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Afghanistan: Turning Success into Failure

This Sunday marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Six years later, both Osama bin Laden and his number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, have yet to be captured.

OCTOBER 5, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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AFGHANISTAN

Turning Success Into Failure

This Sunday marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Following the 9/11 attacks, President Bush promised the country “sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive [terrorists] out and bring them to justice.” Six years later, both Osama bin Laden and his number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, have yet to be captured. The Taliban and al Qaeda, once virtually destroyed in Afghanistan, “have reconstituted their capabilities and command structure along the Afghan-Pakistan border, again posing a threat to the national security of the United States.” Despite promises from the administration that it is committed to fighting insurgents in Afghanistan, it has “not provided the necessary resources, troops, and leadership to keep Afghanistan on the path to stability.” The country has less and less to show for the sacrifices made by the 443 Americans killed in Afghanistan, as strides made following the invasion have largely been allowed to lapse under the administration’s watch. The Center for American Progress has produced a video commemorating the anniversary of the invasion, which outlines how the situation has deteriorated and the steps that must be taken to rectify it. Watch it here.

CREATING FAILURE OUT OF SUCCESS: While great strides were made following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the situation has deteriorated dramatically since 2005. Because of the drain from the war in Iraq, the administration has been unable to send enough resources or troops to Afghanistan to ensure success there. The Bush administration has conducted “state-building on the cheap,” failing to give priority to operations in Afghanistan as part of the larger fight against international terrorist networks. “Stabilizing Afghanistan and countering the insurgency will require a massive renewed commitment. Afghanistan needs new infusions of aid, an increase in troop levels, and a shift in focus to state-building, specifically creating a competent, accountable government.” Tayeb Jawad, Afganistan’s ambassador to the United States, recently told The Progress Report, “In the past five years, there was an underinvestment in building the infrastructure in Afghanistan, including the quality of life of the Afghans.” Jawad said U.S. presence “should have been very robust from the beginning” and “assistance should have been much stronger.” (Read more on his interview here.)

SECURITY DETERIORATES:
While Bush focuses his attention on Iraq, “Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention.” A recent report from the United Nations showed that violence in Afghanistan has spiked over 30 percent in the last year alone. Particularly troubling is the importation of tactics from Iraq, specifically suicide bombings and roadside bombs. Previously unknown in Afghanistan, suicide bombings have soared in frequency recently, with a “69 percent increase” in the first nine months of this year. The Taliban’s ability to finance these attacks is mainly derived from its operations in illegal drug trafficking, and Afghanistan produced “record levels of opium” in 2007. Recently, “traffickers have opened more labs that process raw opium into heroin, vastly increasing its value.” These drug revenues bring in “anywhere from tens of millions of dollars to $140 million” for the Taliban.

CLUELESS ADMINISTRATION: Despite overwhelming evidence that things are heading in the wrong direction in Afghanistan, the Bush administration continues to spout rhetoric claiming progress. Former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld recently told GQ that Afghanistan has “been a big success!” Bush touted progress just last week, claiming that “Afghanistan is becoming a safer, more stable country.” The only administration official that seems to understand the severity of the situation in Afghanistan is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who “told a group of U.S. House Democratic lawmakers that the multinational mission in Afghanistan is suffering from a lack of resources.” Gates specifically cited “the war in Iraq and the reluctance of U.S. allies to contribute more troops” as contributors to this shortage. 

A FIGHT WE CAN WIN: Although the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated recently, experts agree that the window for success has not completely closed. Afghanistan has a functioning and legitimate government, led by Hamid Karzai, that is representative of its people. We also have a legitimate coalition of forces in Afghanistan, with 36 countries contributing troops.  Finally, polling of the Afghan people shows support for an international troop presence and little support for the Taliban. Ambassador Jawad concluded, “Afghanistan is winnable and achieving victory in Afghanistan is easy. The people are your partners. All we need to do is invest in building the capacity of the Afghans to defend their own country.”

UNDER THE RADAR

CONGRESS —  WAXMAN: STATE DEPARTMENT HEADED FOR ‘CONFRONTATION’ WITH COMMITTEE: In a hearing before the House Oversight Committee yesterday on corruption within the Iraqi government, “a senior State Department official responsible for Middle East policy said neither he nor other diplomats working in Iraq would discuss corruption by Iraqi officials in public.” “Where revelation of information would damage bilateral relationships, it is intended to be kept confidential,” deputy assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Lawrence Butler said. Recently, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said that the State Department had given “instruction to its officials that they cannot communicate with the Committee about corruption in the Maliki government.” Government Accountability Office Comptroller David Walker criticized this lack of transparency, saying he knew of multiple “highly questionable” instances of “retroactive” classification. Waxman added that the State Department has prevented its employees from even mentioning corruption in the Iraqi government. “Secretary Rice is going to have a confrontation with this committee,” Waxman declared yesterday.

IRAQ — ARMY DENIES BENEFITS TO NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS WHO SERVED 22 MONTHS IN IRAQ: Approximately 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard recently returned home after serving serving 22 months tours — “longer than any other ground combat unit.” Members of the group suffered nine fatalities and were awarded dozens of Purple Hearts. But the Army wrote the orders for 1,162 of these soldiers for 729 days, making them ineligible for full educational benefits under the GI Bill, which requires written orders saying they were deployed for 730 days or more. These soldiers were shorted more than $200 per month for college. First Lt. Jon Anderson believes that the military deliberately cut short their orders to avoid paying the soldiers’ education benefits. “I think it was a scheme to save money, personally,” he said. “I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership.” Six members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, as well as Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D) and Norm Coleman (R), have asked Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to investigate the matter. Coleman said that it’s “simply irresponsible to deny education benefits to those soldiers who just completed the longest tour of duty of any unit in Iraq.” Geren has reportedly assured the lawmakers that the cases “will be reviewed on an expedited basis, so that those who qualify can attend school next semester.”

ADMINISTRATION — HUD SECRETARY UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR KATRINA KICKBACKS: The Justice Department is investigating “ties between Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson and a friend of Mr. Jackson’s who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by [Jackson] for rebuilding work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.” Jackson was the subject of an investigation by the inspector general for HUD in 2006, which found that he had “advised senior staff…that when considering discretionary contracts, they should be considering supporters of the President.” The current investigation centers around the $485,000 that Jackson’s “golfing buddy” William Hairston was paid for Katrina work on a no-bid contract. Investigators are exploring whether Jackson testified truthfully last May when he said that he never intervened in awarding HUD contracts, telling the Senate panel, “I don’t touch contracts.” 

THINK FAST

The CIA’s secret overseas prison system “remains active and has held at least one al Qaeda militant” since first being revealed last year, says a U.S. official. “The official confirmed the detention as the White House” refused to say “whether the agency had resumed holding prisoners at secret sites and insisted that the United States does not torture.”

In light of the revelation yesterday of secret opinions giving the CIA approval in 2005 for harsh interrogation techniques, Senate Intel Chairman John (D-WV) “wrote to the acting attorney general, Peter D. Keisler, asking for copies of all opinions on interrogation since 2004.”

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) has launched an online petition asking conservatives to “band together” and “stand with Rush Limbaugh against liberal attacks.”

Alternet reports, “The truth of the matter is that only the presence of U.S. forces allows the group called ‘al Qaeda in Iraq’ (AQI) to survive and function, and setting a timetable for the occupation to end is the best way to beat them. You won’t hear that perspective in Washington, but according to Iraqis with whom we spoke, it is the conventional wisdom in much of the country.”

“Over and over, President Bush confidently promised to ‘solve problems, not pass them on to future presidents and future generations.’ As the clock runs out on his eight-year presidency, a tall stack of troubles remain and Bush’s words ring hollow.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has “closed the door to negotiations with President Bush on a vetoed children’s health bill.” “We’re not going to compromise,” Reid said. “If he’s hoping for that, he better hope for something else, like getting our troops home from Iraq.”

“A record number of floods, droughts and storms around the world this year amount to a climate change ‘mega disaster’, the United Nation’s emergency relief coordinator, Sir John Holmes, has warned.” He said “dire predictions about the impact of global warming on humanity were already coming true. “

And finally: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) recycles jokes like it’s 1999. Yesterday, he said that “as president he would appoint Alan Greenspan to lead a review of the nation’s tax code.” “If he’s alive or dead it doesn’t matter. If he’s dead, just prop him up and put some dark glasses on him like, like ‘Weekend at Bernie’s,'” McCain joked. Funny joke…except that he’s been telling it since 1999.

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GOOD NEWS

Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly approved a bill that “would bring all United States government contractors in the Iraq war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal law.”

STATE WATCH

NEW JERSEY: “Two-thirds of New Jersey residents worry about being able to afford health care and nearly half said they’d pay at least $500 more in taxes for universal coverage.”

FLORIDA: Plans for a major coal plant are derailed “amid concerns about how to deal with gases believed to cause global warming.”

COLORADO: State swears in the first openly gay member of the Colorado House of Representatives.

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Gen. Peter Pace for President?

KY POLITICS: Karl Rove’s deputy, J. Scott Jennings, resigns from White House to join a private public relations firm.

THE CRYPT: In a floor speech, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) worries that Senate “chest-pounding” may be “sleep walking” America into war with Iran.

EDITOR & PUBLISHER: The United States confiscates the Associated Press’s footage of the aftermath of a bombing in Iraq.

DAILY GRILL

“In all these vital measures for fighting the war on terror, the Democrats in Washington follow a simple philosophy: Just say no.”
— President Bush, 10/28/06

VERSUS  

 “My engagement with the new leadership in Congress…indicates that they are even more committed to pursue the war in the original front of the war against terrorism and to help out Afghanistan.”
— Afghanistan Ambassador to the United States Said Tayeb Jawad, 10/3/07

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