Clinton, Karzai Define Down Kandahar: “A process, not an operation”

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This is a guest note by Barbara Slavin, freqent TWN contributor and author of Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation. Slavin has visited Iran seven times.
Clinton, Karzai Define Down Kandahar: “A Process, not an Operation”
Experienced politicians are experts at downplaying expectations.
And that was just what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai did Thursday in regard to an upcoming U.S. military action in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
Amid a polite exchange of compliments and pledges about strategic cooperation before an overflow crowd at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, both these political pros defined down Kandahar.
This is not going to be like “D-Day,” Clinton said, “not a huge massive assault” but a “more targeted effort to weed out the Taliban” who are intimidating Kandahar residents.
“We are talking of a process, not an operation,” Karzai said.
Clinton distinguished the upcoming U.S.-led effort from the February assault by coalition forces on the town of Marja in Helmand province that has had mixed results at best. Marja, she said, was much more dominated by the Taliban while Kandahar is “a bustling city with pockets of militants.”
Thus a major military operation would be too disruptive and would probably backfire among the civilian population, she suggested.
The new spin on Kandahar was foreshadowed earlier Thursday when the commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, described the Kandahar operation as a “slow, rising tide” that would gradually improve security in the city, the Associated Press reported.
McChrystal said he would be able to determine if the operation had succeeded if the city’s population became more supportive of the local government.
That is an ambitious goal.
Giles Dorronsoro, an Afghan expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan that included a stop in Kandahar, said U.S. and Afghan authorities “know they failed in Marja” – a town of only 80,000 people — and expressed reservations about how successful they can be in curtailing growing Taliban influence in Kandahar, a metropolis of half a million that gave birth to the Taliban in the 1990s.
Afghan authorities were supposed to take advantage of the Marja assault to install a “government in a box” that would provide services to local people but that government failed to materialize. Dorronsoro said the coalition faces a similar problem in Kandahar.
“It’s clear that the coalition doesn’t have the resources to change the situation in Kandahar,” he said.
That would require a wholesale reform of the local administration currently led by Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is reputed to have ties to the drug trade. Even removing Karzai’s brother would not be sufficient because “the whole system in Kandahar is totally corrupt,” Dorronsoro said.
At USIP, Karzai was asked about his brother. He said he had raised the matter with President Obama and it had been resolved but gave no details. Clinton refused to talk about the subject.
— Barbara Slavin

Comments

24 comments on “Clinton, Karzai Define Down Kandahar: “A process, not an operation”

  1. Roci says:

    We can be certain of a few things:
    +No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
    +Every time we engage Taliban forces in a major urban environment, four things tend to happen:
    a) we underestimate them;
    b) the city and civilian population suffer the majority of the damage;
    c) Thanks largely to b) we give the Taliban the sort of propaganda victory which they cold not hope to buy with all of Bin Laden’s money;
    d) tactically, the Taliban withdraw, wait for the “Allied” forces to leave, and then re-infiltrate, leaving the military balance the same as it was prior to the “Operation” except of course for c) (see Swat Valley) making the Taliban harder to dislodge both physically and psychologically when the next “Operation” becomes necessary, because we have discovered (See Swat Valley) that the first “Operation” was “not a tactical success.”
    It just isn’t sinking in to the “deeper layers”of US Policy makers and “Military thinkers” that this is not the correct way to fight the Taliban. Madness is defined as doing something the same way each and every time, and expecting different results.

    Reply

  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Erichwwk….
    Be careful with overcomplicating, even if its the academically correct assessment. The major numbers are outside the beltway, and comments such as your’s just woosh on past the brainwaves of most Americans.
    The narrative, if it is to be changed, needs to be brought down to the street level. Thats why someone as pathetically unqualified as the likes of Sarah Palin has captured the hearts of so many misinformed and uninformed Americans. They ARE the majority. They simply do not want to know the inner workings that may require an expenditure of deep thought about matters they have not been informed about. It is too taxing intellectually.
    If we could paste the truth on the backs of NFL uniforms and the hoods of NASCAR competitors, we might actually get somewhere in informing the masses.
    Living in a highly conservative area, I can assure you that even the shallow and ignorant musings of these assholes such as Limbaugh or Coulter, when repeated on the street, are simplified into one line gibberish and meaningless party aligned stupidity.
    Even here on this blog, we see issues being purposelly framed with over-complicated and diversionary scripts designed to befuddle and obscure debate. Look at the obsfucations contained in the past arguments of “questions”, or the dissingenuous and prolific diversions offered by Nadine or Wig-wag to complicate and obscure the very real and horrendous racism and human rights abuses committed daily by Israel.
    These long winded and overcomplicated rationales and justifications are DESIGNED to discourage examination and rebuttal. One can only wade through so much sewage before becoming mired and disillusioned.

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  3. erichwwk says:

    POA writes:
    “It seems we are excellent at installing puppets.
    But we seem to have considerable trouble holding onto the strings.”
    You have no doubt noticed that when “holding on to the strings” becomes a problem, one gets a new puppet. Along that line, there is an analogy to Copernicus. Don’t look at nation states as the entity “holding on to the strings” but rather ala Plato, Machiavelli, and Strauss, try viewing the puppeteer as the one having financial control.
    Once “the US” is seen as just another puppet (albeit a major one), rather than the puppeteer, many events have a simpler relationship.
    As JohnH notices, quagmires are profit maximizing for the puppeteer, if not for the citizens of nation states. Not only does this promote sales (Los Alamos county has the highest percentage of millionaires of any US county see, eg
    http://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/EconomicFS_112406.pdf),
    but it also is an excellent diversion in moving non military assets out the back door. One could think of these quagmires and military posturings as inputs into the larger wealth distribution and property rights acquisition scheme.

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  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It seems we are excellent at installing puppets.
    But we seem to have considerable trouble holding onto the strings.

    Reply

  5. samuelburke says:

    the american diplomatic corp is either
    a. deluded
    b. purposely misrepresenting the legal argument
    c. not representing the rights of its citizenry
    d. ignoramuses
    e. all of the above
    how does it feel to play the fool for a dollar?

    Reply

  6. Mr.Murder says:

    Perhaps I stated wrongly who did benefit from the vote counting(or lack thereof) in parts of the recent Iraqi elections. Certainly a legacy MLK Jr. would support in our shining caliphate democracy?
    President Barack Obama is proud to arrive at such an outcome?

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  7. JohnH says:

    “All my life I kept trying to go up in society. Where everything higher up was legal. But the higher I go, the crookeder it becomes.” –Michael Corleone, The Godfather
    “War is just a racket,” like General Smedley Butler said.
    Like Iraq before it, Afghanistan is the latest theater of the racket. Politicians have given up trying to provide a plausible rationale for wasting taxpayer dollars there, because it’s obvious there is none.

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  8. susan says:

    “…and then bug the hell out.”
    Probably won’t happen anytime soon.
    Here’s why:
    “War is just a racket. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
    It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers.
    I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
    I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
    During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
    Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933 by General Smedley Butler, USMC

    Reply

  9. John Waring says:

    For another perspective please go to Juan Cole’s Informed Comment and read, “Karzai Beats Obama 2-1.”
    I hope Obama’s goal is to fig leaf failure in Afghanistan with the current military surge and then bug the hell out. All we are creating in Afghanistan is chaos and casualties.

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  10. JohnH says:

    The only benefit I can see to the Afghan quagmire is that it keeps the Security Establishment occupied.
    If there were no foreign quagmires, they might well be mucking around in our private lives, spying on us, even more than what’s happening already. And, who knows, they might get restless in their barracks and start plotting military coups. The fact that McCrystal laid down the law to Obama on the surge is not reassuring. Images of Obama marching in lock step with military brass at Dover Air Force Base a while ago are not reassuring, either.
    One of the reasons that third world countries are eager to cooperate with international peace keeping operations is that the government can ship their least loyal elements far, far away. I see no reason why the US military, enormous and bloated as it is, wouldn’t harbor lots of ambitious psychopaths among their leaders, eager to become the Baddest Dude in the World.

    Reply

  11. Don Bacon says:

    Marjah, where the recent military operation employing 15,000 Afghan and Nato troops failed, is a collection of village farms with a population of less than 50,000.
    Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan with a population of about 450,000. Destroying Kandahar and many of the people in it as the US did in Fallujah (Iraq) is apparently no longer an option. The fact that it might “backfire among the civilian population” is not the real reason for not doing it. The prospect of defeat and failure is.
    Afghanistan as a whole has 28 million people, similar to Iraq, in an area half again larger than Iraq, much of it inhospitable to the movement of heavy vehicles and equipment. Additionally, Afghanistan is on the other side of the earth from the US, much more remote than Iraq. This calls for a “process”.
    So we have the graphic, above, of Hamid Karzai describing the big fish that he caught (the US) while Clinton beams her approval.

    Reply

  12. erichwwk says:

    PS . I by no means wish to disparage Jeffrey Lewis, who like Thomas Schelling does some excellent technical work, and his blog armscontrolwonk.com is one i do read.
    But like Thomas Schelling, there is a certain machiavellian perspective (war will happen, so limit talk on how to best fight war) that I do not agree with, nor do I find compelling evidence to support that view.
    I had the good fortunate early in life (perhaps not early, but in any case three decades ago), in working with an outstanding computer programmer in developing an agent based employment model for the Oregon department of Labor, to be told, “Erich you are NOT developing a model. What you have is an assumption synthesizer.”
    As we learned with Myron Scholes and Fischer Black with Long-Term Capital Managemen (I would even one of my hero’s, Larry Summer’s uncles- Kenneth Arrow apse w/ Depreu-on the board of Economists for Pe-ce and Security, as is Intriligator and J. Galbraith) is that when one does not get the basic assumptions right, the rest is meaningless. If one has unlimited assets (one could argue that is the case with the major eight investment turned conventional banks in the US today) one could argue that always doubling down when losing a bet is a sure thing- but there is that disturbing tail event that really does matter.
    Nowhere is this misuse of mathematics more dangerous than in the application of conflict theory as practiced at MIT, Univ.of Chicago, UCLA, and the RAND corporation. Again, not meaning to disparage- they also do much extremely outstanding work- but there is that elephant in the room.
    “Mathematics brought rigor to economics. It also brought mortis” . — Kenneth Boulding

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  13. erichwwk says:

    From “After Downing Street” via Bruce Gagnon:
    Afghanistan War $$ hidden in Democratic Party bill
    The ruling Democratic Party, so afraid of its war in Afghanistan’s rising unpopularity with the American people, has chosen to create a war funding supplemental bill that sugar coats the $33 billion more for the Central Asian quagmire in layers of hard to pass up frosting.
    http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/sites/afterdowningstreet.org/files/crsescalation.pdf
    Walter Pincus also wrote in today’s (May 14) WP:
    “Nuclear complex upgrades related to START treaty to cost $180 billion.”
    Peter Baker wrote in yesterday’s (May 13) NYT:
    “Obama Expands Modernization of Nuclear Arsenal”
    I wish the NAF would hire other than Thomas Schelling protegees for its Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative. Sort of like hiring Robert Rubin types for economic policy, with similar results. Why not invite Greg Mello, Bruce Gagnon, or Darwin BondGraham to a panel entitled “Appropriate Military Strategies”? It took Herbert York some time to come out from under the shadow of Ed Teller.
    Why have NAF play a Judith Miller role in painting Obama as a “peace president” when actions suggest the opposite behavior? Have we not been through this “listen to what I say and not what I do from enough Presidents now? Can we not learn SOMETHING from the mistakes of previous Presidents?
    Thank God many (3-400?) California companies are unwilling to drink the koolaid re demonization of Iran. See LA times:
    Looking forward to Mondays NAF forum “THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN” featuring Steve Clemons, the Galbraith bros, Michael Lind, Winston Wheeler, Michael Intriligator, Michael Hoh, among the participants. Steve promises it will be archived.

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  14. Don Bacon says:

    What erichwwk said. To turn a phrase, Americans are unfortunate — so far from God and so near to Mexico.
    US voters have little choice. Ralph Nader wrote a book about his travails in trying to get on the ballot, attend debates etc. — Crashing The Party.

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  15. erichwwk says:

    JohnH wrote:
    “And the way Americans keep voting these types into office, or, at minimum, voting types that appoint these types, the more i believe we ARE fools, incapable of having an ability reconcile past statements with present positions.”
    One, it is not clear to me that Americans did in fact either “vote this process in”, directly or indirectly.
    Two, even if the voting process was “legal”, the political process is rather rigged. One can hardly claim “free and open entry” into the political array, made magnitudes worse by United Citizens v FEC.
    While I am not quite as hard on Obama personally as POA seems to assert, the difference between his views and mine are rather academic. What difference does it make what is in Obama’s “soul”, if he must always make a Faustian bargain to even slightly chip away?
    But yes, I am somewhat concerned about his ability to understand the extent of Eisenhower’s warning that immediately followed his warning about the undue influence of the fast rising “military-industrial-congressional complex:
    “…in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become captive of a scientific-technological elite”.
    Is it not true that the voting process is now mostly a dog and pony show, offered to the public as a placebo, to tamper outrage, and keep at least the largest populist fangs out of the ass of those stealing Americans and foreigners blind?
    http://tinyurl.com/25x3kxz
    What options do citizens have when it is offered a one time look at the FED, under the condition that future peeks are verboten? That most of us must pay for the privilege of being financially raped? That Congress refuses to repeal the financial Jim Crow laws?

    Reply

  16. JohnH says:

    Defining down the mission? Don’t be ridiculous! They never had a clue about what the mission was.
    As the great Yogi once said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” And the US never had the slightest idea where it was going in Afghanistan (or Iraq).
    The point of these wars was not to increase America’s sphere of influence or accomplish anything. Rather it was the process–war. The process enhanced military prestige and careers and fattened contractors’ pocketbooks. And that was the whole point, period.
    All Steve’s high falutin talk about national interests and global strategy rings hollow as soon as it deals with the ambitions of career and wealth.
    By now the US military has proven that it can’t even dominate the world’s poorest people in one of the most downtrodden nations on earth. Which is why the US military doesn’t want to mess with Iran, whose total military budget barely equals what the US spends in a few months in Afghanistan alone. The real problem with Iran is that, not being a prostrate nation, it could give the US a little bloody nose, if not militarily then economically.
    If your main interest is in a glorious military career and looting the Treasury, it’s always best to pick on the weakest of the weak. Anyone else might give you the fight you said you wanted.
    So what do you do when a total weakling, like Afghanistan, give the you a bloody nose? Loot the Treasury even more…obviously!

    Reply

  17. WigWag says:

    Sorry, above posted on wrong thread.
    I apologize.

    Reply

  18. WigWag says:

    “Myself, I see a lot to commend your proposal. Wig’s rejoinder about Baluchistan falls short because, as you point out, no one speaks English in Baluchistan (hardly) and very few Americans live in Baluchistan and vice versa.” (Sweetness)
    That may be true about Baluchistan, Sweetness, but it doesn’t negate my point. As you know, Hebrew is the national language of Israel not English. It is true that a large percentage of Israelis speak English but the numbers of English speakers is actually not even as big as it used to be. A significant percentage of the new Russian and Ethiopian immigrants don’t speak English.
    And there are nations that I mentioned in my post where English is widely spoken. Kashmir for example has an extremely large English speaking population (because it was colonized by Great Britain); should we invite Kashmir to join the American union in order to solve the dispute between India and Pakistan that is every bit as intractable as the dispute between Israel and the Arab countries?
    If anything the dispute over Kashmir is far more dangerous than the Israeli-Arab dispute. The number of civilians who have died in the dispute over Kashmir exceeds the number who have died in the dispute between Jews and Arabs by a factor of ten (probably it

    Reply

  19. Don Bacon says:

    The Taliban, an Afghanistan group and a former US ally, is intimidating Kandahar residents?
    You mean they’re firing Hellfire missiles into houses, as well as using artillery fire to kill people, and indiscriminately killing people at checkpoints, and kicking in doors in the middle of the night, and then kidnapping people to imprison them and torture them, and conducting air raids on wedding parties and blowing up gasoline trucks that have kids on them?
    Oh, that’s right, these acts are exclusive to NATO and do not include “intimidation”. They’re all part of the “process” also known as recruiting more freedom fighters in this endless, though profitable, war. Or let’s go all the way and call it human rights promotion, shall we?

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  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Its comical seeing this poser Wig-wag singing the praises for Bush and perpetuating the myth entitled “the success of the surge”. Remember when this blithering idiot was presenting herself as a left wing progressive?
    If the “surge” was so “successful”, how come Obama is falling back on his promise to get us the fuck out of there? Well, because the “surge” was nothing more than a large scale buy-off, where the so called “former Bathists”, “sunni insurgents”, “Saddam loyalists”, etc were simply paid to stop killing American troops, and instead kill opposing Shiite factions by masquerading as community police forces. Now that a large portion of the money has ran out, they are once again selecting their targets in a more idealistic manner.
    Funny how the labels keep changing, isn’t it? Seems now these sacks of shit in DC favor “Al Qaeda in Iraq” as the prefered line of bullshit to be used in selling us snake oil and mayhem.
    What a piece of shit Obama has turned out to be, with this skull faced ogre Clinton not far behind. Is there ANY campaign platform Obama hasn’t betrayed?
    And what the hell are these bigoted zionist jackasses like Wig-Wag bitching about? Hasn’t Obama turned out to be the same kind of lyin’ posturing sack of shit that Bush was, selling us lies, bankruptcy, a complete and utter lack of accountability, and foreign policy mayhem all gift wrapped in this epic con-job known as “the Global War On Terrorism”? You’d think these anti-american sell-outs like Wiggie would be besides themselves with glee, drooling in anticipation of the next major dissappointment Hillary and Obama will throw at their past supporters.
    Stop your grousing, Wiggie. This sack of shit Obama is turning out to be the model wet dream for you sick and twisted warmongering ghouls. Celebrate. Eat a Muslim for lunch.

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  21. jonst says:

    These people, broadly defined, as the Foreign Policy Establishment, the Villagers, the Really Serious People, must think most Americans are either fools, or simply disinterested in these matters. And therefore incapable of recollecting anything said before. All of March spent leaking ‘he’s a bad guy (and so is his brother) stories in the Press. Now followed by ‘ah, look at him visiting the graves at Arlington, what a man!’.
    And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, the same answer….more Americans to fight, more Americans to kill and be killed, more money spent, more enemies made.
    And the way Americans keep voting these types into office, or, at minimum, voting types that appoint these types, the more i believe we ARE fools, incapable of having an ability reconcile past statements with present positions.
    I believe there is one response that will get the Villagers attention. Bring back the draft. No exemptions, except for health reasons. No substitute service except in the case of health deferments. IOW….go after their children. That will get their attention. And spare me the Beau Biden stories. One can always find noble exceptions to the rule.

    Reply

  22. WigWag says:

    “Giles Dorronsoro, an Afghan expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan that included a stop in Kandahar, said U.S. and Afghan authorities “know they failed in Marja” – a town of only 80,000 people — and expressed reservations about how successful they can be in curtailing growing Taliban influence in Kandahar, a metropolis of half a million that gave birth to the Taliban in the 1990s.” (Barbara Slavin)
    This is interesting and it says alot. If true, it means that while the Bush surge in Iraq succeeded, the Obama surge in Afghanistan failed.
    Which President is the clueless one?

    Reply

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