KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan officials agreed on Saturday to take over responsibility for the U.S. military’s Bagram prison north of Kabul, a move that could close a chapter in the troubled history of U.S. detentions since 2001.
The jail at Bagram, where U.S. troops beat to death two prisoners in 2002, stands beside Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq as a symbol of harsh treatment of detainees under the administration of ex-President George W. Bush.
KABUL (Reuters) – A defiant Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended his record on corruption in an interview broadcast on Friday, saying the issue that has damaged his reputation had been “blown out of proportion” by Western media.
In the interview, with Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, the Afghan leader said he did not depend on the good opinion of Western leaders, who had sent their troops out of self interest.
KABUL (Reuters) – Western officials are cautiously hopeful President Hamid Karzai will keep technocrats in key posts when he names his Afghan cabinet this week, a decisive moment for the newly re-elected leader whose standing has slid in the West.
Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said the government list would most likely be announced on Wednesday. Other palace officials have suggested it could come later in the week.
President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will begin pulling its troops out Afghanistan in 2011 provides a good opportunity to look back and study history. This will, after all, be the second time Afghans have bid farewell to a superpower, and Nikolai Gvosdev in Foreign Affairs offers an interesting take on what happened the last time, when the Soviets pulled out in 1989.
The man the Soviets left in charge was Mohammad Najibullah, who clung to power for three more years, then sheltered for another four years in the U.N. compound in Kabul, before finally ending up strung up by the Taliban from a Kabul traffic lamp in 1996. Najibullah’s grisly end means his career hardly seems like one that President Hamid Karzai would want to emulate. Yet Gvosdev’s account is a reminder that Najibullah actually held on to power far longer than most in the West expected. His government in fact actually outlasted the Soviet Union itself, which collapsed in 1991.
In Gvosdev’s account, the key to Najibullah’s success lay in part in lavishing funds on tribal and provincial chiefs. That tactic became impossible after the Soviet Union disintegrated and the money dried up. Even so, Najibullah might have still hung on had Pakistan not been given free rein by the West to back the Mujahideen that unseated him.
KABUL (Reuters) – The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan reassured top officials on Thursday that Washington was not planning an early exit, part of a charm offensive to sell President Barack Obama’s new strategy on three continents.
Obama announced on Tuesday that he is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, but also said they would begin to come home by mid-2011.
KABUL (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledge of 30,000 troops for Afghanistan provides the manpower for a revamped strategy to protect civilians, ramp up training of local forces and turn the war’s tide, his commander said on Wednesday.
In a move which could help Obama sell the escalation at home, General Stanley McChrystal also endorsed his timeline to begin withdrawing the extra troops in mid-2011, which has drawn criticism from Republicans in the United States.
KABUL (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama says he will “finish the job” in Afghanistan, a signal he is likely to announce next week that he is sending tens of thousands of extra troops. The announcement should mostly fulfill a request by his commander, General Stanley McChrystal, who says the extra forces are needed to carry out a new strategy to defeat the Taliban.
Here are some questions and answers about the new deployment:
HOW MANY WILL THERE BE?
Nearly 110,000 international troops are already in Afghanistan, including 68,000 Americans. More than half of the Americans have arrived since Obama took office — some ordered to go in the last months of the Bush administration, others by Obama himself. Obama is expected to send between 30,000 and 40,000 extra troops, taking the total number close to 150,000, nearly as many as were in Iraq during the “surge” there from 2007-2008.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai could invite militants to attend a “Loya Jirga,” or grand council meeting, aiming to seek peace and reconciliation with the Taliban, a spokesman said on Sunday.
The plans signal a more public effort to engage with militants during Karzai’s second term as leader, measures that Washington has encouraged in its counter-insurgency strategy.
In his inauguration speech on Thursday, Afghan president Hamid Karzai promised to combat corruption and appoint competent ministers, heading off the growing chorus of criticism from the West that his government is crooked and inept. Unsurprisingly, the Western dignitaries in the audience declared that they liked what they heard.We predicted ahead of time that we would hear positive words about Karzai this week. After all, Western governments need to convince their own voters back home that the veteran Afghan leader’s government is worth sending their sons and daughters to die for. This autumn’s election debacle made Karzai look bad – a U.N.-backed probe found that nearly a third of votes cast for him were fake — but now that’s all over and the West needs him to look as reliable as possible.A “very strong, substantial statement,” declared British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.”An important new starting point” that “set forth an agenda for change and reform” gushed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.“Let’s encourage and support the president,” said EU envoy Ettore Sequi.Well, that’s what they said when the cameras were rolling. Behind the scenes the message was: Karzai’s speech was fine, but it’s just a speech.“We’ve heard all of these sentiments before. If you compare his last inauguration to this inauguration, you’ll see there’s almost a 90 percent overlap,” was how one Western official in Kabul put it.President Barack Obama, who is still considering whether to send tens of thousands of extra troops to join the 68,000 Americans and 40,000 NATO allies in Afghanistan, has a hard sell to his own Democratic party. If the inauguration means it is now time to be nice to Karzai, nobody told Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat speaker of the House of Representatives. She let Karzai have it with both barrels.“The president of Afghanistan has proven to be an unworthy partner,” she told NPR’s Morning Edition. “How can we ask the American people to pay a big price in lives and limbs and also in dollars if we don’t have a connection to reliable partner?”[Above: Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai inspects the guard of honour on his arrival at the presidential palace for his inauguration in Kabul November 19, 2009. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen]
KABUL (Reuters) – Veteran Afghan leader Hamid Karzai was sworn in as president on Thursday, pledging to fight graft and take control of his country’s security before his five-year term ends, after a fraud-marred election left his image in ruins.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari were among dignitaries attending the ceremony in an ornate hall in Karzai’s sprawling Kabul palace.