November 02, 2009
I'm not sure how to assess Abdullah Abdullah's exit from the Afghan runoff election, which renders Hamid Karzai the unchallenged Afghan president. A runoff election certainly did promise to be tainted by the same fraud we saw last time around--quite likely more, in fact, given how fast they were slapping the plans together. But it's a problem that Abdullah is not exiting on a conciliatory note.
Slideshow: You're On The CIA Payroll Too?
October 31, 2009
This week, the New York Times reported that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has been receiving payments from the CIA since 2001. It's an awkward situation, since most observers think Karzai is heavily involved in Southern Afghanistan's drug trade. However, it is not without precedent. Click through this TNR slideshow to see other questionable people who turned out to be on the CIA payroll over the years.
Kerry on Wali Karzai: "Show Me the Smoking Gun"
October 27, 2009
Overshadowed by John Kerry's embrace of a typically Kerry-ian middle-way strategy in Afghanistan was his response to a reporter's question about Hamid Karzai's alleged drug lord brother: During our walk, we had a very direct conversation about that. In fact, he asked me about it, he raised the subject, quite interesting. And we talked about the perceptions of his brother. Let me just say this in answer to this. I have requested from our intelligence sources and law enforcement folks the smoking gun, the evidence. Show me, what do we know?...
John Kerry on Afghanistan, Karzai, and the Way Forward
October 26, 2009
Ever since he helped convince Hamid Karzai last week to agree to a run-off election, John Kerry has become a critical player on Afghanistan policy to a degree that's surprising even for a chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Today, Kerry gave a speech on Afghanistan at the Council on Foreign Relations, in which he indicated that, while he thinks General McChrystal's counterinsurgency plan is too ambitious, he would support Obama sending some additional troops.
How Did AfPak Strategy Get So Confused? Three Theories
October 15, 2009
As we now know, the Obama White House is re-examining some first-principle questions about the war in Afghanistan. How connected are al Qaeda and the Taliban? What would be the effect of ceding territory to the Taliban? How effective are drone strikes without a major troop presence to support them. The answers to the questions remain unclear. But beyond the substantive mystery, there's also a process mystery. How did the administration and the military brass come away from their first review with such different interpretations of what had been decided?
September 24, 2009
With the 2008 presidential campaign in full swing two summers ago, Joe Biden, then making his own bid for the White House, ridiculed Barack Obama on a momentous issue: Afghanistan. The occasion was an August 2007 speech by Obama outlining his plans to fight Al Qaeda, which included sending an influx of American troops and aid to the country. Later that day, Biden issued a snarky press release gloating about his own extensive record of pushing similar policies, and which cast Obama as a naïve newcomer.
Slideshow: Who's Who in the Debate Over Afghanistan?
September 22, 2009
It seems like everyone involved in Afghanistan policy is pulling in a different direction. To name just a few: General McChrystal wants a major troop increase, Robert Gates has flipped positions, Biden is skeptical, and Hamid Karzai is preoccupied with the fate of Hamid Karzai. Click through this TNR slideshow for a catalogue of who wants what in Afghanistan.
Dying For Barge Matal
September 22, 2009
This is the sort of thing that's awfully hard to explain to the American people: In early July, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked senior U.S. officials to dispatch a company of about 100 U.S. soldiers to Barge Matal, a village in the northern half of the province that is home to fewer than 500 people. Taliban insurgents had overrun the community and Karzai was insistent that that U.S. and Afghan forces wrest it back from the enemy. "I don't think anyone in the U.S.
Karzai Changes His Tone
September 18, 2009
For the past several months Afghan president Hamid Karzai has been lashing out at NATO forces, complaining bitterly that civilian casualities were the result of Western indifference to Afghan lives and arguing (probably correctly, though unhelpfully) that such "collateral damage" was abetting the terrorists. But in his Kabul press conference yesterday, Karzai sang a different tune when asked about one of the biggest air strike foul-ups of the war: Striking a magnanimous tone, Karzai said he would welcome Abdullah or any of his other challengers into a new government.
The Dostum Chronicles
September 09, 2009
Shiberghan, Afghanistan (one day before the election)—There was no mistaking the general’s “castle.” Its pastel-colored two-storey walls and lapis cupolas shocking amidst the drabness of the surrounding neighborhood. Somewhere inside the compound was General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the most notorious of Afghanistan’s warlords. In almost three decades as a militia leader, Dostum has earned a reputation for ruthless brutality towards enemies, as well as an opportunist’s disregard for alliances, which have shifted without notice.