The AfPak Reader

September 30, 2009

The AfPak Channel Reader – Fall 2009 – Week1 – Volume 1

The AfPak Channel Reader – Fall 2009 – Week 1 – Volume 1

Daily Brief – Katherine Tiedemann

Section 1 – Question Everything
General’s Review Creates Rupture
As Military Backs Call for More Troops In Afghanistan, Civilian Advisers Balk
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s grim assessment of the Afghanistan war has opened a divide between the military, which is pushing for an early decision to send more troops, and civilian policymakers who are increasingly doubtful of an escalating nation-building effort.
Senior military officials emphasized Monday that McChrystal’s conclusion that the U.S. effort in Afghanistan “will likely result in failure” without an urgent infusion of troops has been endorsed by the uniformed leadership. That includes Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command and architect of the troop “surge” strategy widely seen as helping U.S. forces turn the corner in Iraq.
But before any decision is made, some of President Obama’s civilian advisers have proposed looking at other, less costly options to address his primary goal of preventing al-Qaeda from reestablishing itself in Afghanistan. Those options include a redirection of U.S. efforts — away from protecting the Afghan population and building the Afghan state and toward persuading the Taliban to stop fighting — as well as an escalation of targeted attacks against al-Qaeda itself in Pakistan and elsewhere.
Obama’s public remarks on Afghanistan indicate that he has begun to rethink the counterinsurgency strategy he set in motion six months ago, even as his generals have embraced it. The equation on the ground has changed markedly since his March announcement, with attacks by Taliban fighters showing greater sophistication, U.S. casualties rising, and the chances increasing that Afghanistan will be left with an illegitimate government after widespread fraud in recent presidential elections.
In television interviews Sunday, Obama said he would take his time in weighing McChrystal’s recommendations and an anticipated formal request for more troops. “The first question is: Are we doing the right thing?” Obama said on CNN. “Are we pursuing the right strategy?”
The commander’s report, administration officials said, is only one of many “inputs” the president is considering. Others include assessments from the State Department, the intelligence community and his White House advisers.
Obama’s decision is complicated by a deepening domestic political divide and no guarantee of success whichever option he chooses. One observer, characterizing the president’s dilemma at its most extreme, said: “He can send more troops and it will be a disaster and he will destroy the Democratic Party. Or he can send no more troops and it will be a disaster and the Republicans will say he lost the war.”
Few lawmakers had seen McChrystal’s closely held report before an unclassified version was published by The Washington Post on its Web site Sunday night. Their reactions were sharply divided along party lines, with many Republicans advocating full support for the military commander.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that he was “deeply troubled . . . by reports that the White House is delaying action on the General’s request for more troops” and was questioning the “integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency” Obama himself set in motion. “It’s time for the President to clarify where he stands on the strategy he has articulated,” Boehner said, “because the longer we wait the more we put our troops at risk.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that “any failure to act decisively in response to General McChrystal’s request could serve to undermine the other good decisions the president has made” on Afghanistan.
But Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Navy veteran of Vietnam who once led opposition to that war, praised Obama’s deliberative pace.
“All the president is saying is that he wants to take the time to make sure this decision is not done like the Gulf of Tonkin” resolution, where “underlying assumptions aren’t questioned,” Kerry said. The 1964 joint congressional resolution, based on false information about North Vietnamese actions and adopted amid an anti-communist frenzy, authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to use military force in Southeast Asia.
“You’ve got to figure out . . . what is the counterinsurgency mission,” Kerry said. “The president has all the right in the world to properly vet that mission and define it. It may well be we’ll all decide [McChrystal] is absolutely correct, and the mission he’s defined is correct.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has positioned himself between the urgency expressed by military commanders and those calling for a reconsideration of the strategy, last week suggested that all involved take a “deep breath.” He has told McChrystal to delay sending his formal request for additional resources until the policy discussion is further along.
But senior military officials have expressed growing frustration, while warning that delay could be costly. “Time does matter,” said one military official. “The longer the situation deteriorates, the tougher to reclaim” the initiative against Taliban forces. Military and civilian officials agreed to discuss White House decision-making and McChrystal’s report on the condition of anonymity.
This military official and others cautioned that any strategy revision that resulted in a pullback by U.S. and NATO forces would leave Taliban forces in uncontested control of territory and could lead to a return of civil war in Afghanistan, opening the door to reestablishment of al-Qaeda sanctuaries there.
But some civilian officials believe that such a scenario is based on possibly faulty assumptions about who the Taliban insurgents are, what their aims may be, and whether some can be co-opted. If Obama’s core objective is to prevent al-Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan, this reasoning goes, it may not depend on defeating the Taliban. An equally viable policy, they argue, could include stepped-up, targeted attacks on al-Qaeda’s sanctuaries in Pakistan and convincing amenable Taliban fighters that it is in their best interests to keep al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan.
Staff writer Greg Jaffe contributed to this report.,0,908493.story
Obama is reevaluating Afghanistan war strategy
The review could lead to a focus on hunting down Al Qaeda and the scaling back of broader efforts at political reform.
By Julian E. Barnes
September 22, 2009
Reporting from Washington
Faced with a grim assessment of the Afghan war from his top commander and opposition from leading Democrats, President Obama has begun a wholesale reevaluation of the military effort that could alter the strategic aims of the American mission.
The review could result in a scaling back of efforts to reform Afghanistan’s politics and develop its economy. The U.S. could then focus more on hunting down Al Qaeda and its close allies with small special operations teams and armed Predator drones. Such an effort could avert the need for additional troops, officials and experts said.
For weeks, military officials have been laying the groundwork to request additional troops. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and allied commander in Afghanistan, warned in a classified assessment that the Afghan mission risked failure if more troops were not sent. A declassified version of McChrystal’s assessment became public after it was leaked to the Washington Post website this week.
However, the White House has asked McChrystal not to formally submit his request for more troops, and the command in Afghanistan is holding his recommendation while the administration reviews his assessment, military and government officials said.
In recent comments, including several televised interviews over the weekend, Obama appeared to question the premise underlying the current U.S. approach, a strategy he approved only last March. White House officials did little to publicly clarify the situation Monday, saying only that Obama was intent on completing a “strategic assessment” before making any decisions on more troops.
The rekindled debate came as a shock to some officials who considered broad U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to be a settled issue. Military officials were scrambling Monday to determine how drastic any changes might be.
“The time for this discussion was back in November 2008,” said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing the internal debate.
In part, the shift in the White House stance came after Obama ordered 21,000 additional U.S. troops to help with last month’s Afghan national election, a ballot widely seen as fraudulent. But the debate goes deeper than troop levels.
Obama has questioned whether McChrystal’s broad counterinsurgency strategy — combating corruption, improving government and economic development — is worth committing the extra troops it requires.
The administration’s alternative would be a narrow objective focusing primarily on disrupting Al Qaeda, as well as the leadership of the Taliban or other extremist groups, which would require fewer than the 68,000 troops currently approved for the war.
Appearing on CNN on Sunday, Obama asked, “Are we pursuing the right strategy?” On NBC, he said he would expand the counterinsurgency effort only if it contributed to the goal of defeating Al Qaeda.
“I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan . . . or sending a message that America is here for the duration,” Obama said.
After Obama approved the strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in March, military officials moved to implement a counterinsurgency approach. At the same time, Pentagon officials replaced the former top Afghanistan commander, Gen. David D. McKiernan, with McChrystal.
McChrystal had led special operations forces against Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he quickly outlined a strategy to expand efforts to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
“He, of all our military leaders, understands the Al Qaeda threat,” said a former military official who has advised the Obama administration on Afghan policy. “When he comes back with a broad-based, counterinsurgency mission, it is extraordinarily credible.”
It is not yet clear how many more troops McChrystal’s strategy would require.
But several top administration officials have harbored doubts about the wisdom of a stepped-up counterinsurgency plan.
Vice President Joe Biden and presidential Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have been among the strongest voices advocating a more limited mission in Afghanistan, a number of officials said.
The dissenting view has been strengthened by fraud and irregularities in the Afghan election, growing war doubts among congressional Democrats and falling support among Americans. Recent developments have strengthened the argument that a strategy to build support for Afghanistan’s central government is fundamentally flawed.
Obama signaled last week, in an appearance with the Canadian prime minister, that a deeper administration review was underway. “It’s important that we also do an assessment on the civilian side, the diplomatic side, the development side, that we analyze the results of the election, and then make further decisions moving forward,” he said.
One defense analyst who regularly advises the military and who spoke on condition of anonymity said the administration was suffering from “buyer’s remorse for this war.”
“They never really thought about what was required, and now they have sticker shock,” the analyst said.
In the sometimes furious debate, some administration officials have suggested that the broad counterinsurgency campaign outlined by McChrystal exceeded objectives set by the White House. Defense officials and advisors to McChrystal countered that Monday by saying the general’s advisory team repeatedly examined White House directions as it prepared a draft of the assessment.
Obama in the past has promised to regularly reassess his approach to Afghanistan, ensuring that he does not simply rubber-stamp recommendations of military leaders or “stay the course” of a faltering strategy. Some experts and observers said Obama is undertaking the review to fulfill that promise.
Others saw the comments as a political move aimed at reducing fears among congressional Democrats about the escalation of the war.
Meanwhile, military officials are worried about the costs of waiting on McChrystal’s request for additional resources. If further troops are to be in place for next spring, when fighting is likely to intensify, the White House will need to make a decision soon, they said.
“The situation we’re facing out here is not only serious, it is at a point where the insurgency continues to grow and the government continues to stagnate,” said a senior military official in Afghanistan. “Al Qaeda remains across the border and there are indications they, in small ways, have crept back into Afghanistan.”
September 22, 2009
News Analysis

In Afghanistan Assessment, a Catalyst for Obama
WASHINGTON — President Obama could read the grim assessment of the Afghanistan war from his top military commander there in two possible ways.
He could read Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s report as a blunt and impassioned last-chance plea for a revamped counterinsurgency strategy bolstered by thousands more combat troops to rescue the beleaguered, eight-year mission.
Or he could read it as a searing indictment of American-led NATO military operations and a corrupt Afghan civilian government, pitted against a surprisingly adaptive and increasingly dangerous insurgency.
Either way, General McChrystal’s 66-page report with the deceptively bland title “Commander’s Initial Assessment” is serving to catalyze the thinking of a president — who is keenly aware of the historical perils of a protracted, faraway war — about what he can realistically accomplish in this conflict, and whether his vision for the war and a commitment of American troops is the same as his general’s.
Mr. Obama faces a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, growing opposition to the war at home from Democrats and a desire to put off any major troop decision while he still needs much political capital to pass major health care legislation in Congress.
But even as the president expresses skepticism about sending more American troops to Afghanistan until he has settled on the right strategy, he is also grappling with a stark reality: it will be very hard to say no to General McChrystal.
Mr. Obama has called Afghanistan a “war of necessity,” and in the most basic terms he has the same goal as President George W. Bush did after the Sept. 11 attacks, to prevent another major terrorist assault.
“Whatever decisions I make are going to be based first on a strategy to keep us safe, then we’ll figure out how to resource it,” Mr. Obama said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“We’re not going to put the cart before the horse and just think by sending more troops we’re automatically going to make Americans safe,” he said.
The White House expects General McChrystal’s request to be not just for American troops but for NATO forces as well. This week, the White House is sending questions about his review back to the general in Kabul, Afghanistan, and expects to get responses by the end of next week.
Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who heads the Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Monday that he wants to know how the uncertainty surrounding the recent Afghan elections and a plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters into Afghan society could affect General McChrystal’s troop request.
Mr. Obama has had only one meeting so far on the McChrystal review, but aides plan to schedule three or four more after he returns from the Group of 20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh at the end of this week.
Aides said it should take weeks, not months, to make a decision. “The president’s been very clear in our discussion that he’s open-minded and he’s not going to be swayed by political correctness one way or the other,” Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, said in an interview. “Different people are going to have different opinions, and he wants to hear them, but at the end of the day, he’s going to do what he thinks is the right thing for the United States and most especially for the men and women who have to respond to his orders.”
Senior officers who work with General McChrystal say he was surprised by the dire condition of the Afghan mission when he assumed command in June.
His concerns went beyond the strength and resilience of the insurgency. General McChrystal was surprised by the lack of efficient military organization at the NATO headquarters and that a significant percentage of the troops were not positioned to carry out effective counterinsurgency operations.
There was a sense among General McChrystal’s staff that the military effort in Afghanistan was disjointed and had not learned from the lessons of the past years of the war.
“We haven’t been fighting in Afghanistan for eight years,” said one officer. “We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for one year, eight times in a row.”
In his assessment, General McChrystal also portrayed a more sophisticated Taliban foe that uses propaganda effectively and taps into the Afghan prison system as a training ground.
Taliban leaders based in Pakistan appoint shadow governors for most provinces, install their own courts, levy taxes, conscript fighters and wield savvy propagandists. They stand in sharp contrast to a corrupt and inept government.
And Taliban fighters exert control not only through bombs and bullets. “The insurgents wage a ‘silent war’ of fear, intimidation and persuasion throughout the year — not just during the warmer weather ‘fighting season’ — to gain control over the population,” the general said in his report.
Administration officials said that the general’s assessment, while very important, was just one component in the president’s thinking.
Asked on CNN on Sunday why after eight months in office he was still searching for a strategy, Mr. Obama took issue. “We put a strategy in place, clarified our goals, but what the election has shown, as well as changing circumstances in Pakistan, is that this is going to be a very difficult operation,” he said, referring to the Afghan election. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re constantly refining it to keep our focus on what our primary goals are.”
Peter Baker and Thom Shanker contributed reporting.
SEPTEMBER 22, 2009

Pentagon Delays Troop Call
Request for Additional Forces on Hold as White House Seeks Review of Afghan Strategy
Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has told its top commander in Afghanistan to delay submitting his request for additional troops, defense officials say, amid signs that the Obama administration is rethinking its strategy for combating a resurgent Taliban.
A senior Pentagon official says the administration has asked for the reprieve so it can complete a review of the U.S.-led war effort. “We have to make sure we have the right strategy” before looking at additional troop requests, the official said. “Things have changed on the ground fairly considerably.”
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, recently completed a classified report asking for significant numbers of new American troops. Military officials familiar with the matter say the report lays out several options, including one that seeks roughly 40,000 reinforcements, which would push the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 for the first time.
But the commander has been told to delay submitting the troop request to the Pentagon at the direction of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other top civilian officials, according to defense officials.
The administration’s call for a further strategic review — which official said could take weeks — comes as military commanders in the field say the campaign is running out of time and U.S. congressional and public support for the war is flagging.
After weeks of speculation, details of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s report on Afghanistan were released. What’s striking about his assessment, WSJ’s Peter Spiegel reports, is the urgency of his message.
In a new assessment of the war submitted to the Pentagon last month and made public Monday, Gen. McChrystal wrote that if the Taliban insurgency’s momentum isn’t reversed in the next 12 months, defeating it may no longer be possible. “Time matters; we must act now to reverse the negative trends and demonstrate progress,” Gen. McChrystal wrote in a “Commander’s Summary” at the start of the assessment.
The senior defense official said the reviews are scheduled to be completed within the next few weeks. “There’s a danger if you do this too quickly,” he said. “But we all feel the sense of urgency.”
A spokesman for Gen. McChrystal didn’t respond to a request to comment.
Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for Mr. Gates, acknowledged that the defense secretary and other top officials are “working through the process” of how Gen. McChrystal’s request will be submitted.
Gen. McChrystal’s call for quick action appears to be increasingly at odds with comments from President Barack Obama, who has insisted in recent days that he won’t be rushed into approving more U.S. troops for the war.
White House aides Monday again said there was no need for an immediate decision on troop levels for next year, adding that Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have requested “at least several” meetings with the president on strategy before any final troop decisions. “Gen. McChrystal wants a very fulsome approach. He might be right on that. But we have other options, and we have to look at them,” said a White House official.
Mr. Obama’s decision to put off a decision on further troop increases drew sharp criticism from Republicans in Congress. On Monday, party leaders attempted to raise pressure on the president to act, in part by insisting Gen. McChrystal come to Congress to testify on his findings. The Bush administration used a similar strategy to great effect with former Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus.
“It’s time for the president to clarify where he stands on the strategy he has articulated, because the longer we wait, the more we put our troops at risk,” Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, said in a statement.
Since Mr. Obama announced his war strategy in March, the political situation in both the U.S. and Afghanistan has become considerably muddier.
Mr. Obama handpicked Gen. McChrystal, a veteran of the military’s secretive Special Operations community, in June after unexpectedly ousting his predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan.
Mr. Obama’s strategy was designed to gradually weaken the Taliban by pursuing a counterinsurgency approach meant to protect Afghan civilians and to improve their daily lives through economic development and better governance.
Last month’s Afghan presidential election, which the administration had hoped would lend new legitimacy to the beleaguered government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has been mired in accusations of scandal that may not be resolved for months. In addition, U.S. and allied casualties have risen to record levels.
The senior defense official said top officials are re-evaluating the entire strategy in light of the flawed elections and the soaring number of Taliban attacks. He noted the Taliban currently control or influence 30% of Afghanistan’s districts, up sharply from even earlier this year.
The troop request delay comes as some administration and defense officials debate whether the current counterinsurgency approach for Afghanistan is the right strategy for winning the war there. Critics argue that the U.S. should instead pursue a stepped-up “counterterror” strategy that aims to use unmanned drones or Special Operations personnel to kill specific militant leaders and financiers.
The Pentagon is expected to ask for more U.S. troops to turn the situation around, and the ball is in the president’s court. Fox’s Doug Luzader has the story from Washington.
Once the review is completed, the senior defense official said, top officials will consider whether Gen. McChrystal’s plan makes sense and appears likely to succeed. Only once those two reviews are completed will administration and civilian defense officials ask for and review Gen. McChrystal’s troop request, he said.
The Pentagon has run into similar turbulence with the Obama administration before, only to emerge with the president giving the department exactly what it asked for. The White House was initially reluctant to send an additional 17,000 reinforcements early in Mr. Obama’s presidency. But Mr. Obama ordered the troops — and, soon after, an additional 4,000 U.S. military trainers — to deploy after Pentagon officials detailed the need for them to be in place during August’s Afghan elections. “They aren’t as comfortable with the process as the Bush administration was, but…he’s done everything he’s been asked by the Pentagon,” said a senior military official.
Republican staff members on the Senate Armed Services Committee said military leaders in Afghanistan last month told a visiting congressional delegation that they needed decisions on resources and troop levels quickly.
One senior administration official involved in Afghan policy acknowledged that the White House and Gen. McChrystal’s headquarters may not yet be on the same page on the way forward in Afghanistan.
But the official said Mr. Obama needs to take a much broader view than the Afghan commander when deciding whether to send more forces.
“Stan McChrystal is not responsible for assessing how we’re doing against al Qaeda,” said the senior administration official. “He’s not assessing how the Pakistani military is doing in its counterinsurgency campaign. That’s not his job. So Stan’s report is a very important input into this overall strategy, but it’s not the only input.”
—Jonathan Weisman contributed to this article.
Write to Yochi Dreazen at and Peter Spiegel at
Correction to This Article
A map with the continuation of a Sept. 22 Page One article about the war in Afghanistan, depicting population density in the country, did not specify the unit of land area used in the measurement. The population density shown was per square kilometer. U.S.
Commanders Told to Shift Focus to More Populated Areas
By Greg Jaffe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top military officer in Afghanistan, has told his commanders to pull forces out of sparsely populated areas where U.S. troops have fought bloody battles with the Taliban for several years and focus them on protecting major Afghan population centers.
But the changes, which amount to a retreat from some areas, have already begun to draw resistance from senior Afghan officials who worry that any pullback from Taliban-held territory will make the weak Afghan government appear even more powerless in the eyes of its people.
Senior U.S. officials said the moves were driven by the realization that some remote regions of Afghanistan, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountains that range through the northeast, were not going to be brought under government control anytime soon.

“Personally, I think I am being realistic about this,” said Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan. “I have more combat power than my predecessors did, but I won’t be as spread out. . . . This is all about freeing up some forces so I can get them out more among the people.”
The changes are in line with McChrystal’s confidential assessment of the war, which urges U.S. and NATO forces to “initially focus on critical high-population areas that are contested or controlled by insurgents.”
The conflict between McChrystal’s new strategy and the Afghan government has been most pronounced in Nurestan province, a forbidding region bordering Pakistan where U.S. commanders have been readying plans since late last year to pull out their soldiers and shutter outposts. Instead of leaving the area, U.S. commanders have actually been forced to bolster their presence in recent months.
In early July, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked senior U.S. officials to dispatch a company of about 100 U.S. soldiers to Barge Matal, a village in the northern half of the province that is home to fewer than 500 people. Taliban insurgents had overrun the community and Karzai was insistent that that U.S. and Afghan forces wrest it back from the enemy. “I don’t think anyone in the U.S. military wanted to be up there,” said a senior military official who oversees troops fighting in the village.
Senior military officials had hoped to be out of Barge Matal in about a week, but the deployment has stretched on for more than two months as U.S. and Afghan forces have battled Taliban insurgents. Some insurgents seemed to be moving into the area from neighboring Pakistan solely to fight the U.S. troops there, said military officials. At least one U.S. soldier has been killed and several have been wounded.
Although the U.S. finally pulled its troops out of the village this week, the extended deployment to the area has had ripple effects throughout eastern Afghanistan, forcing frustrated U.S. military officials to postpone plans made months earlier to abandon other remote bases.
Because troops are especially vulnerable to ambush when they are closing a base, large numbers of cargo helicopters are needed to quickly pull soldiers and their equipment out of the area. For the last two months, a huge percentage of the U.S. cargo helicopter fleet in eastern Afghanistan has been dedicated to ferrying supplies to soldiers in Barge Matal, where there are few passable roads.
The remote area also has put large demands on the fleet of unmanned surveillance aircraft in Afghanistan, which are needed to help safeguard soldiers as they close outposts in hostile areas.
Most of the U.S. bases that commanders want to shutter in Nurestan were set up in 2004 and 2005 to interdict Taliban and foreign fighters moving through the area from Pakistan. “They made sense as a launching pad to go after the enemy when we were in more of a counterterrorism fight,” said Col. Randy George, who oversees U.S. troops in four provinces in eastern Afghanistan. “But we are in a different strategy right now.”
McChrystal’s new strategy for Afghanistan places a priority on protecting the population and bolstering the Afghan government and its security forces. The soldiers in Nurestan are not well positioned to perform either of those missions.
At Combat Outpost Lowell, about 110 U.S. and Afghan troops regularly visit the village of Kamu, which is right outside the base and has approximately 70 men. But the troops aren’t able to patrol any of the other villages in the area, some of which are less than two miles away, because the security in the area is too precarious and the terrain surrounding their base is too rugged.
U.S. and Afghan forces at Combat Outpost Keating, also in Nurestan, are even more constrained. The base is about one mile from the Taliban-controlled village of Kamdesh, but more than 100 U.S. and Afghan troops there haven’t set foot in the village in more than three months. On rare occasions, the elders from the local shura, or council, will come and discuss reconstruction projects with troops at the outpost.
The troops there could be put to far better use in other regions, said George, who first developed plans to shut down the two outposts in December. “They are protecting themselves in those areas, and the bottom line is that is not enough,” he said. “They don’t get off the base enough because of what it takes to defend those places and the security situation up there.”
The colonel said he would like to use those soldiers to bolster the U.S. force in the Konar River valley, a more populated area where the United States is spending tens of millions of dollars to pave the valley’s main thoroughfare. Other soldiers based in Nurestan could be redirected to the outskirts of Jalalabad, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities, where the terrain is less rugged and U.S. forces can more easily interact with local leaders and the people.
The shifts are in line with orders from McChrystal and Scaparrotti, who have directed commanders throughout Afghanistan to focus more of their efforts on areas where the United States can show demonstrable progress in the next year. “If you get into the areas where most of the people are, they are relatively secure in those areas and there is great opportunity to help the Afghans with governance and development,” Scaparrotti said. Another U.S. official described the move as an effort to get some “quick wins.”
U.S. officials are still hopeful that they will be able to close remote outposts throughout the country that no longer make sense. But the reaction from senior Afghan officials to the Taliban takeover of Barge Matal shows that ceding even the most isolated and seemingly unimportant terrain to the Taliban can create political problems for the Afghan government.
“We’ve learned that there is a political component” to the closures, George said. “A change in strategy is something the Afghans have to understand. You have to socialize it with them.”
Instead of simply leaving the outposts, U.S. commanders are increasingly working with local elders in Nurestan to develop plans for residents to provide for their own security with some help from U.S. forces and the Afghan government. In the area around Kamdesh, U.S. military officials recently sent a letter to Mullah Sadiq, an insurgent leader who has been a high-value target for U.S. forces since 2006, asking for his help in developing a security force made up of local men. Although Sadiq has advocated violence against U.S. forces, he has asked his followers not to attack Afghan soldiers or Afghan government officials.
“We ask for your guidance in developing a plan that will improve security and development in Kamdesh,” said the letter from Lt. Col. Brad Brown, the senior commander in the area. The push to develop an alliance with Sadiq has the support of local Afghan commanders, though it is unclear whether it has the backing of more senior Afghan officials in Kabul.
The U.S. military has only a few months left to close some of its more remote outposts in mountainous eastern Afghanistan before winter, when such operations become much more logistically complex. Scaparrotti said he is confident that the United States will be able to shutter several bases and reposition forces before winter arrives. But commanders are also hedging their bets. George recently gave orders to the commanders at both the Lowell and Keating bases to prepare their outposts for the cold.,0,3144734.story
U.S. says Pakistan, Iran helping Taliban
Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, in particular cites the ISI and the Quds Force.

By Greg Miller
September 22, 2009
Reporting from Washington
The U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says he has evidence that factions of Pakistani and Iranian spy services are supporting insurgent groups that carry out attacks on coalition troops.
Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are being aided by “elements of some intelligence agencies,” Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal wrote in a detailed analysis of the military situation delivered to the White House earlier this month.
McChrystal went on to single out Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency as well as the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as contributing to the external forces working to undermine U.S. interests and destabilize the government in Kabul.
The remarks reflect long-running U.S. concerns about Pakistan and Iran, but it is rare that they have been voiced so prominently by a top U.S. official. McChrystal submitted his assessment last month, and a declassified version was published Sunday on the Washington Post website.
The criticism of Pakistan is a particularly delicate issue because of the United States’ close cooperation with Islamabad in pursuing militants and carrying out drone airstrikes in the nation’s rugged east.
“Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan,” McChrystal wrote, adding that senior leaders of the major Taliban groups are “reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s ISI.” The ISI has long-standing ties to the Taliban, but Pakistani officials have repeatedly claimed to have severed those relationships in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
More recently, the ISI has been a key U.S. partner in the capture of a number of high-level Al Qaeda operatives, including alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. But U.S. officials have also complained of ongoing contacts between the spy service and Taliban groups.
U.S. frustration peaked last year when Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other U.S. officials secretly confronted Pakistan with evidence of ISI involvement in the suicide bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
Since then, U.S. officials have sought to avoid public criticism of the Pakistani service as part of an effort to defuse tensions in the relationship. Indeed, U.S. officials in recent months have said that the ISI had become more committed to the counter-terrorism cause after one of the service’s own facilities in Lahore was the target of a suicide bombing.
McChrystal’s comments are the first public indication in months that the United States continues to see signs of ISI support for insurgent groups. Experts said elements of the ISI maintain those ties to hedge against a U.S. withdrawal from the region and rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
“There is a mixture of motives and concerns within the ISI that have accounted for the dalliances that have gone on for years” with insurgent groups, said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA counter-terrorism official.
Iran has traditionally had an adversarial relationship with the Taliban, and McChrystal’s report says that Tehran has played “an ambiguous role in Afghanistan,” providing developmental assistance to the government even as it flirts with insurgent groups that target U.S. troops.
“The Iranian Quds Force is reportedly training fighters for certain Taliban groups and providing other forms of military assistance to insurgents,” McChrystal said in the report. The Quds Force is an elite wing of the Revolutionary Guard that carries out operations in other countries.
McChrystal did not elaborate on the nature of the assistance, but Iran has been a transit point for foreign fighters entering Pakistan. Experts also cited evidence that Iran has provided training and technology in the use of roadside bombs.
U.S. intelligence officials said Iran appears to calibrate its involvement to tie down U.S. and coalition troops without provoking direct retaliation.
Iran’s aim “is to make sure the U.S. is tied down and preoccupied in yet another theater,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. “From Iran’s point of view, it’s an historical area of interest and too good an opportunity to pass up.”
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
US sees hand of elite Iranian unit in Afghanistan

Mon Sep 21, 2009 2:32pm EDT
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON, Sept 21 (Reuters) – The United States believes Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are providing training and weapons to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan to help them fight Western forces, U.S. counterterrorism officials said on Monday.
The alleged role played by the Revolutionary Guard’s shadowy, elite Qods force in helping the Taliban, and the extent to which the Iranian leadership may be involved, has been hotly debated within the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community.
In a confidential assessment of the war, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal, said Iranian military assistance was not an immediate threat to Western forces but could become one in the future.
A counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the degree of Qods assistance — supplying arms and providing training to Taliban elements — had reached “very troubling” proportions, underscoring heightened concerns within the intelligence community.
The CIA and other agencies have been stepping up their presence in Afghanistan, deploying more officers to accommodate a surge in demand for intelligence on the Taliban and other threats, a U.S. intelligence official said.
Two years ago, the Bush administration dubbed the Revolutionary Guard a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and imposed sanctions on its Qods force.
It accused the group of arming and training militants in Iraq who, in turn, attacked U.S. forces.
Pentagon officials pointed to the seizure late last month in western Afghanistan, near the border with Iran, of weapons and explosives bearing markings indicating they were made in Iran.
The large weapons cache, the first seized in Afghanistan in nearly two years, included rockets, explosives, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), as well as munitions known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, capable of piercing U.S. armor, Pentagon officials said.
U.S. officials said they believed the Iranian government was aware of the assistance but it was not clear to what extent its leaders were directly involved.
Mainly Shi’ite Iran has historically played a complicated role in Afghanistan.
Tehran was a foe of the Taliban when the hardline Sunni movement ruled Afghanistan.
Since the group’s ouster in a U.S.-backed invasion in 2001, Tehran has provided developmental assistance and political support to the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
U.S. officials said Iran appeared to be trying to play both sides, currying Taliban favor in case they return to power while trying to undercut the American military and enhance its bargaining power in talks over its nuclear program.
Set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution to protect the ruling system against internal and external threats, the Revolutionary Guard has about 125,000 members and is the most important wing of Iran’s military.
Qods, which means Jerusalem, is the guard’s special operations unit, handling activities abroad.
In his assessment of the war, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post and posted online, McChrystal said the Qods force was “reportedly” training fighters for certain Taliban groups and providing other forms of military assistance to insurgents.
“Iran’s current policies and actions do not pose a short-term threat to the mission, but Iran has the capability to threaten the mission in the future,” McChrystal wrote.
Pentagon officials said the presence of Iranian-made improvised explosive devices in the recently discovered cache in Afghanistan was particularly troubling because those weapons cause the highest number of Western casualties.
(Reporting by Adam Entous; Editing by Simon Denyer and Cynthia Osterman)
© Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved.
British Army wants extra Helmand troops
By James Blitz, Defence and Diplomatic Editor
Published: September 21 2009 23:47 | Last updated: September 21 2009 23:47
The British Army is seeking to send between 1,000 and 2,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in the next few months in an effort to bolster UK operations in Helmand province, according to senior military figures.
However, a top adviser to Gordon Brown has insisted that calls for an additional 1,000 to 2,000 troops are well above what the prime minister would be prepared to accept. The adviser added that no decisions have yet been taken on the uplift.
The Army is lookng to send two new battlegroups to Afghanistan to boost ground holding operations and to help with training the Afghan National Army. ”We are putting in this request and there is now a strong sense that Downing Street is far more favourably disposed to this kind of uplift than it has been in the past,” a senior Army figure told journalists at the end of last week.
But a senior Downing Street figure said: ”I do not recognise the figure of 1,000. The Army is gearing up to make its request. Any uplift will be well below that.”
Britain has 9,100 troops in Afghanistan. There are strong expectations that the US will be looking to Britain and other states to sned more troops in the next phase of operations.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009.
September 22, 2009
Army draws up plan to send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan
Michael Evans and Giles Whittell
Britain is making plans to send up to 1,000 extra troops to Afghanistan to meet the call for reinforcements made by the US commander in Kabul.
The troops would be Britain’s contribution to a military surge called for by General Stanley McChrystal, who commands Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, some details of which were leaked to an American newspaper yesterday.
A similar surge in troop numbers was credited with turning the tide in the war against insurgents in Iraq.
An extra 1,000 troops, the equivalent of a battlegroup, would increase Britain’s military presence to about 10,000. Britain’s force is already the second biggest after the US, which has 62,000 troops in Afghanistan and will increase this to 68,000 by the autumn.
In a choreographed plan by the Pentagon and the MoD, Nato would be requested for up to 30,000 extra troops to support the new strategy recommended by General McChrystal. Most of the reinforcements would come from the US.
Although Downing Street insisted yesterday that no formal proposals have yet been made, senior government figures acknowledge that a detailed request for more troops is being drawn up and will be presented to Gordon Brown and the Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, once the McChrystal report has been published officially.
In his report General McChrystal calls for a surge in troops to accelerate the training of the Afghan National Army. He warns that without more troops and a new strategy Nato will fail to defeat the Taleban. He gives Nato 12 months in which to regain the initiative.
The Ministry of Defence, which now has a copy of the McChrystal report, is carrying out a review to see where there are gaps in Britain’s “theatre capability”.
Mr Brown had previously been reluctant to increase the number of troops beyond the exisiting level of 9,000 but is now said by Whitehall sources to be considerably more supportive of the need for more troops. The reason for his change of heart is that he sees the logic of boosting the number of troops to train the Aghan Army – a crucial step in Nato and Britain’s eventual exit strategy.
The Government and the military now believe that combat troops will be needed for at least another three to five years before there is any opportunity to draw back from the front line, allowing the Afghan troops to take over the principle security role.
Decisions on deployments are being delayed by continuing questions about the conduct of the Afghan elections, and it is highly unlikely that more troops will be announced until those questions are settled. MoD officials indicated yesterday that it was more likely that troop reinforcements would be fewer than 1,000.
A senior Nato diplomatic source said that Britain had a “spare troop capacity” of about 2,000 soldiers that could be provided for Afghanistan.
However, MoD officials said that about 1,000 extra troops had already been sent to Afghanistan this year – 200 specialists in countering roadside bombs and 700 soldiers for the election period, all of whom are staying, maintaining a baseline figure of 9,000 service personnel.
The reluctance by MoD officials to confirm a potential permanent force of 10,000 reflects the concern expressed by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, about imposing the same pressures on the Armed Forces as were experienced when they were fighting in two simultaneous campaigns – Iraq and Afghanistan. Before the Iraq campaign ended in July, there were 4,100 troops in Basra and 8,000 in Afghanistan.
The MoD officials also said that the Government would want to see which other Nato countries stepped up to the mark once the alliance’s North Atlantic Council formally discussed the requests for more troops made by General McChrystal and approved a “force-generation” programme for Afghanistan.
The senior Nato source said that Germany, France and Italy also had spare troop capacity. However, the death of six Italian soldiers in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan may have put paid to any offer of extra troops from Rome.
Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, said that his Government planned a “strong reduction” in Italy’s total contingent of 3,100 troops. “We are all anxious and hopeful to bring our boys home as soon as possible,” he said.
The German Government might also find it difficult to send more troops given the increasing number of casualties its forces are suffering in northern Afghanistan. The French still have a heavy committment in the UN force in Lebanon and are unlikely to have sufficient troops to add substantially to their presence in Afghanistan until that commitment is reduced.
General McChrystal’s new strategy is based on the premise that more Western troops can mean fewer Western casualties in the long run, provided they are better briefed on how to interact with their hosts.
In his report, General McChrystal says that Isaf is too preoccupied with its own protection, too detached from the Afghan people it is meant to protect and “historically under-resourced” to fight a growing insurgency.
The result is a deteriorating security situation, despite the dispatching of 21,000 US reinforcements, and a “crisis of confidence” among Afghan civilians who might side with the insurgents at any sign of slackening Western resolve, the general states.
His assessment calls for “classic counter-insurgency operations” that “cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces; our objective must be the population”.
To win over wavering civilians, Western troops must first guarantee their security, and “security may not come from the barrel of a gun”, he says. “Better force protection may be counter-intuitive; it might come from less armour and less distance from the population.”
To induce low and mid-level Taleban fighters to switch sides, the assessment says that it must offer them a third option of “reintegration”, complete with wages and protection, in addition to the two options of capture and death that have faced them hitherto.
Yesterday a soldier from the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment was killed by an explosion while on patrol in the Gereshk district in central Helmand. He was the 217th British serviceman to die in Afghanistan since 2001.
UK’s Brown seeks fewer UK troops in Afghanistan
By DAVID STRINGER (AP) – Sep 22, 2009
LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday he was focused on cutting back on the number of the country’s troops in Afghanistan, despite a report from the top U.S. commander calling for an increase in the number of soldiers.
Brown insisted he was hoping to withdraw some British soldiers as soon as Afghanistan’s local forces become able to carry out their own security duties.
His comments follow the reported assessment of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior American commander in Afghanistan. McChrystal, who is also the NATO commander in Afghanistan, has concluded that more, not fewer, international troops were required.
“Our big challenge is to build up the Afghan army,” Brown said. “It used to be very few. It is 80,000 now. It is going to go up to 135,000 in the next year, so gradually the Afghan army can take more control of their own affairs, and allow our forces to train them, and then allow our force numbers to come down as we see the Afghan army going up.”
The Times of London newspaper reported Tuesday that Britain is considering the deployment of a further 1,000 troops in response to McChrystal’s assessment.
McChrystal claims that without more troops, the U.S. and allies could lose the war. By the end of the year, the U.S. troops will have a record 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, working alongside 38,000 NATO-led forces.
Britain has about 9,000 troops — the second largest force after the U.S. — based mainly in the southern Helmand province. A total of 217 British troops have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Brown’s office said no decision had been made on whether to send an extra 1,000 soldiers. “Nothing has been ruled in, and nothing has been ruled out,” a spokesman for Brown said while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.
The spokesman said that troop levels are under constant review, and that officials were studying the details of McChrystal’s report.
A recent surge in the number of British troop deaths — a result of an increasing use of roadside bombs by insurgents and an aggressive campaign to oust Taliban fighters before the country’s Aug. 20 elections — has led to some public skepticism over the mission.
“We are not a squeamish people. We can take sacrifice and pain if we are convinced we know what the war is for and there is a reasonable prospect of success,” Paddy Ashdown, a House of Lords legislator and former U.N. High Representative for Bosnia, told BBC radio.
“Both of these things have been absent for the last three or four years. I think there is a real possibility now that we will lose the campaign in Afghanistan in the pubs and front rooms of Britain, before we lose it in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan.”
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Afghan police: More foreign troops not the answer
By JASON STRAZIUSO and RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press Writers Jason Straziuso And Rahim Faiez, Associated Press Writers
Mon Sep 21, 4:39 pm ET
KABUL – Police officials from some of Afghanistan’s most violent regions questioned the need for more American troops, saying Monday it would increase the perception the U.S. is an occupying power and the money would be better spent on local forces.
The police were responding to an assessment from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that warned the war was getting worse and could be lost without more troops.
President Barack Obama earlier this year approved sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of U.S. forces to 68,000 by the end of 2009. McChrystal is expected to ask for more troops in coming weeks, but increasing the number risks alienating Afghans, the police officials said.
The officials come from some of the provinces where the militant threat is the strongest and where international soldiers and Afghans alike have struggled for years to keep the peace. Their reluctance to add troops is striking because of their broad experience already against the Taliban.
“It is very hard for local people to accept any foreigners who come to our country and say they are fighting for our freedom,” said Gen. Azizudin Wardak, the police chief in Paktia province. “To give the idea that they are not invaders, that they are not occupiers, is very difficult.”
Mohammad Pashtun, the chief of the criminal investigation unit in southern Kandahar province, the Taliban’s heartland, said that the money would be better off going to Afghan forces.
“Increasing international troops is not useful,” he said. “For the expense of one American soldier, we can pay for 15 Afghan soldiers or police.”
The top U.S. and NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, Adm. Gregory Smith, agreed that Afghan forces would be key to defeating the Taliban. But he added that the “major way forward” was to partner international troops with Afghan ones on a day-to-day basis, and not simply for the West to train Afghan forces and send them out on their own.
“We’re really talking about complete layering of individuals at all levels to achieve, we think, much, much more increased ability to influence the professional development of the force — the ANA and the ANP — and then the day-to-day execution will just rise dramatically,” Smith said, referring to the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
The Afghan army is trying to build a force of 134,000 soldiers by fall 2010, but McChrystal’s assessment said the target should be 240,000, though it did not give a date. It said the police force must grow from a current 92,000 to 160,000.
“This will require additional mentors, trainers, partners and funds through an expanded participation by (the Afghan government), the support of ISAF, and the resources of troop contributing and donor nations,” the assessment said, referring to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Smith said 20 percent of Afghan police are now partnered with NATO troops, and that the performance of those forces has risen dramatically. He said the current plan is to figure out a way to use the existing NATO forces “more appropriately” so that foreign and Afghan troops work more closely together.
Many Afghans say they are relieved to see international forces with the police on joint patrols. Afghan police are often accused of corruption and bribe-taking, while some American troops complain their Afghan counterparts are not battle ready.
About 4,000 of the additional U.S. troops that started arriving this summer are military trainers.
Reacting to McChrystal’s assessment, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi did not question the need for more troops but insisted they would should be sent to Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.
“The focus should be on those points and areas where the insurgency is infiltrating Afghanistan,” Azimi said, a reference to Pakistani border region where Taliban commanders take refuge and attacks are planned. “They should focus outside the Afghan border, target the insurgents’ resources and sanctuaries there.”
While Afghans have their doubts about local forces, they also are not convinced international forces have made things any safer.
According to a July survey by the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute, 52 percent of Afghans believe the country was less stable that it was a year ago — up from 43 percent in May, when the new troops had only just begun to arrive. The survey, which interviewed 2,400 Afghan adults, had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Section 2 – A Sample Will Do
Deal reached over Afghan recount


The body investigating Afghan election fraud claims will allow just a sample of votes to be recounted from polling stations with reported irregularities.
The move by the UN-backed Election Complaints Commission is aimed at speeding up the recount.
Its says the sampling process will still give an accurate picture from the 3,000 affected polling stations.
Afghan election officials had warned that recounting all the votes could take weeks.
The recount could result in a second round run-off if President Hamid Karzai’s share of the vote falls below 50%.,0,396817,print.story
Afghanistan election review will be based on sample

In the interest of a speedy resolution, the two agencies overseeing the vote agree to rely on statistical sampling rather than a thorough investigation of alleged irregularities.
By Mark Magnier
September 22, 2009
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan
After weeks of wrangling, two agencies overseeing Afghanistan’s fraud-tainted election agreed Monday to rely on statistical sampling rather than an in-depth investigation of alleged voting irregularities.
The Independent Election Commission and the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission said the new approach, “based on international standards,” would help ensure the credibility of the Aug. 20 election.
By some estimates, more than 20% of the 5.5 million votes cast are suspect. Allegations are widespread that ballot boxes were stuffed, ballots pre-marked and polling stations closed.
Supporters of the deal say that streamlining the election review could reduce political instability stemming from uncertainty over the outcome. Critics say that anything less than a full investigation risks undermining faith in a fair outcome — which could imperil counter-insurgency efforts and drive more Afghans away from the U.S. and its allies.
The two sides hope to agree on a methodology within 48 hours. Grant Kippen, chairman of the U.N.-backed commission, acknowledged that the “devil’s in the details.”
“Whatever process is agreed to, it has to be proper, fair and transparent,” Kippen said.
Preliminary results give incumbent President Hamid Karzai 54.6% of the vote, compared with 27.8% for his chief rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. But watchdog groups say the questionable votes are more than enough to bring Karzai’s share below 50%. If that happens, the two would compete in a runoff.
“Certainly there is expediency in this decision, otherwise they’d investigate each complaint properly,” said John Dempsey, Kabul-based senior analyst with the U.S. Institute of Peace, a Washington think tank.
Others, however, say the benefit of settling on a president soon may outweigh the ideal of examining every allegation in detail.
“I think the ECC is trying to do the right thing,” said Karin von Hippel, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The ECC is aware of time issues.”
Snow will soon make many parts of the country all but inaccessible, potentially delaying a runoff until spring.
The scandal-tainted election has added to worries about corruption in Afghanistan and whether the war against the Taliban is winnable.
The government election commission has been under pressure from Karzai supporters to downplay fraud allegations and put their man over the top in the first round, analysts said. Its international counterpart has vowed to methodically and carefully ensure the integrity of the process.
“We need a fair election, even if it takes 10 rounds,” said a policeman in Kabul, who declined to be identified because he has a government job. “The problem is, they didn’t appoint qualified people to register the voters.”
Karzai has conceded that some fraud occurred, but he said it was blown out of proportion by the Western media and international observers.
The debate over how to review the election results has spilled over to the U.N. The world body’s top official in Afghanistan, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, is said to favor greater accommodation with the Karzai administration. His deputy, American Peter Galbraith, reportedly pushed the government hard to explain the perceived irregularities. Galbraith agreed a week ago to leave the country.
“The tension within the U.N. reflects a difference of opinion in how tarnished an election process people should be willing to accept,” Dempsey said.
“I think that all parties hope for a way out of this that will allow Afghanistan to move on quickly, with some sort of deal being struck — or a runoff held in October,” he said. “No one wants six more months of uncertainty and governing inertia. Afghanistan cannot afford that.”
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
Taliban vow to ignore winner of Afghan vote
By Nasrat Shoaib (AFP) – Sep 21, 2009
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — If he wins fraud-tainted elections, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has little chance of swift talks with a resurgent Taliban movement that insists it is on the march nationwide.
“The situation favours us all over Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP in the southern city of Kandahar, saying it made no difference who emerges the victor of the troubled election held on August 20.
Preliminary results last week handed Karzai 54.6 percent — beyond the threshold of 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid a run-off. His main rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, trails with 27.8 percent.
But a final result is some way off, as electoral authorities investigate evidence of widespread vote-rigging in Karzai’s favour.
Ahmadi declared: “We want neither Hamid Karzai nor Abdullah Abdullah.
“Both of them are killers. Abdullah was minister in an administration of killers and Karzai was its leader. We want them both eliminated.”
After nearly eight years of rule and despite his credentials as a Pashtun from the Taliban’s spiritual home of Kandahar, Karzai has been rebuffed repeatedly in his desire for negotiations with the militia.
While open to talks with moderate elements, Karzai insists he will not sit down with any faction that refuses to cut its links with Al-Qaeda or fails to respect the Afghan constitution.
Intermediaries between the government and Islamist insurgents cast doubt on the prospect of a quick deal with “moderate” Taliban.
“There has never been an environment favourable for discussions,” Senator Arsalan Rahmani, a lawmaker and himself a Pashtun, told AFP in Kabul.
“We have not had direct meetings between the two parties but contacts on the ground,” he said.
The Taliban want no talks before foreign troops leave — a demand rejected by Rahmani and the government.
“We have to negotiate with the Taliban and reach peace. Only then can the international forces leave, otherwise there will be problems,” the senator said.
The Taliban have long conditioned talks on a withdrawal of US and NATO troops, who number more than 100,000.
And with the government struggling to assert control beyond the capital Kabul, the militia have gone from strength to strength.
Their insurgency is now at its deadliest since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted their extremist regime, killing record numbers of US and NATO troops and Afghans, and pushing north and west out of southern and eastern strongholds.
“In no circumstances are we ready to negotiate,” said Ahmadi, calling on “the invaders who defile Afghan land” to leave.
“Our resistance makes the international forces very frightened,” he added.
“The government will fall with the departure of international forces. A real defeat awaits the invaders.”
At least 362 foreign soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan this year, according to the independent website icasualties, nearly twice the number who died in 2006.
Last Thursday, six Italian soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians died in a Kabul suicide attack. Within hours, Italy said it wanted to bring home its troops — the sixth largest contingent in the NATO-led force fighting the Taliban.
“The Taliban have no interest in negotiating. They are in a position of strength at the moment,” said Mariam Abu Zahab, an analyst from the Centre for International Studies and Research in Paris.
The movement says it is riding high as Karzai’s credibility erodes in the face of allegations of rampant election fraud by his supporters.
Electoral authorities have ordered a recount at around 10 percent of polling stations after finding evidence of fraud, which could take six weeks, delaying the final confirmation of the winner or potentially forcing a second round.
The authorities put turnout at a meagre 38.7 percent — largely because of Taliban intimidation ahead of voting day.
“These elections were successfully sabotaged. We have demonstrated that we are credible and that the government isn’t,” Ahmadi said.
Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.
George Packer, A Reporter at Large, “The Last Mission,” The New Yorker, September 28, 2009, p. 39
ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Writer describes how Holbrooke was selected for the post of special representative. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Holbrooke that he would be the civilian counterpart to General David Petraeus, the military head of Central Command. Holbrooke, who is sixty-eight, has served under every Democratic President since John F. Kennedy. On several occasions, the position of Secretary of State has narrowly eluded him. Holbrooke is a loyal servant to power, with an old-fashioned respect for the Presidency. His usual strategy, in the manner of Lyndon Johnson, is to deploy cajolery, flattery, criticism, analysis, implied threat, teasing humor, fibbing—any means at his disposal—to exert his will on a counterpart. Usually, he wins. As for his flaws, he seems remarkably unaware of them. Holbrooke cannot be kidded about the trait for which he’s best known: his ego. Discusses the early years of Holbrooke’s career, in particular his experiences in Vietnam, where he was first stationed, in 1963, as a foreign-service officer. Later he served under a special assistant to President Johnson, Robert Komer, whose office took control of the pacification programs in Vietnam. Although Holbrooke made his international reputation by negotiating peace in Bosnia, his professional life was shaped in Vietnam. “I’m informed by Vietnam,” Holbrooke said. “I’m not imprisoned by it.” Discusses the formation of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy with regard to the war in Afghanistan. Tells how Holbrooke hired several members of his team, including Vali Nasr, Steve Berk, Rina Amiri, and Vikram Singh. Tells about events in Afghanistan and Pakistan since Obama became President. Writer travels with Holbrooke and members of his staff to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Holbrooke visits the region at least every other month. Describes a meeting between Holbrooke and Pakistani President Asif Zardari. Holbrooke told the writer that three things could cause America to lose the war: the Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan, civilian casualties, and corruption. Tells about the Afghan election held on August 20. The evidence of fraud was so overwhelming that it threatened to render the entire vote illegitimate. There is a strong possibility that, despite allegations of a stolen election, Karzai will remain in power for five more years, at the very moment that President Obama has to answer his generals’ request to send thousands more troops to fight, and perhaps die, on behalf of the Afghan government.



Section 4 – In Fierce Tempest
Pakistan arrests ‘suicide bomb mastermind’: military
(AFP) – Sep 21, 2009
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan on Monday arrested a badly wounded Taliban commander and alleged mastermind of suicide bombers in the northwest Swat valley, the military said.
Mohammad Nasim Shah, known by his alias Abu Faraj, was arrested during a Pakistani security operation in which he was badly wounded on the first day of the Muslim festival Eid al-Fitr, officials said.
Abu Faraj is said to have trained bombers for suicide missions and was close to Taliban Swat cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who led thousands of followers in a two-year uprising to enforce Islamic law in the former tourist district.
The military announced the arrest of the commander as an “Eid gift from the army for the people of Swat”.
Colonel Akhtar Abbas said Abu Faraj was an expert in making suicide jackets and training people to carry out attacks. He was trained in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are fighting against Western troops, Abbas added.
Officials said he prepared improvised-explosive device attacks and was also wanted in connection with two bank robberies.
Monday’s arrest was the fourth high-profile detention over the last 10 days in Swat, where the military are effectively in charge after a blistering campaign designed to crush the Taliban this summer.
Swat had slipped out of government control after Fazlullah rose up in July 2007, commanding thousands of followers — who beheaded opponents, burnt schools and fought with security forces.
Pakistan launched the operation in Swat, and neighbouring districts Buner and Lower Dir after militants advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of the capital Islamabad in April.
Pakistan says over 2,100 militants and more than 177 security personnel were killed in the offensive but the tolls are impossible to verify independently.
Hundreds of people have fled the area between the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan on the Afghan border, fearing the military are preparing a new push against militants, security officials said.
In clashes up in the mountains on Monday, a paramilitary soldier was killed and three others wounded, military officials told AFP.
Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.
Suicide attacks mastermind arrested in Swat
Updated at: 2040 PST, Monday, September 21, 2009
MINGORA: Member of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Shura Nasim alias Abu Faraj has been apprehended with injuries from Charbagh, Swat.
According to sources, Nasim alias Abu Faraj was masterminded suicide attacks in the country. He is son of a militants commander Darvesh who voluntarily surrendered himself to the security forces a few days ago.
Abu Faraj used to train children on carrying out suicide attacks. He was considered to be a close member of Maulana Fazlullah.
Pakistan arrests top Taliban commander
updated 11:09 a.m. EDT, Mon September 21, 2009
From Reza Sayah
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Pakistan has arrested a key militant commander suspected of launching suicide attacks in the country’s northwest, Pakistan’s army announced Monday.
Abu Faraj was arrested during a military operation in the Swat region, but the army statement did not say when. Abu Faraj is believed to be one of the key commanders for Maulana Fazlullah, the head of the Pakistani Taliban in Swat, who is still at large.
Fazlullah has stated that his goal is to impose a harsh interpretation of Islamic law in northwest Pakistan.
Fazlullah’s father-in-law, pro-Taliban leader Sufi Mohammed, helped mediate a peace agreement with the Pakistani government earlier this year.
That deal collapsed, and paved the way for Pakistan’s current military operation against Taliban elements in the northwest. Shortly after his father-in-law’s peace deal took effect, Fazlullah proclaimed himself the emir of Swat.
Swat is a region in Pakistan’s northwest that continues to experience near-daily attacks by Islamic militants on civilians and on security forces conducting the military operation against them.
Senior Pakistan militant arrested
Published: 2009/09/22 06:34:19 GMT
Pakistan’s military says it has arrested another important militant from the troubled Swat valley.
Mohammad Nasim Shah, also known as Abu Faraj, is reputed to be the militant commander behind suicide bombings across the region.
Army officials say he is a close aide of Swat’s Taliban chief, Maulana Fazlullah. He is the latest senior militant to be seized in recent weeks.
The military has said its forces are also closing in on Maulana Fazlullah.
His whereabouts are unknown. The Taliban denied reports that he was wounded and close to death earlier this year.
The militants’ chief spokesman, Muslim Khan, was detained on 11 September along with five other senior Taliban commanders.
Some reports say that Abu Faraj was arrested after he was seriously wounded during a military operation on Monday.
Launched in April after militants took area 100km from Islamabad Army says some 1,700 militants killed, but none of their leaders One of biggest human migrations of recent times, with 2m displaced Army says operation largely over in July, and residents begin return
Abu Faraj used to train bombers for suicide missions in the area.
He was expert in making suicide jackets and in preparing improvised-explosive device attacks, Colonel Akhtar Abbas told the AFP news agency.
His arrest comes as Pakistan continues military operations in parts of the Swat valley.
On Monday, police said they foiled a plan to assassinate the education minister of the North West Frontier Province.
Police engaged four militants in a gun battle which concluded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives, killing only himself.

Security forces kill 34 militants in South Waziristan
Tuesday, 22 Sep, 2009
WANA: At least 34 suspected militants were killed in South Waziristan clashes, while the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claims to have killed 45 security personnel.
Gunship helicopters pounded militant hideouts in South Waziristan, killing at least 26 suspected militants while injuring several others.
According to official sources, security forces targeted hideouts in the Spina Tigha and Makeen areas of South Waziristan.
In North Waziristan, eight suspected militants were killed in clashes with security forces in the Razmak area. Sources say a security check post in Upper and Lower Kofar in North Waziristan came under attack by some 600 militants.
In the ensuing clashes eight suspected militants were shot dead.
Meanwhile the Tehrik-i-Taliban spokesperson Azam Tariq said the Taliban killed at least 45 security personnel in the attack. — DawnNews
Sources: US eyes more drone hits on terror havens
By LARA JAKES and ANNE GEARAN, Associated Press Writers Lara Jakes And Anne Gearan, Associated Press Writers
Mon Sep 21, 7:55 pm ET
WASHINGTON – The White House is considering expanding counterterror operations in Pakistan to refocus on eliminating al-Qaida instead of mounting a major military escalation in Afghanistan.
Two senior administration officials said Monday that the renewed fight against the terrorist organization could lead to more missile attacks on Pakistan terrorist havens by unmanned U.S. spy planes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made.
Top aides to President Barack Obama said he still has questions and wants more time to decide.
The officials said the administration would push ahead with the ground mission in Afghanistan for the near future, still leaving the door open for sending more U.S. troops.
But Obama’s top advisers, including Vice President Joe Biden, have indicated they are reluctant to send many more troops — if any at all — in the immediate future.
In weekend interviews, Obama emphasized that disrupting al-Qaida is his “core goal” and worried aloud about “mission creep” that moved away from that direction. “If it starts drifting away from that goal, then we may have a problem,” he said.
The proposed shift would bolster U.S. action on Obama’s long-stated goal of dismantling terrorist havens, but it could also complicate American relations with Pakistan, long wary of the growing use of aerial drones to target militants along the porous border with Afghanistan.
The prospect of a White House alternative to a deepening involvement in the stalemated war in Afghanistan comes as administration officials debate whether to send more troops — as urged in a blunt assessment of the deteriorating conflict by the top U.S. commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
The two senior administration officials said Monday that one option would be to step up the use of missile-armed unmanned spy drones over Pakistan that have killed scores of militants over the last year.
The armed drones could contain al-Qaida in a smaller, if more remote area, and keep its leaders from retreating back into Afghanistan, one of the officials said.
Most U.S. military officials have preferred a classic counterinsurgency mission to keep al-Qaida out of Afghanistan by defeating the Taliban and securing the local population.
However, one senior White House official said it’s not clear that the Taliban would welcome al-Qaida back into Afghanistan. The official noted that it was only after the 9/11 attacks that the United States invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban in pursuit of al-Qaida.
Pakistan will not allow the United States to deploy a large-scale military troop buildup on its soil. However, its military and intelligence services are believed to have assisted the U.S. with airstrikes, even while the government has publicly condemned them.
The Pakistan Embassy in Washington did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Wider use of missile strikes and less reliance on ground troops would mark Obama’s second shift in strategy and tactics since taking office last January.
Such a move would amount to an admission that using a traditional military strategy to take on the Taliban with thousands more troops is doomed to failure, echoing Russia’s disastrous Afghanistan invasion in the late 1980s and other ill-fated conquerors in the more distant past.
But stepping up attacks on the remnants of al-Qaida also would dovetail with Obama’s presidential campaign promise of directly going after the terrorist network that spawned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
Over the past few weeks, White House and Pentagon officials have debated the best way to defeat al-Qaida — and whether to send more troops to Afghanistan to battle the extremist Taliban elements that hosted Osama bin Laden and his operatives in the 1990s and have continued to aid the terrorist group.
McChrystal has argued that without more troops the United States could lose the war against the Taliban and allied insurgents.
“Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it,” McChrystal wrote in a five-page Commander’s Summary that was unveiled late Sunday by the Washington Post. His 66-page report, which was also made public by the Post in a partly classified version after appeals from Pentagon officials, was sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Aug. 30 and is now under review at the White House.
White House officials have made clear that Pakistan should be the top concern since that is where top al-Qaida leaders, including bin Laden himself, are believed to be hiding. Very few al-Qaida extremists are believed to still be in Afghanistan, according to military and White House officials.
There have been more than 50 missile strikes against Pakistan targets since August 2008, according to an Associated Press count. Two weeks ago, a U.S. drone killed a key suspected al-Qaida recruiter and trainer, Pakistani national Ilyas Kashmiri.
A draft study by Notre Dame Law School professor Mary Ellen O’Connell found that drone attacks by the U.S. in Pakistan began in 2004, jumped dramatically in 2008 and continue to climb so far this year.
But the attacks target Taliban in Pakistan as well as al-Qaida, O’Connell said in an interview Monday, pointing to an Aug. 5 CIA missile strike that killed Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.
“The only reason people think drones are successful is because they’re doing a body count,” O’Connell said. “They’re not looking at the bigger picture” of Pakistani animosity, she added.
One of the White House officials said that Mehsud, an al-Qaida ally, was targeted as a threat to Pakistan at the behest of that nation’s leaders.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers divided largely on party lines over whether more U.S. troops should be sent to Afghanistan. Several said McChrystal’s assessment shows that the American strategy in Afghanistan remains murky, and renewed demands that the general personally explain his conclusions to Congress.
“We have reached a turning point in Afghanistan as to whether we are going to formally adopt nation-building as a policy,” said Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., a former secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration.
High-level Obama aides said the Pentagon’s case to send more troops was being pushed most aggressively by Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.
White House officials were caught off guard and reacted with displeasure last week when Mullen told a Senate panel that more troops were all but certainly needed in Afghanistan, and that a second report asking for the additional forces would be delivered “in the very near future.”
Gates has said he has not decided whether he agrees that more troops are needed, and Obama made clear in his weekend interviews that he is far from ready to decide.

AP White House Correspondent Jennifer Loven and AP researcher Judith Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report


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