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As the United States meets with its NATO allies in Lisbon to discuss their strategy in Afghanistan, distress signals from Kabul continue to show just how troubled that strategy is. Ahmed Rashid scores an in-depth interview with Hamid Karzai reported in today’s Financial Times. He sees a final rupture between Kabul and the U.S.-led alliance in the works:
Mr Karzai is bitterly critical of the west and the US in particular, saying they have been unable to bring peace to Afghanistan or secure compliance from a Pakistan that gives sanctuary to the Taliban. The US wrongly blames Afghans for Washington’s own past and present failures, he says, and he rejects the barrage of US criticism at his government. In recent months senior western officials including, most prominently, Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for the region, and General David Petraeus, the Nato commander in Afghanistan, have engaged in heated arguments with Mr Karzai. Some have even briefed the US media that he is mentally unbalanced and on medication. However, he is as calm as ever and has clearly given his political U-turn considerable thought, even though many of his ideas depend more on conspiracy theories than facts on the ground.
What is clear is that he no longer supports the “war on terrorism” as defined by Washington, and he sees Nato’s military surge in the south as unhelpful. It relies on body counts of dead Taliban, he argues, leaving Afghan cities as garrisons and the people ever more alienated. In particular he wants an immediate end to night raids conducted by US special operations forces, which the US say have in the last three months killed or captured 368 Taliban mid-level leaders and killed 968 foot soldiers. Nobody knows how many civilians are included in these figures.
Odd how this one particular tactic—“night raids”—keeps popping up on the political agenda. The Pentagon insists that the tactic works. Apparently the intelligence community is not quite convinced that the advantages of the tactic outweigh the drawbacks. But one thing’s certain: no tactic has done quite so much to alienate and anger Afghanistanis across the country. They see the tactic as humiliating. And Karzai sees immediate political advantage in being their voice of indignation.
According to Rashid, Karzai also expressed bitterness over the allies’ failure to hold Pakistan, and its ever-present intelligence service, the ISI, in check. The American generals continue to argue that their strategies are working in Afghanistan, they just need more time. But in Lisbon, the pressure is clearly on to develop new strategies and to move towards a drawdown.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Minimum number of cats fitted with high-tech listening equipment in a 1967 CIA project:
Zoologists suggested that apes and humans share an ancestor who laughed.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”