Military News Highlights: January 11, 2011

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Is the tide turning in southern Afghanistan ?

Back in the fall of 2006, the Kagans, Frederick and Kimberly, from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), peddled the “surge” on a set of Power Point slides via General (Ret.) Jack Keane.  First to the Office of the Vice President, then to the President, then to the Pentagon, and then to CENTCOM, and finally to Congress – standard operating procedure back then.  The result?  The “surge” into Iraq and the “reversal of a failed war strategy” according to Fred and Kim.  FYI – In regards to Fred’s credibility you can make your own decision, but we are providing this 2007 Daily Kos story for your reference. 

Nevertheless, Fred and Kim are back at it with support from AEI and the Institute for the Study of War (whatever that means) and have issued a new report stating “the obvious:”  that recent US surge in southern Afghanistan has “turned the war around” and other sensational successes.  These include that: the Taliban has effectively lost all its main safe havens in the region (southern Afghanistan); disruption of acquiring, transporting, and using IED’s; aggressive targeting of narcotics facilitators and financiers (to great effect); that Herat and Kabul are reasonably secured; US/NATO is maintaining tenuous security in the Jalalabad Bowl; that any reports that state that the north is slipping into Taliban control are simply overblown; any gains made so far will be lost if the U.S. were to withdraw prematurely; and finally that reconciliation with the Taliban risks igniting an “ethnic war” that will embroil the region circa the 1990’s.  

To add credibility to the report, both Fred and Kim are eager to let everybody know that they spent over 120 days in Afghanistan studying the situation – knee deep in the trenches, kind of SLA Marshall I guess.

The report and promoting of its findings (via General Keane again) is timed, just like the 2006 report/slides, to “put some calcium” into the administration and prevent (or slow down) the scheduled troop withdrawal to begin this upcoming July. 

It’s a slick operation – and unfortunately, it will probably work.

Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2011

Because what happens in Pakistan is critical to any US/NATO success in Afghanistan, reports of increased drone strikes always draws some attention.  However, aside from the occasional antiseptic (and seemingly trivial) AP or Reuters news flash detailing the number of suspected insurgents or AQ operatives killed, one never really gets a full sense of the scope and impact that these drone strikes are having on the threat that operates with impunity in Pakistani safe havens.  Interesting to note in this Long Wars Journal report that charts the data from drone strikes since 2004, specifically that the Hekmatyer group, one of four major threats that emanates from our ally-buddy Pakistan has only been targeted two times.  Yep, twice out of the 219 drone strikes.  Why is that?  Who in the ISI or Pakistani government is Hekmatyer in bed with? 

Hekmatyer is sure one lucky fella.

Afghanistan watchdog resigns

Inadvertently hidden in the tragic Arizona news from this past weekend was the announcement this past Monday that the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) had resigned from his position.  Major General (Ret.) Arnold Fields, appointed by President Bush in 2008, apparently was neither inspecting reconstruction contracts awarded in Afghanistan or doing anything in response (or special) with the flagrant and rampart corruption associated with the awards of these contracts.  Members of Congress criticized General Fields for failing to investigate over $55 billion in grants and contracts awarded by the US for the purpose of community development in Afghanistan – good on them.

But, I thought development and government credibility/legitimacy were building blocks in the US/NATO COIN strategy (and narrative).  And I also heard General Happy Talk Petreaus recently discuss how swimmingly well things were in fortress Kabul. 

So if reconstruction contracts and grants haven’t been properly screened for corruption and graft in the past, who is to say that any future development and reconstruction in Afghanistan will be legitimate in future?

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