 (6:54 a.m.).

The Trenchant Observer

U.S. National Intelligence Estimate points to dire future in Afghanistan

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

developing

The prospects for the government of Afghanistan following the U.S. pull-out by the end of 2014 are grim, regardless of whether the Status of Forces Agreement is signed by Hamid Karzai and a residual international (or just U.S.) force remains, focusing on training activities and strikes against terrorist targets.

President Obama’s entire foreign policy of the last five years in Afghanistan and the Middle East appears to be in a shambles. The reality that Benghazi was emblematic of is now apparent for all to see: Al Queda and other terrorist organizations have not been controlled, and are now wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, while disaster in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of international and U.S. troops seems increasingly probable.

Obama did not keep his eyes on the ball in a fast-moving game. Resolutely refusing to take any effective measures in Syria to halt al-Assad’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, which are continuing, the president failed to understand that Al Qaeda-linked organizations in Syria–and now Iraq–could pose a much more serious and direct threat against the United States and its NATO and Gulf allies than the Taliban ever could.

While he was focused on winding down the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, while bungling the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by failing to secure a status of forces agreement (and accepting that failure), Syria was exploding and in the process becoming the new battleground for jihadists–much as Afghanistan had been in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

It is all collapsing now. The president’s response to the new National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan has been basically to ignore it while he is on vacation. Even if the U.S. succeeds in hanging on with a residual force in Afghanistan, allowing for a new, more capable and less corrupt leadership to emerge following the April, 2014 presidential election (a possiblle but hardly a likely scenario), the unraveling in Syria and Iraq will continue.

The Geneva II peace conference for Syria, scheduled to begin on January 22, holds very little if any promise for leading to an improvement in the civil war there. The hope and illusion of U.S. and other diplomats has been if that if you could somehow just get the parties to sit down at a table in Geneva, that would by itself lead to progress in resolving the issues of the civil war. This is a chimera, as were all of Kofi Annan’s peace plans which turned out to be but beautiful “castles in the sky”.

The result of the peace conference, like that of all of Kofi Annan’s palaces in the sky, will simply be that al-Assad’s grip on power will remain solidified, with the chemical weapons removal proceeding and with Russian and Iranian and Hesbollah support and even participation, while his commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity continues unabated, as he drives to extirpate all of his opponents, both armed and civilian.

But, for the moment, it is worth just focusing on the National Intelligence Estimate or NIE on Afghanistan.

Obama reacts to challenges with torrents of well-tailored words, but no amount of wordsmithing can obscure the dark realities of Afghanistan and the unraveling of the government toward which the country is heading as the U.S. withdraws. This should come as no surprise, as indeed the previous National Intelligence Estimate in 2012 made clear.

See David S. Cloud, “Insurgents could quickly bounce back in Afghanistan, analysis warns; If U.S. troops fully withdraw next year, a resurgent Taliban could launch serious strikes within months, say officials familiar with a classified assessment,”Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2013 (6:38 p.m.).

Curiously, Ken Dilanian’s and David S. Cloud’s story on the previous National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan is no longer to be found on the Los Angeles  Times web site. For excerpts, see The Trenchant Observer, “New National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan not optimistic,” January 12, 2012. The original article is cited as follows:

Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud, “U.S. intelligence report on Afghanistan sees stalemate: The sobering judgments in a classified National Intelligence Estimate appear at odds with recent optimistic statements about the war by Pentagon officials,” Los Angeles Times, January 11, 2012.

The original link was

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-intel-afghan-20120112,0,3639052.story#axzz2prjVyFldote>

On the 2012 NIE, see also Opinion L.A.: Observations and provocations from The Times’ Opinion staff, “Assessing the Afghan war: Guess what? We aren’t winning,” Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2012.

On the 2010 NIE, see Elisabeth Bumiller, “Intelligence Reports Offer Dim View of Afghan War,” New York Times, December 14, 2010

On the most recent NIE, see also Ernesto Londoño, Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller, “Afghanistan gains will be lost quickly after drawdown, U.S. intelligence estimate warns, Washington Post, December 28, 2013.

The New York Times, the publisher of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”, appears to have not published a report on the latest Afghanistan NIE.

The Trenchant Observer

The real problem with U.S. policy toward Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai and the CIA

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

It is sometimes stunning to observe how journalists at leading U.S. newspapers can write about some recent action Hamid Karzai has taken against U.S. interests in Afghanistan, without at the same time recalling for the reader Karzai’s near-certain deep ties to the CIA and the latter’s funding the corruption of his government.

Karzai’s latest outrage is his attempt to introduce new conditions for his signing of the status of foces agreement with the United States that Secretary John Kerry and everyone else thought had just been agreed to last week.

But Karzai decided to raise the ante in his perennial game of high-stakes poker with U.S. military and civilian leaders–saying he wouldn’t sign the (agreed-upon) agreement until after the April 5 elections, which incidentally would give him enormous leverage over the U.S. and other Western countries to ensure that they do not push too hard for really democratic presidential elections in April, or denounce the electoral fraud that will surely take place again, as it did in 2009 when Karzai through the most curious of circumstances was “elected” to be president of Afghanistan.

Without U.S. support, Karzai’s fate might very well be sealed in short order, with the collapse of his government.

We have to ask, “What gives Karzai such brazen assurance that he can defy the U.S. with impunity, without consequences?

For one thing, he has done it for many years and always gotten away with it.

The reason for his impunity from any consequences from the U.S. for repeatedly outrageous and perfidious behavior results, in all likelihood, from the close ties he and his deceased brother have had with the CIA over the years.

See

Matthew Rosenberg, “With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan.” New York Times, April 28, 2013.

Rosenberg reported,

KABUL, Afghanistan — For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.

All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

“We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.”

The C.I.A., which declined to comment for this article, has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Mr. Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.

“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” one American official said, “was the United States.”

See also

Alissa J. Rubin, “Departing French Envoy Has Frank Words on Afghanistan,” New York Times, April 27, 2013.

Michael Kelly, “The CIA Has Paid Tens Of Millions Of Dollars To The Afghan President’s Office Over The Last Decade,” Business INsider, April 29, 2013 (12:34 AM).

Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, “Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by C.I.A.,”New York Times, October 27, 2009.

On CIA payments to other high Afghan government officials, see

“CIA Payments Undercut U.S. Efforts to Strengthen Governance in Afghanistan, The Trenchant Observer, September 2, 2010.

Karzai’s most recent act of perfidy is one he could only be emboldened to undertake as a result of the close relationship he and his family have had with the CIA, and his unbroken string of successes in forcing the U.S. to back down or to accept his outrageous comments and behavior.

Instead of a democratic project in Afghanistan, what we have seen at least since 2004 or 2005 is a cynical policy in which the CIA paid high government officials, even if corrupt or involved in the drug trade, in a policy based on the assumption that good governance would somehow just automatically spring into existence as U.S. and ISAF forces fulfilled their missions and trained the Afghan army and security forces.

We saw how that works with the abject failure of the “government in a box” concept in the Marja campaign in 2010.

See the following articles by The Trenchant Observer:

McChrystal, Petraeus, COIN, and Fixing a Failed Strategy in Afghanistan, June 23, 2010; and

“REPRISE: Reasoning from Conclusions in Afghanistan,” August 19, 2012.

What we are seeing now with Karzai is only the logical consequence of that cynical policy, where U.S. money was used to block the development of truly democratic forces and institutions in Afghanistan, through bags of money delivered to President Karzai and other government officials, off the books, and by other means.

The last exit ramp from the Karzai carrousel was in 2009 when a second round of presidential elections was called, and the U.S. had the power to ensure that it actually be held. But they couldn’t break with Karzai, who undoubtedly has a lot of dirty linen on the CIA, and without whose help and that of Ahmed Wali Karzai, his brother in Kandahar (until his death in 2011), the CIA and the U.S. military probably couldn’t even have operated effectively in the south.

So the endgame is in McLean, and not in Kabul. For the United States to ever have a stable status of forces agreement upon which it can rely, and a chance to ever build a state in Afghanistan that can stand on its own, it will have to be prepared to cut the cord with Hamid Karzai, and to support genuinely free presidential elections in Afghanistan in April, 2014.

Karzai is now acting to forestall that possibility. But the U.S. urgently needs to push back, to change its strategy, and to stop relying on Karzai, if there is to be any point to keeping a residual force in Afghanistan after 2014. To achieve that, Obama will have to negotiate with John Brennan at the CIA in McLean, not with Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

The great risk here is that Karzai is overplaying his hand, and domestic politics in the United States may produce a result which leads to a complete withdrawal of U.S. and international forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, if not before, and a withdrawal of the financial assistance which keeps the Afghan state afloat.

In sum, any of a number of events, such as a miscalculation, events on the ground, or political reactions in the United States, could lead to an abrupt American withdrawal, resulting in the same kind of fiasco as has occurred in Iraq, with one difference: the Afghan state would be likely to collapse.

The Trenchant Observer

Karzai moves to get U.S. to guarantee his hold on power after 2014 elections

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Hamid Karzai, the green-caped magician, has for over 12 years successfully entangled the U.S., ISAF countries, and other international actors in a continuing saga of graft and corruption, in a narco-state run by criminal enterprises with the active participation of government officials, and with the outsiders financing the whole enterprise and defending it with the blood of their soldiers. Time and time again these corrupt criminal enterprises, financed by U.S. taxpayers among others, have undermined any chances for democratic forces to take root in Afghanistan.

The major risk points for the warlords who run Afghanistan’s “kleptocracy” are the periodic elections to the national assembly and for the presidency that he Constitution requires to be held.

In 2009 Karzai emerged victorious from the massive electoral fraud of the first round election, with the help of the U.S. who apparently persuaded Abdullah Abdullah, who would have faced Karzai in a second-round run-off, to withdraw from the race.

Now Karzai has hit upon the brilliant scheme of delaying signature of the status-of-forces agreement with the U.S. and other countries until after the upcoming presidential elections to be held on April 5, 2014. By this stroke of genius, if the West allows it to stand, Karzai will have guaranteed the U.S. and other Western countries’ acquiescence in whatever level of fraud may be required to ensure his hand-picked successor is elected.

See

Steve Kerry, “Kerry Opposes Afghan Delay on Security Deal,” New York Times, November 22, 2013.

Azam Ahmed, “Karzai Says He’ll Wait to Sign Security Pact With U.S. Until Next Year,” New York Times, November 21, 2013.

If they complain about fraud, no status-of-forces agreement will enter into effect. Consequently, Karzai will have enormous leverage.

Because it believes a contingent of U.S. and other ISAF forces should remain, through 2024, the U.S. will in effect become the guarantor of Karzai’s next round of fraudulent elections.

Absolutely brilliant.

Among tHe alternative scenarios would be to dump Karzai and push really hard for free and fair elections in April, which could return a leader not beholden to or a puppet of Karzai. Someone like Abdullah Abdullah, who made eminent good sense and spoke like a real democrat during the 2009 campaign. This would require overcoming resistance from the CIA, which has had many high government officials in Afghanistan on its payroll, and which (it would not be surprising to learn some day) may have or have had had a similar relation with Karzai himself at some point in the past.

Another alternative would be for the U.S. Congress to immediately pass a law providing that no U.S. funds can be spent in Afghanistan after January 1, 2015 if the status of forces agreement does not come into force by January 1, 2014.

But, in the end, the American people will ask more fundamental questions, such as why U.S. taxpayers should pay one more cent, or their soldiers expend one more drop of blood, to keep Karzai and his cronies in power in “Corrupt-istan” (in Dexter Filkins’ memorable phrase).

Why not rebuild Detroit instead?

Why not, in fact, initiate a rapid withdrawal of all U.S. and ISAF forces from Afghanistan beginning January 1, 2014, regardless of what ruse or ploy the green-caped magician comes up with next?

These are some of the questions the American people will be asking.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Veterans’ Day, 2011: “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?”

Monday, November 11th, 2013

First published, November 11, 2011

My uncle died in a field in northern France with a German bullet in his head. To him, and all the other veterans of America’s wars, I am immensely grateful for his, and their, sacrifice.

The Vision of Peace After World War II

At the end of World War II, the leaders of the world had a clear vision of the horrors of war, and acted with resolution to bring wars to a halt through the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and by codifying the international law governing the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Article 2 paragraph 4 prohibited the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of members of the organization, a prohibition later extended to include all states. Article 51 provided for an exception in the case of an “armed attack”. These provisions have become customary international law and, importantly, also aquired the status of jus cogens or peremptory law from which there can be no exception or derogation by agreement.

A Vision of Perpetual War

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and the United States are currently embarked on a policy based on the assumption of perpetual war. The implementation of this policy includes targeted assassinations through drone strikes and other means, the establishment of new drone bases throughout the northern part of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and the development of new generations of drones some of which are as small as insects.

This policy has been implemented with little regard for the international law governing the use of force, and even less regard for the duty of the United States to contribute to the development of international law and institutions that can help ensure the security of the United States and other countries in the future.

These actions indicate that the United States has no current vision of peace as an overriding goal to be achieved, and no coherent strategy for actually achieving this objective.

Without the goal of peace, we are not likely to take the actions necessary to achieve peace, or to give those actions the urgent priority they should receive.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

In these circumstances, one is reminded of Pete Seeger’s famous song entitled “Where have all the flowers gone?” For the lyrics, click here.

Pete Seeger’s performance of this song is available on YouTube here.

See also, pasquetflowerponderings.blogspot.com, “Grandpa’s War – A Veteran’s Day Post,” November 11, 2011, which contains recollections of America’s recent wars, and a link to a clip of Pete Seeger singing ” Where have all the flowers gone” with a moving montage of photographs evoking American experiences of war, created by the TheSpadecaller in 2008.

Joan Baez, in a more recent performance of the song, can be found on YouTube here.

Marlene Dietrich’s recording of this song in English is also found on YouTube here.

For Dietrich’s performance of the song in French, see “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” here.

For her performance the German version of this song, see “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind”, here.

Marlene Dietrich, in a version of perhaps her most famous song, “Lili Marleen”, written in 1915 and later a hit among troops on both sides during World War II, takes us back to November 11, 1918 and the terrible war that preceded the armistice on that day. Her recording of the song, in English, is found on YouTube here. The original German version of the song is found here.

Obama’s Vision of Perpetual War and International Law

In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo, on December 10, 2009, President Obama said:

In the wake of such destruction (World War II), and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

Closely parsed, these statements are full of contradictions, as when President Obama affirms:

(1) “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
(2) “To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.”
(3) “I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”; and
(4) “Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”

Affirmation (1) accepts violent conflict as inevitable. (2) states that all nations must adhere to the norms that govern the use of force. (3) states that he, the president, “like any head of state”, reserves the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend his nation; and (4) states he is convinced adhering to “international standards” strengthens those who do.

These contradictions in Obama’s thinking, it is submitted, have contributed to the incoherence of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when measured against the requirements of international law, and the historical burden of strengthening international law and building better international institutions, which is no less important today than it was in 1945.

Reading these excerpts and the whole speech reveals that the president does not have a clear vision of peace as the goal, or a strategy on how to achieve that goal. While he pays lip service to observing international law, he insists that he has the paradoxical right–“like any head of state”–to violate it if necessary, in his view. So much for the concept of international law governing the use of force.

Without the clear and overriding goal of peace or a strategy for achieving peace, it is hard to see how we and other nations can view as the highest priority taking the steps necessary to achieve peace.

President Obama and the United States currently seem to have no overarching vision of peace, or strategy for achieving peace. As a result, their policies and actions are not guided by the pursuance of this goal in a strategic sense, but rather only by the demands of meeting with expediency the challenges of the moment.

By way of contrast, consider, if you will, the vision of the founders of the United Nations in 1945, particularly as set forth in the Preamble and Articles 1, 2, and 51 of the Charter.

We in the United States, like citizens in other countries, need a strong vision of peace and a coherent strategy for achieving it. Consequently, we need a president who has such a vision, and is guided by it.

The Trenchant Observer

Obama’s foreign policy incompetence, and what to do about it

Friday, November 1st, 2013

For background, see the following articles:

Victor Davis Hanson, “Is Obama Still President? National Review Online, October 29, 2013 (3:00 AM).

David Ignatius, “Pitfalls of a ‘realist’ Middle East strategy,” Washington Post, October 30, 2013.

Elizabeth C. McCall, “President Obama’s Absentee Foreign Policy,” U.S. News and World Report, August 27, 2013.

Doyle McManus, “On foreign policy, a consistently inconsistent president: Op-Ed Obama’s rhetoric tends to outrun his willingness to use U.S. power,” Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2013.

(developing story)

Wherever you look across the globe, the United States is in retreat, and held in lower and lower esteem and respect. This is the result of the incompetent foreign policy of Barack Obama, who despite his insistence on being in control of all the important issues facing the United States in the world, is not in control. No one is in control. The state is adrift.

The president has no sense of strategy, or even of keeping on top of things in different parts of the world. What is worse, he doesn’t seem to be able to delegate important authority to those under him.

The recent U.S.-Russian deal in Geneva on the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a meeting in Geneva, and the subsequent achievement of a strong Security Council resolution imposing a chemical weapons disarmament regime on Syria, might conceivably count as an exception to the general pattern.

That might be the case had it not occurred in the context of the complete fiasco of the U.S. preparing to use military force against Syria in response to the al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons at Ghouta on August 21, 2013, mobilizing its allies (e.g., Britain) to support such action, and then Obama “flinching” at the moment of truth, the moment when he might have pulled the trigger, and throwing the hot potato to Congress where he could not have assumed he would get approval.

The chemical weapons deal if fully carried out may achieve one American objective–the removal of chemical weapons from Syria–and two Russian objectives, first, the removal of chemical weapons from Syria, and, second, the establishment of a dynamic which is sure to bolster al-Assad and keep him in power for quite some time to come.

Obama cut the rug out from under his allies, including the French and, most notably, Saudi Arabia. His decision to “work through the Russians”, which seems to be a longstanding preference, had the effect of selling out the Free Syrian Army and the civilian opposition to the al-Assad regime.

Bashar al-Assad is now continuing his campaign of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the armed opposition and innocent civilians, while chemical weapons inspectors go about their business.

Throughout the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy is in a shambles. Stalwart allies for decades, like Saudi Arabia, have become disillusioned with the United States, fully aware that if Obama can sell out the Turks as he did a year ago when they were preparing for the use of military force in Syria, and could sell out the Syrian opposition as he just did, he could surely sell out the Saudis as he pursues a nuclear settlement with Iran.

Last month the United States used force violating the territorial integrity and political independence of Libya (see U.N. Charter, Article 2 para. 4) to catch an al-Qaeda terrorist high on the U.S. target list, without even offering a justification for its actions under international law. It also sent armed forces into Somalia on the same day to capture a target on their wanted list, also without a justification under international law. Last week Israel bombed targets in Syria for the third time, without acknowledgment or legal justification, or any comment so far as I am aware from the White House.

The civil war in Iraq is gaining steam, wiping out all of the gains U.S. blood and treasure was spent to secure.

In Afghanistan, the best hopes are for the survival of a narco-state ruled by war lords under the general coordination of Hamid Karzai, who appears to want to continue to rule from behind the throne following the upcoming presidential elections.  For the U.S., the logical policy would be to strongly insist on these elections and the electoral process being truly democratic, which if that were to occur could actually bring to power individuals who might collectively help to stablize the country. But as the U.S. showed in 2009, it is hardly an impartial player in the electoral game.

Obama’s record is one of inaction, and of inaction aggravated by failing to connect the dots and to understand how inaction could produce a domino effect leading to immense damage to U.S. foreign policy interests.

Where in the world is the U.S. leading on any foreign policy issue? What significant international initiatives has the U.S. launched? What international conventions or treaties is it pushing, in order to reduce the scourge of war and to improve the lot of mankind?

What has it done to support human rights, in deeds and not just empty rhetoric?

The cumulative damage over the last four years has been enormous. Just ponder the fact that four Latin American states are seeking to undermine the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, each of which which played an instrumental role in restoring democracy to the countries of Latin America in the 1970’s and 1980’s after decades of dictatorship.

The world has taken the measure of Barack Obama, and is not impressed.

What is to be done?

1. One alternative is impeachment (e.g. for failure to protect the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States by authorizing the NSA and other intelligence agencies to act in total disregard of its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures).  But the Democrats would not be likely to go along with such an option.

2. A second option would be to persuade Obama to resign, turning the leadership of the country over to Vice-President Joseph Biden. But that seems unlikely to work against the capacious ego of a vain and arrogant president whose ego and belief he is the smartest man in the room, any room, seem to be made of titanium.

3. A third option, suggested earlier here, would be for the president to turn foreign policy leadership over to John Kerry, who actually has some experience in the area. But does this seem likely?

4. A fourth option would be to just wait out the rest of Obama’s term, which ends on January 20, 2017.

The fourth option, while the likeliest to be followed, is also perhaps the most dangerous. Given the damage Obama has already inflicted on U.S. foreign policy interests, who knows what further disasters he might produce in the next three years and three months?

For evidence The Trenchant Observer is not alone in his thinking, see the list of articles above, which will be updated regularly.

We are really in a pickle, as they say.

The Trenchant Observer

Hamid Karzai’s Scurrilous Attacks on the U.S. in Afghanistan

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Recent News and Opinion

Alyssa J. Rubin, News Analysis: Karzai Bets on Vilifying U.S. to Shed His Image as a Lackey,” New York Times, March 12, 2013

Alyssa J. Rubin and Rod Norland, “U.S. General Puts Troops on Security Alert After Karzai Remarks,” New York Times, March 13, 2013

Leslie H. Gelb, “To Hell With Karzai,” The Daily Beast, March 12, 2013 (4:45 AM ET)

Ewen MacAskill (in Washington), “White House: claims of US collusion with Taliban ‘categorically false'; Obama spokesman rejects Karzai’s criticism of US as Afghan in police uniform kills seven including two American troops,” The Guardian, March 11, 2013 (15.51 ET)

Analysis

The United States has tolerated Hamid Karzai’s scurrilous attacks on the U.S. over the years, reacting with “understanding” that, e.g., Karzai is speaking to a domestic audience, or is acting crazy again.

But the U.S. has never reacted to these outrageous attacks with any understanding of their impact in a culture based on honor, and as a result has suffered the double humiliation of being attacked falsely and of being viewed as not having the courage to defend one’s honor.

Such attacks have worked for Karzai in the past, due to the American insistence that its envoys and military commanders get along with the green-caped magician. Karzai has proven far more adept than his allies at manipulating the other party or parties in an alliance which has kept him and the country’s corrupt political elite in power at the cost of U.S. and allied soldiers’ and civilians’ lives, and billions of dollars funneled into the coffers of government officials in what Dexter Filkins has quite aptly termed “Corruptistan”.

In 2009, the U.S. and NATO had a chance to bring Karzai to heel when decisions were being made on whether to insist that a second round in the presidential elections in Afghanistan actually be held, following the first-round elections held on August 20. Karzai’s fraud was so immense, that even the International Elections Commission, which found electoral corruption sufficient to require a second-round run-off,  barely touched the surface of the real fraud, due to the highly selective criteria it used to sample precincts for voting abuses.

The United States blinked, and backed Karzai instead of the democratic project the elections had been intended to further.

In view of the American backing of Karzai and the latter’s failure to guarantee that the second-round election would be fairly conducted, Abdullah Abdullah, the candidate who came in second with backing from the Northern Alliance and others, withdrew.

In any event, it had been obvious for some time that Karzai was the favored candidate of the U.S., for reasons which may have included his brother’s involvement in Kandahar with the CIA as well as that of many other high government officials who were on the CIA payroll.  While there is no public evidence of direct involvement of Hamid Karzai with the CIA, such a relationship now or in the past seems quite plausible given the CIA’s penetration of the highest ranks of the Afghan government, and therefore cannot be ruled out.

For whatever reasons, America could not break with Karzai.

As a result, without improvement of governance in the country to keep pace with military gains, Afghanistan now faces a period of growing instability in which it is fairly likely that the Taliban will achieve increasing control of the countryside as U.S. and ISAF forces draw down and essentially withdraw from the country.

Obama’s decisions in 2009 relating to the presidential elections constituted one of his worst foreign policy failures since assuming office.

The fact that the elections and decisions regarding the holding of the second-round election were not addressed within Obama’s much-touted Afghanistan policy review group revealed either the president’s incompetence in the foreign policy arena, or the fact that he and the CIA had decided issues relating to Karzai outside of the Afghan policy review process, or both of the above. The fact that then CIA Director Leon Panetta did not attend the last sessions of the policy review group lend support to the second hypothesis.

As for Karzai, Thomas Friedman predicted with unerring accuracy the following in an op-ed piece in March, 2010:

We have thousands of U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan and more heading there. Love it or hate it, we’re now deep in it, so you have to want our engagement there to build something that is both decent and self-sustaining — so we can get out. But I still fear that Karzai is ready to fight to the last U.S. soldier. And once we clear, hold and build Afghanistan for him, he is going to break our hearts.
–Thomas L. Friedman, “This Time We Really Mean It,” New York Times, March 30, 2010

As long as Karzai is calling the shots, the chances for the kinds of improvements in governance that are required for the government to remain in power and hold off the Taliban after the draw-down and departure of U.S. and ISAF troops do not appear great.

The Trenchant Observer

For (numerous) previous articles on Afghanistan by the Trenchant Observer, use the Search box in the upper right-hand corner of the home page.