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Who’s Really “Relying on Assumptions and Beliefs to Shape Reality” in Afghanistan War Debate?

10:23 am in Afghanistan, Countries in Conflict, Military by Derrick Crowe

The Afghanistan Study Group report is out, and the fight is on. A number of critiques have been leveled at the report, one of the most influential being Joshua Foust’s over at Registan.net, chunks of which are percolating upward into larger outlets. Foust is a smart guy with whom I regularly debate, but there’s a particularly offensive landmine hiding at the end of Foust’s post that I want to highlight:

But in a real way, this is symptomatic of much of the anti-war movement in this country: it starts with a conclusion and works backward to develop justifications for it. That is an inversion of reasoned argument, as it relies on assumption and beliefs to shape reality, rather than using reality as a base for arguments and beliefs.

That’s pretty rich, especially considering the outrageous intellectual dishonesty on display over the past couple of weeks with regard to the pro-counterinsurgency decision-makers in this country, who spent the last few weeks furiously redefining not only reality but their own doctrine. I don’t mean to deflect from Foust’s substantive critiques of the ASG’s report, some of which I plan to return to in a latter post, and I should be clear that I also have some points of contention to raise with some of the particulars of the report, but this drive-by smear is too offensive to let go without a detailed response.

I read Joshua’s swipe as calling out the anti-war movement in the current debate as being the parties particularly guilty of this activity, and if that’s the case, let me go out on a limb here and say that such an assertion is flatly ridiculous on its face. This is particularly offensive given that in the last couple of weeks, our opponents have worked furiously to construct a dishonest narrative of "progress" while their strategy is clearly failing to arrest the deterioration of security in Afghanistan.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Contemplation of Drone Strikes in Quetta Belies Obama’s Claim of Just War

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. The views expressed are his own. Sign our CREDO petition to reject escalation in Afghanistan & join Brave New Foundation’s #NoWar candlelight vigil on Facebook and Twitter. But make these your first steps as an activist to end this war, not your last.

Once again, the United States is rattling a saber about killing people in Quetta, despite all the inevitable civilian death and mass outrage. Such a move would show the shallowness of the "just war" talk in President Obama’s disgraceful Nobel paean to Mars. Quetta is a city of 850,000 people, which is somewhere between the size of Detroit, Michigan and San Francisco, California. Imagine targeting a person or group with a drone-borne, 500-lbs., roughly 125,600-square-foot-effective-kill-area [pi x (effective kill radius of 200 ft., squared)] bomb in San Francisco’s Union Square, and you get some idea of the civilian death and injury we’re talking about. (Actually, this kill area is larger than Union Square…)

And if you think that the U.S. would never use a drone to drop that kind of weapon on a mass of noncombatants that might also contain Taliban heavies, you’d be wrong.

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Lost in the Afghan Labyrinth

11:38 am in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New FoundationThe Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

My previous post intentionally left out mentions of Senator John Kerry’s defense of Ahmed Wali Karzai–the drug-dealing, election stealing, possibly Taliban-connected brother of the Afghan president–in an attempt to keep the piece to a manageable length. Boy, am I sorry I did that…today’s New York Times contains an article by Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti, James Risen and Helene Cooper that shows AWK is a CIA asset.

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Quetta and Meltdown: U.S. AfPak Policy Visits Crazy Town

10:30 am in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

Apparently I underestimated the U.S. government’s capacity for crazy.

Last week, I said:

The prospects for success of a quick, violent blow are dim. The hardened core of the Taliban is the Quetta Shura Taliban. It’s called the Quetta Shura Taliban because it’s based in Quetta, capital of Balochistan in Pakistan. That’s where we suspect Mullah Omar and possibly Osama bin Laden hide from U.S. forces. It’s also a major city of 750,000+ people, almost all of them non-combatants. Thus, our ability to strike the “violent blow” that could end the al-Qaida/Taliban threat (assuming we’re not willing to drop 600,000+ troops into Afghanistan tomorrow to suddenly begin a textbook counterinsurgency) would depend on our willingness to repeat the carnage of Fallujah 2004 in a city roughly twice its size. This move would ignite Pakistan, to put it mildly, and it would put their nuclear arsenal on the game board in the scramble.

In the days after my attribution of a modicum of good sense and humanitarian concern to the U.S. government, the Telegraph reported that the U.S. is threatening to launch drone attacks against suspected Taliban targets in Quetta. The story labels this potential move a "major escalation," and they’re not kidding.

[L]ast week Anne Patterson, America’s ambassador to Islamabad, told the Daily Telegraph that the offensive in Swat was not targeting the insurgents posing the greatest danger to Nato forces in Afghanistan.An official at the Pakistani interior ministry told the Daily Telegraph: "The Americans said we have been raising this issue with you time and again. These elements are attacking Nato forces in southern Afghanistan, especially in Helmand. The Americans said ‘If you don’t take action, we will.’"

US unmanned drone strikes have so far been confined to Pakistan’s federally administrated tribal border regions where Islamabad holds little sway. But attacks in or around Quetta, in Baluchistan, would strike deep into the Pakistan government’s territory and are likely to cause a huge outcry in the country.

This is crazy town, people. An attack on Quetta would cause a phase shift in Pakistan. We’re talking destabilization par excellence. A recent poll by Gallup Pakistan showed that the Pakistanis view the U.S. as the biggest threat to their country, far surpassing India and the Taliban:

When respondents were asked what they consider to be the biggest threat to the nation of Pakistan, 11 per cent of the population identified the Taliban fighters, who have been blamed for scores of deadly bomb attacks across the country in recent years.

Another 18 per cent said that they believe that the greatest threat came from neighbouring India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since partition in 1947.

But an overwhelming number, 59 per cent of respondents, said the greatest threat to Pakistan right now is, in fact, the US…

That kind of visceral reaction to the United States comes, in large part, from a popular rejection of U.S. drone activity over Pakistan. From a May op-ed in the NYT by Kilcullen and Exum:

[T]he drone war has created a siege mentality among Pakistani civilians…the strikes are now exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion in Punjab and Sindh, the nation’s two most populous provinces. Covered extensively by the news media, drone attacks are popularly believed to have caused even more civilian casualties than is actually the case. The persistence of these attacks on Pakistani territory offends people’s deepest sensibilities, alienates them from their government, and contributes to Pakistan’s instability.

An airstrike open-season over Quetta would be the apotheosis of stupid.

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Vested Interests

10:30 am in Uncategorized by Derrick Crowe

Bruce Riedel at Brookings says we have a vested interest in shoring up Karzai’s legitimacy. That’s not surprising, given that Riedel certainly has such a vested interest. From The New York Times:

“Even if we get a second round of voting, the odds are still high that Karzai will win,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who advised the administration on its Afghan policy. “We have a fundamental interest in building up the legitimacy of the Karzai government.”

“This requires delicacy and a deft hand,” he said. “You don’t want to create a downward spiral in U.S.-Afghan relations.”

The U.S. has a vested interest only insofar as we’re willing to sink our moral standing and our regional credibility into building up a national security apparatus to be left at the disposal of a group of warlords, drug lords and human rights abusers. That’s the ugly fine print hiding in the poor choice by the Obama Administration to continue to view Afghanistan through the poisonous counterinsurgency (COIN) paradigm. See El Salvador during the Carter/Reagan era for an example of what "success" looks like according to the COIN manual.

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