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Archive for May, 2011

Posted by Newshoggers.com on May 14th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

The fallout from the US raid which killed Osama binLaden continues, with the head of Pakistan's I.S.I. intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, lashing out at the United States before his country's parliament. Following closely on a widespread new appreciation of Pakistan's double game and Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani's blaming the U.S. for a "trust deficit" between the two nations, relations between the two "allies" may be at an all-time low.

Now, there's a resolution in their parliament asking Pakistani leaders to consider ending a NATO transit route for forces in Afghanistan - a perennial lever, as it gets shut down every time there's the slightest dispute between the US and Pakistan. It's no longer as essential to NATO supply lines as it once was though, since the constant disruptions long ago led to development of routes through Russia and its former states. However, someone in the Pakistani defense establishment feels the need to up the ante even further, an anonymous "senior official" who is has now called the alliance between the US and Pakistan a "forced marriage" and said there should be a divorce.

As country’s top military commanders and intelligence heads briefed the joint-session of the parliament on Abbotabad debacle in a closed-door sitting on Friday, senior defense officials said Islamabad was most likely to “get divorce from his rude ally (US).”

A senior official familiar with the developments taking place in the backdrop of the killing of bin Laden said that trust is the key to successful relations. “When you lose trust, you may lose relationship. Respectable separation is far better than disregarded relations,” he insisted.

Referring to the US mindset depicted in a recent media report titled ‘Obama ordered troops to fight their way out of Pakistan’ he said: “It shows the level of brinkmanship adopted by President Obama.” This also shows how quickly the US can turn an ally into an enemy, he warned.

“For them, there is hardly any respect for the sovereignty of other countries. In this particular case if Pakistan would have shown any reaction, it might have resulted into a war between Pakistan and the US. We must revisit our policy,” the official reiterated.

Revisiting policy wouldn't be a bad idea for American policymakers either – even if it's made a less likely prospect by the entailing need for an embaraqssing about-face after their bi-partisan public support for Pakistan over the years. In a must-read piece for the New Yorker, Lawrence Wright lays out many of the reasons the US should look askance at its "ally" – including several like supporting terror groups and militants killing US troops or having a dangerously destabilizing nuclear weapons program that got Iran sanctions while pakistan got billions in military aid – and writes:

 If the measure of our aid is the gratitude of the Pakistani people and the loyalty of their government, then it has clearly been a failure. Last year, a Pew Research Center survey found that half of Pakistanis believe that the U.S. gives little or no assistance at all. Even the Finance Minister, Hafiz Shaikh, said last month that it was “largely a myth” that the U.S. had given tens of billions of dollars to Pakistan. And if the measure of our aid is Pakistan’s internal security, the program has fallen short in that respect as well. Pakistan is endangered not by India, as the government believes, but by the very radical movements that the military helped create to act as terrorist proxies.

Doing the same thing over and over when it is proven not to work is one definition of insanity, and by any measure sending ransom money to Pakistan is not serving the American national interest. If Pakistan wants a divorce, it should be granted.

Update: Ashley J. Tellis, currently of the Carnegie Endowment and formerly senior advisor to the US Ambassador to India, thinks that Pakistan's concern about its sovereignty being violated by the OBL raid is a smokescreen:

 “Even as you read this”, he says, “you can be certain that the ISI is reviewing its tradecraft, assessing its vulnerabilities, and moving and burying its assets more deeply than before. This is a cat and mouse game and the ISI is very good at playing it”.

As he says, "If some elements of the Pakistani state, in fact, sheltered Bin Laden, as is likely, then the issue is not sovereignty, but a violation of international responsibility."

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on May 13th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

For those of you who don't yet listen, I thought maybe I should summarize last night's Polizeros Radio. It was one of our widest ranging discussions yet, with a lot packed into 60 minutes. Our host Josh Mull dived straight in with the Scottish National Party's landmark win in the elections there and its possible impact. As my co-panellist Bob Morris puts it:

The SNP describes itself as center-left, which by US standards would be considered far left. They favor no fees at universities and have already instituted free prescriptions for drugs. Scotland has huge mostly untapped wind, wave, and tidal power and could easily support itself should it vote for independence, something the SNP plans on bringing to referendum within five years.

The SNP, who have been around for decades, won because they a) never gave up, b) clearly stand for something. This is how to win in America too.

The SNP's members, as lefties, could have decided to be a part of the larger UK Labour Party but didn't because they had that one agenda item – greater representation and eventual independence for Scotland – that Labour was never going to have. Over the years, and especially under Blair, the Labour Party moved towards the center and that left the SNP's members with a realization: they were now the only party advocating the rest of their democratic socialist agenda too. The lesson for American lefties should be obvious. Why vote for a party that will only ever enact a small portion of your agenda? You deserve to have a party to vote for that will represent you 100%. If that party doesn't exist, form it and build it, even if it takes decades.

From there, we moved the discussion to the first Republican debate. I didn't watch it but Josh was struck by both the amount of antiwar and anti-drug war views coming from the podium and the amount of cheering those views were getting. The Republican leadership are now more anti-war than Democratic leaders. The tea party seems to be waning in power and saner (paleocon) Republican views seem to be resurgent. That's a good thing in my opinion but there's also a certain amount of "lets do to them what they did to Bush" going on, I think. Neither party seems to be particularly anti-war when it's in office. Still, we're seeing a Republican race which isn't anywhere as crazilly wingnut (yet) as many expected. I repeated my prediction from a Polizeros Radio show weeks ago – we're going to see the Right elect a grey, uninspiring, compromise candidate this cycle, basically "doing a Kerry" as the Dems did in 2004.

All this talk of Republicans being anti-war led us to Pakistan. After all, the way in which Osama Bin Laden's death and hiding place have highlighted the fact that the Afghan war can never be won by the US. If Pakistan is aiding and directing militants and terror groups, offering them safe haven, then no amount of "clear, hold, build" will be effective. Maybe Republicans in opposition are just faster to get that than Democrats cheerleading their president for right or wrong – especially when it tallies nicely with the Right's "zomg the deficit!" schtick.

But Pakistan may have finally bitten off more than it can chew at a regional level. Two weeks ago, it was the consensus that the Afghan government had finally decided to offer Pakistan whatever it wanted just to get the violence to stop. But now we see a new Afghan intransigence, a sense of vindication that what they'd been saying about Pakistan's double-dealing has finally been brought out in the open by the OBL raid where US officials can't pretend any more. And India has been quick to step into the breach, with a strategic trade agreement and an increase of around 25% (some $500 million) in its aid to Afghanistan.

I'll go waaaay out on a limb and suggest that we may see the residual force in Afghanistan after 2014 now not be Americans or NATO but Indians in UN blue hats. For India, its a move in their cold war with China – one in which Pakistan is already firmly in the Chinese camp. So far, that cold war has been entirely waged by economic leveraging and a bit of proxy feuding but there's always a chance of it turning hot in future as both regional powers bid for economic superpowerdom the only way there is – maritime trade.

In fact, i wonder if analysts in the US are missing a key Chinese motivation when they look at the Chinese military/industrial complex through glasses that say it always has to be about the US. For instance, China's anti-carrier ballistic missile is supposedly incredibly innacurate and unlikely to break through a US carrier group's AEGIS defenses. But if it is aimed at India's future single carrier then it makes far more sense – because then a dozen missiles only have to score a hit once. It may be that the Chinese are as focussed on India as the Indians are on them. In which case the US is peculiarly irrelevant, if China has no intention of competing with American military might. It's not always about us.

Anyway, as I say it was one of our most wide-ranging shows. You can listen to the whole thing here and please, join us next week.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 13th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

David S. Cloud | May 13

LA Times – The decision is intended to help curb the cost of the Afghan war as training and salaries are paid by the U.S. But experts say it may necessitate a smaller initial reduction in U.S. troops set to begin in July.

What? You thought they would really bring a significant number of troops home? This is so incredibly stupid…

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Posted by alexthurston on May 12th, 2011

The Crash and Burn of Old Regimes
Washington Court Culture and Its Endless Wars
By William J. Astore

The killing of Osama bin Laden, “a testament to the greatness of our country” according to President Obama, should not be allowed to obscure a central reality of our post-9/11 world.  Our conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya remain instances of undeclared war, a fact that contributes to their remoteness from our American world.  They are remote geographically, but also remote from our day-to-day interests and, unless you are in the military or have a loved one who serves, remote from our collective consciousness (not to speak of our consciences).

And this remoteness is no accident.  Our wars and their impact are kept in remarkable isolation from what passes for public affairs in this country, leaving most Americans with little knowledge and even less say about whether they should be, and how they are, waged.

In this sense, our wars are eerily like those pursued by European monarchs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: conflicts carried out by professional militaries and bands of mercenaries, largely at the whim of what we might now call a unitary executive, funded by deficit spending, for the purposes of protecting or extending the interests of a ruling elite.

Cynics might say it has always been thus in the United States.  After all, the War of 1812 was known to critics as “Mr. Madison’s War” and the Mexican-American War of the 1840s was “Mr. Polk’s War.”  The Spanish-American War of 1898 was a naked war of expansion vigorously denounced by American anti-imperialists.  Yet in those conflicts there was at least genuine national debate, as well as formal declarations of war by Congress.

Today’s ruling class in Washington no longer bothers to make a pretense of following the letter of our Constitution — and they sidestep its spirit as well, invoking hollow claims of executive privilege or higher callings of humanitarian service (as in Libya) or of exporting democracy (as in Afghanistan).  But Libya is still torn by civil war, and Afghanistan has yet to morph into Oregon.

“Enlightened” War, Then and Now

History does not simply repeat itself, yet realities of power, privilege, and pride ensure certain continuities from the past.  Consider how today’s remote wars and the ways they reinforce existing power relations for a privileged and prideful elite echo a style of European warfare more than three centuries old.

Surveying the wreckage of the devastating Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), fought feverishly across Germanic territories by most of Europe, monarchs like Louis XIV of France began to seek to fight “limited” wars.  These they considered more consistent with the spirit of a rational and “enlightened” age.  In their hands, such wars became the sport of kings, the real-life equivalents of elaborate chess matches in which foot soldiers drawn from the lower orders served as expendable pawns, while the second or lesser sons of the nobility, fulfilling their duty as officers, proved hardly less expendable knights, bishops, and rooks.

As much as possible, the monarch and his retinue tried to keep war-making and its disruptions at a distance from thriving economic and manufacturing concerns.  In many cases, in the centuries to follow, this would essentially mean exporting war to faraway, “barbaric” realms or colonies.  In the process, death and destruction were outsourced to places and peoples remote from European metropoles.

In fact, this was precisely what enraged our founders: that the colonies in America had become a never-ending battleground for French and British imperial ambitions from which the colonists themselves reaped the whirlwind of war while gaining few of its benefits.  A close reading of the Declaration of Independence, for instance, reveals a proto-republic’s contempt for wars fought at a king’s whim and guaranteed to reduce the colonists to so much cannon fodder.

Refusing to surrender the hard-fought right as British men to have a say in how they were taxed, how their families and lands were defended, and especially for what purposes they themselves fought and died, the founders forged a new nation.  Given this history, it’s not surprising that they granted to Congress, and not to the President, the power to declare and fund war.

In this way, a noble experiment was born, and it worked, however imperfectly, until the devastation of a new thirty years’ war in Europe (better known as World Wars I and II) propelled the United States to superpower status with all its accompanying ambitions stoked by existential fears, whether of yesterday’s godless communists or today’s god-crazed terrorists.

Inside the Washington Beltway: The New Court of Versailles

In the eighteenth century, France was the superpower of Europe with a military that dwarfed those of its neighbors.  And who dictated France’s decisions to go to war?  The answer: the king, his generals, and his courtiers at the Court of Versailles.  In the twenty-first-century, the U.S. celebrates its status as the world’s “sole superpower” with a military second to none.  And who dictates its decisions to go to war?  Considering the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, the answer is no less obvious: the president, his generals, and his courtiers within the vast edifice of Washington’s national security state.

France’s “enlightened” wars were fought by professional armies and mercenaries, directed by a unitary executive who did as he pleased, and endured by the lower orders who had no say (even though they provided the brawn and blood).  Similarly, our twenty-first century masters plunge us into their version of enlightened wars and play their version of global chess matches.

The analogy can be pushed further.  In pre-revolutionary France, the First and Second Estates (the clergy and the nobility) constituted less than 2% of the population but controlled nearly all of France’s wealth and power.  Their unholy alliance kept the Third Estate (everyone who wasn’t a churchman or a noble) under their collective thumb.

Now, consider the United States today.  Our equivalent to the First Estate would be the clergy of finance and banking (the religion of the almighty dollar).  Look for them in their houses of worship on Wall Street.  Our Second Estate equivalent would be the movers and shakers inside Washington’s Beltway.  Look for them in the White House, the Pentagon, Congress, and on K Street where the lobbyists for the First Estate tend to congregate.  The unholy alliance of these two estates leaves the American Third Estate — you and me — with the deck stacked against us.

When it comes to war, the American ruling class has relegated the members of its Third Estate alternately to the role of “foreign legionnaires” in overseas service, or silent spectators passively watching moves on the big board.  These, in turn, are continually interpreted for us by retired members of the Second Estate: generals and admirals in mufti, hired by the corporate media to provide color commentary on Washington’s wars.

Small wonder that today’s Beltway elite is as imperious and detached as yesterday’s Court of Louis XIV.  A colleague of mine recently endured a short audience with some members of our Second Estate near Dupont Circle in Washington.  In his words: “They were at once condescending and puzzled by ‘tea party types,’ as they referred to them, which was to say that they inadvertently admitted to being out of touch and were pretty okay with that.  ‘Look,’ I finally said, ‘you cannot continue to pick someone’s pocket while hectoring him about how stupid and uninformed he is and then be surprised that he gets angry.’”

Whether it be unwashed “tea party types,” “retarded” (according to ex-courtier Rahm Emanuel) progressives, or other members of a disgruntled American Third Estate, the Washington elites who wage war in our name simply couldn’t care less what we think, just as Louis XIV and his court couldn’t have cared less about their subjects’ desires.

Endless “limited” wars fought for the interests of the ruling class, massive deficit spending on those wars, a refusal to recognize (or even understand) the people’s growing disgruntlement, a “let them eat cake” mentality: all of this is familiar to a historian.  And like those old French masters of limited war, our new masters of war are hemorrhaging legitimacy.

The Crash and Burn of Old Regimes

In isolating the American Third Estate from war — indeed, in disengaging it from any meaningful public debate about this nation’s perpetual war-making — our rulers have conspired to advance their own interests.  Yet in deciding everything of importance out of view, they have unwisely eliminated any check on their folly.

Consider again the example of pre-revolutionary Versailles.  A top-heavy, remarkably dissolute, and openly parasitic bureaucracy plundered the commonweal of France in its pursuit of power and privilege.  Can we not say the same of Washington today?  In its kleptocratic tendency to enrich itself and its accountability-free deployment of military power globally, the American ruling class bears a certain resemblance to French kings and their courts which, in the end, drove their country to economic ruin and violent revolution.

Fed up with its prodigal and prideful rulers, France saw the tumbrels roll and the guillotine blades drop.  How many more undeclared “enlightened” wars, how many more trillions of dollars in war-driven debt, how many more dead and wounded will it take for the American people to reclaim their power over war?  Or are we content to remain deferential to our ruling class and court — and to their less-than-liberty-loving overseas creditors — until such a time as their prideful wars and prodigal trillion-dollar-plus “defense” budgets bring our great democratic experiment crashing down?

William J. Astore is a TomDispatch regular, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), and a professor of history.  He welcomes reader comments at wjastore@gmail.com.

Copyright 2011 William J. Astore

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on May 11th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

The Pentagon is working the press again, this time in support of a so-called withdrawal plan that would break a promise made to the American people by their president. According to The Wall Street Journal:

"U.S. military officers in Afghanistan have drawn up preliminary proposals to withdraw as many as 5,000 troops from the country in July and as many as 5,000 more by the year's end…"

This joke of a "withdrawal" plan isn't anything remotely approaching a real drawdown. It's less than a 10 percent reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan over 6 months. It puts the Pentagon squarely at odds both with the stated desires of the White House and the very clearly articulated will of the American people. If you agree, sign Rethink Afghanistan's petition to get the troops out of Afghanistan.

First, let's remember what the White House said on this:

"After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home….[O]ur troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own."–President Barack Obama, Dec. 1, 2009.

"I'm confident that the withdrawal will be significant. People will say this is a real process of transition; this is not just a token gesture."–President Barack Obama, April 15, 2011.

"In July of 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it."–Vice President Joe Biden, qtd. in Jonathan Alter's The Promise.

The American people are and have been crystal-clear about their expectations for a drawdown for months now.

  • Rasmussen Reports' latest polling (published on May 9, 2011) shows that 56 percent of likely voters want troops brought home within a year, and more than half of those want all troops withdrawn immediately. The number of likely voters who want troops home within a year has increased by four percentage points since the beginning of March.
  • A Pew Research poll taken May 5-8 shows that 49 percent of Americans want troops removed from Afghanistan "ASAP."
  • An NBC News poll taken May 5-7 shows that 56 percent of Americans disapprove of leaving some troops in Afghanistan until 2014.

These are not ambiguous numbers. Heading into a presidential election season, likely voters and Americans in general are telling pollsters and their elected representatives that they expect a real troop withdrawal, with most of them wanting troops out within a year. The Pentagon's draft plan isn't remotely in the ballpark of what the American people want.

Bringing home 5,000 people in July and maybe another 5,000 people by the end of the year is an insignificant, token withdrawal from a force of well over 100,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It's less than a 10 percent adjustment of the American personnel on the ground. The Pentagon is telling the White House and the American people to take a hike.

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda has been driven from Afghanistan. The last plausible excuse for keeping troops in Afghanistan is gone. Yet, the military continues to fight a counterinsurgency campaign with tens of thousands of U.S. troops, a campaign that's failed to blunt the ever-growing level of insurgent attacks across Afghanistan. Civilian casualties are at an all-time high. Troop injuries and acute stress are at an all-time high in the war. Costs are at an all-time high. There's no rational reason left to continue this farce.

The Pentagon's token troop adjustment would break a promise made to the American people by their president, and it would blatantly flout the will of the voters. The "plan" is laughable and should be rejected by the White House. President Obama and Congress must demand a real plan to get the troops home as swiftly and safely as possible.

If you're fed up with this war that's not making us safer and that's not worth the costs, sign our petition to get troops home.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 10th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

I know it was you, Fredo.

That Osama bin Laden has been living comfortably in Abbottabad and evidently directing al Qaeda from there – all within earshot of a Pakistani military facility – has been a tremendous embarrassment to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but it comes as no surprise to Indian or many other intelligence services, though realization in Washington has been too long in coming. Paradoxically, US intelligence’s recent success in Abbottabad has underscored a long-running failure.

ISI has long been complicit in aiding al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-i-Taiba, Jaish-i-Mohammed, and a slew of other militant groups operating along the Af-Pak line and in Kashmir. ISI organized Sipah-i-Sahaba to intimidate and kill Shia and Christians inside its country.

In the US, key members of congress are questioning the large subsidies given to Pakistan, including its military and intelligence services. Hostility toward Pakistan is building in the public. Congress is looking for further evidence of ISI links to al Qaeda; the public has seen enough.

Pakistani intelligence has had discernible ties with Osama bin Laden from his days with the mujahadin to his death last week. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979) led to international support for the resistance. Inserting itself between donors and fighters, ISI controlled funds to various mujahadin groups, including the band of Arab volunteers which bin Laden led. ISI grew tremendously in size and power, becoming an army within the army and a benefactor to numerous militant groups.

After the war’s successful conclusion, ISI remained a hub connecting various militant groups, transnational brotherhoods, and generous donors. Soon enough, bin Laden founded a veteran network in Pakistan – al Qaeda. It maintained ties among the former mujahadin and sought new campaigns around the world. Events did not refuse them.

Al Qaeda was part of an array of ISI-supported militant groups that trained in Taliban-dominated Afghanistan for various theaters. The groups shared their deadly expertise and put it into practice in India-controlled Kashmir and alongside the Taliban as they battled the Northern Alliance for several years. The Pakistani army even sent troops to aid the latter effort.

As the Northern Alliance and the US drove the Taliban and their allies out of the country, the Pakistani army arranged to airlift its own and al Qaeda fighters out of harm’s way in Kunduz province to the north. To the south, US intelligence could only listen to radio intercepts as Pakistani officers directed al Qaeda and Taliban fighters to havens inside Pakistan. Leaders were brought to safe houses in Karachi, far away from the frontier and the US’s reach.

ISI, it is well known now, has only intermittently and selectively aided the US against the Taliban and al Qaeda. It has helped to capture only one high-ranking al Qaeda figure (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), but few if any of the Taliban leaders known to be in Quetta, Peshawar, and Karachi.

US intelligence became increasingly loth to share intelligence with ISI as suspicion of its loyalties grew. The US built its own spy network inside Pakistan, which in the last few months led to deep strains with ISI, and in the last week to the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad.

Irrefutable evidence in the world of intelligence organizations and covert ops and militant groups is rare, even many years after events take place. India has been apprising intelligence services for years of the array of militant groups ISI has been nurturing along Af-Pak. The US is poring over the storage drives taken from bin Laden’s Abbottabad estate for still more evidence, and ISI is bracing itself. As well it should.

Meanwhile, serious and protracted intelligence failure has contributed to our being tied to a duplicitous and failing partner in the war in Afghanistan.

©2011 Brian M Downing

Brian M Downing is a political/military analyst and the author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. He can be reached at brianmdowning@gmail.com.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on May 10th, 2011

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

The Pentagon is working the press again, this time in support of a so-called withdrawal plan that would break a promise made to the American people by their president. According to The Wall Street Journal:

“U.S. military officers in Afghanistan have drawn up preliminary proposals to withdraw as many as 5,000 troops from the country in July and as many as 5,000 more by the year’s end…”

This joke of a “withdrawal” plan isn’t anything remotely approaching a real drawdown. It’s less than a 10 percent reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan over 6 months. It puts the Pentagon squarely at odds both with the stated desires of the White House and the very clearly articulated will of the American people. If you agree, sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition to get the troops out of Afghanistan.

First, let’s remember what the White House said on this:

“After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home….[O]ur troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”–President Barack Obama, Dec. 1, 2009.

“I’m confident that the withdrawal will be significant. People will say this is a real process of transition; this is not just a token gesture.”–President Barack Obama, April 15, 2011.

“In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out, bet on it.”–Vice President Joe Biden, qtd. in Jonathan Alter’s The Promise.

The American people are and have been crystal-clear about their expectations for a drawdown for months now.

  • Rasmussen Reports’ latest polling (published on May 9, 2011) shows that 56 percent of likely voters want troops brought home within a year, and more than half of those want all troops withdrawn immediately. The number of likely voters who want troops home within a year has increased by four percentage points since the beginning of March.
  • A Pew Research poll taken May 5-8 shows that 49 percent of Americans want troops removed from Afghanistan “ASAP.”
  • An NBC News poll taken May 5-7 shows that 56 percent of Americans disapprove of leaving some troops in Afghanistan until 2014.

These are not ambiguous numbers. Heading into a presidential election season, likely voters and Americans in general are telling pollsters and their elected representatives that they expect a real troop withdrawal, with most of them wanting troops out within a year. The Pentagon’s draft plan isn’t remotely in the ballpark of what the American people want.

Bringing home 5,000 people in July and maybe another 5,000 people by the end of the year is an insignificant, token withdrawal from a force of well over 100,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It’s less than a 10 percent adjustment of the American personnel on the ground. The Pentagon is telling the White House and the American people to take a hike.

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda has been driven from Afghanistan. The last plausible excuse for keeping troops in Afghanistan is gone. Yet, the military continues to fight a counterinsurgency campaign with tens of thousands of U.S. troops, a campaign that’s failed to blunt the ever-growing level of insurgent attacks across Afghanistan. Civilian casualties are at an all-time high. Troop injuries and acute stress are at an all-time high in the war. Costs are at an all-time high. There’s no rational reason left to continue this farce.

The Pentagon’s token troop adjustment would break a promise made to the American people by their president, and it would blatantly flout the will of the voters. The “plan” is laughable and should be rejected by the White House. President Obama and Congress must demand a real plan to get the troops home as swiftly and safely as possible.

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the costs, sign our petition to get troops home.

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Posted by Peace Action West on May 10th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

It’s been clear for some time that the Pentagon would push for a small withdrawal starting in July, despite President Obama’s pledge that the withdrawal will be significant. The Wall Street Journal confirms today that the Pentagon is planning to advocate for withdrawing a laughably small number of troops:

U.S. military officers in Afghanistan have drawn up preliminary proposals to withdraw as many as 5,000 troops from the country in July and as many as 5,000 more by the year’s end, the first phase of a U.S. pullout promised by President Obama, officials say.

The proposals, prepared by staff officers in Kabul, are likely to be the subject of fierce internal debate in the White House, State Department and Pentagon-a discussion influenced by calculations about how Usama bin Laden’s death will affect the Afghan battlefield.

The plans were drafted before the U.S. killed the Al Qaeda leader, and could be revised. They have yet to be formally presented to Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who must then seek White House approval for a withdrawal.

The article also notes that the Pentagon wants to fudge the withdrawal by withdrawing support staff, “thin[ning] out headquarters’ staff and maintenance personnel,” rather than removing people who are actually out there with weapons contributing to the continuing instability.

Does the Pentagon actually expect the American people to be appeased by a 10% reduction of troops (only a third of the troops in the most recent “surge”) after nearly ten years of war? If this is the Pentagon’s opening bid, the Obama administration had better be ready to push back and come out with something that will not be a “token gesture,” as the president has promised.

The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of the political landscape on this issue post-bin Laden doesn’t remotely resemble the reaction I’ve seen in the last week:

Mr. Obama, bolstered by the bin Laden raid, may have won political latitude to keep more forces on the ground. Likewise, they said, lawmakers who favor sweeping troop reductions may be less likely to challenge the president.

In fact, the calls for a swift withdrawal have gotten even louder, including from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Finding bin Laden in Pakistan through a special forces raid removes the thin veneer of justification for having 100,000 troops in the ground in Afghanistan, at least 1,000 for each Al Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan according to administration estimates. It also further undermines the “safe haven” myth that the Pentagon will use to justify keeping the status quo in Afghanistan (a myth that was already debunked prior to the death of Osama bin Laden).

What’s clear is that the Pentagon does not see any reason to adjust its policy. Hopefully the political victory of eliminating bin Laden will give the administration the fortitude to stand up for a serious withdrawal that puts us on the path toward ending the war. We must make our voices as loud as possible in the coming weeks to give him even more political space to do that.

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Posted by Peace Action West on May 9th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

If the death of Osama Bin Laden doesn’t end the war in Afghanistan, what will? The United States’ declared enemy number one was killed in Pakistan last week. It’s definitely time to bring our troops home. We need you to add your voice to that call.

With bin Laden’s death, there is renewed momentum behind the call to end a war that is costing us $8 billion per month. Please ask your representative to cosponsor a new bipartisan bill to set an end date for the war in Afghanistan. Click here to take action.

The operation that targeted bin Laden proves the point we have been making for years—the way to protect Americans from terrorism is through smart intelligence work, not hundreds of thousands of troops occupying a country.

In 2009, President Obama pledged to begin a withdrawal from Afghanistan in July. Now, after months of reports that the Pentagon has been planning a withdrawal-in-name-only, are signs of a renewed debate in the White House about the size of the withdrawal.  That is why there is no better time than now to make your voice count. Click here to tell your representative to cosponsor Rep. McGovern’s Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act.

The Taliban just announced a spring offensive against US troops. The violence against Americans and Afghans is only going to get worse. It’s time to pull the plug on this disastrous, costly war. Take action today.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 7th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

May 7

Al Jazeera – Taliban gunmen unleashed a major assault on government buildings throughout Kandahar, Afghanistan’s largest southern city – a former Taliban stronghold where US-led coalition and Afghan forces are trying to establish security and a functioning government.

Saturday’s attacks were the latest in a series of strikes by the Taliban insurgency at high-profile government installations.

Government and hospital officials confirmed that the compound of Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar Province, the mayor’s office and the intelligence agency offices had all been attacked, along with a number of police stations.

Speaking on Saturday afternoon, Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesperson for the Afghan Intelligence Service, confirmed the attacks on the governor’s house and other government buildings by “unknown gunmen”.

“We have no information about the causalities or other information about the attackers,” Mashal said.

He added that the police had control of the city, but the fighting was continuing hours after it began around middady.

James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the capital, Kabul, reported that the RPGs landed 300m from the governor’s compound. It was not immediately clear whether Wesa was in the compound.

Local authorities have blocked journalists from accessing the site, as fighting is continuing.

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