FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Afghan War Springs a Leak

by GARETH PORTER

The 92,000 reports on the war in Afghanistan made public by the whistleblower organisation WikiLeaks, and reported Monday by the Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel, offer no major revelations that are entirely new, as did the Pentagon Papers to which they are inevitably being compared.

But they increase the political pressure on a war policy that has already suffered a precipitous loss of credibility this year by highlighting contradictions between the official assumptions of the strategy and the realities shown in the documents – especially in regard to Pakistan’s role in the war.

Unlike the Pentagon Papers, which chronicle the policymaking process leading up to and during the Vietnam War, the WikiLeaks documents chronicle thousands of local incidents and situations encountered by U.S. and other NATO troops that illustrate chronic problems for the U.S.-NATO effort.

Among the themes that are documented, sometimes dramatically but often through bland military reports, are the seemingly casual killing of civilians away from combat situations, night raids by special forces that are often based on bad intelligence, the absence of legal constraints on the abuses of Afghan police, and the deeply rooted character of corruption among Afghan officials.

The most politically salient issue highlighted by the new documents, however, is Pakistan’s political and material support for the Taliban insurgency, despite its ostensible support for U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

The documents include many intelligence reports about Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, the director of the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, in the late 1980s, continuing to work with the Taliban commanders loyal to Mullah Omar as well as the Jalaluddin Haaqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar insurgent networks.

Some of the reports obviously reflect the anti-Pakistan bias of the Afghan intelligence service when it was under former Northern Alliance intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh. Nevertheless, the overall impression they convey of Pakistani support for the Taliban is credible to the news media, because they confirm numerous press reports over the past few years.

The New York Times led its coverage of the documents with its report on the Pakistani-Taliban issue. The story said the documents reflect “deep suspicions among American officials that Pakistan’s military spy service has for years guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than 1 billion dollars a year from Washington for its help combating the militants.”

The issue of Pakistani “double-dealing” on Afghanistan is one of the Barack Obama administration’s greatest political vulnerabilities, because it is bears on a point of particular political sensitivity among the political and national security elite who are worried about whether there is any hope for success for the war strategy, even with Gen. David Petraeus in command.

One Democratic opponent of the war policy was quick to take advantage of the leaked documents’ focus on Pakistan’s support for the Taliban. In a statement issued Monday, Sen. Russ Feingold, Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the documents “highlight a fundamental strategic problem, which is that elements of the Pakistani security services have been complicit in the insurgency”.

In combination with “competing agendas within the Afghan security forces”, Feingold argued, that problem precludes any “military solution in Afghanistan”.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai took advantage of the new story generated by the documents to release a statement pointing to Pakistani sanctuaries across the border as the primary problem faced by his government. “Our efforts against terrorism will have no effect as long as these sanctuaries and sources remain intact,” said Karzai.

Last February, then Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said what administration officials had privately conceded. Disrupting the “safe havens” enjoyed by the Taliban on the Pakistani side of the border, he said, “won’t be sufficient by itself to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan”, but it is a “necessary condition” for making “progress” in Afghanistan.

Implicitly admitting its political vulnerability on the issue, on Sunday, the White House issued a compilation of statements by senior administration officials over the last 18 months aimed at showing that they have been tough with Pakistan on Afghanistan.

But none of the statements quoted in the compilation admitted the reality that Pakistan’s policy of supporting the Taliban insurgency has long been firmly fixed and is not going to change.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed in April 2009 that “elements” of the ISI were “connected to those militant organisations”. But he suggested that Pakistani chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, with whom Mullen had developed a close personal relationship, was in the process of changing the intelligence agency.

Mullen essentially pleaded for time, saying that change “isn’t going to happen overnight” and that “it takes a fairly significant time to change an organisation.”

Admitting that Pakistan’s fundamental interests in Afghanistan conflict with U.S. war strategy would be a serious – and possibly, fatal – blow to the credibility of the Obama administration’s strategy of using force to “reverse the momentum” of the Taliban.

To the extent that this contradiction and others are highlighted in the coming weeks as the news media comb through the mountains of new documents, it could accelerate the process by which political support for the Afghanistan War among the foreign policy and political elite continues to diminish.

The loss of political support for the war among the political and national security elite has accelerated in recent months and is already far advanced. More prominent figures in the national security elite, both Republican and Democratic, have signaled a developing consensus in those circles that the war strategy cannot succeed, paralleling the process that occurred in Washington in 2006 in regard to the Iraq War.

Just this past week, Robert Blackwill, former deputy national security adviser for George W. Bush, and Richard Haass, former Bill Clinton administration official and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, joined the chorus of doubters and called for ceding southern Afghanistan to the Taliban and withdrawing to the north.

Haas penned an article in Newsweek under the title, “We’re Not Winning. It’s Not Worth It.”

GARETH PORTER is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail