“rude discoveries” »
Mr. Obama began to question why Americans were dying to prop up a leader, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who was volatile, unreliable and willing to manipulate the ballot box. Faced with an economic crisis at home and a fiscal crisis that Mr. Obama knew would eventually require deep limits on Pentagon spending, he was also shocked, they said, by what the war’s cost would be if the generals’ counterinsurgency plan were left on autopilot — $1 trillion over 10 years. And the more he delved into what it would take to truly change Afghan society, the more he concluded that the task was so overwhelming that it would make little difference whether a large American and NATO force remained for 2 more years, 5 more years or 10 more years.
The remaking of American strategy in Afghanistan began, though no one knew it at the time, in a cramped conference room in Mr. Obama’s transition headquarters in late 2008. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, who had spent the last two years of the Bush administration trying to manage the many trade-offs necessary as the Iraq war consumed troop and intelligence resources needed in Afghanistan, arrived with a PowerPoint presentation.
The first slide that General Lute threw onto the screen caught the eye of Thomas E. Donilon, later President Obama’s national security adviser. “It said we do not have a strategy in Afghanistan that you can articulate or achieve,” Mr. Donilon recalled three years later. “We had been at war for eight years, and no one could explain the strategy.” >continue<
The piece goes on to factor the realization that Pakistan’s emergence as the bigger part of the problem renders the larger scene untenable, a bewildering dimension which threatens to complicate today’s NATO summit.
Guardian - Julian Borger »
Leaked U.S. Report
…According to published excerpts, the report finds that “Taliban commanders, along with rank and file members, increasingly believe their control of Afghanistan is inevitable. Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact.”
The authors, American researchers attached to special forces, conclude that the weakness and venality of the government in Kabul is an increasing source of strength for the insurgents. “In the last year, there has been unprecedented interest, even from [Afghan government] members, in joining the insurgent cause. Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over [the Afghan government], usually as a result of government corruption, ethnic bias and lack of connection with local religious and tribal leaders.
The BBC quotes the report as saying: “Reflections from detainees indicate that Pakistan’s manipulation of Taliban senior leadership continues unabated. The Taliban themselves do not trust Pakistan, yet there is a widespread acceptance of the status quo in lieu of realistic alternatives.”
The report also quotes a senior al-Qaida detainee as saying: “Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can’t [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching.” >continue<
Detainees are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, and in some cases their genitals are twisted until the prisoners lose consciousness at sites run by the Afghan intelligence service and the Afghan National Police, according to a United Nations report released here on Monday.
… It paints a devastating picture of abuse, citing evidence of “systematic torture” during interrogations by Afghan intelligence and police officials even as American and other Western backers provide training and pay for nearly the entire budget of the Afghan ministries running the detention centers.
The report does not assess whether American officials knew of the abuses. But such widespread use of torture in a detention system supported by American mentors and money raises serious questions about potential complicity… >continue<
Plumes of smoke rose from the area near the embassy, and U.S. Army helicopters buzzed overhead. Police said gunmen were firing from a tall office building that is under construction at Kabul’s Abdul Haq square, which is about 300 yards from the embassy. >continue<
Audio: Quill Lawrence in Kabul