Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Obama in Afghanistan
The Senator begins his trip abroad as part of a Congressional junket to the war zone (he's with Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed fo Rhode Island.)

The Illinois senator, undertaking a campaign-season tour of combat zones and foreign capitals, began his first-ever visit to Afghanistan as part of an official congressional delegation that landed in Kabul.

Obama and other members of Congress visited Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military base in the country, to meet with top U.S. military leaders and troops, according to a U.S. military statement.

The delegation also met with troops at Jalalabad Air Field, in Nangarhar province. Jalalabad lies near the Tora Bora mountains where al-Qaida leaders fled and faced a U.S. bombardment during the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden escaped U.S. troops at that time and is believed to be in the region.

Obama also visited Kuwait, met with and even played some basketball with U.S. troops. And so far, he has been careful not to sound presumptuous, or to take the media bait:

Obama advocates ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq by withdrawing troops at the rate of one to two combat brigades a month. But he supports increasing the military commitment to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been resurgent and Osama bin laden is believed to be hiding.

Obama recently chided Karzai and his government, saying it had "not gotten out of the bunker" and helped to organize the country or its political and security institutions.

Also on his itinerary later in the trip is a meeting with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi leader. On the campaign trail, Obama has said one benefit of withdrawing U.S. troops is that it would pressure al-Maliki to shore up his government as well.

Nonetheless, he said he did not plan to reiterate those messages in person.

"I'm more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking, and I think it's very important to recognize that I'm going over there as a U.S. senator," he said. "We have one president at a time."

The AP reporter also gives some hints to the local reaction in Afghanistan, which mostly is, not much. They've got a lot on their minds in that country...

Few citizens in impoverished Afghanistan were aware of Obama's unannounced visit, and few have been following the U.S. presidential race, being too busy eking out an existence amid soaring violence and with limited access to news media.

But some interviewed Saturday said they would welcome an Obama presidency if he could help their country end the fighting, corruption and poverty that have crippled it for so long.

"Obama is a good person," said Abdul Basir, 40, a former army officer. "During his campaign I heard he was saying that if I become president I will withdraw the U.S. troops from Iraq and bring them to Afghanistan and I will attack on the terror center on other side of border (in Pakistan). It is very important and I appreciated that."

Meanwhile, sorry, but is Gordon Brown the George W. Bush of Great Britain?



Just sayin' ...
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posted by JReid @ 2:32 PM  
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Joint Chiefs Chair: the forgotten war needs more troops
The latest in the "Iraq stole our war" saga, courtesy of the Washington Post:


The nation's top military officer said today that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to help tamp down an increasingly violent insurgency but does not have sufficient forces to send because of the war in Iraq.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said insurgent Taliban and extremist forces in Afghanistan have become "a very complex problem" that is tied to the extensive drug trade, a faltering economy and the porous border region with Pakistan. Violence in Afghanistan has increased markedly over recent weeks, and June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began in 2001, with 28 combat fatalities.

"I am and have been deeply troubled by the increasing violence there," Mullen said, adding that he has made no secret of wanting to send more forces into the country. "The Taliban and their supporters have become more effective in recent weeks. ... We all need to be patient. As we have seen in Iraq, counterinsurgency warfare takes time and commitment."

Mullen said military commanders are looking at the prospects for sending additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009, but conditions in Iraq would have to continue to improve for that to happen. The war in Iraq has occupied as many as 20 military brigades during the troop buildup over the past year. The military is reducing that force to 15 brigades this year.

"I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," Mullen said. "Afghanistan remains an economy of force campaign, which by definition means we need more forces there. We have the ability in almost every single case to win from the combat standpoint, but we don't have enough troops there to hold. That is key to the future of being able to succeed in Afghanistan." ...

And as for the neocons' plans for the next war?

Mullen said plainly that he opposes the U.S. or Israel engaging Iran with a military strike.

"My strong preference is to handle all of this diplomatically with the other powers of government, as opposed to any kind of strike occurring," Mullen said. "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable."
Shhh! Don't tell Lieberman and McCain!


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posted by JReid @ 6:08 PM  
Monday, June 30, 2008
The (non) hunt for Osama bin Laden
The New York Times reports the U.S. military's effort to find Osama bin Laden is tripping all over the Bush administration.

Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden’s terrorism network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was intended to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave a smoother path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington’s risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Mr. bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was “mounting frustration” in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.

And:

The story of how Al Qaeda, whose name is Arabic for “the base,” has gained a new haven is in part a story of American accommodation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose advisers played down the terrorist threat. It is also a story of how the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.

Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terrorist camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired C.I.A. officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 local and foreign militants, up from several hundred three years ago.

Heck of a job, Bushie. The piece goes on to describe bitter turf battles between the White House and CIA over how to conduct the hunt for bin Laden, and the supposedly cowboy-led Bush administration's reticence to launch actual raids, which would logically yield the best results. It's almost as if they don't want to a) offend Pervez Musharraf, or worse, b) find Osama bin Laden...




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posted by JReid @ 8:07 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
Listen now:


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