- Published: Wednesday, 18 March 2009 06:33
March 23, 2009
Until the old man is out of the way, everyone else who hungers for power in Iraqi Kurdistan is on hold. It could be a long wait. Despite his chronic bad knee and a Mayo Clinic heart operation last August, 75-year-old Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, is a survivor. At present, he and his longtime rival, Massoud Barzani (together with their families and their respective political machines), still control the largest part of what's worth controlling in the three northern Iraqi provinces that make up the autonomous region. Government ranks are filled with their relatives. Barzani himself is president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, while his nephew Nechirvan is its prime minister and his son Masrour is in charge of intelligence. Talabani's son Qubad is the Kurds' man in Washington, while a nephew heads counterintelligence. Backers once touted Kurdistan as the model for a democratic Iraq—perhaps even for a total makeover of the Middle East. But if anything, the place seems more and more like a stagnant, feudal principality.
16 March 2009
There has been much discussion recently about what constitutes torture. Between research/travel in preparation for a return to Afghanistan and Iraq, I have been working on a couple of dispatches regarding torture. Meanwhile, several U.S. military officers -- all combat veterans -- have weighed in privately. All are staunchly opposed to torture. At least my opposition to torture is in good company with these veterans. We can beat the terrorists without it, and in fact can do far better without using barbaric methods. We get huge amounts of information from normal people when they realize we are morally superior to the terrorists. High ground is always tough to keep, and moral high ground is particularly tough to hold. But we can do it and will win battles because of that high ground.
12 March 2009
There is dispute whether the testimony to the British House of Commons regarding the Afghan National Army is correct.
Part of that testimony was published on my site yesterday.
Colonel Bill Hix emailed to me from Afghanistan with an on-the-ground view. It is important to note that Colonel Hix is a veteran of Iraq, with much experience in the tough parts of Afghanistan. I was out with his soldiers in late 2008. Colonel Hix is highly respected among combat soldiers who don't hand out respect easily. His views on Afghanistan are highly-informed, cautious and realistic, but definitely more optimistic than are mine. I greatly respect his highly informed opinion and so it's important to make sure Colonel Hix's counterpoints get wide distribution. Please link to this dispatch. (Note to journalists seeking truth on Afghanistan: Colonel Hix is at KAF and is an important source regarding conditions in southern Afghanistan.)
11 March 2009
Few people realize that New York Times journalist David Rohde was kidnapped in Afghanistan back in November. There were a few scattered stories early on, but big reporting apparently has been squashed. In December, during a trip with Secretary Gates, I asked a New York Times reporter if she knew the status of the situation. The story had been kept so quiet that she didn’t actually know the kidnapping had occurred. The information came to me from several sources some weeks after the kidnapping in Afghanistan. I sat on the information, but there are a growing number of snippets on the web, and it can safely be said that the word is out. One extremely well placed Pentagon source told me in December that Rohde is believed to have been moved to Pakistan.
11 March 2009
The disconnect between reporting and reality on Iraq was dramatic during 2005. Media stories about the incompetence and hopelessness of the Iraqi army and police were like the soup of the day, every day. Yet month by month, before my eyes, Iraqi security forces were improving. Reporting this truth earned the label of “stooge,” because the soup of the day was Failure. Millions of Americans and Europeans apparently wanted Iraqis to suffer because those same Americans and Europeans seemed to hate George Bush.
10 March 2009
Please read my latest article by picking up a copy of Townhall Magazine. Townhall is offering a free copy of my book "Moment of Truth in Iraq," with new subscriptions to their excellent magazine. Please keep in mind that whenever I publish in a magazine or newspaper, the editors chose the title and blurb. The words within the articles are mine, however. (Such as my Wall Street Journal piece last year: "Let's Surge Some More." That was not my title.)
09 March 2009
President Obama talks straight on Afghanistan. We are not winning. This bit of truth has been reported clearly on this website since early 2006. In fact, not only are we not winning, we are losing. Pakistan is a far bigger and more important problem than Afghanistan. On the global scale, Afghanistan is tantamount irrelevant so long as we can deny sanctuary to people who will use that land as a base to attack us.
06 March 2009
This is a sad story. During the morning workout of reading reports from the front, I found that one of our latest losses in Afghanistan was also a casualty of Abu Ghraib. The ghosts of prisoner abuse haunt everyone.
06 March 2009
While I work on dispatches regarding torture, it appears that some people are getting what they want; many have asked for proof that torture occurred, and that torture be defined. These questions are fair and important. Yet it seems that these questions often are asked with an air of smugness that the questions cannot or will not be answered. The issue is sharply politicized and so truth will hide under the nearest rock. My views on torture, partially shaped by battlefield experience, are apolitical. They are merely pragmatic based on life experience.
05 March 2009
The mainstream media has finally fully caught up to where we were in 2006. It is now commonly recognized that we have massive problems with AfPak, and that Pakistan is the real problem.
05 March 2009
The President of Sudan is behaving like a little Saddam Hussein, who behaved like a little Stalin. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and so his government responded immediately by holding its own people hostage from aid workers. It's important to recall that Sudan was a base for al Qaeda long before 9/11, with complicity of the Sudanese government who is believed to have aided in terrorist attacks.
04 March 2009
It's an excellent day to see the United States reaching out to Great Britain. Nobody stood stronger with us during the bad days of Iraq than Great Britain. They are deeply in the fight in Afghanistan.
Anytime I deliver bad news, such as back in 2006 that we were losing the war in Afghanistan while nearly everyone “knew” we were winning, there resulted an avalanche of criticism and insults, along with a decline in readership and support. But that’s the way it goes. If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear. Yet to win the war, tell the truth.
04 March 2009
03 March 2009
Slowly but clearly, the Afghan population is turning against us. The Canadians are seen here struggling with the realization. Secretary Gates told me in December that his most serious concern is that we will lose the support of the Afghan people. He's a very smart and experienced man. I concur with his concerns.
02 March 2009
This Washington Post story rings true with my experience from October 2008. I was in Afghanistan, and embeds with U.S. soldiers in that particular area were hard to come by, so I endeavored to hear the other side of the story, which was much easier to accomplish. It’s amazing that it’s easier to interview potential enemies than to embed with U.S. forces. Anyway, I went to the area near the village of Sper Kundy, just near Sarobi, where 10 French soldiers had recently died, and interviewed two men from the village. Interestingly, I am told, that after I went there, a journalist tried to do the same thing and got kidnapped. Apparently he was released without harm. I was told that the journalist had used the same interpreter, though I have no verification of this. In any case, the interpreter disappeared.
02 March 2009
A deadly wave of released prisoners is likely to intrude into our future. I was in northern Iraq when this attack occurred, but was far away and only heard through sources that the attacker had been released from Guantanamo. It's clear that some of these prisoners should be held for life, but which ones?
02 March 2009
Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid is a trusted source on AfPak. His opinions have proven amazingly prescient. His book "Taliban" was published six months before the 9/11 attacks, and provided a stark warning. I interviewed Mr. Rashid in 2006 after I returned from Afghanistan.
Pakistan is slipping the noose around its own neck. Giving up Swat to the Taliban would be like us giving up Georgia to the Ku Klux Klan.
24 February 2009
President Barack Obama has spoken. His words beamed around the world. I am in Asia preparing for a long year in Afghanistan and other contended places, but stopped to listen closely to President Obama's words. Most of the things that President Obama talked about will take years, or many years, to implement. But one thing can happen NOW. No more torture.