Showing posts tagged as "troop withdrawal"

Showing posts tagged troop withdrawal

21 May
Reuters | Maliki, in charm offensive, invites scholars to Baghdad
By Alister Bull
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, concerned by his portrayal in U.S. media as an autocratic leader intent on consolidating power, has invited several influential Washington scholars to Baghdad to meet his team next week.
The rare invitation was extended to Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institution and Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group, Reuters has learned.
"I think it a very smart and constructive step on his part," said Pollack, a former CIA military analyst who served in President Bill Clinton’s White House and also authored an influential book backing the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Maliki’s opponents have accused the Shi’ite leader of amassing power they fear will restore the dictatorship toppled by the United States when it felled Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi officials said the idea behind inviting the scholars was to put out Baghdad’s side of the story and respond to a “deliberate distortion of reality” being promoted by Maliki’s opponents.
"He feels that there is an increasing hostile activity against Iraq and the Iraqi government that attempts to give an unfavorable and negative picture about the situation in Iraq," said Ali Al-Mussawi, chief media adviser to the prime minister, responding to an enquiry made to Iraq’s embassy in Washington.
President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of last year is blamed by critics for a political crisis that erupted as soon as they left and has raised fears the country could tip back into civil war.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Reuters | Maliki, in charm offensive, invites scholars to Baghdad

By Alister Bull

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, concerned by his portrayal in U.S. media as an autocratic leader intent on consolidating power, has invited several influential Washington scholars to Baghdad to meet his team next week.

The rare invitation was extended to Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institution and Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group, Reuters has learned.

"I think it a very smart and constructive step on his part," said Pollack, a former CIA military analyst who served in President Bill Clinton’s White House and also authored an influential book backing the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Maliki’s opponents have accused the Shi’ite leader of amassing power they fear will restore the dictatorship toppled by the United States when it felled Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi officials said the idea behind inviting the scholars was to put out Baghdad’s side of the story and respond to a “deliberate distortion of reality” being promoted by Maliki’s opponents.

"He feels that there is an increasing hostile activity against Iraq and the Iraqi government that attempts to give an unfavorable and negative picture about the situation in Iraq," said Ali Al-Mussawi, chief media adviser to the prime minister, responding to an enquiry made to Iraq’s embassy in Washington.

President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of last year is blamed by critics for a political crisis that erupted as soon as they left and has raised fears the country could tip back into civil war.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

15 Mar
KABUL—Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghan villages and to confine them to bases following a shooting rampage by a U.S. staff sergeant on Sunday, the presidential palace said, in a move that dramatically changes the outlook for the war.
The demand, which Mr. Karzai’s office said was made during a meeting on Thursday with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, would—if accepted—essentially end the U.S. combat role just as the annual Taliban spring offensive begins. There are now some 90,000 U.S. troops in the country.
Within minutes of Mr. Karzai’s statement, the Taliban also declared they are suspending their negotiations with the U.S. because the U.S. “turned back on its promises,” such as the release of Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Mr. Karzai’s surprise demand was greeted with shock by some Afghan politicians. “We totally don’t understand Karzai’s decision. He doesn’t have any strategy. He is committing treason,” said Abdulrahim Aybi, a lawmaker from the southern Kandahar province where Sunday’s massacre occurred. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, said the coalition was aware of Mr. Karzai’s request, and that it would be dealt with through diplomatic channels.
While the Taliban left the door open to resuming the dialogue, Mr. Karzai’s move had potentially more far-reaching ramifications. “Not a single foreign soldier should enter Afghan homes, and the entire attention should switch to the country’s reconstruction and economic assistance,” the Afghan president’s statement said.
Under current plans, the U.S. and its allies are supposed to withdraw most combat forces by the end of 2014, transferring security responsibilities to the Afghan army and police.
Mr. Karzai said on Thursday that “Afghanistan is right now ready to completely take all security responsibilities, so we demand a speedy transition and the hand-over of responsibility to the Afghans.”
Some analysts speculated that Mr. Karzai made the statement as a bet to strengthen his hand in negotiations with the U.S. over a strategic partnership agreement. If so, he may have badly miscalculated, said Candace Rondeaux, a Kabul-based senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. “Karzai in some ways has overestimated his hand,” she said. “There is extreme frustration on both sides and the trust deficit will only widen as the result.”
FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)

KABUL—Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghan villages and to confine them to bases following a shooting rampage by a U.S. staff sergeant on Sunday, the presidential palace said, in a move that dramatically changes the outlook for the war.

The demand, which Mr. Karzai’s office said was made during a meeting on Thursday with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, would—if accepted—essentially end the U.S. combat role just as the annual Taliban spring offensive begins. There are now some 90,000 U.S. troops in the country.

Within minutes of Mr. Karzai’s statement, the Taliban also declared they are suspending their negotiations with the U.S. because the U.S. “turned back on its promises,” such as the release of Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Karzai’s surprise demand was greeted with shock by some Afghan politicians. “We totally don’t understand Karzai’s decision. He doesn’t have any strategy. He is committing treason,” said Abdulrahim Aybi, a lawmaker from the southern Kandahar province where Sunday’s massacre occurred. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, said the coalition was aware of Mr. Karzai’s request, and that it would be dealt with through diplomatic channels.

While the Taliban left the door open to resuming the dialogue, Mr. Karzai’s move had potentially more far-reaching ramifications. “Not a single foreign soldier should enter Afghan homes, and the entire attention should switch to the country’s reconstruction and economic assistance,” the Afghan president’s statement said.

Under current plans, the U.S. and its allies are supposed to withdraw most combat forces by the end of 2014, transferring security responsibilities to the Afghan army and police.

Mr. Karzai said on Thursday that “Afghanistan is right now ready to completely take all security responsibilities, so we demand a speedy transition and the hand-over of responsibility to the Afghans.”

Some analysts speculated that Mr. Karzai made the statement as a bet to strengthen his hand in negotiations with the U.S. over a strategic partnership agreement. If so, he may have badly miscalculated, said Candace Rondeaux, a Kabul-based senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. “Karzai in some ways has overestimated his hand,” she said. “There is extreme frustration on both sides and the trust deficit will only widen as the result.”

12 Jan

The European: Iraq and the Pretense of Control

Joost Hiltermann


When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, its chest was swelled with self-confidence: A new democratic state would rise and prosper once Saddan was ousted. Nine years later, we know how unfounded that optimism was. The future of Iraq will not be controlled from Washington but by the sectarian forces unleashed after the invasion.

In invading Iraq in March 2003, the United States intended to create a tabula rasa on which it could erect a new state, friendly to US interests, a reliable buffer against Iran, an investment paradise especially in the energy sector, and equipped to set off a democratic domino effect throughout an autocratic neighbourhood. However, in ignoring and failing to grasp the nature of Iraqi society, with its deep fractures, bottled-up grievances, and a political command culture inculcated by decades of tyrannical rule, the administration of George W. Bush accomplished something quite different.

It created a political, managerial and security void that was filled by militias with competing agendas and by former-exile politicians who were distrusted and resented by ordinary Iraqis. It unleashed countervailing social forces that engendered extreme ethno-sectarian polarisation and civil war. And after it finally took action to reduce violence, it established a political system that invited all political actors around the table in a dysfunctional national unity government, which could barely see beyond each group’s partisan interests, was defined more by what divided them than what brought them together, and utterly failed to govern.

Yes, the Bush Administration removed a nasty regime and organised relatively free elections. Many Iraqis thank it for both these feats but wish it had not made all the mistakes that ended up making their lives miserable, giving rise to endemic insecurity, an uncertain power supply, severely frayed inter-communal relations, and rule by a central government unresponsive to their needs.

After a few years of managing Iraqi affairs in a disinterested and scattershot fashion, Bush decided to put a time horizon on the US military presence. He sent his diplomats to negotiate a troop withdrawal agreement, which his successor, Barack Obama, who had campaigned on an anti-war platform and was keen to relieve the Iraq war’s severe stress on the US budget and military, implemented to the letter.

Whatever the US’s original hopes for the emergence of a flourishing democracy might have been, it is clear, now that the last US soldiers have gone home, that the best it could realistically expect is something far less: an Iraq without a unifying identity, propelled by a fraught political process, producing a fragile stability that could falter at any point.

The first signs of it appeared the moment the last departing troops closed the door on this madcap adventure in late December: In a pre-emptive move against his rivals – also his governing partners – Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, an Islamist Shiite, accused Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, an Islamist Sunni, of carrying out assassinations as part of a plot against the new order. As both Hashimi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlak, a secular Sunni, fled to the safety of the Kurdish north, the so-called national unity government began to unravel and currently is hanging by a thread.

Just before Christmas, the Obama administration rushed its top guns to Baghdad – CIA Director David Petraeus and General Ray Odierno, both former commanders of US forces in Iraq – to calm the situation and get the politicians back to the table. Yet US leverage is much reduced, and it has become crystal clear that Iraq’s future will be determined less by anything Washington does than by the naked power of the ethno-sectarian forces it unleashed in its thoughtless, reckless thrust into the unknown almost nine years ago.

Joost Hiltermann is the Middle East Deputy Program Director at the International Crisis Group.

Link to Article (The European)

Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr