Fight against Afghanistan’s opium trade is failing, U.S. report says

Fight against Afghanistan’s opium trade is failing, U.S. report says: L.A. Times.


Afghan farmers collect raw opium. Our deep wells made 495,000 desert acres  arable.

Afghan farmers collect raw opium. Our deep wells made 495,000 desert acres arable.




“An inspector general report being released Tuesday says the amount of land used to grow poppies in 2013 eclipsed the previous record set in 2007, producing nearly $3 billion in profits, up from $2 billion in 2012.

“The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability” of the U.S.-led counter-narcotics program, John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said in the report.

Sopko said several areas once declared poppy-free by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are now awash in opium, the raw ingredient in heroin. He cited Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, declared poppy-free in 2008 and cited as a model for successful interdiction. The province saw a fourfold increase in opium production in 2013.

Part of the surge is due to increased reliance on affordable deep-well technology that has provided ample water for poppy plants, the report says. The wells have turned 494,000 acres of desert land into arable agricultural areas over the last decade in southwestern Afghanistan, the center of the country’s opium cultivation” Los Angeles Times.



American officials, quoted by The New York Times, said that members of Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were helping the Taliban with money, military supplies and strategic planning.

American officials, quoted by The New York Times, said that members of Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were helping the Taliban with money, military supplies and strategic planning.



‘Taliban ‘receives direct support from Pakistan’

Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan receive direct support from the “S”   wing of Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, according to a report published   on Thursday.



Richard Holbrooke, before he died, endorsed a bottom up strategy where an effort would be made to reach low level insurgents to renounce their Taliban ties and support the Karzai government as they grew tired of increasing military pressure. He also was in favor of a top down approach in trying convince the diehard leadership of the Taliban their cause was futile and that they should endorse a political solution to their goals rather than a military. The top down approach was the more unlikely as the leadership consisted of fanatical, religious zealots. However Holbrooke felt it was worth trying.

There were requirements that low level or even top level Taliban would have to meet to be part of the peaceful political fabric of Afghanistan. One; they must lay down their arms: two; they had to reject Al Qaeda: three; they had to accept the Afghan constitution. Finally they must accept gender equality and human rights rejecting the prejudices of the past.

Karzai came on board with this policy of trying to engage the Taliban members high and low in negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the insurgency. To that end he appointed a High Peace Council led by former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. He was soon killed by a suicide bomber with explosives hidden in his turban. His son took his place on the council.

The ISI or the Pakistani intelligence service was against Karzai reaching a separate peace with the Taliban which may not include their interests. Karzai also faced opposition from his allies who were former members of the Northern Alliance and not ethnic  Pashtuns as he was as well as the Taliban.    

Despite the opposition the plans went forward and a man named Akbar Muhammad Mansoor who claimed to be a Mullah and Taliban commander appeared. However he turned out o be an imposter.

In 2010 Holbrook managed to get the Pakistanis and the Afghans to agree to a “transit trade agreement” which had been in limbo for years. This would strengthen trade between the two countries and  help stabilize their economies. In July 2010 it was signed with Holbrooke and Hillary present for the signing ceremony by the Afghan and Pakistani Commerce Ministers. Also efforts were made to get the Pakistani leaders to view the Taliban insurgency as a joint responsibility and thus close the safe havens in Pakistan from which the Taliban leadership operated. Holbrooke was of the opinion that there never was going to be a solution to the insurgency without Pakistani support.

Hilary in an interview with Pakistani television journalists  stated that she “saw no contradiction in trying to reconcile with those willing to talk and to fight those Taliban who still pursued military action.” (This seems to infer there was a split in the Taliban leadership on these issues.)

Hillary believed that there were persons in the Taliban leadership that wanted to talk. In the fall of 2009 she had received word from the Egyptians that a top aide to Mullah Omar had paid them a visit. Later in 2010 the same aide had approached a German diplomat and the diplomat said the aide was trying to find a way to make direct contact with the U.S. Hillary asked Holbrooke to investigate the possibilities of meeting with the aide whom Holbrooke called A-Rod and who was later identified in the Media as Syed Tayyah Agha. Hobrooke’s deputy Frank Ruggiero was appointed to meet with A-Rod in Munich. The bottom line for the U.S was that the Taliban had to lay down its arms, reject Al Qaeda and agree to equal rights for woman beyond that everything else was on the table. The Taliban top concern was the fate of its fighters and the release of prisoners from Guantanamo and other prisons. We were concerned about Bowie Bergdahl a U.S. Army sergeant being held by the Taliban.

Ruggiero returned to the U.S. to report to Holbrooke which was done apparently in the tap room at the airport. (A secure location?) On December 11, 2010 Holbooke met with Hillary and an aide, Jake Sullivan, in her office. Things were not rosy in Afghanistan but military progress had been made against the Taliban and security was better in Kabul and in key provinces. Aid efforts in support of educational and rebuilding the infrastructure were making progress.

Holbrooke was excited about the opportunities and had many ideas about the way forward when his face turned red and he had to be sent to the hospital where he was diagnosed with an aortic tear from which he died.

Frank Ruggiero took over Holbrooke’s work as acting Special Representative. He went to Kabul to report what had been discussed with the Taliban. A second meeting was arranged with A-Rod and he proved his bona fides by having the Taliban leadership release a statement containing provisions supplied by State. Marc Grossman a retired senior diplomat was selected to take over for Holbrooke

In Mid February 2011 Hillary gave a memorial speech at the Asia Society in New York, which Holbrooke had been chairman at one time, where she announced that beside the military surge and the civilian aid and development push a third diplomatic front had been opened with the Taliban for a political resolution to the insurgency. She announced that this had been her and Holbrooke’s vision from the beginning. She closed the speech calling for other nations in the region to join in the effort. The impact of her speech was to let all others know we were serious about reaching a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.

In May 2011 Ruggiero met for a third time with A-Rod. It was five days after Bin Laden had been killed. We wanted the Taliban to renounce all ties with Al Qaeda  and commit to a peace process. The Taliban wanted to open a political office in Qatar. Karzai was against this as it was tantamount to recognizing the Taliban as a political entity with interests in Afghanistan. The discussions with Agha were leaked by leaders in Kabul to the Washington Post and Der Spiegel. Pakistan was enraged because we held secret talks with the Taliban without telling them and also for the killing of Bin Laden on their soil. (This makes you wonder who in Kabul leaked the story and why? Hillary is not naming names. Could it have happened without Karzai’s consent?)

The talks continued in Doha and later the sought after office was left open for discussion as was the prisoner release. ( So far the Taliban has given very little.) Karzai who once approved of the talks reversed himself saying he was not kept informed by Ruggiero and Grossman and wanted his own representative at the talks. This was unacceptable to A-rod and the Taliban pulled out of the talks (This sounds like the Taliban all along wanted to divide us from Kabul and get thier prisoners released while giving up nothing and gaining diplomatic recognition.)

Hillary left office on February 1, 2013 Karzai stepped down as president in September 2014 succeeded by Ashraf Ghani. After  Hillary left office  a Taliban negotiating office was opened in Qatar.

Hillary is philosophical about this saying no negotiated peace is possible without contact with the Taliban. However the real hard choice here is to make Pakistan close the safe havens and cut all ties to the Taliban which was never attempted or done according to this narrative. So the alleged diplomatic approach was severely flawed.

It seems obvious that as long as the Taliban has safe havens in Pakistan and perhaps support from some elements in the Pakistani government they can go on forever. Holbrooke was right there can  be no peace without Pakistan and that means Pakistan must snuff out their relations with the Taliban.

Meanwhile the stalemate continues and the bomb makers are still fully employed.



Hillary Clinton; HARD CHOICES: Book Analysis. Chapter 7. AF-PAK: SURGE; Hillary Leaves On Feb.1,2013 Before AFGHAN Story Plays Out.

October 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Corruption pervasive before and after the surge.

One Of many New Mansions In Kabul

This is another “hard choice”.  I don’t know if Hillary actually made the choice but she surely participated in it. It was three days before Thanksgiving 2009 and President Obama was in the White House with his advisors asking for their thoughts on sending more troops to Afghanistan. The President had campaigned on bringing troops home from the Middle-East and here he was faced with a decision to send troops to Afghanistan because the coalition forces were losing ground to the Taliban.

The Taliban was operating from safe havens in Pakistan our supposed ally in the region.

The plan was to introduce “thirty thousand U.S. soldiers and ten thousand coalition troops to secure the cities, bolster the government and deliver services to the people rather than waging a war of attrition.”

At the time General Stanley McChrystal was in command of the forces in Afghanistan and General David Petraeus was in Command of all the troops in the Mid-East. Petraeus had been successful in breaking the insurgency in Iraq with a surge but with this caveat: he was able to convince the Sunni tribal leaders to join the U.S in supporting the surge. The Al Queda aligned force  and others in the insurgency forces were broken and scattered.( They later turned up in Syria and are now calling themselves the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

However at this  time we had defeated Al Queda in Afghanistan and were looking for ways to bring the Taliban , the principle force that we were fighting, to the negotiating table. The long range plan was to train the Afghan Army to secure the country and leave after establishing the seeds of democracy.


Both Petraeus and McChystal were experts on fighting  insurgencies and were of the opinion that there could not be  effective military progress without political progress.

To the end of making political progress the resources of the State Department would be relied on to deliver the diplomatic, aid and community services to break the Taliban’s hold on the country. Clear, Hold and Build was the catch phrase.

In the end President Obama approved the plan and C, H and B went forward. Richard Holbrooke, a career diplomat who had negotiated the Dayton Accords which brought peace to the Balkans, was appointed Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He assembled a team to build an infrastructure in Afghanistan so the people would know that they had an alternative to the Taliban and we were not just there as conquerors as so many had been before. Holbrooke died but his team was in place and the plan of reducing corruption and economic development continued.

Hillary says that “Over the next year we would triple the number of diplomats and development experts and other civilian experts on the ground in Afghanistan, expanding our presence out in the field. By the time I left State (2/1/2013), the Afghans had made progress. Economic growth was up and opium production down. Infant mortality declined by 22 per cent. Under the Taliban only 900,000 boys and no girls had been enrolled in schools.

By 2010 7.1 million students were enrolled and 40% of them were girls. Afghan women received more than 100,000 small personal loans that allowed them to start businesses and enter the formal economy. Hundreds of farmers were trained and equipped with new seeds and techniques.”

This all may be true but tales of massive corruption in Afghanistan can be found here;

Wonder where all those small personal loans went as well as the massive infusion of economic aid. Also the Taliban are still a force to be reckoned with.  Disclaimer: the mansion depicted was built before President Obama took office. Also article at was written before Obama or Hillary took office. However it shows the pervasive corruption they were faced with in trying to turn things around in Afghanistan.


Hillary Clinton; HARD CHOICES: Book Analysis. Chapter 6. BURMA: THE LADY AND THE GENERALS. Freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and Rapprochement With Burma Myanmar(Burma).


Aung Sun Suu Kyi And Than Sein: Not So Cozy.

 aung sung suu kyi and Than Sein; Not Quite So Cozy.

Aung Sun Suu Kyi and Barack Obama: Where Are We going With This?
Aung Sun Suu Kyi and Barack Obama: Where Are We going With This?

Aung Sun Suu Kyi and Barack Obama: Where Are We going With This?


Myanmar, which Hillary chooses to call Burma in this chapter, is a former British colony that lies between two giant countries: China and India. After winning its freedom from Britain after World War II Burma became a military dictatorship. Anug Sun Suu Kyi’s father, a general, was a leader in gaining Burma’s independence after the fall of the Japanese. He was a political leader in the post war era and participated with others in setting up a parliamentary system in Burma. Aung Sun was assassinated in 1947 and a period of turmoil followed until a military dictatorship took power in 1962.

In 1990 democratic elections were held but the results were  overruled by the dictatorship and Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter  of General Aung San, was subjected to house arrest and her party, The National League for Democracy, which she led and had won 392 seats in the parliament out of 489 was banned.

This was the case when Hillary took office as Secretary Of State.

Part of the pivot policy was to bring Burma out of a military dictatorship under the influence of China and establish it as a member of the family of democratic nations. Previously the United States had severed diplomatic ties with Burma and leveled economic sanctions against the dictatorship. Burma remained isolated from the world and became poverty stricken because of that isolation.

Mitch McConnell the Senate Minority Leader had a strong interest in Burma and had led the move for economic sanctions against the country  after democratic reforms were crushed by the military dictatorship. He had also maintained communications with the dissidents including Suu Kyi.

The  military regime had announced new elections to take place in 2010 but few believed they would matter.

U.S. economic sanctions had only made the regime withdraw from the World while impoverishing the country. The Chinese had exploited this void and had expanded its political and economic influence over the country.

On her first trip to Asia the President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudahoyono had indicted he had been in touch with the ruling generals in Burma and that they were looking for ways to establish better relations with the U.S.

To that end Stephen Blake a senior diplomat was dispatched to meet with Than Shwe a senior general in the new city the regime had built in the jungle, Nai Pri Taw. Blake came away convinced that the regime was interested in a dialogue and that some of the leadership was dissatisfied with the isolation from the rest of the World. However he was not optimistic any dramatic developments would happen soon.

In august 2009 Senator Jim Webb met with Than Shwe in Nay Pri Taw. He had three goals, bring an American John Yettaw  home. He had tried to swim across a lake to Suu Kyi’s  house  and was in custody, end Suu Kyi’s house arrest and to meet with Suu Kyi. He got two of his requests he met with Suu Kyi and took John Yettaw home with him.

In September at the U.N Hillary announced the Administration’s objectives before the U.S. could have better relations with Burma. It wanted to see democratic reforms, the end to human rights abuses, the release of political prisoners including Suu Kyi and a serious dialogue with ethnic and minority groups. To this end she would use both engagement and sanctions in the pursuit of these goals.

Little progress was made immediately. In the 2010 elections there was no democratic landslide, the military party still remained in control. However the generals released Suu kyi from house arrest and Than Shwe decided to retire to be replaced by another general Than Sein who had previously been Prime Minister. Than Sein conducted business in civilian clothes and led a civilian government at least in outward appearances. In 2011 he was sworn in and he invited Suu Kyi to dine at his house. He had extended a hand to a person the regime had seen as an enemy. Seeing Than Sein was making gestures towards progress on the issues most repugnant to the U.S, Hillary was able  to appoint Derek Mitchell as Special Representative to Burma a position created by Congress and signed into law by President Bush but never filled.

China had persuaded the generals to allow them to build the Myitsone Dam on the upper Irrawaddy River which was vital to millions of Burmese downstream. Suu Kyi and her party as well as millions of citizens opposed the dam built mainly to supply power to Chinese Provinces while damaging economic life along this major river.

Than Sein addressed parliament and said that the government had the responsibility to respond to the wishes of the people and that therefore construction on the Mysitone Dam would be halted. In addition the government released hundreds of political prisoners and it legalized the formation of labor unions. Further it eased censorship restrictions and eased suppression of ethnic and minorities. It also further released more political prisoners and began discussions with the International Monetary Fund concerning economic reforms. 

In November 2011 Hillary went to Burma and met with Than Sein and other government officials. Her impression was that he was interested in making reforms and allowing the country to become more democratic. Later in Rangoon she met face to face with Suu Kyi for the first time who was optimistic but cautious about the future the same way Hillary felt.

In April Suu Kyi won a seat in parliament along with 40 members of her party. Also in 2012 Suu Kyi travelled to the U.S. for 17 days. In Burma Than Sein continued to make reforms like allowing independent newspapers. In response to these developments the U.S. began easing sanctions.

Burma also chaired the ASEAN conference in 2012 . China and the U.S.  attended

In Novwember 2012 President Obama visited Burma and met with Than Sein and discussed more democratic reforms and later  addressed the students at Yangon Univeristy. He also met with Suu Kyi.

Burma’s move out of isolation and adoption of democratic reforms  are a dramatic result of the Pivot to Asia policy.

The elections scheduled for 2015 are a crucial test for Burma. Will it move forward or retreat. Also Suu Kyi , the leader of the forces for reform is nearly 70 what will happen if she is no longer able to lead?