March 12, 2010
As is often the case with tales of great discovery, the details of how buried treasure came to be found beneath the rolling countryside of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, have grown a little gauzy over the last 30 years. But here is the story as the prospectors tell it. One day, in March 1979, a man named Byrd Berman, a geologist by training, was driving down a road through cattle pastures when the scintillometer sitting on the dashboard of his Hertz rental car began to beep. The device, similar to a Geiger counter, was designed to detect the gamma radiation naturally emitted by uranium.
On his way to Kabul, Secretary Gates accused Dr. A’jad and Iran of “playing a double game” in Afghanistan. And surely they are. Nonetheless, the administration which the secretary of defense serves has, if anything, encouraged this behavior. Most especially by not following through on any of its (in any case, namby-pamby) threats as Tehran carries on its relentless march to nuclear possession. But what, in fact, Iran has been doing is not surprising.
Our Man in Kabul?
March 09, 2010
“Let’s talk about why you plan to kill me.” It was March 1987, and Milt Bearden was sitting in a spare interview room at the Islamabad headquarters of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Bearden was then the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, serving as the link between Washington and the U.S.-funded Afghan rebels bleeding the Soviets in Afghanistan. He had come to see the mujahedin’s most lethal warlord, a radical Islamist named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
The American Awakening
March 01, 2010
In The Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan By Seth G. Jones (W.W. Norton, 414 pp., $27.95) I. With the war in Afghanistan hanging in the balance, it is useful, if a little sad, to recall just how complete the American-led victory was in the autumn of 2001. By December, the Taliban had vanished from Kabul, Kandahar, and much of the countryside. Afghans celebrated by flinging their turbans and dancing in the streets. They dug up TV sets, wrapped in plastic, from hiding places in their gardens.
The Pakistan Puzzle
December 11, 2009
In a New York Times op-ed today largely in support of Obama's Afghanistan plan, Nate Fick of the Center for a New American Security writes: Progress depends on two political developments: inducing the administration of President Hamid Karzai to govern effectively, and persuading Pakistan that militant groups within its borders pose as great a threat to Islamabad as they do to Kabul. The latter proposition--bolded by me--is an oft-repeated one. But there's something odd about it. Why wouldn't Pakistan have at least as clear an idea of who poses a real threat to Islamabad as we do?
Obama Sticks to His Guns
December 02, 2009
Listening to Barack Obama explain his new strategy for Afghanistan tonight, you may have been struck by a sense of deja vu. Before a sea of somber West Point cadets, Obama invoked the grim memory of the September 11 attacks. He vowed that the days of “blank check" policymaking are over. He called al Qaeda a “cancer” that threatens the region and said he would not allow the group a safe haven there. He insisted that the U.S. would get tougher about corruption within the Karzai government and would extend a hand to low-level Taliban fighters willing to switch sides.
December 01, 2009
The president beamed, the guests applauded. As Hamid Karzai was sworn in for his second term in office amid a throng of 800 international and domestic dignitaries on November 18, one could almost forget that his presidency is under a cloud, his international support hanging by a thread, and his domestic standing lower than ever. It was a stark difference from his first inauguration, in December 2004. Then, the U.S.
A Third Way in Afghanistan
November 23, 2009
WASHINGTON--When there is no good solution to a problem, a president has three options. One is to avoid the problem. The second is to pick the least bad of the available options. The third is to mix and match among the proposed solutions and minimize the long-term damage any decision will cause. Afghanistan has presented President Obama with exactly this situation, and he is soon likely to settle on something closest to the third approach. This will make no one very happy.
How Do You Say 'Reset' in Pashto?
November 20, 2009
The WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports that the Obama administration has decided to try a little tenderness with Hamid Karzai: The new approach, which one official described as a "reset" of the relationship, will entail more engagement with members of Karzai's cabinet and provincial governors, officials said, because they have concluded that the Afghan president lacks the political clout in his highly decentralized nation to purge corrupt local warlords and power brokers. The CIA has sent a longtime field officer close to Karzai to be the new station chief in Kabul.
Did Karzai Play Us?
November 02, 2009
When John Kerry persuaded Hamid Karzai to agree to a run-off election, the New York Times correctly described this victory as "little more than a catastrophe averted." So how do you describe the situation as it exists now, with the run-off called off due to Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal? I'd say it's a pretty big victory for Karzai, and not just because he's won himself another term. By agreeing to the run-off (and satisfying the U.S.) but then refusing to take the steps necessary to make that run-off fair (and thus failing to satisfy Abdullah), Karzai bought himself some precious time.