Kabul

Karzai's Fall

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.

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Karzai 1, Holbrooke 0

Is someone from the Pentagon taking a shot at Holbrooke in that WashPost story on Obama's "reset" with Karzai that Jason linked? Note this: "We've been treating Karzai like [Slobodan] Milosevic," a senior Pentagon official said, referring to the former Bosnian Serb* leader whom Holbrooke pressured into accepting a peace treaty in the 1990s. "That's not a model that will work in Afghanistan." Who played the critical role in dragging Milosevic to a peace agreement? Holbrooke.

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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.

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An tricky difference of opinion on how to deal with Afghanistan's massive opium trade: The U.S. does not want to address the problem of drug production in Afghanistan, said Russia's anti-narcotics chief after talks with U.S. Special Envoy for AfPak Richard Holbrooke. "My meeting with Holbrooke unfortunately confirmed our fears that they are not prepared to destroy the production of drugs in Afghanistan," Viktor Ivanov, head of the Federal Narcotics Control Service, told Russian journalists on Tuesday, hours after Mr. Holbrooke left Moscow for Kabul after one-day consultations. Mr.

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We realize that the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to American soil is a complex problem and that people can object in good faith. But some of the rhetoric from the right on the issue has gone from NIMBY to just plain DSM-IV.

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One afternoon in October, a blue and white jumbo jet flew high above the Pacific Ocean, approaching the international dateline. On board was the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was on an around-the-world trip that would end with a summit of NATO defense ministers, where the topic of the day would be Afghanistan. Gates was flying on what is often called “the Doomsday Plane,” a specially outfitted 747 that looks like a bulkier Air Force One and was built to wage retaliatory nuclear war from the skies.

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...when you have to worry that your local partner might shoot you in the back. Much the same thing happened a month ago: KABUL (Oct. 3) - An Afghan policeman on patrol with U.S. soldiers opened fire on the Americans, killing two of them before fleeing, officials said Saturday, raising questions about discipline in the ranks of the Afghan forces and possible infiltration by insurgents. I think we're beyond the "possible" point now.

Abdullah vs. Karzai

Kabul, Afghanistan  The spectacle of Afghanistan’s presidential elections seems to be finally entering its final act. Pulling out of the runoff race at the last minute, Abdullah Abdullah has cleared the way for Hamed Karzai to be the winner by default.  Both men appear to have achieved many, if not all, of their original goals. Karzai, of course, has retained his seat for another five years. Abdullah, the underdog, has denied Karzai the much-needed legitimacy that a second round of voting was supposed to confer.

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Per some informed leaking to the NYT, it seems where Obama is headed. The critical question is whether you can be "Biden" in the countryside--i.e., conduct counterterrorism operations in low-population areas--without the substantial troop presence that gives you the human intelligence generally needed to strike furtive terrorists. If I'm Obama, the other thing I worry about is the intangible effect of Taliban gains in the countryside. Robert Gates, among others, has warned that substantial Taliban gains within the country--even short of toppling Kabul--would "empower" al Qaeda.

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I hadn't been aware of the uproar in Afghanistan over the alleged desecration of a koran by American forces until the Washington Post flagged it in passing this morning. It's a reminder that the Taliban can match our guns and helicopters with some equally powerful lies.

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