Bush's 'Obsession' With Saddam Got NATO Stuck With Taking Charge of Afghan War

In Media Interview, an American Military Officer Claims Washington Didn't Want to Be Distracted From Its Plans to Topple Saddam Hussein's Regime in Iraq, So the North Atlantic Alliance Was Given the Major Role in the War Against the Taliban -- 'It's More About NATO Than It's About Afghanistan,' He Says


(Posted 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, January 4, 2011)


Inter-Press Service

WASHINGTON -- The official line of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO command in Afghanistan, is that the war against Afghan insurgents is vital to the security of all the countries providing troops there.

In fact, however, NATO was given a central role in Afghanistan because of the influence of U.S. officials concerned with the alliance, according to a U.S. military officer who was in a position to observe the decision-making process.

"NATO's role in Afghanistan is more about NATO than it is about Afghanistan," the officer said in an interview with Inter-Press Service.

The alliance would never have been given such a prominent role in Afghanistan but for the fact that the Bush administration wanted no significant U.S. military role there that could interfere with their plans to take control of Iraq.

That reality gave U.S. officials working on NATO an opening.


General James Jones, the supreme allied commander in Europe from 2003 to 2005, pushed aggressively for giving NATO the primary security role in Afghanistan, according to the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the political sensitivity of the subject.

"Jones sold [then-Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld on turning Afghanistan over to NATO," said the officer, adding that Jones did so with the full support of Pentagon officials with responsibilities for NATO. "You have to understand that the NATO lobbyists are very prominent in the Pentagon –- both in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff," said the officer.

Jones admitted in an October 2005 interview with the American Forces Press Service that NATO had struggled to avoid becoming irrelevant after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. "NATO was in limbo for a bit," he said.

But the 9/11 attacks had offered a new opportunity for NATO to demonstrate its relevance.

The NATO allies -- particularly France and Germany -- were opposed to the U.S. war in Iraq, but they wanted to demonstrate their support for stabilizing and reconstructing Afghanistan. Jones prodded NATO member countries to provide troops for Afghanistan and to extend NATO operations from the north into the west and eventually to the east and south, where U.S. troops were concentrated.

That position coincided with the interests of NATO's military and civilian bureaucrats and those of the military establishments in the member countries.


But there was one major problem: public opinion in NATO member countries was running heavily against military involvement in Afghanistan.

To get NATO allies to increase their troop presence in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, Jones assured member states that they would only be mopping up after the U.S. military had defeated the Taliban. On a visit to Afghanistan in August 2004, Jones said, "[W]e should not ever even think that there is going to be an insurrection of the type that we see in Iraq here. It's just not going to happen."

Reassured by Washington and by Jones, in September 2005, NATO defense ministers agreed formally that NATO would assume command of southern Afghanistan in 2006.

But conflicts immediately arose between the U.S. and NATO member countries over the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Britain, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands had all sold the NATO mission to their publics as "peacekeeping" or "reconstruction" as distinct from counterinsurgency war.


When the Bush administration sought to merge the U.S. and NATO commands in Afghanistan, key allies pushed back, arguing the two commands had different missions. The French, meanwhile, were convinced the Bush administration was using NATO troops to fill the gap left by shifting U.S. troops from Afghanistan to Iraq - a war they strongly opposed.

The result was that one NATO member state after another adopted "caveats" that ruled out or severely limited their troops from actually carrying out combat in Afghanistan.


Even as the Bush administration was assuring its NATO allies that they would not have to face a major Taliban uprising, U.S. intelligence was reporting that the insurgency was growing and would intensify in the spring of 2006.

General Karl Eikenberry, who had just arrived as commander of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2005, and the newly-appointed U.S. Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann were warning Washington that the well-publicized domestic debates in NATO member states over troop commitments were "generating a perception of NATO political weakness", as Neumann recalls in his memoirs on Afghanistan published in 2009.

Neumann wrote that both he and Eikenberry believed "the insurgents would see ISAF's expansion and the U.S. contraction as the moment to rekindle the war."

But Eikenberry assured the news media that the insurgency was under control. In a December. 8, 2005 press briefing at the Pentagon, Eikenberry asserted that the more aggressive Taliban tactics were "very much a sign of weakness."

Asked if he wasn't concerned that the situation in Afghanistan was "sliding towards an Iraqi scenario," Eikenberry replied, "[W]e see no indications that such is the case..."

A few weeks later the Taliban launched the biggest offensive since its regime was ousted in 2001, seizing control of much of Helmand, Kandahar and several other southern provinces.

Eikenberry, under orders from Rumsfeld, continued to carry out the policy of turning the south over to NATO in mid-2006. He was rewarded in early 2007 by being sent to Brussels as deputy chairman of NATO's Military Committee.


Eikenberry -- now the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan -- acknowledged in testimony before Congress in February 2007 that the policy of turning Afghanistan over to NATO was really about the future of NATO rather than about Afghanistan. He noted the argument that failure in Afghanistan could "break" NATO, while hailing the new NATO role in Afghanistan as one that could "make" the alliance.

"The long view of the Afghanistan campaign," said Eikenberry, "is that it is a means to continue the transformation of the alliance."

The Afghanistan mission, Eikenberry said, "could mark the beginning of sustained NATO efforts to overhaul alliance operational practices in every domain." Specifically, he suggested that NATO could use Afghan deployments to press some member nations to carry out "military modernization."

But Canadian General Rick Hillier, who commanded NATO forces in Afghanistan from February to August 2004 and was later chief of staff of Canadian armed forces from 2005 to 2008, wrote in his memoir, A Soldier First, published in 2009, that NATO was an unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan.

He recalled that when it formally accepted responsibility for Afghanistan in 2003, NATO had "no strategy, no clear articulation of what it wanted to achieve" and that its performance was "abysmal."

Hillier said the situation "remains unchanged" after several years of NATO responsibility for Afghanistan. NATO had "started down a road that destroyed much of its credibility and in the end eroded support for the mission in every nation in the alliance," Hillier wrote.

"Afghanistan has revealed," wrote Hillier, "that NATO has reached the stage where it is a corpse decomposing..."

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Special Report Copyright 2011, Inter-Press Service. Republished Under Creative Commons License 3.0.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2011, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.



40th Anniversary of Bertrand Russell's death

Bertrand Russell, British author, philosopher, social scientist, mathematician, social critic and political activist, died 40 years ago today.  His contributions to academia are beyond reproach and are the foundations of analytic philosophy and logic.  He wrote 3,000 words per day from adolescence until 3 days before his death, when he wrote a speech condemning Israeli aggression against Palestine.  His technical work is made all the more impressive when it is considered that he did it in the back drop of political activism, founding a progressive school, challenging societal and sexual norms, and the like.  Furthermore, he translated academic works into layman english.  He started a magazine with George Orwell and AJ Ayer, called the Polemic, which unfortunately didn't last, to counter communist influence in the British left.  He went to jail for his pacifist activism in World War I.  After being released, he was sent by the UK Government to the Soviet Union to study the Russian Revolution, when he met with Lenin, which destroyed his support for the Bolshevik Revolution.  He spent his time between the wars campaigning against Adolf Hitler and European Imperialism.  After the second world war, he spent his time fighting for nuclear disarmament, joining with Albert Einstein and 9 nuclear physicists to found the campaign for nuclear disarmament.  Throughout his life, he wrote for the Nation and appeared in BBC Broadcasts, arguing for Women's Rights, Anti-Racism, Disarmament, Pacifism, Free Trade, Anti-Imperialism, Democracy and World Government, as well as taking a Libertarian Socialist economic view.  His last major political act was to lead the Russell Tribunal, investigating war crimes in Vietnam.  This was after U Thant, UN Secretary-General at the time, refused to enforce international law.  The same model has been used by activists in Iraq, though the atrocities there have long surpassed the figures of the Tribunal, and now in Palestine.  But there is one that stands out, there has not been one in Afghanistan, where I think, the same charges can be made against the U.S., NATO and the Northern Alliance.

There is almost no respect for the UN Charter or Geneva Conventions in the conduct of international affairs.  But these treaties must be enforced, particularly in extreme situations.  The War in Afghanistan, once a minor atrocity, is now a major one, due to its sharp escalation by President Obama.  A tribunal, not a show trial but a real trial in Hague is now needed to determine the legality of the military action and the response taken by the UN Security Council to this continuing war.  The following questions must be answered by an impartial judge:

1.  Has the United States of America committed international aggression against Afghanistan under the terms of international law?

2.  Has there been deliberate use of bombardment against known, purely civilian targets, and if so, on what scale?

3.  Has there been use of biological warfare by the Armed Forces of the United States of America against the people of Afghanistan?

4.  Has there been use of other weapons violating the laws of war by the armed forces of the United States?

5.  Has there been unlawful use of force by the United States against the People of Pakistan?

6.  Has this unlawful use of force involved bombardment of purely civilian targets, or the use of weapons that are against the laws of war?

7.  Have prisoners of war been treated by the United States in a manor that violates the terms of international law?

8.  Has the United States of America committed Genocide or attempted to commit genocide of the population of Afghanistan, under the terms of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide or the lesser crime of subjecting the people of Afghanistan to inhumane treatment?

9.  Has the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Fifth French Republic, the Italian Republic, Canada, the Republic of Poland, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of Turkey been accomplices in the aggression against Afghanistan, thus making them guilty of subsequent crimes, accomplices in the unlawful use of force against Afghanistan, complicit in the aggression against Afghanistan and all subsequent crimes or the unlawful use of force against Afghanistan?

10.  Has the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan and its member states and/or the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan participated as accomplices in the aggression against Afghanistan and subsequent crimes, or accomplices in the unlawful use of force, or have they been complicit in the aggression against Afghanistan and all subsequent crimes or the unlawful use of force against Afghanistan.  

I would like to note that these are open question but they need to be answered.  I think interpretation of international law, and the evidence of the Af-Pak Conflict in 2001-2010 leads to a "Yes" answer of some sort to all of these question, more so recently.  Nothing in this means we can allow the Taliban to take power.  I am confident that the Afghan people are capable of directing their own future, where I would cite Malalai Joya as evidence of that claim.  I also think that President Hamid Karzai, very "pro-American", who happens to agree with me, has been attempting to bring Peace to the region, which would abolish the Frankenstein monster(Taliban) in Pakistan.  Instead of growing Opiates in Turkey for pain killers, we can give the contract to the Afghans, giving strength to civil forces over war lords and "Islamofascist" thugs, who will die out if the country develops.  The current policy will strengthen them by weakening the civil society, which apparently must be Obama's goal since he knows this will happen.  Finally real diplomacy, such as a Nuclear Free Middle East and support for Democracy in the subcontinent can go a long way, farther than most people realize.

Stories We Wish We Didn't Have to Write--But WIll

The hope we and this nation had for change we could believe in, and which we still hope will not die, has been diminished by the reality of petty politics, with the "Party of No" and its raucous Teabagger mutation blocking social change for America's improvement


There's more...

Time To Review Recent History - Iraq and Bush Admin

Keith Olbermann on Countdown MSNBC does something every once in awhile that's very interesting. He goes back in recent history, since 9/11, and shows clips of something that was said or done through out the process of our War on Terror, War in Afghanistan and War in Iraq. Yes they are three different stories even though the Bush administration has tried their best to bunch them all together over the past few years because they fear the truth being told in our history books.

Anyway, I wish I could show you just one of those clips, they are so very telling of how this administration as munipulated the media, the story and the American people.

There's more...


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