November 18th, 2010
07:50 PM ET

Afghan watchdog under fire

The man overseeing how billions of dollars are spent in Afghanistan is the wrong man for the job, a U.S. senator charged Thursday.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, criticized former Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, as he appeared before her and other senators at a subcommittee hearing to examine the performance of his office.

That office oversees $56 billion in Afghanistan spent on projects including schools, roads and water plants. The U.S. plans to spend $16 billion more next year.

"I don't think you are the right person for this job," McCaskill told Fields after more than an hour of questioning. 

McCaskill had the support of at least one person in the visitors'
gallery.

"Fire that man, fire that man right away," called out an unidentified person who stalked out of the hearing.

FULL STORY

October 6th, 2010
02:20 PM ET

White House report critical of Pakistan's activity against militants

Despite repeated Obama administration claims in public that
Pakistan is working hard to crack down on militants, a private White House
review uses unusually tough language to suggest the ally is not doing nearly
enough to confront the Taliban and al Qaeda, according to a copy of the report
to Congress obtained by CNN.

The report notes that from March to June, the Pakistani military
"continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict
with Afghan Taliban or [al Qaeda] forces in North Waziristan. This is as much a
political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military
prioritizing its targets."
FULL POST

September 23rd, 2010
02:49 PM ET

Gates: No change to Afghan strategy

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he does not believe there will be any changes to the Afghanistan strategy after the coming review of the war’s progress this December.

“I have not gotten the sense from my conversations with people that any basic decisions or basic changes are likely to occur,” Gates told reporters at a news conference on Thursday. Although Gates added that there will likely be areas for “adjustments and tweaks.”

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, who was at the news conference with Gates, said that there signs of progress already in the strategy that included adding an additional 30,000 U.S. troops.

Gates, who has signaled his desire to retire next year, refused to say whether he plans to stay through July 2011, the month where the president has said he would like to start reducing the US troop level in Afghanistan.

Asked about his potential retirement date at a Pentagon press conference, Gates would only say that he has made up his mind whether to stay or go before July 2011.

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Filed under: Decision: Afghanistan • Troops • Understanding Afghanistan • White House
September 16th, 2010
05:37 PM ET

White House mulls: Just how much Afghan corruption is too much?

Obama Administration sources say the U.S. is undergoing a gut-check about how to approach the Afghan corruption issue. While everyone acknowledges corruption is an important problem that must be addressed, there is concern in the administration that the near-myopic focus on corruption over the last several months is detracting from the bigger picture.

Recent discussions, including a White House meeting on Afghanistan this week, have centered around the most productive way to approach the corruption issue, according to the source.  Central to the conversation was how corruption plays into U.S. goals in Afghanistan and what can the U.S. realistically expect in terms of combating corruption. FULL POST

August 1st, 2010
04:52 PM ET

Planned U.S. draw-down a sensitive issue

WASHINGTON - Less than a year from the scheduled start of
withdrawing some troops from Afghanistan, opinions remain varied about exactly what will happen when the transition begins at the end of June 2011.

The Obama administration has made clear some troops - no one can say how many - will start withdrawing by next July from stable areas where Afghan forces can provide security.

However, questions over how to measure success and whether the almost 9-year-old war is worth the continuing U.S. investment in lives and resources are gaining prominence as congressional mid-term elections approach in November.

In interviews with military and political leaders broadcast Sunday,
scenarios presented on what happens next year ranged from guarded optimism to serious concern. While most views followed expected party talking points, all appeared grounded in the common belief that success is vital even as they differed on what it would be.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: Troops • White House
May 17th, 2010
08:23 AM ET

Can the Taliban really be reintegrated?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans a peace "jirga" with tribal leaders later this month to discuss a reintegration plan for Taliban members who renounce violence and lay down their arms.

But persuading the Taliban to do that - and the process with which to accomplish it - raises more questions than answers, experts said.

"It's not clear whether there's a serious common ground between Karzai and his enemies," said Paul Staniland, who studies international security and insurgent groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "All of the reconciliation plans have been somewhat vague about what the ultimate end state is." FULL POST

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Filed under: Karzai • Obama • Taliban • White House
May 14th, 2010
08:12 AM ET

Karzai ends U.S. trip with visit to military base

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will end his four-day U.S. trip on Friday with a visit to a military base in Kentucky, officials said.  Karzai is scheduled to visit Fort Campbell where the 101st Airborne Division is preparing to go to Afghanistan. The visit caps a week of high0level meetings for Karzai: he has huddled with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, among others. The trip is Karzai's first to Washington since his controversial re-election and some recent well-publicized spats with the Obama administration.

Read the full story


Filed under: Karzai • Obama • White House
May 12th, 2010
02:45 PM ET

U.S.-Karzai: A rocky relationship

Relations between Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and the United States have had their ups and downs since last summer’s elections in Afghanistan. Here are a few of them:

• In October 2009, charges of fraud in the election caused the U.S. to criticize Karzai and push him for a recount and better leadership.

Karzai is criticized for failing to deliver on campaign promises and that he tried to hijack the election complaints commission.

• Sen. John Kerry travels to Afghanistan in October 2009 to press for a recount as he urges the Obama administration to hold off on a troop increase until the election deadlock is settled. (More: Kerry on the election crisis | Karzai challenger quits)

• U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Afghanistan for Karzai’s inaugural address in November. In his speech, Karzai promises to tackle corruption. (More: Clinton pleased with Karzai's promises)

• In March 2010, Obama travels to Kabul to meet with U.S. troops and has short, tense meeting with Karzai with the normal news conference. FULL POST


Filed under: Karzai • Obama • White House
May 12th, 2010
02:30 PM ET

Analysis: U.S. has no choice but to work with Karzai, for now

As U.S. and NATO troops gear up toward a major offensive this summer in the southern Kandahar province, Washington's strategy in Afghanistan hinges more than ever on presenting a credible alternative to the Taliban.

So this latest, not-so-subtle attempt to kiss and make up, to move beyond bitter recriminations and resentments and present a united front would be encouraging, if only the sentiment behind it were true.

Read the full story from CNN's Elise Labott

May 11th, 2010
12:00 PM ET