Posts Tagged ‘Dexter Filkins’

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New FoundationThe Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

My previous post intentionally left out mentions of Senator John Kerry’s defense of Ahmed Wali Karzai–the drug-dealing, election stealing, possibly Taliban-connected brother of the Afghan president–in an attempt to keep the piece to a manageable length. Boy, am I sorry I did that…today’s New York Times contains an article by Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti, James Risen and Helene Cooper that shows AWK is a CIA asset.

According to Andrew Exum (a.k.a., Abu Muqwama, h/t Steve Hynd), AWK is no run-of-the-mill petty criminal:

[N]umerous military officials in southern Afghanistan with whom I have spoken identify AWK and his activities as the biggest problem they face — bigger than the lack of government services or even the Taliban. …[Y]ou can be darn sure that if we think that AWK is the CIA’s guy, the Afghans most certainly believe that to be the case.

CIA’s certainly not earning any new friends in the intel sandbox. Military intelligence officials, for example, seem blindsided (or are feigning shock in the passive-aggressive manner typical of rival government agencies). From the NYT piece:

“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan.

…“The only way to clean up Chicago is to get rid of Capone,” General Flynn said.

Tut, tut, general. You might want to check with your superiors before you run with that line of argument. Your “population-centric counterinsurgency” is propping up a whole government full of thugs like Mohaqiq, Fahim and Khalili (the latter two being Hamid Karzai’s vice-presidential nominees in the ongoing election!), not to mention General Abdul Rashid Dostum, all of whom got amnesty for their war crimes thanks to a measure Mohaqiq rammed through the Afghan parliament in the early days of the government. Next time, try to get outraged before we spend billions training a security apparatus at the thugs’ disposal, k?

Feigned pearl-clutch! faint! routines aside, this is a horrifying development for any attempt by the U.S. government to earn consent for the U.S.-backed Kabul cartel from the Pashtuns through a counterinsurgency campaign. AWK allegedly ran an operation that delivered huge numbers of fraudulent votes for his brother in the Pashtun heartland, and the locals knew it. Does anyone in Washington understand what a setback we’ll suffer when the population we’re trying to win over from the Taliban realizes that the person who stole their votes was on the CIA payroll?

The revelation about AWK’s CIA ties shows just how lost in the Afghan labyrinth American policymakers are. It’s a labyrinth of glittering generalities, wishful thinking, India/Pakistan gamesmanship, corruption, inter-agency competition and policies working at cross-purposes with one another.  It’s no wonder it’s taken six policy reviews and 10 months for some of the smartest people on the planet to form the basic outlines of even a misguided path forward. Funny thing about the labyrinth in Greek mythology: it’s not designed to keep you out. It’s designed to keep you in.

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Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. You can learn more about the dangers posed to U.S. national security by the war in Afghanistan by watching Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six): Security, or by visiting http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

“People loved [the Taliban]–a lot of people did, anyway, at least at first. you’d ask someone about the Talibs and the first thing they’d say is they tamed the warlords. You couldn’t drive across town, they’d say. The warlords would be fighting it out in the middle of the city, slugging it out for turf, like gangsters do, for the right to tax and steal.”

“Talking to Wali that day, and Mohammedi and other Talibs, it seemed obvious enough that what lay at the foundation of the Taliban’s rule was fear, but not fear of the Taliban themselves, at least not in the beginning. No: it was fear of the past. Fear that the past would return, that it would come back in all its disaggregated fury. That the past would become the future. The beards, the burqas, the whips, the stones; anything, anything you want. Anything but the past.”

–Dexter Filkins, The Forever War, p. 27, 33-34.

U.S. policy in Afghanistan seems hell-bent on recreating the conditions that led to the rise of the Taliban. Not only are we backing a government comprised of the same warlords and drug kingpins responsible for some of the worst depredations in the post-Soviet era, but we’ve taken to hiring and arming war criminals and their militias as security teams. (By the way: Can someone explain to me why we’re hiring guards for soldiers? Why are the soldiers not guarding the soldiers?)

The Guardian (UK):

Nato forces in Afghanistan are increasingly reliant on illegal militias, often run by warlords responsible for human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to an independent report published tomorrow.

“Many of these private security providers serve as ready-made militias that compete with state authority and are frequently run by former military commanders responsible for human rights abuses or involved in the illegal narcotics and black market economies.”

“Financing armed, alternative power structures fulfils security needs in the short term at the cost of consolidating government authority in the long term,” the CIC report says. It gives examples of private paramilitary groups hired by US, Australian, Canadian and German forces, and refers to an incident in June in which 41 militia fighters hired by US special forces in Kandahar killed the provincial police chief and five other police officers in a gun battle to free a militia member who had been arrested earlier the same day.

Jake Sherman, one of the report’s authors…argued that once Nato leaves, the militias are likely to return to drug trafficking and other black market activities, better trained and better armed. “Once they are set up and armed, they are never disarmed,” Sherman said. “They become new threats to the state.”

As if to underscore that the point is not an academic one, the local Afghans hired as security contractors and the ANA started shooting at each other. BBC via Military.com:

KANDAHAR — A clash has taken place between Afghan National Army [ANA] troops and Afghan guards of U.S. troops.

He said three soldiers of the ANA were killed, one injured and two of the U.S. troops’ special Afghan guards were killed and two others sustained injuries as a result.

Golab Shah said that the fighting took place between the ANA troops and the workers of LG company, which provides guards for the U.S. troops. He said he was unaware of the cause of the incident and that a team had been sent to the area to carry out an investigation.

So to sum up: concurrent with an increase in foreign forces, the coalition is backing a horror-movie-level corrupt government and rearming war criminals to provide security.

All this makes me wonder: are our policymakers even literate?  Seriously, can they read? I only ask because they’ve had more than a month to read and digest the UK’s Department for International Development study of radicalization in Afghanistan:

Religious motivation is only one of several reason for joining or supporting the Taliban or Hizb-i Islami. A religious message does resonate with the majority but this is mainly because it is couched in terms of two keenly felt pragmatic grievances: the corruption of government and the presence of foreign forces.

It would be lovely if we could decide to make policy based on the U.S. capabilities and the Afghanistan that actually exist rather than the fantasies that pass for sober policy pronouncements.