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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Why the CIA Director is Wrong: Islamism Scarier than Al Qaeda

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

It’s time, a dozen years after September 11 and following Islamist coups in the Gaza Strip; Islamist electoral revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Turkey; and a probable Islamist victory during the next year in Syria–to rethink completely our view of Al Qaeda.

First, Al Qaeda wasn’t involved in any of these events or in several more big developments we could list. Second, Al Qaeda hasn’t disappeared, contrary to the Obama Administration’s claims. And third, the American homeland is now demonstrably well-protected from terrorist attacks so consequently while success on this front remains important it need not be the top U.S. strategic priority.

So let me propose a new way of looking at things:

Aside from being a problem of counter-terrorism—that is, of law enforcement—Al Qaeda is no longer important. It certainly isn’t strategically important nor is it important for the biggest and most essential U.S. national interests. That doesn’t mean Al Qaeda should be ignored. Yet combating it is relatively manageable.

This alternative view is especially significant at a moment when the new CIA director is the father—and the president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense the avid fans—of a theory that places Al Qaeda at the center of the world stage. Basically their theory goes like this:

Al Qaeda is terribly evil and a threat to America. It must be fought. But all Islamism—except for Al Qaeda—can be moderated and won over by a sympathetic U.S. policy. The Islamists are the best people to handle and defeat Al Qaeda and by giving the people what they want–Islam running the society–their desire to commit terrorism or attack America will subside. After all, if the United States shows itself to be Islamism’s best friend, why should Islamists be angry at it? This strategy began with Obama’s Cairo speech which was a profoundly pro-Islamist statement, and that’s why he invited Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders to sit in the front row.

In other words, put your enemies in power and they are no longer your enemies. Moreover, once Islamists get into power they will get entangled in party politics, paving roads, running schools, and doing all the other things that governments do. They will lose their radicalism and certainly stop using violence.

Now there’s a lot to say against this theory. It either hasn’t worked historically on other radical ideologies—Nazism, fascism, Communism—or at least only after a very long time in power (including millions of victims) often mixed in with military debacles. It can be said to have worked with radical Arab nationalism but only after 50 years and multiple military defeats. This was also the precise theory that underpinned the 1990s’ Oslo peace process and assumptions about Yasir Arafat settling down to become a great and practical statesman. And that didn’t work either.

Moreover, it ignores the fundamental extremism, anti-Americanism, antisemitism, anti-Christian, and anti-women tenets of Islamist philosophy, which are rooted in reasonable (but not the only possible) interpretations of Islam. And it also leaves out the power gained once radicals take over institutions. Sure they’ll be running the schools but that doesn’t mean they will become entangled in planning curricula so much as to persuade people they should grow up to be radical Islamists and jihad warriors.

Finally, all Islamists want Islamist rule and the application of Sharia as the law. Some will talk and do nothing; others will talk and organize; others will use violence, and among those who organize there are those who can seize state power—in Muslim majority countries—and those that will fail. The Muslim Brotherhood is brilliant tactically; Al Qaeda has only one note in its orchestra, endless struggle and terrorism rather than political maneuvering and building a mass base.

Usually, as you can see, when I talk about this issue I stress the non-Al Qaeda side of the equation. But it’s time to reanalyze Al Qaeda also.

The importance of Al Qaeda in the history of Islamism is actually more marginal than it might seem from the massive study and headlines it generated. Al Qaeda had three innovations of importance:

First, that the movement be international, fighting simultaneously on all fronts. While the Muslim Brotherhood had been an international group it had a limited number of branches, only four of real significance. However, this only succeeded because Al Qaeda’s organization—especially after the U.S. destruction of the center in Afghanistan and long before Osama bin Ladin’s assassination—was so loose. Basically, local groups could simply affiliate with Al Qaeda without being its actual creation. Being active everywhere and not concentrating one’s forces is a formula for survival but also a recipe for ultimate defeat.

America Leaves Afghanistan to the Mercy of the Taliban and Iran

Monday, February 18th, 2013

In his State of the Union address, the president of the United States announced that the American army will begin to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan  before the end of the year, so that by the end of the year, 34,000 soldiers, approximately half of the total force,  will have left, and the other half by the end of 2014.

The American media – the Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition for the 9th and 10th of February, for example, paid close attention to the fact that the United States military is withdrawing without regard for the situation that these forces leave behind. The thrust of the coverage is that what is important for the United States today is how and when to get out of Afghanistan, without addressing the simple question: “What did we want to achieve and what have we actually achieved in the eleven years of the Sisyphean war in this country?”

The West’s invasion of Afghanistan began in late 2001, after the September 11 attacks revealed Afghanistan to be an al-Qaeda state and Osama bin Laden had formed a pact with Mula Umar, the Taliban leader, the main point of which was that the billionaire bin Laden would fund Afghanistan, and would be allowed to do whatever he wished with it. Bin Laden kept his word and Mula Umar kept his part as well. Within a few years – from the mid-nineties – the state of the Taliban became a terror state and hundreds of facilities such as training bases, enlistment centers and schools that taught the doctrine of terrorism were established on its soil.

Many Ethnicities, but No “Afghans”

This process was made possible because the Taliban, an organization based on the Pashtun people, gained dominance over the other ethnic groups in the country. Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country that comprises more than eleven (!) ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimaqs, Balochs, Kyrgys, Turkmen, Nuristans, Pamirs and more. It is interesting to note that none of these groups are called “Afghan.” The country was named Afghanistan by the British and Russians who delineated the borders in the mid-nineteenth century because “Afghan” is a variation of the name historically attributed to the main ethnic group in that area, known today as Pashtuns.

Contrary to India, where English is the common language for all of the groups, in Afghanistan, the various ethnic groups have no common language. The weakness of the civil system stems from the fact that these ethnic groups differ from each other in every way: language, culture, leaders, dress, leadership and world view.

The fact that these groups are forced to live with each other creates friction and continual conflict, which has turned the country into a hell where armed militias fight each other fiercely and continually, despite the fact that everyone is Muslim.The Hazaras, for instance, are Shi’ites and are seen as unclean. It is important to note that each one of these ethnic groups is further broken down into tribes, which don’t always coexist peacefully with each other, and many of them tend to resort to violence immediately.

A Litany of Failures in Afghanistan

Since the creation of the state of Afghanistan, there have been several attempts to stabilize it. The British tried, failed and left it to its misery. The Soviets tried to stabilize its political system during the eighties and failed miserably, which accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States invaded – along with its partners – toward the end of 2001, and it seems that it also is about to fail in its efforts to stabilize the state and governmental system.

The question that naturally arises is why all of the attempts to stabilize this miserable state have failed. The only possible answer is that it is simply not achievable, because the many ethnic and tribal units will never become one cohesive unit with a shared national consciousness, with loyalty to a common framework and common leadership. When a state tries to unify rival groups that have nothing in common, the task of leading all of them under one national framework is not possible. The Impact of Ethnic Diversity in European Cases

This need not surprise us: we need only glance for a moment at Europe to see what happened to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, who also – despite their having been functional states for more than seventy years – disintegrated into entities based on ethnicity. And what is happening in Belgium between the Flemish and the Walloons? And in Spain with the Catalonians who seek to secede from Spain? And in Britain with the Scots who, in another two years will vote in a referendum on whether to remain as part of the “United” Kingdom or not? And Cyprus, which is also divided on an ethnic basis? So what do the Aimaq and Hazara citizens of Afghanistan expect? That they will get along with each other better than the Czechs and the Slovaks?

Obama’s Careful Phrasing Conceals Disasters

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

While President Obama’s State of the Union message was overwhelmingly domestically oriented, the foreign policy sections were most interesting.

The president began in the same neo-patriotic mode used in the second inaugural address, with a special emphasis on thanking U.S. troops. He used the imagery of the end of World War II paralleling the return of troops from Iraq to promote his idea that the American economy must be totally restructured.

Obama defined his main successes—careful to credit the military (whose budget he seeks to cut deeply and whose health benefits he’s already reduced) rather than his usual emphasis on taking the credit for himself—were the following points:

For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.
For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.
Most of Al Qaida’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken. And some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.Now there certainly have been accomplishments on these three fronts but these claims are also profoundly misleading and very carefully worded. Let’s take them one at a time.

Iraq Withdrawal. It is true that U.S. forces are largely out of Iraq yet this was inevitable, with one key reservation. There was no likelihood they would be there in a large combat role forever. Whatever one thinks of the invasion of Iraq, the American forces were staying for an interim period until the Iraqi army was ready. Any successor to George W. Bush would have pulled out the combat forces.

The reservation, of course, is that it was the success of the surge—which Obama and his new secretary of defense (yes, he will be confirmed) Chuck Hagel opposed. So he is taking credit for a policy that was inevitable and that was made possible by a success that he was against.

Lest you think that assessment is unfair to Obama consider this: he did absolutely nothing to make this outcome happen. No policy or strategy of his administration made the withdrawal faster or more certain.

Osama Bin Laden. This is a strange phrase: “For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.” It is a new way of putting the “Obama killed Osama” meme while hinting that al-Qaida is not a threat to the United States. Well, as Benghazi shows, al-Qaida is still a threat but wording the sentence the way Obama did implies otherwise without saying so and looking foolish at making an obviously false claim.

Al Qaeda. Notice a very strange and ungrammatical formulation: “Most of Al Qaida’s top lieutenants have been defeated.” I think this can only be understood as an incomplete change in the traditional slogan that al-Qaida has been defeated. The administration can no longer make this argument so it is looking for something that gets in bin Ladin’s assassination and that of other al-Qaida leaders (al-Qaida has been decapitated) with hinting that al-Qaida has been defeated.

In other words, someone did a bad job of proofreading the speech. Of course, all of this glosses over the fact that al-Qaida hasn’t been defeated. It is on the march in Mali, the Gaza Strip, Somalia, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Yemen, and other places.

Incidentally, al-Qaida will always be defeated politically because it has no strong political program or structure. That’s why al-Qaida kills but the Muslim Brotherhood wins. And Obama is helping the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Taliban. As for the Taliban, again there is a cute formulation: its “momentum has been broken.” In other words, the Taliban has survived, it is still launching attacks, and it might even take over large parts of Afghanistan after American troops leave. Momentum has been broken is just a fancy way of saying that its gaining power has been slowed down. Of course, after American troops leave, that momentum will probably speed up again.

In his second mention of foreign affairs, Obama spoke of economic issues, he says:

My message is simple. It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I will sign them right away.In fact, though, businesses are not fleeing the United States because the wages are lower there while the Obama Administration puts into effect increasingly tight and costly regulations and imposes higher costs (including the impact of Obamacare). Moreover, wages are lower overseas.

Innocents Abroad Build Foreign Armies

Monday, February 11th, 2013

In the near-century that the United States has been a great power, it has developed some original and sophisticated foreign policy tools. Examples include the Marshall Plan, special forces, and satellite imaging. At the same time, the country’s naiveté remains firmly in place. For example, the notion persists that government staff are “particularly qualified to [handle a problem] because they knew nothing about it.” (For details, see my analysis at “American Know-Nothing Diplomacy.”)

The persistent belief that training and equipping foreign troops imbues them with American political and ethical values, making them allies of the United States, offers another sign of innocence. Some examples of this delusional policy in recent decades:

Lebanon: On landing U.S. troops in 1982, the priority was to train a national army. Of course, this failed, with most members returning to their communal militias with new arms and training to use against rivals. Despite this failure, the effort was renewed just two weeks ago.

Afghanistan: Training a national army was an action following the 2001 invasion; but the Afghan Local Police, a militia backed by the government, turned their guns against their international colleagues so often – 34 times in the first eight months of 2012, killing 45 persons – that the training was stopped.

Mali: The latest disaster, where U.S. efforts to train the woebegone Malian national army to take on Al-Qaeda did not exactly work out. In the words of Der Spiegel, “American specialists did train four crack units, totaling 600 men, to fight the terrorists. But it backfired: Three of the elite units have defected en masse to the rebel Tuareg. Most of the commanders, after all, are Tuaregs. Captain Amadou Sanogo, trained in the United States, was one of the soldiers who didn’t defect. Instead, he inflicted even more damage when, last March, he and a few close supporters overthrew the government in Bamako and ousted the elected president.”

Palestinian Authority: A disaster still in the making. The Dayton Mission has trained over 6,000 Palestinian Authority security personnel in the hope that they will become Israel’s partners for peace. To the contrary, I have predicted in writing that “these militiamen will eventually turn their guns against Israel.” When will American politicians and military leaders eventually realize that training foreign soldiers does not allies make them?

Originally published at Daniel Pipes.org on February 10, 2013.

No More Hot Breakfasts for U.S. Troops Serving in Afghanistan

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

As originally reported on the congressional website of Republican Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa (IA-01), the U.S. Army has stopped serving breakfast to American troops serving on 17 bases in Afghanistan.  The measure, which will be extended further beginning this weekend, is one of the earliest stages in the U.S. military pull-out from Afghanistan.

On his website, Braley explained he learned about the military’s cutbacks from Iowa constituents whose family members are serving in Afghanistan.

The congressman sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, in which he said,

“I am troubled that the Army would deny any deployed troops three meals per day, regardless of force size,” Braley wrote.  “These men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect the very freedoms we cherish. The exhaustive mental and physical labor that is required by soldiers to fight in harsh and unforgiving conditions is tremendous. We shouldn’t deny our troops something as fundamental as a proper meal.

“I am positive that with the logistical mastery the Army has exhibited in combat operations around the world, you can logistically administer the procedure of serving breakfast every day.”

According to a report in the Washington Times, troops have been writing home asking families and friends to send them care packages of cereals and other breakfast foods.

The U.S. military apparently decided it is sufficient to supply the troops with pre-packaged breakfast “Meals Ready to Eat,” known as MREs.  They are also referred to as “Meals Rejected by Everyone,” and are considered by health experts to be “restricted rations” which should not be served for more than 21 days.  MREs are supposed to be used for troops who are out in the field without access to cooking facilities.

Col. Joe Wawro, an infantry commander for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat team said that in anticipation of the “draw down of  operational forces serving in Afghanistan, my staff examined ways to reduce our footprint and se the conditions for the reduction of forces.”  Cutting back on hot breakfast food for the troops, “would reduce their overall operations by 40 percent.”

After meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington on January 7, President Obama said the U.S. intends to withdraw most of the 66,000 troops currently serving in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

How to Use American Influence

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Colonial powers – France, Britain, Belgium and Russia, in particular – believed there was no substitute for their own armies and officials to ensure that their colonies stayed in line. Instead of colonial occupation forces, the US takes its money, arms, training and agenda abroad. It is a specifically American conceit that people in other countries and other societies want our social and governmental blueprint as well as our money, medicine and weapons.

As the Syrian civil war expands, a U.N. Commission of Inquiry finally determined that, “The conflict has been overtly sectarian… government forces and its militias, dominated by Alawites, have been attacking Sunnis — who are “broadly (but not uniformly)” backing the armed groups opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s government. And anti-government armed groups have been targeting Alawites.”

This is not news. It has, however, prompted another spasm of the belief that US support for this side or that, this person or that, could have or would have produced in Syria a secular, moderate and tolerant revolution, led by those who would be America’s friends. The estimable Barry Rubin blames “the deliberate decisions of President Barack Obama and other Western leaders. Even if one rationalizes the Islamist takeover in Egypt as due to internal events, this one is US-made.”

It is hard to see the difference between the “internal events” in Egypt that made the Brotherhood victory “inevitable,” and “internal events” in Syria that could have produced a different outcome. In both countries, the Brotherhood had been repressed and suppressed in the most brutal ways. Hafez Assad killed an estimated 20,000 people in the Brotherhood stronghold of Hama in just a few weeks in 1982; Junior has a long way to go. In neither country did the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood go away or lose their fervor – the opposite. And in both places, lifting the lid brought the Muslim Brotherhood back from underground.

Rubin adds, “Obama and others believe that they can moderate the Muslim Brotherhood and this will tame the Salafists… This is going to be the biggest foreign policy blunder of the last century.” It may be a blunder, but it would be the same one Rubin makes in the other direction. Both believe American military, economic and political support can moderate or redirect longstanding ethnic and religious beliefs and hatreds. They both believe American “influence” can create moderate, tolerant governments in the Middle East, North Africa and Southwest Asia.

The counter-argument is the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Libya.

The Oslo Accords were predicated on the mistaken belief that international economic support would create a moderate, liberal Palestinian state living peaceably next to Israel. The US also believed that with American training and financial support, Palestinian “police” would “dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.” Palestinians are the world’s largest per capita recipients of international assistance. The US has spent nearly $500 million a year on the Palestinian Authority, including $100 million each year for “security forces” under the tutelage of an American three-star General. Separately, the US is the largest single donor to UNRWA; $2.2 billion in its first 50 years (1950-1999) and $2.18 billion in the last 13 years (2000-2012). In 2012, the US contribution will be $249 million.

What have we achieved? After a Palestinian war against Israel in 2000 (with terrorists using our training) and a civil war, the PA is corrupt, bankrupt and no closer to democracy or accepting Israel as a permanent part of the region than it was before the application of our money or our “influence.” The “armed struggle” promoted by Hamas is finding ever more favor with Palestinians as PA President Mahmoud Abbas seeks “unity” with his erstwhile enemies. Abbas openly defied President Obama on negotiations, UN recognition and the internationalization of the conflict. He threatens “retaliation” against Israel if its citizens choose Netanyahu in the upcoming election. PA-Israeli security cooperation has been faltering and there are open clashes between Palestinians and the IDF.

But if the US got nothing for millions to the Palestinians, it is currently getting nothing for billions in military and economic aid to Egypt. The aid was to have ensured a pro-American military, adherence to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and security in Sinai. Since 1987, the U.S. has spent about $1.25 billion annually for arms plus about $250 million in economic support. Additional millions were spent on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) between to help Egypt create civil society organizations to provide wider space for political parties and media.

Suicide Bomber Detonates Outside US Afghan Base

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

A suicide bomber detonated himself on Wednesday near the US army base Camp Chapman in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least three Afghans and injuring more.

The dead include a policeman, two civilians, and the bomber.  Security officials say seven were wounded in the area, a hotbed of Taliban and Haqqani activity.

A Taliban spokesman said the target was Afghan police and Afghan employees of the US base.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/suicide-bomber-detonates-outside-us-afghan-base/2012/12/26/

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