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Archive for May, 2012

Posted by Peace Action West on May 3rd, 2012

From our partners at Peace Action West

What did you think about President Obama’s speech last night? Read my take, which appears here today in the San Francisco Chronicle, and share your thoughts in the comments below.

The White House has been telling Americans fed up with the war that the deal signed Tuesday with the Afghan government is the light at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is selling the same deal to NATO allies as a sign of the United States’ enduring commitment.

The reality is that the new strategic partnership agreement is not all things to all people. By the end of this summer, there still will be 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. The new agreement authorizes the U.S. military to “advise and assist” the Afghan military through at least 2024. That could translate to another 12 years of repeating our mistakes, with tens of thousands of soldiers still in harm’s way.

This means that a large majority of Americans have reason to be disappointed. According to a recent CNN poll, 77 percent of Americans want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, with 55 percent wanting them out sooner. Last month, a Pew poll found that 59 percent of swing voters want them home as soon as possible. Americans want out of a war that costs us $2 billion a week. The NATO summit coming up this month is a chance to take real steps toward that goal.

The U.S. occupation is the primary target for the Afghan insurgency, which makes an enormous military presence inherently destabilizing to the Afghan nation. Recent revelations have underscored this reality, such as the photos of soldiers posing with dead insurgents, and the accidental mass burning of Qurans. It is no surprise that Afghans are growing more resentful of the American military presence. The international community could play a constructive role in helping Afghans rebuild their country and strengthen their government. But the trust needed to build that kind of partnership between Afghans and Americans is sorely lacking. A clear and responsible plan to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible would be a first step in building that trust.

Withdrawing should not mean abandoning Afghanistan. The United States has a responsibility to keep its commitment to Afghans. We also have an interest. After more than 10 years of war, our futures are linked. Afghanistan’s many challenges – from the lack of public support for the Karzai government to widespread corruption – are rooted in politics. These problems require political solutions that can’t be delivered at gunpoint. Ending the occupation could provide an opening for a diplomatic and development mission that would be not only more effective, but much less deadly and costly.

At the May 20-21 summit in Chicago, NATO will address its role in Afghanistan, and could lay groundwork for making this crucial strategic shift. This week marks one year since Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. His death, along with a diminished al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan, removed the primary justification for this war. The next few weeks will be an opportunity to set forth a clear commitment and timeline to bring the troops home.

That means now is the time to act. If you want this war to end, call your congressional representative now. The House will be taking up a defense policy bill the week before the NATO summit. Tell your elected representative to use this debate to take a stand for a serious, detailed plan to end this war.

Rebecca Griffin leads Peace Action West’s campaigns for alternatives to war. www.peaceactionwest.org

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Posted by The Agonist on May 1st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Kabul | May 2

AFP – Afghanistan: At least two explosions were heard in the Afghan capital Kabul Wednesday shortly after US President Barack Obama paid a surprise brief visit to the country.

One of those explosions was a suicide car bomb that struck the Jalalabad road area, which is home to several foreign military bases, Kabul’s police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi told AFP.

There were no immediate details on casualties or the target, he said.

The US embassy, which neighbours the AFP bureau in Kabul, said its embassy was “under lockdown” and warned staff to “take cover, move away from the windows”.

check comments for updates

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Posted by The Agonist on May 1st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Sonia Verma offers a decent (if somewhat cursory) outline in today’s Globe and Mail of the actually-existing geopolitical landscape post-OBL (which stands in contrast to Peter Bergen’s recent proxy-Obama2012 victory lap breathlessly commemorating POTUS’ alpha-male action movie moment):

One year after Operation Neptune Spear, al-Qaeda still exists, though in a more fractured form. The group’s ability to carry out large-scale attacks has been compromised. Meanwhile, America’s counterterrorism campaign is gradually shifting from Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan to Yemen and the Horn of Africa. The shaky alliance between the West, led by the United States, and Pakistan, has been plunged into a crisis from which it has not yet recovered. Since Mr. bin Laden’s death, each side has viewed the other with simmering suspicion. But perhaps the most enduring legacy of Mr. bin Laden’s killing is that no one who helped him hide for so long, essentially in plain sight, has been held accountable – and that may have poisoned relations between Pakistan and its Western allies for the foreseeable future.

Standard read-the-whole-damn-thing rules apply.

Related: Navy SEALs for Truth? C’mon. You knew it was coming.

Update: CFR’s Linda Robinson further unpacks lingering OBL blowback, specifically re: US/Pakistan relations.

The most direct impact of bin Laden’s death on Afghanistan was actually the crisis the Abbottabad raid caused in the already troubled U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and the spillover effects from that. It threw the Pakistan military and the political system into crisis, causing Pakistan to react with more anti-Americanism and more hostility and suspicion along the border. Attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan quadrupled last year, though they are down again now. So the net effect was to make cross-border cooperation more difficult and increase Pakistan’s tendency to pursue its own agenda. That includes things like the Haqqani network’s attacks in September in Kabul on ISAF and the U.S. embassy, and the giant truck bomb in Wardak against the U.S. coalition base in Sayed Abad.

[...]

U.S. officials estimate that maybe 100 AQ fighters come and go from Afghanistan across the Pakistan border. Afghanistan is not much of a safe haven for al-Qaeda, though it still has some distance to go to become stable and capable of defending itself against attempts to reestablish an al-Qaeda safe haven. Most Taliban fighters on the ground are not directly connected to the al-Qaeda organization, and it is possible that at some point the Taliban senior leadership will find it in its interest to repudiate its formal ties to al-Qaeda. It is Pakistan that is the cause for greatest concern because al-Qaeda there is mixed up with a stew of various insurgent groups that do actively combine forces and cooperate on an operational level.

Nothing really all that new here. Still, the ugly (if familiar) truth certainly bears repeating, especially in light of the empty football spike sloganeering (“…and GM is alive!”) that dominates the campaign discourse.

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