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"Thrill Kill" in Afghanistan

CNN has obtained interrogation tapes of the soldiers charged with murdering Afghan civilians. It was done for sport. Not only that:

The charging papers from the U.S. military paint a picture of a band of rogue soldiers, smoking hash, bored and plotting and carrying out murders of Afghan civilians for sport.

Authorities allege Gibbs kept finger bones, leg bones and a tooth from Afghan corpses. Another soldier allegedly kept a skull from a corpse, according to charging documents.... A soldier who tried to blow the whistle was beaten and threatened, some soldiers said....

One soldier is charged with stabbing a corpse. [More...]

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McChyrstal: Afghanistan in "Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare"

Via Real Aspen, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was in Aspen this weekend, for a private Forstmann Little & Company conference. He was interviewed for over an hour by Charlie Rose.

The two were seated on a small stage in an open-air tent in front of a rich and powerful crowd that included Martha Stewart, Peter Ueberroth, Monica Seles, David Stern, Karl Rove, George Lucas, Daniel Snyder, Julian Robertson, Michael Ovitz, Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Mathews, Michael Eisner, Padma Lakshmi and Ted Forstmann, the Forstmann Little co-founder and IMG CEO who hosted the event.

Among his comments about Afghannistan:

“Right now, it doesn't exist,” said McChrystal, noting the perpetual state of civil war that has embroiled the country ever since the late 1970s. “Afghanistan is in some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare.”


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Two Killed in Afghan Protest of Quran Burning

Afghan soldiers have killed two protesters during a protest of the Terry Jones' planned Quran burning.

The protesters in Logar chanted "Death to America" and burned tires, attacked several shops and set election campaign posters on fire, Amin said.

...In a country where most people have limited access to newspapers, television and the Internet, many Afghans seemed unaware of Jones' decision to call off the Quran burning.

More here.

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Taliban Flogs and Executes Pregnant Woman for Adultery

Yesterday, the Taliban publicly flogged and executed a pregnant woman for adultery. She received 200 lashes and was then shot in the head 3 times.

Bibi Sanubar, 35, was kept in captivity for three days before she was shot dead in a public trial on Sunday by a local Taliban commander in the Qadis district of the rural western province Badghis....The Taliban accused her of having an "illicit affair" that left her pregnant. She was first punished with 200 lashes in public before being shot, deputy provincial police chief Ghulam Mohammad Sayeedi said.

The man with whom Sanubar had the affair was not punished. The Taliban is denying its militia carried out the execution. But a local Taliban-controlled district confirms:

Head of Badghis provincial council Mohammad Nasir Nazaari confirmed the execution and said the Qadis district was entirely under Taliban control.

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Af/Pak: What Now?

The recent revelations by Wikileaks regarding the Afghanistan conflict raises many issues, but one, and in my view the most important, is not new - and it is the strength of jihadism in Pakistan. And at the highest levels. The NYTimes reported:

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistanís military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public Sunday.

The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

That powerful forces in the Pakistani government are strongly tied to the Taliban should comes as no surprise to anyone. This has been at the heart of the issue. As a supporter of the President's policy in Afghanistan, I hope, and indeed, feel confident that this is understood. Now what to do about it? Let's discuss on the flip.

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Wikileaks: Biggest Leak Yet of Military Documents

Wikileaks has published a 200,000 pages of secret documents on the Afghan war.

The files, published online by The Guardian, the New York Times and Germany's Der Spiegel, include details of 144 incidents in which Coalition forces have killed civilians.

The Guardian says the leaks show that troops killed hundreds of civilians in previously unreported incidents.

The White House is livid.

US national security adviser James Jones says the publication of the documents puts the lives of soldiers and civilians at risk.

"The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk and threaten our national security," he said in a statement.


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Gen. McChrystal to Retire From Army

General Stanley McChrystal has informed the Army he is retiring from the military.

Hardly a surprise.

Gen. David Petraeus's confirmation hearing is tomorrow to replace McChrystal as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

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Obama Announcement: Live Thread

President Obama is speaking. VP Biden is right behind him.

He says relieving Gen McCrystal the right thing to do.

"War is bigger than any one man."

The Rolling Stone interview undermines the role of the military and erodes the trust that is necessary for our teams to work together.

There must be adherence to a strict code of conduct. There must be respect for the civilian command over the military.

He must do whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan and defeat al Qaida. We cannot succeed without making this change.

Now is the time for all of us to come together.

We need to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at war. We face a tough task. We have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban's momentum. We will apply relentless pressure. That's a strategy we agreed to last fall and are carrying out in Afghanistan and Pakistan. [More...]

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U.S. Lets Afghan Farmers Have Their Poppy Fields

At last, a U.S. policy in Afghanistan that makes sense: Leave the poppy fields be.

From Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on down, the military’s position is clear: “U.S. forces no longer eradicate,” as one NATO official put it. Opium is the main livelihood of 60 to 70 percent of the farmers in Marja, which was seized from Taliban rebels in a major offensive last month. American Marines occupying the area are under orders to leave the farmers’ fields alone.

The rationale:

"We don’t trample the livelihood of those we’re trying to win over.”

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Report on U.S. Secret Prisons in Afghanistan

"America's Secret Afghan Prisons", the result of a year long investigation from Afghanistan, by reporter Anand Gopal, conducted on behalf of The Nation, The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and TomDispatch.com, has been released. The report appears today at Tom Dispatch, tomorrow at TheNation.com and will be on newsstands Friday in the next issue of The Nation.

The report examines counter-terror policies in Afghanistan. What it finds:

  • widespread and feared American "night raids" in Afghanistan
  • a network of secret prisons on U.S. military bases in Afghanistan where detainees from raids are held.
  • allegations of prisoner abuse, and in some cases disappearances.


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Obama to Ask Congress For $33 Billion More to Fight Wars

Apparently, $708 billion isn't enough for the Defense Department for the coming year. The AP reports that military commanders briefed on an upcoming report say President Obama will ask Congress to approve another $33 billion when it submits its budget request in February.

What for? Supposedly for beefing up the war in Afghanistan, but it sounds more like the global war on terror, even though Obama insists on not using that phrase.

The administration also plans to tell Congress next month that its central military objectives for the next four years will include winning the current wars while preventing new ones and that its core missions will include both counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.


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Two Ex-Blackwater Guards Charged With Murder

The feds have charged two former Blackwater guards with second degree murder and attempted murder in the Eastern District of Virginia.

They are Justin Cannon, 27, and Chris Drotleff, 29. Both are in custody. The charges arise from a shooting in Kabul in which two Afghans were killed.

Both men have said in recent interviews with The Associated Press that they were justified in opening fire on a car that caused an accident in front of their vehicle, then turned and sped toward them after they got out to help.

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Afghan CIA Suicide Bomber Being Groomed as Informant

Update: 1/1/10: More confirmation here.

As I speculated here, new reports show the suicide bomber who killed 8 CIA agents yesterday at a U.S. intelligence post in Afghanistan, was a person being groomed to be an informant. He had been invited onto the base, and although he had never been there before, he wasn't searched. As to why he was invited on to the base:

An experienced Central Intelligence Agency debriefer came from Kabul for the meeting, suggesting that the purpose was to gain intelligence, the official said.

Among the seven CIA officials killed was the female base chief, a mother of three. While some reports say the attack happened in the gym, others says it happened as he was getting out of a car. Maybe she walked up to the car to greet the would-be informant and he blew himself up as he was getting out.

The Taliban, which has taken credit for the attack, says the bomber was posing as an Afghan officer. So the CIA thought they had flipped the guy, but he was playing them. This story is still developing.

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Taliban Says It Will Fight Harder, More Americans Will Die

The Taliban has reacted strongly to President Obama's pledge of more troops for Afghanistan. From one of its commanders:

"Obama is sending more troops to Afghanistan and that means more Americans will die. With just a handful of resources we can cause them even more casualties and deaths."

Where's the exit strategy? We will have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan after the additions. Obama says we will begin withdrawal in 2011. That's too nebulous. When will we be finished?

Where's the clarity? Training Afghan troops to turn the war over to them didn't work too well in Iraq. How will sending more troops strengthen Afghan institutions or create a sustainable economy?

David Sirota asks, Is this hope or change? This is Obama's war now. He owns it. [More...]

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Obama's Speech: A Persuasive Argument For His Af/Pak Strategy

I did not see it and I have seen no reaction to it. Here is the speech. Here are my reactions:

The President said "I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan -- the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion." I think the speech should be judged on how well it fulfilled those three stated objectives. More . .

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