Tag: Afghan Withdrawal




CANADIAN INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH RESEARCH PRESENTS THE 28TH ANNUAL GALA 2016: Israel in Space: Beyond the Blue (and White) Horizon — “Technology, Economy, Security.” In commemoration of Ilan Ramon z”l. Keynote speaker: Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center, the Fischer Institute for Air & Space Strategic Studies. Mr. Inbar will discuss the topic “The Israeli Space Endeavor: Accomplishments and Future Challenges.” Join CIJR for this special event that will include a special video presentation by Rona Ramon (Ilan Ramon’s widow), greetings from the Canadian Space Agency, and more. This event will take place in Montreal, Thursday, April 14, and in Toronto, Tuesday, April 12, 2016. For more information and tickets, call 1-855-303-5544, email yunna@isranet.org, or register online at our website: www.isranet.org   



AS WE GO TO PRESS: BRUSSELS AIRPORT AND SUBWAY ATTACKS KILL AT LEAST 30; ISIS CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY — The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a series of deadly terrorist attacks that struck Brussels on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people at the city’s main international airport and in a subway station at the heart of the city, near the headquarters of the European Union. The deadly violence began shortly before 8 a.m. with an explosion in the departure terminal at Brussels Airport, followed shortly by another. Then, at 9:11 a.m., a bomb tore through the last car of a subway train as it was pulling out of the Maelbeek station. At least 30 people were killed: around 10 at the airport and 20 at the subway station — and more than 230 others were wounded. “


In the afternoon, Amaq, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic State, issued a bulletin saying the militant group was responsible for the attacks. “Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the center of the Belgian capital, Brussels, a country participating in the coalition against the Islamic State,” it said. “Islamic State fighters opened fire inside the Zaventem airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maelbeek metro station.”


The attacks occurred four days after the capture on Friday of Europe’s most wanted man, Salah Abdeslam. He is the sole survivor of the 10 men believed to have been directly involved in the Islamic State attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris on Nov. 13. (New York Times, Mar. 22, 2016)




Belgian Attacks Horrific, But Expected: IPT, Mar. 22, 2016— As shocking as this morning's simultaneous terror attacks at Belgium's airport and in its Metro system may be, they show the disturbing depth of the terrorist infrastructure which was allowed to take root in the European Union capital's back yard.

Obama Courts Chaos With His Taliban Fantasy: Husain Haqqani, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2016— Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, the recently nominated commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has confirmed what many of us have feared.

White House Ignores Mounting Failures in Afghanistan: Mark Moyar, National Review, Feb. 4, 2016— We have made gains over the past year that will put Afghanistan on a better path,” said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on January 27, in a message of congratulations to outgoing commander General John Campbell.


On Topic Links


Brussels Attacks Highlight Europe's New Reality: Lili Bayer, Real Clear World, Mar. 22 2016

Belgium Warned of Attacks. It Wasn’t Enough: Josh Rogin, Bloomberg, Mar. 22, 2016

The Challenging Road Ahead in Afghanistan: Marvin Weinbaum, Real Clear World, Feb. 22, 2016

Facing the Taliban and His Past, an Afghan Leader Aims for a Different Ending: Mujib Mashal, New York Times, Feb. 28, 2015


IPT, Mar. 22, 2016


As shocking as this morning's simultaneous terror attacks at Belgium's airport and in its Metro system may be, they show the disturbing depth of the terrorist infrastructure which was allowed to take root in the European Union capital's back yard. A series of police actions reportedly are underway targeting elements of that infrastructure. It's a safe bet that some of those raids will be in Molenbeek, a Brussels suburb.


It has been dubbed "Europe's terrorism capital." Saleh Abdeslam, the key surviving player in November's horrific attacks in Paris, was arrested in Molenbeek Friday. Police were thanked by a hail of bottles, stones and other debris by locals more loyal to the terrorist than the land that gave them refuge. Authorities "don't have control of the situation in Molenbeek at present" and said the authorities needed to "clean up" the area, said Interior Minister Jan Jambon.


In raids last week, authorities found an ISIS flag, a book about Salafism, a sizable cache of weapons, indicating more attacks were in the works. They just didn't realize how close to completion those plans were. The Paris attacks were planned in Molenbeek – three of the attackers grew up there – and the resulting investigation last November prompted officials to place the entire country on lockdown, fearing attacks like Tuesday's in Brussels were imminent.


"We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said Tuesday. Belgian Muslims have left Europe to join the Islamic State in greater numbers per capita than any other country. It is so pervasive, Buzzfeed reports, that Belgian law enforcement admits being overwhelmed by the volume of open terrorism investigations.


Their challenge is compounded by the depth of Islamist radicalization which has taken root in Molenbeek, as Friday's violent reaction to Abdeslam's arrest shows. "There is a sort of clannishness in the area that is stronger than anything else," Claude Moniquet, a former intelligence agent now with the European Centre for Strategic Intelligence and Security in Brussels, told London's Telegraph.




                             Husain Haqqani

              Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2016


Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, the recently nominated commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has confirmed what many of us have feared. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his Jan. 28 confirmation hearing that security in Afghanistan is worsening. The Taliban are emboldened by the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal. On Monday the United Nations reported that 2015 civilian casualties from terrorist attacks in Afghanistan reached an all-time high since 2001, a 4% increase over 2014.


The Obama administration pins its hopes on China and Pakistan persuading the fundamentalist Islamist group to negotiate the end of its insurgency. Yet the Taliban’s main demand—the establishment of what they deem to be an Islamic order—is nonnegotiable. They talk not with the intention of giving up fighting but to regroup and attack again.


Liberal Americans, encouraged by the Taliban’s main backer, Pakistan, assume that there is a deal to be made. This is the same mirage the U.S. has pursued since the Taliban emerged in 1993 out of the anti-Soviet mujahedeen movement and initially found favor among many Afghans disenchanted by the corruption and lawlessness of the first post-Soviet regime.


The Clinton administration believed the Taliban’s aspirations were limited to asserting ethnic Pashtun supremacy and were nationalist, not Islamist, in nature. The Taliban’s subsequent ruthlessness and imposition of Islamic law once they took power didn’t get the Clinton administration’s full attention until 1998, when the group’s decision to host  Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda resulted in U.N. sanctions. That left Pakistan as the only country with full diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime.


Then, as now, a Democratic administration tried to negotiate with the Taliban through Pakistan. This time, too, the Taliban’s precondition seems to be that the U.N. withdraw the post 9/11 resolution that froze the movement’s assets—estimated in 2001 to be $100 million in the U.S. alone, with additional assets in Gulf states and in Pakistan—and limited international travel by its leaders. The Taliban have since increased their assets to at least $400 million through drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and by extorting U.S. and Afghan-government contractors.


Although Pakistan felt compelled to join the international coalition against al Qaeda and the Taliban after 9/11, it never severed ties with the Taliban. Most Taliban leaders ended up on the Pakistani side of the 1,398-mile-long Pakistan-Afghan border. Some of them secured protection from tribes straddling the two countries; and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) protected others, who lived openly in Quetta and Peshawar. The ISI wanted to keep using the Taliban as an Afghan proxy in Pakistan’s perennial competition for influence with India. The U.S. couldn’t or wouldn’t move against the fugitive Taliban leaders for fear of violating Pakistan’s sovereignty. (The search for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was a one-time exception.)


The Obama administration initially spoke of coercing Pakistan into giving up support for the Taliban. In 2011 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Pakistan couldn’t keep “snakes” in its backyard. The very next year, President Obama announced a schedule for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. That made the Taliban and their Pakistani backers intransigent; they knew that all they had to do was wait. With another U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of 2016, leaving a small force of some 5,500, it is no wonder that Taliban attacks in provinces bordering Pakistan have increased.


The Obama administration’s decision to negotiate with the Taliban through Pakistan was embraced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani after his election in 2014. China, Pakistan’s major international supporter, was brought in as a facilitator, arranging meetings in Beijing between the Taliban and the Afghan government. China was expected to broker a deal involving Kabul, Islamabad and Pakistan’s Afghan proxies.


Yet Pakistan may no longer be able even to bring a unified Taliban movement to the negotiating table. The Taliban have splintered, and factions affiliated with ISIS have emerged to compete with groups tied to al Qaeda. Although the Taliban continue to depend upon the ISI for money, training and arms, it is becoming clear that at least some Taliban leaders would rather follow an independent course.


Former Taliban negotiator Tayeb Agha reportedly resigned last year after the election of new Taliban leader Mullah  Akhtar Mansour, saying Taliban leaders should relocate to Afghanistan from Pakistan to “preserve their independence.” This is not the only reason talks will likely fail. Afghan security forces and intelligence services don’t trust Pakistan because of the haven it provides the Taliban. The Taliban look upon ISI with suspicion because of its connection with the U.S.—further diminishing Pakistan’s capacity to broker peace in Afghanistan.


Faced with international pressure as well as growing internal threats from the Pakistani Taliban, Pakistan has cleared out some known jihadist sanctuaries in the border region of North Waziristan, depriving Afghan groups such as the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network of their historical base of operations. The assumption in Washington is that Pakistan wouldn’t like to see the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan.


But a similar assumption in 1993 was shown to be naïve as the Taliban marched into Kabul with full Pakistani backing. Neither is there any sign today that Pakistan’s military is willing to give up its decades-long pursuit of paramountcy over Afghanistan. So unless the U.S. is willing to keep sufficient troops in Afghanistan, the outcome of the “fight and talk” policy now being pursued by the Taliban and the U.S. will only feed chaos. Or a return of the Taliban as a fait accompli when the troops finally leave.




     Mark Moyar

                                                National Review, Feb. 4, 2016


“We have made gains over the past year that will put Afghanistan on a better path,” said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on January 27, in a message of congratulations to outgoing commander General John Campbell. But the upbeat pronouncements of top administration officials are inconsistent with nearly all the information coming out of Afghanistan. On the day after Carter’s statement, the latest quarterly report from the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction observed, “In this reporting period, Afghanistan proved even more dangerous than it was a year ago. The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since 2001.” An independent assessment by Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal also concluded that the Taliban has rapidly extended the terrain it controls since President Obama announced the official end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. has the ability to blunt the Taliban’s momentum, but a President who refuses to recognize the problem is not likely to provide the necessary resources. ​


On December 21, a Taliban suicide-bombing attack at Bagram air base killed six Americans. On January 5, an American Special Forces soldier, Staff Sergeant Matthew McClintock, died and two others were wounded in Helmand province while assisting Afghan forces. As of mid-2015, American Green Berets were still accompanying their Afghan counterparts on six to ten missions per week, according to Major General Sean Swindell, commander of the Coalition’s special-operations forces. Forty times per week, Americans were providing Afghan special-operations forces with intelligence, logistical support, air cover, or other assistance. In December, Stars & Stripes reported, “U.S. troops are increasingly being pulled back into battle to aid overstretched Afghan forces.”


From the vantage point of the White House, these activities do not amount to war. On the White House website, a list of President Obama’s accomplishments says he “responsibly ended the U.S. combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Shortly before the President’s final State of the Union address, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price tweeted, “The U.S. ended two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing home 90% of 180K troops deployed.” In the address itself, President Obama offered nary a word of thanks to the 9,800 troops who remain. He mentioned the country only once, as part of a list of places where “instability will continue for decades.”


Within the military, many dispute the White House portrayal. “I still call it a war,” said General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, adding, “What we’ve shifted away from is a large presence of U.S. combat forces fighting that war.” Defense correspondent Nancy Youssef reported that “several defense officials just shook their heads” when they learned of Price’s claim that the U.S. had “ended” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of “the war we must win,” Afghanistan has become the war that must not be named. This past Thursday, at a confirmation hearing for the incoming U.S. commander, Lieutenant General John W. Nicholson Jr., Senator John McCain asserted, “The security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating, rather than improving.” He then asked, “What is your assessment, General, of the overall tactical situation in Afghanistan?” Nicholson responded, “Sir, I agree with your assessment.”


In the December edition of the twice-a-year reports required by Congress, the Department of Defense stated, “In the second half of 2015, the overall security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated with an increase in effective insurgent attacks and higher [Afghan security force] and Taliban casualties.” According to NATO officials, Afghan casualties increased 28 percent from 2014, a year when such casualties had already risen to rates that U.S. military leaders had deemed “unsustainable.” In September, the insurgents overran the city of Kunduz, freeing Taliban prisoners and killing government officials before withdrawing after several days. It was the first time since 9/11 that insurgent forces had retaken a provincial capital.


In October, the Taliban stepped up their attacks in the key southern province of Helmand, and continued to attack into the cold winter months, a season during which they previously had taken a break from fighting. The epicenter of Afghanistan’s poppy trade, Helmand had largely been pacified by a large U.S. Marine offensive from 2010 to 2012. Toward the end of 2015, the Taliban made large gains in the Helmand districts of Sangin and Marjah, two areas where the U.S. Marines had suffered some of their heaviest casualties. The Taliban also cut the roads leading into Helmand’s provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. The deputy governor of the province became so desperate in December that he went on Facebook to publish a plea to Afghanistan’s president for assistance, a decision that cost him his job though it may have helped to prevent a catastrophe. A U.S. military spokesman stated that Afghan military forces in Helmand had failed to stop the Taliban because of “a combination of incompetence, corruption and ineffectiveness.” These problems were traced to the leadership of the 215th Afghan National Army Corps, of which the corps commander, several brigade commanders, and senior corps staff officers were fired at the end of the year.


The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan also proved beneficial for extremist organizations determined to wage a global jihad. In October, U.S. and Afghan forces found and eliminated an al-Qaeda training camp in Kandahar province. Thirty square miles in area, it was the largest al-Qaeda camp found in Afghanistan since 2001. It was believed to have been in existence for close to a year, a discouraging indicator of America’s diminished ability to keep track of its enemies in Afghanistan with the “light footprint” that the Obama administration has adopted. In the eastern province of Nangarhar, the Islamic State established a wilaya, or province, whose forces gained control of several districts in 2015. Taliban forces have clashed with the Islamic State in Nangarhar, but a rapprochement between the two is not impossible, considering that both despise the Kabul government more than they despise each other. In light of the growing threat, President Obama authorized American forces to target the Islamic State as well as al-Qaeda…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic


Brussels Attacks Highlight Europe's New Reality: Lili Bayer, Real Clear World, Mar. 22 2016—Two explosions hit Brussels Zaventem airport today, followed by another explosion at the Maelbeek metro station.

Belgium Warned of Attacks. It Wasn’t Enough: Josh Rogin, Bloomberg, Mar. 22, 2016—Only days ago in Brussels, as Western leaders celebrated the arrest of a key terrorist suspect, Belgian officials warned that there were dozens more jihadists at large in the city and that more attacks were being planned. They couldn’t have known how right they were.

The Challenging Road Ahead in Afghanistan: Marvin Weinbaum, Real Clear World, Feb. 22, 2016—Many of the Afghan state's vital signs are weakening. The transition necessitated by the withdrawal of most American and NATO forces has proven exceedingly difficult. Security has diminished, especially over this last year, as the Taliban have made steady military gains.

Facing the Taliban and His Past, an Afghan Leader Aims for a Different Ending: Mujib Mashal, New York Times, Feb. 28, 2015—When mujahedeen guerrillas captured this southern provincial capital in 1993, Gen. Abdul Jabar Qahraman was the Afghan government commander on the last flight out, surrendering the city. In a resonant twist more than two decades later, Mr. Qahraman is again the face of the Afghan government here as an insurgency threatens to overrun his post.
















Beth Tikvah Synagogue & CIJR Present: The Annual Sabina Citron International Conference: THE JEWISH THOUGHT OF EMIL L. FACKENHEIM: JUDAISM, ZIONISM, HOLOCAUST, ISRAEL — Toronto, Sunday, October 25, 2015, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The day-long Beth Tikvah Conference, co-chaired by Prof. Frederick Krantz (CIJR) and Rabbi Jarrod R. Grover (Beth Tikvah), open to the public and especially to students, features original papers by outstanding Canadian and international scholars, some his former students, on the many dimensions of Emil L. Fackenheim's exceptionally powerful, and prophetic thought, and on his rich life and experience. Tickets: Regular – $36; Seniors – $18; students free. For registration, information, conference program, and other queries call 1-855-303-5544 or email yunna@isranet.org. Visit our site: www.isranet.org/events.


Back to the Future, With the Kid: Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail, Oct. 20, 2015— A moment came during the red tidal wave Monday night when a friend turned to me in awe.

Obama’s Afghan Reversal: Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2015 — If there is a single element of consistency in President Obama’s foreign policy it is his desire to end and avoid U.S. military engagements.

Plan B for Libya: Gal Luft, American Interest, Oct. 1, 2015— The September 20 deadline for establishing a unity government in war-torn Libya ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting came and went …

Assassination Attempt in Tunisia Highlights Mounting Challenges: Farah Samti & Kareem Fahim, New York Times, Oct. 9, 2015 — Hours before the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave its highest-profile honor to a coalition of Tunisian groups …


On Topic Links


America’s Failed Foreign Policy: Margaret Wente, National Post, Oct. 20, 2015

Obama Deploys Troops to Cameroon to Fight Boko Haram: Frances Martel, Breitbart, Oct. 15, 2015

Mideast Turmoil Strengthens Sudan’s Regime: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2015

Toward a Post-Obama Middle East: Conrad Black, National Review, Oct. 7, 2015



BACK TO THE FUTURE, WITH THE KID                                                                                 

Margaret Wente                                                                                                  

Globe & Mail, Oct. 20, 2015


A moment came during the red tidal wave Monday night when a friend turned to me in awe. The CBC’s seat counter had just clicked past 180 for the Liberals. “Oh my God,” she said. “What have we done?” No one, even diehard Conservatives, doubted that Stephen Harper deserved to lose. But even diehard Liberals wonder if Justin Trudeau deserved to win a majority government on his very first try, without the customary test of having to prove himself in Opposition, or, for that matter, any other responsible post in government. It’s like giving your kid the keys to the Ferrari before he’s finished driving lessons.


“I never thought this was in the realm of possibility,” one voter told the CBC. “I wanted the young son to squeak in and be supported by maybe more experienced people.” “Oh well,” said one of my Liberal friends cheerily. “At least he’ll have adult supervision.”


No one called this one. What happened was a snowball that picked up momentum as it went. During the last few days of the campaign it became a monster. The opinion polls were accurate about the fate of the Conservatives. What they didn’t catch was the dramatic collapse of the New Democratic Party. People decided Justin was the best anti-Harper and stampeded over to his side. And that is how Tom Mulcair’s dreams of glory melted in an instant.


All of a sudden Canada’s political alignment looks a lot like it did 30 years ago – before the Harper decade, before the fragmentation of the right, before Happy Jack Layton created the hope that the NDP could be something more than an also-ran. The Liberals and Conservatives have most of the seats, and the PM is a handsome guy named Trudeau with three photogenic kids and a gorgeous wife. Break out those bell-bottoms and love beads. The ’70s are back! This is not a bad outcome. A strong, stable majority government with a healthy opposition will give us four blissfully election-free years. There will be none of the nail-biting uncertainty that afflicts a minority government. The Governor-General can return to his ceremonial duties. The Conservatives will regroup, rethink and rebuild. One day they’ll be contenders again.


So what will Prime Minister Trudeau do with all that horsepower? His policy proposals (which many voters are only dimly aware of) are also a blast from the past. Expand the government. Tax breaks for the usual suspects, especially the sacred middle class (on top of the tax breaks they’ve been showered with for the past 10 years). Soak the rich some more and pretend it makes a difference. Deficit spending, whether or not we need it, on infrastructure projects that may or may not help the economy. But no idea of how to get our landlocked oil to markets, or any comprehensive plan to spur innovation and economic growth.


Mr. Trudeau’s foreign policy ideas are naive and nostalgic. They harken back to the golden age of peacekeeping and multilateralism, as if blue berets and good intentions could defeat Islamic State. Those ideas resonate with voters, because they like to think of Canada as a force for good in the world. Unfortunately, the world is a nastier, messier place than it used to be, and niceness does not go very far.


One of the few people to see the landslide coming was Brian Mulroney, a political junkie who knows every one of Canada’s 338 ridings inside-out. He has warned that Mr. Trudeau is a man of consequence, and last week he was telling friends to expect something big. Mr. Mulroney should know – it was a landslide that swept him into office in 1984, giving him the biggest majority in history. The joke was that if the election had lasted two weeks longer, he would have taken every single seat. (The tide went out in 1993, when his Progressive Conservatives were reduced to a pathetic two seats.)


“I ran and was successful because I wasn’t Pierre Trudeau,” Mr. Mulroney said Monday night. “Jean Chrétien ran and was successful because he wasn’t Brian Mulroney, and Justin Trudeau tonight was successful because he wasn’t Stephen Harper.” It’s high tide for Mr. Trudeau now. Does he have the smarts and instincts to make the most of it? We’ll have four years to find out. And I, for one, wish him well.






Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2015


If there is a single element of consistency in President Obama’s foreign policy it is his desire to end and avoid U.S. military engagements. In 2011 he withdrew the final U.S. troops from Iraq. He had planned to do the same in Afghanistan, but on Thursday the President hit the pause button. For now, 9,800 American boots will remain on Afghan soil.


Mr. Obama is to be commended for changing his mind. He has been building a reputation for being impervious to counterargument, and here he listened to his generals. Senior officers earlier recommended that the U.S. keep up to 20,000 troops in Afghanistan, warning that a lesser number would put the fledgling Afghan army at risk from the Taliban. Those warnings became reality last month when the Taliban overran Kunduz, a major city in northern Afghanistan. With U.S. air support, the Afghans recaptured Kunduz, but Islamist fighters still threaten elsewhere. Fighting has broken out in a third of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, with the terrorists, who now include Islamic State fighters, threatening Ghazni, another major city not far from Kabul. Last week U.S. forces led a sweep in southern Kandahar province against two large al Qaeda training camps.


It is possible that what drove Mr. Obama’s decision was concern that an Afghanistan overrun by terrorists, as ISIS had done in western Iraq, would leave his foreign-policy reputation in tatters. In a remarkably weary announcement Thursday, Mr. Obama said, “As you are all well aware, I do not support the idea of endless war.” The irony is that Mr. Obama is likely to bequeath “endless war” in the Middle East and Afghanistan to his successor. The central issue now is whether the Administration will do enough militarily in Afghanistan to ensure that the war inherited by the next President isn’t worse than it is today.


Mr. Obama said the U.S. military mission will remain primarily “supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al-Qaeda.” Surely this understates the nature and scale of the current threat to Afghanistan. It is also troubling to note that Mr. Obama restated his goal of reducing U.S. troop levels there to 5,500 by January 2017. Press reports are calling this a “reversal,” given his prior goal of only 1,000 residual forces by then. But will even 5,500 troops prevent the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS fighters from taking large swaths of Afghanistan?


The U.S. continues to have some 29,000 troops in South Korea, 62 years after its war with the North ended. Their presence has kept the peace and allowed East Asia to flourish. If instead Mr. Obama gives the Afghans inadequate support, “endless war” will run deep into the next American Presidency. 





PLAN B FOR LIBYA                                                                                                            

Gal Luft                                                                                                              

American Interest, Oct. 1, 2015


The September 20 deadline for establishing a unity government in war-torn Libya ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting came and went, and reconciliation between Libya's internationally recognized parliament based in Tobruk and the rival leadership, the new General National Congress (GNC), in Tripoli, was nowhere on the horizon. Anyone who is surprised by this just hasn't been paying attention.


Reuniting the Libyan militias has been the West's only endgame for Libya since the oil-rich country slid into a civil war following the 2011 removal of Muammar Qaddafi by a select coalition of NATO countries led by Britain, France, and the United States. But this outcome does not seem to be getting any closer. Indeed, things have gotten much worse.


During the 12 months in which the UN Special Envoy for Libya, Spanish Diplomat Bernadino Leon, labored to hammer out a deal, the country became a destination for ISIS fighters taking advantage of the chaos on the ground. The fact that a UN arms embargo prevents weapons transfers to either the Tobruk or Tripoli governments means that ISIS fighters have a distinct advantage: Where two fight, a third may win out. In June, ISIS temporarily took over the city of Sirte on the coast of the Mediterranean, and several days ago a group of their suicide terrorists attacked Libya's international airport in Tripoli, killing three people.


To make matters worse, the lack of functioning government and border controls had enabled many thousands of migrants from North and Sub-Saharan Africa to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, exacerbating Europe's migrant crisis.


Neither the continuation of ISIS's expansion in Libya nor the persistence of the flow of African migrants are options the U.S. government and those of the European Union can tolerate. It is time to thank Leon for his noble efforts and recognize the reality that the only realistic solution one can aspire to at the moment is the division of Libya into two independent national entities.


Following Leon's maneuvering in Libya over the past year, one always got the false impression that a deal to stabilize the country was just around the corner. A draft proposal on forming a national unity government would be put forth; the two sides would stall in approving it; they would then suggest amendments which, in turn, would get rejected; and public protests would then lead the rival factions to back down. And so it went, and so it goes. The appearance of progress when in fact there is none has served as eyewash as Libya has fallen ever deeper into chaos—and as the flow of migrants through Libya to Europe intensifies.


The failure of the Leon doctrine is not a testament to his less-than-stellar mediation skills but rather a reflection of a far deeper reality: the inability of the rival factions to accept the concept of shared governance over the country. Indeed, they don't even genuinely recognize the notion that Libya is a country.


What has complicated the West's efforts to reunite Libya is the senseless characterization of the Tripoli government as "Islamist." In our day and age there is no better way to delegitimize a group than to label it as Islamist. This is exactly what happened to the GNC. While the Tobruk government enjoyed broad international recognition and free access to international forums, only Turkey and Qatar recognize the Tripoli government, and its leaders cannot even travel abroad freely. But the notion that Tripoli is more Islamist than the other groups vying for control over Libya—not the least other groups and regimes throughout the Middle East that the West is happy to embrace—is bogus. When it comes to Islamist tendencies, all tribes are more or less cut from the same cloth. By not recognizing those who are in command of most of the country's institutions and strategic assets—paradoxically, the salaries of Libya's diplomatic staff representing the Tobruk government all over the world are drawn from the coffers in Tripoli—and who also contributed their fair share to Qaddafi's removal, the West is undermining any chance for stabilization. Equally delusional is the idea toyed with by some American and European operatives of installing a Western backed Libyan expat who would miraculously rally the tribes behind him. Wasn't the Ahmed Chalabi mirage in Iraq enough?


Now, when the deadline for reunification is passed, it is time to consider a Plan B for Libya. This plan should draw from the country's history. Back in the early 20th century the territory of today's Libya was split into three self-governing regions: Cyrenaica, which was located in eastern Libya, more or less in the region controlled today by the Tobruk government, and Tripolitania, situated today in some of the area controlled by the GNC. The third was Fezzan, which was and still is an inhospitable desert region in the southwest sparsely populated by Arab and Berber tribes. Some version of this arrangement, which lasted until 1963 during the reign of King Idris I, should be considered today.


Washington and Brussels should first recognize the Tripoli government and treat it as a legitimate party. They should then work to hammer out an agreement with the factions to form an orderly division of Libya into two separate entities, under the condition that these two will work—separately and jointly—to combat the spread of ISIS in North Africa. They also need to cooperate in active measures to create a virtual wall along Libya's coastline to thwart additional migration into Europe. To this end the Libyan navy and coast guard should be reconstituted, and the arms embargo should be gradually lifted to allow security forces to effectively take on ISIS.


In his UN speech this past week, President Obama boasted of America's achievement in Libya. But he admitted, "Our coalition could have, and should have, done more to fill a vacuum left behind." And then he somewhat incongruously promised, "In such efforts, the United States will always do our part." Thinking again on how to fill the vacuum, Obama should take note of a 2006 proposal by the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—namely, his Vice President, Joe Biden. Then-Senator Biden proposed that Iraq be divided into three separate regions—Kurdish, Shi'a, and Sunni. At the time the U.S. government and its allies were still consumed by dreams of forming a democratic heaven on the Tigris, and the idea was dismissed. A decade later it no longer sounds so bizarre. Let us hope that, when it comes to Libya, it will take the West less time to recognize that sometimes a divided country is better than a broken and hopeless one.               





HIGHLIGHTS MOUNTING CHALLENGES                                                                                               

Farah Samti & Kareem Fahim

New York Times, Oct. 9, 2015


Hours before the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave its highest-profile honor to a coalition of Tunisian groups that had helped ease the country’s path to democracy, unknown gunmen attacked a member of Tunisia’s Parliament, firing seven or eight shots at his car as he drove to work in a seaside town. The assailants missed their target. But the attack…was an urgent reminder of the violence that still menaces Tunisia’s transition, one of many challenges to the country’s significant and celebrated political gains.


The threat against prominent political figures, by shadowy militant groups, is among the government’s deepest worries: Twice in the last two years, high-profile assassinations have thrown Tunisia into political crisis. This year, the country has also grappled with an unprecedented wave of jihadist violence, including two large-scale attacks on tourists that killed at least 60 people and helped plunge the economy into recession.


In a country still wrestling with its authoritarian past, the attacks have provoked anguished arguments about how much power the government and the police should wield to confront the threats. Other debates — about the economic direction of the country, and its ability to come to terms with a legacy of past abuses — have exposed divisions between old elites and newer political forces empowered by the uprising in late 2010 against the 23-year dictatorship of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.


The challenges are testing not only the young government but also the compromise between secular and Islamist parties that is at the heart of Tunisia’s inchoate political system and is frequently held up as a model for the Arab world. Talk of Tunisia’s success is frequently attributed to its relatively peaceful transition, especially set against the violent struggles of other countries in the region, including Syria, Yemen and neighboring Libya. That contrast often overlooks an arduous road that began in December 2010, when a Tunisian fruit vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi lit himself on fire, in an act of despair that resonated throughout the Arab world.


Days after Mr. Bouazizi died in January 2011, mass protests forced Mr. Ben Ali into exile. The Islamist Ennahda Party won the most votes in parliamentary elections that October but fell short of a majority. The group promised that its own Islamist program would not overwhelm the country’s deeply ingrained secular politics, and it also promised to build, as one Ennhada official put it, a “charismatic, democratic system.”


But a backlash against Ennahda paralleled events in Egypt, where huge demonstrations led to a military coup in 2013 against the year-old government of President Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, now banned.


The four groups honored with the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday helped Tunisia avert the civil strife that led to hundreds of deaths in Egypt. They helped Tunisia negotiate its way through the most serious threat to its nascent transition: the crisis that followed the assassinations of two opposition politicians, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, in 2013. Giant protests that summer threatened to topple the Ennahda-led government. But the Islamists refused to cede power until they completed their mandate to pass a new Constitution. The impasse began to destabilize the country as the government grappled with jihadist militancy, popular unrest and strikes, and a worsening economy.


After months of sometimes heated negotiations, a deal, concluded in December 2013, forged a new contract between the political parties, including a timetable for a democratic transition. The Islamist government agreed to step down and hand power to a caretaker government that would oversee the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections in October and November 2014. The adoption of the Constitution, in January 2014, was seen as a high point in the transition, producing a charter forged from robust debates between Tunisia’s disparate political currents, and that enshrined democratic principles and a separation of powers.


Compromises by two men — Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist Ennahda party, and Beji Caid Essebsi, one of the founders of the secularist Nidaa Tounes party, and Tunisia’s current president — ended the impasse, analysts say. Despite that achievement, the basis of their compromise remains fragile: “It is very much a consensus from the top — often against elements of their base,” said Issandr El Amrani, who oversees the North Africa Project for the International Crisis Group. As both leaders manage the pressures from within their own ranks, the government has been criticized for lacking a sense of direction and dynamism as well as for failing to tackle urgent issues, Mr. Amrani said. “This worries people.”…


The Parliament member who survived the assassination attempt on Thursday, Ridha Charfeddine, 63, is a member of Nidaa Tounes and also a prominent businessman who owns a soccer team. The gunmen, riding in the back seat of a white car, attacked him in an industrial section of Sousse, on Tunisia’s eastern coast, according to the Interior Ministry. Sousse is the same beachside town where a 23-year-old Tunisian gunman slaughtered 38 people, mostly British tourists, in June. It was Tunisia’s worst terrorist attack in living memory. “This is not an isolated incident,” Mohsen Marzouk, the general secretary of Nidaa Tounes, said in an interview with a local radio station after the gunfire. He said the gunmen belonged to an organized movement, but he did not identify it.


As the political violence and jihadist attacks have unnerved the public, they have also given rise to fears about the state’s reaction. The police have reasserted themselves in response to the attacks, despite growing reports of human rights abuses and a lack of coherent strategy to reform the security services, Mr. Amrani said. In the aftermath of the attack on the tourists in Sousse, the government also started closing dozens of mosques — prompting concern that Mr. Essebsi’s secular government, with its strong connections to the old dictatorship, was reviving the crackdowns on Islamists that occurred during Mr. Ben Ali’s rule. The government closed at least 80 mosques, though none of them had any connection to the gunman in Sousse, officials said.                                               




On Topic


America’s Failed Foreign Policy: Margaret Wente, National Post, Oct. 20, 2015—U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to maintain American troops in Afghanistan was the correct move made under difficult circumstances.

Obama Deploys Troops to Cameroon to Fight Boko Haram: Frances Martel, Breitbart, Oct. 15, 2015 —President Obama announced Wednesday that 300 U.S. troops will be deployed to Cameroon to fight the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram terrorist group.

Mideast Turmoil Strengthens Sudan’s Regime: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2015—When it briefly looked as if Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir would be detained in June on an International Criminal Court warrant in South Africa…

Toward a Post-Obama Middle East: Conrad Black, National Review, Oct. 7, 2015 —In the week in which the Russians escalated their attacks on the Syrian factions being assisted by the United States and what is left of the Western Alliance, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas renounced the long-dead letter of the Oslo Agreement…





We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 




Angry Egypt Feels the Squeeze From Jihadis, US and Hamas:  Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Mar. 12, 2015 — There is one thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can take comfort in regarding his relations with the US administration …

Hamas in Turkey: "Humanitarian Activity": Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 6, 2015 — In 2012, Abdullah Gul, then President of Turkey, when asked by reporters whether Hamas would open an office in Istanbul, said: "Contacts [with Hamas] continue. Time will tell where the dimension of our cooperation will lead us to."

Diplomat Debunks Obama’s Yemen ‘Success’ Story: Andrew Harrod, Frontpage, Feb. 16, 2015 — Yemen has been an “always almost failing state” for as long as Ambassador Barbara K. Bodine can remember …

Dueling Mosques and an American Beacon in Afghanistan: S. Frederick Starr, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 2015 — Two new initiatives focused in Kabul but originating in the Middle East threaten to draw Afghanistan into the vortex of Middle Eastern strife and to undermine prospects for a secular government.


On Topic Links


Al-Sisi and the Sinai Jihadis: Yoram Meital, Jerusalem Report, Mar. 8, 2015

Hamas Drones Said to Enter Egyptian Airspace: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Mar. 11, 2014

The Islamic Armageddon Lies Between Turkey and ISIS: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, Feb. 26, 2015

Yemen’s Houthis Seek Iran, Russia and China Ties: Hakim Almasmari & Asa Fitch, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 6, 2014

The Hardest (and Most Important) Job in Afghanistan: Azam Ahmed, New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014



ANGRY EGYPT FEELS THE SQUEEZE FROM JIHADIS, US AND HAMAS                                                    

Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Mar. 12, 2015


There is one thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can take comfort in regarding his relations with the US administration — he is not the only Middle Eastern leader struggling to understand American President Barack Obama. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has also been at a loss in recent weeks amid the administration’s almost surreal conduct towards Cairo.


On Monday Sissi was asked what he and the other Arab allies thought of US leadership in the region. It is hard to put his response in words, mainly due to his prolonged silence. “Difficult question,” he said after some moments, while his body language expressed contempt and disgust. “The suspending of US equipment and arms was an indicator for the public that the United States is not standing by the Egyptians.”


It turns out that although the American administration recently agreed to provide the Egyptian Air Force with Apache attack helicopters, it has been making it increasingly difficult for Cairo to make additional military purchases. For example, the US is delaying the shipment of tanks, spare parts and other weapons that the army desperately needs in its war against Islamic State.


Egypt is currently facing the extremist group on two fronts: in the Sinai Peninsula, where Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis militants swore allegiance to IS, and to the west in Libya, where jihadists sworn to the group have established substantial military bases, gaining hold over territory in the country while simultaneously sending terrorists into Egypt. The mass execution of 21 Coptic Egyptians, who were in Libya seeking employment, led Sissi to authorize an Egyptian air assault against Islamic State targets in Libya.


Yet precisely during these difficult days for the Egyptians, Washington is delaying military assistance deliveries to Cairo, even as the White House and State Department preach in praise of the war against the Islamic State group, and go so far as to hint at plans to cooperate with Iran against the organization. Why? According to an Egyptian official, the formal explanation is that Cairo does not respect human rights. That is possible. But Egyptians cannot figure out how the Americans are prioritizing: Was the Muslim Brotherhood more respectful of human rights? Or the Iranian regime? Or the Islamic State and its friends?

Why is Egypt, which has become a vital player  in the war against Islamic extremism and Islamic State expansionism, being punished by the Americans?


Wednesday morning, yet again, a terror attack was carried out against Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. Another Egyptian officer was killed in North Sinai border town of Rafah. On Tuesday, two Egyptian soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in el-Arish, and for a moment it seemed as if the terror groups active in Sinai were overwhelming Egyptian security efforts. This is not the case, though. The vast majority of the attacks these days are being carried out in the northeastern tip of the peninsula, near the Gaza border. In the rest of the Sinai, there are rarely any security incidents. Just last month, the Egyptian army killed dozens of terrorists in the Sinai, mostly in the el-Arish and Rafah areas. Elite army units, the air force and UAV forces, are among the 14 battalions currently active in the region.


The area of the attacks and the proximity to the border raise strong suspicion in Egypt that the Sinai terrorists are receiving significant assistance from the Gaza Strip. This, in essence, is the source of the blatant hostility between Hamas and the Egyptian administration. Egypt’s attitude towards Hamas these days is far worse than Israel’s stance towards the terror group. Cairo closely followed reports…earlier this week regarding the various long-term ceasefire offers channeled through Western intermediaries, and Israel’s forgiving attitude toward Hamas was ill-accepted and even mocked. Egyptians fail to understand why Israel, which has been targeted so many times by Hamas and continues to prepare for the next war, insists on maintaining Hamas’s rule over Gaza.


First, it is no secret that terrorists in the Sinai receive weapons from Gaza and train there. The constant campaign to destroy tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and the Sinai continues, though Egyptian intelligence is aware Hamas fighters are overseeing efforts to rebuild the tunnels. The Islamists even use partially destroyed tunnels in order to dig out new ones. All the while, maritime smuggling continues. The Times of Israel was made aware of a list of Egyptian demands presented to Hamas as a condition for thawing relations: 1. Extradition to Egypt of Sinai terror suspects currently in Gaza. A prominent figure on the list is Shadi el-Menei, an Egyptian who fled to Gaza after being involved in Sinai terror attacks. 2. The closure of the smuggling tunnels. 3. Termination of terrorist training and arming. None of these requirements has been fulfilled by Hamas so far…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]               





HAMAS IN TURKEY: "HUMANITARIAN ACTIVITY"                                                                                

Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Mar. 6, 2015


In 2012, Abdullah Gul, then President of Turkey, when asked by reporters whether Hamas would open an office in Istanbul, said: "Contacts [with Hamas] continue. Time will tell where the dimension of our cooperation will lead us to." Gul is a moderate Islamist compared to his successor as President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Guess what time told. Eight years after the 2006 visit to Turkey of the head of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, the Islamist organization — deemed a terror group by Egypt, the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Japan — was coordinating its efforts in the West Bank with logistical support from a command center in Istanbul — a fact that annoyed even the Palestinian Authority (PA).


In 2014, Turkey was also host to Salah al-Arouri, a Hamas commander whom the PA accuses of planning multiple attacks against Israeli targets. The newspaper Israel Hayom calls Arouri "an infamous arch-terrorist believed to be responsible for dozens of attacks against Israelis." According to the Israeli media, the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) has evidence that the deadly attacks against Israelis were planned at the Hamas headquarters in Istanbul. In November, the Shin Bet reported the arrest in the West Bank of members of a cell preparing to attack Israeli targets, who had received military training abroad under the leadership of Hamas in Turkey. Last August, speaking at the World Conference of Islamic Sages in Turkey, Arouri admitted that Hamas was behind the "heroic action carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades, which captured three settlers in Hebron." The three teenage boys were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas operatives, an incident that triggered the spiral of violence that led to the vicious 50-day war in Gaza.


In December, Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon asserted that Hamas operatives in Istanbul were plotting terrorist attacks to be carried out in the West Bank and Gaza. "Hamas," he said, "is trying to build terrorism infrastructure in Judea and Samaria that will carry out attacks in different forms, and we must work aggressively and determinately against this." Ya'alon also claimed, when he met with then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Washington, that Hamas moved its bureau from Damascus to Istanbul for the first time in late October 2014. His accusations came a month after Israel filed a complaint with NATO for Turkey's role in supporting terrorism by harboring and supporting Hamas officials. The complaint specifically mentioned Arouri, who has lived in Turkey since 2010. Also in December, a Hamas leader, speaking to World Net Daily on condition of anonymity, confirmed that his organization was using NATO member Turkey as a base for logistics, training and planning terrorist attacks.


When so much was in the public domain, the U.S. administration shyly felt compelled to act, and appealed to Ankara to prevent Hamas's military activity originating from any base on Turkish soil. After all, Turkey was a NATO ally and most allies viewed Hamas as a terrorist organization. Turkish diplomats and security officials neither deny nor confirm that Hamas has a logistical hub in Turkey. "Call it a bureau or anything else," said one official privately. Another senior official weighed in: "Hamas' activity in Turkey is limited to coordinating humanitarian aid and media work." A recent report in Al-Monitor quoted a Turkish diplomat as saying, "Turkey has a dialogue with Hamas but will absolutely not allow any terror organization to operate on its soil."


That line is where verbal "creativity" comes into the picture: "Turkey will not allow any terror organization to operate on its soil." Yes and no. Yes, because Turkey openly declares that it does not view Hamas as a terrorist organization. And no, because Hamas is in fact a terrorist organization. In January, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: "For us, Hamas is not a terror organization; it has never committed any act of terror." But that was not Ankara's first sleight-of-hand for an entity that vows to kill every last Jew on earth. President Erdogan has repeatedly described Hamas militants as "freedom fighters." In December, Davutoglu hosted Mashaal at a high-profile party congress in Konya, Central Turkey. Taking the stage at the event, Mashaal congratulated the Turkish people "for having Erdogan and Davutoglu." Thundering applause, Palestinian flags waving passionately and thousands of AKP fans shouting, "Down with Israel!"


The scope of Hamas's activity through Turkish territory is an open secret. Hamas and Turkish officials claim the nature of that activity is humanitarian. Maybe. But in the real world, kidnapping Israeli teenagers and hitting Israeli cities with rockets might actually be considered a "humanitarian activity" by most Islamists, whether Palestinian or Turkish. The choice of Istanbul to host the Hamas bureau is not totally irrelevant: Tens of thousands of people in Istanbul take to the streets in the great metropolis every year to commemorate "Jerusalem Day," in which they customarily burn Israeli and American flags and chant, "Down with Israel, down with America!"   




DIPLOMAT DEBUNKS OBAMA’S YEMEN ‘SUCCESS’ STORY                                                                             

Andrew Harrod                                                                                                                            

Frontpage, Feb. 16, 2015


Yemen has been an “always almost failing state” for as long as Ambassador Barbara K. Bodine can remember, she affirmed in her February 3 Georgetown University luncheon lecture, “Yemen: If This is a Policy Success, What Does Failure Look Like?”  The truth of Bodine’s sobering presentation to a fifty-person conference room packed to standing-room-only was confirmed when, eight days later, America’s embassy in the capital Sanaa fell to Houthi rebels and U.S. Marines were forced to destroy their weapons before fleeing the country to prevent them from falling into rebel hands. The humiliating failure of American policy demonstrated that, President Barack Obama’s wishful thinking notwithstanding, Yemen will not be a policy success anytime soon.


Bodine, a career Foreign Service officer with extensive experience in the Middle East, directs Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.  She spoke at the invitation of Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU).  Associate director of ACMCU and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Professor of Islamic Civilization Jonathan Brown moderated and professor emeritus John Voll attended. According to Bodine, Obama left professionals with experience in Yemen “all baffled” when he “touted Yemen as a success” of anti-terrorism policy in a September address.  “Whatever Yemen is, it is not yet a success,” she stated, describing the “resource deprived” country whose Sunni majority was overtaken by an insurgency of Shiite Houthi rebels supported by Iran earlier this year.  Bodine warned that “solutions based on our timelines” do not work for a country like Yemen, which “never really gets fully stable, but . . . doesn’t quite go off the cliff, either.”  Yemenis “do conflict resolution so well because they do conflict prevention so poorly,” she added.


Bodine criticized the Obama administration’s emphasis on using drones to fight al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is, “in many ways . . . the smallest problem in Yemen” given its instability.  In her words, “drones have gone from being a tool to a strategy,” but they “tend . . . to piss people off” and do “not make friends” among local Yemenis when unaccompanied by explanation.  She also criticized the “efficacy” of drones given that AQAP has grown from hundreds of followers in 2009 to thousands who now control Yemeni territory.  Moreover, the Yemeni military, “never . . . a strong institution,” is often bested by Yemeni tribes and desperately needs aid.


Bodine lamented that drone strikes “have corroded an already fairly fragile state” and caused Yemenis to view Americans as merely “fighting a proxy war” while “not . . . engaged in governance” that benefits the populace.  Americans “need to be seen as visible” in their ongoing aid to Yemen and to change their rhetoric from “always talking about al-Qaeda,” which causes Yemenis to “think that all we are is drones.”  Not countering Yemeni “drivers of instability” entails that problems other than AQAP will plague the strategically placed country.  A failed Yemeni state, for example, with twenty-five million refugees would mean that “Saudi Arabia has a problem.”


Yemen has “played host to other people’s proxy battles over the millennia,” Bodine noted, such as that between the Saudi Royal Family and Egypt’s former dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser during the Cold War.  Iranians “muck around” in Yemen, supporting the Houthis as a means of countering the Saudis, who, in turn, “muck around” in Syria by providing aid to the rebels fighting that country’s dictator, Bashar Assad, an Iranian ally.  However, she noted, Saudi Arabia’s “existential worry” in Yemen is not the Houthis, but AQAP.  “If you are overly confused, you are doing well,” she joked, in reference to Yemen’s convoluted political dynamics. Audience members did not challenge Bodine’s presentation, with one person agreeing with her assessment that “drones are ineffective” and commenting on the “lack of depth in our understanding of foreign policy.”  Similarly, Georgetown adjunct professor Joseph Saba, a specialist in fragile state development with World Bank experience in Yemen, concurred that “American interests are deeper and broader” in Yemen than drone policy.


Bodine succeeded in her principal objective of urging a dramatic rethinking of American policy towards Muslim-majority societies.  Yemen’s decent into chaos contradicts Obama’s premature proclamation of “success,” while the future remains as murky in Afghanistan as it does with incessant efforts to achieve “land for peace” in the Arab-Israeli conflict.  The shifting sectarian political sands in the region allow for groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to implement what Bodine termed a “brutal” yet “very clear idea” of “governing philosophy.”  Such daunting realities demand policies derived from a clear grasp of the region’s history and current affairs, not vapid pronouncements of victory based on little more than fantasy.




DUELING MOSQUES AND AN AMERICAN BEACON IN AFGHANISTAN                                                                

S. Frederick Starr                                               

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 2015


Two new initiatives focused in Kabul but originating in the Middle East threaten to draw Afghanistan into the vortex of Middle Eastern strife and to undermine prospects for a secular government. America will need to present an alternative to forces that seek to roll back much of what has been accomplished in Afghanistan.


In November, Saudi Arabia launched a huge new mosque and Islamic Center on a hill in Kabul’s center. The Saudi ambassador declared unconvincingly that the mosque’s purpose is to fight terrorism and “present a moderate and true face of Islam.” Iran is also constructing a mosque in central Kabul and, if asked, would probably make the same claim. Both complexes include a mosque and school, but the similarity ends there. One will promote the Saudi’s hard-line Sunni Wahabbism, while the other will propagate the Ayatollahs’ hard-line Shiite Islam.


Just as these two states and religions are engaged in an undeclared but bloody war in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, they are at loggerheads in Afghanistan and view the struggle there as a zero-sum game. If either prevails, Afghanistan will be the loser.


So far the country has largely escaped the strife arising from the millennium-old conflict between Sunni and Shiite Islam and the more ancient struggle between Persians and Arabs. Afghans do not consider theirs to be a Middle Eastern country. Even the branch of Islamic law that prevails in Afghanistan, the relatively mild Hanafi school, sets it apart from the Saudis and Iranians.


If Afghanistan is pulled in either direction it will draw the country into a brutal religious storm. No less serious, either alternative poses a direct threat to the ideal—lost for decades but now taking hold again—of an educated and modern Afghanistan based on secular laws and open to new knowledge in all spheres; of a country where jobs are accessible equally to men and women, and where education challenges minds rather than inculcates doctrines.


Has America offered any alternative to the threat posed by these dueling mosques? It has in the form of the American University of Afghanistan, chartered in 2004 as the country’s first private and independent institution of higher education. Laura Bush launched construction the following year by announcing a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Since then public and private donors have helped the university increase its faculty, build or remodel facilities, increase course offerings and expand its crucial scholarship program.


The university now offers programs in political science, public administration, business administration and computer science. Stanford helped create a five-year M.A. program in law; an M.B.A. program has opened, and a school of agriculture is planned. The university has even set up branch centers in three provincial capitals, where 300 young Afghan teacher trainers have begun spreading the university’s knowledge and values into thousands of school classrooms across Afghanistan.


Last month I delivered the graduation address at the university. The scene would have been familiar at any American college campus, as the graduates laughed, cried and tossed their mortarboards into the air. This is the wonder of the place. I met graduates with illiterate cousins who had fought with the Taliban. Others told me they had farmed or peddled dry goods to pay tuition. There were men and women who had already started their own businesses, while others who were determined to pursue careers in education.


At the epicenter of the new campus stands the gleaming new International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development. Some of the graduates perched their mortarboards atop Islamic scarfs while others came dressed in the height of Western fashion. The fact that half of all incoming students are women shows that the American University of Afghanistan has figured out how to translate its vision into reality.


Some of the parents and relatives at the ceremony were educated and prosperous, others barely literate. Two fathers told me through tears that “these children are our dream of a better life,” and “if they have no future, then Afghanistan has no future.”


Who is paying for this educational miracle? The question is important, since most of the campus has yet to be built and 70% of students require need-based financial aid. There is scarcely money to pay faculty salaries, and few Americans have stepped forward to fund urgently needed scholarships. Unlike either the Saudi or Iranian mosques, the American University here has no endowment.


Pondering these statistics, I think back over the years since 2001 and the enormous sacrifice the U.S. has made. Not just to fight al Queda or the Taliban, but to build a better life for Afghans, so their country—and ours—will never again fall prey to such barbarians.


What reasonable nation would sacrifice the lives of 2,254 of its young men and women fighting in Afghanistan and then pull back from funding an institution that can help prevent the kind of desperation that led to 9/11? What sane investor would sink $1 trillion into a country and then walk away?


Every day it becomes clearer what will happen if America takes this course, as we watch the Saudi and Iranian minarets going up in Kabul and read the grim news from Paris. The new university can be a powerful and enduring symbol of America’s values. But if it is not sustained, thousands of young men and women—people who could make their country the kind of place America fought for—will have been abandoned to a grim fate. If this happens, our promises will ring hollow and our sacrifice in lives and treasure will have been for nothing.





On Topic


Al-Sisi and the Sinai Jihadis: Yoram Meital, Jerusalem Report, Mar. 8, 2015—  In a lethal attack in late January, radical Sunni militants killed some 40 Egyptian soldiers and security personnel, most of them in the city of El Arish in northern Sinai.

Hamas Drones Said to Enter Egyptian Airspace: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Mar. 11, 2014—Hamas drones reportedly flew out of the Gaza Strip and into Egyptian airspace above the Sinai Peninsula several times last week as the Egyptian army stood by helpless to prevent the incursions.

The Islamic Armageddon Lies Between Turkey and ISIS: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, Feb. 26, 2015 —Turkey sent a large armed force 23 miles into Syria on February 21, 2015, to a tiny enclave containing the mausoleum and body of a revered Ottoman leader who lived almost 800 years ago.

Yemen’s Houthis Seek Iran, Russia and China Ties: Hakim Almasmari & Asa Fitch, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 6, 2014—Houthi militants controlling Yemen’s capital are trying to build ties with Iran, Russia and China to offset Western and Saudi support for the country’s ousted president.

The Hardest (and Most Important) Job in Afghanistan: Azam Ahmed, New York Times, Mar. 4, 2014—A week on the front lines with the Afghan National Police.





















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Bringing Abbas Back to Gaza Not a Good Idea: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 21, 2014  — Those who believe that the reinstatement of the Palestinian Authority [PA] in the Gaza Strip would destroy or undermine Hamas and end rocket attacks on Israel are living under an illusion.

The Media Intifada: Bad Math, Ugly Truths About New York Times In Israel-Hamas War: Richard Behar, Forbes, Aug. 21, 2014 — It’s a “media intifada,” notes Gary Weiss, an old colleague and one of the world’s top business investigative reporters.

General Greene's Death and the Afghan Mission: Max Boot, Commentary, Aug. 6, 2014 — The death of Major General Harold Greene in Kabul is shocking on many levels.

How Iraq Explains Why the U.S. Shouldn't Leave Afghanistan: Paul D. Miller, Foreign Policy, Aug. 25, 2014  — President Obama has tried to articulate a clear doctrine of when the United States should use force.


On Topic Links


Petition: Hamas Leaders Must be Tried For War Crimes

PA leader: "Am I stopping You From Slaughtering a Settlement?": Youtube, Aug. 13, 2014

New York Times Gaza Correspondent Exposed as Arafat Fan: Honest Reporting, Aug. 24, 2014

U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene Was Buried Today at Arlington National Cemetery…Guess Who Was Missing…: Aug. 23, 2014

Financial Crisis Looming Over Afghanistan: Nathan Hodge, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 25, 2014


BRINGING ABBAS BACK TO GAZA NOT A GOOD IDEA                                            

Khaled Abu Toameh                                                                                                      

Gatestone Institute, Aug. 21, 2014


Those who believe that the reinstatement of the Palestinian Authority [PA] in the Gaza Strip would destroy or undermine Hamas and end rocket attacks on Israel are living under an illusion. The talk about restoring PA control over the Gaza Strip was first raised during the indirect cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas in Cairo. The Egyptians made clear during the talks that they would like to see PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his forces reassume control over the Gaza Strip. One proposal called for deploying security officers belonging to Abbas's "Presidential Guard" along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.


The Egyptian proposal has won the backing of the U.S. Administration, many European governments and some Arab countries, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Abbas, who lost the Gaza Strip to Hamas in the summer of 2007, has thus far refrained from publicly commenting on these reports. Abbas would probably love to retake control over the Gaza Strip, especially as such a move would solidify his status as president of all Palestinians, and not just the ruler of certain parts of the West Bank. Abbas is well aware, however, that under the current circumstances, his return to the Gaza Strip would be seen by Hamas and other Palestinians as an act of treason. The last thing he needs is to be accused of returning to the Gaza Strip "aboard an Israeli tank."


There are other reasons why Abbas is not eager, at least at this stage, to regain control over the Gaza Strip. The main reason is that he still does not trust Hamas in spite of the unity agreement he signed with the Islamist movement last April. When Hamas defeated his forces and toppled the Palestinian Authority in 2007, Abbas was lucky to leave the Gaza Strip alive. After the Hamas coup, Abbas revealed that the Islamist movement had tried to kill him just before its militiamen seized control of the entire Gaza Strip. In a televised speech in June 2007, Abbas accused Hamas of trying to assassinate him by using tunnels to target his motorcade.


Abbas said he had seen videotapes of Hamas terrorists digging a tunnel under a road where his car was supposed to pass in the Gaza Strip. The terrorists, he added, had planned to fill the tunnel with 250 kilograms of explosives. Abbas said that the terrorists had boasted on the tape that the bomb was "for Abu Mazen" [Abbas's nickname]. He said that he sent copies of the videotape to Arab heads of state to expose the Hamas plot. Today, when Abbas sees the dozens of Hamas tunnels discovered by the Israel Defense Forces [IDF], he must be asking himself if these are the same tunnels that were supposed to be used in the assassination scheme against him. And there is no doubt that Abbas must feel relieved to see the IDF destroy the terror tunnels.


Another reason Abbas is reluctant to return to the Gaza Strip is the ongoing tensions between his Fatah faction and Hamas. These tensions have persisted despite the unity agreement between the two parties and despite the formation of a Palestinian "national consensus" government. According to sources in the Gaza Strip, since the beginning of the war Hamas has placed more than 250 Fatah members under house arrest. Some Fatah activists who violated the cease-fire were shot in the arms and legs. The lucky ones only had their arms and legs broken. Gen. Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces in the West Bank, confirmed this week that Hamas has been targeting Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip. He said that some of the wounded men had been transferred for medical treatment in West Bank and Jordanian hospitals. A third reason why Abbas still does not trust Hamas is the revelation this week that the Islamist movement had planned to overthrow his regime in the West Bank. Thanks to the efforts of the Israeli Shin Bet and IDF, the coup plot was foiled after the arrest of dozens of Hamas operatives in the West Bank. Abbas himself seems to be aware that were it not for Israel, Hamas would have removed him from power a long time ago and extended its control to the West Bank.


Today, Abbas seems to feel safer sitting with Israel in the West Bank than he does being with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Abbas also knows that his return to the Gaza Strip would not stop Hamas and other terrorist groups from continuing their rocket attacks on Israel. Many seem to have forgotten that even while he was in control of the Gaza Strip, Abbas could not stop the rocket attacks or disarm any of the terrorist groups. Even his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, was not able to stop the rocket attacks or rein in the terrorist groups. Even if the Palestinian Authority were to return to the Gaza Strip, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups would not disappear. The PA in the Gaza Strip would end up like the Lebanese government, which has no control over the terrorist Hizbullah organization.


This is precisely what Hamas wants: a weak Palestinian Authority that would manage the day-to-day affairs of the Palestinians and pay salaries to tens of thousands of employees, while the Islamist movement and its allies continue to smuggle weapons and prepare for the next war with Israel. Such a scenario would only strengthen Hamas: it would absolve it of its responsibilities toward the residents of the Gaza Strip by laying the burden on the Palestinian Authority. Abbas and the PA cannot return to the Gaza Strip unless Hamas and its allies are completely disarmed or severely undermined as result of Israeli military action or international agreements to demilitarize the entire Gaza Strip. For now, it would be better to keep Abbas and his Palestinian Authority away from the Gaza Strip instead of turning them into puppets in the hands of Hamas and its sponsors in Qatar.



THE MEDIA INTIFADA: BAD MATH, UGLY TRUTHS                                        

ABOUT NEW YORK TIMES IN ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR                                                  

Richard Behar                                                                                                               

Forbes, Aug. 21, 2014


It’s a “media intifada,” notes Gary Weiss, an old colleague and one of the world’s top business investigative reporters. He is referring of course to the ongoing war in Gaza, where journalists working for American news outlets have, he says, “become part of the Hamas war machine.” As more than a month has passed since Israel began its Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, it’s high time to dig through the carnage that many of my colleagues from major U.S. media outlets are leaving behind—especially the New York Times. On August 11th, the normally Israel-averse Foreign Press Association in Israel conceded what those closely following the war coverage already knew: That Hamas has been intimidating foreign reporters. In a harsh statement, it condemned the terrorist group for “the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month.”


This is hardly surprising, as who can expect a terrorist group to treat reporters nicely—except perhaps many reporters themselves? But what is surprising is that New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren undermined her own newspaper—quickly denouncing the FPA’s statement. She said in a tweet that she wasn’t aware of any such harassed reporters, even though she concedes she spent only one week in Gaza herself during the height of the conflict. In an email to the FPA, she said that the FPA’s statement could be “dangerous” to the “credibility” of the foreign press who are covering the conflict. “Every reporter I’ve met who was in Gaza during war says this Israeli/now FPA narrative of Hamas harassment is nonsense,” she tweeted. I agree that there’s a lot of nonsense being disseminated about Israel’s war with Hamas, and about the media role in the conflict. And I agree that there is a danger—if people believe that the media, including the New York Times, provides a fair picture of the war in Gaza. (I would argue it is not.)


Since late July, I’ve conducted an in-depth look at the credibility of the media coverage, plus interviews with military experts and some journalists covering the war. Among other things, I’ve discovered that the Times’ most important reporter in Gaza for the past few years has used the late Yasser Arafat as his profile photo on Facebook, and, in a second photo, praised the former Palestinian leader. This suggests that the Times may have less to worry about in terms of Hamas intimidation than others in the press corps. Indeed, this Times reporter’s parallel pieces for Qatar’s Al Jazeera since the war began can only be pleasing to the terrorists…


Since the operation (now clearly a war—albeit interspersed with ceasefires) began on July 8th, so much of the Western coverage has been predictably skewed against Israel—through those time-honored journalism tools of sloppy and lazy reporting, superficiality, nuance, omission, lack of historical knowledge, or flat-out agenda-driven lies and bias. Journalism ethics professors and historians take note: You are bearing witness, with few exceptions, to some of the most abysmal overseas reporting since Hearst’s New York Journal in 1898 got us into the Spanish-American War and Walter Duranty of the New York Times was ignoring Stalin’s crimes in the 1930s. “We’re not just talking bad journalism,” says Weiss. “We’re talking about journalism that functions as a tool of a terrorist organization, Hamas: breathlessly pushing its narrative, whether cowed by its threats, sympathetic to its cause, or simply ignorant.” It’s not for lack of personnel. Israel’s Government Press Office says just over 700 foreign journalists from more than 40 countries have come to Israel to cover the war (joining the 750 already there). But only a few of them are doing their jobs right—that is, moving beyond the surface imagery and the heavy-handed (and wrong) “David and Goliath” agenda being advanced by the fascistic, death-worshipping terrorist group Hamas.


I raised the topic last week with Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York. “As someone who is a student of the media and a former journalist,” he says, “I find it bizarre — journalistically and morally – that after a month of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, there were hardly any images shown in Western media of Hamas terrorists holding guns or Hamas terrorists engaged in hostile activities against Israel. It’s as if there’s only one side, and this could be a result of two reasons: Either journalists are looking for the easy story, the available story, what’s in front of their eyes. Or they’re being intimidated by Hamas. And I believe that what we’ve probably had is a combination of both.” This epidemic of journalistic malpractice is contributing to the pain and loss of life that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering—as it helps to empower Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU, Canada, Japan, Egypt and Jordan. (This designation is too often not-fit-to-print by the New York Times and other media outlets.) In turn, this no doubt helps spread oil on the rising and frightening anti-Semitism we’re seeing in Europe and elsewhere.


And that is no accident. Hamas’s rarely-mentioned 1988 charter is a throwback to 1930s Nazi anti-Semitism, pure and simple, with a genocidal intent that is unambiguous. Indeed, Hamas is the spiritual successor to the anti-Semitic Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader who famously met and worked with Adolf Hitler and his henchman Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and architect of the Final Solution, as he aligned the Palestinian Arab cause with the Axis during World War II. You might say that the battle that Hamas is fighting is not a new one at all, but a continuation of Hitler’s unfinished business from World War II.  If this all sounds new to you it’s no wonder—the media rarely delves beyond the surface into Hamas’s ideology and historical antecedents. But that is but one of many problems with the coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, and not even the worst…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Max Boot                

Commentary, Aug. 6, 2014


The death of Major General Harold Greene in Kabul is shocking on many levels. He is the most senior military officer killed in a war zone overseas since the Vietnam War and by all accounts a highly intelligent and competent officer who, ironically enough, had never served in combat before arriving in Afghanistan this year to take the No. 2 job at the command charged with training Afghan troops. Kabul is not particularly dangerous, especially not compared to Baghdad. I and many other visitors have been to the military academy where he was slain many times. Yet even in Kabul there can be terrorist attacks. The death of General Greene and the wounding of a number of other NATO personnel is all the more dismaying because the perpetrator was an Afghan soldier. Such incidents of “green on blue” violence have the potential to turn Americans against the entire Afghan endeavor. Why should we help them, many wonder, if even Afghan soldiers want to kill our troops?


A little perspective is in order. While there have been all too many “green on blue” attacks in Afghanistan, the number has actually dropped in the past year and it was never all that high to begin with. Very, very few Afghan soldiers have ever been driven to turn their weapons on their allies. As in, an infinitesimally small amount. We’re talking about a few dozen individuals out of a force more than 330,000 strong. Remember that even the U.S. Armed Forces are hardly immune to these kinds of “insider” attacks. Fort Hood alone has seen two such attacks, one in 2009, another in April. The fact that Major Nidal Malik Hasan fatally shot 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009 is not and should not be taken as evidence that the U.S. Armed Forces are fundamentally disloyal. It was and should be seen as a freak occurrence by one disgruntled officer. The shooting in Kabul should be seen in the same light. There is no larger problem of disloyalty among Afghan military units. They are not defecting to the enemy or refusing to fight. In fact they are fighting hard and suffering considerable casualties. The “insider” threat in Afghanistan is real, but it is actually decreasing. The U.S. military is acutely conscious of this issue and has taken steps to mitigate the danger, for example by assigning troopers to act as “guardian angels” for other troopers when meeting with Afghan counterparts. Such steps have paid off. According to the Brookings Institution, there were 21 insider attacks in 2011, 41 in 2012, 9 in 2013, and just one this year prior to the attack on General Greene.


Moreover, while any death is tragic, it is important to keep in mind that U.S. fatalities overall are rapidly decreasing. According to the icasualties website, 39 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year–down from 127 in 2013, 310 in 2012, and 418 in 2011. Those figures will undoubtedly fall even more as U.S. personnel transition to an entirely advisory mission. What may happen is that, as the threat from IEDs and other types of attacks goes down, the percentage of fatalities caused by insider attacks goes up. But that should not mask the overall trend, which is that Afghanistan is getting safer for U.S. personnel. Thus there is no reason to rethink the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan after this attack, no matter how shocking or tragic. Given General Greene’s lifetime of distinguished service–and the service of his family members as well–it is safe to assume that this is the last thing he would have wanted, for his death to lead to a pullout from Afghanistan that will undo all that he and so many other soldiers fought so hard to achieve.





SHOULDN'T LEAVE AFGHANISTAN                                        

Paul D. Miller                                               

 Foreign Policy, Aug. 25, 2014


President Obama has tried to articulate a clear doctrine of when the United States should use force. He said in his Nobel lecture in 2009 that force was justified against al Qaeda because "negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms." He also said, "I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later." Force is justified when either or interests or our ideals, or both, are threatened. These principles seem to have animated his decision to use force against jihadists in Iraq. The militants, clearly in sympathy with al Qaeda's ideology, would present a danger to the United States if they gained the resources and safe haven of sovereignty. As it is, they already present a danger to U.S. allies in the region, including the Kurds. In addition, the terrorists "threat[en] to wipe out Yazidis and other religious minorities trapped on Mount Sinjar," according to the New York Times, "add[ing] to the urgency." Despite his obvious and understandable hesitations to return U.S. military forces to Iraq, the president's humanitarian concerns combined with the United States' strategic interests and added heft to his decisions to use force in Iraq.


In other words, the president has articulated the best possible argument for remaining engaged in Afghanistan beyond the 2016 deadline he established for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops there. The United States has real national security interests at stake in Afghanistan's future and the future of South Asia. Iraq could hardly be a clearer cautionary tale: If the U.S. withdraws before the Afghan security forces are fully prepared to lead the fight against the Taliban and deny safe haven against al Qaeda, jihadists are almost certain to regain safe haven there, much as the Islamic State (IS) has gained ground since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. That is what losing the war in Afghanistan looks like. But U.S. interests are not limited to a narrow counterterrorism concern. Just as in Iraq, there is the potential for a major humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan following the premature withdrawal of international security forces and development money. If the Taliban continue their resurgence in the wake of the international withdrawal (as noted by the Times here and here), they are likely to engage in reprisal killings against Afghans who allied with the Karzai government or international forces — including whole tribes who worked en masse with U.S. forces over the years. The ethnic Hazara, whom the Taliban targeted for ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, will face the same fate as the Iraqi Yazidis. The Hazara will be joined by women, Tajiks, Christians, Shia, and the Popalzai and Barakzai tribes.


The United States bears more responsibility for preventing mass atrocities in Afghanistan than in Libya, in which it intervened explicitly and solely for humanitarian reasons in 2011. First, the United States has repeatedly and publicly promised to stand by the Afghans and help them secure their country — in the 2005 Strategic Partnership Agreement, the 2012 Strategic Partnership Agreement, the 2013 Bilateral Security Agreement, the (presumably) forthcoming Status of Forces Agreement, and the 2012 designation of Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally — promises we never made to the Libyans. The Afghans are betting their future on our promises. Secondly, many Afghans have risked their lives to fight our enemies. Countless Afghans soldiers, policemen, and intelligence agents have fought on the frontlines, and far more of them have been killed than U.S. troops. Nor has their service been simply in defense of their own country: Afghan forces have regularly been a part of broader counterterrorism operations of more concern to us than to them. Their service to our country creates an obligation on our part to help protect them. No such relationship ever existed with Libyan forces.


Third, the United States has a specific and unique opportunity to invest in Afghanistan that rarely exists in other countries facing state failure or mass atrocities. In many cases — the Congo, perhaps, or North Korea — the United States has virtually no presence, no resources, or no platform from which to base resources; or the political environment is an obstacle to the introduction of U.S. forces. We can't stop every atrocity in the world, nor should we try. But in Afghanistan we have a robust infrastructure in place. We have tens of thousands of troops already there. We have a partner in the Afghan government that wants us to stay. None of these things were true in Libya; there are not true in Iraq anymore; they are not true in Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, Mali, or just about any other place on the planet that faces the possibility of a mass atrocity. If there any single place in the entire world where we are most well postured to prevent atrocities where they are likely to occur, it is Afghanistan.


Some critics argue that we've already done everything we can and there is no point to investing any more in a country seemingly impervious to our best intentions. Others argue that the Afghan government's incompetence, paralysis, and corruption excuse our obligation to them. Both are wrong. Adm. Michael Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, famously told Congress in 2007, "In Afghanistan we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must." When the top military official in the United States openly admits that we did not devote to Afghanistan the resources required to accomplish the mission, there are no plausible grounds for arguing that the United States has done everything it can, and therefore no grounds for arguing that there is no point to further investment. Obama's surge of troops there helped, but did not change, the overall trend of under-resourcing the mission in Afghanistan. Nor does the Afghan government's corruption erase our obligation to them. It may change how we deliver our assistance, or cause us to place conditions on its use –but to pull out over frustration with the government's kelptocracy would be to punish the Afghan people for the sins of their government. Rather, continued engagement at least gives us the possibility of leverage to use against their corruption, while pulling out gives us nothing. The president has outlined clear criteria for the use of force abroad: primarily situations in which U.S. interests are at stake, but also those in which humanitarian crises are possible. That is a good standard. Afghanistan clearly meets the standard. That is why two administrations from both parties have repeatedly promised for more than a decade that we will stand by the Afghans. President Obama's decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 is inconsistent with his own standard for the employment of force abroad.


On Topic


Petition: Hamas Leaders Must be Tried For War Crimes—We, the undersigned to this petition and hundreds of million more around the world, expect the UN’s decisive action against Hamas leaders’ flagrant war crimes and crimes against humanity.

PA leader: "Am I stopping You From Slaughtering a Settlement?": Youtube, Aug. 13, 2014—Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee Jibril Rajoub:‎ “I’m telling everyone: Fatah has ‎decided that our relations with the Israelis are relations between enemies.

New York Times Gaza Correspondent Exposed as Arafat Fan: Honest Reporting, Aug. 24, 2014—Investigative journalist Richard Behar has written what is possibly the definitive article on the media bias we’ve witnessed during the current Gaza conflict.

U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene Was Buried Today at Arlington National Cemetery…Guess Who Was Missing…: Aug. 23, 2014—U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene was buried today at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, including a caisson, two escort platoons, casket team, firing party, colors team, and a caparisoned horse.

Financial Crisis Looming Over Afghanistan: Nathan Hodge, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 25, 2014— Next week, if all goes to according to plan, a new Afghan president will take office and inherit an immediate crisis: a government that is running perilously low on cash.














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Max Boot

Contentions, June 22, 2011


L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!” To Napoleon and other great generals the willingness to be bold and audacious was the key to victory. Barack Obama is no Napoleon. He seems to believe that timidity is the key to success—that flip-flopping and triangulating can somehow convince our enemies to make nice. He is sorely mistaken, and it is our troops in Afghanistan and their allies who will pay the price for his unwillingness to back them all the way to victory.

Having ordered a surge of 30,000 troops back in 2009, Obama is now pulling the plug on the effort just when it was showing success.

During the past half year our troops had taken back large portions of Helmand and Kandahar provinces from the Taliban. They are now holding that ground against determined Taliban counterattacks. But this is only stage one of a well-thought-out campaign plan designed by Gen. David Petraeus. Stage two calls for extending the security bubble to Regional Command-East—to the treacherous, mountainous terrain where the Haqqani Network, the Taliban, and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin have their strongholds. By electing to pull out 10,000 surge troops this year and 20,000 more by next summer, Obama is making it virtually impossible to implement this campaign plan. He is even throwing into doubt our ability to consolidate gains in the south.

But nor is he simply opting for a counter-terrorism strategy of air strikes and commando raids as advocated by Vice President Biden. We will still have 70,000 troops in Afghanistan by the fall of 2012: too many for a purely counter-terrorist approach but too few to successfully implement a counterinsurgency strategy.

Obama is making life much more difficult for the troops that remain. He is ham-stringing them, forcing them to assume high levels of risk, and throwing into doubt their ability to accomplish the job they were sent to do—namely to create an Afghanistan strong enough to resist terrorists and insurgents. It is not just that we will now lack the troop numbers needed to secure such a vast and spread out country. We will also lose the all important element of momentum which we had gained with the surge and the ensuing counterinsurgency campaign.

When, last fall, Obama agreed at the NATO summit in Lisbon that our forces would not transition security to Afghan control until 2014, he signaled a long-term commitment. That made ordinary Afghans more willing to trust us and turn against the Taliban. With his speech [last week] he signaled hesitation, doubt, and irresolution. Why should anyone in Afghanistan, or for that matter Pakistan, trust us now? They will assume we are on the way out and therefore not worth risking their necks to help.

As usual Obama said nothing about seeking victory in Afghanistan over the Haqqanis, the Taliban, or other extremist groups closely allied with Al Qaeda. Instead he spoke above all of his desire to get out of Afghanistan. “This is the beginning—but not the end—of our effort to wind down this war,” he said.

That is all our enemies need to hear. They will now be convinced that we do not have the will to see the war through and will act accordingly.

Clearly Obama’s motivation is political–he wants the surge troops out before he must face the voters in November 2012. Certainly there is no operational reason to pull so many troops out so quickly—a step he is taking in the face of unanimous military advice to the contrary. As a short-term political ploy this may be successful. But history will not be deceived. Obama will be judged not on how quickly he pulled troops out but on what kind of country they leave behind. With his feckless announcement, he has greatly increased the possibility of a historic defeat for American forces in Afghanistan. If that were to happen, posterity will not judge him kindly.…


Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2011


What does it mean that the U.S. will now be withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan on an accelerated and defined timetable in order to focus, as President Obama said last week, on “nation building here at home”?

It emboldens the Taliban, which thanks to Mr. Obama’s surge and David Petraeus’s generalship had all but been ousted from its traditional strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. “My soul, and the soul of thousands of Taliban who have been blown up, are happy,” Taliban field commander Jamal Khan told the Daily Beast of his reaction to Mr. Obama’s speech. “I had more than 50 encounters with U.S. forces and their technology. But the biggest difference in ending this war was not technology but the more powerful Islamic ideology and religion.”

It increases the risk to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, where the fatality count was finally starting to come down after peaking in 2010. Fewer troops means that U.S. commanders will have to make an invidious choice between clearing territory of enemies and holding and building it for friends. “Whether it is Nangarhar or Ghazni, Kandahar or Herat, the place where we decide to ‘surge’ with remaining forces will leave a window open—and the Taliban will crawl in,” says a U.S. military official with experience in Afghanistan. “Any commander who has experienced a withdrawal under pressure knows that it is perhaps the most difficult operation you can conduct and certainly the most dangerous; it gives the attacker a feeling of superiority and demoralizes the withdrawing force.”

It strengthens already potent anti-American forces in Pakistan and weakens the hand of moderates. Skeptics of the U.S. within Pakistan’s government, particularly the army, will mark the U.S. withdrawal as further evidence that Washington is a congenitally unreliable ally. Opponents of the U.S. outside of the government will capitalize politically on the perception of American weakness. Drone strikes, which outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta has called “the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” will likely come to an end. Islamabad will also find new reasons to patch up its differences with erstwhile allies in the Taliban and other terrorist groups as a way of keeping its options open.

It strengthens the hand of Iran, which, as the Journal’s Jay Solomon reported, “is moving to cement ties with the leaders of three key American allies—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq—highlighting Tehran’s efforts to take a greater role in the region as the U.S. military pulls out.” As a demonstration of those ties, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi paid a visit to Kabul last week to sign a bilateral security agreement. “We believe that expansion of joint defense and security cooperation with Iran is in favor of our interests,” said his Afghan counterpart Abdulrahim Wardak.

It further weakens NATO, whose future is already in doubt given its inability to oust Moammar Gadhafi from Tripoli. In the last decade it became the fashion to say of the alliance that it was either “out of area”—meaning Europe—or “out of business.” Leaving and losing Afghanistan spells the latter.

It gives Hamid Karzai opportunity and motive to reinvent himself as an anti-American leader. The Afghan president is already well on his way to forging a close political alliance with insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is believed to have given Osama bin Laden safe passage out of Afghanistan in 2001 and is wanted by the U.S. on a $25 million bounty. Mr. Karzai is said to be furious that the Obama administration made no effort to get a strategic forces agreement that would have left a residual U.S. force after 2014. “I think the reality of their complete withdrawal has struck home,” Afghan Human Rights Commissioner Nader Nadery tells the Associated Press. “Now he sees they may go and they don’t want a [military] presence here…and perhaps now he is thinking, ‘Who will protect me?’”

It accelerates Afghanistan’s barely suppressed, and invariably violent, centrifugal forces. There are already reports that the old Northern Alliance, which held out against the Taliban in the 1990s and took Kabul in 2001, may be reconstituting itself as a fighting force in anticipation of a hostile government in Kabul. This is a formula for civil, and perhaps regional, war; it is not clear what kind of “partnership” the U.S. could hope to build, as Mr. Obama promised to do, with whatever emerges from its ashes.

Finally, it signals that the United States, like Britain before it, is a waning power. In his speech last week, Mr. Obama waxed eloquent on the point that “what sets America apart is not solely our power—it is the principles upon which our union was founded.” Very true. But a nation that abandons to the Taliban those it was once committed to protect shows that it lacks power and principle alike.

At the end of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the film quotes the late congressman saying: “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world.… And then we f—ed up the endgame.” To watch President Obama’s Afghan policy unfold is to understand exactly what Wilson meant.


George H. Wittman

American Spectator, June 23, 2011


There have been many characterizations of “victory” with respect to the Afghan conflict, but none of them appears capable of being put into effect. Perhaps the reason for this is that Afghanistan is a country defined by no other purpose than to be the site of constant disagreement.

There is no central order—nor has there ever been—demanding peace. There is no single Afghan language. There is no ethnic unity. There is no modern economic dynamism other than the country’s role as a trading crossroads—and today in monetary terms that primarily means varying forms of drug production, processing, and distribution. The arable land is about ten percent and that which is cultivated is a little more than half of that. Afghanistan’s economy is predominantly subsistence level, and has been for centuries. From the Afghans’ point of view, the closest thing to victory would be just to be allowed to go about their lives with minimal interference.

President Hamid Karzai, the urbane, multilingual, pretend leader of the nation, has essentially said: “Train and equip our indigenous security forces; provide a continuing fund for reconstruction and development; declare victory, if you wish, then leave. Afghanistan will handle the rest. But please do it quickly because we really need to have all you foreigners out of here.”

The response from Washington has been: “We can’t leave until al Qaeda can’t reestablish itself in your country and we know the Taliban can not take over the country; the drug trade is eliminated or at least controlled; and the nation can be drawn together in mutual security.” In other words, the country known as Afghanistan must be reborn as a peaceful, self-sustaining entity. Of course there is little chance of that happening unless the history of the nation since the early 1800s is ignored.

Out of an approximate population of 30 million, of which about 12% live in Kabul and its environs, there are hundreds of tribes, sub-tribes, and families divided among seven principal ethnic groups. As an example, the largest ethnic group, the Pashtun, include some 60 tribes and 400 sub-tribes. The overriding allegiance of all Afghans is to their family/clan structure. This is not a base for a modern cohesive national structure unless a dominant leader arises who can bring the disparate elements together. Anyone with that ambition usually is restricted by his own ethnicity or else ends up assassinated by a rival group. This calculus is the basis for continuing internal competition and combat between and among the various partisan elements. The Taliban originally came to power in that environment.

Purportedly, General David Petraeus had submitted several options for withdrawal to the White House. President Obama also had recommendations from his own political advisors. It is certain that Gen. Petraeus would have loaded his options to provide ample military cover for withdrawal. Nonetheless he knew that Obama also would weigh his own political advantages in making a decision. This does not make for the best possible military strategic situation to evolve, but guarantees that troops would be withdrawn in a manner that satisfies White House re-election politics.

A mantle of pseudo-military science has been placed over the issue of withdrawal from Afghanistan. The terms counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism have become the shorthand for differing types of continuing involvement of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. One concept, counter-insurgency, takes more military forces than the other. But the other attacks this theme of “pacification” by limiting action to political/military target-specific operations. Field-experienced observers know that one actually does not exclude the other. In any case when the self-serving rhetoric is stripped away, the actual result is that troops are being removed before a definitive result has been obtained.…

Obama is now in full obfuscation mode as he struggles with the domestic political problem of attempting to run for reelection while at the same time justifying his espousal of what he termed “the real war.” That war he effectually now seeks to end by bringing the Taliban into a “unity” government in Kabul. In other words, he would seek to turn a defeat into a victory simply by altering the characterization of the original aim.

The entire concept of truly defeating the Taliban has been based on denying these forces a sanctuary in Pakistan. This strategy has evolved as politically and militarily impossible—certainly in the current time frame. What President Obama’s intention now appears to be is to turn Afghanistan over to Pakistan as their problem. And how, Mr. President, do you think the increasingly influential pro-Taliban political forces in Pakistan will deal with that?


Fotini Christia

Foreign Affairs, June 26, 2011


U.S. President Barack Obama’s June 22 speech on withdrawal from Afghanistan made an already tense situation on the ground tenser. He called for an accelerated withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops from the country over the next year. The Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan police are stronger than they were before the U.S. troop surge, he said; Afghans have returned to markets and other public places; and women are starting to seize new opportunities to get an education or a job. But where Obama touts success, Afghans see fragility.

In fact, most striking for Afghans, Obama’s speech was not about “transition,” the euphemism for withdrawal the United States typically favors, but about abrupt disengagement, with no convincing commitment to seeing Afghanistan through to peace. The speech was clear on the plan to bring U.S. troops home but vague on the specifics of how to leave behind a stable Afghanistan, beyond asserting that the Afghan government would now have to take the lead. But Afghanistan’s weak government and embattled president do not inspire confidence. Afghans seem convinced that the country will relapse into all-out civil war after the United States withdraws.

Many Afghans understandably fear for their lives. During a large international development agency’s recent meeting in Kabul, an Afghan employee asked “What is the plan for evacuating local staff when the United States withdraws?” Amid charts illustrating dwindling aid deliveries, she foresaw Kabul becoming another Saigon.…

Afghan President Hamid Karzai often declares the country ready to manage its own security. He even routinely threatens to limit NATO’s operational freedom by preventing troops from targeting private homes, allegedly to avoid civilian casualties, despite intelligence suggesting that some are serving as Taliban safe houses. His bluster has some appeal for Afghans who take pride in never having been defeated by foreign invaders. But, in essence, most Afghans see his rants as delusional. They know that the government is not ready to guarantee their security. Ethnic divisions and seasonal attrition plague the ANA and corruption, illiteracy, and drug abuse plague the police.

Moreover, Afghans are concerned about the economic losses that will come with the U.S. withdrawal. They realize that the country’s strong growth rate is fleeting, mostly a reflection of the billions of dollars and huge quantities of goods shipped into the country to maintain the foreign forces stationed there and heaps of development aid. The armies will take their money with them when they leave and development aid is already on the decline. In 2010, the U.S. Department of State and USAID spent $4.2 billion, but the budget was reduced to $2.5 billion for 2011 and is expected to dwindle even further in the coming years.

For the Taliban, of course, the United States’ upcoming withdrawal is no “drawdown from a position of strength,” as Obama called it. In their public reactions to the speech they used an evocative term, farar, to describe the Americans as “running away” from defeat. Although clearly Taliban propaganda, the idea is not entirely farfetched. In recent months, the Taliban have reclaimed territory in the wild eastern province of Nuristan and they continue to wage a countrywide campaign against district governors and chiefs of police. They also continue to perpetrate frequent suicide attacks in the capital and the country’s south and east, often by attackers dressed in police uniforms. They intend to show—as indeed they have shown—that they have infiltrated the Afghan National Security Forces, the institution that is supposed to provide the security that will enable the United States’ timely exit.…

If Obama were intent on alleviating some of the Afghans’ fears, he could have framed the speech differently, focusing on the number of U.S. troops left behind—in 2012, still a whopping 68,000—and the ways they will work to secure gains on the ground, however fragile. He could have talked about the billions of dollars in development aid pledged to the country and how he intends to channel the funds. But even these factors are not enough to save Afghanistan.…

With Obama’s speech, the United States signaled that it is not in Afghanistan to stay. What is important, then, is to be clear about what the United States commits to delivering on the way out—in terms of money, security, and the creation of a sustainable future. The administration has so far avoided defining what success in Afghanistan actually means and it cannot be vague any longer. There is much confusion on the ground, and the Afghan girls and women attending school and the others sacrificing their lives fighting against the insurgency deserve a straight answer as much as the people in the United States do.