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Thread: US plan to improve Afghan intelligence operations branded a $457m failure

  1. #541
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    Exclusive: Secretary of State Pompeo Declines to Sign Risky Afghan Peace Deal

    The U.S. is closing in on a deal with the Taliban that is designed to wind down America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan, but the best indication of how risky the pact may be is this: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is declining to sign it, according to senior U.S., Afghan and European officials.

    The “agreement in principle” that U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has hammered out in nine rounds of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar would take the first tentative steps toward peace since U.S. and allied forces deployed to Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11, according to senior Afghan and Trump Administration officials familiar with its general terms. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was scheduled to discuss the closely held details of the deal with President Donald Trump in a Sept. 3 meeting, according to senior administration officials. If Trump approves and a deal is struck, it could begin a withdrawal of some 5,400 U.S. troops, roughly a third of the present force, from five bases within 135 days.

    But the deal doesn’t ensure several crucial things, those familiar with the discussions tell TIME. It doesn’t guarantee the continued presence of U.S. counterterrorism forces to battle al Qaeda, the survival of the pro-U.S. government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan. “No one speaks with certainty. None,” said an Afghan official taking part in briefings on the deal with Khalilzad. “It is all based on hope. There is no trust. There is no history of trust. There is no evidence of honesty and sincerity from the Taliban,” and intercepted communications “show that they think they have fooled the U.S. while the U.S. believes that should the Taliban cheat, they will pay a hefty price.”

    That may explain why Pompeo is declining to put his name on the deal. The Taliban asked for Pompeo to sign an agreement with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the government founded by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996, four U.S., Afghan and European officials familiar with the discussions tell TIME. Having the Secretary of State sign such a document would amount to de facto recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political entity, and he declined to do so, the Afghan officials say. Pompeo’s office declined to comment.

    There are two alternatives. Khalilzad himself may sign it. Or the U.S. and the Taliban may simply issue a joint statement, supported in turn by the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and a number of other countries, including Japan, Russia and China, two Afghan sources familiar with the deliberations tell TIME.

    That diplomatic sleight of hand might solve the signature problem, but it won’t do much to address the core challenges facing those who want to give peace in Afghanistan a chance after four decades of war. As it stands, the agreement would set the stage for the withdrawal of most American forces by the end of November 2020 if the Taliban do three things: open negotiations with the U.S.-backed Afghan government; reduce violence near areas U.S. forces control; and keep foreign militants out of the areas they control, according to current and former U.S., Afghan and European officials, who all spoke anonymously to describe the sensitive and fractious deliberations.

    U.S. military and intelligence officers and diplomats who have served in Afghanistan worry that once a withdrawal is underway, it will be irreversible, given Trump’s promise to end the U.S. involvement in the war there, the fast-approaching 2020 U.S. elections and the absence of public support for the war. The price of peace, they fear, might include reversing much of the hard-won progress towards building a stable country over nearly two decades of war. These officials fear a roll back of civil, human and women’s rights in Afghanistan; a weakening of the national, regional and local governments; the deterioration of anti-Taliban military and law enforcement forces; and a rise in corruption.

    It is “not clear whether peace is possible,” nine former high-ranking U.S. officials, including a former deputy secretary of state, warned in a Sept. 3 letter distributed by the Atlantic Council. “Secondly, there is an outcome far worse than the status quo, namely a return to the total civil war that consumed Afghanistan.”

    That risk was made plain Monday, when a massive, deadly Taliban car bomb exploded in Kabul, just as Khalilzad was concluding an hour-long interview promoting the tentative peace deal to an Afghan news outlet. It was a reminder that as it now stands, the agreement does not require the extremist Islamic group to reject terrorism or stop attacking Afghan forces, officials say. The talks between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government are expected to begin in Oslo shortly after a U.S.-Taliban agreement is finalized, officials say.

    For their part, the Taliban have assured their fighters that the U.S. will withdraw all foreign troops within a little more than a year. In their communications with their rank and file, Taliban officials also go light on mentioning any “conditions” that would give the Americans the right to freeze or reverse the troop withdrawal, Afghan officials familiar with the Taliban communications tell TIME.

    Taliban commanders have radioed their followers to “prepare for victory” by welcoming Afghans who sided with the Americans rather than engaging in bloody revenge, a senior Afghan official said. Senior Taliban officials have bragged to other foreign officials that all you have to do to defeat the Americans is refuse to surrender, and ultimately, the Americans will give up, a former senior U.S. official told TIME.

    “The Taliban’s goals for Afghanistan have not changed,” said former U.S. intelligence analyst Bill Roggio, with the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “It seeks to eject the U.S., reestablish its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and impose its Islamic government.”

    Still, the agreement may be the best deal the U.S. and its allies can get to head off a pre-emptive pullout of U.S. troops in time for the 2020 U.S. elections. Military officials have long known they need to reduce the number of troops to a smaller, cheaper footprint to mollify U.S. policymakers tired of writing checks after 18 years of war, and a U.S. public that doesn’t understand why the troops are still there.

    For Afghan officials, or at least the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, it’s a final insult and a dark turning point in relations with Washington. Publicly, Ghani has tentatively, though not officially, embraced the deal. But privately aides tell TIME that they have heard shouting matches between Ghani and Khalilzad in Kabul over the last two days, with Khalilzad telling Ghani that he’s got to accept this deal because Afghanistan is losing the war.

    The disagreements range from the petty to the existential: Afghan-born Khalilzad won’t give a draft of the Taliban agreement to Ghani, the elected Afghan president, and a university classmate of Khalilzad’s, the aides say. Ghani won’t yield on holding Afghan presidential elections that are likely to hand him another five-year term, complicating the nascent Oslo talks with the Taliban.

    Each man has given some quarter, with Khalilzad publicly conceding that it’s likely too late to cancel the Sept. 28 election, and Ghani agreeing to send a delegation to Oslo to start talks with the Taliban in the last week of September, just before the voting. The 15-person delegation includes three women, but the names won’t be announced until just before the talks begin, Afghan officials said.

    Everyday Afghans, for their part, don’t know whom, if anyone, to trust. But they know Trump wants out, even if it means outsourcing their conflict to Afghan adversary Pakistan. As the violence continues and horror stories re-emerge of public floggings and summary executions in areas the Taliban control, a grim repeat of their puritanical decade in power until the U.S. drove them out after 9/11 for giving al Qaeda a sanctuary.

    Says the Afghan official who participated in the briefings with Khalilzad: “If the U.S. decides to leave, we can’t stop them.” Who in Washington will take responsibility for the decision is another matter.
    Politicians are elected to serve...far too many don't see it that way - Albany Rifles!

    Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it - Mark Twain!

  2. #542
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    I was ambassador to Afghanistan. This deal is a surrender.

    January 2002. I arrive in Kabul to reopen the U.S. Embassy. Destruction is everywhere. Kabul airport is closed, its runways cratered and littered with destroyed aircraft. The drive south from the military base at Bagram is through a wasteland. Nothing grows. No structures stand. In the city itself, entire blocks have been reduced to rubble, recalling images of Berlin in 1945.

    More than two decades of almost constant war left a terrible legacy. The damage was not only to the physical infrastructure. The Afghan people had suffered enormously through the civil war that began in the late 1970s and the tyranny of the Taliban that followed. None had suffered more than Afghan women and girls.

    After the U.S. invasion in October 2001 ousted the Taliban for harboring the al-Qaeda planners of the 9/11 terrorist attack, the human toll from the Taliban rule is why the United States’ initial assistance efforts focused on people rather than things.

    I remember taking our first congressional visitor, Joe Biden (D-Del.), who was then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to visit a girls school that we had helped to open. A first-grade class that Biden visited had students in a range of ages, from 6 to 12. The older girls had reached school age when the Taliban was in power, so they had been denied an education. They weren’t embarrassed now to be in a class with children half their age — they were just happy to be learning.

    At the end of Taliban rule, roughly 900,000 children were in school, all of them boys. When I left Afghanistan as ambassador in 2012, there were 8 million students, 40 percent of them girls.

    We also encouraged Afghan women to play their rightful roles in business, in the legislature, elsewhere in government and in the military, and they did. The implicit message was that if you step forward, we’ve got your back. It was a time when American interests and American values were in harmony. I hosted receptions to recognize Afghan women of courage. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, we funded efforts to establish shelters for women fleeing spousal or other familial abuse — a reminder that in Afghanistan’s male-dominated society, it wasn’t only the Taliban who threatened women’s safety.

    Now the United States is negotiating directly with the Taliban. A framework agreement was announced on Monday calling for a cease-fire that could lead to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops. The Taliban would commit to not harboring terrorist organizations that could threaten U.S. security. In other words, the Taliban promised no 9/11 replay.

    The framework was reached without the involvement of the Afghan government. The Taliban has said all along that it refuses to negotiate with the government, considering the government the illegitimate puppet of the U.S. occupation. By acceding to this Taliban demand, we have ourselves delegitimized the government we claim to support.

    This current process bears an unfortunate resemblance to the Paris peace talks during the Vietnam War. Then, as now, it was clear that by going to the table we were surrendering; we were just negotiating the terms of our surrender. The Taliban will offer any number of commitments, knowing that when we are gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of them.

    It does not have to go like this. The United States could announce that talks won’t proceed beyond the framework, to matters of substance, without the full inclusion of the Afghan government. Right now, the inclusion of the Afghans is only theoretical. We could also note that unless some other solution is found, U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan as long as the current government wants them, protecting the United States’ national security interests and defending core values, such as women’s rights, that we have fostered there since 2001.

    President Barack Obama proved in Iraq that the United States cannot end a war by withdrawing its forces — the battle space is simply left to our adversaries. In Afghanistan, President Trump has a choice. He can follow Obama’s example and leave the country to the Taliban, or he can make clear that the United States has interests, values and allies, and will stand behind them.
    Politicians are elected to serve...far too many don't see it that way - Albany Rifles!

    Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it - Mark Twain!

  3. #543
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Khalilzad publicly conceding that it’s likely too late to cancel the Sept. 28 election
    This is good news, i was thinking there might be no election.

  4. #544
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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    This is good news, i was thinking there might be no election.
    What good will elections do? It's a corrupt place. Ordinary Afghans are butchered everyday by Pakistan backed Talibs, while misters who sit in high offices are protected by blast walls and concertina wires. Afghanistan will stay messy, until Pakistan breaks up. Ya Allah!, do something, as in as we can't. :D
    Politicians are elected to serve...far too many don't see it that way - Albany Rifles!

    Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it - Mark Twain!

  5. #545
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oracle View Post
    But where is the money? If America write cheques, India should hire Balochis, Pashtuns and build up a force of some 1000s and hit the Taliban/Al-Qaida/LeT/JeM etc. During night time, the forces should be free to cross over and kill anyone they deem fit.
    This is what i figure he's getting at. He also wants free arms too. And just so its clear, the govt is completely opposed to his plan of Indian boots in Afghanistan. Yeah, his party : )



    So he asks some soldiers, Would you like to die in Afghanistan ?

    - guarantee the wife a house
    - children's education right through college
    - adequate income via pensions

    They would ready to die for the country.

  6. #546
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oracle View Post
    What good will elections do? It's a corrupt place. Ordinary Afghans are butchered everyday by Pakistan backed Talibs, while misters who sit in high offices are protected by blast walls and concertina wires. Afghanistan will stay messy, until Pakistan breaks up. Ya Allah!, do something, as in as we can't. :D
    Better than no elections for the forseeable future ?

  7. #547
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Pompeo: Things are 'about to get worse' for the Taliban | NBC | Sept 08 2019

    Trump calls off a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David at the last minute.

  8. #548
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Reminds me of the meeting with Kim in Hanoi.

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    ..don't have the power to negotiate a meaningful settlement anyway...
    Last edited by Double Edge; 10 Sep 19, at 05:47.

  9. #549
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    here's what AIM thinks

    Trump has effectively implemented a divide & rule strategy aimed at splitting pakistan and the Taliban. If the Taliban want power they will HAVE to prove they have ABSOLUTE control over the entire set of factions.

    On the other hand, this runs directly counter to Pakistan’s strategy which benefits from claiming it has no control & can not establish control over all the factions.

    In effect this pits the vital interests of the Taliban against Pakistan. If one does the other is damned, if one doesn’t then too the other is damned.

    This will also have knock down effects on Kashmir.. because if pakistan proves it can in fact control one set of militant factions it will then have no excuse to not control another set of factions.

  10. #550
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Unlike the UK a no deal exit is still possible

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  11. #551
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    By Sushant

    War, peace and ‘art of the deal’ in Afghanistan | ORF | Sept 09 2019

    If Trump indeed wants to resume the talks now, the Taliban will drive a much harder bargain and the terms on offer will be a lot worse than what had been agreed so far.

  12. #552
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Bugger!

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