So Can We Leave Afghanistan Now?

2 May

I HAD another post planned for today, but this news is too big to ignore. Since there are others with way more knowledge and experience on this subject (I’m referring to the shooting in the head till dead of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces last night), I’ll just get out of the way and let them talk.

Here’s a great analysis by my good friend Jayshree Bajoria, who has been writing on all things Pakistan for longer than I’ve been reading about them:

Depending on what role Pakistan played in the mission, tensions between the United States and Pakistan could ease or intensify. The United States has paid Pakistan more than $1 billion a year for counterterrorism operations since 2001. The circumstance of bin Laden’s death “may not only jeopardize that aid, but will also no doubt deepen suspicions that Pakistan has played a double game, and perhaps even knowingly harbored the Qaeda leader,” writes Jane Perlez in the New York Times.

The fact that Pakistan has played a double game on counterterrorism cooperation is hardly a surprise to anyone following the country for the last decade. It is the worst kept secret, at par with the CIA-operated drones in tribal areas. Even the fact that bin laden was not found in the tribal areas, but in a military town so close to Islamabad (CSM) will probably surprise few. Just last month at a CFR meeting, Pakistan expert Hassan Abbas quipped he wouldn’t be surprised if Mullah Omar and the top leadership of the Afghan Taliban were found in Islamabad.

Yet, this latest U.S. operation in Pakistan raises some important questions about Pakistani army’s involvement and the subsequent effect on U.S.-Pakistan relations. Pakistani journalist Mosharraf Zaidi points out “It seems deeply improbable that Bin Laden could have been where he was killed without the knowledge of some parts of the Pakistani state.” If that was the case what exactly was Pakistan’s role in the operation?

Read the full post here.

Here’s Jeremy Scahill’s blog for The Nation, on the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, who are “widely considered to be the most elite warriors in the US national security apparatus.” After quoting various experts on the chilling efficiency with which the JSOC force takes out its targets, Scahill focuses on the Pakistani involvement in the killing, if any, and the strengthening of JSOC under the Obama administration:

The United States has a lengthy history of US Special Operations Forces conducting targeted kill or capture operations inside Pakistan. “I would like to point out one sensitivity of Pakistan and its people and that it’s a violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan,” former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told NDTV after bin Laden’s killing was announced. “American troops coming across the border and taking action in one of our towns, that is Abbotabad, is not acceptable to the people of Pakistan.” Musharraf’s comments are ironic given that he personally made a deal with General McChrystal to allow US Special Ops Forces to cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan to target bin Laden or other Al Qaeda leaders. The so-called “hot pursuit” agreement was predicated on Pakistan’s ability to deny it had given the US forces permission to enter Pakistan.

Both President Bush and President Obama have reserved the right for US forces to operate lethally and unilaterally in any country across the globe in pursuit of alleged high value terrorists. The Obama administration’s expansion of US Special Operations activities globally has been authorized under a classified order dating back to the Bush administration. Originally signed in early 2004 by then–Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, it is known as the “AQN ExOrd,” or Al Qaeda Network Execute Order. The AQN ExOrd was intended to cut through bureaucratic and legal processes, allowing US special forces to move into denied areas or countries beyond the official battle zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, who is poised to become director of the CIA, expanded and updated that order in late 2009. “JSOC has been more empowered more under this administration than any other in recent history,” a Special Ops source told The Nation. “No question.”

Read Scahill’s blog post here.

ColorLines editor Kai Wright brings bin Laden’s death home in his blog. Laden is dead? That’s just peachy. What about “the nearly 18 million children who lived in homes without food security in 2009?” he asks:

The president says we can do anything we want because we can kill. We could not stop poverty rates from spiraling upward to a record-setting 14.3 percent of Americans in 2009, but we can kill so we are exceptional. One in four black and Latino families live below the poverty line now, and as a result America’s child poverty rate—one in five kids—is the second worst among rich nations, behind Mexico. But we can kill, so we are great.

Fourteen million Americans are out of work, nearly a third of them for more than a year. The Depression-like jobs crises in black neighborhoods around the country have become so acceptable as to be literally unremarkable in national news media. When overall joblessness inched downward in March, the fact that black unemployment increased, again, was greeted with callous shrugs from the White House to CNN. But America is exceptional because we can kill.

Wright’s anger rings true. Nine and a half years and billions of dollars later, Osama bin Laden is dead; meanwhile, Americans are poor, jobless, and waiting for the American president to pay some attention to their plight.

One Response to “So Can We Leave Afghanistan Now?”

  1. Jayshree Bajoria 4 May 2011 at 7:27 AM #

    Great blog! I would like to be notified every time there’s a new post.

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