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Farewell to an Old Friend

5:15 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Sunny

On Friday, we finally had to say goodbye to Sunny, after we had exhausted all promising treatment options in his battle against laminitis (commonly called founder) that he had bravely waged for two and a half years.

Sunny came to our family about four years ago. He was already about twenty years old, but quickly developed a very close relationship with my wife, who finally had a horse she could call her own. Sunny had spent the previous couple of years by himself in a pasture after his owner had lost interest as she went off to college. Sunny was very happy to go on trail rides around the neighborhood and also was a trooper, giving safe rides in our small practice ring to any interested youngsters who visited, regardless of their experience level.

One afternoon before his foot problems developed, I heard our dogs barking in the frantic way they do when there is an unwelcome animal visitor on the property. I went outside to investigate, and found the dogs and Sunny close together in the back pasture. The dogs had decided to torment the gopher tortoise that has a burrow in the pasture (we fenced off the opening so no horses would trip in it), but Sunny saw no reason for them to do this, so he was standing guard over the tortoise, with his front feet firmly planted on either side of it. I removed the tortoise to the opening at the other end of its burrow, which is just outside the allowed perimeter of the dogs’ invisible fence, and peace was restored. I still marvel at Sunny’s gentle intervention in an altercation that he easily could have ignored. Later, as Sunny’s condition worsened and he spent far more time lying on the ground than is normal for horses, the dogs returned the favor, taking turns standing guard over him while he rested his sore feet.

Sunny was very patient and cooperative through the bulk of the treatment for his condition, but in the last month or so, he began to refuse to come into his stall for the night. This was his way of telling us that he was finished with intensive treatments, as we often tended to various treatment tasks as we brought him in for the night.

Rest well, old friend, your pain is over.

FBI Ignored, Hid Data Potentially Excluding Bruce Ivins as Anthrax Killer

9:16 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

FBI photos of the material in the letter sent to Senator Pat Leahy (left) and to the New York Post (right), from the report.

A report from McClatchy provides important new evidence and analysis in the FBI’s Amerithrax investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks. The report shows that the FBI ignored as potentially erroneous a measurement of silicon in one anthrax sample and then hid this information from Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Even more importantly, the high silicon measurements in at least two samples also were coupled with high tin measurements, opening up the possibility that silicon was added to the attack material in a form that is not mentioned in any of the FBI documents. Significantly, it is virtually impossible that Bruce Ivins, whom the FBI has concluded acted on his own to carry out the attacks, would have been able to perform the necessary chemical manipulations involved in this treatment of the spores.  Ivins likely also would not have had access to the necessary laboratory equipment to perform this treatment.

The presence of silicon and how it may have gotten into the anthrax material has been a point of great controversy throughout the entire investigation. This question is important because the chemical nature of the silicon and the level at which it is present is presumed to be an indicator of whether the anthrax spores have been “weaponized” to make them suspend more readily in air so that they are more effective in getting into the small passageways of the lungs of the intended targets of the attack. Early in the investigation, Brian Ross published “leaked” information that the spores had been weaponized through addition of bentonite and that Iraq had a weaponization program that used bentonite. This report turned out to be false, as no evidence for bentonite has been found. A more sophisticated type of weaponizing would rely on mixing the spores with nanoparticles of silica (silica is the common name for the compound silicon dioxide) to make them disperse more easily.

The FBI carried out a special form electron microscopy that could identify the location of the silicon in the spores from the attack material. They found that the silicon was in a structure called the the spore coat, which is inside the most outer covering of the spore called the exosporium. If silica nanoparticles had been used to disperse the spores, these would have been found on the outside of the exosporuim (see this diary for a discussion of this point and quotes from the scientific literature) because they are too large to penetrate it.  No silicon signature was seen on the outside edge of the exosporium.  What is significant about the type of silicon treatment suggested in the McClatchy piece is that both high silicon and high tin measurements were found in several samples and that there is an alternative silicon treatment that would involve a tin-catalyzed polymerization of silicon-containing precursor molecules. McClatchy interviewed scientists who work with this process and they confirmed that the ratio of silicon to tin found by the FBI is in the range one would expect if such a polymerization process had been used. Read the rest of this entry →

Afghan Night Raid Deaths Lead to Thousands Protesting, Up to Twelve Deaths

5:31 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

David Petraeus’ favorite tool for cowing populations into quiescence, the night raid, has led yet again to deaths NATO characterizes as insurgents but Afghans say are civilians. In this case, four were killed in an overnight raid Tuesday night, two men and two women. A crowd of two to three thousand took to the streets in Taloqan and there were multiple deaths when police opened fire on the crowd.

Reuters, in its story, is careful to note the difference between what Afghan civilians say and what NATO says in identifying those killed in the raid:

Local police and residents say the four people killed in the raid late on Tuesday night in Taloqan were civilians. NATO-led forces said those killed in the raid were armed insurgents.

Via Dawn, AFP also covers the raid:

The troubles erupted after Nato-led forces said they killed four insurgents including two armed women in an overnight raid in the town.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the raid targeted the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a militant group that operates from bases including in Afghanistan.

But the protesters claimed those killed during the Nato raid were civilians.

The Reuters article goes into more detail on the NATO claim the women killed were insurgents:

In male-dominated Afghanistan, female fighters are very rarely found among insurgent ranks, and the few who have been identified are mostly foreigners. A NATO spokesman said he did not know the nationalities of the dead women.

Notably, it wasn’t just foreign troops who were the objects of the protest:

In Taloqan, demonstrators threw stones and handfuls of mud at a billboard of Karzai and also chanted “death to Karzai.”

Even though Afghan President Hamid Karzai has publicly spoken out against night raids repeatedly, it appears that he now is getting some of the blame when it is believed that civilians have been killed. If Karzai is going to be targeted by large protests each time there is a disputed night raid, this could well change the dynamic going forward.

It will be very interesting to watch for further details as they emerge from this raid. Karzai would seem to be in a position to make an even stronger protest than he has in the past, so the wording and nature of his response will bear watching. Also, NATO must overcome the barrier Reuters points out that Afghan women almost never join the armed insurgency, and we already have a statement from NATO claiming the women were armed.   Aruguing in NATO’s favor is the mention that the group targeted comes from Uzebekistan, so it is possible the women were not from Afghanistan.  Recall in this context also that just over a year ago, US special operations forces actually dug their bullets out of the bodies of women they killed in a raid (see video above for more coverage of that raid). NATO will need to provide credible evidence that the women killed were indeed insurgents, and they will have to do this in the context of a history of tampering with evidence in previous raids gone bad.

Obama Administration Set to Cover For Petraeus’ Training Failure

5:03 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

David Petraeus: winner in propaganda, failure in training troops.


On Wednesday, I noted that Senator John Kerry (D-MA) was quoted in the Washington Post pointing out the impossibility of David Petraeus’ plan to train Afghan forces to take over security responsibility in Afghanistan after a US pullout. I predicted a ramping up of the Petraeus propaganda machine kicking into gear to protect Petraeus’ reputation as he prepares to assume control of the CIA in his planned preparation for the presidency. Friday’s Los Angeles Times has a remarkable article where we see that the Obama administration is planning to “scale back” training of Afghan forces under cover of saving money. The Times tries to present this as the administration somehow pushing back against Petraeus’ plans, but it looks to me much more like the administration is covering for the abject failure, once again, of Petraeus’ training myth.

Here is the remarkable passage from Wednesday’s Washington Post on the impossibility of training sufficient Afghan troops to take over security there:

Many have questioned the feasibility of plans to recruit and train as many as 400,000 Afghan security forces to take over once foreign troops depart.“Despite our best efforts, there are challenges — corruption, predatory behavior, incompetence — still evident within the Afghan army and police,” Kerry said. “On top of these problems, there is the question, ultimately, of money, resources.”

That statement by Kerry, where he appears be pointing out failure in Petraeus’ key strategy of training Afghan troops so that we can withdraw ours then leads to today’s article in the Los Angeles Times. The article begins:

After months of internal deliberations, the Obama administration has decided to limit the expansion of Afghanistan’s army and police forces over the next 18 months, largely to hold down the costs of training, equipping and paying them.

If we are to take this at face value, then we are supposed to believe that it’s just too darned expensive to follow the Petraeus plan of training so many Afghan troops so fast. And the Times tries to present this as a difference between what Petraeus wants and what the administration wants:

Petraeus and senior Pentagon officials had pushed to add as many as 73,000 troops to the Afghan force, officials said. Instead, the administration has limited the addition to 47,000, which would bring the authorized Afghan force to a total of 352,000. The U.S. government provides most of the money to recruit, train and pay the Afghan troops.

However, by hiding behind this “it costs too much” excuse, which John Kerry nicely framed for them, the administration is able to provide cover for Petraeus failing miserably, once again, to reach his troop training goal, just as he did multiple times in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. In going out of their way to protect Petraeus’ reputation before he gets saddled with accusations of failing to meet his training goals in Afghanistan, the administration also gets the “bonus” of using the scaled back training as an excuse to “follow” the recommendation that will be coming from Petraeus to scale back the troop drawdown:

They said Petraeus and other senior officers in the Pentagon favor limiting the scale and slowing the pace of any U.S. pullout in order to preserve fragile security gains, especially in the south and east, where the Taliban presence remains strong.

And, of course, by slowing the buildup of Afghan forces, that allows the addition of ever more Friedman units to the date on which our drawdown of troops will be complete. So much for the cost savings from a slower training schedule.

David Petraeus, once again, will be given a free pass for his failure. The Obama administration is going to change the training goals under the guise of scaling back expenses when the underlying reason almost certainly is that Petraeus had zero chance of hitting his stated goal. The punditocracy will once again sing Petraeus’ praise as he takes the reins at CIA. What new failures await him there?

John Kerry at Nexus of Pakistan Relations, Afghanistan Strategy

5:28 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

With US-Pakistan relations strained over the US mission that killed Osama Bin Laden and the push by many in Congress to accelerate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) finds himself at the nexus of these two vital issues. Recall that Kerry was one of a number of US elected officials who visited Pakistan during the Raymond Davis saga, claiming that he felt his visit would achieve Davis’ release “within the next few days” after his visit. Davis was eventually released four weeks after the Kerry trip. Today, we see Kerry featured prominently in the news for his plan to visit Pakistan again in an attempt to repair damage to US-Pakistan relations arising from the Bin Laden mission and for his statements suggesting that a new Afghanistan strategy is now needed.

Reuters describes the Kerry’s upcoming visit to Pakistan:

Senator John Kerry will travel to Pakistan in coming days to put relations “on the right track” after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a surprise Navy SEALs raid, but he is likely to face fury from the army over what it sees as a breach of trust.

Kerry, a Democrat who is close to the Obama administration, said he expected to see “all the main players” in Pakistan to discuss strains in bilateral ties following the May 2 operation that killed the al Qaeda leader in his Pakistani hideout.

“A number of people suggested it would be good to get a dialogue going about the aftermath and how we get on the right track,” Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters in Washington.

At the same time he is playing a leading role (and rightly so, as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) in repairing the relationship with Pakistan, Kerry is also the first politician quoted in Wednesday’s Washington Post article on calls to accelerate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan:

The death of Osama bin Laden and growing pressure from Congress to shrink the U.S. footprint and expense in Afghanistan have given new impetus to those within the Obama administration who favor a swift reduction of U.S. forces, according to senior administration officials and leading lawmakers.

/snip/

Current expenditures of $10 billion a month are “fundamentally unsustainable” and the administration urgently needs to clarify both its mission and exit plan, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said Tuesday.

Even though Kerry is described in the article as often a leading indicator for thinking from the Obama administration, it is clear that the administration has not reached consensus on a new Afghanistan strategy, as the article quotes an unnamed senior administration official that “there will be no re-litigation” of the strategy.

In my opinion, the most important point to make it into the Post story is that, at long last, there is finally a piercing of Petraeus’ training myth. The article notes that “many” now question the concept of training Afghan forces to take over when we leave and Kerry confronts the problem head-on:

Many have questioned the feasibility of plans to recruit and train as many as 400,000 Afghan security forces to take over once foreign troops depart.“Despite our best efforts, there are challenges — corruption, predatory behavior, incompetence — still evident within the Afghan army and police,” Kerry said. “On top of these problems, there is the question, ultimately, of money, resources.”

The fact that Kerry now sees that training so many Afghan troops is not feasible and will waste huge amounts of money is a huge development to make it into the pages of the Washington Post. Watch for the Petraeus propaganda machine to push back on this very hard, making over-inflated claims of progress that the press will accept at face value rather than subjecting to fact-checking.  Petraeus owes much of the rapid rise in his career trajectory to his “Groundhog Day”-like reliance on always making strong progress toward troop training whether it is in Iraq or Afghanistan.  And, just as in the movie, we always seem to be starting fresh on those training efforts.  Why it has taken so long for Washington to figure out that we are stuck in an endless loop of re-starting training is beyond me. Perhaps Senator Kerry can help us to break out of the loop.

Did the US Intend to Torture Bin Laden’s Children?

5:01 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Did the US torture children by placing ants on their bodies? (photo: wizardhat on Flickr)

In the midst of the ongoing orgy of adulation for Seal Team Six killing Osama Bin Laden and the former Vice President appearing on television to advocate a return to waterboarding as official US torture policy, there has been little attention to the fact that Pakistan took several wives and children of Bin Laden into custody after the US raid of the compound. The US now seeks access to these family members. Did the US intend to torture these children with insects as they did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s children, if the helicopter on which they would have flown had not been destroyed?

Here is Reuters reporting on the children in the immediate aftermath of the raid:

A senior Pakistani intelligence official said one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters had seen her father being shot dead by U.S. forces, and was one of about 10 relatives of the al Qaeda leader in custody pending interrogation.

The official, who declined to be identified, said the daughter, aged 12 or 13, was one of the people who had confirmed that the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks had been killed by U.S. commandos in a raid early on Monday.

The relatives — one of bin Laden’s wives and up to eight children — will be interrogated and then probably turned over to their countries of origin, and not the United States, in accordance with Pakistani law, he said.

The article notes that these family members were left behind because the US had to destroy one of the helicopters used in the raid.  The US now wants these family members (note that now more than one wife is mentioned, although there is only one in the initial Reuters report):

National security adviser Thom­as E. Donilon said Pakistan remains a critical partner in battling al-Qaeda, despite new strains in the relationship a week after the raid in Abbottabad. But he acknowledged that Pakistani officials have not granted Americans access to important information gathered since the raid or allowed interviews with bin Laden family members now in Pakistan’s custody.

“We’ve asked for access, obviously, to those folks,” Donilon said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of four television news shows he visited Sunday.

A Pakistani intelligence official said Sunday that his government needed permission from the wives’ home countries before Pakistan could allow U.S. officials to question them. One of the wives is from Yemen; the official said he did not know the other wives’ nationalities.

Note how the US handled KSM’s sons:

Two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk.

Yousef al-Khalid, nine, and his brother, Abed al-Khalid, seven, were taken into custody in Pakistan last September when intelligence officers raided a flat in Karachi where their father had been hiding.

/snip/

“His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.”

Yup, trying to “break” KSM consisted of, in addition to waterboarding him 183 times and telling him that if the US were attacked, “We’re going to kill your children“.

In addition, the US may have used insects to torture KSM’s children and other children:

At a military tribunal in 2007, the father of a Guantanamo detainee alleged that Pakistani guards had confessed that American interrogators used ants to coerce the children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed into revealing their father’s whereabouts.

The statement was made by Ali Khan, the father of detainee Majid Khan, who gave a detailed account of his son’s interrogation at the hands of American guards in Pakistan. In his statement, Khan asserted that one of his sons was held at the same place as the young children of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs and were denied food and water by other guards,” the statement read. “They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.

Also lost somewhere in the maze of being held by Pakistan or the US are one or more of Aafia Siddiqui’s children.

No matter the crimes of the parents, detaining and torturing children is a crime that can only hasten the decline of our country into complete lawlessness. Where is the outcry against such base behavior? What does the US plan to do with Bin Laden’s children if access is granted? What would the US have done with these children if the helicopter on which they would have flown had not been destroyed?

Torturers Desperately Try to Justify Their Crimes in Wake of Bin Laden Killing

7:51 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Much of the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden Sunday night in Pakistan has consisted of sophomoric chest-thumping proclaiming a twisted version of “justice” that Peterr very eloquently exposed here. There is another trend in the response, however, that is even more disgusting. A number of people involved in the torture program created and implemented during the George W. Bush administration are now trying to claim that Bin Laden would not have been found and killed without torture. Marcy Wheeler was out in front of those claims, debunking them before they came out and has stayed on the task with more details as the torturers continue their spin. The torturers are getting more desperate, and today we have none other than Jose Rodriguez, who ordered much of the torture as head of the CounterTerrorism Center (and then was the one who destroyed videotaped evidence of torture, only to be given a “get out of jail free” card by Barack Obama and Eric Holder), appearing in the press to justify his actions.

Rodriguez gave his first interview after escaping justice to Massimo Calabresi of Time. Here is the most disgusting bit from Rodriguez:

Jose Rodriguez ran the CIA’s CounterTerrorism Center from 2002 to 2005 during the period when top al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) and Abu Faraj al-Libbi were taken into custody and subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” at secret black site prisons overseas. KSM was subjected to waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other techniques. Al Libbi was not waterboarded, but other EITs were used on him.

“Information provided by KSM and Abu Faraj al Libbi about Bin Laden’s courier was the lead information that eventually led to the location of [bin Laden’s] compound and the operation that led to his death,” Rodriguez tells TIME in his first public interview.

Calabresi then quotes National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor debunking Rodriguez’ claim: “There is no way that information obtained by [enhanced interrogation techniques] was the decisive intelligence that led us directly to bin Laden.”
Read the rest of this entry →

On Second Day After Bin Laden’s Death, No Massive Demonstrations or Reprisals in Pakistan

4:28 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

White House photo by Pete Souza of President Obama making phone calls to leaders, most likely including Pakistani President Zardari, before making his public statement Sunday night.

Although there were a few small demonstrations on Monday, Tuesday appears to be quiet in Pakistan on the second day after the US killed Osama Bin Laden just outside Islamabad. Warnings to be wary of reprisals have been voiced by both the US and Pakistani governments and two US consulates in Pakistan have been closed as a precaution.

Writing in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Pakistani Presdient Asif Ali Zardari pointed out that Pakistan has suffered greatly (and he personally) at the hands of al Qaeda:

Let us be frank. Pakistan has paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism. More of our soldiers have died than all of NATO’s casualties combined. Two thousand police officers, as many as 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress for our people have been lost. And for me, justice against bin Laden was not just political; it was also personal, as the terrorists murdered our greatest leader, the mother of my children. Twice he tried to assassinate my wife. In 1989 he poured $50 million into a no-confidence vote to topple her first government. She said that she was bin Laden’s worst nightmare — a democratically elected, progressive, moderate, pluralistic female leader. She was right, and she paid for it with her life.

Zardari did a gentle push-back on Pakistan’s embarrassment (“He was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be”) about their apparent lack of action against al Qaeda in general and admitted that Pakistan was not included in the planning or execution of Sunday night’s Bin Laden mission:

Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day.

So, while the pseudonym of the carrier was obtained at Guantanamo (but not through torture), Zardari is claiming a major role for Pakistan in helping to put a real name together with the operational one which is indeed a key step in the sequence of events leading to Bin Laden’s death.

A Reuters article attributes at least a portion of the calm in Pakistan to a sense of embarrassment over the harboring of Bin Laden:

There were no protests and no extra security in Pakistan on Tuesday, a day after the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces, just a sense of embarrassment and indifference that the al Qaeda leader had managed to lie low for years in a Pakistan garrison town.

“The failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of the world’s most-wanted man here is shocking,” The News said in an editorial, reflecting the general tone in the media, where some commentators predicted that Washington would take action to show its displeasure with Islamabad.

After noting that a demonstration is expected in Karachi, the article then states that many Pakistanis are indifferent to Bin Laden:

Still, many ordinary Pakistanis said bin Laden’s killing was of no consequence to them. “It doesn’t make any difference to my life whether he is killed or not,” said Zain Khan, a laborer in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Despite some indifference, though, warnings of potential reprisals have been made:

Intelligence agencies have warned that Pakistan may face a sharp rise in terrorism cases in the wake of the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The National Crisis Management Cell of the interior ministry issued the warning to the police and law enforcement agencies after receiving credible intelligence that militants may plan ‘revenge’ attacks in Pakistan, targeting US diplomatic missions and Americans in the country, in addition to important civilian and military government installations.

These warnings have led to the closure of US consulates in Lahore and Peshawar:

The United States closed two of its consulates in Pakistan to the public on Tuesday until further notice, a day after Osama bin Laden was killed near the capital Islamabad.

The US embassy in Islamabad and a third consulate in Karachi had earlier also been closed to the general public for routine business, but a decision was taken Tuesday for them to re-open as normal, said an embassy spokesman.

Those closed are in the eastern city of Lahore and the northwestern city of Peshawar, which is close to the country’s tribal belt that Washington has called the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda.

Note that the Karachi consulate has been re-opened for today despite the prediction of protests in Karachi. However, it is significant that the Lahore consulate is closed since this is where massive protests were held for many days during the prolonged Raymond Davis saga.

The complexity of the situation in Pakistan is reflected in part in its politics.  In an analysis at the Express Tribune, we see a listing of some of the radical groups in Pakistan with ties to both al Qaeda and the political system:

Harkatul Jihadul Islami, Jaishe Muhammad, Sipahe Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangavi and Lashkar-e-Taiba are some of the many organisations that were allowed to spread their network and physical infrastructure into the ‘settled’ areas of Pakistan such as Punjab and Sindh.

These organisations have deep links with al Qaeda and have allegedly collaborated with Osama bin Laden’s terror network against targets in Pakistan and South Asia at large. The larger Asian region is concerned about the linkages as recent stories have emerged regarding individuals coming from Indonesia and many countries in Europe to train in Pakistan.

/snip/

Most of the militant outfits now have developed influential ties within the mainstream political parties as well. These militant forces might not conduct a vicious attack on the Pakistani state just yet. But they are likely to use the chaos to re-group and consolidate through manipulating the public discourse on terrorism run through the private and public media.

Zardari’s piece also provides some perspective on these radicals and their status in the political system:

Radical religious parties have never received more than 11 percent of the vote. Recent polls showed that 85 percent of our people are strongly opposed to al-Qaeda. In 2009, when the Taliban briefly took over the Swat Valley, it demonstrated to the people of Pakistan what our future would look like under its rule — repressive politics, religious fanaticism, bigotry and discrimination against girls and women, closing of schools and burning of books. Those few months did more to unite the people of Pakistan around our moderate vision of the future than anything else possibly could.

These figures from Zardari demonstrate that while organized and vocal, Pakistan’s radical religious groups appear to be less numerous at the polls than the radical Christian fundamentalist voting bloc in the US.

Will Bin Laden’s Killing Reset US Relations with International Community?

5:16 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

In dramatic fashion and after numerous delays from the initially announced time, President Obama announced late Sunday night that the United States has killed Osama Bin Laden in the outskirts of
Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. After recent months which have seen US-Pakistan relations stretched to the breaking point multiple times over the US killing three Pakistani soldiers at a border crossing (resulting in Pakistan briefly closing off US supply routes to Afghanistan) and then the arrest of CIA agent Raymond Davis after he killed two men in Lahore (resulting in Pakistan dropping out of the trilateral talks with the US and Afghanistan) this latest development immediately puts Pakistan in a bad light for repeatedly denying Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan, despite evidence now that the compound where he was killed appears to have been built specifically for him in 2005.

The video above shows Obama’s dramatic announcement. From the text of his statement, we see this about Pakistan’s involvement in the operation that killed Bin Laden:

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

A close reading of Obama’s words here, supplemented with additional information that has been released, allows us to surmise that ISI was involved in background work that helped to set the stage for this operation, but once specific information was developed and as the actual operation was planned and carried out, Pakistan was left out of discussions.

The details that are emerging tell us that it was through a courier that the CIA developed the information used to find Bin Laden.

This operation is remarkable in part for the conventional knowledge which has been turned on its head. Many believed Bin Laden was hiding out in a primitive cave in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, and yet he was actually living in a luxurious compound only a thousand feet from Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point. Many believed that Bin Laden only could be taken through use of drones, and yet it was painstaking work much more akin to old-fashioned police work that found his compound and resulted in his death when he and those around him took up arms in response to the task force entering the compound.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the US faced a moment of decision for how it would interact with the world community. The administration of George W. Bush chose an aggressive, belligerent stance that has resulted in the overthrow of the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by ongoing occupations of those countries and a very heavy-handed approach throughout the world, including the implementation of torture.

The nature of how Bin Laden was found and killed suggests that an approach much more focused on Bin Laden himself and his key associates would have been a much better approach. It was intelligence heavy-lifting that took the one clue that appears to have come from a Guantanamo detainee (a key question not answered is how this information was obtained; I’m betting it wasn’t through torture), the operational, but not real, name of Bin Laden’s most trusted courier.

There will be much bellowing from the war mongers in our midst that Bin Laden’s killing does not end the Great War on Terror and that we must extend our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. I call on our President instead to use this opportunity for a complete reset of the US approach to terrorism. An honest review of where we are and how we have gotten here has to acknowledge the death and destruction that our toppling of the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan has wreaked. Perhaps even more important, though, is that an honest evaluation also would show that these operations only got in the way of, and greatly prolonged, the search for the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks. We have created many more enemies of the United States through our choice of methods for responding to the 9/11 attacks.

Obama has the perfect opportunity now to explain to the world community that the approach taken by the United States has been in error. Our success in finding Bin Laden came from focused intelligence work, not from killing huge numbers of people and letting God sort them out. Now is the perfect time to begin a real withdrawal of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. It would illustrate that, as Obama said Sunday night, “the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam”. The best way to achieve the security Obama seeks when he also said “The cause of securing our country is not complete” is to acknowledge how the US overstepped in its response to 9/11 and that with Bin Laden’s death, we can turn that page and return to a peaceful stance rather than being an occupying power.

Can Petraeus Avoid Self-Promotion at CIA?

4:48 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Can Petraeus set aside self-promotion and provide neutral analysis of military strategy he set into motion?

Articles by Phil Stewart and Mark Hosenball at Reuters and Walter Pincus at the Washington Post finally, now that he has been formally nominated by President Obama, point out the difficulties David Petraeus will face as he becomes the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Taken together, the two articles clearly paint Petraeus as a highly politicized military man intent on becoming president who now must take on the role of a traditionally civilian agency tasked with providing neutral analysis. Most importantly, Stewart and Hosenball point out that a key portion of that analysis will cover the progress of military strategy set in motion in Afghanistan by Petraeus himself. Pincus quotes CIA veteran John Gannon asking the key question of whether Petraeus will be able to avoid self-promotion when providing that analysis.

Stewart and Hosenball set the stage for their analysis by stating that Petraeus “has a reputation for brainpower and political savvy”. Pincus takes that characterization even further, noting Petreaus’ presidential ambitions:

Petraeus comes to the agency with a particularly high profile and, like George H.W. Bush before him, has long been seen as having presidential aspirations. Bush had to sign a letter agreeing not to run in 1976 as part of his confirmation. That profile is seen within the agency as both a plus and a minus, veterans say.

Hmmm. Bush took over CIA in January, 1976 and signed the agreement not to run that year. Does Obama have a similar agreement in mind for Petraeus and the 2012 race?

At any rate, Stewart and Hosenball point out the inherent conflict of interest that Petraeus will face:

But in his role as U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Petraeus has been a developer of the counterinsurgency strategy whose results are incomplete as the Obama administration plans to begin a withdrawal of U.S. soldiers this summer.

Because he helped to craft U.S. policy and has publicly defended it against critics, some officials wonder how open Petraeus will be in his new role to critiquing his own work.

They wonder if he will faithfully represent to the White House a CIA view of Afghanistan and Pakistan that is more pessimistic than that of Pentagon brass.

Pincus notes that CIA is nervous about Petraeus taking over:

The agency staff is always nervous with change, particularly when the new director comes with a high-profile military background, a history of regularly changing jobs and a hint that this may just be a temporary stopover on the way to something else.

Pincus concludes his article with a blockbuster quote from former CIA deputy director for intelligence John Gannon:

“The challenge for Petraeus is to avoid promoting himself rather than the organization,” said Gannon.

I’ll take promoting himself for $500, Alex. David Petraeus has made a career of promoting himself at the expense of many lives and billions of taxpayer dollars. I don’t see him changing that any time soon.