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War in Afghanistan

Political Reconstruction

Project: War in Afghanistan
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Hamid Karzai.
Hamid Karzai. [Source: United States Agency for International Development]Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai and his transitional government assume power in Afghanistan. The press reported a few weeks before that Karzai had been a paid consultant for Unocal at one time (Karzai and Unocal both deny this), as well as the Deputy Foreign Minister for the Taliban. [Le Monde (Paris), 12/13/2001; CNN, 12/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Unocal, Hamid Karzai, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: US-Taliban Relations, Political Reconstruction

James Dobbins, the Bush Administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan, later will say that three decisions in late 2001 “really shaped” the future of Afghanistan. “One was that US forces were not going to do peacekeeping of any sort, under any circumstances. They would remain available to hunt down Osama bin Laden and find renegade Taliban, but they were not going to have any role in providing security for the country at large. The second was that we would oppose anybody else playing this role outside Kabul. And this was at a time when there was a good deal of interest from other countries in doing so.” The main reason for this is because it is felt this would tie up more US resources as well, for instance US airlifts to drop supplies. The third decision is that US forces would not engage in any counter-narcotics activities. The Atlantic Monthly will later note, “One effect these policies had was to prolong the disorder in Afghanistan and increase the odds against a stable government. The absence of American or international peacekeepers guaranteed that the writ of the new [Hamid] Karzai government would extend, at best, to Kabul itself.” [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Hamid Karzai, Taliban, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Drug Economy, Economic Reconstruction, Political Reconstruction

Zalmay Khalilzad, already Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues, and a prominent neoconversative (see May 23, 2001), is appointed by President Bush as a special envoy to Afghanistan. [BBC, 1/1/2002] In his former role as Unocal adviser, Khalilzad participated in negotiations with the Taliban to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. He also wrote op-eds in the Washington Post in 1997 (see October 7, 1996) supporting the Taliban regime, back when Unocal was hoping to work with the Taliban. [Independent, 1/10/2002] He will be appointed US ambassador to Afghanistan in 2003 (see November 2003).

Entity Tags: Unocal, Taliban, Zalmay M. Khalilzad

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

Secretary of State Colin Powell argues in a White House meeting that US troops should join the small international peacekeeping force patrolling Kabul, Afghanistan, and help Hamid Karzai extend his influence beyond just the capital of Kabul. The State Department has held initial talks with European officials indicating that a force of 20,000 to 40,000 peacekeepers could be created, half from Europe and half from the US. But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld asserts that the Europeans would be unwilling to send more troops. He argues that sending more troops could provoke Afghan resistance and divert US forces from hunting terrorists. National Security Adviser Rice fails to take sides, causing Powell’s proposal to effectively die. In the end, the US only deploys 8,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2002, but all of them are there to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda, not to assist with peacekeeping or reconstruction. The 4,000 international peacekeepers do not venture beyond Kabul and the rest of the country remains under the de facto control of local warlords. [New York Times, 8/12/2007]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Hamid Karzai, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction, US Military Strategies and Tactics

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says, “How ought security to evolve in [Afghanistan] depends on really two things; one is what the interim government decides they think ought to happen, [the other is] what the warlord forces in the country decide they think ought to happen, and the interaction between the two.” Rumsfeld’s suggestion that the warlords should share power with the government in Afghanistan outrages many leaders in the US and Afghanistan. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment that this “gave the Taliban just the propaganda excuse they needed to reorganize themselves. [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai considered Rumsfeld’s comment an insult to all Afghans, and from that time on, he saw [Rumsfeld] as being completely out of touch with reality.” Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) says a few days later: “America has replaced the Taliban with the warlords. Warlords are still on the US payroll but that hasn’t brought a cessation of violence. Not only is the US failing to reign in the warlords, we are actually making them the centerpiece of our strategy.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 134-135]

Entity Tags: Joseph Biden, Taliban, Donald Rumsfeld, Hamid Karzai

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

The long-awaited loya jirga, or grand council, is concluded in Afghanistan. This council was supposed to be a traditional method for the Afghan people to select their leaders, but most experts conclude that the council is clearly rigged. [BBC, 8/1/2002] Half of the delegates walk out in protest. [CNN, 6/18/2002] One delegate states, “This is worse than our worst expectations. The warlords have been promoted and the professionals kicked out. Who calls this democracy?” Delegates complain, “This is interference by foreign countries,” obviously meaning the US. The New York Times publishes an article (“The Warlords Win in Kabul”) pointing out that the “very forces responsible for countless brutalities” in past governments are back in power. [New York Times, 6/21/2002]

Entity Tags: Afghanistan, United States

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

Afghan Vice President Hajji Abdul Qadir is assassinated by Afghan warlords. Some believe that Qadir was assassinated by opium warlords upset by Qadir’s efforts to reduce the rampant opium farming and processing that has taken place since the US occupation. Qadir had been overseeing a Western-backed eradication program, and had recently complained that the money meant to be given to reward farmers for not planting opium was in fact not reaching the farmers. Additionally, Qadir “had long been suspected of enriching himself through involvement in the opium trade.” [New York Times, 7/8/2002; Chicago Tribune, 7/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Hajji Abdul Qadir

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Drug Economy, Political Reconstruction

Map of Afghanistan, showing areas of control by various warlords and factions.Map of Afghanistan, showing areas of control by various warlords and factions. [Source: ABC News]In May 2002, the commander of British forces in Afghanistan declared that the war in Afghanistan would be over within weeks (see May 8, 2002). The perception amongst many in the US is that the war is over. However, it appears that US leaders begin to believe the war is going to last longer and be more difficult than previously believed. On October 8, the US ambassador says, “The war is certainly not over. Military operations are continuing, especially in the eastern part of the country and they will continue until we win.” Most of the country is controlled by warlords who are now being supplied with weapons and money by the US government. [Daily Telegraph, 10/8/2002] On November 8, 2002, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers says of Afghanistan, “I think in a sense we’ve lost a little momentum there, to be frank. They’ve made lots of adaptations to our tactics, and we’ve got to continue to think and try to out-think them and to be faster at it.” [Washington Post, 11/8/2002] A few days after Myers’ remarks, Time magazine reports, “The fear of failure in Afghanistan has lately prompted some hard new thinking in both Washington and Kabul. General Myers’ candid remarks to the Brookings Institution suggests the Pentagon is trying to be more creative in its pursuit of stability in Afghanistan.” One strategy is to put more resources into reconstruction. [Time, 11/11/2002]

Entity Tags: United States, Richard B. Myers

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction, US Military Strategies and Tactics

When asked to comment on the current situation in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld replies, “It is encouraging. They have elected a government through the Loya Jirga process. The Taliban are gone. The al-Qaeda are gone.” [CNN, 12/18/2002] In May 2003, Rumsfeld will prematurely declare that the conflict in Afghanistan is over (see May 1, 2003).

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: US Military Strategies and Tactics, Political Reconstruction

Zalmay Khalilzad, a prominent neoconservative connected to top Bush administration officials, is appointed US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Ethnically Afghani, he had already been appointed special envoy to Afghanistan at the start of 2002 (see January 1, 2002). But it is increasingly obvious that the US effort in Afghanistan is not going well and Khalilzad’s appointment as ambassador reflects a new Bush administration resolve to devote more attention to Afghanistan. He had worked for the likes of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney in years past and is easily able to reach President Bush on the phone. Khalilzad agrees to take the job if the US expands resources in Afghanistan, and as he takes over the US gives $2 billion in aid to the country, double the amount of the year before. [New York Times, 8/12/2007] Khalilzad becomes so powerful that in 2005 the BBC will note that he is sometimes dubbed “the viceroy, or the real president of Afghanistan.” He is accused of “frequently overshadowing President Hamid Karzai.… No major decisions by the Afghan government [are] made without his involvement.” [BBC, 4/6/2005] Similarly, a London Times article on him will be titled: “US Envoy Accused of Being the Power Pulling Karzai’s Strings.” [London Times, 10/5/2004] A New York Times article on him will be titled: “In Afghanistan, US Envoy Sits in Seat of Power.” [New York Times, 4/17/2004] He will keep this position until April 2005, when it is announced that Khalilzad will become US Ambassador to Iraq, as the Bush administration grows more concerned about the war there. [New York Times, 8/12/2007]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Hamid Karzai, Zalmay M. Khalilzad

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

A senior UN official reports that conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated significantly in nearly every respect. According to Lakhdar Brahima, UN special envoy to Afghanistan, the situation “is reminiscent to what was witnessed after the establishment of the mujaheddin government in 1992.” Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a member of the Wahhabi sect of Islam who opposed the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, along with several other warlords accused of atrocities in the mid-1990s, have returned to power and are effectively ruling the country, Brahima says. Several hold key positions within the government. They “continue to maintain their own private armies and… are reaping vast amounts of money from Afghanistan’s illegal opium trade…” The US, while claming to support Afghan President Karzai, is relying on these warlords to “help” hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda factions, although the success rate is abysmal, and much of the intelligence provided by the warlords is faulty. The Taliban has begun to regroup, and now essentially controls much of the southern and eastern regions of the country. [Foreign Affairs, 5/2004]

Entity Tags: Hamid Karzai, Bush administration (43), Taliban, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Lakhdar Brahima, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

President Bush, campaigning for reelection, says in a speech, “And as a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free.” [White House, 9/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Taliban, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2004 Elections

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

Hamid Karzai wins the first-ever presidential election with 55 percent of the total vote. Karzai has been the leader of Afghanistan since late 2001 (see December 22, 2001). There were 17 other candidates and the second place candidate finished far behind. Election officials say about eight million of the 10.5 million registered voters cast ballots. Forty-one percent of them were women. The election cost $200 million to hold and was arranged by the United Nations. [CNN, 10/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Hamid Karzai

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

Five US senators—John McCain (R-AZ), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Russ Feingold (D-WI)—visit Kabul. McCain tells reporters that he is committed to a “strategic partnership that we believe must endure for many, many years.” He says that as part of this partnership, the US would provide “economic assistance, technical assistance, military partnership,… and… cultural exchange.” He also adds that in his opinion, this would mean the construction of “permanent bases.” The bases would help the US protect its “vital national security interests,” he explains. However, a spokesman for Afghan president Hamid Karzai reminds the press that the approval of a yet-to-be-created Afghan parliament would be needed before the Afghan government could allow the bases to be built. McCain’s office will later amend the senator’s comments, saying that he was advocating a long-term commitment to helping Afghanistan “rid itself of the last vestiges of Taliban and al-Qaeda.” That does not necessarily mean that the US will have to have permanent bases, the office explains. [Associated Press, 2/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Russell D. Feingold, John McCain

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Category Tags: US Invasion, Occupation, Political Reconstruction

Russian foreign minister Vitaly Vorobyov says Afghanistan may be granted observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). [Novosti Russian News and Information Agency, 7/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Vitaly Vorobyov

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

Protesters in Kabul run from Afghan police gunshots.Protesters in Kabul run from Afghan police gunshots. [Source: Associated Press / Rodrigo Abd]A US Army truck in a convoy careens out of control in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing at least three locals. Witnesses see the incident as symbolic of lack respect for the Afghan populace and rumors quickly swirl that it was intentional. Angry crowds form and begin pelting the rest of the convoy with rocks. US and/or Afghan soldiers open fire on the crowd and kill about six Afghans. This further enrages the populace, leading to rioting and looting all over Kabul for hours. Looters destroy businesses, Western non-profit offices, and even lay siege to the Interior Ministry for a time. NATO peacekeeping troops stay in their compounds and Afghan security forces are ineffectual. Officially, 17 are killed in the riots, but informed observers believe the death count is close to 100. Afghan member of parliament Dr. Ramazan Bashar Dost says that the people are angry at perceived price gouging by Western contractors and non-profits, and what is seen as poor results for all the billions of dollars spent. He says, “The problem is that the [non-profits] work within the system of corruption that plagues Afghanistan. They pay the bribes to the officials and even to Western contractors. So people see them as part of the same system as the corrupt government.” [Salon, 6/14/2006; New York Times, 8/23/2006] Afghan President Hamid Karzai responds by appointing a new police chief and other top police officers known for their ties to organized crime. [New York Times, 8/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Ramazan Bashar Dost, Hamid Karzai

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Critics of US Military Action, Political Reconstruction

The Washington Post and New York Times both publish articles suggesting that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is losing support among Afghans and some of his foreign backers. The Washington Post comments, “public confidence in his leadership has soured with reports of highway police robbing travelers, government jobs sold to the highest bidder, drug traffic booming, and aid money vanishing.” An anonymous Western diplomat says, “There is an awful feeling that everything is lurching downward. Nearly five years on, there is no rule of law, no accountability. The Afghans know it is all a charade, and they see us as not only complicit but actively involved.” [Washington Post, 6/26/2006] The New York Times notes there “is widespread frustration with corruption, the economy and a lack of justice and security.” Karzai is widely viewed as having failed to deal with many pressing problems. “For the first time since Mr. Karzai took office four and half years ago, Afghans and diplomats are speculating about who might replace him. Most agree that the answer for now is no one, leaving the fate of the American-led enterprise tied to his own success or failure.” [New York Times, 8/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Hamid Karzai

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

A Central Intelligence Agency assessment conducted before Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Washington in late September 2006 warns that Karzai’s government is increasingly weak and unpopular, and is failing to exert authority and security beyond Kabul. [New York Times, 11/5/2006]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Hamid Karzai

Category Tags: Other, US Invasion, Occupation, Political Reconstruction

The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael V. Hayden, appearing before a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee to address the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, states that the Afghan government’s outreach and provision of security to the country is inadequate. Hayden stresses that the key to making progress in Afghanistan is bolstering security, stating, “The capacity of the government needs to be strengthened to deliver basic services to the population—especially security.” He notes that there are not enough properly trained, equipped, or well-paid security forces in Afghanistan. “Even though the Afghan National Army continues to become larger, stronger, and more experienced, progress has been slow and little progress has been made in constructing an effective Afghan National Police force,” reads his prepared statement. [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/15/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Michael Hayden, Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Afghan National Security Forces, Central Intelligence Agency, Hamid Karzai, Senate Armed Services Committee

Category Tags: US Military Strategies and Tactics, US Invasion, Occupation, Political Reconstruction

Lord Paddy Ashdown, the former United Nations high representative and European Union special representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, says that international forces are unlikely to win the war in Afghanistan, risking to set off a regional conflict that could match the scale and magnitude of World Wars I and II. “I think we are losing in Afghanistan now, we have lost I think and success is now unlikely,” Ashdown says in an interview with Reuters. “Some people refer to the First and Second World Wars as European civil wars and I think a similar regional civil war could be initiated by this (failure) to match this magnitude,” he says. Ashdown warns that failure of international forces in Afghanistan would have wider repercussions than any loss in Iraq. “I believe losing in Afghanistan is worse than losing in Iraq. It will mean that Pakistan will fall and it will have serious implications internally for the security of our own countries and will instigate a wider Shiite, Sunni regional war on a grand scale.” Ashdown then ties impending catastrophe in Afghanistan with the lack of a powerful, high-level coordinator to lead the foreign mission there. “Unless somebody has the power genuinely to coordinate and unify the international approach, we will lose and I think that is happening,” he says. Ashdown, who currently heads the EU-Russia Centre think tank in Brussels, has been tipped and promoted for such a role by some US and UK officials, but says he has ruled himself out of the job. [Reuters, 10/17/2007] Ashdown will later interview for the position of United Nations “super envoy” to Afghanistan. However, Afghan president Hamid Karzai will oppose Ashdown’s candidacy, forcing him to withdraw his name from consideration, something he will say he did “reluctantly.” [UN Elections.org, 1/30/2008]

Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Hamid Karzai, United Nations, Paddy Ashdown

Category Tags: Other, Critics of US Military Action, Economic Reconstruction, Political Reconstruction, US Invasion, Occupation

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell testifies before Congress that the security situation in Afghanistan is “deteriorating.” He estimates that the official Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai controls only about 30 percent of Afghanistan, while the Taliban controls 10 percent and the rest is controlled by various tribes and warlords. He says that the key to the Taliban’s success “is the opportunity for safe haven in Pakistan.” Karzai’s government denies McConnell’s claims. However, various think tank reports echo McConnell’s conclusions. One report headed by former NATO commander Gen. James L. Jones concludes that “urgent changes” are immediately required to “prevent Afghanistan becoming a failed state.” [Guardian, 2/29/2008]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Hamid Karzai, James L. Jones, Mike McConnell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction, US Military Strategies and Tactics

Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, believes the US war strategy there is doomed to failure and that public opinion should primed for “an acceptable dictator” to be installed in Kabul, according to a leaked diplomatic cable sent by a French diplomat who met with Sir Sherard. The ambassador’s comments are recounted in a coded diplomatic dispatch sent by deputy French Ambassador to Kabul François Fitou to President Sarkozy and the Foreign Ministry. They are later published by the French investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaîné. Claude Angeli, the veteran Canard journalist who reports the cable, says that he has a copy of the two-page decoded text, which is partially printed in facsimile in his newspaper. “It is quite explosive,” he tells the London Times. According to the leaked memo, Sir Sherard, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, tells Fitou that the only realistic outlook for Afghanistan would be the installation of “an acceptable dictator” within five or 10 years, and that public opinion should be primed for this. He says that Britain had no alternative to supporting the United States in Afghanistan despite the fact that the US-led NATO military operation was making things worse. “We should tell them that we want to be part of a winning strategy, not a losing one,” he is quoted as saying. “In the short term we should dissuade the American presidential candidates from getting more bogged down in Afghanistan.… The American strategy is doomed to fail.” The French Foreign Ministry does not deny the existence of the cable but denounces its publication by Le Canard Enchaîné. Acknowledging that the meeting between Sir Sherard and Fitou did take place, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office says that the cable does not accurately reflect the ambassador’s views. Sources in the British government say the French account is a parody of the British Ambassador’s remarks. The exact date of the meeting is unclear. The Times reports that Sir Sherard imparts his thoughts to Mr Fitou on September 2, but The Guardian and the New York Times clarify that Le Canard Enchaîné reported that the cabled dispatch was sent to the Élysée Palace and the French Foreign Ministry on September 2, relating a meeting that had just happened. [Guardian, 10/2/2008; London Times, 10/2/2008; New York Times, 10/3/2008]

Entity Tags: Claude Angeli, Afghan Government, Sherard Cowper-Coles, François Fitou

Category Tags: Critics of US Military Action, Other US Allies, US Military Strategies and Tactics, Political Reconstruction

President Obama says that the US’s battle against global terrorism will be refocused away from Iraq and towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the first step in that process, Obama names veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as the US’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan (see January 22, 2009). In his acceptance remarks, Holbrooke says: “This is a very difficult assignment as we all know. Nobody can say the war in Afghanistan has gone well.… In Pakistan the situation is infinitely complex. I will say that in putting Afghanistan and Pakistan together in the one envoy, we fully respect Pakistan has its own history and its own traditions.” Obama says that the situation remains “perilous” in Afghanistan, and any progress in combating the Taliban-led insurgency will take time. Holbrooke will lead “our effort to forge and implement a sustainable approach to this critical region,” Obama adds. [The Nation (Lahore), 1/23/2009]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Barack Obama, Richard Holbrooke

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Political Reconstruction

Secret negotiations backed by the British government are under way to bring warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar back into Afghanistan’s political process, according to Al Jazeera. The talks between Taliban-linked mediators, Western officials, and the Afghan government are believed to involve a proposal for the return to Afghanistan of Hekmatyar, granting him immunity from prosecution there. Hekmatyar would first be offered asylum in Saudi Arabia under the proposal. The meetings recall earlier Afghan negotiations involving Hekmatyar and a Saudi role (see Between September 24 and 27, 2008). Ghairat Baheer, a Hektmatyar son-in-law released from the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan in May last year after six years in custody, is reported to be involved in the negotiations. Baheer, an ambassador to Pakistan in the 1990s, was given a visa to travel to London by British authorities last month. Humayun Jarir, a Kabul-based politician and another son-in-law of Hekmatyar, is also said to have been involved. This is consistent with a report published late last year of Hekmatyar family members being engaged in negotiations with the Afghan government in coordination with Britain (see November 13, 2008). James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Kabul, adds that the plan is to widen these talks and bring in elements of the Taliban. [Independent, 10/8/2008; Al Jazeera, 2/27/2009]

Entity Tags: United Kingdom, Taliban, James Bays, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Hezb-i-Islami, Afghan Government, Al Jazeera, Ghairat Baheer, Humayun Jarir

Category Tags: US-Taliban Relations, Other Islamist Radical Groups, Other US Allies, US Invasion, Occupation, Political Reconstruction, Taliban Actions, Rhetoric

The US Defense Department admits that it lacks a strategy for victory in Afghanistan even as it prepares to deploy 17,000 additional troops to that beleaguered country, but it has made some recommendations to change the US strategy there. Last week, during President Obama’s meeting with Defense Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Obama asked, “What is the end game” in the military’s strategy for Afghanistan? According to one military official present in the briefing, the response was, “Frankly, we don’t have one.” Senior military officials confirm that the Joint Chiefs have delivered a classified memo to Obama that recommends refocusing the military’s mission in Afghanistan to defeating al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and leaving the “hearts and minds” aspect of the war to other US agencies—particularly the State, Justice, and Agriculture Departments—and NATO. “This is a classic counnterinsurgency strategy, but the military cannot do it alone,” says one official. The officials admit that the Taliban “has definitely gained the upper hand” in some areas of Afghanistan, particularly the south, because there’s just too much territory and too few American forces to “clear and hold” an area. “The Taliban is no match” for US forces, the officials say, but once the Americans drive the Taliban from a region, then leave, the Taliban immediately filter back in and regain control. “In many remote areas, the Taliban have established ‘shadow governments’ and in some cases gained the confidence and support of the locals,” says an official. “We need a strategy that will convince the Afghan people [in the remote areas] that the Taliban’s extremism is no longer attractive as a government or a career,” the officials say. Such a strategy must increase Afghan security, then establish strong, fair local governments and create jobs and educational opportunities. “But that is not the military’s job,” one military official says. “We can build the schools, we can build the courthouses, but we cannot help them establish the good governance, justice and educations systems” that are needed. The new strategy also targets the Afghani drug trade, and loosens the previous rules of engagement that only allowed for eradication of poppy fields and confrontation with drug lords after it had been established that those activities were directly connected to the Taliban or al-Qaeda. The new rules assume any drug activities help the insurgency and are, therefore, “fair game.” [MSNBC, 2/4/2009]

Entity Tags: Robert M. Gates, Barack Obama, Taliban, Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Department of Defense, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Category Tags: US Counter-Narcotics Operations, Political Reconstruction

A deputy to Richard Holbrooke meets with a representative of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to discuss the role his group, Hizb-i-Islami (HIA) could play in ending the Afghan conflict, according to Afghan media. The HIA is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and Hekmatyar has a reported $25 million price on his head. The meeting is held with Hekmatyar emissary Daud Abedi. The US-Hekmatyar meeting is the most recent in a series of meetings and negotiations reportedly involving Hekmatyar representatives and the Afghan government, Taliban representatives, and the Saudis, inter alia (see Between September 24 and 27, 2008 and February 2009). [Daily Telegraph, 4/8/2009]
Withdrawal of Foreign Troops a Top Priority - In an interview with Asia Times reporter and analyst Syed Saleem Shahzad, Mr Abedi will recount the meeting, which he describes as positive, adding that he participated on his own initiative, was given Hekmatyar’s approval, and did not involve Pakistani officials. Abedi will not name the US official(s) he met because the talks are, he explains, ongoing. He says a ceasefire is possible in Afghanistan once talks are concluded and an exact schedule for the earliest possible departure of foreign troops is known: a top priority for the HIA. “I know what the HIA wants and what the Taliban wants in order to see if we could make a situation possible in which foreign troops leave Afghanistan as soon as possible,” he will say. Abedi denies that there is any chance the HIA will join the Afghan government in the near future. Insurgents loyal to Hekmatyar hold complete command over Kapissa province’s Tagab valley, only 30 kilometers north of Kabul. Syed Saleem Shahzad will suggest that the HIA, whose political wing has offices all over Afghanistan and keeps 40 seats in the Afghan parliament, is fully geared to replace President Hamid Karzai in the upcoming presidential elections. [Asia Times, 4/10/2009]
Deep Ties to Major Players in Region - Hekmatyar, among the most ruthless and extreme of the Afghan Islamic warlords, has had deep ties to Osama bin Laden, the CIA, the ISI, and the drug trade (see 1984), 1983, and (see March 13, 1994).

Entity Tags: Richard Holbrooke, Daoud Abedi, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Hezb-i-Islami

Category Tags: US-Taliban Relations, Other Islamist Radical Groups, US Invasion, Occupation, Political Reconstruction, Taliban Actions, Rhetoric

Newly retired Lieutenant General Karl W. Eikenberry, the former top commander of US forces in Afghanistan, is sworn in as the new US ambassador to Kabul. Prior to his appointment, Eikenberry served as the deputy chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium. In a rare move, Eikenberry retired from the Army the day before he is sworn in as ambassador by Hillary Clinton at the State Department. [American Forces Press Service, 4/28/2009; Associated Press, 4/28/2009] Shortly before President Obama’s nomination of Eikenberry was made public, the New York Times noted that the decision to send an about-to-retire career Army officer to fill one of the country’s most sensitive diplomatic jobs was “a highly unusual choice,” raising concerns among critics of the war that the Pentagon has too much influence over American foreign policy. [New York Times, 1/29/2009]

Entity Tags: Karl Eikenberry, Hillary Clinton, Obama administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other, Political Reconstruction, US Invasion, Occupation

Mohammad Qasim Fahim.Mohammad Qasim Fahim. [Source: Ozier Muhammad / New York Times]President Hamid Karzai formally registers as a candidate for re-election, choosing Mohammad Qasim Fahim—a powerful warlord accused of human rights abuses and criminality—as one of his vice presidential running mates, just hours before leaving for meetings in Washington with US President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Zadari. Human rights groups immediately condemn the selection of Fahim, who was a top commander in the militant group Jamiat-e-Islami during Afghanistan’s 1990s civil war, a Northern Alliance intelligence chief, a former interim vice president, and defense minister.
Human Rights Watch: Choice a "Terrible Step Backwards for Afghanistan" - Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that Karzai is “insulting the country” with the choice. “To see Fahim back in the heart of government would be a terrible step backwards for Afghanistan,” says Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director. “He is widely believed by many Afghans to be still involved in many illegal activities, including running armed militias, as well as giving cover to criminal gangs and drug traffickers.” [Associated Press, 5/4/2009] General Fahim was one of the chief Jamiat-e-Islami commanders under Ahmed Shah Massoud. A 2005 HRW report, “Blood-Stained Hands,” found that “credible and consistent evidence of widespread and systematic human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law” were committed by Jamiat commanders, including Fahim, who was among those “directly implicated in abuses described in this report, including the 1993 Afshar campaign.” [Human Rights Watch, 7/6/2005]
Afghan Civil Society Responds - Fahim served as Karzai’s first vice president in Afghanistan’s interim government set up after the ouster of the Taliban in the 2001 US-led invasion. During the 2004 election, Karzai dropped Fahim from his ticket. Aziz Rafiee, the executive director of the Afghan Civil Society Forum says that Karzi’s pick begs a question. “If (Fahim) was a good choice, why did (Karzai) remove him [in 2004]?” Rafiee asks. “And if he was a bad choice, why did he select him again? The people of Afghanistan will answer this question while voting.” According to Mohammad Qassim Akhgar, a political columnist and the editor in chief of the Afghan newspaper 8 a.m., Fahim could be an issue for Western countries invested in Afghanistan’s success. “Perhaps if Karzai wins the election Western countries are going to use this point as an excuse and limit their assistance to Afghanistan,” he says. “This is also a matter of concern for all human rights organizations who are working in Afghanistan and working for transitional justice.”
US Response Evasive - The US Embassy does not comment on the choice, saying it is not helpful for the United States to comment on individual candidates. However, the US does issue the following statement: “We believe the election is an opportunity for Afghanistan to move forward with leaders who will strengthen national unity.” [Associated Press, 5/4/2009]

Entity Tags: Mohammad Qassim Akhgar, Jamiat-e-Islami, Hamid Karzai, Afghan Civil Society Forum, Afghan Government, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Aziz Rafiee, Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch, Mohammad Qasim Fahim

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Drug Economy, Other Islamist Radical Groups, Other, Political Reconstruction

Malalai Joya.Malalai Joya. [Source: Getty]In a series of editorials and interviews, Afghan MP Malalai Joya declares that the upcoming presidential election polls in Afghanistan are illegitimate and have been determined in advance in favor of current Afghan President Hamid Karzai by the United States in cooperation with a group of powerful allied warlords and former Mujaheddin. “Under the shadow of warlordism, corruption, and occupation, this vote will have no legitimacy, and once again it seems the real choice will be made behind closed doors in the White House,” Joya writes in a Guardian editorial. [Guardian, 7/25/2009] She echoes this in a later interview in London with the Arab daily, Asharq Al-Awsat: “Even the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan will not change anything because the next president will be chosen behind the closed doors of the Pentagon.” [Asharq Al-Awsat, 8/3/2009]
Karzai a 'Shameless Puppet' of Afghan Warlords, Coalition Occupiers - In an interview with Johann Hari in The Independent, Joya rails against the current government of Hamid Karzai, the US and NATO occupation, and the mafia-ridden warlordism that dominates Afghan social and political life. She asserts that Karzai keeps power only as “a shameless puppet” of both the Afghan warlords and the occupying powers, thus guaranteeing him victory in the August elections due to his fealty to these powers. “He hasn’t yet stopped working for his masters, the US and the warlords.… At this point in our history, the only people who get to serve as president are those selected by the US government and the mafia that holds power in our country,” she says. “Dust has been thrown into the eyes of the world by your governments. You have not been told the truth. The situation now is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban for women. Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords. [That is] what your soldiers are dying for.” [Independent, 7/28/2009] Joya also slams the recent western troop surge as a farce masquerading as support for democratic elections. In the progressive Internet magazine ZNet, she writes: “We are told that additional US and NATO troops are coming to Afghanistan to help secure the upcoming presidential election. But frankly the Afghan people have no hope in this election—we know that there can be no true democracy under the guns of warlords, the drug trafficking mafia, and occupation.” [ZNet, 5/16/2009]
Suspended from Assembly, in Hiding from Assassins - Joya was elected to the 249-seat National Assembly, or Wolesi Jirga, in September 2005 as a representative of Farah province, but was suspended from the parliament in 2007 for publicly denouncing fellow members as drug smugglers, warlords, and war criminals. Her suspension sparked international condemnation and is currently under appeal. Joya, a champion of women’s rights and democracy in Afghanistan, lives in hiding and has survived at least four assassination attempts. [Human Rights Watch, 5/23/2007; Democracy Now!, 6/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Hamid Karzai, Malalai Joya, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Wolesi Jirga, Obama administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other, Critics of US Military Action, Political Reconstruction, US Invasion, Occupation

Stanley Karnow, seated, in Washington, paying respect to the first American causalities killed in Vietnam. July 8, 2009.Stanley Karnow, seated, in Washington, paying respect to the first American causalities killed in Vietnam. July 8, 2009. [Source: Chase Martinez / Washington Times, via AP]Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy to Afghanistan, and Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal, telephone Stanley Karnow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnam War historian to discuss the similarities between the two American wars and to seek guidance from the eminent scholar. Holbrooke will later confirm that the three men conferred on the two wars. “We discussed the two situations and what to do,” he will say during a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels. Karnow, an acknowledged critic of the war in Afghanistan, will also confirm that the discussion was held. “Holbrooke rang me from Kabul and passed the phone to the general,” says Karnow, who authored the 1983 book, Vietnam: A History. He does not, however, elaborate on the specifics of the conversation. The telephone call is made in the context of a reevaluation of American strategy in Afghanistan amidst an escalation in spending, troops, and casualties. President Obama has tasked General McChrystal to conduct a strategic review of the increasingly criticized and unpopular war.
Comparing Ngo Dinh Diem and Hamid Karzai - Among the issues voiced by scholars and analysts who draw their own analogies between the Vietnam War and the war in Afghanistan is the credibility of President Hamid Karzai’s government, which is widely seen as corrupt and ineffective. David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency specialist who the Associated Press reports will soon assume a role as a senior adviser to McChrystal, compares Karzai to former South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. “[Karzai] has a reasonably clean personal reputation but he’s seen as ineffective; his family are corrupt; he’s alienated a very substantial portion of the population,” Kilcullen says. “He seems paranoid and delusional and out of touch with reality,” he continues. “That’s all the sort of things that were said about President Diem in 1963.” Ngo Dinh Diem was killed in a US-backed coup in 1963 (see November 1963).
Comparing the 1967 Vietnam Ballot and the 2009 Afghanistan Ballot - The Associated Press quotes other analysts who draw parallels between Afghanistan’s presidential election schedule for August 20 and the failed US effort in Vietnam to legitimize a military regime lacking broad popular support through an imposed presidential election in 1967. James McAllister, a political science professor who has written extensively on Vietnam, recognizes why US policy chiefs are looking to the Vietnam War for parallels and lessons, especially with regard to the presidential elections. “That [1967 ballot] helped ensure that US efforts would continue to be compromised by its support for a corrupt, unpopular regime in Saigon,” McAllister says. Rufus Phillips, Holbrooke’s former boss in Vietnam and author of the book Why Vietnam Matters, echoes this warning. “The rigged election in South Vietnam proved [to be] the most destructive and destabilizing factor of all,” says Phillips, now in Kabul helping to monitor the upcoming election.
Karnow: Lessons We Learned from Vietnam and What to Expect in Afghanistan - “It now seems unthinkable that the US could lose [in Afghanistan], but that’s what experts… thought in Vietnam in 1967,” Karnow will say later, from his home in Maryland. “It could be that there will be no real conclusion and that it will go on for a long time until the American public grows tired of it.” When asked what lessons could be drawn from the Vietnam experience, Karnow will tell the Associated Press: “What did we learn from Vietnam? We learned that we shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Obama and everybody else seem to want to be in Afghanistan, but not I.” [Associated Press, 8/6/2009]

Entity Tags: Stanley Karnow, Stanley A. McChrystal, Obama administration, Richard Holbrooke, James McAllister, Ngo Dinh Diem, Hamid Karzai, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, David Kilcullen, Rufus Phillips

Category Tags: Other, Critics of US Military Action, Political Reconstruction, US Invasion, Occupation, US Military Strategies and Tactics

Afghan President Hamid Karzai attempts to cut a secret deal with one of his presidential election rivals in a bid to knock his strongest challenger from the race, to ensure a clear victory and, ostensibly, the minimization of sectarian violence a tight result might provoke in the hyper-armed country. In the proposed deal, Karzai asks former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani, a candidate currently running third in the polls, to give up his election bid in exchange for a job as “chief executive”—a post described as similar to prime minister—in a Karzai government. Such an agreement would likely unite the Pashtun vote and knock Karzai’s main contender, Abdullah Abdullah, out of the race. Karzai’s offer will be confirmed by several sources, including Ghani himself, and may have backing from top US officials. “If Ghani agrees to the terms, Karzai will dump his team and move forward, with Karzai as president and Ghani as chief executive,” one campaign official will tell The Independent. During the election campaign, Karzai has made deals with tribal leaders and various warlords, promising them positions and patronage in exchange for the votes they control. The Independent cites international officials who believe that as many as 20 cabinet positions have already been pledged.
Karzai's Offer Confirmed - President Karzai’s brother, Qayum Karzai, is the first to approach Ghani with the proposal according to sources close to Karzai’s inner circle. Karzai presents Ghani with the argument that Ghani can’t win the election anyway, and even if he did, he wouldn’t be able to hold on to power. Ghani’s staff will also confirm that Karzai emissaries make an offer, but they say that Ghani has no plans to pull out of the race and will continue his campaign. Ghani himself will later confirm Karzai’s overture. “I’ve been approached repeatedly, the offer is on the table. I have not accepted it. The issue is the extent of crisis. We are in a very difficult moment in our history,” he will tell reporters in the province of Faryab (see August 8, 2009).
Top US Diplomats Holbrooke and Eikenberry Back the Proposal - Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador, are understood to have discussed the proposal with Ghani, according to the Independent report. “It makes sense,” a policy analyst with close links to the US administration says. “Holbrooke likes Ghani, and he has come round to the fact that Karzai will probably win.” Furthermore, The Independent notes that the idea of a chief executive was originally devised in Washington as a way of handing the responsibility of running the government to a skilled technocrat, a profile that certainly fits Ghani. The Washington Post will later report that according to Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, US officials back the idea of a new chief executive position under Karzai. The Post also reports that US officials have discussed the “chief executive” proposal with Ghani. US embassy officials, however, deny any involvement in back-room deals. [Independent, 8/7/2009; Washington Post, 8/14/2009]
Threats of Post-Election Armed Protests, Civil War - Analysts and journalists suggest that Afghanistan’s coming elections threaten to split the country along ethnic and sectarian lines, possibly igniting a civil war reminiscent of the 1990s (see March 13, 1994). “The whole country is armed. Everybody has weapons. You have to keep everyone happy,” one Afghan analyst says. Anticipating fraudulent results, Abdullah’s campaign staff have threatened to hold demonstrations if Karzai wins. Abdullah’s supporters, who are largely Tajik, have warned of Iranian-style protests, but “with Kalashnikovs,” should Karzai win a second term. [Independent, 8/7/2009; Reuters, 8/8/2009]

Entity Tags: Richard Holbrooke, Karl Eikenberry, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Ashraf Ghani, Abdul Qayum Karzai, Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah

Category Tags: Other, Political Reconstruction

Ashraf Ghani, one of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s main presidential election rivals, denies that he has agreed to withdraw from the August 20 election in exchange for a top position in a future Karzai government. Karzai proposed the back-room offer to Ghani in late July (see Late July 2009) in the hope of securing victory over leading contender Abdullah Abdullah. In the proposed deal, Karzai offered Ghani a job as “chief executive” in his (future) government if he would agree to drop out of the race. “I’ve been approached repeatedly, the offer is on the table. I have not accepted it. The issue is the extent of crisis. We are in a very difficult moment in our history,” Ghani tells reporters in Faryab province. However, it appears that Ghani, a former finance minister under Karzai, is holding out for a better deal. Suggesting that he is not ruling out a return to government if allowed to implement his plans, he says, “There would have to be very very firm commitments, time-bound set of activities, full embracement of the program that I’ve articulated for the next 10 years.” [Reuters, 8/8/2009]

Entity Tags: Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai, Ashraf Ghani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other, Political Reconstruction

Defense Secretary Robert Gates offers no timeline for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan and states that the length of US combat engagement there is a “mystery.” When asked at a press conference how long he thinks American combat forces will be fighting active war in Afghanistan, Gates, a former CIA director, responds: “[I]n the intelligence business, we always used to categorize information in two ways, secrets and mysteries.… Mysteries were those where there were too many variables to predict. And I think that how long US forces will be in Afghanistan is in that area.” When pressed further, he reasserts the unpredictability of the proposition, but guesses that “a few years” may be required to defeat the insurgency militarily, and that the larger enterprise of institution-building and economic development will require US engagement for decades. Responding to a question concerning a statement made by incoming British Army Chief General Sir David Richards that British and international engagement in Afghanistan could last up to 30 or 40 years (see August 8, 2009), Gates replies that he does not agree that troops will be committed in combat operations for that long, but agrees with Richards’s later distinction that wider engagement in areas such as economic development and governance will be a “decades-long enterprise.” Joining Gates at the press conference is Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman General James Cartwright. Cartwright backs Gates’s “mystery” assessment, but he links the possibility of force withdrawal to the political situation and handing over competencies to the Afghan National Security Forces. [Associated Press, 8/13/2009; U.S. Department of Defense, 8/13/2009]

Entity Tags: David Richards, Afghan National Security Forces, Robert M. Gates, James Cartwright

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other, Political Reconstruction, US Invasion, Occupation, US Military Strategies and Tactics

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