Volume XI, No. 2,763 • February 16, 2012
TALIBAN SEE CONTROL OF AFGHANISTAN AS ‘INEVITABLE’
National Post, Feb 1, 2012
…Leaked U.S. and NATO reports suggest officials fear they are locked in a stalemate [in Afghanistan] that could become outright defeat the moment foreign troops leave.
A secret NATO report, based on interrogation of 4,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners, says Afghan insurgents boast of being heavily backed and supported by Pakistan, and are confident they can recapture Afghanistan once NATO pulls out in 2014. In contrast to previous NATO military assessments suggesting the Taliban have been damaged and demoralized by a counter-insurgency campaign, it concludes their strength and morale remain largely intact.
According to excerpts published by the British Broadcasting Corp. and The Times of London newspaper, “Taliban commanders, along with rank and file members, increasingly believe their control of Afghanistan is inevitable. Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remain intact,” the study says. “In the last year, there has been unprecedented interest, even from [Afghan government] members, in joining the insurgent cause. Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over [the Afghan government], usually as a result of government.”
The NATO study claims Pakistan knows the location of senior Taliban leaders and says “senior Taliban representatives, such as Nasiruddin Haqqani [deputy head of the Haqqani Network], maintain residences in the immediate vicinity of [Pakistan’s intelligence agency] ISI headquarters in Islamabad.” “Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can’t [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching,” said a senior al-Qaeda detainee.…
James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, [recently] released his department’s annual worldwide threat assessment… [It] warns [that] the Taliban “remains resilient and capable of challenging U.S. and international goals and Taliban leaders continue to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan, which enables them to provide strategic direction to the insurgency and not fear for their safety.”
The Los Angeles Times newspaper also reported [this month that] a new 100-page national intelligence estimate on Afghanistan, by experts from the Central Intelligence and 15 other intelligence agencies, painted an even bleaker picture. It said the war in Afghanistan was “mired in stalemate” and “security gains from an increase in American troops have been undercut by pervasive corruption, incompetent governance and Taliban fighters operating from neighbouring Pakistan.” The newspaper said the intelligence estimate was a consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community.…
COURTING DISASTER IN AFGHANISTAN
Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan
Weekly Standard, February 1, 2012
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a new timeline for American combat operations in Afghanistan—or did he? He said, “Hopefully, by mid- to the latter part of 2013, we’ll be able to make, you know, to make a transition from a combat role to a training advice, and assist role…” Pressed once, he added, “The hope was, that hopefully, we could reach a point in the latter part of 2013 that we could make the same kind of transition we made in Iraq, from a combat role to a train-and-assist role.” Pressed again about whether this timeline was a new departure, he answered, “No, not really,” repeating that such a transition was envisioned at the 2010 Lisbon Conference and that “we always looked at, you know, what exactly…are the pieces we would have to have in place in order to be able to make that transition.” Let us hope, hopefully, that this comment was a malapropism rather than the leaking of a new strategy, because, if it is a new strategy, it’s a bad one.
Everything Secretary Panetta said about the transition approach envisioned at Lisbon is true—that process, excessively binding and bureaucratic in our opinion, does foresee the gradual and conditions-based transition of the task of securing all of Afghanistan to the Afghan security forces. At some point—not specified at Lisbon or in any public statement or document before this one—the mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would change from defeating the insurgency alongside the Afghans to assisting the Afghans in securing their own state. Could that point come in late 2013? Perhaps. But there is no way to be sure now. Announcing it as a fixed timeline, therefore, would be not only foolish but irresponsible.
Secretary Panetta said one thing about Afghanistan that is certainly not true: “Consolidating those gains is going to be what we have to do in 2012, ensuring that we continue the transitions, ensuring that we continue to improve the Afghan army during this year.” If those goals are the limits of our campaign in Afghanistan for 2012, then our mission there will fail. The reason is simple: You cannot consolidate gains that have not yet been made.
Progress in southern Afghanistan (Helmand, Kandahar, Oruzgan, and Day Kundi provinces in particular) is incontestable, as Secretary Panetta noted. Mullah Omar’s commanders have been driven out of their most critical safe havens. Mullah Omar himself, of course, has not been in Afghanistan since 2001. Local populations are turning against his commanders, forming into Afghan Local Police units or simply working informally with Afghan and Coalition forces to prevent the Taliban from coming back. But progress in the areas south of Kabul (Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, Paktia, Paktika, and Khost provinces) remains inadequate. The Haqqani Network that operates there has been damaged but not defeated. It retains important safe havens within an hour’s drive of Afghanistan’s capital.… Our job in Afghanistan is not done while those Haqqani safe havens persist inside Afghanistan’s borders.
The Haqqani Network is the most dangerous enemy facing the U.S. in Afghanistan today. It remains closely tied with al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LeT), and elements of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Mullah Omar has been drawn reluctantly into tolerating the use of suicide bombers and attacks on civilians, but Sirajuddin Haqqani (who replaced his father Jalaluddin at the head of the network a few years ago) has embraced and expanded such attacks in spite of Mullah Omar’s qualms. He has deepened his organization’s ties to the most militant terrorist groups in Pakistan whose aims are regional and global and whose tactics are abhorrent even by the standards of Afghan insurgents. He organizes and orients those groups. As long as the Haqqani Network and its affiliates control significant safe havens in Afghanistan, the danger remains high that they will shelter al Qaeda, LeT, IMU, TTP, and other terrorist groups eager to kill Americans. If the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan while the Haqqanis still have such safe havens, the mission President Obama set himself of disrupting and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and creating conditions that will prevent it from returning will have failed.
This task cannot be left to the Afghan security forces, moreover. Apart from the fact that Secretary Panetta used the same media availability to suggest that the Obama administration is looking to reduce the size of the Afghan security forces to which it proposes to transition this fight, the Afghans will not be up to accomplishing this task. Clearing a heavily defended, long-established insurgent safe haven without simply annihilating the population is a challenge that only the American military and one or two of its allies can meet.… It requires precise intelligence, accurate firepower, close air support, skilled infantrymen, sophisticated planning, perfect communications, and many other things that the Afghans will probably never have. Leaving it to the Afghans to clear safe havens south of Kabul is a recipe for failure. Implying, as Secretary Panetta did, that clearing those safe havens would be a matter of consolidating gains, a mopping-up operation, as it were, is simply wrong.
The reality is that there are two hard fighting seasons’ worth of combat in Eastern Afghanistan before we can transition the problem to the Afghans and focus on assisting them. And it will take all of the 68,000 U.S. troops that will remain at the end of this year to do it. The fight is worth it—eliminating the safe havens of groups that would give sanctuary to al Qaeda was what we came to Afghanistan to do in the first place. And it is achievable, even if the constraints President Obama has placed on our troops by imposing arbitrary and unjustifiable force caps on them make it much more difficult, dangerous, and protracted than it need be.
Secretary Panetta also said that no decision has been made about force levels in 2013. We hope that that is true. There is no occasion to make any such decisions until the end of this fighting season or early in 2013 itself. When we have made the gains we can and must make, and when we have consolidated them to ensure that our efforts were not wasted and our security is not endangered—only then should we talk about drawing down more troops or changing their mission. To do otherwise is to court disaster.
TALKING TO THE TALIBAN
Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2012
The announcement by the Taliban that it is setting up an office in the Gulf state of Qatar to facilitate peace talks with Washington over the future of Afghanistan has inevitably raised hopes that a negotiated settlement of the decade-long conflict is possible.
Getting the Taliban to the negotiating table was, after all, one of President Obama’s key objectives when he set out his comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan in his speech at West Point in December 2009. Mr. Obama aimed to intensify the pressure on the Taliban by deploying an extra 30,000 U.S. troops. By undertaking extensive “kill or capture” missions against key Taliban leaders, U.S. military commanders believed they would force the Taliban to negotiate.
But even though thousands of Taliban fighters have been removed from the Afghan battlefield, serious doubts remain about whether the Taliban’s leadership, which is mainly based in Pakistan, is really serious about engaging in meaningful peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan governments.
The Taliban claim that the new Qatar office is being established for precisely this purpose. During the latter part of 2011, however, they engaged in a campaign of violence whose sole purpose was to destroy any prospect of a negotiated peace deal with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. By far their most effective action to date has been the murder last September of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Mr. Karzai’s chief peace negotiator. He was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber who concealed an explosive device in his turban.
The assassination of Mr. Rabbani, the head of the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, effectively ended the tentative talks that had been taking place between the Taliban and Mr. Karzai. When the U.S. hosted a peace conference in Bonn to address some of the Taliban’s longstanding grievances, the Taliban leadership simply boycotted the event.
The other factor that stands in the way of an effective peace dialogue is the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan’s turbulent political landscape. The official position of Pakistan’s government is that it supports the U.S.-led NATO effort to defeat the Taliban and restore political stability to Afghanistan, but many senior Pakistani security officials continue to support radical elements of the Taliban.…
Shortly before his retirement as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last fall, Adm. Mike Mullen vented the frustration of many senior Pentagon officials by openly accusing the ISI of supporting the Haqqani network.… Like the Taliban, Pakistan also boycotted December’s Bonn conference, and many Western officials believe it would be virtually impossible to negotiate a lasting peace settlement for Afghanistan without Pakistan’s involvement.
One reason the Taliban and Pakistan are unwilling to invest much political capital in peace talks is that, so far as they are concerned, Mr. Obama has already run up the white flag in Afghanistan by ordering the withdrawal of American forces to begin this summer—in good time for November’s presidential election contest.…
Consequently, Taliban leaders know that, rather than being forced to negotiate, all they have to do is wait for the Americans to leave before they make their next move.… [Accordingly, if] the decision to open the Qatar office is nothing more than a stalling tactic on the part of the Taliban, then Mr. Obama will have no one but himself to blame for failing to achieve a peace settlement in Afghanistan.…
THE TALIBAN AND THE PLO
American Thinker, January 10, 2012
In 2006, a 1973 State Department memo regarding the murder of two American and one Belgian diplomat in Sudan was declassified. It acknowledged, “The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and head of Fatah.” That was generally believed to be the case, but still it was a shock to see that the United States government had known for 33 years that Arafat, murderer of Israelis and Jews, was also the murderer of Cleo Noel, George Curtis Moore, and Guy Eid, Western diplomats in service.…
The world could have been spared a lot of trouble if the U.S. government had told what it knew in 1973.… Instead, the State Department hid its contemporaneous knowledge of Arafat’s crime against American diplomats in hopes of enticing/bribing him to make peace with Israel.
Arafat repaid the favor with airplane hijackings, the beating to death of U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, the Coastal Road Massacre that killed an American photographer, the 1974 massacre of 23 Israeli high school students, and other similar atrocities. He ran training camps in Lebanon for terrorist[s].… He led two bloody uprisings that targeted Israeli civilians, the second of which killed more than 1,000 people. He orchestrated rabid anti-Semitism and the veneration of death in Palestinian society.
With the notable exception of the George W. Bush administration (the president refused ever to meet with Arafat), U.S. governments have pressed Israel for concessions, first to Arafat and then to his successors…after which the Palestinians would be expected to offer recognition of the legitimacy and permanence of the State of Israel. The United States apparently didn’t/doesn’t understand that the Palestinian leadership really believes in ultimate victory—[the destruction of Israel]—which makes concessions to Israel irrelevant at best and traitorous at worst.…
Today, [the U.S.] is engaged in similar foolishness with the Taliban. Ignoring what it is, what it says, what it did, and what it does, the United States government has permitted the host of al-Qaeda and the nemesis of the elected Afghan government to open a “diplomatic office” in Doha.…
At West Point in 2010, [U.S.] President Obama was explicit about the Taliban and American interests: “The Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism.… We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum.… [However], we will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens.”
Has the Taliban renounced al-Qaeda or violence, or pledged to respect human rights?… Has it accepted the Afghan constitution?… No. Has the U.S. decided that those things are now unimportant? Not exactly.… In 2011, Secretary of State Clinton announced that the president’s conditions could be met at the end of negotiations, not before. So the secret talks were started with concession #1.…
Among the Taliban representatives in Doha are reported to be the personal secretary to Mullah Omar and the “defense minister” of the Taliban government. How can the administration believe that these people will concede anything to the United States, to Karzai, to the Afghan people, or to modernity? More worrisome, what further concessions is the U.S. prepared to offer in the name of the Afghan “peace process” when things don’t move as the administration plans?…
DON’T LET THESE TALIBAN LEADERS LOOSE
Marc A. Thiessen
Washington Post, January 9, 2012
President Obama is reportedly considering releasing several senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay as an enticement to get the Taliban to the peace table. If he does so, he will do tremendous harm to American national security—and to his prospects for reelection this fall.
To understand why, consider the individuals White House is considering setting free. Last year WikiLeaks released a trove of documents it dubbed the “Gitmo Files” with assessments of hundreds of Guantanamo detainees—including the five Taliban leaders reportedly under consideration for release. Here is the U.S. military’s assessment of them:
Mullah Mohammed Fazl, deputy defense minister. Fazl is “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes while serving as a Taliban Army Chief of Staff and…was implicated in the murder of thousands of Shiites in northern Afghanistan during the Taliban reign.” He has “operational associations with significant al-Qaida and other extremist personnel,” was “involved in Taliban narcotics trafficking,” and is so senior in the Taliban hierarchy that he once threatened the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar. Military officials assess that Fazl wields “considerable influence throughout the northern region of Afghanistan and his influence continued even after his capture” adding, “If released, [Fazl] would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with anti-Coalition militias (ACM) participating in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy minister of intelligence. Wasiq “was central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against US and Coalition forces.” He “utilized his office to support al-Qaida and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture.… [He also] arranged for al-Qaida personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods” and “assigned al-Qaida members to the Taliban Ministry of Intelligence.” If released “he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
Mullah Norullah Noori, governor-general of Afghanistan’s northern zone. Noori “is considered one of the most significant former Taliban officials detained at JTF-GTMO” who “led troops against US and Coalition forces” and “was directly subordinate to Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar.” He “is wanted by the UN for possible war crimes.…”
Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Herat governor and acting interior minister. Khairkhwa is “directly associated to Usama Bin Laden (UBL) and Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Muhammad Omar” and was “trusted and respected by both.” After 9/11 he “represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials”…and “attended a meeting at the direction of UBL, reportedly accompanied by members of HAMAS.” He is “one of the premier opium drug lords in Western Afghanistan…” and likely “associated with a militant training camp in Herat operated by deceased al-Qaida commander (in Iraq) Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.”
Mohammad Nabi, multiple leadership roles. Nabi is “a senior Taliban official” who was “a member of a joint al-Qaida/Taliban ACM cell in Khowst and was involved in attacks against US and Coalition forces.” He “held weekly meetings” with “three al-Qaida affiliated individuals” to discuss anti-coalition plans, “maintained weapons caches,” and “facilitated two al-Qaida operatives smuggling an unknown number of missiles…which intelligence officials believe contributed to the deaths of two Americans.…
National Review, January 26, 2012
Clifford D. May
The Haqqani Test - Clifford D. May - National Review Online
Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2012, pp. 57-66
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan: Policy Brief :: Middle East Quarterly
NY Times, February 5, 2012
Army Colonel Challenges Pentagonâs Afghanistan Reports - NYTimes.com
NY Times, February 4, 2012
Alissa J. Rubin
Afghanistan Civilian Deaths Hit Record, U.N. Says - NYTimes.com
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)