You are browsing the archive for Afghanistan.

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.

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.

Petraeus to CIA Completes Cheney’s Dream, Consolidates Intelligence Within Pentagon

5:30 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Screen shot from an Army ad produced by Petraeus' propaganda machine.

Today is the day that my worst fears will be realized, and the propaganda machine that has been mercilessly promoting the career of David Petraeus will achieve his nomination to be Director of Central Intelligence.

Aside from the horrible nature of this move in putting a blatantly political operator into a highly visible position from which he can consolidate his credentials for an eventual presidential campaign (see Spencer Ackerman for a very different take on this aspect), this move can be seen as finally completing Dick Cheney’s dream of moving virtually all intelligence functions into the Pentagon. Back when Michael Hayden was nominated to head CIA, the ongoing Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)-CIA turf war was noted:

What worries some experts, however, is a shift in the balance of power within the US intelligence infrastructure as the CIA is weakened and the Pentagon expands its role. For one thing, the Pentagon’s intelligence activities largely escape congressional scrutiny. ”Rumsfeld and Cambone claim that everything they do is a military operation,” says Richard Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, ”[and] that therefore nothing that they do should have oversight by the House and Senate intelligence committees. But they are doing things that are clearly intelligence.”

It is precisely this ability to “escape congressional scrutiny” that has driven the move to consolidate intelligence functions within the Pentagon. Here is more from Jeremy Scahill on how this was brought about:

While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC. “What I was seeing was the development of what I would later see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even knowing what they were doing,” said Colonel Wilkerson. “That’s dangerous, that’s very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you don’t tell the theater commander what you’re doing.”

Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort Bragg. “I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The receptivity in JSOC was quite good,” says Wilkerson. “I think Cheney was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was asking him for instructions.” He said the relationship between JSOC and Cheney and Rumsfeld “built up initially because Rumsfeld didn’t get the responsiveness. He didn’t get the can-do kind of attitude out of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him out and went straight to the horse’s mouth. At that point you had JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things the executive branch–read: Cheney and Rumsfeld–wanted it to do. This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it. It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier.”

The key thing to note here is how Cheney bypassed McChrystal’s direct commander in SOCOM to dictate McChrystal’s actions. At least in regard to when those actions were in Iraq, it should be noted that McChrystal’s field commander there was none other than David Petraeus. I think Wilkerson is wrong here when he claims that McChrystal was acting without the knowledge of the field commander.   For McChrystal to be carrying out “rogue” operations at the direct command of the Vice President and bypassing his SOCOM commander, it seems inconceivable that Petraeus could not have been aware of what was happening. It seems most likely that Petraeus was both aware of what was going on and approved of it, since he is often seen as crediting McChrystal and his night raids for their effects in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. This means that Petraeus had to be aware of, and approved, Cheney’s actions that were designed to bypass congressional scrutiny of actions that would have been subject to oversight had they taken place through the CIA.

In today’s New York Times article about Petraeus’ nomination, we see that the blurring of the lines between intelligence and military functions already is almost complete:

The result is that American military and intelligence operatives are at times virtually indistinguishable from each other as they carry out classified operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. Some members of Congress have complained that this new way of war allows for scant debate about the scope and scale of military operations. In fact, the American spy and military agencies operate in such secrecy now that it is often hard to come by specific information about the American role in major missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya and Yemen.

The operations have also created tension with important allies like Pakistan, while raising fresh questions about whether spies and soldiers deserve the same legal protections.

Officials acknowledge that the lines between soldiering and spying have blurred. “It’s really irrelevant whether you call it a covert action or a military special operation,” said Dennis C. Blair, a retired four-star admiral and a former director of national intelligence. “I don’t really think there is any distinction.”

I’m sure Dick Cheney approves of Obama’s move to put Petraeus in charge of the CIA, because it is clear that Petraeus fully subscribes to Cheney’s vision of a Pentagon in control of the most important intelligence functions, fully protected from congressional oversight.

Mullen Erases Over Eight Years, Prepares for “Fighting Season” in Afghanistan

4:39 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Keep those poppy fields safe! (ISAFMedia photo April 9, 2011)

Sounding less like a military leader than a long-suffering Cubs fan, Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen made remarks in Afghanistan Tuesday as he prepared for meetings in Pakistan on Wednesday and Thursday. Remarkably, Mullen tried to tell us in a news release at the Joint Chiefs web site that the first eight and a half years of fighting in Afghanistan don’t really count:

Although the United States has been in Afghanistan for 10 years, the chairman said, only over the last 18 months has the effort been resourced correctly.

Those first eight and a half years don’t count because we didn’t resource the effort correctly. Kind of like when the Cubs blow their draft or trade away talent on washed-up big names.  And we even get the Cubs’ yearly refrain of “Wait until next year”:

“The Taliban had a really tough year last year, and will have a tougher one this year,” he said. “I think we’ll know a lot more as to where this all stands … at the end of this fighting season.” The fighting season typically runs from spring through the end of September or early October, when colder weather closes in.

Does Mullen even understand how many lives and how many resources are being wasted in this ridiculous losing effort?

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper sees a central part of Mullen’s discussions in Pakistan to be on the efforts to disrupt the Haqqani Network despite its ties to ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence service):

The US Embassy says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will spend Wednesday and Thursday meeting with Pakistani leaders.

Admiral Mike Mullen’s trip follows a visit to Afghanistan a day earlier in which he told reporters he would raise ongoing concerns with Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff website.

Mullen praised cooperation between US and Pakistani troops in working jointly to combat the militant Haqqani network who target NATO forces in the Afghan east, but acknowledged “strain” caused by the insurgents’ ties with ISI.

Yup, if we can sign the free agent ISI, this could be the year!  If only the stakes were merely bragging rights over the World Series instead of widespread death and destruction…

Suicide of Prominent Iraq, Afghanistan Vet Highlights “Sham” of Pentagon Statistics

4:48 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Clay Hunt, widely known and respected for his work in multiple groups assisting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, took his own life on March 31. Hunt’s death is particularly tragic because he appeared in a Public Service Announcement for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and generally was a voice for veterans getting the help they need for dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. From the IAVA obituary:

It is with unspeakable sadness that IAVA staff and members across the country mourn the loss of Clay Hunt. Clay took his own life on March 31st. Clay served in the Marine Corps for 4 years before being honorably discharged in 2009. He served in an infantry squad in Iraq in 2007 where he was wounded in action, receiving the Purple Heart Medal, and then in Afghanistan in 2008 as a Scout-Sniper.

Clay was an incredible advocate for our generation of veterans, a person of tremendous character and a fierce believer in the value of service. He was a leader for IAVA, participating in Storm the Hill 2010 and playing a critical role in the Ad Council campaign. In addition to his involvement with IAVA, he was active with Team Rubicon and Ride to Recovery. Clay believed his mission in life was to serve both in and out of the military. That is something that we will never forget.

Equally tragic is that the Pentagon will not count Hunt’s death among the spiraling figures for military suicides. From CNN:

“In my mind he is a casualty of war,” she [Hunt's mother, Susan Selke] said. “But he died here instead of over there. He died as a result of his war experience. There is no doubt in my mind.”

But Hunt’s death will not be counted by the Pentagon as an official military suicide, since he left the Marines in 2009.

“That is a complete sham in my opinion,” [Hunt's sniper school partner Jake] Wood said. “Part of Clay was killed in Iraq. Part of Clay was killed in Afghanistan and the rest of him was killed in Houston, Texas. And if that is not reflected in military statistics, it’s a shame.”

Last September, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen addressed the increased rate of military suicides:

A dramatic surge in troop suicides has become the Pentagon’s top “emergency” issue, though the brass doesn’t know how to curb the tragedies. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that while suicides have been on the rise since 2004, the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they have really jumped recently, forcing he and his top aides to look for a solution.

“The emergency issue for me right now is the suicide issue,” he said at a media roundtable breakfast today. Just last week, he added, five Army soldiers took their lives. “It’s a very difficult problem. There’s not a national solution,” he said.

After admitting that the rate is likely to increase further before declining, Mullen then acknowledged that returning vets also are at risk:

What’s more, he added, the surge in troops coming home may encounter troubled families when they arrive back home. “I think we’re going to see a significant increase in the challenges that we have in terms of our troops and our families because they are going to have some time [together at home] and if things have been pent up or packed in or basically suppressed or sucked up, what ever term you want to use, we’re going to see that as well,” Mullen said.

So the Pentagon knows that returning vets face a high suicide risk and yet the Pentagon refuses to include these deaths among the official suicide figures. This means, of course, that the suicide figures actually are even much higher than the Pentagon admits.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this whole situation is that the Obama administration launched its effort to support military families this week. Sadly, however, the program being launched is being used as a vehicle to rehabilitate the image of war criminal Stanley McChrystal, against the wishes of Pat Tillman’s family, who suffered greatly from McChrystal’s role in covering up the friendly fire aspect of Tillman’s death. Furthermore, the program is being administered by the Center for a New American Security, which is funded by military contractors and is involved in a campaign to sell the idea of extending the Iraq war. At a time when it should be stepping up real services for both active military personnel and for veterans, the Obama administration is playing the worst sort of cynical politics with military families. There are no words to describe the evil of this situation.

Drone Strikes Again on Hold As US-Pakistan Relations Continue to Deteriorate

5:44 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Gen. James (fun to shoot some people) Mattis is meeting with the head of Pakistan's military today. What could possibly go wrong? (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As relations between the US and Pakistan continue to deteriorate, it appears that drone strikes have again been put on hold. I can find no reports of any strikes since the March 17 strike on a village jirga killed over forty people. This strike especially infuriated Pakistan, coming just a day after Raymond Davis was released and, despite ample evidence of many civilians being killed, the initial US response was defiant, claiming that only militants were killed and that those killed “weren’t gathering for a bake sale”. Pakistan immediately canceled its participation in the already delayed (due to the Davis case again) trilateral meeting with the US and Afghanistan. I can find no new date yet announced for this meeting.  The US military has clearly stated that General David Petraeus has not apologized to Pakistan’s military for the strike and now General James (fun to shoot some people) Mattis is meeting with the head of Pakistan’s army today.  This meeting comes amid yet another escalation in the diplomatic break between the two countries, as Dawn reports that a number of US military personnel have been barred from the leaving the country.

There is a chronological list of drone strikes in Pakistan at Wikipedia.  Note that Raymond Davis was arrested after killing two Pakistanis on January 7 of this year.  It took a while for relations over this incident to fray, but notice that at the height of the Davis crisis, there were no drone strikes between the strikes on January 23 and February 21, a gap of almost a month.  It was in the middle of that gap, on February 12, when the US announced that it was delaying the trilateral meeting, presumably as a protest against Davis being held.  We now are in a gap of three weeks, with no reported attacks since the March 17 attack a day after Davis’ release.  This attack prompted a rare immediate response from the Pakistan military:

The Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, issued an unusual and unusually strong condemnation of the attack. “It is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens, including elders of the area, was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life,” the statement said.

And as mentioned above, the US response only heightened the crisis:

But American officials on Thursday sharply disputed Pakistan’s account of the strikes and the civilian deaths, contending that all the people killed were insurgents. “These people weren’t gathering for a bake sale,” an American official said. “They were terrorists.”

After some local Pakistani press reports that Petraeus had apologized to Kayani for the attack, the US military made the strange move of denying such an apology:

The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) Commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus has neither apologised nor given any explanation to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani regarding the killing of 44 civilians in the March 17 drone attack in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan Agency.

A local news agency reported that Petraeus had contacted Kayani to apologise over the killings.

/snip/

When contacted by The News, a US military source in Pakistan denied these reports carried by a local news agency, and said, “With regards to the allegation that General Petraeus contacted the Pakistani military or that he expressed regret over this alleged incident, I can assure you that General Petraeus hasn’t had any contact with Pakistani military leaders since his meeting with General Kayani on March 3.”

In a further escalation of diplomatic moves, Pakistan has now barred a number of US military personnel from leaving the country:

There are varying claims about the number of US soldiers denied exit from the country. Some sources claim that about 20-30 people have been affected, while others contend the figure is slightly less than one hundred.

The men were assigned to the US Office of Defence Representative in Pakistan (ODRP), which oversees Washington`s military relations with Islamabad, including training and equipment.

Most of these people had been working on different projects with the Pakistan military. Some of the soldiers had overstayed their visas while a majority of them had expired NOCs.

In the midst of these tensions comes today’s meeting between General James Mattis, head of Central Command and Kayani:

General Mattis, head of US Central Command overseeing the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, would meet Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Kayani for a “regular, scheduled visit”, the US embassy in Islamabad said.

“It’s not extraordinary… it’s a military to military relationship,” said embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez.

But the visit comes after a US report this week criticised the Pakistani military for failing to forge a clear and sustained path to beat religious insurgents holed up in the lawless regions bordering Afghanistan.

Let’s hope that Mattis has learned some diplomacy since his famous speech in 2005:

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commanded Marine expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq, made the comments Tuesday during a panel discussion in San Diego, California.

“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot,” Mattis said, prompting laughter from some military members in the audience. “It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis said. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

What could possibly go wrong by sending this man to a critical meeting during a time of frayed relations?

Will Petraeus Propaganda Machine Get Him DCI Job?

5:48 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

I noted last week that there is a push to appoint General David Petraeus as head of the CIA should Leon Panetta move on to be Secretary of Defense and that this would represent a terrible move by President Obama. Sadly, this push now seems to have moved beyond the whispers on Twitter that I noted last week to a story that can be found here on NPR’s website. The NPR story is notable for its listing of “top jobs” potentially available to Petraeus when he rotates out of Afghanistan later this year, pitching Petraeus as worthy of a very high position but noting that many top positions already seem to be “taken” and pouting that Petraeus is not a candidate to be Chair of the Joint Chiefs.

The NPR story fits into a general pattern of propaganda that is generated on many fronts to promote Petraeus’ career. Back in January, I noted the push to get a fifth star for Petraeus and was able to do some digging on the Republican front groups that were a leading part of that effort. The current effort to push Petraeus, however, seems to be originating with help from inside the government and/or military. The NPR story cites “government sources” and “sources close to Petreaus”. Given the tone of the NPR piece, I find it disturbing that “government sources” seem concerned with finding Petraeus a position that is suitably important enough for him. It seems to fit within an overall atmosphere that promotes Petraeus in a way that I find to be quite offensive. Take, for example, the Army recruiting ad that is embedded above. I saw this ad run again just last night during the NCAA National Championship basketball game on CBS. Here is the “Information” about the ad that the Army provides on its YouTube Army Strong Videos channel:

A parade of U.S. Army leaders are shown in powerful archival footage, from General George Washington to Teddy Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Colin Powell. The message ends with a call to action:They bring out the best in others and themselves. Can you?

Since Petraeus appears within that “powerful archival footage”, he is clearly being touted as worthy of comparison to Washington, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower. That’s a lot of presidents, so I find it very informative that this ad would run again in an extremely high viewership slot when Petreaus is being touted for a position that would be seen by many as a stepping stone to the presidency. How can it be legal for this ad to run in this way at this time?

Just in case the Army pulls the video or blocks its embedding function, here is a screengrab of Petraeus as he appears in the ad among the historical figures to whom he is being compared:

David Petreaus has inserted himself, time after time, into the political arena, often by falsely claiming progress on training of troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, going all the way back to his interference in the 2004 presidential election.  Obama needs to resist this relentless push from those who would have David Petraeus as president and who think that DCI would be the next logical step in his career advancement to the presidency.  Rather than appointing Petraeus to that vital position, Obama should let him rotate into a position of minor importance more in keeping with his multiple failures in the field and his pathological lying about those failures.