Posts Tagged ‘Ambassador’

Into the Abyss: Washington’s Fecklessness, Syria’s Fate—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #20 (March 30)

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Latest News Reports and Opinion

Reuters reports from Beirut,

(Reuters) – Syrian artillery hit parts of Homs city and at least 37 people were killed in clashes around Syria on Friday, opposition activists said, as peace envoy Kofi Annan told President Bashar al-Assad his forces must be first to cease fire and withdraw.
–Erika Solomon and Douglas Hamilton (Beirut), “Syrian army must pull back first under Annan plan, Reuters, March 30, 2012 (2:15pm EDT).

The Syria conflict and the United States’ failure to develop and execute an effective policy to deal with the atrocities in Syria is likely to spill over into international efforts to halt the development of a nuclear weapons capability in Iran, as suggested by Turkish Prime Minister’s reported statements to Khamanei in Tehran.

See Elad Benari. “Khamenei: Syria’s Anti-Israel, So We’ll Defend It; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tells Turkish PM Erdogan: Iran will defend the Syrian regime due to its anti-Israeli stance, Arutz Sheva (7), March 30, 2012 (

The Telegraph provides an overview of the situation at the end of the day in London:

Ruth Sherlock (Beirut), “Syria activists lose hope that they will unseat Bashar al-Assad; Syrian activists were losing hope of unseating President Bashar al-Assad from power as regime troops continued to attack dwindling rebel strongholds, ignoring international demands for a ceasefire,” The Telegraph, March 30, 2012 (7:39PM BST).

Der Spiegel, which has consistently provided up-to-date and comprehensive reporting on events on the ground in Syria, describes the impact of “Annan’s deadly peace plan” including its fatal flaws and its effects on the ground:

See Ulrike Putz (Beirut), “Annans tödlicher Friedensplan; Syriens Rebellen toben, Experten sind entsetzt: Der Uno-Friedensplan von Kofi Annan bringt dem Assad-Regime vor allem jede Menge Zeit, um im Land weiter zu morden und zu foltern. Am Ende könnte der Diktator sogar im Amt bleiben – die Opposition will das mit Gewalt verhindern, ” 30 März 2012.

Regarding Obama’s posture toward Russia as revealed in Seoul, see Charles Krauthammer, “The ‘flexibility’ doctrine,” The Washington Post, March 29, 2012. Krauthammer quotes the audio picked up at the open microphone incident, as follows:

“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him [Vladimir Putin] to give me space. . . . This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
— Barack Obama to Dmitry Medvedev, open mike, March 26


What can be added to what has been written before? See the Articles on Syria page.

Obama is determined not to get involved in Syria in an election year, “regardless of the consequences”.

He is not moved, not moved to action, by seeing thousands of Syrians killed by al-Assad’s forces, with dozens and sometimes hundreds of new victims added to the list each day.

He supported the Kofi Annan plan, which in effect prevented potential pressures on the ground against al-Assad, while providing a smokescreen behind which the United States could hide its feckless failure to act to halt the killing. Worse than that, the Annan plan thwarted the efforts of others–Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, in particular–from providing arms to Syrian citizens with which they could defend themselves against the onslaught of a modern army and state security apparatus, and from establishing a safety zone inside Syria to which they could retreat to escape the killing.

The response of the U.S. and others to events in Syria is worse than Srebrenice, because the events have unfolded in slow motion and the United States has had plenty of time to think, to react, and to act to stop the killing.

Now the world can draw its own conclusions about the current leadership of the United States, which as we have pointed out has a foreign policy without a moral core.

The saddest thing is that we can now also draw our conclusions about Barack Obama, and the kind of foreign policy “leader” he really is.

He has bungled our exit from Iraq, and further embroiled us in a hopeless war to uphold a corrupt dictator and political elite in Afghanistan, a narco-state.

He has also thrown international law to the wind as he pursues the defense of the United States by enhancing and using the capabilities of drones and special operations forces to simply kill our perceived enemies, throughout many countries in the world.

In doing so, with no vision of peace and no credibility in appealing for the support of the populations of allied countries to undertake joint endeavors based on shared moral values and principles, including those embodied in international law, he has given the world a prospect of endless war–without the moderating force of law.

He is who he is.

And we are who we are. In the United States, we have a vote in the upcoming presidential elections. For some of us, who find the domestic programs of the Democrats far more sensible than those put forward by Republican candidates in the presidential primaries, and who are gravely concerned about the future composition of the Supreme Court, the presidential elections in November, 2012 are shaping up to present a wrenching choice.

In the meantime, we–and the Syrians demonstrating and fighting for a democratic government which guarantees the protection of their fundamental human rights–must look elsewhere for leadership to halt the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other grave violations of human rights in Syria.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

“The emperor has no clothes”: Foreign policy without a moral core—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #19 (March 29)

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Latest News and Opinion on Syria

Dominic Evans (Beirut), “Assad says foreign aid to rebels must stop under peace plan,” Reuters, March 29, 2012 (8:54 pm BST).

Adrian Blomfeld, “Syria: Bashar al-Assad raises questions over commitment to peace deal; President Bashar al-Assad has raised questions over his commitment to a UN-backed initiative he agreed to just days ago by demanding that Syria’s rebels disarm before a peace deal can be reached, The Telegraph, March 29, 2012 (8:01 pm BST).

Der Spiegel reports that 29 people were killed on Thursday, mostly in Homs, Idlib and in the suburbs of Damaskus.

–Christoph Sydow, “Assad ignoriert Annans Friedensplan; Mit sechs Punkten zum Frieden: Uno und Arabische Liga setzen auf Kofi Annans Lösungsplan, der den Machtkampf in Syrien befrieden soll. Doch das Regime in Damaskus setzt bislang keine der Forderungen um. Assad spielt auf Zeit – und hofft weiter auf die fehlende Entschlossenheit des Westens,” Der Spiegel, den 31. März 2012. This article also contains a summary of the six-point U.N. peace plan of Kofi Annan, in German.

Tony Badran, “Passivity and incoherence on Syria,” NOW Lebanon (blog), March 29, 2012.

Tony Badran, “US tells Turkey to back off Syria,” NOW Lebanon (blog), March 22, 2012.

Opinion: Marc Ginsberg

Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco has condemned recent U.S. policy on Syria, highlighting similarities with the Clinton White House’s handling of atrocities in the Balkans up until the massacre of 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenice in July, 1995.

Flash forward 17 years later, and in this second year of Syria’s so-called Arab Spring bloodbath it’s déjà vu all over again at 1600 Penn. While Syria is not Srebrenica, there are eerie similarities in how this Obama team is hopelessly caught up in a Bosnian-style policy vacuum circa 1995, characterized by an excessively domineering election campaign apparatus that inexorably trumps national security considerations. That is a dangerous recipe when coupled with the absence of any long-term strategy in Syria.

Why is the White House on such a slippery slope that it claims it is determined to avoid?

Tracing the policy of the White House over the last year, Ginsburg notes that Obama and his team reacted to Syrian atrocities like “kryptonite”, stressed unsubstantiated fears about what would come after Assad as a reason for inaction, and coupled repeated calls for Assad to go with a failure to impose consequences on al-Assad. Consistently, the White House political operation’s desire to keep Syria out of the election trumped national security considerations.

Shockingly, Ginsberg relates how the U.S. enlisted Turkish support for certain options, and then cut the ground out from under the Turks by telling them that Obama “preferred going through the Russians” to secure peace by supporting the U.N. peace initiative led by Kofi Annan.

(A)s more reports of atrocities trickled out of Syria last summer, the U.S. began subcontracting U.S. policy to Turkey in the expectation that greater coordination with Ankara would create more multilateral support against the regime. At the time, this made eminent sense. Ankara, faced with a growing humanitarian refugee crisis on its Syrian border, and furious with its failed investment in the Assad regime, picked up the mantle. There were bilateral talks of buffer zones and humanitarian corridors and, perhaps non-lethal support to the nascent Free Syrian Army.

But as my able colleague Tony Badran reported in his blog in (confirming what I picked up during my recent visit to Turkey a few days ago), Secretary Clinton caught her Turkish counterpart off guard during their meeting in Washington last month. Clinton reportedly told Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that the Obama Administration “preferred going through the Russians” in an attempt to achieve a political solution being shopped by the UN/Arab League’s Special Syrian Envoy Kofi Annan.

By unexpectedly dismissing Turkish/Arab League plans to create a buffer zone/or humanitarian corridor as well as organizing and providing non-lethal support to the Free Syrian Army, everything that Turkey thought was on the table with Washington appeared to fall off of it. It seemed to matter to no one in the White House that it had just pushed our Turkish colleagues over the cliff after we had jumped on their bandwagon.

(I)f the U.S. refuses to accede to new ideas from its “Syrian Friends” then, to coin its own phrase with respect to Assad, “it should get out of the way.”

–Amb. Marc Ginsberg, “Syria Is Obama’s Srebrenica,” Huffington Post (The Blog), March 28, 2012 .

Tony Badran’s March 22 article, listed above and cited by Ginsberg, provides further details on the change in U.S. position on Syria with regard to options under consideration by Turkey and the Gulf countries. Badran also explains Obama’s aversion to getting invoved, as follows:

The Obama administration’s reasoning is simple. It calculates, rather correctly, that such regional efforts will likely end up drawing the US in down the road, one way or another. President Obama wishes to nip in the bud any possibility of this happening in an election year. And so, such regional moves were opposed in order for the president not to be forced to take action he’s adamantly intent on avoiding, regardless of the consequences.

As a result, the administration has found itself in the surreal position of siding closer with Assad’s Russian ally and at cross-purposes with its own regional allies – and, most significantly, in contradiction with its own stated policy of regime change in Syria.
–Tony Badran, “US tells Turkey to back off Syria,” NOW Lebanon, March 22, 2012.

So, Obama seems to have pulled the rug out from under our allies, and decided to pursue peace in Syria instead by working with the Russians and supporting Kofi Annan’s ill-starred six-point peace program.

A Foreign Policy without a Moral Core

Obama’s actions toward Turkey and the Gulf countries in relation to Syria suggest that there is no moral core at the heart of Obama’s foreign policy.

It should also be noted that a close if unofficial advisor to Hillary Clinton–her husband, Bill Clinton–was himself the author of the U.S. policy that led to Srebrenice.

On Syria, the pattern of U.S. actions toward Iran in 2009, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya has been repeated. Absent Security Council authorization, Obama has been unwilling to act or to lead. Obama avoids confrontation like the plague.

Events drive policy, not the reverse.

The Obama administration has shown no moral outrage at Russia’s and China’s support of al-Assad and their working to provide him with more time to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian population to solidify his hold on power. Rather, it’s business as ususal.

With Russia actively supporting al-Assad through the provision of weapons, amunition and training by Russian advisors on the ground in Syria, President Obama had the callous temerity to sit down with Russian President Medvedev at the Seoul nuclear conference last week, in a most cordial manner, and to beseech him to understand that he, Obama, would be able to be more flexible on nuclear arms control negotiations after the November elections.

What was most revealing about the “open microphone” episode in Seoul was that Obama was pleading with the Russians to be understanding and to give him some space on the arms control issue. In short, he was proceeding from a psychological position of weakness, when he should have been insisting publicly that Russia stop its morally indefensible support of al-Assad’s commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

Obama seems to be laboring under the illusion that his “reset” of relations with Russia, particularly thorugh his personal relationship with Mededev, has been successful when, quite obviously, the contrary has been the case.

These developments can be understood only by recognizing that Obama when dealing with foreign policy issues thinks primarily in terms of electoral politics and his re-election in November. He delegates foreign policy to others. In fact, he appears much more animated and engaged emotionally on domestic issues. This is consistent with his lack of international interests prior to entering the White House.

For whatever reasons, in the foreign policy area there appear to be no moral values for which he will fight.

When you step back from the daily news and take a broad look at what Obama has done by supporting Kofi Annan’s U.N. peace initiative, and “preferring going through the Russians”, you can see the utter cynicism and lack of morality of the administration’s policy and actions.

What Obama has done, in a word, is to sell the Syrian opposition down the river. He has abandoned them. The highly probable result of pursuing the Annan plan is that great delay will follow before the fighting stops, if it does, and then probably only after thousands of additional lives have been lost.

The U.N. plan is nothing more than a shameless facade behind which the United States can try to hide, while it obstructs those who would otherwise act to halt the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria.

The logical outcome of the U.N. plan is that al-Assad will remain in power, with all the instruments of state terror at his command, to be used if and when and to the extent needed to maintain himself in power. Keeping him in power will ensure the Russians the continued operation of their naval base at Tartus, their listening post for the Middle East, and their arms contracts and other business relationships with the al-Assad regime.

One is reminded of the children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen entitled, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. See the translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Keiserens nye Klæder” by Jean Hersholt.

The Emperor in this case is President Barack Obama. The Emperor has no clothes.

Obama’s foreign policy has no moral core.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page.

Obama’s New Year’s Resolutions for Foreign Policy in 2012

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

The Observer has been trying to get inside President Obama’s head for over two years. Recently, he may have succeeded, or had a very strange dream, in which the following was revealed:

Obama’s 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Foreign Policy in 2012

1. Ok, I will finally try to read through the impenetrable legalese of Philip Alston’s Report to the Human Rights Council on the legality under international law of U.S. drone attacks.

2. Admitting that public international law was not my favorite course in law school—in fact I can’t remember if I even took it—I will accept State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh’s longstanding offer to lead me in a weekly tutorial on the subject for, as Koh puts it, “as long as it takes for (me) to get it.”

3. I accept the challenge to deliver a speech based on a rewrite of my Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo which includes the themes of “a vision of peace” and “how to get there”.

4. To make my rewrite of the Oslo speech easy for everyone to understand, I will even stop avoiding the use of the words “international law”, which should be easier after (2), if not (1).

5. I will ask Ambassador Koh to explain to me in plain English what some of these European and European-influenced international lawyers keep referring to as “dédoublement fontionnel”, which I think has something to do with the idea that nations should try to build and strengthen international law, instead of just trying to see what they can get away with. I don’t really get the point, but maybe I’ll understand better if it is spelled out in English.

6. I agree that we don’t really want to be giving a lot of money to governments who murder outspoken journalists like Syed Saleem Shahzad. I think Admiral Mullen said something about this. Dexter Filkins made a pretty compelling case that the murder was ordered by the highest officials in the Pakistani military in his New Yorker article on September 19. (Letter From Islamabad: The Journalist and the Spies–The murder of a reporter who exposed Pakistan’s secrets. The New Yorker, September 19, 2011.)

There are even reports that the Pakistani Ambassador to Washington, until recently, fears for his life in Pakistan as a result of “memogate”. But, as Richard Holbrooke used to stress, we have to deal with the Pakistanis, unsavory as that may be. I will agree to cutting U.S. aid to the military there by one half—from $1.3 billion to $650 million. Once they’ve arrested and tried the general(s) allegedly responsible for the order to murder Syed Saleem Shahzad, the other half of the aid will be restored.

7. I will enlist the CIA, with Leon Paneta’s help if necessary, in a secret program aimed at persuading the top civilian and military officials involved in Bush’s torture program to retire. Attorney General Eric Holder has concluded that none of them except a few low-level types should be prosecuted for torture, but if he has new evidence and wants to take up the issue again, I’ll let him. If other parties to the Torture Convention arrest some of these officials while they are traveling abroad, and ask us if it is OK for them to try them themselves, I’ll let the Attorney General make the call.

8. Ok, guys, I will finally issue an executive order that confirms my interpretation of U.S. laws banning torture as banning all kinds of torture, as that term is defined in the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

9. After completing (2) and (1), I will reconsider the position that U.S. citizens may be executed by drones or special commando operations without trial if they have been placed on a special targets list. I don’t really get the point about the fifth amendment language that “no citizen will be deprived of …life..without due process of law” and I don’t see how these guys can be given the right to an attorney, but I will commit to not invoking the “state secrets” doctrine to block further consideration of these issues by the courts.

10. Ok, while I think we already examined our strategy in Afghanistan in 2009, ad nauseum, I promise I will reread Ambassador Karl Eikenberry’s memos from November, 2009, for whatever that’s worth.

The Trenchant Observer

The smartest person in the room, and the Afghanistan policy review

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Continuing Reflections on “the Smartest Person in the Room”

In a previous article, we offered some observations on the report that President Obama always considers himself to be the smartest person in any room.

See “Is Obama the Smartest Person in the Room?” October 22, 2010

This is a theme worth pursuing, for it touches on the issue of the hubris of the Obama administration, which grates even on some of the president’s strongest supporters.

Some 35 years ago, Richard C. Holbrooke, currently President Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, offered a few insights into the issue of “the smartest person in the room.”

See Richard C. Holbrooke, “The smartest man in the room,” Harper’s Magazine, June, 1975.

Wrote Holbrooke,

In a similar instance, reported by Stewart Alsop, a senior CIA official who regularly briefed Defense Secretary McNamara on Indochina, using all the statistics and data compiled by the Pentagon, suddenly asked McNamara if he could offer a personal observation. When McNamara agreed, according to Alsop, the official said that he had spent much of his life working on Southeast Asia and, yes, he knew that the statistics showed that we were winning but that somehow, deep down in his bones, he just didn’t feel comfortable with all those signs of progress. Deep down he felt that things were rotten. McNamara asked for reasons, data, empirical evidence. The official couldn’t give any, he said; it was just a feeling, McNamara thanked him for his comments, dismissed him, and asked the CIA to send over another briefer.

Briefing someone that smart could be very difficult…People who had important things to say were cut off in mid-thought because they were not articulate enough to frame their thoughts in the precise, logical, bright way that was desired, if not required.

But sometimes the slower-speaking, less smart person was right; sometimes the smart ones were wrong. So finally it started to become clear: the smartest man in the room is not always right.

Worth noting is that Holbrooke is apparently not among the president’s favorite advisers.

Bob Woodward in Obama’s Wars reports, ” It wasn’t until well into the Obama presidency that Holbrooke learned definitively how much the president didn’t care for him.” Woodward recounts how Holbrooke had asked hiim to call him “Richard” instead of ” Dick”, which Obama told others he found “unusual” and even “strange”. (p. 211) One might equally note that mortifying a key adviser is a bit unusual and strange as well.

Earlier in the book Woodward quotes Vice-President Joe Biden as telling Obama, “He’s the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met, but maybe the right guy for the job.” (p. 72)

Reading Obama’s Wars, one comes away with the impression that the strategic review of Afghanistan policy was managed by a president who thought he was the smartest person in the room, and who conducted the meetings he attended in a tense and formal manner which did not encourage genuine debate.

Weeks were spent discussing whether the mission of the allies and the additional forces requested by General Stanley McChrystal was to be to “defeat” the Taliban, or to “degrade” the Taliban so they couldn’t overthrow the government in Kabul. The practical significance of this distinction, on the ground, appears to be at best dubious.

Very little attention, according to Woodward, was paid to the question of what was likely to happen in Afghanistan after the U.S. drew down its forces, and just what a negotiated settlement with the Taliban would lead to after ISAF forces had withdrawn.

This was not Bobby Kennedy leading the sessions of the Ex-Com set up by President John Kennedy to advise him during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Reading Woodward’s book, one is struck by the lack of discussion of how to handle the election fraud underway in Afghanistan, and of the full implications of sticking with Karzai. By not discussing this critical issue, and not having CIA Director Panetta or Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair present at the last meetings, a critical opportunity to change the dynamics of the governance game in Kabul was lost. This opportunity was right under their noses, so to speak, but–at least according to Woodward–not directly discussed.

Ambassador Eikenberry was absolutely rignt in pointing out in his cables that the Afghanistan policy review had a very narrow focus, and did not adequately take a wide range of considerations into account.

The way this policy review was managed by the president is troubling, and requires further reflection.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited.

LUTTE POUR LA SURVIE de Karzaï en Afghanistan: l’ampleur réelle de la fraude électorale, les chances d’Abdullah, et la réponse de Washington

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010


Publié le 24 octobre, 2009
Traduit de l’anglais du 16 octobre, 2009


Si la Commission des plaintes électorales en Afghanistan est susceptible de décider que Karzai a remporté 47% des bulletins de vote et Abdullah a gagné 28% au premier tour des élections le 20 août, pourquoi aurait Karzaï tant lutté pour éviter un second tour?

Serait-ce que l’ECC a utilisé un échantillonnage statistique très limmité des résultats des élections du 20 août, qui a conduit a l’éxamen des bureaux de vote qui représentent seulement les cas les plus flagrants de fraude, ainsi laissant sous-estimer largement l’étendue réelle de la fraude, et par conséquent la possibilité de que Karzaï peuve
effectivement être battu par Abdullah dans un second tour?

Si cela était vrai, cela expliquerait l’opposition farouche de Karzaï à la tenue d’un second tour de scrutin, car un run-off pourrait effectivement donner une majorité de voix et la présidence à Abdullah, qui aboutirait à une remise arrachant du pouvoir, avec la perte concomitante d’emplois, d’influence et de favoritisme pour Karzaï et ses partisans.

Comment les États-Unis, l’OTAN et l’Organisation des Nations Unies réagissent pour gérer la crise qui éclatera dans le cas où Kazaï rechignerait d’acccepter les conclusions de la ECC aura un impact décisif sur la légitimité du prochain gouvernement. Cette semaine, la personne nommée à l’ECC par Karzaï a démissionné, affirmant d’abusives pressions étrangères contre la Commission. Les déclarations de l’Ambassadeur Áfghran aux États-Unis, en disant q’un deuxième tour était probable, aurait été interprété par plusieurs comme un signe de que Karzaï accepterait un second tour. Aujourd’hui, pourtant, des déclarations faites par les autorités de Kaboul suggèrent que la réponse de M. Karzaï est encore dans l’air.

La stratégie des Etats-Unis paraît être cela de pressioner à Abdullah pour accepter un accord pour se joindre à un gouvernement de coalition dans lequel Karzaï restera à la barre. Sinon, pourquoi serait-il nécessaire pour les membres de l’OTAN de déclarer comme ils l’ont fait récemment qu’ils croyaient Karzaï serait le gagnant dans un second tour, et pourquoi s’auraiat-elle sentie le Secrétaire d’État Clinton le besoin de affirmer, vendredi, que Karzaï serait le probable gagnant dans un second tour? Les États-Unis ont apparemment fait pression sur Abdullah dès les premiers jours après les élections du 20 aoút. Les autorités américaines n’ont guère agi dans le noir, parce que les services de renseignements américaines auraient sûrement une idée plus précise de l’ampleur de la fraude que même celle des chiffres rapportés par l’ECC, ceux qui devraient être publiés dans quelques jours.

Par ailleurs, à quoi faire se trouve-t-il l’ancien ambassadeur américain Zalmay Khalilzad à Kaboul? L’ambassadeur américain à Kaboul de 2003-2005, M. Khalilzad a été candidat pour un poste conjuré de «Premier ministre» de l’Afghanistan sous Karzaï dans la période précédant les élections, une possibilité qui s’est prouvée illusoire. Est-ce qu’il agit de sa propre entreprise? S’il agit pour l’administration Obama, il serait intéressant de connaître sa tâche. Est-ce pour tirer le fer hors de l’incendie pour Karzaï, ou quelque chose d’autre? Espérons qu’il y ait plus à lui que l’improvisation désespérée, et il faut espérer de même qu’il reflète quelque chose en plus que le désarroi politique américaine à Washington lors d’une phase très critique dans nos relations avec l’Afghanistan.

Pourquoi la Presse n’a-t-elle vraiment investigué jusqu’au fond dans tout cela, au lieu de résumer simplement les opinions de différents responsables des États-Unis et de l’OTAN, avec les observations d’un ou d’un autre expert universitaire jetées la dedans pour faire bonne mesure?

Dans un bulletin d’informations à la télévision la semaine dernière, un homme de la rue à Kaboul a fait observer que l’OTAN était contre Abdullah, de sorte que celui ne pouvait pas gagner la présidence. Sa déclaration a sonné vraie. De telles déclarations devront être inquiétantes pour ceux qui craignaient que les États-Unis peuvent être aperçus par les Afghans comme une force occupante et qui en tant veut imposer sa volonté sur le peuple de l’Afghanistan. N’est-il pas le temps maintenant pour une revision d’urgence de notre politique envers le gouvernement Karzaï, avec une vue vers l’action décisive dans les prochains jours? Au cours la crise des missiles de Cuba en 1962, il est utile de rappeler, le Président John F. Kennedy n’était pas engagé dans un examen des politiques de grand envergure, mais plutôt utilisait son Comité exécutif pour l’aider à décider comment faire face à de navires soviétiques portant de missiles chargés qui, dans un premier moment descendaient sur Cuba, et dans un second puis directement sur les navires américains bloquent leur chemin.

L’examen de la politique en Afghanistan conduit par le président Obama est précieux et doit continuer, mais le président a besoin de se concentrer maintenant sur les navires qui descendent sur nous et l’Afghanistan dans les prochains jours.

The Trenchant Observer
(Le Observateur Incisif)
Suivre sur

Les commentaires et les débats sont invités.


Friday, October 16th, 2009

If the Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan is likely to decide that Karzai won 47% of the ballots and Abdullah won 28% in the first round elections on August 20, why is Karzai fighting so hard to avoid a second round?

Could it be that the ECC’s very limited statistical sampling of the August 20 election results–examining only polling stations representing the most egregious cases of fraud–vastly understates the real extent of the fraud, and hence the likelihood that Karzai can actually beat Abdullah in a second round?

If this were true, it would explain Karzai’s fierce opposition to holding a second round of voting, because a run-off could actually give a majority of votes and the Presidency to Abdullah. That would produce a wrenching handover of power, and concomitant loss of jobs, influence, and patronage for Karzai and his supporters.

How the U.S., NATO and the United Nations manage the crisis which will erupt if Karzai balks at the ECC’s findings will have a fateful impact on the legitimacy of the next government. This week Karzai’s appointee on the ECC resigned, claiming improper foreign pressures on the Commission. Statements by Karzai’s Ambassador to the U.S. saying a second round was likely were interpreted as a sign Karzai would accept a second round. Yet later statements by officials in Kabul suggest that Karzai’s response is still up in the air.

The strategy of the U.S. seems to be to pressure Abdullah into an agreement to join a coalition government in which Karzai will remain at the helm. Otherwise, why would it be necessary for NATO members to declare as they did recently that they believed Karzai would be the winner in a second round, and why would Secretary of State Clinton feel moved to state, on Friday, that Karzai would be the likely winner in a runoff? The U.S. has apparently been pressuring Abdullah since days after the August 20 elections. U.S. officials have hardly been operating in the dark, for U.S. intelligence surely has a more accurate picture of the extent of the fraud than even the reported ECC figures, expected to be published within a day or two.

Moreover, what is former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad doing in Kabul? U.S. Ambassador to Kabul from 2003-2005, Khalilzad was a candidate for a conjured-up position of “prime minister” of Afghanistan under Karzai in the run-up to the elections, a prospect which proved illusory. Is he acting on his own now? If he is acting for the Obama administration, it would be interesting to know his brief. Is it to pull the iron out of the fire for Karzai, or something else? Hopefully there is more to it than desperate improvisation, and hopefully it reflects something more than U.S. policy disarray in Washington at a highly critical juncture in our relations with Afghanistan.

Why isn’t the press digging into all of this, instead of simply summarizing the views of different U.S. and NATO officials, with those of an occasional academic thrown in for good measure?

In a television news report last week, a man on the street in Kabul observed that NATO was against Abdullah, so he couldn’t win the presidency. His statement had the ring of truth. Such statements should be disquieting to those concerned that the U.S. may be perceived by Afghans as an occupying force and as imposing its will on the people of Afghanistan. Isn’t it time now for an emergency revision in our policy towards the Karzai government, with a view toward decisive action in the coming days? During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, it is worth recalling, President John F. Kennedy was not engaged in a wide-ranging policy review, but rather using his Executive Committee to help him decide how to deal with missile-laden Soviet ships bearing down first on Cuba, and then directly on U.S. navy warships blocking their path.

President Obama’s policy review is valuable and should continue, but he needs to focus now on the ships bearing down on us and Afghanistan in the next few days.

The Trenchant Observer
follow on

Comments and debate are invited.