Afghanistan: The Forward Lateral

The suicide attacks of 2006 in Afghanistan, coinciding with an increase of NATO-led forces in the area, serve as harsh reminders of the unfinished business left behind when the United States shifted its focus in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) to Iraq (based on a series of uncorroborated claims).

When U.S. troops attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001, they had the backing of many allies in the war on terror including the United Nations. However, months later, when Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the disasterminds of U.S. foreign policy decided to change course and invade Iraq, the rogue Taliban had not been defeated as imagined, they merely slipped into obscurity; taking refuge in the mountainous borderlands of Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Thus began a series of foreign policy fumbles reulting from the U.S. determination to militarily implement rapid regime change without providing support and logistics necessary for rebuilding. It even appears that some U.S. politicians are prepared to give up on Iraq entirely and start over again with (gulp!) Iran (Krauthammer and Ledeen, among others, think a showdown is inevitable), as USAID today paints a picture of an out-of-control Iraq, replete with “social breakdown” and criminal “free rein.”

So now as the UK has begun displacing some of their troops in Iraq to help lead the NATO mission in Afghanistan, a U.S. envoy is warning them to be prepared for violent opposition from Taliban forces.

Hamid Karzai is left to his own devices to foil future attacks and has launched an investigation to find “where the militants are getting their resources, their support and where they are coming from,” and protests are underway at the site where 26 where killed and dozens injured near Kandahar on Monday.

Holland has pledged to send over 1,000 troops to Afghanistan, but not without a grudge to bear:

Dutch Commander General Dick Berlijn said on Wednesday:

“The actions of the Americans have had little or no effect. The Taliban was dealt with – and that was very necessary – but the country is no more stable as a result….”

Even pacifist Sweden’s mission in the country has recently been threatened:

“[Al-Qaeda] had a focus and direction against Sweden that we hadn’t seen before and were coupled with a criticism of Sweden’s participation in Afghanistan…” — SAPO Security Chief Dagens Nyheter.

There are reports of at least 20 suicide bombings in Afghanistan in these first 17 days of 2006 alone, including an attack near Kandahar Sunday, killing a senior Canadian diplomat.

While President Bush continues insisting that “everything changed” after “September the eleventh,” it is as a result of hasty U.S. policies an actions in the four years since that have led to a dangerous deterioration in worldwide faith in United States’ foreign policies and goals abroad.

Afghanistan is not a forgotten war, at least not outside of the U.S., as UN Security Council President Augustine P. Mahiga of Tanzania has announced an international conference later this month in London to ?provide a solid framework for the next stage of reconstruction.? But it seems that America’s poor handling of the Afghan situation has only left a bitter taste and has inspired fear not in the enemy, but in our NATO allies left to clean up the mess.

And by the way, What’s up with Osama bin Laden?

Wiretapping Lawsuits Filed; Dr. King Rolls Over

ACLU ad, Washington Post, Jan 16, 2006Eric Lichtblau reveals that two lawsuits are being filed in regards to President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program.

According to the article, in Tuesday’s New York Times, the two separate suits are being filed by the in Detroit, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in Manhattan, on behalf of Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, Guantanamo Action Network, oft-scrutinized journalist Christopher Hitchens and Tara McKelvey, senior editor of The American Prospect.

The full-page ACLU ad at left appeared in Monday’s Washington Post.

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Classes were not in session in the United States today, in observance of what would have been the 77th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but while it is honorable to celebrate the man, we certainly have not come far as a society in holding up his legacy as a civil rights visionary. Robin Shulman writes in Tuesday’s Guardian:

Millions of Americans marked Martin Luther King Day yesterday with tributes to the civil rights leader, despite a Harvard University report showing that racial segregation in schools has been increasing since the early 1990s, when the courts made a series of decisions to dissolve desegregation orders.

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Unless you were watching C-Span, you missed the very important speech (foreshadowed by The Nation’s John Nichols on Friday) given by former Vice President Al Gore.

In a midday speech memorializing Dr. Martin Luther King at Constitution Hall, Gore criticized the president for his careless and repeated constitutional breaches, and warned the public against “a gross and excessive power grab” by the Bush Administration.”

transcript – (Raw Story)
Audio (.mp3)

“Where was this Gore when we needed him?” queried a journalist seated next to The Tribune’s Frank James, according to his glowing review in the Trib Washington Bureau’s The Swamp blog. At any rate, it appears that Gore will not stand down.
Additional commentary at Digby’s Hullabaloo, The Left Coaster, and Susie was there and highlights tomorrow’s headlines, in which the media finally shows up for the bashing. Seems the much needed blast of new blood is being injected by the people’s president that never was? The “right blogosphere” is quick to juxtapose Gore’s rage against his policies as a VP, but libertarians tend to be on Al’s side when it comes to guarding against Constitutional transgressions.
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Also, Lyndon Johnson’s Attorney General, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, who remembers wiretapping Dr. King.

Cheney’s Mission in the Middle East

Vice President Cheney has returned to the Middle East to meet with leaders in Egypt and Saudia Arabia, according to AFX. This is a continuation of the Middle East trip that the Veep cut short in case he was needed as the tiebreaking vote on the Senate budget and ANWR.

UPI reports that Cheney is hoping to convince Arab countries to sent troops to Iraq as the U.S. downsizes its forces. (h/t to Steve and Qusan).Juan Cole has scoured the Arab-language dailies to get to the bottom of Cheney’s mission. According to Dr. Cole, Baghdad’s Al-Azzam reports that Cheney is hoping to ensure that both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are willing to send troops to Iraq if necessary. Dar al-Hayat states that the Vice President is seeking a free trade deal with Egypt.

I posted last month about the newly-elected Egyptian leaders’ willingness to work with the U.S. and Britain on matters in Iraq, but as long as Cheney deals with Hosni Mubarak (a “sphinx to his people“), the U.S. will shy away from any collaborative efforts with the Muslim Brotherhood-associated opposition.

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On the heels of the election of as President of Chile, Ellen Johnson-Sirleif was inaugurated President of Liberia, becoming Africa’s first elected female leader. Would it ever happen in America? Munir at Diplomatic Times Review would like to know, adding that Pakistan and Bangladesh are the only Muslim countries to have elected female leaders. Secretary Rice and First Lady Bush attended the ceremony.###

World leaders met on Monday and are prepared to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council regarding the country’s nuclear projects. Consequentially, Arab nations are hoping that Israel will be forced to sign off on the Non-Proliferation Treaty, according to Lebanon’s Daily Star.Director of the UN Nuclear watchdog IAEA Mohammed ElBaradei explains to Christopher Dickey in next week’s Newsweek that he’s tired of the Iran situation, but “not yet ready” to make a decision. According to Der Spiegel, the U.S. can expect continued threats from Iran no matter Washington’s toughter stance, “now that the country has removed the seals on its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.”
Daanspeak has quite the roundup here.

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NewsHog:
Part One, The Back Story deals with the known truths and speculations about Iran’s nuclear program.
Part Two, Nuclear Iran
Part Three: Exploring the Military Option (forthcoming)
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TVNewswer reports that CNN has been added to the list of banned networks in Iran after a report in which a recent speech by President Amadinejad was mistakenly translated to state that Iran was pursuing “nuclear weapons,” when Amadinejad had actually said “nuclear energy.”###

CNN has apologized across all of its international networks, and the translator has been fired.###

Al-Jazeera, which is already banned in four Arab nations including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, is also banned in Iran.

Details of U.S. Airstrikes Unclear; al-Zawahiri Probably Alive

I sincerely hope that the still unconfirmed worldwide reports of Ayman al-Zawahri’s demise following Friday’s airstrikes near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border are true. But just in case, I’ve decided to go out on a limb with this exclusive, unconfirmed report.

I can find no more reason to believe that al-Zawahiri has been killed than I could find to believe Dr. al-Zawahri when he stated “you have been defeated” in a video message to President Bush last week.

Shah Zaman lost his three children in the attack (AP)While there is more than enough irrational exhuberance in the blogosphere regarding this mirage, let us focus for a moment on Friday’s reporting on the story by The New York Times.

Mohammed Khan originally filed this report for the New York Times on Friday:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan. 13 — American planes crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal region and fired on residential compounds in a Pakistani village early this morning killing 18 people…. The planes targeted residential buildings in the Berkandi area of Damadola…. Witnesses from the village said that 14 of the dead belonged to one family.

Later in the day, the following account was published for the January 14, with Douglas Jehr added to Khan’s byline in a filing from Washington:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 — An American airstrike carried out on a village in the Bajaur tribal region of northwest early Friday was aimed at Ayman al-Zawahiri

Thanks for the timely update, alas, we WERE trying to kill a terrorist and not just some family gathering on the holy day. As the Reuters wire explains:

Major Chris Karns, a spokesman at US Central Command in Florida, the command responsible for the region, said there had been no official report of an attack in Pakistan.

Wonder if he’d be comfortable confirming that, whatever is was that occured was officially an attempt to kill, say, al-Qaeda’s #2?

(An earlier Reuters filing may have been most accurate in quoting the deputy chief minister of the northwest Pakistani province: “It shows a failure of foreign policy”).

FURTHERMORE, since the Pentagon would never miss its target (remember, Rumsfeld wasn’t even aware of the war plans), immediately the blame is placed on… you guessed it: “a Predator drone aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

courtesy NYTAs noted above, Khan leads with airstrikes from American planes killing 18 in a residential compound. Jehr’s update from Washington obscures the mention of deaths, attributing the report to Pakistani officials after leading with “American and Pakistani officials” saying that the strikes were aimed at Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Khan’s piece features quotes from a tribal parliamentarian from a nearby village, who claimed to have “a feeling that something nasty was going to happen” after seeing the drone hover over the area for three days.

If in fact it was a drone, “those are operational details that we don’t track,” according to Pentagon public affairs officer Maj. Todd Vichon who then proceeded to implicate the CIA, according to Khan’s original piece.

Jehr’s subsequent Washington filing provides a pedestal for this nonsense in the form of an asinine, most likely imagined statement phantom anonymous sources:

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment, but the attack was described by other American and Pakistani officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the operation.

The classified nature of WHAT operation?!?!? (Paging Mr. Calame….)
The cowboys cretins have the whole world so scared that, yeah, Al Jazeera is running the Times / ABC / CNN (apparently nobody wants credit for seeding this) story and NDTV.com of India even goes so far as to front with “Airstrike kills Ayman al-Zawahiri: Report

Jawa scours the Pakistani press for details, but comes up well short of anything AQ-related.

Still hesitating on cracking that bottle of bubbly? Never fear, as Andrew reports at the Counterterrorism Blog:

A reliable source with high-level U.S. contacts tells me that U.S. “really believes” we might have whacked him.

Our gullible subservience to an ignorant quasi-dictatorship may be even worse than revealed in Wednesday’s humiliating “death-to-democracy” Pew poll.

First, it’s conceivable to find innocent citizens guilty with no pretense… and now, everybody’s rushing to report a fallen enemy without so much as an eyewitness’ rumor to back up the story???

I’d prefer “innocent until proven guilty.” And I’m definitely sticking with “alive until proven otherwise.”

UPDATE (AP):

Two Pakistani officials told The Associated Press on Saturday that the CIA had acted on incorrect information, and al-Zawahri was not in the village of Damadola when it came under attack.

Reaction: Capt. Ed — “…[T]he US would prefer to capture targets like Zawahiri alive anyway…. The forensic results should be announced by tomorrow on the bodies retrieved immediately after the attack. Hopefully they will prove to have been AQ leadership, especially Zawahiri or even Osama himself. If not, then the CIA has some explaining to do….”

With all due respect, the CIA has yet to even comment on the attacks and appear to be a victim of Pentagon swiftboating.

I also can’t help but note that in factual reporting of Al-Qaeda’s so-called #2 (i.e. the man in last week’s video), the madman/physician’s name is spelled/pronounced “ZaWAhri,” however, the fictional character often cited by the Bush Administration is universally referred to as “ZawaHIri.”

We really are being toyed with. Just Admit It (Nothing’s Shocking).