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Jerusalem Post, Mar. 12, 2014
What a year it’s been on campus in the war for and against Israel on campus. Things are heating up on American campuses in a way we haven’t seen since the second intifada.
Three American and one international academic associations have developed a foreign policy for their association either to boycott Israeli scholars or academic institutions (with several more societies contemplating such actions this Spring).
Hillel’s new president, Eric Fingerhut, clarifying Hillel’s policies about what political programming is not acceptable in Hillel facilities caused significant dissension and rebellion at a number of campuses.
250 of American’s nearly 4,000 college and university presidents condemned academic boycott resolutions to one degree or another, while faculty held closed “academic conferences” on some of those very same campuses to try to plan and spread those actions to vulnerable and receptive academic colleagues around the globe.
Legislation is pending in the Congress and in several state legislatures to penalize academics and universities that participate in academic boycotts with both acceptance and rejection by Israel advocacy and other groups, both major and minor.
“Big Tent” academic approaches to difficult discussions are being decried and thwarted by extremist line-drawing, name-calling academics and polemicists with PhDs, from both the Left and the Right. Academics and polemicists of all stripes are claiming that academic boycotts and efforts to resist academic boycotts are threats to academic freedom. The list goes on, and will develop radically and exponentially as we head into Spring Break toward the end of the academic year since we can predict that the war will heat up between the end of Spring Break and before finals, as it always does on campus. These developments point to the fact that the Jewish community has never been more heatedly divided in facing significant intellectual and academic threats to the Jewish people, Judaism and Israel and that we really need to have some serious discussions among ourselves about unified approaches to these existential threats…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]
Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the Lowering of the Canadian Flag in Afghanistan: Stephen Harper, Prime Minister’s Office, Mar. 12, 2014— Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to mark the lowering of the Canadian Flag by the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
Reflecting on Wins, Losses as Canadian Troops Prepare for Afghan Pullout: Mathew Fisher, Montreal Gazette, Mar. 10, 2014 — An Egyptian court ban on Hamas activities could push the increasingly isolated Palestinian Islamist movement into another battle with Israel, analysts say.
U.S. General Warns of Perils in Leaving Afghanistan: Helene Cooper, New York Times, Mar. 12, 2014 — Egypt faces plenty of threats, from a growing insurgency in the Sinai to a shaky and still unstable presidential regime.
Twenty-Five Years After Soviet Afghanistan Withdrawal: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Feb. 12, 2014 — When the last war between Egypt and Israel was fought in 1973, Abd El-Fattah El-Sisi was almost 19 years old.
Paranoia in Kabul: David Devoss, Weekly Standard, Feb. 24, 2014
Timeline: Involved since 2001, Canada Wraps Up its Mission in Afghanistan: Christina Commisso, CTV News, Mar. 11, 2014
Al-Qaida Plots Comeback in Afghanistan: Kimberly Dozier, Associated Press, Feb. 28, 2014
The Grinning Generals Who Highlight Flaws in our Afghanistan Exit: Rob Crilly, Telegraph, Feb. 20, 2014
Will 'Zero Option' in Afghanistan Cause Chaos?: Robert Burns, Associated Press, Feb. 28, 2014
Prime Minister’s Office, March 12, 2014
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to mark the lowering of the Canadian Flag by the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan:
“Today, the Canadian Flag was lowered at NATO’s International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul for the last time. Since 2001, Canada has deployed its largest military contingent in generations to the region, and now our mission in Afghanistan draws to a close.
“The end of the military mission and the lowering of the flag is a significant milestone in the fight against global terror. Over 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members have fought to defeat the threat of terrorism and to ensure the freedom of others, to build a stronger, safer world. In the course of this fight, many have paid the ultimate price.
“Their courage and dedication has brought much pride to our country. I look forward to personally welcoming home the last contingent of Canada’s brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces when they return home on the final flight from Afghanistan on March 18. I also look forward at that time to announcing details of Canada’s plans to formally commemorate the mission in Afghanistan. Canada will continue to play an important role in supporting efforts that contribute to building a better future for all Afghans.”
Montreal Gazette, Mar. 10, 2014
In soldiers’ parlance, I did six tours in Afghanistan. Over 12 years, I spent more than three years in that benighted country, covering Canada’s longest war ever, beginning in Kandahar and Kabul, then Kandahar again and the end piece, which has been a training and mentoring mission in Kabul. As I witness Ukraine teeter on the brink of war over Russia’s designs on Crimea, the last handful of Canadian military trainers serving in Afghanistan are about to go home.
It was all so new and exciting in early 2002 when a battalion from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry lived among the ruins of Kandahar Airfield. The Pats were heavily involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden in the mountains near the Afghan border with Pakistan. The darkest days followed Canada’s only decisive victory over the Taliban in Kandahar during the summer of 2006. The enemy learned from Operation Medusa. Never again did it concentrate its forces. From then on, the Taliban did most of its fighting with homemade landmines. For several years, Canada had no meaningful counter to this menace. But by sticking at it in the face of mounting casualties – like the boy who put his finger in that Dutch dike – the Canadians prevented Kandahar from falling to the Taliban.
The momentum shifted in favour of Canada and its Afghan allies in 2009 after the Manley report to Parliament got the troops the helicopters and drones they badly needed and insisted that additional NATO forces (Americans) must join the battle in Kandahar, which changed the battle space geometry. For the first time, Canada was able to concentrate its forces and attention on districts to the south and immediately west of Kandahar City. The designer of the “ink spot” strategy that evolved was Lt.-Gen. Jon Vance, now the second-ranking NATO officer in Italy and soon to become Canada’s top “operator” as commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command. Shrugging off praise for his Afghan strategy, Vance called it “Insurgency 101″ when I reached him the other day by telephone in Naples.
Vance had two combat commands in Afghanistan, so is well-placed to ponder the country’s future as Canada and NATO wind down their operations. Like me, the general has reservations about the Afghan government and wonders what might have been. “I am not convinced all of the Afghan political elite were honestly working towards the creation of a political movement that would be more powerful than the Taliban with an enlightening message for the people,” he said. “It seems to me there was not a wider catching on of those messages in the political architecture in Afghanistan so that the Taliban narrative got pushed out by a more positive Afghan narrative.” Vance’s point was that the Afghan government had a vital political role to play in the counter-insurgency. “You can’t be as effective as you want if the government is not there,” he said. “I don’t want too be too critical, to be too hard. They did not have enough white-collar capacity, for example. But I do wish that that part had been better.”
Vance and I differ somewhat over what Canadians think of the war and why. My view has been that Canadians were given an unnecessarily hysterical view of the situation by the media during the first half of the combat mission in Kandahar and heard far less about how Canada had turned the situation around during its last two years in the south. “Honestly, I am on the side of the ledger that the Canadian people did understand Afghanistan,” Vance said. “I think that they saw the nature of the Afghan conflict and found it difficult to arrive at a firm, satisfactory solution. That is pretty astute, because so did we.”
The roughest time for me, personally, in Afghanistan was when my colleague, Michelle Lang of the Calgary Herald, died alongside four soldiers in a roadside bombing just after Christmas in 2009. Having had dinner with Michelle not long before that in Alberta, and seeing her flag-draped coffin getting loaded into an aircraft, I could not for a long time reconcile two such different memories. Vance’s “toughest emotional moment” in Afghanistan happened six months earlier when Cpl. Nick Bulger, who was travelling with the general, as he often did, was killed by another roadside bomb.
“Every casualty was a real kick in the stomach,” Vance said. “It hurt especially when everybody had done the right thing. They were superbly trained and nobody did anything wrong. The nature of war is that you can get killed or injured at any time. It is capricious.” That was the precise message that my father, who fought in Normandy, Belgium and Holland, imparted to me when I went off to war with the U.S. Marines in Iraq and the Canadians in Afghanistan. War’s caprices were something I reflected on during every one of the dozens of solemn ramp ceremonies that I attended for Canada’s war dead in Kandahar. They will be on my mind again when the Canadian flag is lowered for the last time in Afghanistan.
New York Times, Mar. 12, 2014
The top American commander in Afghanistan said on Wednesday that Al Qaeda would regroup and stage another attack on the West from Afghanistan if international troops completely withdrew from the country at the end of 2014. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the commander, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., said that as long as a new president of Afghanistan was in place by August, he was confident that a new security agreement would be signed to allow American and international troops to leave a residual force in the country, as military commanders would like, and as President Obama has said is his preferred option.
But General Dunford warned that if Afghanistan’s coming elections did not produce a new president by August, the residual force and the long-term stability of Afghanistan would be threatened. “The risk to an orderly withdrawal begins to get high in September, because of the number of tasks that need to be accomplished,” General Dunford said. “We still have plenty of flexibility to adjust in July.” He said that if Afghanistan signed a new security agreement with the United States, he would feel comfortable with a residual international force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops. Those forces would train, advise and assist Afghan forces and also provide security for American commando operations. Under current Pentagon planning, about two-thirds of those forces would come from the United States.
President Obama announced two weeks ago that he had instructed the Pentagon to begin planning for a complete withdrawal of American forces because the departing president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was continuing to refuse to sign the security agreement. But in his testimony on Wednesday, General Dunford echoed fears expressed by other military leaders who have warned that a complete pullout of troops could end up negating 12 years of American fighting in Afghanistan. Without a core of Western troops remaining to support the Afghan government and continue training the security forces, General Dunford said, the chances are high that significant parts of the country will fall back under Taliban control, as they had been before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Nonetheless, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, pressed General Dunford on why, after more than a decade of war, American forces should remain in Afghanistan. “Can you honestly tell the American people, can you tell the people in West Virginia, that we should be in Afghanistan, stay in Afghanistan, it’s our purpose to do that?” Mr. Manchin asked. “This one makes no sense to any West Virginian at all, not anywhere I go in my state.”
General Dunford insisted that if American forces went down to zero, it would be only a matter of time before the Taliban retook Afghanistan. “The deterioration of the Afghan forces begins to happen fairly quickly in 2015,” he said. “Units would run out of fuel, pay systems would not be completely operable, spare parts would not be available for vehicles and so we’d start to see decreased readiness in the Afghan security forces.” The hearing also touched on the crisis in Ukraine. Asked whether the United States could still get its equipment out of Afghanistan even if Russia cut off supply routes in retaliation for American sanctions against Russia, General Dunford said, “Yes.”
Commentary, Feb. 14, 2014
A quarter century ago tomorrow, the last Soviet tanks rolled across the “Friendship Bridge” into Termez, a small town in Soviet Uzbekistan. The nightmare which the Soviet experience in Afghanistan had become was finally over. Twenty-five years later, the Soviet experience still matters.
Washington D.C. in general and the White House in particular are infamous for convincing themselves that their own spin matters. As the United States prepares to withdraw most if not all of its forces from Afghanistan, political leaders and perhaps even some political generals will testify that the withdrawal confirms victory and a mission complete. They can spend hundreds of man hours crafting talking points and convince themselves that such things matter, but Afghans let alone the wider world interpret events through their own experience, not that of Washington spin artists.
Every Afghan tribal leader, village elder, and politician lived through the Soviet withdrawal and interprets current events through their own experience. So, what do they see? With the assistance of my colleague Ahmad Majidyar, I was asked to address this question at a presentation for a U.S. army unit. Here’s the core:
On one level, the goals of the Soviet Union and United States are remarkably similar on a macro level: Both seek the survival of the system they helped construct. The Soviets hoped to prevent outright Mujahedin victory, while the United States (and its NATO partners) seek to prevent outright Taliban victory. Both engaged similar efforts to advise, assist, and train. Policymakers in both cases were ambitious: The Soviets initially envisioned a 15,000-man advisory team, but ultimately settled for just a couple hundred. Likewise, it seems the United States might have to settle for far less than what its military strategies say is necessary.
Both the United States and Soviet Union faced similar obstacles: First was military stalemate. And, make no mistake, the United States and NATO are stalemated militarily by the Taliban, although that is largely because we have made a policy decision in the White House that we will not do what it takes to win. Both the United States and the Soviet Union also faced similar problems emanating from Pakistan, which had become a safe haven for the opposition.
Both Najibullah and Hamid Karzai had pursued a reconciliation strategy which led them to negotiate with the Mujahedin and Taliban respectively. In each case, the negotiations backfired as opponents smelled blood. Simultaneously, both the Soviet Union and United States have sought to bolster local and elite militias. This benefited security in the short term, but was corrosive in the long term. Regardless, both Moscow then and Washington now swore by the professionalism of their respective 350,000-man Afghan military. Such military, however, was heavily dependent on foreign assistance.
The Soviet Union and then Russia continued to provide about $3 billion in aid for each of the three years after the withdrawal, but as soon as the money ran dry, his regime and its military collapsed. The same will likely hold true for Karzai and the new Afghanistan Security Forces. A major difference, however, is that Afghanistan’s Najibullah-era air force could operate independently. Such cannot be said about Afghanistan’s air force today, which cannot function without ISAF assistance. That said, Karzai’s regime has international recognition. The Soviets had simply appointed Najibullah, who was therefore never able to claim internal legitimacy let alone win broad external recognition.
2014 will be a pivotal year for Afghanistan. The White House might hope for stability, but given the degree to which Afghans see history repeating, the opposite is much more likely true: As soon as the money runs out, expect the system to unravel. Momentum matters, and the first few defections will lead to a deluge. Many Afghans expect a civil war, or at least a multi-party civil struggle. How unfortunate this is, because it did not need to be this way.
Paranoia in Kabul: David Devoss, Weekly Standard, Feb. 24, 2014 —With a presidential election less than two months away, all eyes in Afghanistan should be on the coming vote.
Timeline: Involved since 2001, Canada Wraps Up its Mission in Afghanistan: Christina Commisso, CTV News, Mar. 11, 2014—Canada's military efforts in Afghanistan will end this month, with the withdrawal of the last 100 soldiers from Kabul, where they had been wrapping up training of Afghan National Security Forces.
Al-Qaida Plots Comeback in Afghanistan: Kimberly Dozier, Associated Press, Feb. 28, 2014 —Al-Qaida's Afghanistan leader is laying the groundwork to relaunch his war-shattered organization once the United States and international forces withdraw from the country, as they have warned they will do without a security agreement from the Afghan government, U.S. officials say.
The Grinning Generals Who Highlight Flaws in our Afghanistan Exit: Rob Crilly, Telegraph, Feb. 20, 2014 —So it's your first week in one of the most senior positions running international forces in Afghanistan. In the military jargon, you have just taken responsibility for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and are the deputy commanding general of American forces in the country. You might assume that your every move is subject to scrutiny.
Will 'Zero Option' in Afghanistan Cause Chaos?: Robert Burns, Associated Press, Feb. 28, 2014 —If President Barack Obama were to decide to leave no military advisory force in Afghanistan next year, would Afghan security unravel to the point of enabling a civil war, a Taliban takeover and a return of al-Qaida in such numbers as to pose a 9/11-type threat?
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