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August 12, 2011
Maybe try ParisBy Greyhawk
If that's because of them, whose fault is this? Secret peace talks between US and Taliban collapse over leaks.
Well, Leaks R Us, of course. File that and the rest of this post under "things I wish weren't true."
Don't kick yourself if you didn't know we were trying to smoke the peace pipe with the Taliban - the Obama administration has done a fair job of keeping information on those talks out of American media reports. Given that they can be seen as a failing effort to make Afghanistan end up at least as well as Vietnam did (politically, that is - any military comparison is insane and obscene) that's probably a good idea on their part.
But yeah - sentiment in Washington has gone from "oh my, if we aren't careful this could be another Vietnam" to "Oh gawd I hope this ends at least as well as Vietnam." To make that happen, we need help from the Taliban - or so those responsible for America's national security strategy believe. (Secretary Clinton recently told the Senate that reaching an agreement with the Taliban was "the only path forward" in Afghanistan. Why the president wouldn't want Americans to know that is obvious - why he'd want to tell it to the Taliban is less so, because they've made the obvious response.)
As for who to blame for this communication breakdown (because as far as how to fix it goes no one has a clue) - the menu options are (as with anything Afghanistan, forever) George Bush, Hamid Karzai, Pakistan, NATO allies, or "the generals" - in descending level of desirability (with "Bush" less credible as a choice every passing month). These choices all have some validity, as their generic equivalents (predecessor... allied leader... shaky allies, etc) did in any war ever fought in history.
In this case it appears we've selected Hamid Karzai.
Sources in Kabul confirmed the talks appeared to have been "blown out of the water" by the publicity.
So without pausing for breath we respond to a "peace talks" collapse by running another lap around the downward spiral - an action that could even make a one-eyed Mullah smile.
If you're wondering what sort of position we're in to bargain, understand that the Obama administration insists our drawdown in Afghanistan must be viewed by all concerned as proof that our "strategy" is working, likewise that our killing Osama bin Laden somehow gives us leverage at the table with the Taliban. The Taliban, of course, views our drawdown as an indication that we're getting out come hell or high water - and we've even given them the dates certain for it to happen: 30,000 troops home before the US presidential elections next year and the remaining 70-odd thousand by midway through the next presidential term (at least, assuming the guy making the guarantee gets reelected, which, by the way, you people could help ensure...). Likewise they view the death of bin Laden as more incentive for us to beat feet - and rightfully so.
The final point of negotiation the Obama administration believes it has to offer the Taliban, the last carrot to get these folks to come to the table, is the fate of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay - but there's no reason to believe the Taliban sees them as anything but expendable. Earlier "leaked" reports on negotiations indicated they had demanded the release of 20 prisoners from Guantánamo, but martyrdom is hardly something any self-respecting Taliban member would avoid - especially someone else's, and especially when the someones are the prisoners President Obama believes are his last bit of bait to bring their masters to the table - to "negotiate" for things we've already promised them repeatedly - if not directly - will be theirs for the taking in just a few more months.
After years of effort in Vietnam the US was able to achieve a "peace" that allowed us to evacuate the vast majority of our forces from that country long enough before the ultimate communist invasion to make a claim - thin as it may be - that one was not the direct result of the other; at least, people can argue endlessly to this day over whether or not it was so. As much as the Obama administration would appreciate an outcome even that favorable to the US in Afghanistan, they're going to have to come up with some incentive for the enemy to play along.
Then again, when it comes to potential catastrophic failure they've already got that list of people to blame, and the sure knowledge that every American sees at least one target on it they'd say deserves it.
Afterthought - it could have been worse:
Previous international efforts to contact the Taliban high leadership have foundered on an inability to reach anyone who has the confidence of the Taliban leader. In one notorious case last year a man claiming to be senior leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour was in fact an impostor and walked away with a large sum of money.
I mean, that's worse, right? (Maybe someday we'll be able to look back on it and laugh.)
May 16, 2011: U.S. speeds up direct talks with Taliban, The Washington Post
May 17, 2011: US steps up face-to-face peace talks with Taliban, The Telegraph
May 24, 2011: Germany Mediates Secret US-Taliban Talks, Der Spiegel
May 25, 2011: Positive signs in Afghanistan, David Ignatious, The Washington Post
Jun 18, 2011: America has opened peace talks with Taliban, says Afghan President Hamid Karzai, The Telegraph
Jun 23, 2011: Secretary Clinton testimony on Evaluating Goals and Progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Jun 23, 2011: Clinton: Talks with Taliban not 'pleasant' but 'necessary', Washington Post
Jun 28, 2011: Former Members Trying to Coax Taliban to Table, Der Spiegel
August 10, 2011: Secret peace talks between US and Taliban collapse over leaks, The Telegraph
Posted by Greyhawk / August 12, 2011 4:11 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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