Entries Tagged as 'War on Terrorism'
March 10th, 2012 · Accountability, Homeland Security, National Security, News Alert, War on Terrorism
December 23rd, 2010 · Iraq, Selling Out the US, War on Terrorism
By Liz Sly Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 12:56 AM
BAGHDAD – When a series of giant billboards depicting the face of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki mysteriously appeared on a central Baghdad square several weeks ago, the response from Maliki’s office was swift and decisive. Police were dispatched to remove the posters, which echoed the displays that had been ubiquitous under Saddam Hussein.
If Iraq’s prime minister indeed has dictatorial tendencies, as his detractors allege, they do not include self-promotion of the Hussein variety. Maliki’s aides say the prime minister was furious, and they suspect the billboards may have been raised to discredit him at a critical moment in the negotiations for a new government – to fuel perceptions that he is another Iraqi strongman in the making.
Whether he is such a strongman is among the critical questions that loom over Iraq’s young and still-fragile democracy as Maliki embarked Tuesday on his second term as prime minister.
“He has the potential to be a dictator,” said Faleh Jabar, an Iraqi scholar who heads the Beirut-based Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s my biggest fear, because that would destroy our democracy.”
The pugnacious, square-jawed Maliki has been credited with steering Iraq out of the chaos of sectarian war earlier in the decade. Now he is destined to lead Iraq beyond the scheduled departure of U.S. forces at the end of next year, into an era in which the U.S. role in Iraq will inevitably wane, along with the ability to shape the country’s political direction toward the democracy that formed a central justification for the war.
That Maliki has an authoritarian streak has been amply demonstrated over the past 4 1/2 years, critics say. Maliki, originally selected in 2006 as a compromise candidate assumed to be weak and malleable, has proved to be a tough and ruthless political operator who cannily subverted parliament to cement his authority over many of the new democracy’s fledgling institutions.
In his role as commander in chief of the armed forces, he replaced divisional army commanders with his appointees, brought provincial command centers under his control and moved to dominate the intelligence agencies.
The widely feared Baghdad Brigade, which answers directly to Maliki’s office, has frequently been used to move against his political opponents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused him of operating secret prisons in which Sunni suspects have been tortured.
December 23rd, 2010 · Accountability, Homeland Security, National Security, War on Terrorism, WikiLeaks
By Greg Miller Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 12:24 AM
Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it’s mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: W.T.F.
The irreverence is perhaps understandable for an agency that has been relatively unscathed by WikiLeaks. Only a handful of CIA files have surfaced on the WikiLeaks Web site, and records from other agencies posted online reveal remarkably little about CIA employees or operations.
Even so, CIA officials said the agency is conducting an extensive inventory of the classified information, which is routinely distributed on a dozen or more networks that connect agency employees around the world.
And the task force is focused on the immediate impact of the most recently released files. One issue is whether the agency’s ability to recruit informants could be damaged by declining confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to keep secrets.
“The director asked the task force to examine whether the latest release of WikiLeaks documents might affect the agency’s foreign relationships or operations,” CIA spokesman George Little said. The panel is being led by the CIA’s Counterintelligence Center but has more than two dozen members from departments across the agency.
To some agency veterans, WikiLeaks has vindicated the CIA’s long-standing aversion to sharing secrets with other government agencies, a posture that came under sharp criticism after it was identified as a factor that contributed to the nation’s failure to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
December 23rd, 2010 · Accountability, Defense, Homeland Security, National Security, War on Terrorism
By Peter Finn and Anne E. Kornblut Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 7:30 PM
The Obama administration is preparing an executive order that would formalize indefinite detention without trial for some detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but allow those detainees and their lawyers to challenge the basis for continued incarceration, U.S. officials said.
The administration has long signaled that the use of prolonged detention, preferably at a facility in the United States, was one element of its plan to close Guantanamo. An interagency task force found that 48 of the 174 detainees remaining at the facility would have to be held in what the administration calls prolonged detention.
“We have a plan to close Guantanamo, and this detainee review process is one element,” said an administration official who discussed the order on the condition of anonymity because it has yet to reach the president.
However, almost every part of the administration’s plan to close Guantanamo is on hold, and it could be crippled this week if Congress bans the transfer of detainees to the United States for trial and sets up steep hurdles to the repatriation or resettlement in third countries of other detainees.
Officials worked intensively on the executive order over the past several weeks, but a senior White House official said it had been in the works for more than a year. If Congress blocks the administration’s ability to put detainees on trial or transfer them out of Guantanamo, the official said, the executive order could still be implemented.
December 16th, 2010 · Afghanistan, Defense, Homeland Security, War on Terrorism
By Karen DeYoung – Thursday, December 16, 2010; 10:24 AM
A White House review of President Obama’s year-old Afghan war strategy concluded that it is “showing progress” against al-Qaeda and in Afghanistan and Pakistan but that “the challenge remains to make our gains durable and sustainable,” according to a summary document released early Thursday.
Taliban momentum has been “arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible,” the five-page summary said.
The review, it said, indicated that the administration was “setting conditions” to begin the “responsible reduction” of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July.
The overview of the long-awaited report contained no specifics or data to back up its conclusions. The actual assessment document is classified and will not be made public, according to an administration official who said that interested members of Congress would be briefed on it in January
Obama is scheduled to announce the results of the review, compiled from reports submitted by military, diplomatic and intelligence officials since mid-October, in an appearance before reporters Thursday.
Last December, he ordered the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops in a buildup designed to stop insurgent momentum in Afghanistan and ultimately reverse it, particularly in the Taliban heartland in the southern part of the country. Based on conditions on the ground, Obama said, he would begin to reduce the size of the U.S. force, which now numbers about 100,000, after 18 months, or in July 2011.
December 13th, 2010 · Accountability, Afghanistan, Defense, Democrats, Dissention, Ethics, Federal Spending, Government, Government Control, National Security, Non-Transparency, Obama's Scheme, Selling Out the US, Tax Dollars, War on Terrorism
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran -Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2010; 12:00 AM
KABUL – Afghan President Hamid Karzai had heard enough.
For more than an hour, Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and other top Western officials in Kabul urged Karzai to delay implementing a ban on private security firms. Reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars would have to be shuttered, they maintained, if foreign guards were evicted.
Sitting at the head of a glass-topped, U-shaped table in his conference room, Karzai refused to budge, according to two people with direct knowledge of the late October meeting. He insisted that Afghan police and soldiers could protect the reconstruction workers, and he dismissed pleas for a delay.
As he spoke, he grew agitated, then enraged. He told them that he now has three “main enemies” – the Taliban, the United States and the international community.
“If I had to choose sides today, I’d choose the Taliban,” he fumed.
After a few more parting shots, he got up and walked out of the wood-paneled room.
The riposte, and the broader fight over private security contractors, prompted deep alarm among senior U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington. The Obama administration had been trying for the better part of a year to cast aside earlier disputes and make nice with Karzai. But it clearly was not working. Eikenberry told colleagues at the embassy that the relationship had hit its lowest point in years.
As President Obama and his national security team assess the war this week, a central element of the discussion will be their difficulties in building a partnership with Karzai. Despite a concerted effort by top diplomats and commanders, the United States has been unable to achieve more than ephemeral bonhomie with the Afghan leader.
“Our relationship with him has become so tortured,” said a senior administration official. “We’ve gone from one crisis every three months to one crisis a month.”
There is near-universal agreement among top U.S. officials involved in Afghanistan that Karzai’s behavior and leadership have a direct bearing on the outcome of the multinational counterinsurgency mission. But they remain divided about how to improve their ties with him, and whether it is even possible.
Skeptics of the strategy contend his actions, particularly in the six months since the Obama administration started to embrace him as a partner, demonstrate that he cannot be rehabilitated. As a consequence, they maintain that the overall U.S. mission should be scaled back because it is impossible to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign without a steadfast ally in Kabul’s presidential palace.
Supporters of the strategy are of two minds. Some argue that the United States should take a harder line with him. Others play down the blow-ups, casting them as normal disagreements among allies in a challenging situation. They express sympathy with his grievances, saying he is simply expressing frustration over years of U.S. mismanagement of the war and a failure to respond adequately to his concerns.
“Karzai is at fault for sparking a crisis, but we’re at fault for letting it get there,” said the senior official, who like others interviewed requested anonymity to speak frankly about the Afghan leader.
Karzai has been raising objections to private security firms for five years, and he repeatedly sought help from the U.S. government to limit the role of contract guards, “but nobody listened to him,” said his chief of staff, Mohammad Umer Daudzai. “If our friends in the international community had helped us from the beginning, we wouldn’t have to take such a drastic step.”
The Afghan president’s disputes with the United States appear to indicate a more fundamental difference over America’s war strategy. Karzai insists the principal problem is the infiltration of insurgents from Pakistan. In his view, U.S. forces should be focused on the border, not on operations in Afghan villages, which he regards as too intrusive and disruptive.
“We will fight with you against terrorism. But terrorism is not invading Afghan homes,” he said in a recent interview. U.S. troops, he said, should focus instead on “necessary activities along the border.”
Americans maintain that the conflict is driven by tribal rivalries, an inequitable distribution of power at the local level and the government’s failure to provide even the most basic services. That is why the U.S. solution is a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy to improve security and governance.
In his flare-ups, Karzai “is sending us a message,” said a senior U.S. military official. “And that message is, ‘I don’t believe in counterinsurgency.’ ”
Angry and misunderstood
The October meeting with Petraeus and Eikenberry was not the first time Karzai had threatened to cast his lot with the Taliban. He did so in a March speech to parliament, an outburst that occurred days after Obama concluded his first presidential trip to Kabul.
Karzai was angry over comments made by then-National Security Adviser James Jones that the Afghan leader was not doing enough to fulfill commitments he had made in his second inaugural address – promises that factored into Obama’s decision last year to send 30,000 more troops into the country.
Over the following weeks, White House officials debated whether their get-tough strategy with Karzai – an approach they had taken since Obama took office – was actually backfiring. In April, Obama opted for a different course, bluntly instructing his national security team to treat Karzai with more respect in public.
For a little while, the relationship improved. It was around that time that Karzai learned that the then-commander of coalition forces, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, had decided not to try to oust his half brother Ahmed Wali Karzai from his influential post in Kandahar, despite persistent rumors of corruption and connections to narcotics trafficking.
Karzai forged a closer relationship with McChrystal than he has with any of his predecessors. Shortly after he arrived in Kabul, McChrystal tightened rules on airstrikes in an effort to reduce civilian casualties. When U.S. Marines wanted to push into Marja, a Taliban sanctuary in Helmand province, the general went to Karzai with the plan and said, “Sir, this is for you to approve,” according to a person familiar with the exchange.
When McChrystal was summoned back to the White House after a magazine article quoted him and his aides making disrespectful comments about Obama administration officials, Karzai came to the general’s defense. It did not help.
When Petraeus arrived in early July as the new commander, he sought to pick up where McChrystal left off. He strongly urged Karzai, at their first meeting, to approve the creation of armed village defense forces, a controversial initiative that McChrystal had nearly persuade Karzai to back. But the Afghan leader responded angrily. He refused to endorse the program and instead lectured Petraeus on Afghan concerns over militias, according the U.S. and Afghan officials familiar with the meeting.
In late July, tensions escalated once again over the arrest of one of Karzai’s aides on bribery charges by a member of an Afghan anti-graft task force that works closely with FBI investigators. Karzai quickly ordered the aide released and accused those who arrested him, in a nighttime raid on his house, of using tactics “reminiscent of the days of the Soviet Union.”
As U.S. diplomats and commanders in Kabul were busy addressing the fallout of that case, he was stewing about another matter: the impunity with which private security contractors operate in his country. In July, a sport-utility vehicle driven by private guards was involved in a collision in Kabul that left one Afghan dead. The incident, which led to a protest and shouts of “Death to America,” struck a sensitive nerve for the president.
The next month, he issued a decree ordering the disbanding of all private security forces by the end of the year.
U.S. diplomats assumed he would eventually back down because banning private guards would shut down embassies, stop military supply convoys and force the U.S. Agency for International Development to cease work on reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars.
But the diplomats failed to grasp the depth of his anger – and his belief that the billions in foreign assistance flowing into Afghanistan was causing more harm than good.
“We could have listened to him then,” a senior U.S. diplomat said. “But nobody took him seriously.”
Firm on contractors
For weeks, the U.S. Embassy and the coalition military headquarters expected Karzai to rescind his order, or at least carve out an exemption large enough for the contractors to barrel through in their armored SUVs.
The president did make revisions, exempting embassy guards and military convoys, but he held firm on the private contractors protecting development workers. He accused them of being behind “blasts and terrorism,” and he blamed the U.S. government for funding security firms that “send money to kill people here.”
Karzai’s stance flummoxed U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington. U.S. military officials tried to determine whether a quid pro quo was driving the decision. Several of Karzai’s relatives and political allies have large ownership stakes in private security firms in southern Afghanistan. Even though the order applied to them as well, some appeared to be making plans to adapt to – and profit from – the new rules.
In Uruzgan province, Matiullah Khan, the leader of a powerful militia that has a monopoly on guarding supply convoys and other truck traffic from Kandahar, is making quiet moves to transition his 2,000-man force into a newly created highway police unit. According to Western officials familiar with the issue, he would be made a police general and his men would receive salaries and uniforms.
But, the officials said, it is highly unlikely military contractors and private merchants will stop paying protection fees to Matiullah once his men are members of the police.
“It’s a win-win strategy for Matiullah and Karzai,” one Western official in southern Afghanistan said. “The president gets to say he’s disbanded private security firms, and the warlord, who is his ally, gets richer.”
But other than the Matiullah case, U.S. officials could not identify a systematic effort to consolidate business around the president’ relatives and allies. The principal motivation seemed to be his deep-seated belief that the billions in reconstruction spending was hurting more than helping.
“We know some projects may be delayed. We know some projects may close down,” Daudzai said. “But it’s worth it because the other side [retaining private security contractors] is even more dangerous.”
The standoff was the moment for high-level American diplomacy, but the two men with principal responsibility for civilian engagement with Karzai, Eikenberry and special envoy Richard Holbrooke, have, at best, a fractured relationship with him – and each other. Neither was able to persuade Karzai to relent in their initial discussions with him.
State Department officials sympathetic to Holbrooke accused Eikenberry and his staff of not grasping the issue quickly enough. Embassy officials, in turn, questioned why Holbrooke was not doing more to help.
“The biggest problem in our relationship with Karzai is that we don’t have any diplomats who actually have a relationship with him,” said a U.S. military official in Kabul.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton eventually was forced to weigh in. Several U.S. officials credit her follow-up intervention with softening his stance.
Karzai finally relented by easing the ban to exempt development firms, but not before the crisis dominated the agenda at the U.S. Embassy and the USAID mission for weeks, pushing aside other business. USAID was forced to work up elaborate contingency plans, an effort one staffer said consumed “thousands of person-hours.”
As soon as a compromise was brokered, Karzai lit another fire by saying that the United States should “reduce military operations” and end Special Operations raids, despite indications that U.S. forces have made headway against the Taliban in recent months. Those remarks drew a heated response from Petraeus and once again prompted questions in Kabul and Washington about Karzai’s willingness to fix his country.
Asked whether he considers himself a partner with the United States, Karzai said “it depends on how you define a partner in America.”
“I will speak for Afghanistan, and I will speak for the Afghan interest, but I will seek that Afghan interest in connection with and together with an American interest and in partnership with America,” he said. “In other words, if you’re looking for a stooge and calling a stooge a partner, no. If you’re looking for a partner, yes.”
December 11th, 2010 · Defense, Homeland Security, National Security, War on Terrorism
This week a Democratic Congress ratified Bush-era policy by refusing to fund any effort to shut the detention facility.
When announcing in 2002 that the U.S. would detain al Qaeda fighters at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described the base as “the best, least worst place.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s quip distilled a truth: The U.S. would capture enemy fighters and leaders, and their detention, while messy, was of great military value.
For two years, President Barack Obama has pretended that terrorism is a crime, that prisoners are unwanted, and that Gitmo is unneeded. As a presidential candidate, he declared: “It’s time to show the world . . . we’re not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they’re there or what they’re charged with.” Upon taking office, he ordered Gitmo closed within the year.
But the president’s embrace of the left’s terrorism-as-crime theories collided with his responsibility to protect a great nation. Now the reality of the ongoing war on terror is helping to shatter the Gitmo myth and end its distortion of our antiterrorism strategies.
This week the intelligence community reported to Congress that one-quarter of the detainees released from Guantanamo in the past eight years have returned to the fight. Though the U.S. and its allies have killed or recaptured some of these 150 terrorists, well over half remain at large. The Defense Department reports that Gitmo alumni have assumed top positions in al Qaeda and the Taliban, attacked allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and led efforts to kill U.S. troops.
December 6th, 2010 · Homeland Security, War on Terrorism
- Reference: FBI foils elaborate bomb plot in Oregon (Thousands of AMERICAN lives saved)
By Jerry Markon Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 12:47 AM
IRVINE, CALIF. – Before the sun rose, the informant donned a white Islamic robe. A tiny camera was sewn into a button, and a microphone was buried in a device attached to his keys.
“This is Farouk al-Aziz, code name Oracle,” he said into the keys as he sat in his parked car in this quiet community south of Los Angeles. “It’s November 13th, 4:30 a.m. And we’re hot.”
The undercover FBI informant – a convicted forger named Craig Monteilh – then drove off for 5 a.m. prayers at the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he says he spied on dozens of worshipers in a quest for potential terrorists.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims.
December 2nd, 2010 · War on Terrorism
By Ashley Halsey III Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 30, 2010; 6:16 PM
The announcement that 197 air carriers, including 127 that fly internationally, are participating in the screening program brings the TSA into compliance with a key recommendation of the federal commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Pistole said that the TSA is working to refine controversial new pat-down procedures implemented in November. He said his agency wanted to determine whether “less intrusive” methods could be used with confidence that would-be terrorists could be caught.
“Pending that outcome, we’re not planning to change anything,” he said.
The use of new scanners and requiring enhanced pat-downs for those who refuse to go through them caused an uproar in recent weeks. Surveys showed that the majority of Americans – some more unhappy about it than others – were willing to accept the methods as a necessary price to ensure safe travel.
A vocal and outraged minority thought the screening methods went too far. Many objected that scanner images that showed almost-naked body shapes were far too revealing and that enhanced pat-downs offended decency and invaded privacy.
Pistole said that the TSA will work “quickly” to determine whether there is a viable alternative but that he has no timetable. He said the TSA Web site received about 3,300 comments over the weekend about the new procedures, 49 of them complaints.
November 24th, 2010 · Accountability, Homeland Security, National Security, Terrorist Threat, War on Terrorism
By Jon Cohen and Ashley Halsey III Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Nearly two-thirds of Americans support the new full-body security-screening machines at the country’s airports, as most say they put a higher priority on combating terrorism than protecting personal privacy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
But half of all those polled say enhanced pat-down searches go too far.
The uproar over the new generation of security technology, and the frisking of those who refuse it, continued Monday with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano saying the new measures are necessary for public safety.
“There is a continued threat against aviation involving those who seek to smuggle powders and gels that can be used as explosives on airplanes,” she said. “The new technology is designed to help us identify those individuals.”
According to the Transportation Security Administration, less than 3 percent of travelers receive the pat-downs.
But Napolitano said the TSA would “listen to concerns. Of course we will make adjustments or changes when called upon, but not changes or adjustments that will affect the basic operational capability that we need to have to make sure that air travel remains safe.”