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Entries in Taliban (9)


Afghanistan: Attack on UN Guest House Kills 12

Afghanistan: Resignation Letter of US Official Matthew Hoh
Video and Transcript: Obama “I Will Never Rush” on Afghanistan (26 October)

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AFGHANISTAN ATTACK 10-09The Taliban have claimed this morning's attack on a guest house used by United Nations staff in the centre of Kabul. The UN says six staff were killed, while police report three attackers and three Afghan security personnel died in a firefight that lasted several hours. The attack on the guesthouse was in a high-security zone near several heavily-guarded government buildings.

One of Kabul's most prestigious hotels, The Serena, was hit by mortar fire. The hotel is a favourite residence for diplomats and Western journalists. No casualties were reported in the attack, although guests were evacuated to the basement.

While it is too early to judge the effect --- symbolic and political --- of this morning's attack, it brings back uncomfortable memories of an Iraqi insurgent attack in August 2003 on the central UN headquarters in Baghdad, while killed more than 20 people including the UN's special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. The UN withdrew all operations soon after the bombing, which marked the transition from post-Saddam "liberation" into protracted conflict.

Video & Transcript: Cheney Speech on National Security (21 October)

Video and Transcript: Dick Cheney Speech on “National Security” at American Enterprise Institute (21 May)
Video: Dissecting the Cheney Speech on National Security (22 May)

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Apparently a former Vice President spoke last night and said he kept the world safe and the current President doesn't. Sort of like my Dad saying each time we meet, "You know in my day 1) there was no crime 2) kids knew their place 3) music was much better."

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Part 2 of 2


CHENEY: Thank you all very much. It’s a pleasure to be here, and especially to receive the Keeper of the Flame Award in the company of so many good friends.

I’m told that among those you’ve recognized before me was my friend Don Rumsfeld. I don’t mind that a bit. It fits something of a pattern. In a career that includes being chief of staff, congressman, and secretary of defense, I haven’t had much that Don didn’t get first. But truth be told, any award once conferred on Donald Rumsfeld carries extra luster, and I am very proud to see my name added to such a distinguished list.

To Frank Gaffney and all the supporters of Center for Security Policy, I thank you for this honor. And I thank you for the great energy and high intelligence you bring to as vital a cause as there is – the advance of freedom and the uncompromising defense of the United States.

Most anyone who is given responsibility in matters of national security quickly comes to appreciate the commitments and structures put in place by others who came before. You deploy a military force that was planned and funded by your predecessors. You inherit relationships with partners and obligations to allies that were first undertaken years and even generations earlier. With the authority you hold for a little while, you have great freedom of action. And whatever course you follow, the essential thing is always to keep commitments, and to leave no doubts about the credibility of your country’s word.

So among my other concerns about the drift of events under the present administration, I consider the abandonment of missile defense in Eastern Europe to be a strategic blunder and a breach of good faith.

It is certainly not a model of diplomacy when the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic are informed of such a decision at the last minute in midnight phone calls. It took a long time and lot of political courage in those countries to arrange for our interceptor system in Poland and the radar system in the Czech Republic. Our Polish and Czech friends are entitled to wonder how strategic plans and promises years in the making could be dissolved, just like that – with apparently little, if any, consultation. Seventy years to the day after the Soviets invaded Poland, it was an odd way to mark the occasion.

You hardly have to go back to 1939 to understand why these countries desire – and thought they had – a close and trusting relationship with the United States. Only last year, the Russian Army moved into Georgia, under the orders of a man who regards the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. Anybody who has spent much time in that part of the world knows what Vladimir Putin is up to. And those who try placating him, by conceding ground and accommodating his wishes, will get nothing in return but more trouble.

What did the Obama Administration get from Russia for its abandonment of Poland and the Czech Republic, and for its famous “Reset” button? Another deeply flawed election and continued Russian opposition to sanctioning Iran for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In the short of it, President Obama’s cancellation of America’s agreements with the Polish and Czech governments was a serious blow to the hopes and aspirations of millions of Europeans. For twenty years, these peoples have done nothing but strive to move closer to us, and to gain the opportunities and security that America offered. These are faithful friends and NATO allies, and they deserve better. The impact of making two NATO allies walk the plank won’t be felt only in Europe. Our friends throughout the world are watching and wondering whether America will abandon them as well.

Big events turn on the credibility of the United States – doing what we said we would do, and always defending our fundamental security interests. In that category belong the ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the need to counter the nuclear ambitions of the current regime in Iran.

Candidate Obama declared last year that he would be willing to sit down with Iran's leader without preconditions. As President, he has
committed America to an Iran strategy that seems to treat engagement as an objective rather than a tactic. Time and time again, he has outstretched his hand to the Islamic Republic's authoritarian leaders, and all the while Iran has continued to provide lethal support to extremists and terrorists who are killing American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic continues to provide support to extremists in Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. Meanwhile, the regime continues to spin centrifuges and test missiles. And these are just the activities we know about.

I have long been skeptical of engagement with the current regime in Tehran, but even Iran experts who previously advocated for engagement have changed their tune since the rigged elections this past June and the brutal suppression of Iran's democratic protestors. The administration clearly missed an opportunity to stand with Iran's democrats, whose popular protests represent the greatest challenge to the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979. Instead, the President has been largely silent about the violent crackdown on Iran's protestors, and has moved blindly forward to engage Iran's authoritarian regime. Unless the Islamic Republic fears real consequences from the United States and the international community, it is hard to see how diplomacy will work.

Next door in Iraq, it is vitally important that President Obama, in his rush to withdraw troops, not undermine the progress we’ve made in recent years. Prime Minister Maliki met yesterday with President Obama, who began his press availability with an extended comment about Afghanistan. When he finally got around to talking about Iraq, he told the media that he reiterated to Maliki his intention to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq. Former President Bush's bold decision to change strategy in Iraq and surge U.S. forces there set the stage for success in that country. Iraq has the potential to be a strong, democratic ally in the war on terrorism, and an example of economic and democratic reform in the heart of the Middle East. The Obama Administration has an obligation to protect this young democracy and build on the strategic success we have achieved in Iraq.

We should all be concerned as well with the direction of policy on Afghanistan. For quite a while, the cause of our military in that country went pretty much unquestioned, even on the left. The effort was routinely praised by way of contrast to Iraq, which many wrote off as a failure until the surge proved them wrong. Now suddenly – and despite our success in Iraq – we’re hearing a drumbeat of defeatism over Afghanistan. These criticisms carry the same air of hopelessness, they offer the same short-sighted arguments for walking away, and they should be summarily rejected for the same reasons of national security.

Having announced his Afghanistan strategy last March, President Obama now seems afraid to make a decision, and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete his mission.

President Obama has said he understands the stakes for America. When he announced his new strategy he couched the need to succeed in the starkest possible terms, saying, quote, “If the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged – that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.” Five months later, in August of this year, speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the President made a promise to America’s armed forces. “I will give you a clear mission,” he said, “defined goals, and the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That’s my commitment to you.”

It’s time for President Obama to make good on his promise. The White House must stop dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger.

Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries. Waffling, while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy, endangers them and hurts our cause.

Recently, President Obama’s advisors have decided that it’s easier to blame the Bush Administration than support our troops. This weekend they leveled a charge that cannot go unanswered. The President’s chief of staff claimed that the Bush Administration hadn’t asked any tough questions about Afghanistan, and he complained that the Obama Administration had to start from scratch to put together a strategy.

In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt. The new strategy they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them. They made a decision – a good one, I think – and sent a commander into the field to implement it.

Now they seem to be pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced. It’s time for President Obama to do what it takes to win a war he has repeatedly and rightly called a war of necessity.

It’s worth recalling that we were engaged in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, supporting the Mujahadeen against the Soviets. That was a successful policy, but then we pretty much put Afghanistan out of our minds. While no one was watching, what followed was a civil war, the takeover by the Taliban, and the rise of bin Laden and al-Qaeda. All of that set in motion the events of 9/11. When we deployed forces eight years ago this month, it was to make sure Afghanistan would never again be a training ground for the killing of Americans. Saving untold thousands of lives is still the business at hand in this fight. And the success of our mission in Afghanistan is not only essential, it
is entirely achievable with enough troops and enough political courage.

Then there’s the matter of how to handle the terrorists we capture in this ongoing war. Some of them know things that, if shared, can save a good many innocent lives. When we faced that problem in the days and years after 9/11, we made some basic decisions. We understood that organized terrorism is not just a law-enforcement issue, but a strategic threat to the United States.

At every turn, we understood as well that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. We had a lot of blind spots – and that’s an awful thing, especially in wartime. With many thousands of lives potentially in the balance, we didn’t think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time, if they answered them at all.
The intelligence professionals who got the answers we needed from terrorists had limited time, limited options, and careful legal guidance. They got the baddest actors we picked up to reveal things they really didn’t want to share. In the case of Khalid Sheik Muhammed, by the time it was over he was not was not only talking, he was practically conducting a seminar, complete with chalkboards and charts. It turned out he had a professorial side, and our guys didn’t mind at all if classes ran long. At some point, the mastermind of 9/11 became an expansive briefer on the operations and plans of al-Qaeda. It happened in the course of enhanced interrogations. All the evidence, and common sense as well, tells us why he started to talk.

The debate over intelligence gathering in the seven years after 9/11 involves much more than historical accuracy. What we’re really debating are the means and resolve to protect this country over the next few years, and long after that. Terrorists and their state sponsors must be held accountable, and America must remain on the offensive against them. We got it right after 9/11. And our government needs to keep getting it right, year after year, president after president, until the danger is finally overcome.
Our administration always faced its share of criticism, and from some quarters it was always intense. That was especially so in the later
years of our term, when the dangers were as serious as ever, but the sense of general alarm after 9/11 was a fading memory. Part of our responsibility, as we saw it, was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America … and not to let 9/11 become the prelude to something much bigger and far worse.

Eight years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive – and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed. So you would think that our successors would be going to the intelligence community saying, “How did you did you do it? What were the keys to preventing another attack over that period of time?”

Instead, they’ve chosen a different path entirely – giving in to the angry left, slandering people who did a hard job well, and demagoguing an issue more serious than any other they’ll face in these four years. No one knows just where that path will lead, but I can promise you this: There will always be plenty of us willing to stand up for the policies and the people that have kept this country safe.

On the political left, it will still be asserted that tough interrogations did no good, because this is an article of faith for them, and actual evidence is unwelcome and disregarded. President Obama himself has ruled these methods out, and when he last addressed the subject he filled the air with vague and useless platitudes. His preferred device is to suggest that we could have gotten the same information by other means. We’re invited to think so. But this ignores the hard, inconvenient truth that we did try other means and techniques to elicit information from Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and other al-Qaeda operatives, only turning to enhanced techniques when we failed to produce the actionable intelligence we knew they were withholding. In fact, our intelligence professionals, in urgent circumstances with the highest of stakes, obtained specific information, prevented specific attacks, and saved American lives.

In short, to call enhanced interrogation a program of torture is not only to disregard the program’s legal underpinnings and safeguards. Such accusations are a libel against dedicated professionals who acted honorably and well, in our country’s name and in our country’s
cause. What’s more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future, in favor of half-measures, is unwise in the extreme. In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed.

For all that we’ve lost in this conflict, the United States has never lost its moral bearings – and least of all can that be said of our armed forces and intelligence personnel. They have done right, they have made our country safer, and a lot of Americans are alive today because of them.

Last January 20th, our successors in office were given the highest honors that the voters of this country can give any two citizens. Along with that, George W. Bush and I handed the new president and vice president both a record of success in the war on terror, and the policies to continue that record and ultimately prevail. We had been the decision makers, but those seven years, four months, and nine days without another 9/11 or worse, were a combined achievement: a credit to all who serve in the defense of America, including some of the finest people I’ve ever met.

What the present administration does with those policies is their call to make, and will become a measure of their own record. But I will tell you straight that I am not encouraged when intelligence officers who acted in the service of this country find themselves hounded with a zeal that should be reserved for America’s enemies. And it certainly is not a good sign when the Justice Department is set on a political mission to discredit, disbar, or otherwise persecute the very people who helped protect our nation in the years after 9/11.

There are policy differences, and then there are affronts that have to be answered every time without equivocation, and this is one of them. We cannot protect this country by putting politics over security, and turning the guns on our own guys.

We cannot hope to win a war by talking down our country and those who do its hardest work – the men and women of our military and intelligence services. They are, after all, the true keepers of the flame.

Afghanistan: Did Clinton Just Say to the BBC, "Talk to the Taliban"?

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UPDATE: Credit to the BBC for getting this much out of of Clinton. NBC didn't even get close to a statement beyond pitter-patter before moving on to the fatuousness of "Are you really important, Hillary?"

You had to have sharper ears than Spock, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have snuck in a huge revelation on Afghanistan in her interview with BBC national radio this morning.

If I heard this right, the big debate in Washington --- the one delaying any notion of a "strategy", let alone confirmation of military numbers --- isn't about troop increases. It's not even, as the media are framing it, whether the US should put emphasis on attacks on Al Qa'eda "sanctuaries" in Pakistan rather than a ramped-up counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan.

No, it looks like Clinton is renewing the idea of talking to the bad guys, or at least "ex-bad guys", "minor bad guys", "not the biggest bad guys". After a few minutes of meaningless waffle to avoid being pinned down on the troop question, substance broke out (the passage  is  just after the 2:12:40 mark):
PRESENTER JOHN HUMPHREYS: You are changing the strategy, emphasising the campaigning against Al Qa'eda in Pakistan and arguing that the Taliban in Afghanistan don't pose a direct threat to the United States. Is that the case?

CLINTON: No, Mr Humphreys, it isn't....We are not changing our strategy. Our strategy remains to achieve the goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating Al Qa'eda and its extremist allies and denying them safe haven and the capacity to strike us here in London or New York or anywhere else.

It is fair to say that we are doing a much more careful analysis of who actually is allied with Al Qa'eda. Not everyone who calls himself a Taliban is necessarily a threat to the UK or the United States. I think there has been to some extent inherited from our prior involvement in Afghanistan a lack of clarity because there well may be a number of people who currently are considered Taliban who are there because, frankly, they get paid to fight or because they see no alternative.

Similarly in Iraq, when we began to more carefully parse out who was really with Al Qa'eda in Iraq and who had been coerced or intimidated, we began to make real progress on the ground in developing partnerships that led to a decrease in the violence and a glide path that we are all on to turning over the security to the people of Iraq.

So I think it is important to note that we are doing is bringing to bear information and evidence that needs to be part of our thinking as we implement in the most effective manner.

The general idea of talking to some of the Taliban, trying to split them off from the insurgency, is far from new. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was floating this in the final months of the Bush Administration. Clinton's Iraq analogy, however, takes this to a different level. In that case, the US military were not just talking (and giving significant amounts of cash) to "minor" members. They were talking to Sunni leaders to convince them that Al Qa'eda, not the US military, were the foe.

Since there is no Al Qa'eda in Afghanistan, Clinton's comparison confuses rathers than illuminates. With whom will the US military or US civilian officials or the Afghan Government be conversing? And who will they be putting as the "proper" target for these former enemies? Is the Secretary of State just talking about a "tactical" approach to break up groups of Taliban or is there a "strategic" approach considering a broad political settlement?

Unfortunately, the BBC's Humphries was so fixated with the narrative of the battle within Washington over troop levels that he did not follow up Clinton's statement. So the intriguing possibility --- that it's the politics that is preoccupying the Obama Administration and not the boots on the grounds --- goes unnoticed.

Afghanistan: Was Pakistan's Intelligence Service Involved in Attack on Indian Embassy?

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INDIAN EMBASSY KABULEditor's Note: Josh Mull send this in on Thursday night, 15 hours after the bombing in front of the Indian Embassy in Kabul. We were caught up with other stories, and we also wanted to see if developments supported his theory. An hour ago, this emerged: "Afghan Ambassador to the US, Said T Jawad has claimed Pakistan's spy agency ISI was behind the suicide bomb blast at the Indian Embassy in Kabul on Thursday, which claimed 12 lives and injured over 80 people. Jawad said that there is enough evidence at the ground level to suggest that ISI was behind the attack."

Could Pakistani intelligence be linked to this attack? First we have some clues on the operational capability of the perpetrators: "The assailant in a car managed to enter the neighbourhood despite stringent security arrangements put in place. The 500-metre road stretch has been barricaded for a year in the wake of a deadly suicide assault on the Indian Embassy."

Further details came from an analyst via Twitter:
Vehicle was apparently a Lexus, to circumvent checkpoints there. Reportedly a VBIED [vehicle-delivered improvised explosive device] against National Directorate of Security (NDS) hospital, next to the Ministry of the Interior. More specifically, the blast was between the MoI, NDS hospital and Indian Embassy. That road is normally blockaded.

Photographs of the vehicle used for the attack indicated it's a larger car, too small for an industrial vehicle or truck. This lends credence to the Lexus theory although it's not 100% solid.

This was a well-funded and well-coordinated attack. It would not be impossible for the Taliban to accomplish something like this, but it would take a long, long time and extensive resources to spare. On top of that, some considerable luck would be involved getting past the layers of security. Luck or (abnormally expensive) bribery.

Did the attackers have help? For that we have a bit more information:
A number of Indian mission employees were among the casualties, a spokesman for the militant movement told Pajhwok Afghan News over the telephone from an undisclosed location.

Zabihullah Mujahid said Khaled, a resident of Paghman district, carried out the attack on the embassy. At least 35 Afghan and international security personnel were killed and several others injured in the assault, he claimed.

Right away we can knock out the claim of 35 killed, seeing as how the Taliban did not have any forensic teams in the area, and certainly the perpetrator wasn't around to do any counting. But the real meat is in the assertion that they managed to kill Indian workers. What does the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban care about a handful of Indians when they just wiped out 35 (their claim) security personnel and Minstry of Interior collaborators with the Crusaders? Why make the point?

It could be that Pakistan's intelligence service ISI was directly involved (acquisition of vehicles, clearances, etc) since they would definitely have the ability to acquire them easier in Kabul than the Taliban would. And they certainly have motive to help: in the last few days the Indian Foreign Minister has expressed the desire to negotiate with the Taliban as well as India's support for a continued US presence in Afghanistan. A report leaked to Indian papers on Wednesday detailed a supposed plot by ISI to infiltrate Taliban fighters into Kashmir and India. (

That leaves me stuck with two theories. Either this was an extremely sophisticated and devastating attack by the Taliban against the Ministry of Interior, or it was a terribly ineffective attack by the Taliban and ISI against the Indian embassy and/or Indian personnel. Nothing I've listed is enough to confirm either theory, but we do have hints. If anyone can add to this, please do so.

Instant Reaction: Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

LATEST Obama's Nobel Prize: There's Concerned...And Then There's Stupid
Video/Transcript: Obama’s Reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize

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UPDATE 1245 GMT: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Israeli President Shimon Peres, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have all offered congratulations. The Taliban, however, are ruining the party: "We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan"

UPDATE 1135 GMT: Another reader jumps in, "I'm positive. He has given us hope, gives it still."

UPDATE 1035 GMT: An EA contributor is in the midst of a heated discussion on Facebook. Most of the reaction is far from thrilled: "are you serious?", "farcical", "very ridiculous". This, from our contributor, is the sharpest point: "The Nobel prize has a very good rationale if it is awarded to people who are persecuted because of their activities, such as Shirin Ebadi, Chinese dissidents, Ms. Maguire, etc. It makes no sense whatsoever to assign it to some who is well-fed, well-protected, in favour of troop rises in Afghanistan, and who wins it for 1 speech in Cairo and another one in the UN containing vague promises on nuclear disarmament, becoming buddies with the Islamic world, and other assorted dreams. It's actually almost pathetic..."

EA Staffer #1: Wonder what folks in Afghanistan think?

A Reader: How can Obama get the Nobel Peace Prize hours before the US is supposed to bomb the Moon?!

EA Staffer #2: Great to hear Obama brought peace to Afghanistan/Israel-Palestine/North Korea/Iran/the world so quickly. May as well retire now.

EA Staffer #3: I wouldn't go as far as Tom Lehrer's reaction when Henry Kissinger won the Prize --- one of the best satirists/songwriters of our time or anytime quit performing, "It was at that moment that satire died. There was nothing more to say after that." --- but still....

A Reader: Bonus Side Effect --- Glenn Beck is going to explode....

Best Reader's Prediction: Kanye West is going to disrupt Obama's Nobel ceremony - will say it should have gone to Beyonce.