Posts Tagged ‘May 22’

After G-8 “agreement on Syria”, the fighting continues—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #41 (May 23) REVISED

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

G-8 Camp David Final Communique: Statement on Syria

1. We, the Leaders of the Group of Eight, met at Camp David on May 18 and 19, 2012 to address major global economic and political challenges.

31. We remain appalled by the loss of life, humanitarian crisis, and serious and widespread human rights abuses in Syria. The Syrian government and all parties must immediately and fully adhere to commitments to implement the six-point plan of UN and Arab League Joint Special Envoy (JSE) Kofi Annan, including immediately ceasing all violence so as to enable a Syrian-led, inclusive political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system. We support the efforts of JSE Annan and look forward to seeing his evaluation, during his forthcoming report to the UN Security Council, of the prospects for beginning this political transition process in the near-term. Use of force endangering the lives of civilians must cease. We call on the Syrian government to grant safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel to populations in need of assistance in accordance with international law. We welcome the deployment of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, and urge all parties, in particular the Syrian government, to fully cooperate with the mission. We strongly condemn recent terrorist attacks in Syria. We remain deeply concerned about the threat to regional peace and security and humanitarian despair caused by the crisis and remain resolved to consider further UN measures as appropriate.

–Camp David Declaration, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, May 19, 2012.

For quotes from President Obama at the G-8 summit relating to Syria, Russian statements affirming their position had been adopted, and commentary, see

The Trenchant Observer, “Obama clueless on Syria? G-8 endorses UN 6-point peace plan—Obama’s Debacle in Syria—Update #39 (May 21),” May 21, 2012.

Latest New Reports and Opinion

Syrian forces have resumed their attack on Rastan. AFP reports,

Soldiers were trying to overrun Rastan for the second time in 10 days, with shells crashing into the town at the rate of “one a minute” at one stage, according to the Britain-based watchdog.

An activist told AFP that Free Syrian Army fighters were defending Rastan’s entrances but that “regime forces are being strengthened with new deployments,” including from the elite Republican Guard.

“Electricity has been cut off in Rastan, and water tanks have been shelled,” said activist Abu Rawan. “There is also a severe lack of food because the market is closed and we can’t bring food in from nearby villages.”

Hours later, the activist said the army assault eased when a team of UN observers entered Rastan.

“The situation is calm now because the UN monitors have arrived” having heard the shelling, Abu Rawan told AFP, adding, however, “God protect us when they leave.”

On May 14, 23 soldiers were killed in a failed assault on the town, which straddles the main highway linking the capital to the north and where rebels regrouped from the battered city of Homs.

More than 12,600 people have been killed in the bloodshed, nearly 1,500 of them since a UN-backed truce took effect April 12, according to Observatory figures.

–AFP, “Syria assails rebel town, admits sanctions hurting,” The Daily Star, May 23, 2012 (09:52 PM).

On Tuesday, May 22, in al-Busaira, Syrian police forces fired into a crowd of several hundred people who had gathered to meet with the U.N. monitors, as the latter looked on. According to opposition reports, at least two people were killed.

Unter den Augen von UNO-Beobachtern sollen syrische Polizisten in eine Menschenmenge geschossen und zwei Personen getötet haben. Ein Vertreter der Opposition berichtete am Dienstag, in al-Busaira in der ost-syrischen Provinz Deir al-Zor seien Hunderte begeisterte Menschen aus ihren Häusern gestürmt, um die UNO-Beobachter zu begrüßen. “Binnen Minutenfrist gerieten sie ins Feuer”, sagte der Sprecher der überwiegend aus Deserteuren gebildeten Freien Syrischen Armee (FSA). Andere Informanten aus der Opposition sagten, die Regierungstruppen hätten mit Flugabwehrraketen in die Stadt geschossen.

–“Syrien: Bürger vor Augen von UN-Beobachtern getötet?; Syrische Sicherheitskräfte sollen in eine Menschenmenge geschossen haben, die die UNO-Beobachter begrüßen wollte,” Die Presse (Die / Wien), 22 Mai 2012.

On Monday, May 21, some 38 people were killed in the fighting in Syria, according to opposition sources. These included 22 soldiers, 11 rebels, and 5 civilians.

“Fast 40 Menschen sterben bei Gefechten; Seit Mitte April herrscht in Syrien Waffenstillstand, doch die Gewalt bricht immer wieder aus: Am Montag wurden erneut viele Menschen getötet, Kriegsgerät soll zerstört worden sein. Uno-Generalsekretär Ban sieht die internationalen Friedensbemühungen an einem “kritischen Punkt”, Der Spiegel, 21 Mai 2012.

For an incisive overview of the current situation, stressing the need for urgent action including potentially military action, see Itamar Rabinovich, “The Anarchy Factor in Syria,” ISN Blog (ETH, Zurich), 23 May 2012.


The theoretical U.N. ceasefire “agreed to” as part of the Security Council’s 6-point peace plan was never observed by al-Assad. It seems now that the rebels have resumed their attacks in earnest. Meanwhile, a third element–linked to al-Qaeda–appears to have entered the fray.

The situation is no longer “spinning out of control”. It is out of control. Whether the U.S., Europe and the Arab countries can act quickly enough to stem the tide is an open question.

Judging from the statements at the G-8 summit at Camp David, these key countries are still asleep. Whether there is more than meets the eye, beneath the surface, remains to be seen.

Publicly, the G-8 and NATO are obviously not paying attention and working hard to come up with new solutions. Such solutions would probably involve the credible threat or actual use of military force.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, 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 Magician” enthralls donors once again, in Kabul

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Once again the Magician has waived his green cape and dazzled the international donors who are paying for the war they are waging in Afghanistan to keep him in power. A donors conference was held in Kabul on July 20, 2010, launching “the Kabul process”.

See Nipa Banerjee, “Too many conferences, too few results in Afghanistan,” The Ottowa Citizen, July 22, 2010; and
Editorial, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 22, 2010

The last time the donors met was at the London conference in January, where after committing massive corruption in the first round presidential elections in August 2009, and refusing to replace the members of the Independent Electoral Commission who were directly responsible for certifying that fraud, the Magician dazzled the internationals with his talk of re-integration of the Taliban.

Exactly nothing, or at least nothing desirable, has come of that talk of re-integration. But because the U.S. and its allies can see no way out of Afghanistan, they long for a magical ending.

In London, the Magician succeeded in changing the subject, with the question of free and fair elections receding to something like the 25th goal in the final communiqué of the conference.

One has to marvel at such legerdemain, even if the objects of manipulation are incredibly easy targets. Among them all there does not seem to be more than six months of collective memory. None of them seem to recall the nine years of empty promises the Magician has plied them with, telling each of them exactly what they wanted to hear at exactly the right moment.

While the Magician promised to clean up the corruption in his government, the level of corruption doubled between 2007 and 2010.

While the Magician promised to build up good governance and the national police, he recently replaced Hamid Atmar, the Minister of the Interior in charge of the national police, one of a handful of Afghan ministers the U.S. and its allies believed to be highly competent. Another, Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghan intelligence, was fired at the same time. Both were former officials of the Northern Alliance, and were apparently fired to satisfy Pakistani demands.

Nonetheless, year in, year out, the internationals are enthralled by the latest spell cast upon them by the Magician, for it contains exactly what they want to hear.

The magic is powerful. Its spell enables the internationals to believe that they can negotiate a victory with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, precisely when the latter have the momentum, and believe they must only wait for the Americans and their allies to withdraw to claim victory.

The Magician’s powers of persuasion are so great that he even convinced the donors to channel 50% of their financial support directly to him and the central government. Given his government’s record of corruption, that was a magical achievement in and of itself, of stupendous proportions.

Let us hope there is a magical ending in Afghanistan that allows NATO troops to withdraw. For otherwise, with more waves of the Magician’s green cape and whatever promises the allies may wish or need to hear, it looks like a long, hard slog, with neither good governance nor victory in sight.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited. Please add to the discussion and tell the Observer why he is wrong. Or right. Or some of one and some of the other.

General Petraeus, the Haqqani network, and moral clarity in Afghanistan

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010


To find our way in Afghanistan, we need to find our compass.

Our moral compass.

General David Petraeus, according to reports, is pushing for the Obama administration to add the Haqqani network to the terrorist organizations list.  They are one of the principal groups who are blowing up everyone in suicide attacks in Afghanistan. Senator Carl Levin (D.-Michigan) made a similar suggestion upon returning to Washington from a trip to Afghanistan last week.

See Mark Landler and Thom Shanker, “U.S. May Label Pakistan Militants as Terrorists,” New York Times, July 13, 2010 (July 14 print edition).

Petraeus’ inclination, as reported, provides a ray of light, a ray of hope.  A hint of moral clarity.

With that clarity, perhaps there is another road in Afghanistan other than turning its people over to warlords and terrorists like the Haqqani network. Perhaps there is another path other than striking deals with Pakistani generals and shady Pakistani intelligence elements who have been backing the Taliban. Perhaps we can find another way to leave the country without abandoning its women, or surrendering hegemony over the South to Pakistan acting through its ties to Afghan insurgent groups, planting the seeds for future civil war between the North and the South.

The huge question is, of course, “Why wasn’t the Haqqani network already on the terrorist organizations list?

Not only was it not on the list, but we have gone aong with Karzai’s efforts to remove a large number of names of Taliban leaders from the U.N. sanctions list.

What are the reasons for omitting the Haqqani network from the terrorist organizations list, for seeking removal of Taliban leaders from the U.N. sanctions list, and for negotiating with Pakistan to get them to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table?

The administration needs to be candid with the American people about the kind of Afghanistan it is prepared to negotiate with Karzai, the Haqqani network, and the Taliban.

What we get out of Washington are platitudes about these groups accepting the Afghan constitution, and laying down their arms. What does this mean, what does this look like when you flesh it out?

The reasons we have heard so far to justify these actions, which appear to be based both on dubious assumptions and on dubious moral propositions, need to be subjected to intense and continuing scrutiny–in the full light of day.

What President Obama has apparently failed to grasp is that without a moral compass, the U.S. and NATO can neither achieve their essential goals in Afghanistan nor exit on terms short of catastrophic defeat.

Viewed from afar, at the present the White House’s only goal seems to be to help Karzai solidify his grip on power so we can beat a hasty retreat.  This is a harsh judgment but one, it is submitted, that is supported by the facts.

It is a view, moreover, that is shared by many in the region, who look more to American actions than to the finely-tuned policy pronouncements that emanate from Washington.

Hopefully, Petraeus can bring moral clarity to his job and to the president’s thinking about Afghanistan.

The moral compass Obama must find and use is an American one. The American people will not support a war without moral purpose for an indefinite period of time.

A democratic path?

It is time for President Obama, with Petraeus’ assistance and experience building the institutions of democracy in Iraq, to reconsider the now-jettisoned democratic project in Afghanistan.

That project foundered on the rock of U.S. passivity in the face of Karzai’s massive fraud in the presidential elections last August, and its unwillingness to open up the political process by forcing Karzai to fix the electoral machinery so a fair second round election for president could be held.

Karzai may be the obstacle on the democratic path.

See Chibli Mallat, “Law, war and the Petraeus doctrine: How to take democracy seriously in Iraq and the AfPak theater,” The Daily Star (Beirut), June 24, 2010. Interestingly, Mallat suggests Karzai be persuaded to leave or removed from office, with arresting him for the election fraud being one option.

Yet the democratic path may be the only alternative that gives Afghan soldiers and police a vision of the future that is worth fighting for.

As President Obama noted at his West Point commencement speech on May 22, 2010,

(P)reparing for today, I turned to…the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes. And reflecting on his Civil War experience, he said, and I quote, “To fight out a war you must believe in something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching.” Holmes went on, “More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out.”

Our challenge in Afghanistan, also in a civil war setting, is quite similar. We must help the Afghan soldier and policeman find and have something to believe in and something to want with all of his or her might. Only then will an Afghan army and an Afghan police force be able to take over from the ISAF forces and defend their country against the Taliban.

The Taliban have such a belief, anchored in part in their religious faith.

What can the United States and NATO offer an Afghan soldier or policeman that can counter that?

This is perhaps the most critical question in Afghanistan, and one whose answer will largely determine the success of our counterinsurgency strategy there.

Free and fair elections and representative government, however crude? The rule of law, at least as a roadmap to be followed? Some form of democracy?

This was the path we followed in Iraq. It is time to reconsider the democratic project in Afghanistan. With all options open for consideration.

The democratic road may be the only one by which we can get to where we want to go, period. Moreover, it may be the only road that can maintain the support of the American people, and the support of the peoples of the other democracies with whom we are allied, for a war that will surely continue for quite some time.

Let us consider a central fact. America’s greatest weapon in the world is not its drone aircraft or its special operations forces, however useful these may be at the right moment and in the right place.

America’s greatest weapon is its story and the vision it has pursued for over two centuries. This vision is a vision of democracy, of respect for law and individual rights, and of the security and prosperity that are possible in a democratic society governed by law.

It is parochial to assume that our vision and our values have no appeal to the people of Afghanistan, or that our vision and values are weaker than and cannot triumph over the those of the Taliban.

To ask America to fight in Afghanistan without this vision and without these values, is to ask the country to fight with one arm tied behind its back, in a long and grinding struggle which ultimately it cannot win.

To engage the people of Afghanistan in a common struggle, not for warlordism or a coalition with the Taliban and the Haqqani network, but for the achievement of commonly shared values, and for the security that can be achieved through a government based on the consent of the governed and the rule of law, would be to commit to the democratic road.

As suggested above, the democratic road in Afghanistan may be the only one that gets us where we want to go. Petraeus, with his intellectual grasp of the critical importance of governance in counterinsurgency doctrine and his direct experience in Iraq, must already sense this.

Where would Iraq be today if it were not for steadfast U.S. support for the development of democratic institutions, and for adherence to the rule of law? It’s worth thinking about.

It’s worth thinking about now. The September 18 National Assembly elections are barely two months away. Yet instead of focusing on building a democratic process starting with those elections, Secretary of State Clinton is off to Pakistan to see what kind of a deal we can make with the Pakistanis on Afghanistan.

It was on just such a trip in November, it will be recalled, that we reportedly struck a deal with the Pakistanis the outlines of which we seem to be following. It resulted in our abandoning negotiations in Kabul to form a national unity government with Abdullah and Karzai, or to proceed to replace those in the electoral commission behind Karzai’s fraud so that a fair second round election could be held.

Why we are playing Karzai’s game, instead of the democratic game in Kabul, is a question which calls out for a full and complete answer to the American people from the President of the United States.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments are invited. Please add to the discussion and tell the Observer why he is wrong. Or right. Or some of one and some of the other.