Taliban prepare to return to power

Taliban shadow officials offer concrete alternative

Like nearly all provinces in Afghanistan, this one has two governors.

The first was appointed by President Hamid Karzai and is backed by thousands of U.S. troops. He governs this mountainous eastern Afghan province by day, cutting the ribbons on new development projects and, according to fellow officials with knowledge of his dealings, taking a generous personal cut of the province’s foreign assistance budget.

The second governor was chosen by Taliban leader Mohammad Omar and, hunted by American soldiers, sneaks in only at night. He issues edicts on “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” stationery, plots attacks against government forces and fires any lower-ranking Taliban official tainted by even the whiff of corruption.

As the United States prepares to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to bolster Karzai’s beleaguered government, Taliban leaders are quietly pushing ahead with preparations for a moment they believe is inevitable: their return to power. The Taliban has done so by establishing an elaborate shadow government of governors, police chiefs, district administrators and judges that in many cases already has more bearing on the lives of Afghans than the real government. [continued…]

US surge will only prolong Afghan war

American and British exponents of a military escalation or “the surge” in Afghanistan opportunistically expound two wholly contradictory views of Taliban strength. At one moment they are a movement of immense power on the verge of seizing power in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the possibility that they might soon have control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. But the next moment Mr Brown is claiming that the Taliban have almost no support among Afghans. In the US, Mr Obama and Mr Gates imply that the insurgents have such shallow roots that they can be largely defeated in 18 months so US troops can start to withdraw. [continued…]

The surrealism of the Afghan surge

President Barack Obama risks leading the US deeper into the same kind of nightmare as Vietnam, with the same profound misconceptions and arrogance of the US military and the CIA. It just requires a glance at the picture on p. A29 of Sunday’s New York Times to see how absurd the US decision-making process really is. Among the people in the room briefing the president, there isn’t a single person with deep non-military knowledge of either Afghanistan or Pakistan. We see plenty of generals and politicians but nobody who knows about the people, culture, economy, climate, agronomy, extreme poverty, and traditions of the people themselves. [continued…]

US leaves in Iraq equipment that it may need in Afghanistan

Even as the U.S. military scrambles to support a troop surge in Afghanistan, it is donating passenger vehicles, generators and other equipment worth tens of millions of dollars to the Iraqi government.

Under new authority granted by the Pentagon, U.S. commanders in Iraq may now donate to the Iraqis up to $30 million worth of equipment from each facility they leave, up from the $2 million cap established when the guidelines were first set in 2005. The new cap applies at scores of posts that the U.S. military is expected to leave in coming months as it scales back its presence from about 280 facilities to six large bases and a few small ones by the end of next summer.

Some of the items that commanders may now leave behind, including passenger vehicles and generators, are among what commanders in Afghanistan need most urgently, according to Pentagon memos. [continued…]

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