Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

New book: An American Bride in Kabul

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Phyllis Chesler has published a memoir, An American Bride in Kabul, detailing her life in Afghanistan as a young bride.

Today the NY Post has her article, My life of hell in an Afghan harem

I once lived in a harem in Afghanistan.

I did not enter the kingdom as a diplomat, soldier, teacher, journalist or foreign aid worker. I came as a young Jewish bride of the son of one of the country’s wealthiest men. I was held in a type of captivity — but it’s not as if I had been kidnapped.

I walked into it of my own free will.

John Hinderaker blogged about her LIFE AMONG THE BARBARIANS

That Chesler survived the ordeal is little short of miraculous. Her story–please do check out the Post excerpt, and consider buying the book–is a revealing glimpse into a dysfunctional culture that has changed little if at all since the time when Chesler found herself its prisoner.

Phyllis is an excellent writer, and I’m honored to consider her a friend, so please buy her book. Her upcoming book events are:
October 1, 2013, 8:15 pm:
92nd Street Y, New York, NY

October 7, 2013, 1:30 pm:
Central Queens YM/YWHA,
Forest Hills, NY

October 9, 2013, 6:00 pm:
Barnes and Noble,
Columbia University, NY, NY

November 11, 2013, 12:00 pm:
Atlanta JCC, Dunwoody, GA

Restrepo director and photographer killed in Libya; film playing tonight on PU campus

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Restrepo co-director Tim Hetherington was killed in Libya,

Two photojournalists — Oscar-nominated filmmaker Tim Hetherington and Getty photographer Chris Hondros — were killed on Wednesday after coming under fire in the besieged Libyan town of Misrata.

Hetherington, co-director of Afghan war documentary “Restrepo”, and Hondros were among a group working together on Tripoli Street, a main thoroughfare and scene of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

“It was quiet and we were trying to get away and then a mortar landed and we heard explosions,” Spanish photographer Guillermo Cervera said.

Doctors first said that Hetherington had died while Hondros had suffered brain injuries. Getty Images later released a statement saying Hondros had died of his injuries.

Hetherington, who won the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year award, co-directed with Sebastian Junger the 2010 documentary “Restrepo”, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary

Restrepo is playing tonight at 8PM on campus. Attendance is limited to Princeton University students and staff.


The media-driven massacre, UPDATE

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Publicity-hungry crackpot pastor Terry Jones (not the Monty Python guy) in Florida creates a media flurry by burning a Koran at a small Florida church. The incident made it to the news, and then Karzai put it to use for his own purposes (emphasis added),

Both Afghan and international news media had initially played down or ignored the action of Mr. Jones, the Florida pastor. This Thursday, however, President Hamid Karzai made a speech and issued statements condemning the Koran burning and calling for the arrest of Mr. Jones for his actions. On Friday that theme was picked up in mosques throughout Afghanistan.

Gee, thanks, Hamid!

There is no provision in American law for arresting anyone for burning a Koran, or for that matter a Bible, which the courts would consider protected free speech.

“Karzai brought this issue back to life, and he has to take some responsibility for starting this up,” said a prominent Afghan businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concern over retribution if he was publicly critical of the president.

Karzai’s speech itself provoked people to take such actions,” said Qayum Baabak, a political analyst in Mazar-i-Sarif. “Karzai should have called on people to be patient rather than making people more angry.”

Officials in Mazar-i-Sharif blamed Taliban agitators from other provinces for stirring up violence in the Friday protests there. Zemarai Bashary, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, said a high-level delegation had been sent to Mazar-i-Sharif to investigate the cause of the attack, including whether Taliban were involved and why police were not able to prevent the bloodshed inside the U.N. compound.

A spokesman for the Taliban, however, denied that the insurgents had any role in the disturbances in either Mazar or Kandahar. “This was the reaction of the people of Afghanistan,” said Zabiullah Mujahid.

Also on Saturday, a team of suicide bombers attempted to breach the front gate at an American military base in Kabul, Camp Phoenix, according to Mohammed Zahir, chief of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Kabul Police. Two of them were disguised as women, wearing full-length burqas, and two others were carrying small arms, he said. One of the burqa-clad bombers blew up at the gate of the camp, and the other managed to get about five yards inside the gate before also detonating. The other two attackers were shot and killed by guards before they could enter, he said.

Now the Guardian is asking, Is the Florida pastor who burnt the Qur’an morally responsible for the deaths of UN staff in protests in Afghanistan? The short answer is no; the murders were perpetrated by a fanatical group of men. They and their leaders are responsible. Richard Fernandez puts the Guardian’s question in perspective,

The Guardian poll is a story within a story within a story. Terry Jones burns a Koran. Some people in Afghanistan kill and behead UN workers who had nothing to do with Terry Jones. The Guardian sits in judgment — not on the killers in Afghanistan, but of Terry Jones, but not because they care whit for any of the first two stories but because they want to create some kind of talking point upon which to sit moral judgment of a fourth party, as yet unnamed though you can guess who it might be.

The West should stand for freedom of expression. If we allow the possible reaction of the most dogmatic, evil people who might hear the message to govern our expression, we don’t have freedom at all.

Reader DavidK sent link to Reid, Graham: Maybe it’s time for congressional action on Koran-burning
Whatever happened to free speech?


Armed Taliban gunned down, Rolling Stone calls “murder”

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Michael Yon calls it when he sees it,
Calling BULLSHIT on Rolling Stone

Seldom do I waste time with rebutting articles, and especially not from publications like Rolling Stone.  Today, numerous people sent links to the latest Rolling Stone tripe.  The story is titled “THE KILL TEAM, THE FULL STORY.”  It should be titled: “BULLSHIT, from Rolling Stone.”

Here’s what it’s about,

The online edition of the Rolling Stone story contains a section with a video called “Motorcycle Kill,” which includes our Soldiers gunning down Taliban who were speeding on a motorcycle toward our guys.  These Soldiers were also with 5/2 SBCT, far away from the “Kill Team” later accused of the murders.  Rolling Stone commits a literary “crime” by deceptively entwining this normal combat video with the Kill Team story.  The Taliban on the motorcycle were killed during an intense operation in the Arghandab near Kandahar City.  People who have been to the Arghandab realize the extreme danger there.  The Soviets got beaten horribly in the Arghandab, despite throwing everything including the Soviet kitchen sink into the battle that lasted over a month.  Others fared little better.  To my knowledge, 5/2 and supporting units were the first ever to take Arghandab, and these two dead Taliban were part of that process.

The killing of the armed Taliban on the motorcycle was legal and within the rules of engagement.  Law and ROE are related but separate matters.  In any case, the killing was well within both the law and ROE.  The Taliban on the back of the motorcycle raised his rifle to fire at our Soldiers but the rifle did not fire.  I talked at length with several of the Soldiers who were there and they gave me the video.  There was nothing to hide.  I didn’t even know about the story until they told me.  It can be good for Soldiers to shoot and share videos because it provides instant replay and lessons learned.  When they gave me the video and further explained what happened, I found the combat so normal that I didn’t even bother publishing it, though I should have because that little shooting of the two Taliban was the least of the accomplishments of these Soldiers, and it rid the Arghandab of two Taliban.

VIdeo below the fold,


Blood in his hands

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

WikiLeaks Reportedly Outs 100s of Afghan Informants

Hundreds of Afghan civilians who worked as informants for the U.S. military have been put at risk by WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 90,000 classified intelligence reports which name and in many cases locate the individuals, The Times newspaper reported Wednesday.

Click here to see The Times article, but note, it’s behind a subscription firewall.

The article says, in spite of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claim that sensitive information had been removed from the leaked documents, that reporters scanning the reports for just a couple hours found hundreds of Afghan names mentioned as aiding the U.S.-led war effort.

Richard Fernandez is eloquent in his outrage:

The news came as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange expressed fears he could be arrested. The Telegraph says he “has been warned by ‘inside sources in the White House’ not to return to the US as he could be arrested.”

He’s had more warning than the individuals in Afghanistan who will more than likely be identified by al-Qaeda support cells in Western Europe or the Middle East who will pore through the Wikileaks documents. The names of the traitors to radical Islam will be duly transmitted to the avengers who will then go out severally into the night to on their missions of revenge. Recently Radio Netherlands described what Afghans who are suspected by the Taliban can expect to endure. The Taliban have cut off the hands of construction workers who build government-funded projects; sent a suicide car bomb against a district chief believed to have been working with US special forces.  Death in many forms will be their lot. One informant Radio Netherlands described “holds a thick yellow sheet tightly around his face”  to preserve his anonymity. Now it turns out he shouldn’t have bothered. If the London Times is right, his name might be one of the several hundred the British reporter has found in just a few hours.

Yet the dead are the lucky ones. The more unfortunate may wind up in a torture chamber similar to one found by Coldstream Guards. It features such amenties as chains to hang prisoners from walls. Not that the inmates would want to walk on the floor: that features broken glass. And there is limb amputation, kneecapping with an electric drill, eye gouging, bone-breaking or ritual rape to smash the will. Where the offender is not himself available punishment will be visited on his relatives.

When Julian Assange released these documents he assured the public that it had been carefully reviewed to avoid putting people at risk.  He said it with the greatest apparent confidence. Now it emerges that either he didn’t know how to avoid putting innocents in the line of fire or didn’t care to. But competence is not required to sit in judgment of others. Not today.  All it really takes is enough self-righteousness to impose your amateurish viewpoint on the world because on the theory that nobody else has ever been as clever as you. We are always the people we’ve been waiting for.

Yet Assange can be forgiven for thinking that viewpoint and style were the sum total of qualification needed to engage in the life and death business of publshing secrets in time of war. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, explaining that the White House didn’t try to stop the publication said he met with reporters from the New York Times and sent a message through its reporters to Assange asking that he redact information in the documents that could harm US military personnel. As for the Afghans? Well what about them? Wikileaks made its pathetic effort to sanitize the data didn’t they? And if it was good for the Times and Gibbs, why shouldn’t Assange have concluded it was good enough period?

One or more of those connected with this story may in the next few weeks, under questioning from critics, express their sincerest and most heartfelt regret at the death or danger which their leak has exposed men,  women and children to. But poise your finger on the pause button; watch for it carefully before it flashes past to the standard peroration on the noble purposes of showing the “true nature” of war. Because the regret may last all of five seconds, though for those who will lose a loved one to Taliban reprisal the pain will last much longer. But the wretched of the earth will endure, as only those who have accustomed themselves to being the moral guinea pigs and butt of jokes of the great and good can endure.

Assange will sleep safely hiding behind the skirts of the Swedish government, which allows Assange to publish classified material with no consequences.

Elsewhere, people will die for Wikileaks’ Nobel Prize.

Gerard lets it rip on Assange, and on traitor Pfc. Bradley Manning, and it’s NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK.

I just remembered, traitors earned a place in Dante’s ninth circle of hell. While Liberals may applaud Manning and Assange, betraying the Afghans who risked their lives in a futile hope for a better life has earned Manning and Assange places in the 9th circle.

Post updated with photo


The Afghan war document dump UPDATED

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Wikileaks has the Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010,

an extraordinary compendium of over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.

The Wikileaks link doesn’t seem to work all the time, so here’s the NYTimes,

The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:

• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.

There’s also evidence that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants (or as Stacy puts it,

The White House has denounced the leaks as “irresponsible,” but what about the facts revealed? For $1 billion a year, we’re paying for Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency to help kill our troops in Afghanistan.)

and that Iran is giving weapons, training and funds to the Taliban.

I was listening to John Batchelor last night while driving home, who compared these documents with the Pentagon Papers from the 1960s. Doug Mataconis is wondering about that, too.

But, haven’t we heard about these during the past years? Haven’t we read about all of this – or at least most of it – at Long War Journal?

Ed Morrissey drives the point home,

Like many, I prepared myself to read through the reports on the Wikileaks’ massive document dump from the classified military files of the Af-Pak theater, expecting to find something exotic and new.  Like many today, I suspect, I’m underwhelmed by the reality.  The Washington Post reports that the main takeaways are that Pakistan’s intel forces continued their contacts and support of the Taliban, that the war effort was underresourced, and that the Taliban had heat-seeking missiles that could attack our helicopters … which the US provided Afghan fighters during the Soviet occupation.

In short, it’s the Long War Journal, only less detailed

I’ll be reading through the documents and will post more on this story; while the documents per se may not be as scandalous as the Pentagon Papers, we shouldn’t be surprised if the Obama administration a. blames Bush as it always does, and b. uses them as a pretext for pulling out of Afghanistan.

Wikileaks Hath Spoken
Now Step Aside Or Get Stampeded By Journalists Seeking Pulitzers

When Wikileaks becomes an equal opportunity leaker and starts thumbing its nose at Vlad Putin, for instance, then maybe we’ll talk. The thing is, journalists and intelligence folks who run afoul of Vlad have a strange habit of getting dead. (One would think there would be a story to be leaked in there somewhere to the industrious folks at Wikileaks.)

But stand clear. There’s a Pulitzer at stake, and it’s being pulled violently by teams in New York, London and Berlin.

ShrinkWrapped believes the war is over; I agree up to a point – what if the Wikileaks was timed in order to preempt Petraeus from extending the US troops stay in Afghanistan, when, prior to Petraeus taking his post, was scheduled for July next year?


Due to personal business that needs to be attended this morning, there will be no podcast today and the Carnival of Latin America will be posted in the afternoon.
Thank you for your patience and support.


Sharks circling the waters news roundup

Monday, July 26th, 2010

While we talk about the Afghan war document dump (and the eventuality of a hasty withdrawal and defeat in Afghanistan), here are a few noteworthy news items:

Signals in the Yellow Sea
China tries to deny U.S. aircraft carriers access to international waters.

The People’s Daily tips China’s hand that the top priority is keeping the carriers away. Not only is Beijing going to try to forbid the activity of surveillance in its economic zone, any ship with surveillance capability is unwelcome: “As the Yellow Sea is a high sea, the aircraft carrier can also detect the hydro-geological conditions of China’s submarines’ channels out to sea. Therefore, the two purposes of the joint military exercise, strategic reconnaissance and testing initial combat plans, will pose a threat to China.”

Such a blatant attempt to expropriate the rights of the U.S. Navy or any other navy to operate in international waters is not acceptable. The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said recently that his attitude toward China has “moved from being curious to being genuinely concerned.” It’s easy to see why.

China Rejects U.S. Suggestion for Asean Mediation on Territory

The dispute has raised concerns that an increasingly powerful Chinese military could seek to dominate Asian waters. Tensions have risen as Chinese companies have increased exploration efforts in the region to look for new deposits of energy and minerals.

North Korea Threatens to Nuke South

Iran Will Retaliate if Inspected

And one more step towards the narcostate at the southern border,
Mexico prisoners ‘freed for killings’ in Durango state
Gunmen who killed 17 people at a party in northern Mexico earlier this month were let out of prison to carry out the attack, state prosecutors say.

As my friend Richard said, when I asked if there’s lots more to come, “probably, but you wouldn’t know it if you were at the golf course.”

Worried yet?


McChrystal out

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Fox News just announced that Gen. David Petraeus will replace McChrystal.

Source: Petraeus chosen to succeed McChrystal

A source tells The Associated Press that President Barack Obama has decided to oust Afghanistan commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal over inflammatory remarks he made about Obama and other high administration officials.

Breaking: General Stanley McChrystal tenders his resignation


McChrystal offers to resign

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Report: Gen. McChrystal has submitted resignation; White House denies I wouldn’t say the White House denies, more like the White House disassembles:

CNN is reporting that Time magazine’s Joe Klein told the network that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has submitted his resignation in the wake of fallout from his interview with Rolling Stone.

CNN says it is working to confirm Klein’s report, which is pegged to an unnamed source. CNN partners with Time.

Stay tuned.

Update at 5:25 p.m. ET: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says it hasn’t happened, according to our colleagues at The Oval, who are also trying to confirm the story.

They offer this perspective: “It’s standard for officials at his level to offer their resignation at times like this,” reminding us that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tendered his resignation several times during the Bush administration, such as when the Abu Ghraib prison abuse became public. Former President Bush did not accept it until the 2006 midterm elections.

“So we could have a situation in which the resignation is there, and it’s up to Obama to take it or not.”

Dithering at the White House? Of course!

I’ll be in Rick Moran’s podcast tonight at 8PM Eastern/7PM Central; this is the subject of the day.


The runaway story on The Runaway General

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

McChrystal offers to resign

The Rolling Stone article, The Runaway General, on Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is certainly THE news story of the day. The content of the article was shown to McChrystal before it was released to the public.

Hardly surprising, McChrystal Called to Washington to Explain Remarks

The article, in the magazine’s latest edition, quotes the general and his aides as criticizing Vice President Joseph Biden, special envoy for Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, and U.S. Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry.

As the top U.S. civilian and military officials in Afghanistan, Eikenberry and McChrystal are required to jointly implement U.S. policy in the country.

The Rolling Stone profile, titled “The Runaway General,” mentions the first meeting that McChrystal had with President Barack Obama the week after he took office. They met with a dozen senior military officials in a Pentagon room known as The Tank. The reporter of the article cites a source familiar with the meeting saying that McChrystal thought Obama appeared “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the room filled with military brass.

‘Photo Op’

The article also describes the first one-on-one meeting McChrystal had with Obama in the Oval Office four months later, which an adviser to McChrystal called “a 10-minute photo op.”

McChrystal is described by an aide as “disappointed” in this first meeting with the president. While McChrystal voted for Obama, the two didn’t connect from the start, the article says.

The thing is, McChrystal is in charge of 142,000 troops in Afghanistan from the U.S. and 45 partner nations, which he understands to be his personal responsibility. Personal responsibility: a concept probably beyond the reach of a president who could spare all of 20 minutes – if that – for this:

Right now (emphasis added),

McChrystal is executing a strategy which took the White House months to approve. The approach involves adding 30,000 U.S. troops to carry out a counter-insurgency, which includes convincing Afghans to resist the Taliban’s takeover of parts of the country. The general said recently that this would take more time than expected.

The Obama administration dithered on a strategy and insists on a July 2011 withdrawal date – which tells the Afghans their lives are not worth helping the US since the US is scheduled to leave anyway, and then what?

So what it may come down to is, Obama Should Probably Fire McChrystal, but He Can’t

McChrystal is a big boy, and after a tenure that saw the leak of his bleak strategic review and the fallout from his London speech calling for an Afghan troop surge, I have a lot of trouble buying that McChrystal would make another goof of this magnitude.

Which makes me wonder whether we are witnessing McChrystal falling on his sword to get the word out on the Obama administration’s folly in Afghanistan. I’m not 100 percent convinced of it, but it is a real possibility.

I also very much agree with Rich that the president would be well within his rights to dismiss McChrystal over this. I just don’t think he can. The fact is that McChrystal has more credibility onAfghanistan than Obama does. And to the extent that Obama has credibility there at all (and higher approval ratings for his Afghanistan policy than his presidency generally), it is credibility imported from McChrystal. As such, I figure that firing the general would be disastrous forObama , not just on substance but politically. Fairly or unfairly, it would make his administration look petty and prideful, willing to let an (admittedly serious) breach in decorum set back our best chance for success in the longest war in American history.

Don’t blame McChrystal, blame Obama

The real trouble is that Obama never resolved the dispute within his administration over Afghanistan strategy. With the backing of Gates and the Pentagon’s top generals, McChrystal sought to apply to Afghanistan the counterinsurgency approach that succeeded over the last three years in Iraq, an option requiring the deployment of tens of thousands more troops. Biden opposed sending most of the reinforcements and argued for a “counterterrorism plus” strategy centered on preventing al-Qaeda from establishing another refuge.

In the end, Obama adopted what is beginning to look like a bad compromise. He approved most of the additional troops that McChrystal sought, but attached the July, 2011 deadline for beginning withdrawals. Since then both sides have been arguing their cases, in private and in public, to the press and to members of Congress.

McChrystal may be at fault for expressing his frustrations to Rolling Stone. He is not at fault for the lack of coherence in the Afghan campaign or the continued feuding over strategy. That is Obama’s responsibility.

We’ll see what happens next.

(Post re-edited to include omitted link & text)

ShrinkWrapped looks at How a new meme takes shape