You are browsing the archive for Stanley McChrystal.

by CTuttle

Onward and Upward To Kandahar

4:07 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Gates warns of Afghan ‘dark days’

…While on his visit to Afghanistan, Gates was briefed by Karzai and General Stanley McChrystal, the US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, on the Marjah operation that began in February and is billed as the biggest since the 2001 US-led invasion.

He also sought details from McChrystal about his next target: restoring control over Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual home.

McChrystal told reporters troops would mass gradually in Kandahar over the next few months to reassert full control but he said he does not plan an abrupt assault like the one on Marjah.

"Militarily it will not look much like Marjah," McChrystal said.

"There won’t be a ‘D-Day’ that is climactic. It will be a rising tide of security as it comes. Slightly ahead of that there needs to be a lot of preparatory work in terms of governance."

So how is that ‘Government-in-a-Box’ working for ya, General…?

With Taliban gone, residents lukewarm to new mayor’s visit

…“They’re not here to occupy our country,’’ Zahir said of the US Marines who now control key commercial and residential sections of Marja. “They’re just here to bring you peace.’’

But Zahir, a native of southern Afghanistan who spent the past 15 years in Germany, elicited only a tepid endorsement from the men who gathered to meet him. Their questions made clear that the Taliban still enjoys deep support here, while the Afghan government is almost universally loathed, illuminating the deep challenge facing US Marines and civilian stabilization specialists as they try to establish basic civic administration.

“The Taliban provided us with a very peaceful environment,’’ said Fakir Mohammed, 32, a tractor driver. “They did not bother us. We were very happy with them here.’’

More from Gates…

The US defence secretary has cautioned against over-optimism in Afghanistan, despite recent gains on the battlefield for international forces there, warning of more "dark days" ahead.

Robert Gates made his comments during a visit to Afghanistan on Monday, his first since Barack Obama, the US president, ordered an increase of 30,000 troops US troops to Afghanistan.

"There is still much fighting ahead, and there will assuredly be some dark days. But looking forward there are grounds for optimism," Gates said at a joint news conference with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

Speaking of Karzai…

Karzai pledges to rebuild Marjah

…Karzai visited the former Taliban stronghold in southern Helmand province on Sunday, in his first trip to the town since US, Nato and Afghan troops launched a major military offensive in the region inFebruary.

He met with about 300 local elders in a mosque in central Marjah, where he urged them to support his government in return for security and reconstruction projects.

"Today, I’m here to listen to you and hear your problems," Karzai, who was joined by General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said.

"The promises that we have made for security and reconstruction, we will fulfil them. Are you against me or with me? Are you going to support me?"

The elders raised their hands and shouted, "We are with you. We are supporting you."

Reuters took a dimmer view on Karzai’s visit…

"Today I’m here to listen to you and to hear your problems," Karzai told a gathering of about 300 local elders assembled on rugs in a mosque near the town’s main bazaar.

The elders shouted at times during two hours of sharp exchanges, decrying looted shops, house searches, civilian casualties, arrests and Western forces using schools as bases.

"I have heard no good news over the last 30 years, just fighting and blasts," said Mohammad Naeem Khan, in his 30s. "We want hospitals, roads, reconstruction projects and security."

"We want an Islamic government based on sharia (Islamic law), that has been the goal of our jihad (holy war) for the last 30 years," said Abdul Aziz Khan, among a list of eight demands that also included releasing prisoners and repairing destroyed shops.

Karzai promised to provide security, open schools and build roads and clinics. When he asked the gathering, "Will you support me?", elders raised their hands and shouted, "We are with you."

Karzai later told reporters: "They had some very legitimate complaints. Very, very legitimate. They felt as though they were abandoned, which in many cases is true. And this sense of abandonment has to go away."

He was joined at the meeting by U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces which have seized most of Marjah in operation Mushtarak, which began last month and has been described as the war’s single biggest offensive.

McChrystal sat on the floor during the meeting, listening to Karzai through an interpreter, but did not speak. He later put a positive spin on the angry words, telling reporters he was "impressed at how they went hard at the issues".

"To me, that’s real democracy in action: people speaking their minds, and nobody seemed hesitant to do that," he said, adding troops would check claims of property damage or looting.

I seem to recall writing about those very same elders telling McChrystal before that…

‘No one here needs liberating’…

"The Taliban didn’t create any problems for people. Every Thursday there was a court session, and if someone had a problem, he would go in front of the Taliban mullah who was the judge," said Samad Khan, a 55-year-old poppy farmer in the village of Saipo on the outskirts of Marjah. The Islamist militant group levied a 10 percent yearly tax on his poppy crop, and let him be.

Now, Khan says, he’s worried that the assault, which began Saturday, is putting his family in danger.

"I’m afraid for my children, for my village, because the fighting is increasing," he said. He’s looking for a way to flee to the nearby provincial capital of Lashkar Gah but said he’s scared to pick his way through the explosive-laced fields to get there. The Taliban planted countless bombs in the area in preparation for the U.S.-led attack.

Btw, do you suppose that Gates cautious optimism is pushback for these scathing reviews on Operation Moshtarak…?

Down the AfPak Rabbit Hole

The village of Marjah is a meaningless strategic backwater. So why are the Pentagon and the press telling us the battle there was a huge victory?

Fiction of Marja as City Was U.S. Information War
For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan War against what it was told was a "city of 80,000 people" as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marja was a major strategic objective, more important than other district centres in Helmand.

Our Special Envoy, Richard Holbrooke, recently clarified our Af/Pak policy…

… Speaking at a Harvard forum, Holbrooke said there were “two different kinds of engagement: reintegration and reconciliation.”

Reconciliation meant that Taliban leaders would begin to bridge their differences with the Kabul government, the eventual goal being some kind of power-sharing. “Let me be clear, ” Holbrooke said, there is no American involvement in any reconciliation process.

The Taliban is woven into the fabric of Pashtun society on both sides of the border with Pakistan, Holbrooke said, and almost every Pashtun family has someone involved with the movement. That’s why Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun himself, was reaching out to them. But there were “no negotiations with them,” Holbrooke said firmly.

Reintegration, on the other hand, means trying to find as many Taliban as possible who could be wooed into changing sides — a bottom-up instead of a top-down approach. American policy was directed at reintegration, Holbrooke said. That’s what was discussed at the recent international conference on Afghanistan in London, and that is what U.S. policy is directed towards.

He made no mention of any potential tension between the two approaches, with Karzai, perhaps, wanting a little more top-level reconciliation effort than the Americans were comfortable with. Nor was he asked about it during question time.

Well, Dick, could ya have Foggy Bottom and the inner E Ring of the Pentagon address this little ‘shortcoming’…?

U.N. Rejects ‘Militarization’ of Afghan Aid

Senior United Nations officials in Afghanistan on Wednesday criticized NATO forces for what one referred to as “the militarization of humanitarian aid,” and said United Nations agencies would not participate in the military’s reconstruction strategy in Marja as part of its current offensive there.

“We are not part of that process, we do not want to be part of it,” said Robert Watkins, the deputy special representative of the secretary general, at a news conference attended by other officials to announce the United Nations’ Humanitarian Action Plan for 2010. “We will not be part of that military strategy.”

The American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has made the rapid delivery of governmental services, including education, health care and job programs, a central part of his strategy in Marja, referring to plans to rapidly deploy what he has referred to as “a government in a box” once Marja is pacified.

Mr. Watkins did not specifically criticize the Marja offensive, saying, “It is not the military that will be delivering the services, they will be clearing the area so the government can deliver those services.”

God help Kandahar…!

by CTuttle

Mission Accomplished?

2:12 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

As the Grey Lady recently reported…

MARJA, Afghanistan — The black, red and green flag of Afghanistan was hoisted over the center of this onetime Taliban stronghold on Thursday, as Afghan officials symbolically claimed control after a major American-led military offensive.

Symbolic indeed! The clear phase is over, somewhat, and at a high cost!

As today’s Daily Outlook notes the GoA’s dog and pony show rolled into town…

Khalili Visits Helmand, Invites Taliban to Join Reconciliation
The second deputy president Karim Khalili on Monday invited the Taliban to join the peace and reconciliation process and play their role in the reconstruction of the country. Khalili said this during his visit to the southern province of Helmand. Civilian representative of the NATO alliance to Afghanistan Mark Sedwil, deputy Interior Minister Munir Mangal and other senior government officials were accompanied him to the restive province. The delegation met the elders and officials in the provincial capital of Lashkargah and expressed grief ove the loss of civilians in the recent operation in Marjah district of the province. Talking to the people, he said the government was trying to avoid civilian casualties in such operation. He said areas vacated from Taliban would be manned by the security forces and they would not allow the miscreants to return there again. On this occasion, he urged upon the Taliban to start talks with the government to win peace for the people of the country. He said they were ready for all possible cooperation if the Taliban agreed for peace and reconciliation. Governor of Helmand province Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on this occasion, told journalists that the recent visit of the deputy president and the earlier visit of the president proved that the government was taking serious interest in improvement of the situation in the province.

More dog and pony… McChrystal visits Marjah

Ironically, the Taliban are crowing…

Qari M. Yousaf Ahmadi, Spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, on The Marja Operation: ‘The Enemy Has Now Been Entangled in Battles in Accordance With Our Tactical Plan And The Enemy Losses Have Been Spiralling Up With The Passage of Time’

…From the first day of operation February 13, 2010, the enemy troops have not been able to extend their writ to other areas of Marjah except areas, which were evacuated by Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate at the beginning of the operations as per a tactical plan to encircle the enemy forces.

When the enemy new strategy faced fiasco, they ludicrously announced to have cleared the areas. However, the ground realities are contrary to what they are claiming.

Here’s Joshua Foust deconstructing the rampant rhetoric on Marjah and Operation Moshtarak…

A Children’s Treasury of breathless media coverage, in non-rhyming couplet/quotation form.

Before:

The man with the most sway in Marja is Abdul Rahman Jan, the former police chief in Helmand. His officers in Marja were so corrupt and ruthless — their trademark was summary executions — that many residents welcomed the Taliban as a more humane alternative.

After:

“There has been very little progress,” said Haji Abdurrahman Jan, the head of the Marjah shura and a former police chief in Helmand. “The foreign and Afghan forces have advanced only 2 kilometers from their descent point. This is very little in relation to their numbers.”

Before:

However that turns up, by this point in the game we have a pattern very firmly established: in the next month or two, there will be a major attack inside Afghanistan in retaliation. And it will kill a lot more innocent people. And we will rinse and repeat and wonder why we’ve made so little progress.

After:

A crew of suicide bombers armed with grenades and Kalashnikov rifles attacked two guesthouses frequented by foreigners here early Friday, setting off a gun battle with Afghan police and killing at least 16 people.

Before:

In other words, opium behaves like any other agricultural commodity: responsive to demand and supply, with a fairly normal price elasticity and a fairly normal elasticity of demand. Yet, neither the UNODC nor most Western governments seem willing to discuss this in any great detail.

After:

A record flow of Afghan drugs is shifting toward Russia’s North Caucasus on the back of a number of anti-drug trafficking operations in Pakistan, Russian drug control chief Viktor Ivanov said on Thursday.

Alright, you get the point.

More Joshua on the build phase that we’ve now entered! Death and Taxes in Marjah, Afghanistan.

Now in an update on this prior post: Rolling Up The Taliban? It does appear that Pakistan and ISI is truly cracking down on the Taliban and others! As Memri Urdu-Pashtu reports today…

Pakistani Daily Reveals Details Of Nine Remaining Members Of Quetta Shura Who Have Yet To Be Captured, Says Pakistan Has Not Disclosed All Recent Arrests Of Top Militant Commanders.[...]

Five Taliban militant commanders, including Maulvi Alim Binori and Maulana Shamsul Haq, were killed on Monday in the Madain area of the Swat district in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), according to a Pakistani website.[...]

Pakistan’s Crackdown Forces British Security Firms To Pack Up

Several U.S. contractors who have been at the center of a controversy over the presence of foreign security companies in Pakistan appear to have survived, while the British firms have left, according to a Pakistani daily.

The report noted that Pakistani law-enforcement agencies fear that these American entities may be part of an attempt to establish ‘‘a parallel security and intelligence network’’ in Pakistan.

The survival of the U.S. firms, including Catalyst Services considered by many as a front organization for Blackwater/Xe and the DynCorp, continues to pose a challenge to the country’s law-enforcement agencies, according to a report in the Dawn newspaper.

According to a Pakistani government report, other U.S. security firms in Pakistan include Sallyport Global Services, which has a security contract with an embassy in Islamabad, and RSM Consulting.

However, all of the British companies have packed up and left the country.

Why just the Brits? The American Firms are the worst perpetrators!

I do believe the jury is still out on the ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Marjah…!

by CTuttle

What The F**k Are They Smoking?

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-George Santayana, The Life of Reason

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.
-George Santayana, Life of Reason

As Gregg Carlstrom recently wrote at The Mahjlis…

After months of hyping the latest Helmand surge, ISAF officials are launching one last PR blitz before Operation Moshtarak, a large assault on the town of Marja. Al-Jazeera reports that it will be the largest offensive since the 2001 invasion, led by more than 1,700 Afghan soldiers. The New York Times has been hyping the Helmand offensive all week. And a well-publicized overnight operation in Nad Ali killed roughly 30 Taliban fighters (of course!).

If news reports are any indication, this latest Helmand offensive will be about as successful as the last four… [...] ISAF already believes Marja will be the mother of all battles; by reinforcing that bias, the Taliban draws ISAF further into a battle that’s likely to be expensive and unlikely to be an important strategic victory. And it diverts ISAF’s limited resources from other parts of Afghanistan, where they could be put to better use — and where the Taliban can continue to dig in.

Do we not learn…?

Apparently not…

…General McChrystal said that the highly anticipated offensive to begin soon in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province would be a significant example of the improved partnership between foreign and Afghan security forces. Helmand is a focus of insurgent activity and the narcotics trade, and is viewed as a center of gravity in the allied counterinsurgency strategy because of its fertile river valley and significant population centers.

But some analysts have questioned the discussion of the operation in advance, and General McChrystal acknowledged that the decision to go public with the broad outlines of the plan — but not the dates — was “unconventional.” He said the decision to discuss the operation openly was a way of telling the people of Afghanistan of their government’s efforts to expand security where they live — and to tell the insurgents and narcotics traffickers “that it’s about to change.”

“If they want to fight, then obviously that will have to be an outcome,” General McChrystal said. “But if they don’t want to fight, that’s fine, too, if they want to integrate into the government.” Even so, the decision could give insurgents time to flee — and to set booby traps in advance of their departure.

“The biggest thing is in convincing the Afghan people,” General McChrystal said during a briefing for correspondents traveling with Mr. Gates. “This is all a war of perceptions. This is not a physical war in terms of how many people you kill or how much ground you capture, how many bridges you blow up. This is all in the minds of the participants.

Erm… Aren’t you a participant too…?

As Joshua Foust quipped…

I’ll Have What He’s Smoking

Who is General McChrystal’s hashish dealer? Because that stank be good.

A top U.S. military commander offered a hint of optimism on the war in Afghanistan on Thursday by declaring, in contrast to other officials, that the security situation in the Central Asian state was no longer “deteriorating” but merely “serious.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s assessment, a modest upgrade to the nine-year war, runs counter to that of officials in Afghanistan and other nations who say they worry the Taliban has expanded its influence and that the situation has become explosive.

McChrystal says he agrees the Taliban has made strides in recent months and said he is “not prepared to say we’ve turned a corner.” Even so, he told reporters, the Afghan government and U.S. forces are making enough progress to leave him more optimistic about the war than he was last summer, when he declared it backsliding.

So, according to iCasualties.org, during January—which is normally at least half as deadly than the previous summer—the U.S. experienced 45 combat deaths in Afghanistan. January of 2009 saw only 25. January of 2008? 14. Similarly, General McChrystal’s senior intelligence officer, General Michael Flynn, put out just six weeks ago a powerpoint (though he hates powerpoint!) that claims the Taliban not only can “sustain itself indefinitely,” but that its “organizational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding,” and that the “strength and ability of shadow governance [is] increasing.” Similarly, year after year the ability of humanitarian groups to deliver basic aid and sustainment to the population is increasingly restricted by the fighting.

In McChrystal’s universe, this is evidence not of continued backsliding, but of mere seriousness with hopeful progress. Where is this progress happening?

General McChrystal said the highly anticipated offensive to begin soon in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province would be a significant example of the improved partnership between foreign and Afghan security forces. Helmand is a focus of insurgent activity and the narcotics trade, and is viewed as a center of gravy in the allied counterinsurgency strategy because of its fertile river valley and significant population centers.

That slapping sound you just heard was my palm impacting upon my face. Despite all the assertion to the contrary, there is no evidence to support the claim that Helmand is vital to the insurgency, or that the heroin it grows is essential to Taliban financing (seriously: argh).

Most importantly: where are all the significant population centers in Helmand? For some reason—hint hint, shining minds at CNAS—the myth persists that Helmand is somehow a major center of commerce with a high population density… when nothing is further than the truth!.

Meanwhile, as we await the LD on Operation Moshtarak, the veritable ‘Mother of all Battles’, Al Jazeera reported today…

Taliban rejects Karzai’s offer

The Afghan Taliban has rejected the offer of Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, to get fighters to reconcile with the government.

In a statement posted on the Taliban’s alemarah.info website on Sunday, the group called the attempt "futile" and "farcical", but said it was open to talks to achieve its goal of an Islamic state.

"This is not the first time that the Kabul regime and the invading countries want to throw dust into the eyes of the public of the world by announcing reconciliation in words and, in practice, make preparation for war," the statement said.

"Similarly, they put forward conditions, which are tantamount to escalating the war rather than ending it."

Imagine that…! The Taliban is saying talk is cheap…!

Thereby knocking down one of the central pillars of the London Conference! Taliban talks and re-integration…!

We will ever learn…?