Monday, 31 January 2011

Moment Of Truth In Afghanistan

What was the biggest mistake, the worst decision that was made in both these wars? It was escalation, and in fact, continued misguided escalation in the face of evidence that such actions would have no positive effect and, quite probably, backfire. The reasons behind Johnson and Obama continuing to escalate futile wars comes from the intense, relentless pressure brought to bear on them from the military commanders. Full article HERE.

Rabbi To The 'Heroes of Afghanistan'

A tragic story really from the darkest corners of ignorance in the US. What they really need in Kandahar right now is a US National Guard rabbi with a yamakka, bleating about 9/11. It is from pits of darkness like this that springs the lack of any cultural awareness of muslim peoples or their cultures that typifies US foreign policy. The full gamut of the madness is here. The good Rabbi is totally unaware of any crassness on his part or that of the people cheering him off. Surreal it is. But all too real at the same time. The story is sourced from several US local newsfeeds who carried it as a 'stars and stripes' bonanza.

'Rabbi Laurence Bazer remembers seeing blue sky on 9/11. And then he turned around. The World Trade Center's Twin Towers had fallen, and Building 4 was a ring of fire.
"I felt like I was looking into hell," he said.
As a chaplain with the New York Army National Guard, Bazer was called to New York City to help on the day of terror attacks. Almost 10 years later, Bazer, a lieutenant colonel with the Massachusetts National Guard, has been called to serve in Afghanistan.
"I was there at the start of this entire war," Bazer said last week. "It's a full circle feeling that now I'm going."
A Framingham resident, Bazer leads a congregation of 500 families at Temple Beth Sholom on Pamela Road. His six- to seven-month tour in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, will be his first deployment after 22 years in the military. Parishioners are "very sad that I'm going, very concerned with my safety," Bazer said.
"But what's most comforting is (they're) very proud that I'm serving," he said Wednesday in his office, which is filled with books and decorated with military mementos. A pair of Beanie Babies wearing fatigues sits on a shelf. Bazer, 47, wore a G.I. Joe tie as he talked about his call to duty and having to leave his congregants and family behind. He and his wife, Leslie, have a 13-year-old son, Oren, and 11-year-old daughter, Eliana.
As a joint forces state chaplain, Bazer is usually responsible for recruiting other chaplains to fill deploying units.But for the 26th Yankee Brigade's upcoming deployment in April, "I did not have someone within our ranks - Mass. Guard - to fill the position," he said.
Temple President John Kahn said the rabbi is the fifth person with ties to the temple either serving in or heading to Afghanistan. Another is stationed in Iraq.
"We're pleased we can make this kind of contribution," said Kahn, a Korean War veteran who served with the Navy.
Bazer said he hopes to return home in time for the Jewish high holy days, which start with Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 28. "It's a great sacrifice," said Scott Sokol, the temple's cantor, who will fill in for Bazer.
He frosted red, white and blue cupcakes for a send-off party the congregation is planning for Bazer this Saturday. Bazer starts his annual two-week training today at brigade headquarters in Reading. He leaves Feb. 15 for mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas.
Lt. Col. George Harrington, executive officer for the Reading-based 26th Yankee Brigade, said Bazer is the first Jewish chaplain in Mass. National Guard history.
"I am actually thankful that he will be coming with us," Harrington said. "He is a good friend as a well as a very good military officer." Bazer has counseled soldiers and their family members, prayed over send-off and welcome-home ceremonies, and served as chaplain on the personal staff of the state guard's adjutant general, Joseph Carter. In Afghanistan, he will work to build morale and support his fellow soldiers.
A chaplain is "someone to be there through sometimes dark times," Bazer said - an ear to bend and a source of guidance. He will specifically serve as the chaplain for the historic Yankee Brigade's Col. John Hammond and all the unit's soldiers.
Bazer has been assigned two other roles, as well: to oversee Jewish religious programs for the Army in Kabul, and to serve as command chaplain for all the Army's military bases in the city - coordinating all services, religious supplies, and other areas.
"As I say," he joked, "I'll be wearing three yamakas." He won't carry a weapon, he said, but will have an assistant who serves as his bodyguard.
"I know my job is not to go find Osama bin Laden in the foothills of Afghanistan," Bazer joked, but instead to bless the soldiers who go out on missions and welcome them back to their base. "That's a role I'm very proud of." Preschool teachers at Beth Sholom have been preparing the children for Bazer's deployment, talking about what he does at the temple and what his job will be in Afghanistan.
The 4- and 5-year-olds came up with a list. In Framingham, "He tells us what songs to sing," leads prayers, talks in Hebrew, works on a computer and makes sure everyone at the temple is safe.
When he is with the Army, the youngsters think Bazer will help people if they have a problem or are in trouble and keep people from getting hurt."One little boy said he's going to be the rabbi for the heroes," preschool director Barbara Davis said. "I thought that was just so beautiful."

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Crucial Year In Afghanistan? You're Right - Bollocks.

AN ORCHARD OF ILLS -  Reprinted From The Economist.
A stand-off between the president and parliament mocks the challenges Afghanistan faces

FOREIGN backers have a maddening habit of declaring any forthcoming 12 months to be the “crucial year” for Afghanistan. Liam Fox, the British defence minister, was no exception when he used a New Year’s visit to bill 2011 as decisive for international efforts in the country. But like so many before him, Mr Fox may be disappointed. Even as the West’s soldiers make progress, its diplomats bang their heads against the lamentable administration of Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai. 
After years of losing ground to insurgents, General David Petraeus, the NATO commander in the country, says that the coalition has at last “got the ‘inputs’ right in Afghanistan for the first time”. As he wrote to his troops this week, “hard-won progress” has taken place in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, swamped with American marines after years of being in the charge of overstretched Canadian and British forces. Analysts say the campaign has disrupted Taliban supply lines in Helmand and cleared most “safe havens” there. Mr Fox, in another staple of foreign dignitaries, visited the bazaar of Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital, and declared it safe and “thriving”.
General Petraeus also hails the “enormous losses” inflicted on mid-level commanders of the Taliban and its associates in the Haqqani network. The losses help fuel “reports of unprecedented discord among the members of the Quetta Shura”, the Taliban’s leadership. For 2011, the general flags up a continued push against the Taliban, particularly in the south; the strengthening of governing institutions; and the transfer of security in some provinces to Afghan forces—with the Afghan National Army taking the lot by 2014.
The coalition’s sense that the counter-insurgency campaign might just be doing good is bolstered by NATO’s little-known programme of “atmospherics” reporting, in which ordinary Afghans eavesdrop on their countrymen’s conversations in the bazaars and report back to their handlers. In recent months this monitoring has shown a growing confidence that the Taliban is much diminished. Southern Afghans tell The Economistsimilar stories of Taliban commanders having fled, leaving ineffective or unwilling locals to carry on the fight.
Yet such gains have a cost. Vastly increased night raids by special forces directed against mid-level commanders create seething resentment in local communities. In a striking departure from most people’s understanding of counterinsurgency doctrine, scores of compounds in rural Afghanistan have been flattened by air strikes because the coalition believed they had been rigged with explosives—“building-borne IEDs”, in the NATO jargon. Precious fruit orchards, of exactly the sort that for years have been hailed as an alternative to growing opium poppies, have also been razed to deny insurgents cover.
This makes some independent observers sceptical of reported progress. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which monitors security risks on behalf of aid organisations, says NATO claims are mere “strategic communication” cynically designed to bolster Western public opinion. It reported that in 2010 insurgents increased attacks by nearly two-thirds, and that the NATO operations in Helmand and Kandahar served mainly to fan the insurgency into other areas.
Even if military gains are not as illusory as critics say, they do little to help Afghans in two matters: tackling corruption and building a functioning government. One “input” here has been a civilian “surge”, led by Karl Eikenberry, the American ambassador, to match the better-known military one. A whispering campaign among some military men has begun against Mr Eikenberry, whom they charge with overseeing wasteful projects that merely enrich foreign contractors.
But the other input—the Afghan government—is almost completely beyond the reach of men like General Petraeus and Mr Fox. In recent weeks Mr Karzai has created unwanted turmoil, for the second year running. When he refused to accept the results of elections to the parliament that were not to his liking, he brought the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis.
First, Mr Karzai set up his own special court to investigate electoral fraud in the September elections, an initiative which the country’s two election commissions declared illegitimate. Then he attempted to delay the opening of parliament by a further month to allow the court’s investigations to continue. He backed down only after pressure from elected MPs and foreign governments—though not without first declaring how he resented the interference of such “foreign hands”. After a tense stand-off, Mr Karzai formally opened the parliament on January 26th—four months after the elections.
Mr Karzai’s new concern for electoral malpractice had little to do with any desire to root out electoral fraud, however widespread. It comes, after all, from a man who received at least 1m rigged votes in 2009. His sympathisers say the president’s chief concern was that, thanks to malpractice and a lack of security, too few members of the country’s volatile Pushtun community managed to get elected.
Critics take a harsher view, saying Mr Karzai is worried about a more hostile parliament dominated by an enlarged block of opposition MPs. Either way, the legitimacy of the parliament has taken a knock, and the dispute with new MPs will drag on. As part of the deal to open parliament, the special court remains. It is likely to try to remove sitting parliamentarians. Meanwhile relations between Mr Karzai and his international backers have dipped to yet another new low. It is a bad start to yet another “crucial year”.
The prevailing cant is 'What we need to start doing in Afghanistan is......' Two major flaws in this opening. Who are 'we' and the occupation is in its TENTH year!

Streets of Cairo - Live Feed

'In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself – and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington – the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters – Omar Suleiman, Egypt's chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman's appointment, they burst into laughter.' -  Robert Fisk.  

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Afghanistan Paradox - Khaleej Times Editorial

Terror has never been away from Afghanistan. The suicide attack and sporadic firing in the heart of Kabul, which killed at least nine foreigners, are merely a grim reminder of many unanswered questions in the war-weary country.
Having taken place in a so-called secure zone of the capital and that too in the presence of security forces, the incident only spoke of the pattern that is evolving countrywide, questioning the writ of the government and the utility of retaining foreign troops.
Ironically enough, the attack took place on the day when the German parliament gleefully voted to extend the military mission in Afghanistan by one year despite polls suggesting its unpopularity at home. This reflects a moment of confusion; as far as chartering a roadmap for peace and prosperity in the war-ravaged country, and goes on to prove that it is ages away from a considerate geopolitical solution in the region.
Irrespective of the dislike, widely witnessed in various European capitals for funnelling in more troops in Afghanistan, there is consensus at large that the developed world should shoulder the responsibilities for reconstruction. Germany has been at the vanguard in training police force personnel and broadening the scope of non-governmental organisations that have contributed immensely in the fields of education, health and women empowerment. Though Berlin has less than 5,000 soldiers in action fighting Taleban and the like, its role as a credible nation-builder is highly appreciated in the length and breadth of Afghanistan. It is this aspect that is in need of being emulated by other International Security Assistance Force members who, along with the US, have more than 100,000 troops on the field, and are groping for a way 
out of the mess.

The point of concern is the bitter fact that stability hasn’t been around for all the nine years since the coalition of the willing had made Afghanistan its operational base. Their respective governments’ initiative for peace and reconciliation had either ended up half-heartedly or were too vague to make an impact. The fundamental, however, that the West has stood behind President Hamid Karzai’s government all these years has impacted negatively, and resulted in furthering the psychological divide between the coalition and the opposition groups. The Taleban who in the early years of the occupation were on the run, and later were more than pleased to become part of the power paradox, are now in a position to dictate their terms. This is owing to the blunder of dealing with Afghanistan in a militaristic manner, deliberating undermining the political connotation of the dispute. This has cost the West its credibility. A serious review of the situation is indispensable.

More Cairo Street Scenes 29th January

Streets of Cairo 29.1.2011

Canada In Afghanistan - The Big Lie

It is the deep and intractable corruption of the Karzai government which makes a farce out the training program that Canada will now effectively lead. The tragedy is that virtually everyone knows it is bound to fail and everyone is equally committed to lying about it: the soldiers on the ground, their officers and the politicians – Ignatieff and Harper – who support it. Full article (h/t True North HERE.

Anger Spreads In Egypt - Obama Bewildered

The choice of language by Obama here is vacuous and meaningless even by his 'hope and truth and motherhood' standards. But, strangely, it says everything about America's bewilderment and slow decline.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Tarok Kolache - Update

According to a report in the Daily Mail, after two attempts at clearing the village led to casualties on both sides, Lt Col David Flynn, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force 1—320th, gave the order to pulverise the village. We published photographs a few days ago of before and after the bombing that showed the complete destruction of the village. His men were “terrified to go back into the pomegranate orchards to continue clearing (the area); it seemed like certain death”, writes West Point graduate Paula Broadwell on the Foreign Policy blog. Instead of continuing to clear the tiny village, the commander approved a mine-clearing line charge, which hammered a route into the centre of Tarok Kolache using rocket-propelled explosives, the report said. The destruction escalated, however, with “49,200 lbs of ordnance” dropped on the village via air strikes and ground-launched rockets, which saw it swiftly blown off the face of the earth.

The Beast of Kandahar - Remember Hearts And Minds?

This is war porn masquerading as technology.  Death by automata operated by dronehead Playstation nerds from their living rooms in Texas. Orwell could not have foreshadowed a more ghastly dystopia. It says it all about the US and its foreign policy charade. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee should mint a medal with the Beast on it especially for Obama.

False Portrayal of Afghan War By The West

Foreign military assertions that security in Afghanistan is improving are intended to sway Western public opinion ahead of a troop withdrawal and do not reflect the reality on the ground, a security advice group said. Full story here.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

More Drone Victims In Pakistan

A pair of suspected US drone strikes killed six alleged militants in Pakistan's troubled North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border Sunday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The attacks came as more than 2,000 tribesmen, many of them students, held a protest in one of North Waziristan's largest towns demanding an end to the drone strikes, saying they killed innocent civilians.

Taliban Video

H/T Reality Zone

US Marines Kill Afghan Tribal Leader

''Kennedy’s security detail "responded immediately by firing on the individual, killing him," NATO’s International Assistance Force in Kabul said. Kennedy, sources said, suffered a broken nose.

The Taliban said Khan approached a U.S. base on Sunday "carrying with him three rocks" primed for a low-tech attack, and asked for the senior U.S. commander.''

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Tarok Kolache - Before and After US Bombing

Monday, 17 January 2011

Eisenhower on The US Military-Industrial Complex

Exactly 50 years ago, on January 17 1961, Eisenhower delivered one of the most celebrated farewell speeches in American history, whose fame has only increased over the decades, eclipsed not even by JFK's inspirational inaugural that followed three days later. Kennedy might have projected the dynamism of youth. But the old soldier won the prize for prescience.
In his speech, Eisenhower warned about the growth of a 'military-industrial complex,' and the risks it could pose. "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power," Ike said, "exists and will persist." His anxieties back then were prompted by the ten-fold expansion of the US military after two world wars, and by the development of a "permanent arms industry of vast proportions". Today, the proportions of both the military and the industry that serves it are vaster than ever.
          More Here

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Blair Wobble - It Is Written In The Scriptures

Alasdair Campbell writes in his diaries, serialised in the Guardian, that the former prime minister would read the Bible before making big decisions. Blair even had what Campbell described as a "wobble" on the eve of Britain's first bombing mission against Iraq under his premiership after reading the Bible. Full story here.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Ship of Fools

This half hour documentary for Radio 4 by Tom Mangold encapsulates the American securocrat mentality extremely succinctly. An ocean cruise full of COIN operators, spooks,droneheads and ex CIA officials. My worst nightmare, really but it is fascinating. Mangold pays tribute to their 'sincerity'. Unfortunately their sincerity is part of the problem. Endless war without boundaries, anyone?

Friday, 14 January 2011

NATO Pay $1.4M In Compensation In 2 Months

KABUL, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Foreign troops in Afghanistan have paid out $1.4 million to Afghans in the past two months for damages in the country's south, where they have been waging a stepped-up military campaign, NATO-led forces said on Friday.
General James Terry, commander for southern Afghanistan, said that since Nov. 2 more than 800 claims for compensation had been made and that more than half of those had been settled.
Tens of thousands of foreign and Afghan troops are deployed in Kandahar in a bid to regain the upper hand, as violence hits a peak across the country. Both civilian and military casualties are at their highest since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban.
Most compensation went to three districts of Kandahar province, where Afghan and foreign forces are fighting a bitter battle for control of Taliban strongholds, a regional spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

"The majority (of payments) are in Kandahar, mostly in the districts of Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwai," said Lt. Col Webster Wright, public affairs officer for regional command south.
"Those three districts are probably accounting for 90 to 95 percent of that ($1.4 million)," he said.

Wright said much of the cash was to cover farmers for up to three years of harvest from destroyed orchards and vineyards that would take time to grow fruit after being replanted.
But he dismissed an Afghan government report of $100 million damage to fruit crops and homes in the area as exaggerated, and said many of the buildings destroyed were abandoned or used for agricultural purposes rather than as houses.
Wright said the compensation covered only about 80 buildings that had been homes.

The government delegation, led by President Hamid Karzai's adviser, Mohammad Sadiq Aziz, said Afghan and foreign forces caused unreasonable damage to homes and orchards, just as the harvest was about to begin, and displaced people. [ID:nSGE70A0A1]
"Claims by the residents are taken very seriously," Terry said in the statement, which contained the $1.4 million figure. "If we damage something, it is our obligation and responsibility to compensate for it." In Friday's ISAF statement, Kandahar Governor Toryalai Weesa and district leaders described as "exaggerated" the government report's finding about the cost of the damage in the districts of Arghandab, Zhari, and Panjwai.

In November, the Afghan Rights Monitor (ARM), an independent human rights group, reported widespread damage to hundreds of houses in the same three districts, home to about 300,000 of the province's more than one million inhabitants. It said foreign forces had used aerial bombing to strike Taliban strongholds and to set off mines and homemade bombs, sometimes hidden as booby-traps in private homes.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Just Another Death In Kandahar

For 'Fog of War' read shooting dead 'suspects' (against the Geneva Convention). Just another poor Afghan killed for possessing an old transistor radio. 'Very sorry that that happened...' the guy says. Thanks for that one. Apologies for the commentary which comes, as you will hear, from a war groupie.

Fake Spat Over Sham Relationship

Nicolas Sarkozy heads to Washington on Monday for talks with President Obama on international security and France's plans for world monetary reform. The one-day visit comes as France embarks on its year at the presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) rich and emerging economies, as well as the G8 powers, during which Sarkozy wants to reform currency and commodity markets and world governance. The two are also expected to discuss security challenges such as the war in Afghanistan, security in Pakistan and threats from ‘militants’ that particularly concern France in north Africa.
Meanwhile, a farcical spat has erupted in the UK Press (silly and serious) about Obama’s throwaway remark that France was America’s greatest ally. What happened to the fatuous ‘special relationship’ with Britain? What they should have picked up by now is that Obama talks in vacuities and abstractions and probably hardly reads the speeches which he delivers with the oratorial skills for which he is famous. I truly believe that Obama couldn’t tell you what topic he spoke on earlier in the same day, he is on such an auto-pilot with the verbiage.

The speech in Arizona is a good exemplar of Obama’s outlook. Completely inward-looking vis-a-vis American public opinion and media. For example, I wonder how many of the millions of bereaved, displaced and diseased who are scattered across the wastes of Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan are impressed by : ‘‘at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do - it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."
Crank up the drone technology, why don’t you, Barak?

Killing Peace In Afghanistan - By Conn Hallinan

In spite of a White House report that “progress” is being made in Afghanistan, by virtually any measure the war has significantly deteriorated since the Obama administration surged troops into Kandahar and Helmand provinces. This past year has been the deadliest on record for U.S. and coalition troops. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, security has worsened throughout the country. Civilian casualties are on the rise. U.S. allies are falling away, and the central government in Kabul has never been so isolated. Polls in Afghanistan, the United States, and Europe reflect growing opposition to the nine-year conflict.

So why is the White House pursuing a strategy that is almost certain to accelerate a descent into chaos and runs counter to the administration’s stated goal of a diplomatic solution to the war?
It's not an easy question to answer, in part because the major actors are hardly being straight with the public.
For instance, while U.S. commander Maj. Gen. David Petraeus says his strategy of counterinsurgency is making headway, the military abandoned that approach long ago. Instead it has ramped up the air war, replacing the campaign to win “hearts and minds” with “night raids” aimed at assassinating or capturing Taliban leaders and supporters.
 “Night raids” have more than tripled, from an average of five per night to 17, directed at destroying “shadow governments” the Taliban have established in virtually every province in the country. Over the past three months, U.S. and NATO forces claim they have killed or captured 360 “insurgent leaders,” 960 “low-level leaders,” and some 2,400 fighters.
In spite of the raids, UN maps show the central battlegrounds of Kandahar and Helmand provinces are still considered “very high risk” and the situation has grown considerably worse in the north and east.

Who Should be Blamed?

The White House argues that the only solution to the long-running war is diplomacy, but seems bent on systematically sabotaging  the process by killing the very people who would be central to any negotiated peace.
Former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil told The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill that killing Taliban leaders will not end the war, but “on the contrary, things get worse.” Indeed, according to former Taliban leader Abdul Salam Zaeef, the killings push more radical leaders to the fore.
Recent U.S. intelligence reports found that Pakistan’s unwillingness to crack down on militants in the border areas is the major problem.
In reality, there's not a whole lot that Pakistan’s 600,000-man army can do. It’s already fighting a homegrown Taliban, and tense relations with India require keeping substantial forces on their mutual border. The army is continuing its recovery and reconstruction efforts in the wake of last year’s devastating floods. Even if there were all available forces, it’s doubtful Pakistan’s army could control the mountainous, 1,553-mile borderwith Afghanistan.
In turn, the Pakistanis argue that current U.S. policy--and not the border--is the problem. They point to U.S. ties with the corruption-plagued Karzai government and to the nominal impact of U.S. training has had on the Afghan army and police force. “TheAmericans are looking for a scapegoat,” says leading Pakistan politician Mushahid Hussain Sayed.

Whither Diplomacy?

Is the problem that Obama has turned the war over the military?
For all of Petraeus’ talk about “hearts and minds,” the military’s job description is to kill people. That's why Karl von Clausewitz, the great theoretician of modern war, pointed out that war is much too important a matter to be left in the hands of generals.
The Obama administration seems paralyzed by a combination of those supporting a muscular foreign policy, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the late Richard Holbrooke; a fear that the Republicans will brand them as “soft” in the 2012 elections; and an unwillingness to confront the generals.
The tragedy is that many of the pieces for a deal are already in place. The Taliban and its allies are not tightly organized groups with a common ideology--other than expelling invaders. They range from dedicated jihadists to local people fighting for turf or revenge. And while Afghans have a reputation for being fierce, they excel at the art of the deal. If they didn’t, the country would have been depopulated long ago.
 Of course, substantial roadblocks remain. The Taliban insists all foreign troops must leave. The United States and Karzai demand the insurgents accept the Afghan constitution and put down their weapons. Neither is likely to happen in the foreseeable future.
Back in 2008, before the Obama administration took office, the Taliban said it would accept a “timetable” for the withdrawal of foreign troops. Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s seven-point plan called for the Taliban to share power with the current Afghan government, the consolidation of Taliban fighters into the army with amnesty. This was rejected.
Washington refuses to talk with the Haqqani Group or others it considers “irreconcilables.” Ultimately, the United States will need to negotiate with the people it’s fighting. No party has the right to veto the participation of another.
Any agreement will have to take into account regional security issues, including Islamabad’s fear that India will make Afghanistan a client state, thus surrounding Pakistan on both sides.

Who’s Buying the War?

The polls are on the side of those in Afghanistan and in the United States who want to end the war.
recent survey by the Asia Foundation found that 83 percent of Afghanis want negotiations, (though 55 percent show little sympathy with the insurgency). According to an ABC/Washington Post poll, 60 percent of the American public say the war “is not worth fighting.” Should the Republicans charge the administration as “soft” on the Taliban, the polls indicate voters won’t buy it.
Furthermore, the conflict continues to hemorrhage money at a time of severe economic crisis. The war costs $8 billion a month, which doesn’t count the billions spent training the Afghan army and police. So far, the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars tops $1.1 trillion.
Democrats in Congress can press for a troop drawdown to begin this year. The polls show 55 percent support withdrawals starting in summer 2011, with another 27 percent saying it should begin sooner.
According to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, delaying the withdrawal date from the end of 2011—the president’s original goal—to 2014 could costan extra $125 billion. In comparison, the House Republicans pledge to cut $100 billion from the domestic budget—excluding the military, Homeland Security, and veterans—would require a 20 percent across-the-board cut in all programs.
The war is lost. We are broke. Many of the key protagonists are prepared to talk. It's time to silence the guns and seek common ground.