Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cheney's misadventure in Afghanistan:

Dick Cheney is on a roll: Last week he kicked off his "The Bunker hits the Road Tour '07" through Asia by denouncing Nancy Pelosi for aiding and abetting al-Qaeda. Today he winds it up by pissing off the Pakistanis and adroitly managing to dodge a suicide bomber at the U.S. military's Bagram Airbase outside Kabul. [AP] Despite Cheney's traveling press pool being "sworn to secrecy," according to the NYT, while swooping in and out of Pakistan and Afghanistan, somehow a Taliban/al-Qaeda suicide bomber was able to blow himself up at the gates of Bagram while Cheney was safely ensconced in an undisclosed location there. Afterwards Cheney said the attackers, "Clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government." I'd say they're doing a pretty good job, too.

Most likely the attack was purely coincidental, but then again, if they were able to react that quickly to news of his "surprise visit" this would tend to point to a sophistication and operational ability on the part of the Talibs that up until now was unknown. Before last year suicide bombings and IEDs were almost nonexistent in Afghanistan, now they're going off on a daily basis. It looks like our enemy's learning curve is growing in leaps and bounds.

But, of course, Afghanistan is a shinning example of Cheney and W.'s wildly successful campaign against terror, so the fact that the bomber was stopped at the gate is yet another "mission accomplished" moment in the annals of Bush-dumb. For some reason, though, despite the fact that we're "absolutely winning" in Afghanistan, according to W., neither Cheney nor Karzai felt safe enough to travel by car to meet up, so Cheney had to wait for the weather to clear to fly the few miles over to see our Afghan ally in the Capital. One wonders how they might have known where he'd be.

The massive amount of secrecy surrounding Cheney's visits to our South Asian allies in the WOT, the NYT points out, is a "reflection of growing concern about the strength of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the area, [As if there's any difference between the two at this point] and continuing questions about the loyalties of Musharraf's own intelligence services." [Say it ain't so!] It appears the same might be said for Karzai's security people as well. Something smells rotten in Denmark about this whole episode.

The timing of this is also kind of interesting coming on the heels of the assassination attempt against an Iraqi vice president in Baghdad yesterday in a supposedly secure location at a government building in the Mansour district. Abdel Abdul-Mahdi escaped a bomb blast inside the Iraqi Public Works Ministry, which according to the AP, is a "seven-story structure with crack surveillance systems from its days as offices for Saddam's Hussein's intelligence service." The attack killed 10 people who were there to see near him give a speech. The bomb might have been hidden in the podium and AP reports that it "could have been on a timer-trigger that missed the vice president by sheer luck." [Kind of like last night's episode of "24," if you think about it. Do they get the FOX network in Baghdad?]

For all the people we're holding at Gitmo; all the extraordinary renditions; all the waterboarding and warrantless wire tapping going on, al-Qaeda sure seems to be rolling with the punches. And regardless of what Cheney says, it doesn't look like al-Qaeda and the Talibs really need any help from Nana Pelosi to get their war on. They seem to be doing just fine with the assistance of the Pakistani ISI in their Waziristan hideouts and the Talib's de-facto capital in Quetta.

The NYT reported yesterday that in the Afghan town of Musa Qala in Helmand Province, which Taliban forces over-ran three weeks ago, the Talibs, acting on orders from the Taliban leadership council in Quetta, were rounding up the town Elders and killing them. Back in October NATO and the Talibs made a deal to stay out of Musa Qala, but – surprise, surprise -- the Talibs reneged. When this happened the out-going British NATO commander Lieutenant-General David Richards said the they had finally "shown their true colors."

Ok, maybe this is part of what's wrong with the effort to defeat the Talibs so far in Afghanistan. I thought it was pretty well established that the Taliban couldn't be trusted. Why would anyone make a deal with them and expect them to honor it? Why would NATO make a deal to give up jurisdiction over a town that's -- in theory anyway -- part of Afghanistan, a country the international community is spending billions to defend and rebuild? We've heard a lot about the major victory over the Talibs in Helmond Province back in September that supposedly led to the killing of 500 Taliban fighters, but they don't seem to be in the least bit weakened. In fact, mere moments after NATO announced this stunning victory a suicide bomber blew up a in an outdoor market in Lashkar Gar.

Nothing is going to be resolved in Afghanistan until we get a handle on Pakistan, which is why Cheney dropped in on Pervez in the first place. Up until now, W. has been more than happy to throw good money after bad at Mussharraf, regardless of whether he's making deals with the Talibs or promising not go after OBL. Now that the newly elected Democratic Congress is threatening to cut aid to Pakistan he sends Cheney over there to deliver the bad news.

Of course, all this talk about 'tough talk' directed at Musharraf, I doubt the administration is too keen on destabilizing the regime there. Since Musharraf has exiled or marginalized all the traditional moderate political parties, like Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League all that's left is the most radical Islamic elements in Pakistani politics. He needs the support of the Taliban types to get re-elected next year -- if there are elections -- and being seen to knuckle under to the hated Americans would pretty much finish him. We don't need radical Sunni regilious groups taking over the government of Pakistan and its nukes just as W. & Co. start their shock and awe campaign against Iran.

I'm thinking W. & Co. will continue to give Musharraf 'tough talk' in public but continue to wink and nod in private as they gear up for the attack on Iran. If "moderate" Pakistan were to go the way of Afghanistan, that would pretty much turn South Asia into a seething cauldron of apocalyptic soup that would spill over into India and even China. And keep in mind the Chinese are busy building a deep water port for the Pakistanis in Gwadar. Theoretically they could take advantage of a chaotic Pakistan to establish a bridgehead into the Indian Ocean. I wonder what Admiral Fallon would do about that!

This is a fine mess this bunch in the White House has gotten us into and anyone who would want to run for president in '08 and inherit WW III would have to be insane. For sure Obama couldn't hack it and I wouldn't want a butched-up Hillary and her more muscular "centrist" Democratic brain trust to get anywhere near it, either. There's no doubt that if McCain got his hands on this we'd all be living in bomb shelters for the rest of our lives, so the only person I can see coming to the rescue is Al Gore.

See he doesn't want to run, obviously he's not crazy. But he has to: He's got a brain the size of Manhattan, he's got an Academy Award [ Reagan couldn't say that] and by the time the elections come around he'll probably have a Nobel Peace Prize, too. Carter only got that after he was president! Gore comes into office with all this heavy hardware plus he's already been elected.

Common' Al, stop being coy, you're country needs you to serve out the term you never got.


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