Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

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This is absolutely reprehensible:

LAKEWOOD, Wash. — A Joint Base Lewis-McChord  soldier was devastated when he returned home from deployment to find his dog was missing — and possibly sold on Craigslist.

Brandon Harker returned last week after an 8-month deployment to Afghanistan. He was excited to see Oakley, his 2-year-old purebred yellow Labrador retriever.

Harker had asked a friend to take care of Oakley while he was deployed. When he contacted the friend to pick him up, he was told the dog had been given away.

He turned to social media to find his dog and was contacted by numerous people who said they’d seen Oakley listed for sale in February on Craigslist. Harker has been calling local veterinarians and shelters, hoping for word on his dog since Oakley is micro-chipped and registered.

“I am just trying to get him back since he was wrongfully given away or sold without my permission while I was deployed,” Harker said.

If you have any information on the dog’s whereabouts, please contact Harker through Craig’s List or Dogs on Deployment.

I’ve been busy working on a story the past few days, hence my lack of blogging. This story will see the light of day soon. I will post it here when it’s ready.

In the meantime, I’ll point out a few recent articles – most of them from Foreign Policy – which I highly recommend reading.

The Antisocial Network: Flashpoint’s Evan Kohlman looks at how cyber-jihadists reacted to the death of Osama bin Laden.

The Cost of Pakistan’s Double Game: RFE/RL journalist Daud Khattak assesses Pakistan’s complicated and contradictory tolerance and ties to jihadist groups and figures living in the country.

Replacing Bin Laden: Al-Hayat journalist Camille Tawil provides more biographical information and analysis about interim al Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel.

Misnomers and Misdirection: In light of Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress earlier this week in which he said “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al Qaeda,” my former professor Daniel Byman looks at the differences between Hamas and al Qaeda.

Disgraced John Ensign Back In Legal Jeopardy: Murray Waas reports that Senator John Ensign’s last-minute decision to release more than 1,000 sensitive emails between himself, his lawyers, and his advisers to Senate Ethics Committee investigators could put him in legal jeopardy with the Department of Justice.

John Edwards Could Be Indicted Within Days: The Department of Justice plans to file criminal charges against former presidential candidate John Edwards, according to the Associated Press. The source says an indictment could come within days unless Edwards cuts a deal with prosecutors and pleads guilty to a negotiated charge.

Federal Prosecutors Try To Force New York Times Reporter To Reveal Sources: ABC News reports prosecutors have subpoenaed Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Risen to testify at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Stirling, who is accused of leaking classified information about Iran’s nuclear program to Risen, among other things. Risen plans to ask the court to quash the subpoena, but “sources close to Risen” cited in the article say he is willing to go to jail to protect his sources.

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all!

Good find from the Guardian:

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they eschewed most modern technology, including television and music players.

But in the latest sign of the hardline movement’s rapprochement with at least some areas of the modern world, the Taliban have embraced microblogging.

Their Twitter feed, @alemarahweb, pumps out several messages each day, keeping 224 followers up to date with often highly exaggerated reports of strikes against the “infidel forces” and the “Karzai puppet regime”.

Most messages by the increasingly media-savvy movement are in Pashtu, with links to news stories on the elaborate and multilingual website of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban’s shadow government likes to style itself.

On Thursday, the feed broke into English for the first time, with a tweet about an attack on police in Farah province. “Enemy attacked in Khak-e-Safid, 6 dead,” read the message.

There is not much lively banter between the “emirate” and its Twitter followers, save for a cheerful “asalam alekum” sent last week to the Kavkaz Centre, a militant news site covering jihad in the Caucasus.

Don’t be surprised if military and intelligence officials are now trying to figure out how to get them to use foursquare

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) has looked at the photos of Osama bin Laden’s body and has described them on the record.  Based on his account, it seems like pretty gruesome stuff:

In an interview with The Atlantic Wire after he returned from the CIA headquarters, Inhofe described the photos he saw. He said he was shown 15 photos. A dozen of those were taken at the Abbottabad compound and appear to be “taken right after the instant he was shot.” They sound gruesome. They show a massive head wound in the ear and eye. “The brains were coming out of his socket,” Inhofe said. But he said three other photos were taken on board the ship before bin Laden’s sea burial. In these, the body has been cleaned up and Inhofe, who has advocated releasing the photos, said, “It’s much more reasonable to show the public these photos.”

After being kept in the dark about the Bin Laden operation until after it was over, Pakistani government officials have complained that they should have been involved or informed. The ISI – Pakistan’s intelligence agency – has been especially embarrassed by this entire episode, considering that they should have known Bin Laden was living in hiding on their soil for at least five years.

Then again, if this is the ISI’s idea of operational security and secrecy regarding a high-value target, the administration won’t have too much difficulty justifying its decision to keep Islamabad out of the loop:

Pakistan’s military intelligence organisation has confirmed that the leader of the Taliban group is hiding in the west of Pakistan’s Quetta city, reports say.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official has said the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) will step up a huge operation to detain or kill the Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister during his visit to China said the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan could end up helpful to Afghan peace process.

After the death of Osama Bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad, the country’s military intelligence agency has been planning to detain or kill the Taliban leader.

Some reports suggest the ISI has already launched a hunt-down operation in Quetta city of Pakistan.

Regardless of accuracy, imagine if this story had been about Bin Laden rather than Omar. U.S. government officials would be howling about it for weeks.

In the immediate aftermath of the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed, one of the key questions asked by journalists and policymakers was about Pakistan’s complicity – or the lack thereof.  At the center of this political firestorm is Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, a key domestic political constituency. The Pakistani people and the press are now asking themselves the same uncomfortable questions that were asked about the CIA’s assessments of Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent WMDs: did we get it wrong because of incompetence or because we knew about it and looked the other way?  A secondary question, and perhaps bigger in terms of domestic politics, that has emerged in Pakistan: how did American helicopters loaded with Navy SEALs fly into Pakistani airspace and carry out a 40-minute raid without anyone in the national security apparatus noticing?

The fact that the most wanted man in the world was found living in a suburb of Islamabad approximately three hours outside of Islamabad, where he had been living for years within walking distance of a police station and the Pakistani equivalent of West Point is absolutely astounding. It disproved the conventional wisdom that he had been hiding out this entire time in caves in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. A Pakistani official familiar with information provided by one of Bin Laden’s wives said that before Abbottabad, the Al Qaeda leader and his family had been living in a village 40 kilometers away near the city of Haripur from as far back as 2003.

Given what we now know about how and where Bin Laden was living makes a decade’s worth of denials from Pakistani leaders ring hollow. However, somebody in the American intelligence community suspected something long before the chilling of U.S.-Pakistani relations of the recent past and last Sunday’s raid. Bill Maher recently dug up a clip from his show from October of 2008 in which then-CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour said “I just talked to somebody very knowledgeable. She doesn’t think, this woman who is in American intelligence, thinks that he’s [Osama bin Laden] in a villa, a nice comfortable villa in Pakistan, not a cave.”

The criticism and second-guessing of Pakistan has been blistering and relentless since last Sunday. Steve Coll wrote, “The initial circumstantial evidence suggests… that bin Laden was effectively being housed under Pakistani state control.” President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told reporters, “I think it is inconceivable that bin Laden didn’t have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time.”

It’s worth keeping in mind that Bin Laden is not the only senior Al Qaeda member to have been caught in an urban area of Pakistan. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi were apprehended in Rawalpindi and Mardan, respectively, with Pakistani involvement in both operations.

Unfortunately for the Pakistanis, their long track record of denials about Bin Laden’s presence in their country, and the “double game” played by the government – supporting the U.S. effort against Al Qaeda, while at the same time supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network – means that the burden will be on them to prove that they didn’t know.  This essentially forces them to prove a negative, something which is very difficult to do effectively and beyond dispute.

Pakistan’s intelligence service is already in full-blown damage control mode.  ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha is heading to Washington to offer explanations.  The Daily Beast recently reported that Pasha may step down as the government’s fall guy over the Bin Laden intelligence failure.  Pakistan’s embarrassment over the Bin Laden episode may give the United States some political and diplomatic leverage in the short term – perhaps in the form of renewed pressure for actionable intelligence on Mullah Omar or Ayman al-Zawahiri. Expect the U.S.-Pakistan relationship to remain frosty at least until the Pakistanis are able to convince the Obama administration and Congress that they didn’t know Bin Laden’s whereabouts.  However, if evidence emerges that people in the Pakistani government knew about his location and withheld that information from the United States, it will be a whole new ball game.

Update: More Bin Laden raid fallout on the Pakistani domestic political front…  Lawmakers are calling on President Asif Ali Zardari and other senior government officials to resign.

Update II: Apparently part of the ISI’s CYA effort is outing the identity of the local CIA station chief in the Pakistani media.

Update III: Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, sent out a tweet shooting down the story: “NO, The Nation just ran made up name 4 CIA Stn Chief in I’abad in made up story abt DG ISI’s travels.”

The Times of India puts the whole mess into context.

Update IV: Correction. A previous version of this inaccurately referred to Abbottabad as a suburb of the Pakistani capital city of Islamabad. According to Google Maps, Abbottabad is approximately 70 miles to the north. Thanks to Huffington Post reader Kazim Nawab for pointing that out.

Would-be modern day saint Greg Mortenson got hit by a devastating one-two journalistic punch courtesy of Jon Krakauer and 60 Minutes pointing out his nonexistent loose relationship with the truth as it relates to some anecdotes and details in his best-selling books.

In making the comparison between Mortenson and James Frey, Krakauer notes, “Frey, unlike Mortenson, didn’t use his phony memoir to solicit tens of millions of dollars in donations from unsuspecting readers.”

Beyond the literary embellishment or outright fabrication alleged in both reports, the charges that Mortenson has mismanaged or used CAI funds for personal use, or claimed credit for building nonexistant schools raise even more troubling questions.  The fact that President Obama gave $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize money to Mortenson’s charity will bring even more scrutiny to what he’s done with the millions of dollars he’s raised over the years.

Again, I quote the Beatles: “Sexy Sadie what have you done / You made a fool of everyone.”