Springtime For Taliban

Here we go again.

Taliban declares ‘spring offensive’

The Taliban has announced the launch of a spring offensive against foreign troops in Afghanistan as well as Afghan security forces and government officials.

Saturday’s declaration comes a day after high-ranking US military officers predicted such a move from the group.

Dubbed the “Badar” offensive, the fresh onslaught “will target foreign forces, high-ranking officials of President Hamid Karzai’s government, members of the cabinet and lawmakers, as well as the heads of foreign and local companies working for the NATO-led coalition,” the Taliban said in a statement.

See also:
Taliban warns of spring offensive
Afghanistan: Taliban announce spring offensive
Taliban declares start to spring offensive in Afghanistan
Afghan Taliban: Surge to Begin Sunday
Taliban militants declare new offensive
Taliban announce spring offensive in Afghanistan
Taliban announce beginning of its ‘spring offensive’
NATO dismisses Taliban offensive as propaganda
Afghan Taliban declare start to spring offensive
Taliban declare start of spring offensive
Taliban announce beginning of spring offensive; NATO downplays it

Let’s hope that our troops have rules of engagement that allow them to actually engage and kill the enemy or at least be allowed to carry loaded weapons to defend themselves.

/what a hellhole, is it still even worth being there?

Iran Plays Cash For Karzai

Could Hamid Karzai be any more corrupt? Iran arms the Taliban against Coalition forces and the Afghan army.

Karzai: We receive cash from Iran

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has said that his office receives cash in bags from Iran.

The Afghan leader said on Monday that this method of aid distribution is transparent and helps cover government expenses. He also said that the US makes similar cash payments.

The comments came after a report on Sunday that Karzai’s chief of staff, Omar Dawoodzai, receives covert bagfuls of money – possibly as much as $6 million in a single payment – sent by neighbouring Iran in a bid to secure influence.

Karzai said the money was used for palace expenses, salaries and for “people outside,” but gave no further details.

The New York Times, citing an unnamed Afghan official, said that millions of dollars in cash channelled from Iran are used to pay Afghan parliamentarians, tribal elders and Taliban commanders.

US concern

Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, said world leaders should have “every reason to be concerned about Iran trying to have a negative influence on Afghanistan.”

He added Iran had a responsibility to exert “a positive influence on the formation of a government there, and to ensure that Afghanistan is not a country where terrorists can find safe harbour, or where attacks can be planned on their soil.”

Karzai said he gets money from several “friendly countries” but named only the US and Iran, the latter contributing almost $1 million twice per year. Karzai said he will continue to ask for Iranian money.

“The government of Iran assists (my) office with five or six or seven hundred thousand euros once or twice a year, which is official aid,” Karzai told reporters at a joint news conference in Kabul with visiting Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon.

See also:
Afghan president confirms large cash payments by Iranian officials
Karzai Says Iran, US Give Afghanistan ‘Bags Of Money’
Iran Is Said to Give Top Karzai Aide Cash by the Bagful
Karzai Admits Getting Cash From Iran
Hamid Karzai confirms Iranian cash
Karzai Says Iran Provides `Transparent’ Financial Aid in Euros or Dollars
White House says concerned about Iran’s “negative influence” on Afghanistan
US ‘concerned’ about Iran influence in Afghanistan
US ‘Skeptical’ of Iranian Motives in Cash Payments to Karzai Aides
Karzai’s bags of cash a conundrum for the U.S.
Karzai calls Iran payments to Afghanistan ‘normal’
Afghan President Karzai downplays cash from Iran; calls it ‘normal’
‘Let’s not make this an issue,’ says Karzai
Three Questions About Karzai Accepting Iranian Cash

The situation in Afghanistan gets more farcical by the day. Who the hell is the enemy, everybody?

/I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to think [expletive deleted] it, what’s the point of us even being there anymore?

The Mask Falls Off

It’s official. Obama hates the military and he’s not even trying to hide it anymore.

Obama’s War With the Pentagon

James Jones is out as national security adviser; Tom Donilon is in. What does it mean? Among other things, that we may be headed for one of the greatest civilian-military showdowns in decades.

If you haven’t read Bob Woodward or Jonathan Alter’s accounts of Obama administration Afghan policy, here are the CliffsNotes: Since the moment Obama took office, the military, led by David Petraeus, has been pushing for a full-on counterinsurgency effort. In other words, a lot of troops for a very long time. Obama, from the start, has resisted, raising awkward questions about why we’re expending massive amounts of blood and treasure in Afghanistan when Pakistan is the country that really matters. Vice President Biden has gone further, warning that given the mind-boggling corruption of Hamid Karzai’s regime, committing to an Afghan counterinsurgency war would be lunacy.

This policy struggle has not been waged according to the Marquis of Queensbury rules. The White House believes the military brass is blind to America’s crushing financial constraints and the public’s eroding support for the war. The military believes the White House cares more about domestic politics than national security. The White House believes the military keeps screwing the president by telling reporters and Republicans that we need more troops for a longer time, thus forcing Obama’s hand.

General Jones was chosen, in part, because Obama knew this fight was coming. He wanted someone who could communicate with the generals and keep them from knifing him in the back. Jones didn’t entirely succeed in that effort, which is one reason people in the White House never embraced him as one of their own. But if Jones was unable or unwilling to extinguish the flames of civil-military conflict, Donilon is the political equivalent of dousing them with gasoline.

See also:
Commander-in-Chief Obama Fights Pentagon
Tom Donilon’s Revolving Door
Departing National Security Adviser Leaves Mixed Reviews
A Political Hack and Fannie Mae Democrat
Hope is not a strategy: James Jones
10 reasons to be worried as Tom Donilon, Afghan war sceptic & desk-bound foe of US military, gets top foreign policy job
The declinists win
Gates in 2010: Donilon Would Be a “disaster” as National Security Adviser; Jones: Donilon Has “No Credibility With the Military”
Woodward: Gates Thinks Donilon A “Disaster”
Gates downplays quoted objection to Obama adviser

This move proves that if Obama could snap his fingers and eliminate the U.S. military, he would do so without hesitation.

/this does not bode well for our brave troops in harm’s way, fighting the Taliban is hard enough, they shouldn’t also have to fight their commander in chief

An Election Worthy Of Tammany Hall

This weekend’s parliamentary election in Afghanistan would make Boss Tweed blush. You can try and put lipstick on the pig, but it’s quite obvious that the election results are overwhelmingly fraudulent and illegitimate.

Election Complaints Overwhelm Afghan Voter Commission

Afghanistan’s U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission says it has received nearly 3,000 formal complaints about Saturday’s parliamentary elections, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the vote.

The commission says it received more than 1,300 of those complaints since election day, while the rest came before the vote. Tuesday was the official deadline for Afghans to file complaints.

Shortly after the polls closed Saturday, the ECC said it received allegations of fraud and misconduct that included late-opening polling centers, ballot shortages and voter registration fraud.

Ahmad Nader Nadery is the head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, which was one of the monitors of the vote.

“Frauds did happen in different forms. We have seen ballot stuffing, proxy votes, underage voting and also multiple voting,” said Nadery. “The most serious one is the ballot stuffing, our observers have observed in around 280 centers, in 28 provinces where the ballot stuffing did occur.”

Some election observers also voiced concerns that local warlords intimidated or coerced voters in some instances.

Afghan election commission reports new evidence of serious fraud

Internal reports from Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission on Tuesday provide new evidence of serious fraud in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, including turnouts that exceeded 100 percent in many southeastern districts under the control of the Taliban or other militants.

One district in Paktika province recorded 626 percent voter turnout, according to reports obtained by McClatchy Newspapers.

The new indications of fraud appear to strengthen allegations of widespread intimidation, vote rigging and violence that independent Afghan poll monitors began making almost immediately after the polls closed on Saturday and cast new doubts on the commission’s assertion that it knew of no instances in which commission staff members stuffed ballots.

See also:
Voter fraud claims abound after Afghan elections
Observers cite ‘serious concerns about quality’ of Afghan elections
After Afghan Vote, Complaints of Fraud Surface
Afghan election watchdog amasses evidence of fraud
Fraud, violence tarnished Afghan vote, watchdog group says
Karzai Hails Afghan Election as ‘Serious’ Flaws Found
Karzai praises Afghan balloting, but monitors say election was rigged
Low bar
Are Afghanistan elections hurting democracy?
Afghan Elections: Corruption Could Again Thwart Democracy
Bodies of 3 Afghan election workers found

Welcome to “”democracy”, Afghan style, smells like “nation building” gone wrong and behaving badly.

/and our brave troops are right in the middle of this fiasco, fighting and dying for something or other, does anyone really know anymore?

All In The Karzai Family

What are we fighting for again?

Corruption fighting, Afghanistan style

Just how corrupt is the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan? It should be clear by now that President Hamid Karzai doesn’t want us to know. He’d prefer that we just keep sending our troops and our dollars, and not ask too many questions.

Karzai’s government announced this week that American and allied advisers, dispatched to Kabul to help investigate massive and endemic graft, will no longer be allowed to do any actual investigating. Karzai’s chief of staff told The Post that the government is still determined to eliminate corruption, but intends to do so “within an Afghan framework.”

And what a framework it is. Karzai is evidently upset that foreign advisers helped build a case against one of his high-ranking aides, Mohammad Zia Salehi, who is charged with soliciting a bribe — $10,000 plus a new car — from a money-exchange firm. In return, according to the charges, Salehi was supposed to derail an investigation into allegations that the company, called New Ansari, had illegally shipped $3 billion in cash out of the country. Most of the funds ended up in Dubai, where many of the wealthy Afghan elite have settled.

Salehi was arrested, but Karzai intervened to have him released from jail just seven hours later. Karzai has said that the use of wiretaps to build the case against Salehi was a violation of “human rights principles.” I wonder what other standard investigative techniques don’t fit within the “Afghan framework.”

A serious, sustained probe of high-level Afghan corruption might hit even closer to home for Karzai and his family. His brother, Mahmoud Karzai, is one of the major shareholders in Kabul Bank, the nation’s largest financial institution, which almost collapsed this week amid allegations that it was essentially being looted by politically connected insiders. Mahmoud Karzai lives in what the Financial Times describes as a “beachside villa” in Dubai.

President Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is the most powerful political figure in the Kandahar region — and also, according to persistent allegations, a major player in Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade. He denies any involvement in the opium business, and Hamid Karzai vouches for him, so that’s that. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

See also:
U.S. effort to help Afghanistan fight corruption has complicated ties
Kabul Bank’s Dubai connection
The Karzai empire, villas in Dubai and fears over Afghan aid
Corruption Allegations Test Afghan Banking System
Karzai Family Ties Shielded Afghan Bank
Karzai’s brother made $1m from Dubai deal financed by Kabul Bank

Gee, we’re doing Karzai’s fighting for him while his whole family is picking our pockets.

/of course, a Taliban government would be worse but, apparently, not by much

In One Door And Out The Other

Your tax dollars, hard at work, heading for the airport, getting out of town.

Afghanistan: $4.2 billion in mysterious cash flown out of Kabul since 2007

THE “blizzard of banknotes” leaving Kabul airport is worse than originally feared, The Scotsman has learned, with at least $4.2 billion (around £2.8 billion) exported in cash over the last three-and-a-half years.

Congressmen in the United States voted to suspend $4bn in aid to the Afghan government last week, after media reports showed $3bn in cash has been flown out of the country since 2007.

US and British fraud investigators fear that most of the money leaving Kabul has been siphoned-off from international aid contracts, or made from the country’s rapidly expanding opium trade.

Documents seen by The Scotsman show that the Afghan Ministry of Finance puts the real figure at $4.2bn – at least $1.2 billion higher than previously feared.

“Our records show that $4.2bn has been transferred in cash through Kabul International Airport alone during the last three-and-a-half years,” Afghanistan’s finance minister, Dr Omar Zakhilwal, wrote in a letter to US Congresswoman Nita Lowey.

Ms Lowey, chairwoman of the aid appropriations sub-committee in Congress, has vowed not to send another dime to Afghanistan until she was confident “that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists”.

Dr Zakhilwal’s letter acknowledges allegations that Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s government is “assisting or partaking in this fraud” but the minister hits back by pointing out that most of the money America spends in Afghanistan circumvents the Afghan government.

. . .

The sheer volume of cash couriered out of the country’s main airport is huge relative to Afghanistan’s gross domestic product which was just $13.5bn last year, and it easily dwarfs the amount of tax revenue collected by the government.

The figure doesn’t include cash exported from any of Afghanistan’s other international airports, which include Kandahar International, Mazar-e Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, and the main US base at Bagram, north of Kabul.

. . .

Afghanistan relies on a cash economy and there is no limit to how much money can be exported, as long as it is declared to customs. Official records show most of the money that was declared leaving Kabul since 2007 formed part of the traditional Islamic hawala system, in transfers to Dubai. The often informal nature of the hawala contracts, based on trust, honour and lender’s reputation, make the transactions almost impossible for financial investigators to track.

See also:
4.2 billion dollars have left Kabul airport: report
4.2 billion dollar worth ‘blizzard of banknotes’ have flown out of Kabul since 2007
Afghanistan minister rejects US corruption allegations
Afghan leader: Foreign contracts fuel corruption
Finance Minister Calls for Probe of Afghan Money Network
US freezes $4b of aid to Afghans
US cuts $5.6b Afghan aid amid graft charges
Afghanistan: US lawmakers block $4 bln in aid
Over $4 bn in cash flies out of Kabul

It looks like Karzai and his cronies have put together quite the U.S. financed retirement fund.

/no wonder it seems that Karzai doesn’t really care which side wins in Afghanistan, as long as he can make it to the airport to don his golden parachute

Suicide Skunks At The Jirga Party

The Taliban bite Karzai’s hand as he tries to feed them peace.

Taleban send message of war to Karzai’s peace summit

The scene was set for something dramatic as President Karzai approached the lectern yesterday.

His capital city was in lockdown. More than 1,600 dignitaries — tribal elders, ministers, MPs and ambassadors — had gathered in Afghanistan’s most venerated tent for a conference about peace. An estimated 12,000 soldiers, policemen and intelligence agents were involved in keeping all of them safe. The rest of the country was enjoying a two-day holiday.

Moments into Mr Karzai’s opening address, however, he was interrupted by the whistle and thud of an incoming rocket. The Taleban — conspicuous by their absence — had, nonetheless, managed to get their point across.

Plumes of smoke rose from beyond the tent’s perimeter as two more explosions followed. Then the sound of gunfire filled the air. Mr Karzai had described the Taleban as brothers. They, in turn, were trying to kill him.

At least five rockets were fired during the morning, police said, with two suicide bombers killed and a third arrested after they were found hiding in the shell of a house under construction barely 500 metres from the Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly tent. Undeterred by either the risk to his life — he has survived at least three assassination attempts — or to the credibility of his conference, Mr Karzai urged his audience not to panic. “Sit down, nothing will happen,” he said. “I have become used to this.” In a direct appeal to his “dear Taleban brothers”, he said: “May God bring you to your homeland. Don’t destroy your homeland, don’t destroy yourself.”

The President left the conference in an armoured convoy, as planned, while the rest of the delegates formed smaller groups to try to agree on a set of ground rules for negotiating with the Taleban.

See also:
Taliban targets Afghanistan peace jirga
Afghan Peace Assembly Opens Amid Attacks
Suicide bombers in burkas attack Afghan peace conference
Afghan Insurgents Fire on Peace Conference
Taliban Attacks Dominate First Day of Peace ‘Jirga’
Taliban attack Afghan peace conference as Karzai speaks
Militants attack Afghan peace conference
Taliban by attacking Afghan peace jirga lashes at process
Taliban rockets hit as Karzai leads rare Afghan peace jirga
In pictures: Militants attack Afghanistan ‘peace jirga’
Gunfire erupts near venue of Afghan peace jirga
Three blasts hit near Kabul jirga tent
Afghan opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah vows to boycott ‘peace jirga’
Afghanistan: why US changed its mind about Karzai’s ‘jirga’

Um, I don’t think the Taliban is much interested in making peace, and why should they be? They can strike at will anywhere in Afghanistan and Obama’s already announced that we’re going to start withdrawing next year.

/it doesn’t take Sun Tzu to figure out that all the Taliban have to do is wait until we leave and then go sack Kabul for the big win, can you say Vietnam strategy regurgitated?

Who The Hell Are We Fighting And Dying For?

WTF?

Lawmakers Say Karzai Threatened to Join Taliban

Afghan lawmakers say President Hamid Karzai used a closed meeting to lash out at Western critics of his government, saying the Taliban would become a “legitimate resistance movement” if outside meddling in Afghan affairs continued.

The lawmakers say Mr. Karzai also suggested that he might join the Taliban if outside pressure does not stop.

According to several members of the Afghan parliament, Mr. Karzai made the comments during a private meeting with a group of lawmakers Saturday.

In an interview with BBC television Monday, Mr. Karzai said he stands by remarks last week blaming international embassies and organizations for fraud in the August 20 presidential elections.

The White House called Mr. Karzai’s remarks “troubling”, but said a planned meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Mr. Karzai next month in Washington is still scheduled.

See also:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai Threatens to Join Taliban
Karzai ‘threatened to join Taliban’
Karzai to lawmakers: ‘I might join the Taliban’
Karzai threatens to join Taliban
Karzai threatens to join Taliban
Is Karzai friend or foe to the United States?
AP Analysis: Karzai remarks risk US-Afghan rift
U.S. to Afghan Leader: Watch What You Say
News Wrap: U.S. Expresses Concerns Over Karzai’s Taliban Remarks
U.S. turns up the heat and Karzai smolders
Karzai says he’ll join the Taliban if UN keeps pressuring him
For U.S., Karzai proves to be a very troublesome ally
Afghanistan, a bottomless pit

Let’s see, so we’re propping up Karzai’s government and protecting him from the Taliban and he’s threatening to join the Taliban if we keep insisting that he actually do something about the rampant corruption in his government, is that about it? My, my, that’s certainly a helpful attitude. Do we have any real allies in the region?

/if we’re not careful, one of these days we could find ourselves literally fighting all sides just to physically get our troops out of Afghanistan

Tammany Hall Reincarnated

Boss Tweed would be proud.

Tainted Afghan Vote Tally Gives Karzai Majority

Afghanistan’s election commission announced a tally giving President Hamid Karzai a majority of votes in the Aug. 20 presidential election — potentially enough to avoid a runoff and claim victory — after the commission decided to include thousands of suspected fraudulent ballots that helped to put him over the top.

The commission’s decision came in response to intense lobbying by aides to Mr. Karzai’s campaign, two election commission officials said. It also came in defiance of a direct plea from the U.S. to exclude fraudulent votes. Election commission members who wanted to ensure a Karzai victory played a pivotal role in seeing that suspect votes were counted, one commission official said.

Hours before the announcement, United Nations-sponsored election investigators ordered a recount of ballots from suspect polling places because of “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.” Other candidates angrily rejected the tally, which gave Mr. Karzai 54.1% of the votes with nearly 92% of the ballots counted. His nearest challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, has 28.3%, according to the commission.

“We have been saying from the beginning that the [commission] has been proceeding in an illegal manner and we won’t accept” the results, said Dr. Abdullah’s campaign spokesman, Fazel Sangcharaki. The candidate has discouraged his supporters from violent protests, but widespread disaffection in Dr. Abdullah’s northern strongholds risks fracturing parts of Afghanistan that back the central government.

One election commission official, deputy chief electoral officer Zakari Barakzai, told of unspecified pressure on the commission to include suspect votes. “The results we have so far are only half-clean,” he said.

President Hamid Karzai takes 100% of votes in opposition stronghold

In the southern Afghan district of Shorabak, the tribesmen gathered shortly before last month’s presidential election to discuss which candidate they would back. After a debate they chose to endorse Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s leading opponent.

The tribal leaders prepared to deliver a landslide for Abdullah – but it never happened. They claim Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother and leader of the Kandahar provincial council, detained the local governor and closed all the district’s 46 polling sites on election day.

The ballot boxes were taken back to the district headquarters where, tribal leaders allege, they were stuffed with ballots by local policemen. A total of 23,900 ballots were finally sent off to Kabul, the capital – every one of them a vote for Karzai.

The alleged fraud, which Ahmed Wali Karzai denies, was the most blatant example among hundreds of incidents that have threatened to make a mockery of the election.

The sheer scale and audacity of the cheating, which includes supposedly “state-sponsored” ballot-stuffing, vote burning, intimidation and the closure of polling stations in antigovernment areas, has overwhelmed the country’s fledgling Electoral Complaints Commission.

Its staff are battling with more than 2,600 reports of vote-rigging, including at least 650 deemed serious enough “materially” to influence the result.

“This is a blatant violation of the procedure and I think it is stealing in daylight,” Abdullah said yesterday.

His aides say privately that if Karzai wins the 50.1% of votes needed for victory in the first round, they won’t accept the result. Abdullah said he intended to use all legal means to challenge any Karzai victory; his supporters talked menacingly of “Iran-style protests with Kalashnikovs”.

See also:
No Western fudge can fix the mounting Afghanistan election crisis
Evidence of fraud as Hamid Karzai passes threshold in Afghan poll
Fraud charges undermine trust in Afghan election
US says Afghan election results could take months
Afghanistan election results coult take months, warns US
U.S. Calls For ‘Rigorous Vetting’ of Afghan Election Fraud Allegations
U.S. in Delicate Spot as Fraud Claims Mount in Afghan Vote

So, we’re fighting and dying in Afghanistan, not only to track down, kill or capture, and disrupt the networks of al Qaeda and their protecters, the Taliban, but also to provide some semblance of a stable democratic national government that can eventually fend for itself and keep Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists hell bent on attacking Western interests worldwide.

And this is the thanks we get, widespread election fraud on behalf of Hamid Karzai, the candidate we’ve backed since we first came to Afghanistan? How awkward and embarrassing is this situation for the United States?

/and, more importantly, what’s Obama going to do about it?

Run Away!

Kyrgyzstan to close U.S. base used to supply Afghanistan

In a setback to the escalating U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan , the president of Kyrgyzstan said Tuesday that his government will shut down the American air base in his country.

U.S. officials say that the Manas Air Base is vital to plans to send an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan , a linchpin of President Barack Obama’s efforts to pacify the country.

The announcement by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev came in Moscow , not in his own capital, and shortly after the Russian government reportedly agreed to lend Kyrgyzstan $2 billion , write off $180 million in debt and add another $150 million in aid. Although the Russian government didn’t release a statement about the decision, the timing and place of the announcement indicated that the Kremlin had been involved.

See also:
Will the U.S. Stick By Karzai in Afghanistan?

Word’s out, Obama’s a wussy. Just watch, we’re going to cut and run in Afghanistan.

/sure hope Karzai’s life insurance is paid up and he’s got an escape plan

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