Slouching Toward The Exit Door In Afghanistan

I’ve long suspected that, despite all of his hawkish bravado during the campaign about the necessity of winning in Afghanistan, Obama isn’t serious about achieving victory against al Qaeda and the Taliban at all.

The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, has detailed his strategy and emphasized the urgency of the situation. McChrystal has called for 30-40,000 additional troops and clearly stated that we will most likely be defeated in Afghanistan without them. However, instead of immediately granting his field commander’s request, Obama is dithering and trial balloons concerning “alternate strategies” are being floated. With U.S. public support for the Afghan war waning, Obama’s got his finger in the political wind and the wind direction doesn’t bode well for American troops on the ground or United States security interests in the region.

Gates Doubts U.S.’s Afghan Strategy

President Barack Obama met with senior counselors for three hours Wednesday to launch his review of Afghan war strategy, amid indications that his defense secretary — the key link between the White House and the military — is among those undecided about the right approach.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior U.S. commander in Kabul, is advocating a manpower-intensive counterinsurgency strategy that focuses on protecting the Afghan populace rather than hunting individual militants. He submitted a classified assessment over the weekend calling for up to 40,000 U.S. reinforcements.

Mr. Obama met with senior military officials, diplomats and Cabinet members Wednesday as part of the review, which White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said was designed to “poke and prod” potential new approaches to the conflict.

The discussion focused on the political and security situation on the ground, according to an administration official, with military commanders detailing the gains made by the insurgency and top diplomats discussing the Afghan election results that were marred by fraud claims.

Mr. Obama focused his questioning on the current threat posed by al Qaeda and whether a resurgent Taliban would give al Qaeda leaders a new haven to regroup, the official said, which could indicate Mr. Obama is more concerned about the status of a threat to the U.S. than overall stability in Afghanistan.

In an interview Wednesday, a senior defense official said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates now worries that counterinsurgency might no longer be a viable approach for countering the Taliban violence roiling once-stable parts of north and west Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates, a Bush administration holdover, has emerged as one of Mr. Obama’s most trusted advisers, so his views carry significant weight in the deliberations.

“Even 40,000 more troops don’t give you enough boots on the ground to protect the Afghans if the north and west continue to deteriorate,” the official said. “That may argue for a different approach.”

A shift in Mr. Gates’s thinking would be particularly striking because he has long been a major advocate of counterinsurgency, which is credited with helping to sharply reduce Iraq’s once-unrelenting violence.

White House Eyeing Narrower War Effort

Senior White House officials have begun to make the case for a policy shift in Afghanistan that would send few, if any, new combat troops to the country and instead focus on faster military training of Afghan forces, continued assassinations of al-Qaeda leaders and support for the government of neighboring Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban.

In a three-hour meeting Wednesday at the White House, senior advisers challenged some of the key assumptions in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s blunt assessment of the nearly eight-year-old war, which President Obama has said is being fought to destroy al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and the ungoverned border areas of Pakistan.

McChrystal, commander of the 100,000 NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has asked Obama to quickly endorse his call for a change in military strategy and approve the additional resources he needs to retake the initiative from the resurgent Taliban.

But White House officials are resisting McChrystal’s call for urgency, which he underscored Thursday during a speech in London, and questioning important elements of his assessment, which calls for a vast expansion of an increasingly unpopular war. One senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting, said, “A lot of assumptions — and I don’t want to say myths, but a lot of assumptions — were exposed to the light of day.”

Among them, according to three senior administration officials who attended the meeting, is McChrystal’s contention that the Taliban and al-Qaeda share the same strategic interests and that the return to power of the Taliban would automatically mean a new sanctuary for al-Qaeda.

See also:
Obama, war council review Afghanistan strategy
McChrystal Now Just One of Many Leaders as Obama Rethinks Afghan Strategy
Crucial talks begin on US Afghan strategy
Top UN envoy joins call for rethink of Afghan strategy
U.S. Afghan Strategy Hinges On Reliable Ally In Kabul
Senate blocks commander’s testimony before new Afghan strategy
Afghan Decision Expected in Matter of Weeks
Don’t rush Afghan decision, Kerry cautions president
Poll: 50% oppose U.S. surge in Afghanistan
Gunfight At The D.C. Corral
The Taliban Is Serious About Winning In Afghanistan, Are We?

/once we’re gone, how long will it be before the Taliban is back in control of Kabul, executing women in soccer stadiums?

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?

Deep Into The Heart Of Indian Country

Get some!

Operation Aims to Secure Southern Afghanistan for Elections

Hours into the new Operation Eastern Resolve II in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, defense officials report that U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers are confronting “some resistance” as they work to secure the area for the Aug. 20 elections.

The Marines and Afghan soldiers launched the offensive earlier today in Helmand province’s Now Zad district. Much of the operation is centered on Dahaneh, a Taliban-held southern Afghanistan town, and the surrounding mountains.

The mission was ordered to disrupt insurgent violence and intimidation campaigns and provide freedom of movement for Afghans to vote in upcoming provincial and national elections, military officials at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan reported.

About 100 Afghan National Army soldiers and 400 Marines and sailors from Marine Expeditionary Brigade, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, are conducting the operation. Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 40 provided helicopter lift and other aviation support for the mission.

The operation is proceeding as planned, and forces have confronted some opposition, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. No casualty information is available, he said. Marine officials later reported that casualties are “very light.”

See also:
Operation Eastern Resolve II Launches
U.S. Marines Fight for Strategic Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province
US to expand operation in Afghanistan
Military Operation Targets Taliban Before Afghan Election
US, Afghan troops launch operation to protect vote
Marines launch new assault in Afghanistan, target Taliban-held town so residents can vote
Helmand province
Camp Leatherneck

Rumor has it that the Taliban was tipped off in advance about the operation, but they’ll die just the same.

/Godspeed Marines, rack up lots of Taliban ass!