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Stanley McChrystal’s war path on White House

  • Stanley McChrystal — the Runaway General
  • Excerpts from the Rolling Stone interview with General Stanley McChrystal
  • The White House must decide whether stability in the war effort outweighs the need to discipline the commander.
  • As President Obama weighs whether to relieve his Afghanistan commander over inappropriate comments in a magazine article, he is also wrestling with the future of a war that he has taken on as his own.
  • If he fires Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, Obama will be forced to consider revising his strategy, which relies on large numbers of U.S. troops and a far-reaching counterinsurgency effort to promote governance and development in Afghanistan.
  • The White House now has to decide whether stability at the top of the war effort outweighs the need to discipline a commander who twice has seemed to publicly challenge civilian oversight of the war.

The article in this week’s Rolling Stone depicted Gen Stanley McChrystal – the top US military commander in Afghanistan – as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to persuade even some of his own soldiers that his strategy could win the war.

The interview describes McChrystal as “disappointed” in his first Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. “McChrystal thought Obama looked ‘uncomfortable and intimidated’ by the roomful of military brass,” said the magazine about the general’s first meeting with his new commander-in-chief, a week after the latter took office.

McChrystal’s one-on-one meeting with the president a few months later did not go much better either. “It was a 10-minute photo-op,” the magazine quotes an adviser to McChrystal. “The Boss was pretty disappointed,” the aide had said, referring to the general.

The Rolling Stone article, which quotes several McChrystal aides anonymously, portrays a split between the US military and Obama’s advisers at an extremely sensitive moment for the Pentagon, which is fending off criticism of its strategy to turn around the Afghanistan war.

  • Firing McChrystal would also probably ignite fierce debate in Congress, with some Republicans charging that Obama had sacrificed an effective wartime commander because of comments that, while intemperate, did not challenge the course set by civilians.
  • Opponents in Congress of the current strategy would probably respond by pressing even harder for a shift in strategy.
  • In December, Obama essentially sided with McChrystal, who recommended a troop buildup and a dedicated counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.
  • And he rebuffed, at least for the moment, Vice President Joe Biden and other advisors, who expressed skepticism about the strategy.
  • Obama set a July 2011 deadline for beginning a troop drawdown in Afghanistan and promised to review the strategy in December — in effect giving McChrystal a year to show results.
  • McChrystal’s approach already has been under fire, because stabilization efforts have proved less successful than expected in Helmand province and the general has extended an operation around the city of Kandahar because of delays in getting Afghan support.
  • Officials who back the current strategy say that firing McChrystal would set back that effort even further.

Obama appointed McChrystal to lead the Afghan effort in May 2009. He was, however, not happy with the proposals the general was making – calling, among other things, for another 40,000 troops – to avoid a ‘mission failure’, writes the magazine.

“The White House was furious. McChrystal, they felt, was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president’s ass,” states the Rolling Stone piece.

“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article. “I was selling an un-sellable position,” he added.

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan only after months of study, which many in the military found frustrating. And the White House’s troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counter-insurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

A diplomatic incoherence among several officials in the Obama administration dealing with the war in Afghanistan, opines the magazine, has effectively allowed McChrystal’s team to call the shots and “hampered efforts to build a stable and credible government in Afghanistan”.

The magazine goes on, “part of the problem is personal: In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama’s top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a ‘clown’ who remains ‘stuck in 1985′.”

“Politicians like [John] McCain and [John] Kerry, says another aide, ‘turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticise him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it’s not very helpful,” quotes the magazine.

Only US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystals advisers. “Hillary had Stan’s back during the strategic review,” an adviser tells Rolling Stone, adding, “She said, ‘If Stan wants it, give him what he needs’.”

The assessment of McChrystal’s team of Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the official charged with the reintegration of the Taliban is not nearly as rosy: “‘The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal’,” the magazine quotes a member of the general’s team. “‘Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He’s a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, [and] pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto’,” quotes the magazine.

McChrystal, says the magazine, does not bother concealing his annoyance over the diplomat. “At one point during a trip to Paris, he checks his BlackBerry. ‘Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke’, he groans. ‘I don’t even want to open it’, he says. He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket.”

McChrystal, a widely respected former special operations chief, has enjoyed mostly sympathetic US media coverage since he took over the NATO-led force last year with a mandate from Obama to launch a major counter-insurgency offensive.

In the interview, McChrystal said he felt betrayed by US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner. If Eikenberry had the same doubts, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counter-insurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“‘Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books’,” McChrystal told the magazine, adding, “‘Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so’.”

  • The most logical successor would be Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who is already in Afghanistan serving as McChrystal’s deputy. Replacing McChrystal with Rodriguez would signal continuity, rather than a shift in approach.
  • Another name being mentioned as a possible successor was Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. He has command combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Even if he remains the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, McChrystal is almost certain to emerge from the furor as a damaged figure, less able to defend his war strategy against those in the administration hoping to change it.
  • “I strongly believe McChrystal will return, but the damage is done,” said a senior military official sympathetic to McChrystal.
  • Among the issues Obama will have to decide is whether McChrystal can remain effective as commander in the wake of the furor.
  • “Does he come back weakened or gun shy or hesitant to make that case?” asked one senior official. “We need him engaged.”

The article depicts the strained relationship between McChrystal and Eikenberry. “According to those close to the two men, Eikenberry – a retired three-star general who served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2005 – can’t stand that his former subordinate is now calling the shots. He’s also furious that McChrystal, backed by NATO’s allies, refused to put Eikenberry in the pivotal role of viceroy in Afghanistan, which would have made him the diplomatic equivalent of the general.”

The job instead went to British ambassador Mark Sedwill – a move that effectively increased McChrystal’s influence over diplomacy by shutting out a powerful rival.

“‘In reality, that position needs to be filled by an American for it to have weight’,” the magazine quotes a US official familiar with the negotiations.

The Rolling Stone article appeared to catch him and his staff in unguarded moments, including a drinking session at an Irish pub in Paris.

In the article, McChrystal joked sarcastically about rehearsing an answer for US Vice-president Joe Biden, known as a sceptic of the general’s strategy of hurling thousands more troops into the fray.

“‘Are you asking about Vice President Biden?’ McChrystal says with a laugh.

‘Who’s that?’” the article quotes him as saying. “‘Biden?’ suggests a top adviser. ‘Did you say: Bite Me?’”

Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan – the brainchild of McChrystal – will see NATO and US numbers peak at 150,000 later this year before a draw-down scheduled to start next year.

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US withdrawal from Afghanistan on target in July 2011-White House, Pentagon

US withdrawal from Afghanistan on target in July 2011-White House, Pentagon

As expected the Pentagon and the White House have once again reaffirmed that the troop withdrawal will happen on time and on schedule. The surge has failed to garnish the results that had been advertised, but that does not shake the resolve of the Obama Administration, the NATO command, the the US Generals–they are committed to a timely withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The negotiations with the Anti-Occupation forces are going on full steam ahead.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration reaffirmed Sunday that it will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, despite reservations among top generals that absolute deadlines are a mistake.

President Barack Obama’s chief of staff said an announced plan to begin bringing forces home in July 2011 still holds.

“That’s not changing. Everybody agreed on that date,” Rahm Emanuel said, adding by name the top three officials overseeing the policy girding the war: Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.

Petraeus, the war’s top military boss, said last week that he would recommend delaying the pullout if conditions in Afghanistan warranted it. Days after the date was announced in December, Gates pointedly said it was not a deadline.

Emanuel’s remarks reflect the White House view that Obama must offer a war-weary American public and Congress a promise that the nearly nine-year war is not open-ended. The problem, congressional Republicans and some military leaders say, is that a fixed date encourages the Taliban-led insurgency and undermines U.S. leverage with Afghan leaders.

Gates pledged Sunday that some troops would begin to leave in 13 months, but he was more cautious.

“We clearly understand that in July of 2011, we begin to draw down our forces,” Gates said. “The pace with which we draw down and how many we draw down is going to be conditions-based.”

Uniformed and civilian defense leaders accepted the announcement of a date to begin leaving as a condition of Obama’s major expansion of the war. Obama ordered an additional 30,000 troops, the last of whom are arriving now, with a mission to squeeze the Taliban on its home ground, build up Afghan security forces and improve chances that local people would swing behind the U.S.-backed central government.

With little progress apparent in the critical Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan, the split between politics and tactics is again on display. As Gates acknowledged Sunday, it is taking longer than he hoped to gain an enduring edge over the Taliban in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Gates asked for time and patience to demonstrate that the new strategy is working. He lamented that Americans are too quick to write off the war when Obama’s revamped strategy has only just begun to take hold.

“It is a tough pull,” Gates said. “We are suffering significant casualties. We expected that; we warned everybody that would be the case last winter.”

At least 34 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan this month, making June among the deadliest months of the war. Casualties are expected to rise through the summer and fall as fighting expands in Helmand and Kandahar.

Earlier this month, Gates said the United States and its partners must demonstrate progress this year or risk the collapse of already dwindling public support for the war.

Petraeus told Congress last week that he would recommend postponing the start of the withdrawal if security conditions and the capability of the Afghan government could not support it.

That does not mean Petraeus is opposed to bringing some troops home, and he said repeatedly that he supports Obama’s strategy. His caution, however, is rooted in the fact that the uniformed military — and counterinsurgency specialists in particular — have always been uncomfortable with fixed parameters for an inexact process of persuasion.

The war strategy Obama adopted is based on the success of Petraeus’ counterinsurgency tactics in the Iraq war. It combines a short-term “surge” of forces to blunt rising violence and a longer-term project to persuade locals to help uproot a homegrown insurgency.

Emanuel did not dispute quoted remarks from Vice President Joe Biden that “a whole lot” of forces would come home in July 2011. Biden, who argued within the administration for a narrower mission in Afghanistan involving fewer troops, was interviewed for the book “The Promise,” by Jonathan Alter.

Gates, however, said he had never heard Biden say such a thing, and that the evaluation by the on-the-ground war commander will largely determine the scope of the withdrawal.

“That absolutely has not been decided,” Gates said. “I’m not accepting, at face value, that … he said those words.”

Emanuel spoke on ABC’s “This Week.” Gates appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”

Iran and Pakistan sign gas export agreement

Iran and Pakistan formally signed yesterday an export deal which commits the Islamic republic to supplying its eastern neighbour with natural gas from 2014.

The contract is the latest step in completing a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan within the next four years.

“This is a happy day,” Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Javad Ouji told reporters at the contract signing ceremony in Tehran. “After decades of negotiations, we are witnessing today the execution of the agreement… to export more than 21 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from 2014 to Pakistan,” he added.

He said that from today, Iran will start building the next 300-kilometre leg of the pipeline from the southeastern city of Iranshahr to the Pakistani border, through the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Iran has already constructed 907km of the pipeline between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, which will carry natural gas from Iran’s giant South Pars field. Pakistan’s Deputy Energy Minister Kamran Lashari, who was present at the signing ceremony, said Islamabad will conduct a one-year feasibility study for building its section of the pipeline.

It will then “take three years for constructing the 700km pipeline” from the Iranian border to the Pakistani city of Nawabshah, he added. The pipeline was originally planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter pulled out of the project last year. Pakistan plans to use the gas for its power sector.

Turkish Navy to escort next flotilla: PM Erdogan on board

Turkish Navy to escort next flotilla: PM Erdogan on board

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was considering sailing to the Gaza Strip as part of an aid flotilla backed by the Turkish Navy.

Lebanese newspaper al Mustaqbal quoted security sources as saying that Mr Erdogan was pondering the move in order to break the barrier imposed against Gaza by Israel.

It said that “as part of the open conflict between Turkey and Israel following the massacre against the ‘freedom sail’ to Gaza and the protest sparked in the world, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is considering going to Gaza himself in order to break the blockade imposed on the Strip.”

The sources said Erdogan raised the option in discussions with associates.

The report added that the Turkish leader also told the U.S. that he planned to ask his navy to escort another aid flotilla – but officials in Washington asked him to delay the plan in order to look into the matter.

The move followed strong criticism of Israel by Erdogan after Israeli armed forces killed several people on board an aid flotilla Monday, sparking widespread international condemnation.

When the possibility of Erdogan joining a flotilla was posed to Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, he said such a move was not a “realistic scenario” and dismissed it outright.

“Some of these reports must be taken with a grain of salt … I am not sure that is a realistic scenario,” he told Sky News.

“I prefer that we sort these things out peacefully. Nobody wants any saber-rattling. It does not do any good,” said Regev.

US President Barack Obama Not Ready to condemn Israel over Gaza ship attack

THE US has declined to condemn Israel for its raid on a humanitarian flotilla headed for Gaza, but said the incident showed Middle East peace talks were needed “more than ever”.

The White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did describe the situation in Gaza as “untenable” and “unacceptable,” but Washington’s reaction to the raid did not match the explicit rebukes of Israel of some of its allies.

As diplomatic fallout multiplied, and threatened to derail a bid to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, President Barack Obama also called key regional power broker, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs was earlier asked directly whether his boss would condemn Israel over the drama in international waters in which nine people were killed by Israeli commandos.

Speaking carefully, Gibbs stuck to the language of a UN Security Council statement issued late Sunday (local time) on the raid.

The statement condemned “those acts which resulted in the loss of at least ten civilians and many wounded”, but did not specifically say whether the Israeli raid or actions of pro-Palestinian supporters caused the violence.

It also called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent” probe into the incident conforming to international standards, Mr Gibbs said.

“We’re obviously supportive of that.”

Mrs Clinton said Washington supported an “Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation”.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley explained why Washington thought Israel should carry out the investigation rather than an independent international body.

“These were Israeli forces that carried out this action and we think they’re in the best position to investigate what instructions were given to these forces, how was the situation when they approached the flotilla, and what transpired onboard that ship,” he said.

The deadly maritime confrontation threatens to stymie US peace moves again at a time when the Obama administration has just restarted “proximity” peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

But Mr Gibbs said that he did not think the incident, which triggered global fury, would have “a great impact” on Washington’s ties with the Muslim world, despite staunch US support for Israel.

Israel has blamed activists on a Turkish vessel, Mavi Marmara, for the confrontation, saying its troops were attacked as they boarded the ship and that nine passengers were killed in the ensuing fight.

But passengers disputed that version of events, saying that those on board were not armed with anything more threatening than a few wooden batons.

The showdown provoked a crisis in Israel’s relations with Turkey – once its closest Muslim ally – as diplomatic sources in Ankara confirmed at least four of the dead were Turkish.

It also provoked another diplomatic headache for Washington, as Mr Obama had expended considerable effort trying to maintain good relations with Turkey, a rising regional power which is also key in the confrontation with Iran.

In his call with Mr  Erdogan, who earlier branded the raid a “bloody massacre” Mr Obama expressed his “deep condolences for the loss of life and injuries resulting from the Israeli military operation against the Turkish-flagged ship bound for Gaza”, the White House said.

“The President affirmed the importance of finding better ways to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza without undermining Israel’s security,” a White House statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been due at the White House on Tuesday (local time) for talks seen as an effort to move on from recent and rare public disagreements with Mr Obama.

But he cancelled the visit to return home to deal with the crisis. The White House said that Mr Obama’s talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas next week here were still on as scheduled.

Israel’s Dastardly Act of War

The world has witnessed atrocities committed by the Israelis against the Palestinians many times. Many renowned individuals from different countries have raised their voices in response, but no serious action has ever been taken. Recently, Israel proved it’s brazen nature again when it became obvious that its intelligence agency was behind the assassination of a Hammas leader in Dubai. There was much hue and cry, but after a short while the issue died down. This time, however, Israel really seems to have gone too far by attacking aid workers in international waters.

Why on earth would Israeli Special Forces be instructed to attack unarmed aid workers? The answer to this is simple: the Israeli’s are quite used to bullying other countries and getting away with it because they enjoy America’s backing. This time, America has delayed making any statements, which leaves many already with the feeling that the U.S. condones this dastardly act of war as one of self defence – That’s the usual American stance! While the world waits to hear what America has to say, more and more political figures and the world at large intensifies their condemnation.

What next?

Protests are the usual way we show our disappointment. However, this time everything seems to be a whole lot more serious. Pakistan has already called for emergency sessions at the UN and OIC, which is a positive sign. In the absence of a diplomatic channel, Pakistan still has to communicate with Israel for the sake of its citizens being held hostage. In order to do so, countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel have been approached, and Pakistan now has indirect communication with their citizens being held by Israel.

Israel ought to realize that abducting Pakistani citizens or any other country’s citizens and taking them hostage in international waters is an act of war. Graver than this act itself is the slaughter of at least 20 innocent aid workers on their way to deliver food and other aid to Palestine. Given that Israel has committed blatant violation of human rights and has conducted state terrorism, there are apparently two ways to punish them.

Punitive Action for Israel

Diplomatic isolation is one way to go about penalizing Israel. An alternative measure is to treat them the same way other supposed terrorist states have been treated by America and its allied forces; Israel should be attacked and invaded. However, should we really go for the latter, and act the way America has? Or are we more humane? At the same time, it is worth asking if it is really humane to just accept the massacre of innocent aid workers aboard the Flotilla? Is it really humane to witness innocent men, women and children being slaughtered in Palestine and do nothing about it? Is it humane to go to bed every night with your stomach full, knowing that on average an individual in Palestine lives on only 4 Kgs of food per week?

We need Immediate Action

The international community will take its own sweet time to make decisions about Israel’s state terror in international waters. However, we should not refrain from putting pressure on them to make sure the maximum is achieved. Apart from that effort, we as Muslim nations have a duty to those being victimized in Palestine as well as those massacred in international waters. How we should act is not just left up to our political and military leaders; it is we as individuals who must make sure we put immense pressure on our leaders to act immediately. We Must Act Now!

Our Holy Prophet [S.A.W.W.] said: “When you see an evil act you have to stop it with your hand. If you can’t, then at least speak out against it with your tongue. If not, you have to at least hate it with all your heart. And this is the weakest form of faith.” –Sahih Muslim, Book of faith.

India left out. Iran and Pakistan ink $7.5 billion Pipeline deal

India left out. Iran and Pakistan ink $7.5 billion Pipeline deal

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and Iran on Friday signed a “sovereign guarantee” agreement paving the way for the completion of a 7.5-billion-dollar gas pipeline project within the next four years.

The 900-kilometre (560-mile) pipeline will be between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, near the border with Pakistan, and will carry natural gas from Iran’s South Pars field.

Pakistan petroleum minister Syed Naveed Qamar told reporters after a signing ceremony in Islamabad that originally the pipeline was planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter withdrew from the project last year.
“I am extremely pleased that after 17 long years this project is finally starting. It would help us generate energy for our industrial growth,” Qamar said of the Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) between the two countries.
Qamar added that “Iran had assured us that they would complete the project between two-and-half to three years, ahead of schedule.”

The imported natural gas — whose volume is estimated at nearly 20 percent of Pakistan?s current gas production — will be dedicated to the power sector.

Electricity generation through gas would result in “significant” annual savings when compared with other fuels, a petroleum ministry statement said.

Supply is contracted for a period of 25 years, the statement said, renewable for another five years.
“While all other CPs (Conditions Precedent) of the GSPA are completed, the project is now ready to enter into its implementation phase,” the ministry statement said.

“As per current project implementation schedule, the first gas flow is targeted by end 2014.
“The capital cost for the Pakistan section is estimated at 1.65 billion dollars.”