Tag: Afghanistan

Another Stopped Clock Moment

It appears that Trump is cutting off military support to CIA death squads: (Details on the whole child murdering death squads are here)

Years from now, we will forgive historians who, when documenting the Donald Trump presidency — its cold indifference to hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 deaths, its pandemic denialism, its migrant family separations, its use of the Justice Department as a political cudgel and the attorney general as a Mafia lawyer, the president’s genuine attempt to subvert the 2020 election results, and his impeachment — fail to note a bureaucratic dust-up between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon in the waning days of the administration.

Last week, news broke that Trump’s acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, sent a letter to the CIA notifying the agency that the Pentagon would review the terms of its military support to CIA operations. News reports suggested that the Pentagon was planning to strip the CIA of its support for counterterrorism missions around the world almost immediately. Drones, elite soldiers, fuel, and medical evacuation of casualties, for example, would disappear almost overnight. CNN reported that the Pentagon was “planning to withdraw most support for CIA counter-terror missions by the beginning of next year.” The New York Times suggested that the purpose was to “make it difficult” for the CIA to conduct its covert war in Afghanistan as Trump reduces the number of U.S. troops there. ABC News described the decision as “unprecedented.” The cuts would leave CIA paramilitary officers to die should they suffer casualties, former officers told the press.

But interviews with six current and former national security officials, including some directly involved in the Pentagon’s review, suggest it is neither immediate nor controversial. Instead, the review serves as a coda for the Trump administration’s chaos — and as an unintentional gift to the incoming Biden administration.

Miller’s letter to CIA Director Gina Haspel informed her that the Pentagon would update a classified 2005 memorandum of understanding outlining the terms of Defense Department support to CIA missions. The Donald Rumsfeld-led Pentagon wrote the memo in the early years of what the George W. Bush administration called the global war on terror. In the immediate weeks and months after the September 11 attacks, the Pentagon discovered that it had neither the intelligence capability nor the nimbleness that the CIA showed in their quick deployment to Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda conceived of and trained for the attacks; the CIA needed special operations forces to buttress their tiny paramilitary division.

As an aside, United States Special Operations Command (USSICOM) was established in 1987, so it appears that the need to use CIA paramilitaries, particularly given its extensive expansion over the intervening 33 years, is to ensure that those operations are not subject to the purview of any potential war crimes investigations.


Fast forward to Donald Trump. He campaigned in 2016 on pulling out U.S. troops from the wars which began after 9/11 and later, as president, declared victory over the Islamic State. In 2018, the Pentagon, led by Defense Secretary James Mattis, published a new national defense strategy as a blueprint for a new era. Counterterrorism was no longer the country’s “primary concern.” The new strategy called long-term strategic competition with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran the top priorities.


Trump reportedly tried several times to pull troops out of Afghanistan but was said to have been blocked or slow-rolled by the national security establishment. After he lost the November election, Trump fired Esper because he was said to have resisted the move. As a result, Miller replaced Esper and quickly went about announcing that troops were indeed coming home. As almost an afterthought, Miller and the acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, also pushed to update the 2005 sharing agreement to fall in line with the change in national security policy, several defense officials told The Intercept. They said that fears of resource cuts to the CIA are unfounded overall.


A secondary justification for rewriting the agreement is to allow the Pentagon to answer a simple question that has plagued military officials for years: How much support do we provide to the CIA, and how is it used?


For military officials, the support to the CIA has become just like any other part of the Pentagon’s self-licking ice cream cone: one with no end. The agreement has persisted for 15 years, even as national security priorities have changed. Two military officials who spoke with The Intercept said the Pentagon couldn’t answer congressional committees’ questions about how the CIA used the Pentagon’s resources. As a result, the new memo will insist that the CIA provide more information to the Pentagon on where and how their support, including forces, is used.


According to the senior Pentagon official involved in the review, the Pentagon is asking the CIA to use military support in the so-called great nation competition and use fewer resources in their counterterrorism efforts. It is all part of a more considerable effort to move the military’s resources away from hunting suspected Islamic militants worldwide and toward the now two-year-old focus on other global powers. The military is letting the CIA know that they are ending its forever wars in a strategic sense.

“[Director Haspel] wants out of the war on terror,” the senior Pentagon official continued. “She thinks that takes the CIA away from its core mission of going after Russia and China. And it’s 20 years later, and we had to do [that] at the time, it’s 20 years now, and a shift has to be made.”

So Haspel is a moron who has never left the Cold War.

And people wonder why the Russians think that the war against them by the US never ended.


CIA counterterrorism veterans believe the review stems from Trump making a last-minute effort to punish the CIA for various offenses, but mostly because the agency concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help him become president. A retired senior intelligence official told The Intercept that a senior congressional aide on an intelligence committee asked the White House last week to explain Miller’s letter to the CIA. The retired official said the aide was told, “It’s because the president’s followers believe the agency played a role” in Trump’s election loss last month. The retired official said the White House acknowledged that the claim of CIA involvement in Trump’s election loss was unfounded, but the facts didn’t matter. The message from the White House, according to the retired official, was that “it matters what Trump’s supporters think, and they think that’s the case.”

Given Trump’s pettiness and thin-skinned demeanor, it may very well be that Trump ordered the Pentagon to take its toys away from the CIA, but it also doesn’t matter.


But it does provide Biden with an unintentional gift. By forcing the incoming administration to respond to the review shortly after taking power, Trump’s team provides Biden with an opportunity to quickly take stock of 20 years of lethal operations, both in direct view and secret — and make a decision to end an unwinnable war.


A lame-duck president agitating for a useful bureaucratic change as a parting shot at the deep state is the same delusional logic that came with much of Trump’s four years: occasionally doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

Given the nature of CIA paramilitaries, their primary benefits appear to be evading the laws of war, and to maintain a military presence in an area in defiance of civilian leadership (Syria most recently), reducing this capability is an unalloyed good, regardless of the motivations.

This is Not the Mark of a Winning Foreign Policy

That the US is supporting the Taliban in its fight against Isis in Afghanistan indicates that it’s not a particularly coherent foreign policy either. 

This is a direct consequence of our regime change Mousketeers misguided attempt at the overthrow of the Assads in Syria.

The Council on Foreign Relations crowd have absolutely no concept of blowback, despite our being the recipient of this phenomenon over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again:

Army Sgt. 1st Class Steve Frye was stuck on base last summer in Afghanistan, bored and fiddling around on a military network, when he came across live video footage of a battle in the Korengal Valley, where he had first seen combat 13 years earlier. It was infamous terrain, where at least 40 U.S. troops had died over the years, including some of Frye’s friends. Watching the Reaper drone footage closely, he saw that no American forces were involved in the fighting, and none from the Afghan government. Instead, the Taliban and the Islamic State were duking it out. Frye looked for confirmation online. Sure enough, America’s old enemy and its newer one were posting photos and video to propaganda channels as they tussled for control of the Korengal and its lucrative timber business.

What Frye didn’t know was that U.S. Special Operations forces were preparing to intervene in the fighting in Konar province in eastern Afghanistan — not by attacking both sides, but by using strikes from drones and other aircraft to help the Taliban. “What we’re doing with the strikes against ISIS is helping the Taliban move,” a member of the elite Joint Special Operations Command counterterrorism task force based at Bagram air base explained to me earlier this year, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the assistance was secret. The air power would give them an advantage by keeping the enemy pinned down.

Last fall and winter, as the JSOC task force was conducting the strikes, the Trump administration’s public line was that it was hammering the Taliban “harder than they have ever been hit before,” as the president put it — trying to force the group back to the negotiating table in Doha, Qatar, after President Trump put peace talks there on hold and canceled a secretly planned summit with Taliban leaders at Camp David. Administration officials signaled that they didn’t like or trust the Taliban and that, until it made more concessions, it could expect only blistering bombardment.

In reality, even as its warplanes have struck the Taliban in other parts of Afghanistan, the U.S. military has been quietly helping the Taliban to weaken the Islamic State in its Konar stronghold and keep more of the country from falling into the hands of the group, which — unlike the Taliban — the United States views as an international terrorist organization with aspirations to strike America and Europe. Remarkably, it can do so without needing to communicate with the Taliban, by observing battle conditions and listening in on the group. Two members of the JSOC task force and another defense official described the assistance to me this year in interviews for a book about the war in Konar, all of them speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk about it. (The U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan declined to comment for this story.)

As Rita May Brown (not Albert Einstein) said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Another Bounty on US Troops? Yawn.

Have you heard the story of the boy who cried wolf?

Well now, the US State Security Apparatus is alleging that Iran paid bounties for attacks on US troops.

Coming next, unnamed sources evidence that LeBron James is paying bounties for attacks on US military personnel in Afghanistan:

Iran is reported to have paid bounties to a Taliban faction for killing US and coalition troops in Afghanistan, leading to six attacks last year including a suicide bombing at the US airbase in Bagram.

According to CNN, US intelligence assessed that Iran paid the bounties to the Haqqani network, for the Bagram attack on 11 December, which killed two civilians and injured more than 70 others, including two Americans.

The Pentagon decided not to take retaliatory action in the hope of preserving a peace deal the Trump administration agreed with the Taliban in February, the CNN report said. In January, less than a month after the Bagram attack, the US killed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Suleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad, but that attack is not thought to have been a direct retaliation for Bagram.


The report comes nearly two months after allegations that Russia was paying bounties to Taliban fighters for killing Americans in Afghanistan. Donald Trump rejected those reports as a “hoax”, but the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, confirmed he warned his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that there would be “an enormous price to pay” if Moscow was paying such bounties. The Pentagon has said it will investigate the reports of Russian bounties but has so far not produced a conclusion to that investigation.

The credence that the national security press gives their sources in intelligence, who are literally professional liars, buggers the mind.

About F%$#ing Time

The International Criminal Court will be investigating all of the parties ion the Afghan war for crimes against humanity, including the US military.

Considering the abysmal record of the US military investigating itself for such things, this is long overdue:

The United States is to be investigated for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan following an International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling today. The court overturned an April 2019 decision blocking a probe into the actions of U.S. troops, Taliban guerillas, and Afghan government forces.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has been pressing for formal investigations into alleged U.S. war crimes since 2017. But she has faced threats and opposition from President Donald Trump, notably having her U.S. visa canceled in retaliation.

Washington claimed that the measure was necessary “to protect its sovereignty and to protect our people from unjust investigation and prosecution” by the court.

The U.S. is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and refuses to recognize the court’s authority over its citizens. It has gone to great lengths to cover up alleged war crimes committed across the world, including with plans to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act. Assange could face 175 years behind bars for publishing a series of videos and leaked cables exposing corruption and war crimes committed by the U.S. in Iraq and elsewhere.

While there is a no possibility of any US citizen facing anything resembling justice from the ICC, the prospect of an aggressive an independent review of the US military’s actions, even if limited to, “Name and shame,” would be a significant step forward of the moral development of the world.

Hearts and Minds

The Washington Post has gotten its hands on internal documents that show that the US state security apparatus has been lying about progress in Afghanistan for most of the war.

Gee, that does not sound like the Vietnam war at all.

We are doing the same thing that we did in Vietnam because we learned the wrong lesson from Vietnam.

The lesson that was “learned” was that we “lost” because the American public stopped supporting the war, which makes counter-insurgency primarily an exercise in PR.

It’s a convenient explanation, because it means that there is no accountability for Pentagon officials or members of the military, the American public failed them.

It’s also complete bullsh%$.

The war was lost because the NLF (Viet Cong) and the the NVA beat the US military.

They defined the terms of engagement, and in so doing, they played to their strengths and our weaknesses, just like the Taliban is now.

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.

In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.

To quote (not) Tallyrand, “They have forgotten nothing, and they have learned nothing.”

There needs to be a thorough and independent investigation of how we were defeated in Vietnam Afghanistan, and those who made a dogs breakfast of it need to be called out.

It’s called accountability, and it is all too rare for general officers in the US military.

This is a Declaration of Unconditional Surrender

The US military has stopped issuing assessments on who is in control of various parts of Afghanistan.

This cannot be construed as anything but an admission of abject defeat, but anyone with the vaguest sense of history knew that this would be the case 18 years ago:

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan has stopped assessing which districts in the country’s 34 provinces are controlled by the government or by insurgents, meaning nearly every metric to measure success of America’s longest war is now either classified or no longer tracked.

For about three years, NATO’s Resolute Support mission had produced quarterly district-level stability assessments that counted the districts, total estimated population and total estimated land area that Kabul controlled or influenced, as well as those under the sway of insurgents and those contested by both sides.

Officials have stopped the assessments because they were “of limited decision-making value” to Army Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Resolute Support mission, the coalition told the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, according to a quarterly report published late Tuesday.


Taliban insurgents have been expanding their influence in rural areas, and while they’ve yet to seize a major city, they’re believed to be stronger than at any point since the war began over 17 years ago — a major boon for the group as it continues direct negotiations with the U.S. aimed partly at an American troop withdrawal.

The numbers are bad, so stop collecting the numbers.

The culture of the PowerPoint warriors.

Your Military Industrial Complex in a Nutshell

As a part of supporting the Afghan military, the Pentagon is upgrading Kabul’s helicopters.

There are a few small problems though: In addition to the Afgan military not being able to maintain its new Black Hawk helicopters, the Russian Helos that it is replacing outperform the Black Hawk by almost every metric:

A report from a top U.S. military watchdog has finally acknowledged that the UH-60A+ Black Hawks that the United States is supplying to the Afghan Air Force are less capable and harder to maintain than the Russian-made Mi-17 Hip helicopters they have now. The review raises concerns that this could limit Afghanistan’s ability to conduct operations across the country unless steps are taking to mitigate the loss of capability, something we at The War Zone have long warned could easily be the case.


“The transition [from Mi-17s to UH-60s] presents several challenges that have yet to be fully addressed,” the report says in a section dedicated to the issue. “Black Hawks do not have the lift capacity of Mi-17s.”

“They are unable to accommodate some of the larger cargo items the Mi-17s can carry, and in general, it takes almost two Black Hawks to carry the load of a single Mi-17,” the review continues. “Furthermore, unlike Mi-17s, Black Hawks cannot fly at high elevations and, as such, cannot operate in remote regions of Afghanistan where Mi-17s operate.”


“The Mi-17 is ‘much more conducive to the education level available in the general Afghan population than the UH-60As’ when it comes to maintenance,” the 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan (AETF-A), the U.S. Air Force’s top command for operations in Afghanistan, which also oversees advising the Afghan Air Force, said, according to the Pentagon Inspector General’s review. “The expectation is that the AAF will be almost entirely reliant on contractors for Black Hawk maintenance in the near- to mid-term.”

That reliance on contractors is a feature not a bug:  This is more of the deferred compensation for general officers program that appears to be the raison d’être of the Pentagon these days.

Whoever made this decision will secure a well remunerated post military retirement sinecure with Sikorsky, one of its suppliers, or the contractors that the Afghans (actually us) are paying very well for support services.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Tell Lies

Westmoreland did it in Vietnam in the 19602, and the Pentagon is doing it in Afghanistan today:

It is challenging enough that the war in Afghanistan has gone on for almost 17 years. But now the Trump administration is raising hackles in Congress by cloaking in official secrecy an unusual amount of data about the longest armed conflict in American history, including, until very recently, the dwindling size of the beleaguered Afghan military.

Information contained in a recently issued government report provides a window into what the Pentagon has been keeping secret since last year: The Afghan army has shrunk by 11 percent and insurgents have gained territory, raising questions about whether the Pentagon has been concealing a strategy gone awry.


But just as the Pentagon began sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan, it also began classifying key war metrics it had previously made public. That included ways of measuring the success or failure of America’s mission: training and funding the Afghan military so it can beat back the Taliban and other insurgents.

The latest report by John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction — who objected strongly to the new program of secrecy and pried some of the data out of US military leaders in Afghanistan — contained some worrisome figures.

There has been a long history of the US military lying to Congress, and in come cases lying to the President to continue with their wars, whether it be Vietnam, or Iraq, Lebanon, or (to a slightly smaller degree) Korea, we know that the military will attempt to restrict information given to the civilian leadership so that they can continue fighting.

To quote Georges Clemenceau, “War is too important to be left to the generals.”

When Donald Trump is the Adult in the Room………

Donald Trump has decided (IMNSHO correctly) that Afghanistan, aka, “The Graveyard of Empires,” but the very serious people in his security establishment want to continue doubling down on failure:

President Donald Trump’s top national-security advisers are searching for a way to overcome the commander-in-chief’s reluctance to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan as divisions on the National Security Council complicate strategy for the 16-year-old war, officials said.

The president’s reluctance to embrace an open-ended commitment has resurrected discussion of other options, including proposals to scale back the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan or to hire private contractors to play a bigger role. Top Trump administration officials met to discuss the options Thursday after Mr. Trump asked his team for alternatives, according to current and former Trump administration officials.

The search for a strategy for Afghanistan comes amid upheaval at the NSC following the removal of three staff members by H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. The three officials were hired by his predecessor, Mike Flynn, before he was forced to resign after 24 days in the post.


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had hoped to have a new Afghan strategy in place by mid-July, but White House talks bogged down as Mr. Trump challenged the need to send more U.S. forces into a fight with no clear plan for success, the officials said.

At a meeting last month with his national security team, Mr. Trump questioned the leadership of Gen. John Nicholson, the Kabul-based commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, the officials said. The president’s criticism, reported first by MSNBC on Wednesday, drew a brusque response on Thursday from Sen. John McCain, (R., Ariz.).

Trump is right, and the US foreign policy establishment, aka, “The Blob,” is wrong.

This should be no surprise.  The Blob supported Libya, and supporting al Qaeda in Syria, and fomented a coup in the Ukraine, and they were all disasters.

Rule 1 of foreign policy:  The Blob is always wrong.

Rule 2 of foreign policy:  See rule 1.

Betsy Devos, War Profiteer ……… And Zombies

As you may be aware, Betsy Devos’ brother is Eric Prince, who runs the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater.

What you may not know is that the Trump administration is talking with Prince about increasing the mercenary involvement in Afghanistan, and that Betsy DeVos has invested in another mercenary firm run by her son in law:

Department of Education Secretary and billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos invested in a defense contracting firm owned by her son-in-law at the same time her brother was helping the Trump administration craft a new Afghan war strategy — one that called on the military to use more private contractors.

Betsy DeVos invested between $100,000 and $250,000 in LexTM3, LLC in May according to U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) disclosure reviewed by the International Business Times. (Disclosure forms give only a range for the value of purchases.) LexTM3 is a defense contractor led by CEO and co-founder Nate Lowery, DeVos’ son-in-law. The company has received 70 contracts worth $1,425,248 from the Defense Department since the company formed from the merger of Lex Products Corp and TM3 Systems Inc. in September 2015.

DeVos has invested repeatedly in LexTM3 since Donald Trump became president. Disclosure forms show she invested between $250,001 and $500,000 in LexTM3 in February and in March, and between $100,001 and $250,000 in April. This is all after she disclosed that she owned a total of between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000 worth of the company in an initial disclosure form submitted the day before Trump took office in January.

But DeVos’ most recent investment was filed with the OGE on May 30, the day before her brother Erik Prince published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for a new approach to the Afghan war and urging the U.S. military to use “cheaper private solutions.”

It’s repulsive, but by the standards of the Trump family, members of the Trump administration, and her own family (Eric Prince and Nate Lowrey are renting out mercs for a living) she’s a piker.

And zombies.