Sunday, November 14, 2010

Karzai Speaks. Is Anybody Listening? (Lindsey Graham sure was!)

If you have any remaining doubts about who is the ruler of Afghanistan, this piece in this morning's WaPo will remove them.  Pres. Hamid Karzai wants a reduced US troop presence, and he especially is insisting that the US cease its infamous night raids. (The WaPo could just as easily call them death squads, but that would upset the editorial board and Charlie Krauthammer, not to mention the Pentagon. They're fighting for our freedoms, aren't they?  Well, aren't they?)

The American position is reflected well in the following:

 Under Petraeus and his predecessor, such raids by U.S. Special Operations troops have increased sharply, to about 200 a month, or six times the number being carried out 18 months ago, said a senior NATO military official, who requested anonymity so that he could speak candidly about the situation. These operations capture or kill their target 50 to 60 percent of the time, the official said.
To American commanders, the nighttime strike missions are a crucial weapon to capture Taliban commanders, disrupt bomb-making networks and weaken the 30,000-man insurgency in Afghanistan. In the past three months, U.S. Special Operations troops have killed or captured 368 insurgent leaders. On each mission, Afghan commandos accompany U.S. troops and Afghan officers work with the Special Operations command at Bagram Airfield to choose targets, military officials said.

"We understand President Karzai's concerns, but we would not be as far along as we are pressuring the network had it not been for these very precision operations we do at night," the NATO military official said. "I don't see any near-term alternative to this kind of operation."

In other words, you can cram it, Karzai.  His viewpoint?

 Karzai was emphatic that U.S. troops must cease such operations, which he said violate the sanctity of Afghan homes and incite more people to join the insurgency. A senior Afghan official said that Karzai has repeatedly criticized the raids in meetings with Petraeus and that he is seeking veto power over the operations. The Afghan government does not have the type of legal arrangement that the Iraqi government has with U.S. forces to approve particular military operations.

"The raids are a problem always. They were a problem then, they are a problem now. They have to go away.  The Afghan people don't like these raids, if there is any raid it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan laws. This is a continuing disagreement between us."We'd like to have a long-term relationship with America, a substantial relationship with America, that's what the Afghan people want. But we'd like the Afghan countryside - villages, homes, towns - not to be so overwhelmed with the military presence. Life has to be seen [as] more normal."
U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned with the failure of the Afghan government to root out corruption and provide services to the people. Karzai deflected this criticism by arguing that much of his government's corruption problem comes from the American money that is pumped into the country outside the control of Afghan ministries and frittered away on private security firms that undermine the authority of Afghan security forces. During the Soviet occupation, he said, ministers lived in modest housing blocks and the foreign money flowed through the Afghan government.

"How come we are now so luxury-oriented today?" he asked. "The transparency of contracts is not there. Why is the U.S. government giving contracts to the sons and relatives of officials of the Afghan government? We don't do those contracts. I don't have an authority over a penny of those contracts. . . . and we've been protesting against this for years."

Bottom line: David Petraeus is the ruler of Afghanistan . . . or better, the American viceroy.  But the professor of make-friends-with-the-natives counterinsurgency is finding out that COIN doctrine won't work for him nearly as well as will the bust-down-doors, shoot-or-detain-whoever's-inside tactic that, ironically, his successor in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, practiced before he received the gospel according to Petraeus, and for which he was castigated as Petraeus' stock rose in Iraq.

And take note of this other brief mention in the report:

 Karzai's comments come as American officials are playing down the importance of July 2011 - the date President Obama set to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan - in favor of a combat mission ending in 2014. 

Slowly, but ever so surely, we're being prepared to accept a 2014 official end-date for the US's Afghan expedition - with bases and advisers ensconced well beyond then.  Think leverage: versus Pakistan (our ally?), Iran, Russia, China . . . and think insurance: natural gas, and those trillions of dollars of resources said to lie in the soil of Afghanistan.

UPDATE: Turns out that Lindsey Graham was indeed listening to Mr. Karzai, and is simply shocked, shocked! (well, the actual word he used is "stunned") that Karzai wants the US to take night raids out of the tool bag.  Says he, how can Gen Petraeus be successful if he can't continue with them.
Oh, by the way, also says Sen. Graham:
 I think in the summer of 2011, we can bring some troops, but we're going to need a substantial number of troops in Afghanistan past that; 2014 is the right date to talk about. That's when Karzai suggests that Afghans will be in the lead. . . .   Post-2014, when the Afghans hopefully get in the lead, it'd be great to have a couple of air bases there in perpetuity to help the Afghans to send the right signal to the regions . . . . But none of this is possible unless you have a reliable partner in the Afghan government."
Send the right signal?  As in, we (the US) own this place? 
Reliable partner?  As in, dear Hamid, shut the fuck up?

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