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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?

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.

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.

Drone Strikes in Pakistan Resume After Key ISI-CIA Meeting

4:27 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

On Tuesday, Marcy Wheeler pointed out that the meeting in Washington between Leon Panetta and his Pakistani counterpart, ISI head Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha was cut short. A key topic in the meeting was the ongoing tension over US drone strikes in Pakistan. On cue, and apparently while Pasha was still in transit back from Washington, four drone-fired missiles struck in South Waziristan on Wednesday, killing four and prompting more protests from Pakistan. This strike was the first since a strike on March 17, the day after Raymond Davis was released, killed a large number of civilians, provoking widespread outrage in Pakistan and leading to a halt in US strikes.

The headline announcing the drone strikes in Pakistan’s Express Tribune captured what is likely a response that spread through Pakistan as news of the new drone strike spread: “US mocks Pak demand with fresh drone strike“. After describing the attack, which in this article was said to kill six rather than four, the article went on to provide details:

“Four missiles were fired. The target was a vehicle. Six militants were killed,” a military official told AFP requesting anonymity.

Intelligence officials said the dead belonged to the Haqqani Network, an al Qaeda-allied group run by veteran Afghan warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani and based in North Waziristan.

An administration official in South Waziristan said those who died were “all Afghans.”

Dawn noted that the nature of Pakistan’s protest over this strike is different from past complaints:

An unusual aspect of the remonstration was that it was the first time in a couple of years that a démarche was made on a missile strike targeting militants — an indication that Islamabad may be revisiting its tacit tolerance of hits by pilotless predators on militant sites.

Military sources confirmed to Dawn that those killed and injured in the drone attack on Wednesday were Afghans.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the drone attack at Angoor Adda today. We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counter-productive and only contribute to strengthening the hands of terrorists,” Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told US Ambassador Cameron Munter while lodging the protest with him.

Noting how the attacks “strengthen the hands of terrorists” is a very interesting tactic and seems to be new.

At the same time as this attack, Dawn also was providing information from the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan:

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has issued its annual report which states that over 900 people were killed due to American Drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan, DawnNews reports.

The reports which focuses on human rights violations in the country also lays an emphasis on terror attacks in 2010 as a result of which 1100 people were killed.

In other words, the number killed by US drones is within 20 percent of those killed in terrorist attacks within Pakistan.

In a blog post at Dawn, Nadir Hassan provides a very interesting analysis of the ongoing struggles between Pakistan and the US. Hassan notes that Pakistan has no leverage in its quest to end the drone strikes:

Let’s get real though. Making demands is one thing. Expecting those demands to be fulfilled is quite another. The alliance between the US and Pakistan is often called a “transactional relationship.” The US pays for what it wants and we give it to them, holding our nose and counting the cash. In such a relationship you don’t get to have your complaints heard.

Before making demands, we need leverage. Cash-strapped as we are, we cannot tell the US to keep its foreign aid and we’ll keep our sovereignty, thank you very much. The problem is we do not have any other kind of leverage either. The US has two fears about Pakistan: that the country will be taken over by terrorists or that they will get their hands on our nuclear arsenal. As much as we use the Taliban threat – and it is a very real threat, although not one that will take over the government, as panicked Westerners fear – to wring more strings-attached aid out of the US, ultimately everyone knows that it is equally in Pakistan’s interest to keep the Taliban at bay. Sure, we may use them and keep them alive to bolster our misguided policy, but the Taliban is as much a threat to the military and civilian leadership here as it is to the US. Similarly, we cannot bluff the Americans into agreeing to our demands by implying that we will hand over a nuke or two to the militants. Basically, it all boils down to having no leverage.

There is one negotiating tactic the military could use, although its chances for success are slim. Pakistan is a vital supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan, one that the army could threaten to shut down if some of their concerns aren’t addressed. It would be inconvenient for the US to rely solely on Central Asian routes to supply the coalition forces so perhaps this threat could get us a minor concession or two. For that, too, the window of opportunity is narrow. If President Barack Obama follows through on his promise to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next years, Pakistan’s role as a hub will diminish.

It is interesting that Hassan would mention attacks on supply convoys, since that tactic already has been used, as many fuel tankers were burned while Pakistan had closed a border crossing in the dispute over the US killing three Pakistani soldiers at a border station. Since Dawn is viewed by some to be a mouthpiece of the Pakistani military, it will be interesting to see if the next step in escalation of tensions will be a return to more attacks on supply convoys.

In contrast with the “mocking” nature of the US drone attack while Pasha was still in transit back from Washington, there is word today the Pakistan also appears to be going along with US demands to control Taliban forces within its borders:

Pakistani troops and paramilitary forces, backed by helicopter gunships and warplanes, targeted Taliban positions in the tribal region of Mohmand near the Afghan border on Thursday, killing at least 18 militants, a regional government official said.

Pakistan’s military has recently mounted an offensive in villages bordering Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar in pursuit of militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban who want to destabilize the U.S. ally and impose Taliban-style rule.

“We are going after them with full force, using every kind of force. They carry out attacks and other activities from there,” Masood Khan, the government official, said.

Stay tuned for further developments.

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.

Quagmires R Us: Now Adding Libya to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq

7:34 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Dial "Q" for quagmire. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarkably, the US is sending “clandestine” CIA teams into Libya to coordinate bombing runs and to provide contact with the rebels there at the same time that courts in Pakistan are still sorting out how Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country after his blood money payment despite having been placed on the Exit Control List.  Also, Washington is gearing up for a “debate” on drawing down US troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military now angling to narrow the options to include only insignificant numbers to be withdrawn.  Meanwhile, despite the best efforts of the remaining “non-combat” US troops there, violence in Iraq continues, with 56 killed in a single attack Wednesday.

In Pakistan, the Lahore High Court has given various government offices until April 8 to respond to a petition that has been filed with the court requesting information on how CIA operative Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country despite having been placed on the Exit Control List:

The petition, filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffery, requested the court to seek explanation from Federal Law Minister Babar Awan, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, AD&SJ Mohammad Yousuf Aujla and others as to why they facilitated Davis in his acquittal and emergent departure despite the fact that his name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

/snip/

The petitioner had stated that the LHC had directed the interior ministry to place Davis’s name on the ECL and the court was also assured by a law officer and the ministry that the order had been complied with.

He had further said that the court order was in place when Davis was released and the LHC had not suspended or withdrawn its order and no such application was filed by any one on behalf of Davis.

The petitioner had therefore alleged that the government and its functionaries released Davis ignoring the order of the LHC through which his name was placed on the ECL.

And yet, despite the ongoing fallout from the CIA’s continuing misadventures in Pakistan, Obama has signed a “finding” allowing CIA teams to enter Libya with assignments that appear to be very similar to Davis’ reported activities in developing targets for drone attacks:

The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials.

/snip/

In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.

/snip/

In addition, the American spies are meeting with rebels to try to fill in gaps in understanding who their leaders are and the allegiances of the groups opposed to Colonel Qaddafi, said United States government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the activities. American officials cautioned, though, that the Western operatives were not directing the actions of rebel forces.

Given the track record of the US in these matters, you can bet that it is only a matter of time until our operatives are engaged not just in “directing the actions” of the the rebels but also actively engaged in the miraculous “training” that always is just on the verge of achieving success, but needs only another Friedman Unit or two to be completed. Of course, we probably also will need some drone strikes to “protect” the rebels and their trainers, too.

At the more mature end of the quagmire process that is beginning in Libya, we are about to move to the next phase in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports Thursday morning on the upcoming battle over the extent of troop reductions this summer:

Military leaders and President Obama’s civilian advisers are girding for battle over the size and pace of the planned pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military seeking to limit a reduction in combat forces and the White House pressing for a withdrawal substantial enough to placate a war-weary electorate.

Despite the fact that Obama is the Commander in Chief, Obama is following his usual negotiation strategy by allowing others to set the parameters of the debate:

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, has not presented a recommendation on the withdrawal to his superiors at the Pentagon, but some senior officers and military planning documents have described the July pullout as small to insignificant, prompting deep concern within the White House.

/snip/

As both sides prepare for what they expect to be a vigorous debate, they are seeking ways to achieve their favored outcome by limiting what the other can do. For the military, that means crafting a narrow set of choices, because there is general agreement that reduction numbers need to originate in the field, not be imposed by the White House. But the National Security Council may attempt to impose its own limitations by setting a date by which all the surge forces must be brought home, the officials said.

And how is that going to work out? We only need go as far as Iraq to find out. The “drawdown” there was finalized by redefining the remaining troops as “non-combat”. And that is going just swimmingly:

Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda were responsible for a bloody siege in Tikrit in which 56 people were killed, Iraqi officials have said.

Tuesday’s attack took place at a local government building in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

A fierce gun-battle ended when the attackers – numbering about eight – blew themselves up.

Just how many quagmires do we have to be engaged in simultaneously for the military-industrial-congressional complex to be satisfied?

Petraeus to Head CIA Would Be Obama’s Worst Move Yet

5:30 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Can you spot the war-mongering Republican in this photo? (ISAFMedia photo)

In a presidency that has been marked by actions in direct opposition to his high-minded campaign, Barack Obama appears poised on the precipice of a move that could do more material damage to the US than his refusal to prosecute torturers, coddling of big business, healthcare sellout, escalation of existing wars and starting of a new one all combined. Rumors started on Twitter last night that, in a strange exchange of places, the potential nomination of Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense could be coupled with nominating General David Petraeus to head CIA. This is so wrong, so stupid, so downright evil that I hardly know where to start.

First, the rumors. Michael Goldfarb tweeted last night “@stephenfhayes @lrozen Same here–also hearing Petraeus to replace Panetta…….which would be a way easier confirmation than Hagel.” Laura Rozen responded “I swear, I heard 2nd hand petraeus too for CIA but have a hard time as yet believing it. @thegoldfarb @stephenfhayes”. What should be everyone’s response was uttered by bmaz “WTF?…” And as if that is not enough, Rozen followed with evidence that Petraeus’ office seems to be taking it seriously “Indeed, I wrote his spokesman this AM expecting cackling laughter wave off from Tampa, but heard nothing @bmaz @thegoldfarb @stephenfhayes”.

Just last June, I actually praised Obama for choosing to put Petraeus in Afghanistan to replace the fired Stanley McChrystal. I saw that as a strategic move intended to burden Petraeus with owning the failure of the war in Afghanistan, thereby stripping Petraeus of the political future he has so clearly been angling to arrange. Allowing Petraeus to cut and run from Afghanistan now would accomplish exactly the opposite. The fraudulent nature of Petraeus’ never-ending claims of “training” troops to take over the future of their countries, whether it is in Iraq or Afghanistan is becoming so clear that even the brain-dead US press seems destined to stumble across the story soon.

If Petraeus is allowed to move to CIA, look for him to once again wipe his failure-laden slate clean and jump onto the drone bandwagon. The role of training local troops will disappear from what will “save” our efforts in Afghanistan, and the entire US press will be filled with adulation for the brave keyboard warriors in CIA who kill evil brown people from afar with missiles fired from drones. The reason for this is that Petraeus’ entire career has been built by leaks that he himself has fashioned in self-promotion. And now the guy who has built his career on leaks is being considered to head CIA? Say it ain’t so!

Why does Obama feel such a need to put war-mongering Republicans in positions of responsibility in his government?  Is it because in his heart of hearts, Obama is a war-mongering Republican?  Putting Petraeus in charge of CIA would make that statement loud and clear.

Why is Admiral William Fallon the only public figure who was able to see Petreaus for what he truly is?

On Heels of Davis Fiasco, Pak Drone Strike Hits Village Elder Meeting

6:26 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter is headed back to Washington to convey Pakistan's objections to Thursday's drone strikes on a jirga in North Waziristan. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

With protests about Raymond Davis’ release still raging across Pakistan to the point that extraordinary levels of riot police are required around the US consulate in Lahore and Pakistani lawyers are burning the US flag, the CIA has recklessly escalated anti-US sentiment yet again by targeting a jirga, or meeting of village elders, in a drone strike in North Waziristan.

Despite the fact that the UN has declared that US drone strikes in Pakistan “may well violate international humanitarian law“, the Obama administration still relies on drones as a central feature in its war in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. The latest strike, on Thursday, has sparked a huge outcry from civilians, the Pakistani military and Pakistani government officials.

Here is how the New York Times describes the strike:

Several missiles fired from American drone aircraft on Thursday struck a meeting of local people in northwest Pakistan who had gathered with Taliban mediators to settle a dispute over a chromite mine. The attack, a Pakistani intelligence official said, killed 26 of 32 people present, some of them Taliban fighters, but the majority elders and local people not attached to the militants.

Locals in Pakistan are claiming the death toll was as high as forty. The Times article continues:

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.

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.”

Read the rest of this entry →

Raymond Davis Murder Trial Postponed, DeHaven Granted Bail, CIA-ISI Tensions Grow

5:33 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

In my last update on the Raymond Davis case, I suggested that it appeared that Davis would possibly be convicted for the killing of two Pakistanis on January 27 in Lahore before his March 14 hearing scheduled on the issue of diplomatic immunity. Tuesday, however, proceedings in the murder case were adjourned until March 16, two days after the immunity hearing. Other related developments include the granting of bail for Aaron DeHaven and discussions in multiple venues (see Scott Horton’s discussion in the video and this NPR story) of the increasing tensions between the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI that this case has exposed.

Dawn reports on the delay in the murder trial:

A sessions court adjourned on Tuesday the hearing of the Raymond Davis double-murder case till March 16 after the counsel for the accused pointed out that the prosecution didn`t provide them recovery memos pertaining to the case.

“Though we had provided complete challan papers to the counsel for the accused on the last hearing, on Tuesday they sought recovery memos, the documents relating to the items recovered from the accused,” the Punjab additional prosecutor general (APG) told this reporter.

He said accordingly, the prosecution provided the required documents to the counsel soon after the court ordered them to do so. He said the prosecution team had also requested the court to charge the accused in the case but the judge adjourned the hearing till March 16.

Via AFP, Dawn also has details on Aaron DeHaven, who was detained in Peshawar for over-staying his visa:

A Pakistani court granted bail on Monday to a US citizen said to have been working for a private security company and detained after he outstayed his Pakistani visa, court officials said.

/snip/

“The US national has been ordered to submit a surety bond of two million rupees (about $23,500). His release orders will be issued soon after furnishing the surety bonds,” a court official said.

De Haven has been ordered not to leave the area without informing police until his case is concluded, the official added.

Meanwhile, the prospects of arranging payment of blood money still seem dim. The widow of one of Davis’ victims spoke out today, accusing the Punjab government of not working hard enough on the case:

Zahra Faizan, the widow of one of the victims of the Lahore shooting case, stated that the Punjab government is not working sincerely in the Raymond Davis case. However, she expressed satisfaction over judiciary’s role in the case.

/snip/

Talking to media after the meeting, she said that she was not satisfied with the case as yet.

She demanded that the Punjab government should bring the culprits to justice and also thanked the PML-Q leaders for their support.

Hmm, speaking of blood money, why do you suppose David Ignatius suddenly inserted himself (h/t bmaz) last week into the public discussions of “blood money” in this case?

In addition to Scott Horton’s explanation of CIA-ISI tensions in the video above, consider these tidbits from an NPR story from Tuesday:

Mr. ROBERT GRENIER (Former CIA Station Chief in Pakistan): I think the ISI is feeling embarrassed because this sort underscores that the ISI, you know, doesn’t have control over what foreign intelligence is doing in its country, or at least it appears that way, and I think that they’re very sensitive to that.

Rachel Martin then continues with Dr. Christine Fair, of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University:

MARTIN: Fair says she could see ISI officials asking for more control over which U.S. government employees are issued visas to Pakistan and a bigger say in the size of the U.S. footprint in the country. Much of that footprint is devoted to tracking down militant groups operating inside Pakistan. There are three big ones: Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.

Christine Fair says the CIA and the ISI have totally different views on these groups. The CIA sees them as existential threats to America.

Ms. CHRISTINE FAIR: In contrast, the ISI sees these groups as existential assets, and so this is where our two countries are at absolute loggerheads. Theres really no way of finessing this fundamental difference.

Wow. When the CIA is working to destroy groups that it sees as existential threats, while the intelligence service of the home country in which those groups operate, the ISI, sees these same groups as existential assets, it is very hard for me to see how the two intelligence services could ever be expected to work together or find areas in which they are comfortable sharing information with one another. While the Davis case has perhaps brought full attention to this fundamental difference between the CIA and ISI, those differences will persist long after the Davis case is resolved.