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Archive for May, 2012

Posted by Peace Action West on May 11th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

Will our troops in Afghanistan see their children serve there 23 years after the war began?

Last week, President Obama announced an agreement with the Afghan government that could mean thousands of troops on the ground until 2024.

Congress must tell the president that twelve more years is twelve too many. Tell your representative to vote for a swift end to the war in Afghanistan.

The House will vote on amendments calling for a quicker end to the war in Afghanistan next week. This is Congress’s chance to send a message to NATO countries gathering this month in Chicago to talk about commitments to Afghanistan’s future.

The administration is already responding to the drumbeat of pressure from Congress and the public. Now let’s show him it’s not going away until we get a real plan to end the war.

In a tough election year, President Obama recognizes that it’s smart to sell this agreement as an end to the war. Democrats, Republicans and swing voters alike want our troops to come home.  Hawks who oppose even modest withdrawals won’t stop pushing, and we can’t either.

Thank you for taking action.

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Posted by Peace Action West on May 9th, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

Last week, President Obama tried to sell the new US-Afghan Strategic Partnership agreement as the beginning of the end of war in Afghanistan to a war-weary public. Contrary to the president’s rhetoric, the plan does not offer details on troop levels after the rest of the “surge” troops withdraw this summer, bringing troops on the ground to 68,000. (Read more in our op-ed outlining problems with the plan and alternative solutions).

One of the president’s justifications for maintaining a military presence is to preserve gains the US has made against the Taliban. However, a new report by the chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees contradicts this assessment, arguing that the Taliban has actually become stronger since 33,000 additional troops were sent to Afghanistan.

Despite the administration’s effort to sell this deal, it seems Americans aren’t buying it.

By a margin of 63 percent disapproval to 33 percent approval, respondents rejected a description of the deal that will include a US troop presence and billions of dollars in monetary support for Afghan forces in the decade after 2014, according to a Monitor/TIPP poll conducted April 27 to May 4.

Unusually for a key issue facing Americans in an election year, the lack of support was bipartisan, showing only small differences across the ideological spectrum.

The idea of war in Afghanistan for another twelve years does not sit well with the public. How will Congress respond?

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee seem poised to ignore both public opinion and clear evidence that the war isn’t working. In their markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), they give lip service to the idea that “combat operations” shouldn’t be indefinite, but push back against significant troop reductions and leave long-term troop numbers open-ended. The bill states that the president should “maintain a force of at least 68,000 troops through December 31, 2014,” contradicting the vague promise President Obama made of steady withdrawals after this summer. It also advises that a “credible force” should be kept beyond 2014, codifying the general commitment in the US-Afghan strategic partnership agreement.

Thankfully, there will surely be pushback from members of Congress who understand the need to change strategy. Next week, the NDAA will come to the House floor, and there are likely to be votes on amendments pushing for a speedier end to the war. Last year, 204 representatives voted in favor of requiring a plan for accelerated withdrawal. The war has only become more unpopular since then. Check back later this week for action alerts to make sure your representative sends a clear message to the president that the war must end sooner.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 8th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The new French President, Francois Hollande, intends to announce his nation’s accelerated departure from Afghanistan at the upcoming Chicago summit of NATO members on May 20 and 21, withdrawing all French forces by the end of this year. President Obama will meet with him beforehand, presumably to try to change his mind as Obama has said there would be no “rush to the exits” for NATO.

But Obama might instead consider a new poll by the CS Monitor that shows a majority of Americans – even Republicans – disagree with his policy of staying to pay and die for another decade in Afghanistan.

By a margin of 63 percent disapproval to 33 percent approval, respondents rejected a description of the deal that will include a US troop presence and billions of dollars in monetary support for Afghan forces in the decade after 2014, according to a Monitor/TIPP poll conducted April 27 to May 4.

…Respondents in the TIPP poll were asked: “The US plans to remove most American forces from Afghanistan by 2014. To help Afghanistan after 2014, the US will sign a 10-year deal that keeps some US troops there and the US will also spend several billion dollars a year on the Afghan military. Do you approve or disapprove of such US involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014?”

Among Democrats, 13 percent strongly approved, 17 percent somewhat approved, 19 percent somewhat disapproved, and 46 percent strongly disapproved. Among Republicans, the percentages skewed only slightly more positive, 15, 22, 20, and 38, respectively. For independents, the percentages were 12, 21, 15, and 49.

As America approaches it’s own presidential elections in November, neither Obama nor his opponent are listening to the will of the people. May 20th and 21st are likely to see large protests calling upon them to uphold democracy and change their staid course on Afghan withdrawal. This time, there’s unlikely to be a “freedom fry” anywhere in sight.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 8th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

New French President François Hollande is losing no time in keeping at least one of his campaign promises. He’ll announce France’s early exit from Afghanistan at the NATO summit in Chicago later this month.

Manuel Valls, Mr Hollande’s communications director, confirmed that France would use the summit to “announce the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan between now and the end of the year.”

Both NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen and President Obama are expected to try to talk Hollande out of his earlier withdrawal, I suspect not because it would really hurt the mission there but because the optics look bad for the stick-the-coursers.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee say they believe that the Taliban has grown stronger since President Obama sent 33,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2010. The Surge ™ was a failure and there’s absolutely no argument for staying a moment longer left. Dave Dayen has the details.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 7th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Kabul | May 7

Reuters – Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday that the strategic pact sealed by U.S. President Barack Obama last week was at risk of being “meaningless” if Afghans do not feel safe, according to a statement, which referred to recent civilian casualties by NATO.

Karzai called U.S. General John Allen, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, to the palace on Monday to discuss what he said were dozens of civilian casualties caused by NATO in four provinces since Sunday evening.

“Karzai signed the strategic pact with the United States to avoid such incidents (civilian casualties) and if Afghans do not feel safe, the strategic partnership loses its meaning,” a presidential palace statement said.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 6th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Natalie DiBlasio | May 6

USA TODAY – An Army wife who witnessed her husband’s death during a Skype video chat said she saw a bullet hole in a closet behind him after he collapsed, the (New York) Daily News reported.

Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark, stationed in Afghanistan, fell suddenly on Monday during a routine Skype conversation with his wife, Susan Orellana-Clark, the Daily News reported.

The family released a statement today describing what Orellana-Clark saw in the video feed.

“Clark was suddenly knocked forward,” the statement said. “The closet behind him had a bullet hole in it. The other individuals, including a member of the military, who rushed to the home of CPT Clark’s wife also saw the hole and agreed it was a bullet hole.”

The statement says the Skype link remained open for two hours on April 30 as family and friends in the U.S. and Afghanistan called for help.

“After two hours and many frantic phone calls by Mrs. Clark, two military personnel arrived in the room and appeared to check his pulse, but provided no details about his condition to his wife,” the statement said.

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Posted by The Agonist on May 6th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Jim Hruska is decidedly underwhelmed by the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America:

Without the advice and consent of the Senate, Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai’s partnership lacks even the heft of a Civil Union, and is therefore not worth the paper on which it is written. Where are the references to the imperative for a Senate vote? The lack of discussion suggests that the United States has something to gain from this “agreement”, which make Afghanistan into a major non-NATO ally.”

Which suggests the question: How can the 3rd poorest and most corrupt nation in the world, with a Gross National Product of $16 billion, morph into a major ally? Exactly what does “security and defense cooperation”actually translate into in definable parameters? How did the security and defense of Afghanistan become a strategic objective of U.S.policy? Why would we even care?

[Insert requisite noun, verb, & 9/11 here.]

Related: Ex-State Dept spokesperson PJ Crowley: “The strategic partnership agreement makes sense from a policy standpoint…but the odds of success are no better than 50-50.”

Update: JPD, in comments, outlines the 2nd rule of holes:

Ask yourself one simple question: When you’re going to wallpaper over the hole in the wall and leave, what’s more credible in helping deny the existence of the hole? Cheap wallpaper, or expensive wallpaper?

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Posted by The Agonist on May 3rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Steve LeVine at Foreign Policy mag:

“It is too late to try to build ‘Afghanistan right,’” Anthony Cordesman concludes in an exceptionally clear piece for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman ticks off the crippling weak spots that fatally undermine peace with honor in Afghanistan. Without saying so explicitly, he forecasts a best-case return to the pre-9/11 status quo — the Taliban in the center, vying for national power against canton-based local strongmen around the country, anchored by a refortified Northern Alliance.

Cordesman is right as far as he goes. Yet like numerous wise hands weighing in similarly in the wake of President Barack Obama’s weekend accord with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Cordesman is reluctant to draw a line under his stacked-up facts and provide the sum of the parts: There is no further constructive role for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. If American troops leave, Afghanistan is likely to devolve into civil war; if they stay, there will be the same outcome.

…Writing at the Financial Times, Ahmed Rashid laments a stubborn Vietnam-era mentality — “the hubris of the U.S. military, which at the back of its mind still believes there are battles, if not a war, to be won; Taliban to be killed; and at least some success to be gained. They are wrong.” Rashid says that the Taliban leadership must be negotiated with, that it fears civil war as much as its opponents.

Rashid is partly right, but veers off-track when he suggests that there is still something for the U.S. to do at the negotiating table. The Taliban may fear civil war, but only to the degree they are in charge in Kabul. If they are not, they will fight that civil war until they are.

It may be unpalatable to some, but this is exactly right and has been for several years.

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Posted by Just Foreign Policy on May 3rd, 2012

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

Below is the text of a sign-on letter being circulated by Reps. Barbara Lee and Walter Jones calling on President Obama to expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

***

Sign on to Letter to President Obama: Expedite Withdrawal from Afghanistan

From: The Honorable Barbara Lee
Date: 5/2/2012

Dear Colleague,

The American people have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that our brave men and women in uniform have accomplished all that we have asked of them and it is time to bring them home from Afghanistan.

Members of Congress need to stand with seven out of ten Americans (including 52% of GOP voters) who oppose the war in Afghanistan.

We invite you to sign on to the letter below which closes on May 10, 2012 (ahead of the NATO Summit in Chicago). The letter calls on the President to expedite our troops’ return and speed up the transition to having Afghans in charge of Afghanistan.

Sincerely,

Barbara Lee
Member of Congress

Walter Jones
Member of Congress

Current Co-Signers (49): Adam Smith, Baldwin, Bass, Capps, Chu, Yvette Clarke, Clay, Cohen, Conyers, Costello, John Duncan, Edwards, Ellison, Farr, Filner, Frank, Grijalva, Hahn, Alcee Hastings, Heinrich, Hinchey, Holt, Honda, Jackson Jr., Tim Johnson, Kucinich, Lewis, Lofgren, Maloney, McCollum, McGovern, Michaud, George Miller, Moore, Nadler, Olver, Pingree, Polis, Rangel, Richardson, Loretta Sanchez, Serrano, Slaughter, Stark, Mike Thompson, Tonko, Frederica Wilson, Woolsey, Yarmuth.

***

May 10, 2012

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

read more

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Posted by The Agonist on May 3rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Anna Mulrine | Washington | May 2

CSMThe presence of Al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan remains unresolved – and may be beyond the capacity of the US military to fix, a new report to Congress concludes.

Largely overshadowed by President Obama’s trip to Afghanistan, the Pentagon Tuesday released a congressionally mandated report on the progress of the war that acknowledged a “resilient” Taliban and pointed to “long-term and acute challenges” for a US military whose presence on the ground will decline considerably in many of the most violent areas of the country in the months to come.

** The Report:Report on Progress Towards Security and Strategy in Afghanistan/United States plan for Sustaining the Afghanistan national Security Forces(PDF) April 2012 ~ link fixed

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