Archive for the ‘War on Terror’ Category

Obama Team Surprised By Detail Bush Demands, Complexity of Wartime Government

December 2, 2008

Many in the Obama transition team had experience in the Clinton Administration that ended almost eight years ago.  Those people are finding many surprises in the post 9-11 complexity of the White House,Pentagon and elsewhere in government…..

By David E. Sanger
The New York Times

None of these newly arrived archaeologists would allow their names to be used when discussing their findings; to preserve cooperation with the Bush White House in a handover-of-power that still has 49 days to go, President-elect Barack Obama’s top aides have imposed a gag rule. But few can contain their amazement, chiefly at the sheer increase in the size of the defense and national-security apparatus.

“For a bunch of small-government Republicans,” one former denizen of the White House who has now stepped back inside for the first time in eight years, “these guys built a hell of an empire.”

Eight years ago, there were two deputy national security advisers; today there are a half-dozen, each with staff. In the downstairs suites of the West Wing and across the street in the Old Executive Office Building, the returnees tripped into the Homeland Security Council, created to keep order in the new, vast, often dysfunctional Homeland Security Department. In the Pentagon’s deepest crevices, the Joint Special Operations Command has mushroomed in size and influence because of the demands of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The list goes on.

But several say that their biggest surprise came when they learned more about how President Bush spends his day, and how he gets his information.

It’s not clear what they expected; perhaps after all those jokes on Letterman and Leno, they thought Mr. Bush spent the heart of his day on the stationary bicycle. Instead, they have been surprised to see the degree of tactical detail about two wars and a handful of insurgencies — from the tribal areas of Pakistan to Sudan and the Congo — that surrounds him. Partly this is because the high-tech makeover of the Situation Room, completed about two years ago, makes instantaneous conversation with field commanders easier than ever.

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Turkey Unhappy With Bush and Obama on Iraq, War on Terror

November 15, 2008

Turkish Prime Minister Recap Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that “the situation in Iraq is not positive at all,” contrary to U.S. claims of progress after five years of conflict.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech ... 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech on ‘Turkey’s Role in Shaping the Future’ at the Columbia University World Leaders Forum, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008, in New York.(AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)

Mr. Erdogan, in Washington to attend the Group of 20 financial summit, said Afghanistan was “another disastrous event” and that the Bush administration had spent more than $500 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan without stabilizing either country.

By Barbara Slavin
The Washington Times

Bipartisan in his criticism, the Turkish leader also chided President-elect Barack Obama for openly promising to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months. It would have been better for Mr. Obama to have kept his timetable secret, Mr. Erdogan said.

Turkey opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its parliament failed to approve the transit of U.S. forces from bases in Turkey into Iraq at the time. Since then, however, Turkey has become a major supplier for U.S. forces. It fears a U.S. withdrawal could lead to even more instability in Iraq and a possible partition of the country that would aggravate Turkey’s problems with a large Kurdish minority.

Mr. Erdogan, speaking at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said he had visited both Iraq and Afghanistan and “I couldn’t help but wonder where does all that money [provided by the United States] go?” He said Turkey, instead of giving money, was building schools and hospitals and providing training to police and local governments.

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Palin Becomes Increasingly Accessible To The National Media; Biden NOT!

October 21, 2008

From CBS News’ Scott Conroy:

(COLORADO SPRINGS) It was less than two weeks ago when Sarah Palin astonished her traveling press corps by lifting the curtain (literally) and journeying to the back of her campaign plane to answer reporters’ questions for the first time after 40 days on the campaign trail. But the candidate who has been criticized for having a bunker mentality when it came to the national media can now lay legitimate claim to being more accessible than either Joe Biden or Barack Obama.

In the past two days alone, Palin has answered questions from her national press corps on three separate occasions. On Saturday, she held another plane availability, and on Sunday, she offered an impromptu press conference on the tarmac upon landing in Colorado Springs. A few minutes later, she answered even more questions from reporters during an off-the-record stop at a local ice cream shop.

By contrast, Biden hasn’t held a press conference in more than a month, and Obama hasn’t taken questions from his full traveling press corps since the end of September. John McCain—who spent most of the primary season holding what seemed like one, never-ending media availability—hasn’t done one since Sept. 23.

Though she often turns the “mainstream media” into a punching bag on the stump, Palin clearly enjoys interacting with reporters. She seems to relish the opportunity to demonstrate that her breadth of knowledge far exceeds what she offered to CBS News’ Katie Couric in a series of interviews that were marked by vague, often convoluted answers to straightforward questions.

After her plane in Colorado Springs, Palin answered no less than 14 questions from the media. It took traveling press secretary Tracey Schmitt three attempts finally to get the governor to move along.

After reaffirming her belief that some parts of Obama’s tax plan carry “socialist principles,” Palin was asked whether she thought the government’s move to pump money into U.S. banks was also socialist. It isn’t difficult to imagine the Sarah Palin of a month ago getting tripped up by this question, but her answer this time was clear and concise.

“No, I do not,” she said. “And I believe that there are those measures that had to be taken by Congress to shore up not only the housing market but the credit markets also to make sure that that’s not frozen, so that our small businesses have opportunities to borrow.”

When she brought three of her young children to a Coldstone Creamery a few minutes later, Palin took even more questions from reporters, confidently approaching the cameras, rather than trying to avoid them.

Asked for her reaction to Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s recent suggestion that the media should investigate members of Congress who may hold “un-American” views, Palin didn’t hesitate.

“Well, that’s quite subjective,” she said. “I would think that anyone running and wanting to serve in Congress is quite pro-America. You know, that is the mission, to better this country. So I would question what the intent of that would be.”

Transitioning to the rising violence in Afghanistan, Palin meandered through her answer a bit more but succeeded in getting several points across.

“And we do need more troops in Afghanistan and we need that same surge strategy that’s worked in Iraq and we need to make sure that we have that counter-insurgency strategy, too, in place,” she said. “We need to grow our military. We need to incentivize our young Americans to realize what it is in terms of benefits and service our military can offer. We need to grow our military and get more troops in there. Work closer with the leaders in Afghanistan and make sure that with our NATO allies also that we are all working together there to fight that War on Terror there. Also, we can’t afford though to lose in Iraq and think we are going to be any better in Afghanistan. That’s why we are still opposed to an early or premature withdrawal from Iraq. We’ve got to win both the wars on both those fronts Afghanistan and Iraq.”

What the Petraeus Promotion Means

April 23, 2008

By Mark Thompson
Time Magazine
April 23, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s announcement Wednesday promoting General David Petraeus from his current post running the war in Iraq to head up U.S. Central Command triggered both political and military unease. That response may be inevitable, coming on the downside of an unpopular war and in the waning months of the tenure of the unpopular President who launched it.
While Republicans hailed the news that Petraeus – who implemented the “surge” of 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq, which is seen has having tamped down violence – was moving up the chain of command, Democrats were cooler. Opponents of the war fear that if the Democrat-led Senate approves Petraeus’s promotion, it could be taken as a signal to “stay the course” in a war that has dragged on for more than five years and has killed more than 4,000 U.S. troops. Party activists will be paying close attention to how Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama vote on Petraeus’s new assignment, which the White House hopes will happen by the end of May. (Presumptive G.O.P. nominee John McCain hailed Petraeus’ nomination, calling him “one of the great generals in American history.”)

U.S. military commander in Iraq General David Petraeus salutes ...  

Democrats are unlikely to mount a campaign to block Petraeus’ promotion. Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the next CENTCOM commander must come with new plans for Iraq “if directed to by a new President.” Petraeus hedged last month when asked what he would say if a new President were to order a withdrawal plan within 60 days of taking office. He verbally juggled risks and objectives before conceding, “We take orders and we follow them.”

The impact of promoting Petraeus, however, may be even greater in the national security establishment than on Capitol Hill. It’s a wake-up call to old-school Army officers and their vanishing dreams of massive tank battles and artillery skirmishes, some of whom privately call Petraeus “King David” for his high self-regard and chumminess with reporters. Gates has made clear that wants commanders able to carry out the messy, irregular kind of combat championed by Petraeus that the Defense Secretary envisages the U.S. fighting for years to come. The promotion reinforces the message he delivered to young Air Force and Army officers on Monday, when he criticized their leaders for devoting too much time and effort to future potential wars, and not enough to the real wars now under way.

“The kinds of conflicts that we’re doing, not just in Iraq but in Afghanistan, and some of the challenges that we face elsewhere in the region and in the Central Command area, are very much characterized by asymmetric warfare,” Gates said. “And I don’t know anybody in the United States military better qualified [than Petraeus] to lead that effort.” Gates said he had discussed Petraeus’s promotion with Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the armed services committee, and said he didn’t “anticipate any problems” in winning Senate approval. Petraeus, in a brief statement from Baghdad, said he is “honored to be nominated for this position.”

U.S. Central Command is the core of the U.S. military’s current operations – it includes both Afghanistan and Iraq – stretching from the Horn of Africa to Pakistan. Although its headquarters are at an Air Force base in Tampa, Fla., recent commanders have spent much of their time at their forward headquarters in Qatar. Petraeus will assume command late this summer or early fall, replacing Admiral William Fallon, who requested early retirement last month after he was portrayed in a magazine interview as the lone officer preventing a U.S. war with Iran. Petraeus’s former deputy in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, will return to Baghdad in the Petraeus slot, giving up his new assignment as the Army’s No. 2 officer after only two months back in the U.S. “There is no question that there are a handful of generals, like a lot of captains and enlisted soldiers and the NCOs,” Gates said, “who have had repeated tours in Iraq.”

Gates says Air Force not doing enough in Iraq war effort

April 21, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday the Air Force is not doing enough to help in the Iraq and Afghanistan war effort, complaining that some military leaders are “stuck in old ways of doing business.”

Gates said in a speech at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., that getting the Air Force to send more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq and Afghanistan has been “like pulling teeth.”

The US Air Force Thunderbird team performs in 2004. A US air ...
The US Air Force Thunderbird team performs.
(AFP/File/Kim Jae-Hwan)

Addressing officer students at the Air Force’s Air University, the Pentagon chief praised the Air Force for its overall contributions but made a point of urging it to do more and to undertake new and creative ways of thinking about helping the war effort instead of focusing mainly on future threats.

“In my view we can do and we should do more to meet the needs of men and women fighting in the current conflicts while their outcome may still be in doubt,” he said. “My concern is that our services are still not moving aggressively in wartime to provide resources needed now on the battlefield.”

He cited the example of drone aircraft that can watch, hunt and sometimes kill insurgents without risking the life of a pilot. He said the number of such aircraft has grown 25-fold since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He said he has been trying for months to get the Air Force to send more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, like the Predator drone that provides real-time surveillance video, to the battlefield.

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Obama and McCain in Crossfire Over Iraq

March 19, 2008
By Caren Bohan

FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama criticized Republican John McCain on Wednesday for misidentifying Iraqi extremists, saying he fails to understand the war has emboldened U.S. enemies.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., speaks ...
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., speaks at The Society of Irish Women St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, Monday, March 17, 2008, in Scranton, Pa.  On Wednesday he said if he is elected president he will start to remove U.S. troops from Iraq “immediately.”
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

On the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the war took center stage on the U.S. campaign trail.

Obama attacked both McCain and his Democratic opponent, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, as representing conventional thinking in Washington that needs to be changed in the November election. McCain and Clinton backed a 2002 resolution supporting U.S. military action against Iraq.

US Republican candidate John McCain visits the Western Wall ...
US Republican candidate John McCain visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem. McCain touts his foreign policy expertise at every turn, but he has given Democrats ammunition against his experience by wrongly saying Iran trains Al-Qaeda members.
(AFP/Menahem Kahana)

Clinton’s campaign spokesman Phil Singer accused Obama of taking “practically no action to end the war until he started his White House run while Senator Clinton has been a consistent critic of Iraq for many years.”

As a senator from Illinois, Obama has voted for imposing timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, a position Clinton also has been supporting.

On the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the war took center stage on the U.S. campaign trail.

Obama attacked both McCain and his Democratic opponent, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, as representing conventional thinking in Washington that needs to be changed in the November election. McCain and Clinton backed a 2002 resolution supporting U.S. military action against Iraq.

Clinton’s campaign spokesman Phil Singer accused Obama of taking “practically no action to end the war until he started his White House run while Senator Clinton has been a consistent critic of Iraq for many years.”

As a senator from Illinois, Obama has voted for imposing timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, a position Clinton also has been supporting.

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Ominous Warning From Muhammad in Pakistan

March 17, 2008

Dear John E. CareyPeace and FreedomDear Sir,I hope that you and your team at the Peace and Freedom will alright.
Situation is calm after the bomb blast in Islamabad on Saturday night.  But there is great terror and fear among the people.

One thing becomes clear: the terrorists have reached Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. I suggest the US citizens must take utmost care as the terrorists have been trying to harm them.
Pakistani paramedics help an injured diplomat after a bomb blast, ... 
Pakistani paramedics help an injured diplomat after a bomb blast, upon his arrival at a hospital in Islamabad on March 15. Islamist militants behind a wave of recent attacks in Pakistan have changed tactics to target foreigners, officials said Sunday, after a bomb at an Islamabad restaurant killed a Turkish woman.(AFP/Aamir Qureshi)

According to a newspaper report, the target of the bombing at an Italian restaurant in Islamabad on Saturday was Trish, the FBI Operations chief in Pakistan. Quoting its sources, ARY TV channel reported on Sunday that Trish was the second highest-ranking US official in Pakistan and had been the terrorists’ actual target. It said that she had been injured during the blast but was currently in stable condition. She was shifted from the Polyclinic to Al-Shifa Hospital at the request of the US Embassy, the channel added.

Dear Sir, please pray for us.

Thank you very much,

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas, Pakistan

Eliot Spitzer and The Belushi Syndrome

March 17, 2008

By Bill O’Reilly
The Washington Times
March 17, 2008

Let’s analyze the Eliot Spitzer situation without emotion because there are lessons to be learned here. First of all, Mr. Spitzer is obviously a smart guy, having graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School. So his conduct is perplexing in its stupidity.

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer announces his resignation in ... 

Mr. Spitzer made his reputation as a tough prosecutor. He understood money transfer traces, wiretaps, informants and the rest of the law enforcement landscape. He also knew how to build cases against powerful people who were doing shady things.
So he was no huckster preacher trying to make bucks off God while privately playing games with the devil. And he was no Wilbur Mills, the Arkansas congressman who got drunk out of his mind with a stripper in the back seat of his limo. No, Mr. Spitzer is a completely different animal.
If you watch cable TV news, you will hear the braying pack talk about Mr. Spitzer’s arrogance, his “I’m above it all” mentality. But if you examine the facts, this shallow analysis doesn’t wash.
Mr. Spitzer had to know that repeated visits with people breaking the law — prostitutes — put him at enormous risk. At any time, any one of those ladies might have been arrested and, facing prosecution, could have easily offered authorities his name in return for all charges being dropped.
The ladies also could have blackmailed Mr. Spitzer, could have sold their stories about him to the tabloid media, could have done many things to destroy his life.
Then there’s the money. He knew wire transfers to offshore facilities are closely monitored as a part of terrorist surveillance. One of the ways the Bush administration has damaged al Qaeda has been to choke off its funding. Banks and the Internal Revenue Service closely watch money moved to and from the U.S.
Mr. Spitzer also knew that talking on the telephone to pimps, people setting up liaisons with prostitutes, left him open to being tapped — especially because the ladies for hire were being moved across state lines, which makes it a federal offense. Mr. Spitzer knew all of the above.
So you’re telling me that Eliot Spitzer thought he wouldn’t get caught? Sure, and I’m Paris Hilton.

No, what’s in play here is what I call the “Belushi Syndrome.” That’s when a famous person who has money and success subconsciously tries to destroy himself. You see it all the time — movie stars, athletes, politicians doing incredibly stupid stuff.
By all accounts, comedian John Belushi was repeatedly warned by his wife and closest friends that his rampant drug use could kill him. Nevertheless, he continued to take deadly combinations of heroin and cocaine, knowing the danger involved.
Death found him at age 33.

Dan Aykroyd (left) and John Belushi.

The Blues Brothers: Dan Aykroyd (left) and John Belushi..
Eliot Spitzer also knew the danger he was facing. But some kind of deep self-loathing propelled him to dismiss the inevitable. I mean, think about it: You are a sitting governor, spending tens of thousands of dollars on hookers? Come on. Maybe Caligula could get away with that, but not an American politician in a tabloid age.

This is not some dime-store psychoanalysis. There are many people walking around who are deeply self-destructive, and who will hurt themselves and others around them. That’s a fact.
A self-destructive, self-loathing personality will find a way to blow everything up, and it doesn’t matter what kind of career the person has. We all know people like this. Stay away from them.

Bill O’Reilly is a nationally syndicated columnist and the host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” and author of the book “Who’s Looking Out For You?”

Who Says The Elite Aren’t Fit To Serve?

March 17, 2008

 By John Renehan
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 16, 2008; Page B04

“J ohn!” called my brother from the living room. “Are you coming out or not?”

He and my sister-in-law were eager to start the movie we had rented, but I, lurking in my parents’ darkened study, waved them off. While they and the rest of the family were distracted, I had private business to attend to on the home computer.

It was December 2001, and I was a New Yorker.

Of the innumerable moments of surreality accompanying Sept. 11, 2001’s fracturing of our daily lives — fighter jets circling the city, a pillar of ash rising to the stratosphere, New Yorkers engaging in spontaneous conversation — here was a doozy: finding myself at my parents’ in California for Christmas, nosing furtively about the Internet for information on getting into the U.S. Army‘s Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Ga.

It seemed on the one hand an entirely reasonable thing to be doing, and on the other an outrageous one. Reasonable because the military would probably need the services of motivated citizens in the near future, and I was a motivated citizen. Outrageous because I, a lawyer with no military experience, knew virtually no one from my own background — comfortable childhood, good education, white-collar career — who had ever been in the service.

Nor had my prior life experience reduced my ignorance of things military. After high school, the students who joined up were the ones I would have expected to do so — rough dudes with pickup trucks who shot guns on the weekends. In college, I was barely aware of ROTC, except that I would occasionally see groups of cadets jogging in formation across campus and think that they must feel so awkward. In law school, I did sign up for “informational interviews” — they didn’t dare hope for actual employment interviews at Berkeley — with some of the services’ JAG Corps representatives and was later informed by a fellow student that I was the only bona fide interviewee. The other students on the roster intended to read statements of protest regarding the Defense Department‘s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Such experiences over a young lifetime coalesce into prejudice: People like us — the privileged, frankly — don’t join the military. We wonder about the military world occasionally, and a few of us may actually grow curious enough to investigate serving in a halting sort of way — lurking in our parents’ studies at Christmastime, perhaps — but that’s about as far as it generally goes, or ought to go, we think. The armed forces are for another sort of American. Right?

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U.S. urges NATO allies to back 5-year Afghan plan

March 13, 2008

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The United States is urging NATO allies at a summit next month to sign up to a five-year plan stepping up efforts to end the insurgency in Afghanistan, according to a document obtained by Reuters.

Under the plan, alliance members would commit to plug troop shortfalls and supply enough well-trained and flexible forces to combat insurgents, while providing the support, training and equipment needed by Afghanistan’s own security forces.

The U.S. proposals also set out benchmarks for measuring success, such as the ability of Afghanistan to hold elections undisrupted by violence, and to field a trained army of 70,000 troops and a professionalized 82,000-strong police force.

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