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Archive for October, 2009

Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 30th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New FoundationThe Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

Talks between Hamid Karzai and Abdullah broke down today, according to CNN, meaning there will be no power-sharing arrangement to head off a highly problematic runoff vote.

That would be bad enough in itself, since the administration recognized the difficulties posed by getting a legitimate poll done before winter sets in and had hoped a power-sharing deal would provide legitimacy while dodging the dicey balloting.  But, things actually get much worse:

According to the source, Abdullah will likely announce this weekend that he will boycott the runoff presidential election slated for November 7, a runoff that had been scheduled after intense diplomatic arm twisting by the United States. [emphasis mine]

One hopes a CNN reporter simply failed to choose his/her words carefully and meant instead “drop out of” the race, because if Abdullah is going so far as to boycott the race, Afghanistan could become a much more dangerous place than it is already. Recall that earlier this year, Abdullah supporters were promising protests “with Kalashnakovs” if he simply lost in a fair vote, and, as if to prove their point, reports indicated a frightening flow of weapons toward Abdullah’s political base. Now we’re potentially talking about him urging people not to participate and declaring the entire runoff process illegitimate.

This has already been a terrible week for the U.S. as President Obama wraps up his sixth review of Afghanistan policy with a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today. Earlier this week, IED attacks pushed the U.S. death toll to its highest monthly level since the U.S. invasion. Yesterday, we learned that Hamid Karzai’s drug-trafficking, electioneering mafioso of a brother was on the CIA payroll.  If the CNN report is accurate, things may be about to get much worse.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 28th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

Yesterday, October officially became the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the war began. The death toll was pushed over that grim marker by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the single deadliest weapon used against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. IED deaths have increased alongside U.S. troop increases every year since the U.S. invaded.


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Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 28th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New FoundationThe Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

My previous post intentionally left out mentions of Senator John Kerry’s defense of Ahmed Wali Karzai–the drug-dealing, election stealing, possibly Taliban-connected brother of the Afghan president–in an attempt to keep the piece to a manageable length. Boy, am I sorry I did that…today’s New York Times contains an article by Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti, James Risen and Helene Cooper that shows AWK is a CIA asset.


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Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 26th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

Senator John Kerry came back from Afghanistan calling President Hamid Karzai a “patriot” and supportive of a plan “closer to McChrystal than to Biden,” meaning he loves him some counterinsurgency, just not in the doses prescribed by Gen. McChrystal. Kerry’s Monday speech to the Council on Foreign Relations shows that in sipping the COIN Kool-Aid, he’s beginning to display the worst habits of internal contradiction prevalent among the counterinsurgency glitterati.

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Posted by Emily Taylor on October 26th, 2009

Hey all! Check out this great message from our friends at Jobs for Afghans:

Ralph Lopez and team at the Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy, a project of Jobs for Afghans, will be in Washington DC this week to sound out congressmen and senators on their positions on the troop escalation, and on the replacement of the military presence with a civilian solution as demanded by and others. In this citizens’ lobbying effort we’ll be roaming the halls of Congress and putting their feet to the fire.

The focus will be on addressing the starvation conditions which drive the insurgency. We are against the escalation, and want troops out to be replaced by works programs which help ordinary Afghans. This strategy simply deprives the Taliban of recruits, since the Taliban is unpopular and most young men fight only because it pays $8 – $10 a day, in a climate of 40% to 50% unemployment.

If you would like Team Exit Strategy to visit your own congressman on your behalf, please call and make an appointment for them. Call our coordinator Sue at 617-599-5195 to work out the time and date. We’ll be in DC from Tuesday 10/27 through Friday 10/30. Make it clear that you are a constituent and you would like a hearing for a civilian solution. We will ask:

- Where does the congressman stand on the escalation, if he or she has not already taken a stand?

- Will this congressman speak against the escalation on the floor of the House or the Senate?

- Does the congressman support a civilian solution?

- Will the congressman become the sponsor or a co-sponsor of the Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy, a summary of which can be seen here:

- Whatever else you would like us to ask them.

Ralph and his team will report back to you the results of the meeting, This also helps to update the whip list at sister site You can then write a letter to the editor of your local paper to inform your community of where your congressman and senators stand.


Sue Serpa
Coordinator, Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy
a project of Jobs for Afghans

Jobs for Afghans project in Afghanistan

Jobs for Afghans project in Afghanistan

Fact Sheet for Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy

No Troop Escalation! Demand a Civilian Solution! (We will pass these out at congressional offices)

- There is 40% – 50% unemployment in Afghanistan, and the Taliban pays $8 a day to young fighters who would rather be doing anything else. There is literal starvation taking place across the country, including in Kabul.

- 35% of Afghans are malnourished, according to the UN. Eight years after the occupation began, 1 out of 5 children still dies before the age of five, and two-thirds of the population still has no access to safe drinking water. Many children die of easily preventable or treatable disease. What is needed now is a “civilian assistance surge.”

- The Taliban is politically unpopular, and most Afghans are repulsed by its ideology, which is an extreme Wahabist interpretation of Islam. Many people remember the cruel punishments and executions in the National Stadium. But it is growing in strength by taking advantage of vast numbers of unemployed men.

- In 2001 the vast majority of Afghans welcomed the overthrow of the Taliban, which was a small minority which ruled mostly by fear.

- The best way to defeat the Taliban, and to decrease the danger to our troops, is with a countrywide jobs program costing about $4 billion, less than what military operations cost for 2 months. The Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG), a ministry of the Karzai government, reported that governors and district chiefs unanimously agreed that unemployment is the number one driver of the insurgency.

- Work projects which pay cash by the day or week are up and running successfully in Afghanistan. The problem is there are not nearly enough of them.

- Men gather in the squares in Kabul by the thousands hoping to be hired for day labor at $4 per day. They are of all ages, and ready and willing to work.

- One Afghan government ministry, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD,) is ready and capable of managing large numbers of works projects which would hire large numbers of potential Taliban recruits. This project would include digging drainage ditches, irrigation ways, and clearing canals. This would cause mass defections in the Taliban ranks. The MRRD has set up over 25,000 Community Development Councils (CDCs,) committees at the village level, to insure that the help reaches ordinary Afghans, not corrupt warlords.

- “Building up” the Afghan National Army and Police will not by itself insure stability. Rural Afghans are often more afraid of the National Police than they are of the Taliban.

- The Taliban is not an indigenous movement to Afghanistan. The Taliban originated in Pakistani madrassas funded by the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI, in order to have a friendly or neutral country on its northern border. This was an imperative in Pakistan’s contest with India.

- Afghanistan is not an Arabic country, and has no affinity with Al Qaeda, which is Arabic in origin. The Pashto and Dari languages spoken in Afghanistan are Indo-European in origin, and distantly related to English.

- To frame the debate as being solely over whether there should be more troops, fewer troops, or no troops is flawed and misleading. This ignores the economic context of the insurgency.

- A withdrawal of US troops, by the traditional means of cutting off war funding, could be made possible a by modest infusion of economic assistance which targets and reaches ordinary Afghans. Most have no desire to join the Taliban, and would rather do anything else to make a living. Once freed of their need for the Taliban’s opium money, Afghans of all ethnicities will turn on the Taliban themselves, and be capable of defending themselves.

- Pentagon spokesman Col. Tom Collins said in 2007 “There is a low percentage of the total Taliban force who we would call ideologically driven. We refer to them as Tier 1 people who believe their ideology, that what they’re doing is right. The vast majority of Taliban fighters are essentially economically disadvantaged young men.”

- General Karl Eikenberry, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan told Congress in 2007 “much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to feed their families.”

- General Stanley McChrystal in his recent report says there is little ideological loyalty between the local Pashtuns and the Taliban. The Taliban gain local support by capitalizing on “vast unemployment by empowering the young and disenfranchised through cash payments, weapons, and prestige.”

- Starting jobs programs now in Afghanistan is not “nation-building.” It is “starvation-stopping.” A works program to employ vast numbers of unemployed, for two years, at $7 a day, is the first crucial step to stability and further development, guided by Afghans. It would result in small capitol savings which would jump start the Afghan economy. Afghans have suffered through 30 years of war and misery. It must stop, and the world will be rewarded with a stable and prosperous member of the international community.

- Starting the Afghan Marshall Plan will win the war at a fraction of the cost of an extended military presence, and will leave much, much more money for Americans to create their own jobs programs here at home.

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Posted by Jake Diliberto on October 24th, 2009

Recent activity by the PAC veterans group “Vets for Freedom” is
mobilizing veterans from Afghanistan to come to Capitol Hill and
advocate for sending in more troops.  This is taking place on Nov 5th.

Hopefully I will be in Washington during this same time with Malalai
Joya former Afghan Parliament member. In opposition of this movement,
however, it seems to me this idea of troops lobbying for more troops
is missing the point of this war.

While turning a blind eye to devastation that is taking place, this
PAC is advocating for supporting a military solution to what counter
insurgency expert Dr. David Kilcullen calls “not feasible”. In recent
emails with Dr. Kilcullen reporters and scholars have published him
stating “we may not necessarily need that many more combat troops to
do so (secure the people). the key problem is political: delivering
effective and legitimate governance that meets Afghans’ needs.”

This being the case, the people who know best how to solve the
problems are Afghani’s and they are telling us, “WE (the U.S.) DONT
GET IT”. Malalai Joya was a woman serving in the Afghanistan
Parliament and she is telling us the same thing our counterinsurgency
experts are, “the solution is not massive miltary intervention”.

Apart from that, the historical experience of our great nation still
to this day has failed to hear the voices of the minority or
oppressed such as the Afghanistan people demanding we leave.  ( )

As a vet, I am all for the freedom of speech and advocacy, it furthers
the debate and the discussion, however, when the debate of sending in
more troops is being conducted by a PAC funded by the folks who
started this Global War on Terror (
), I feel it convolutes the discussion and blinds us from hearing the
story clearly.

The failure of our time is our refusal to listen to the voices of the
overlooked- the Afghanistan people.  Recent opinion poll done by
ABC/BBC has 60-70 % of Afghans do not want us there anymore. (

It seems to me that our soldiers campaigning on capitol hill for a
war that the Afghanis do not want is undeniably wrong.
We need to respond to our troops and support them, by dealing with
this issue the right way. We can deal with this the right way by

going past the age old phrase”support the troops” and
actually support them by giving them an achievable mission.
In this time supporting the troops coincides with listening to the
Afghanistan people, and they are telling us
this is not going to work, no matter how many troops are there.

Secondly, who says “supporting the troops” forces the American people
into believing in an escalation?  It seems to me soldiers do not like
war, but they unselfishly willingly go to protect their brothers and
sisters in arms, and also to follow the orders of the President to
protect this great nation.

As a Veteran, I can say who cares what we say if the local people on
the ground do not want it.  Forget about politics, strategy, and
supporting our troops for a brief second, and consider the people who
the war is going to effect for decades to come.  This requires listening to what this
profound majority want, that seems to tell us to go home.

As Veterans, we need to stop the pro-war/anti-war extremism and start
the conversion process to rethink things through from beginning to
end.  How was this war started?  How did we add to the problem? How
can we appropriately deal with 9/11?  How can we continue to flourish
and not oppress?

As two time medal of honor winner Smedly Butler says, “War is a
Racket” and I agree war is a racket and we need to try to work for the
conversion towards another approach.

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Posted by Ralph Lopez on October 22nd, 2009

Using an online Excel spreadsheet like a whip list to continually update congress members’ positions on the troop escalation, sister peace organization United for Peace and Justice is enlisting citizens to report results of phone calls to their offices to keep the heat on. This is a bold and creative undertaking in using the Netroots to stop a war. Jump in and report your call to your congressman on the website The whip list is updated every five minutes.

Also don’t forget the brave Afghan women’s activist Zoya (of RAWA, who is on a US speaking tour right now) and her plea for help in stopping the starvation now taking place in Afghanistan among its children, including in Kabul. Demand during your calls that Congress heed’s call for a civilian solution. One important part of a civilian solution is detailed here, at “Afghan Marshall Plan: an Exit Strategy.” You can email the link or the text to your representatives.

Since there is 40% unemployment and the Taliban pays its fighters $8 a day, denying civilian aid could be the military-industrial complex’s recipe for further instability and war, to use the term coined by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in the famous warning in his Farewell Speech. Now that Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, he would do well to remember who else won that prize, George C. Marshall author of the Marshall Plan, which fed starving Europeans and stabilized Europe after WWII. Troops out. Civilian assistance in. This is a manufactured war in which most Taliban recruits would drop their weapons if they had work projects instead, which would cost us a tiny fraction of what is spent on military operations.

From the sister peace website

“We need Members of Congress to take a stand against escalation now.

There are three key ways for Members of the House to affect President Obama’s decision: to speak out publicly against a troop increase; to co-sponsor Rep. Lee’s bill HR 3699 prohibiting an increase in troops; and to co-sponsor Rep. McGovern’s bill HR 2404 calling for an exit strategy from our military occupation of Afghanistan.

There are two key ways for Senators to affect President Obama’s decision: to speak out publicly against a troop increase and to introduce legislation in opposition to a troop increase and in favor of an exit strategy from our military occupation of Afghanistan or in favor of a timetable for military withdrawal.

So, what we are asking you to do is call your representatives in Congress – or any Member of Congress you feel comfortable calling (all phone numbers are given in the spreadsheet below – click on the spreadsheet and use arrows to scroll up and down – click the second tab for the Senate – or you can just call the switchboard at 202-225-3121 and be transfered to the Rep or Senator’s office) – try to get a staff person who handles Afghanistan on the phone, and:

for Members of the House: 1) if their office has not co-sponsored the McGovern bill (current co-sponsors are shown in the spreadsheet below), ask them to co-sponsor it.

2) if their office has co-sponsored the McGovern bill but not the Lee bill, ask them to co-sponsor the Lee bill.

3) if they are not shown in the list below as having taken a position against sending more troops, ask them if they have taken a position against sending more troops; and urge them to take a position now against sending more troops. (Here is a script for calling House Members.)

for Senators: 1) ask them if they have taken a position against sending more U.S. troops. If they have not done so, ask them to take a position now against sending more U.S. troops.

2) ask them to introduce legislation in opposition to sending more troops and in favor of an exit strategy from our occupation from Afghanistan or in favor of a timetable for military withdrawal. (Here is a script for calling Senators. )

Then – this is important – we want you to report your results on this website — what did the office say? – using the comments section for this blog, so people around the country can see who has taken a stand and who has not.Tell us if these Members of Congress have taken a stand against sending more U.S. troops. Click on the comment link to add your reportback. If the Congressional office directs you to a website or press clips that documents the Representative’s position, or you come across such links, please post the URLs in your reportbacks.

The groups organizing this project want to end the war. But the first step to ending the war is not to deepen it. If McChrystal’s request is approved, it will likely lengthen the war by many years. Thank you for participating! ”

Watch the 26 minute documentary online “Afghan Marshall Plan: Winning With Jobs Not Guns

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Posted by Tom Engelhardt on October 22nd, 2009

From TomDispatch today: As everyone in Washington focuses on the right strategy for winning the war in Afghanistan, Nick Turse asks the most basic question: Can the U.S. military win a war, any war? The answer is: probably not — Nick Turse, “Obama’s Choice, Failed War President or the Prince of Peace?”

Nick Turse, TomDispatch regular, Ridenhour Prize winner, military expert, regularly heads for the basic questions that are rarely asked. He begins his latest post this way: “When the Nobel Committee awarded its annual peace prize to President Barack Obama, it afforded him a golden opportunity seldom offered to American war presidents: the possibility of success. Should he decide to go the peace-maker route, Obama stands a chance of really accomplishing something significant. On the other hand, history suggests that the path of war is a surefire loser. As president after president has discovered, especially since World War II, the U.S. military simply can’t seal the deal on winning a war.”

Turse’s piece then focuses on what the U.S. military can do — deliver destruction and punishment — and what, historically over the last half century, it has been remarkably unable to do from Korea and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan — deliver a genuine military victory. Turse runs through this dismal history in his usual vivid fashion, concluding thusly:

“More than 100 years after their early counterinsurgency efforts on two tiny islands in the Philippines, U.S. troops are still dying there at the hands of Muslim guerillas. More than 50 years later, the U.S. still garrisons the southern part of the Korean peninsula as a result of a stalemate war and a peace as yet unmade. More recently, the American experience has included outright defeat in Vietnam, failures in Laos and Cambodia; debacles in Lebanon and Somalia; a never-ending four-president-long war in Iraq; and almost a decade of wheel-spinning in Afghanistan without any sign of success, no less victory. What could make the limits of American power any clearer?… The blood and futility of this American past ought to be apparent to Nobel Peace Prize-winner Obama, even if his predecessors have been incredibly resistant to clear-eyed assessments of American power or the real consequences of U.S. wars. Two paths stretch out before this first-year president. Two destinations beckon: peace or failure.”

This is an instant Turse classic. Don’t miss it.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 22nd, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

Bruce Riedel, the chair of one of the many Obama policy reviews on Afghanistan, is ridiculous.

Here he is discussing pre-election optimism in Afghanistan:

However, this is likely the last time we will have the benefits of a fresh start;

Here he is five days after the election:

Here, I agree with what I think both Kim, Mike and Tony said, that this really is the last chance. We’ve had three chances to get it right in Afghanistan. We’ve blown the previous two in the 1990s and after 2001. You only get three chances in baseball, and, in Afghanistan, I don’t think you can expect a fourth chance either.

Here he is today:

NATO cannot succeed without an Afghan partner who has Afghan support and can led the majority of Afghans who reject the Taliban. Senator Kerry has given President Obama and NATO a second chance to get this right.

It’s always a new, fresh, second, last chance with this guy.

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 21st, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

All hail the birth of Afghan democracy!

The willingness of Americans to allow our political leaders to spend $1 million per troop, per year in Afghanistan has been rewarded: we can now stand back in awe as the unpunished perpetrators of massive election fraud vie for control of the criminal enterprise called the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Extra-constitutional President Hamid Karzai (whose initial vote totals were 32.2 percent fraudulent) and prime challenger Abdullah (whose initial vote total was 12.8 percent fraudulent) will face off on November 7. The process of the last election was so corrupt that the UN is replacing 200 — more than half — of the top election officials who were complicit in the fraud. No matter who loses, fraud wins.

So here’s a question for those who are pushing COIN who haven’t totally abandoned their own doctrine’s prerequisites for success (and believe me, those are few and far between these days): what systemic changes have or will be made prior to November 7 that will prevent a replay of the August fiasco? While replacing bad apples is essential, it won’t prevent rot if the barrel itself is corrupted. Recall that during the last round of voting, fraud schemes included:

  • Alliances with warlords, who will deliver votes from their territories for Karzai by hook or by crook. Some have already made threats of reprisal against village elders if they did not cooperate with the vote fraud schemes.
  • Massive registration of underage voters (up to 20 percent of the rolls)
  • Rampant (as in 85-percent occurrence) issuance of multiple voting cards to single individuals, including one case where one person was given about 500 voting cards.
  • Issuance of voting cards to people before they registered.
  • Issuance of cards to women without their physical presence based on lists provided by family (in some provinces this practice was used in 90-99 percent of registration stations).
  • Allowing men to take registration books home for the ostensible purpose of obtaining their women-folk’s fingerprints for registration. This practice, combined with the list practice mentioned above, led to outrageously fraudulent numbers of “women” being issued cards–between double and thirty percent more than the number of cards issued to men. Female Members of Parliament in Afghanistan have called these numbers not credible.
  • Purchase of voting cards from locals by warlord vote organizers.
  • Manufacture and sale of many thousands of fake registration cards.

What steps have been taken to prevent these sorts of violations of the process from recurring? I’ve not seen a single indication that the systemic factors that allowed and rewarded election fraud have been addressed. Not one. Have you?

In this context, it’s understandable that Nagl and Co. would want to wave their hands and assert that counterinsurgency can work when host-nation elections break, but that’s contemptible, dishonest, face-saving bull. Sarah Sewall’s introduction in the COIN manual calls host-nation government legitimacy a “north star.” The main text of the manual defines victory flatly as the moment when “the populace consents to the government’s legitimacy and stops actively and passively supporting the insurgency.” And Nagl’s backpedaling in the L.A. Times’ opinion section aside, it’s clear throughout the manual he helped write that he wasn’t talking about the local mayor: he was talking about the host-nation government. And there’s not a single possible outcome now for the ‘09 Afghan elections that leaves us with a credible, legitimate partner. What we’ll get is a regime staffed with former warlords, human rights abusers and drug lords, headed by Mr. 32.2 Percent, Mr. 12.8 Percent, or both. Take your pick.

I can’t prove it, but the willingness of the pro-COIN crowd to fudge their own doctrine’s prerequisites for success and definitions of victory makes me suspect the American people have been the victims of what’s essentially an intra-military turf battle, with the Petreauses and the Nagls and the McChrystals of the world (all Army men) fighting to return the infantry to primacy in a world of stealth bombers and killer drones. The Army’s doctrinal weapon in that fight, COIN, seems to have fit perfectly with the Bushies’ PNAC-sponsored imperial eschatology, paving the way for a civilian/military public relations campaign to make infantry-heavy pacification campaigns the new, sexy way of war. Congrats on the snow job, gentlemen.

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