Sunday, December 15, 2013

Syria and Afghanistan updates - December 15 , 2013 - Syria item of note....With FSA Supreme Military Commander Idris literally run out of Syria by the islamist / jihadist / Al Qaeda forces - looks like the US is preparing to get in bed with terrorists - these same fighters will without questions use any US weapons provided to them against either Israel and / or the US interests down the road... Regarding Afghanistan - we need to stay there because of Al Qaeda - that would be the same franchise islamist tyep fighters we are meeting with on Syria ? What is our foreign policy regarding aiding terrorists again ?


The brief rebel-offensive against the Damascus suburb of Adra, and the Syrian military is once again in control. As usual, it was the civilians that bore the brunt of the clash, with reports of mass kidnappings and 80 civilians executed by the rebels before they were ousted.
The rebels, identified as al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra faction by locals, began targeting Druze, Alawite and Christian residents early on in the siege of the city, kidnapping them en masse.
The military insisted that the rebels were using the kidnapped as human shields, but locals say that by and large they were just executed outright, and that when the kidnappings began, many members of the religious minorities hid in their basements, waiting for the rebels to leave.
Early reports had claimed Nusra fighters were working alongside the Islamic Front rebels, who are being courted by the US as the new “pro-West” faction. The locals haven’t mentioned Islamic Front in their accounts, however, claiming foreign fighters for Nusra were operating on their own.

Syria Barrel Bomb Strikes Kill 76, Mostly Civilians, in Aleppo

Final Toll Could Be Much Higher, Reports Say

by Jason Ditz, December 16, 2013
At least 76 people are dead today, overwhelmingly civilians and including “as many as 28″ children, after a series of barrel bomb attacks against rebel-held districts in the contested northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
The toll spans several strikes against at least 13 different districts, and the final count could be quite a bit higher, withsome unconfirmed reports of tolls as high as 118.
The Syrian military is increasingly relying on barrel bombs in entrenched rebel areas in Aleppo. The makeshift munitions amount to little more than an oil barrel full of TNT, rolled out of the back of a helicopter.
The bombs are powerful, but extremely inaccurate, and tend to careen off target quite often, which in densely populated territory is a recipe for high civilian casualties.
This is the second major round of barrel bomb strikes in metro Aleppo this month, with a previous round targeted at a rebel headquarters likewise missing, hitting a nearby market and killing around 50 people.

( If this is accurate , how can the US even talk to these War criminals ? Atrocities similar to what the  Nazis would have done - where is or will be  the voice of outrage from the West ? )

Over 80 civilians in a town northwest of the Syrian capital of Damascus have been executed by Islamist rebels, sources within the Syrian military told RT. Many others were kidnapped to be used as human shields.
Government forces are continuing a large-scale operation against Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa Al-Islam fighters, who captured the town earlier this week. The area is located some 20 kilometers away from Damascus.

According to SANA news agency, around 1,000 militants were in the town when it was enveloped by the army on Friday.

The military sources said the “armed groups have performed an execution of civilians” in Adra, RT Arabic correspondent Abutaleb Albohaya reported from Syria.

For now it’s established that over 80 people were killed in the areas now taken over by the army. Often whole families were murdered,” he said.

The number of executed civilians is expected to rise after government troops manage to recover the rest of the town - which has a population of around 20,000 - from the Islamists, the military source added.

“Some families were kidnapped in order to be used as human shields in areas where the Syrian army is now trying to free the civilians,” Albohaya stressed. Iraqi Al-Ahd television says this is the reason the Syrian army is abstaining from using artillery on Sunday.

The military sources also said that the other kidnapped families were moved to the area south of Adra in the direction of the town of Douma, which has been the opposition’s strategic backland since the start of the Syrian crisis [in March, 2011]. It’s also where the most important rebel fortifications are situated,” Albohaya said.

The rebel presence remains strong in Adra, with “snipers entrenched in high-rise buildings,” he added. “Many opposition militant groups are still acting in areas outside and within the town.”

The army’s special forces have performed several successful operations against those groups, which have resulted in the deaths of dozens of militants, the military source said.

The military is storming every house and has already freed dozens of Alawite, Druze, and Christian families from the rebels, Al-Ahd reported.

The government troops have cornered a highway leading to the international airport in Damascus, which is situated four kilometers away from Adra.

The military does not exclude the possibility that militants will break through the blockade in this direction, putting the nearby town of Dahiyat al Asad in danger, according to Al-Ahd.

‘People toasted in ovens’

What the Islamist rebels did when they entered Adra on Wednesday morning was a “massacre,” one a local resident told RT.

The situation was terrible - with killing, atrocities, and fear as the background. Unidentified armed men came into town, but it was obvious that they were Jabhat al-Nusra militants,” Muhammad Al-Said said.

The worst crime they committed was that they toasted people in ovens used to bake bread when those people came to buy it. They kidnapped and beat up many,” he added.

According to Al-Said, the rebels committed the atrocities so they could place blame on government forces.

But the resident said that Adra citizens are “waiting for Syrian troops to save us from the terrorists, who came from other countries.”

Those, who could, fled to Damascus. Some hid in the basement, with infants, the elderly, women, and sick people among them. The situation was really terrible,” Al-Said said.

The bloody civil war has been raging in Syria for almost three years. According to UN estimates, over 100,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict.

Sinister Fruits of The West's Alliance with Jihad Warriors in Syria

Syria Jihadists

After suffering one military defeat after another, the Syrian radical opposition, backed by the support of the West and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, are increasingly retaliating cruelly against the civilian population. The jihadists seize towns and cultural and religious sites which up to that point had remained outside the combat zone, loudly proclaiming their victories.

For example, in response to the advance of the government army into the Qalamoun mountains between Damascus and Homs, where a powerful group of rebels had gathered for a sudden advance on the capital from the north (this group grew from 5,000 men a year ago to 20,000 in November of this year), the jihadists once again rushed into the nearby Christian town of Maaloula.

After vandalizing and desecrating the ancient churches, on December 2 they took 12 nuns from the Orthodox convent of St. Thecla hostage, hiding them in the city of Yabrud, which is held by the rebels. The rebels stated that they would burn the convent and kill the hostages, including the abbess, Mother Pelagia Sayyaf, after which the army retreated.

The Free Qalamoun Brigades, which are part of the Army of Islam (Jeysh al-Islam), took responsibility for these barbarous acts.  News agencies reported only an offer to exchange the kidnapped sisters for a thousand female prisoners accused of aiding terrorists, but in fact the rebels demanded that the government forces stop their attack on Yabrud and lift the siege against the rebels in East Ghouta in exchange for the lives of the unfortunate nuns, in other words, encourage their barbarism by handing them the victory.

The Qatari television channel Al-Jazeera broadcast video meant to show that the sisters “are being treated well in captivity” (as if they can be considered prisoners of war!). However, it is clear from the broadcast that the nuns were forced to remove their crosses, which is an insult to the symbol of their faith.  At the same time, hundreds of rebels from the groups Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham Al Islami were redeployed from Yabrud to Rankous in an attempt to occupy the nearby Christian city of Saidnaya. During the attack on the city they used grenade launchers, from which they shelled the local churches and convent. In eastern Syria, in the city of Ar-Raqqah, the group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) destroyed all Christian symbols in one of the city's churches and established its headquarters there.

In a conversation with the Antiochian patriarch John X, Syrian Prime Minister Najib Mika promised to do everything possible to free the kidnapped nuns, as well as two metropolitans of the Orthodox and Syrian Jacobite churches who have been abducted by rebels. He emphasized the government's dedication to keeping sacred sites of all religions out of combat zones. The widespread desecration of Christian churches by the rebels is only one side of the coin; the other is their sacrileges against Shiite shrines, including those connected with the veneration of the direct descendants of the founder of Islam, as well as turning mosques into fortified posts and military supply depots.

The British Independent reports that the terrorist threat to Europe and the United States from the “jihad warriors” in Syria is growing rapidly. MI5 and Scotland Yard have detected the first case of rebels sent from Syria to London for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks there “when needed”. In June of this year the number of jihadists from Europe who were “broken in” in Syria was estimated at 600; since then this figure has almost tripled. “With regards to the European figures, we estimate it’s between 1500 and 2000”, says Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet. “It’s a phenomenon which is very generalized”.

Intelligence analysts in the West are already making recommendations to preserve the Syrian government army after the “overthrow of Assad's regime” for the fight against the Islamic radicals in order not to repeat the mistakes made in Iraq and Libya. Salim Idris, the commander of the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA), has supposedly already agreed to this. But will the Syrian army itself agree? Idris is seen more often in Paris and London than on the battlefield, and his intention to lead a united “opposition-government” army against al-Qaeda evokes nothing but sarcasm.

Currently the Islamists have total control over the FSA. According to the Independent, there are 22,500 fighters in ISIS alone. This organization is especially active in taking hostages. For example, they have abducted and detained 35 foreign journalists, as well as 60 various political and public figures. According to U.S. intelligence, over half of the 17,000 foreign insurgents fighting in Syria against the government are part of the Islamic State of Iran and Syria group.  The Russian-speaking wing of this group, which numbers several hundred fighters, is led by a Chechen from the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, Tarkhan Batirashvili, also known as Sheikh Omar al-Shishani... As the Wall Street Journal reports, Batirashvili received his military training in the American-backed Georgian army. His troops include not only emigrants from former Soviet republics, but Europeans who are notable for their “unusual violence...even by the gruesome standards of the war in Syria”. Although those close to Batirashvili say that he is trying to strike a blow against one of the Kremlin's allies, he also does not hide his hatred for America, writes the Wall Street Journal. In 2008 he fought against Russia in a Georgian military intelligence unit. It is worth noting that in September 2010 the restless Batirashvili was arrested in Georgia for illegally harboring weapons and sentenced to three years in prison. However, in early 2012 he was released from prison and immediately left for Syria. One could assume that this turn of fate took place with the participation of then-president of Georgia M. Saakashvili. Threats from Syrian jihadists toward the Sochi Olympic Games are also linked with Batirashvili's name.

In late November the majority of organizations on which the FSA has been counting declared their commitment to “Islamic values and sharia”. They united to form the Islamic Front (IF), announcing their closeness to the “brethren from Jabhat al-Nusra”. The total number of fighters in the newly-created front is estimated at 45,000-60,000 men. Western governments, which are rapidly losing control over events in Syria, have already hastened to declare the IF “a force with which it is possible to have a dialog”, and even started preliminary negotiations with them. In fact, the IF is a cover and a means of political legalization for the same uncompromising “jihad warriors”. Suffice it to say that those who abducted the 12 Orthodox nuns in Maaloula belong to the Islamic Front.

At the same time that ancient Christian Maaloula was being vandalized, representatives of Western countries, including the U.S. and Great Britain, were meeting with the leaders of the IF in Ankara through the efforts of mediators from Qatar. The fate of the nun martyrs was not discussed at this meeting. According to information in the press, during the negotiations in Ankara the Western allies tried to convince the Islamists to moderate their criticism of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army and its leader Salim Idris. For their part, those who were uncompromising before the meeting demanded that the Military Council show them more active support, particularly with regard to weapons. And apparently they received this support. One of the British participants in the negotiations admitted to The Daily Telegraph that there are “sinister” elements in the Front.

In making contact with the Islamic Front, Western diplomats are hoping to prevent it from joining the even more radical groups Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, which unlike the IF openly declare their ties with al-Qaeda. However, these hopes are not likely to be justified. Just a few days after the meeting in Ankara, the IF began pushing the Free Syrian Army out of Syria. Fighters from the Islamic Front  have begun seizing bases and weapons depots from the FSA along the Turkish border in the Idlib Governorate. They have already occupied the largest weapons storage facilities in Bab al-Hawa.

In late November at hearings in the U.S. Congress, leading expert Andrew J. Tabler from the Washington Institute acknowledged that the processes taking place in Syria are not going to stay there, but will inevitably spill out into the entire region. And the abrupt increase in extremist elements among the Syrian opposition makes the possibility of helping its pro-Western parts while bypassing the jihadists unlikely.

“We need to start talking to the Assad regime again about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern,” stated Ryan Crocker, an experienced diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, to The New York Times. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence”. Even Z. Brzezinski, not known for his sympathies toward Russia, states that the threat of an explosion in the Middle East, and in Syria in particular, means that the U.S.needs to work closely with Russia and China “to some extent more than...[with] Britain or France”. And cold war paladin Brzezinski knows what he's talking about here.

Syrian Islamist rebels to meet U.S. officials: opposition sources

BEIRUT/ISTANBUL Sat Dec 14, 2013 9:42am EST
Free Syrian Army fighters warm themselves around a heater inside a room in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria, December 12, 2013. REUTERS-Khalil Ashawi
1 OF 3. Free Syrian Army fighters warm themselves around a heater inside a room in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria, December 12, 2013.
(Reuters) - Syrian rebel commanders from the Islamic Front which seized control of bases belonging to Western-backed rebels last week are due to hold talks with U.S. officials inTurkey in coming days, rebel and opposition sources said on Saturday.
The expected contacts between Washington and the radical fighters reflect the extent to which the Islamic Front alliance has eclipsed the more moderate Free Syrian Army brigades - which Western and Arab powers tried in vain to build into a force able to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
The talks could also decide the future direction of the Islamic Front, which is engaged in a standoff with yet more radical Sunni Muslim fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
A rebel fighter with the Islamic Front said he expected the talks in Turkey to discuss whether the United States would help arm the front and assign to it responsibility for maintaining order in the rebel-held areas of northern Syria.
He declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks, and gave no further details. Diplomatic sources in Turkey said that U.S. Syria envoy Robert Ford was expected in Istanbul soon but his schedule was not yet confirmed.
The Islamic Front, formed by the unification of six major Islamist groups last month, seized control a week ago of weapons stores nominally under the control of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Command (SMC).
It has since said it was asked to take over the base by the SMC to protect it from attack by ISIL fighters. Whether or not the move was requested, it demonstrated how little power the Western-backed SMC wields in rebel-held Syria.
An SMC rebel commander also said he had been told the Islamic Front would hold talks with U.S. officials in Turkey in the coming days.
The infighting and rivalries among the rebels have undermined their fight against Assad in Syria's 2-1/2 year civil war, which has killed more than 125,000 people according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The conflict has also reduced whole city districts across Syria to rubble, causing tens of billions of dollars of damage, driven 2 million refugees to seek safety abroad and made millions more homeless and vulnerable to a winter storm which has covered the region in snow and biting rain.
The Islamic Front rebel told Reuters that rivalry with the ISIL had already led to a spate of hostage-taking between the two sides, and that the Front's decision to talk to the Americans had further escalated tension.
Although he described the two Islamist forces as ideologically close, he said ISIL appeared set on confrontation, perhaps encouraged by some of their backers in Saudi Arabia.
"The front has to talk to ISIL via messengers because of the tense situation," he said. "ISIL sees things in black and white. They are very stubborn."
"So far the Islamic Front has been restraining itself, having some sort of dialogue with ISIL," the rebel said. But he said that unless the hostages were released soon "there will be more discussions and a different decision will be taken".
Contacts with the United States will not be undertaken lightly by the Islamic Front, which includes Salafi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham brigades which are mainly hostile to the West and have rejected U.S.-Russian backed U.N. peace talks for Syria, due to be held in Switzerland next month.
But their leaders have compared engaging with Washington to the Prophet Mohammad's temporary and tactical truces with enemy tribes as he built up his power.
The U.S. State Department, asked earlier this month whether it was in contact with Islamist rebels in Syria, said it wanted to work with a range of groups to try to persuade them to be part of the peace negotiations.
Rebels control a large region of northern and eastern Syria but have failed to unite in a single military force, allowing Assad's army to make some inroads around the northern city of Aleppo in recent weeks.
The army, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Shi'ite Iraqi fighters, has also recaptured towns and suburbs around Damascus and along the main highway north from the capital towards the central city of Homs.
Last week's Islamic Front seizure of the SMC weapons bases led the United States and Britain to suspend non-lethal aid into northern Syria. But the opposition Syrian National Coalition said on Friday that more help, not less, was desperately needed.
"We know that we have a problem, we know that we don't have the organized military institutions that we want. We know of the challenges of the loose organization of the Free Syrian Army," Coalition chief of staff Monzer Abkik said in London.
Appealing for international support to restructure the rebel forces, he said the alternative to an overhaul of their military operations was "complete chaos".
"There are many, many groups fighting the regime and fighting each other and fighting al Qaeda. It is a complete mess on the ground," he said.

US Open to Backing Syria’s Islamist Rebels

Wants Salafist Bloc to Disavow al-Qaeda

by Jason Ditz, December 13, 2013
In early October, the CIA admitted that the underlying goal of US policy is Syria is tokeep the civil war going at all costs, and that all aid to the moderate rebels were designed to try to keep them in the fight, but unable to win it.
They appear to have dramatically overestimated the moderate rebels’ capabilities, however, and now the group is virtually irrelevant in the grand scheme of thing, as the rebels are dominated by Islamist factions.
But the goal must go on, apparently, and the White House now says its open to the idea ofthrowing its support behind the Islamic Front, a Salafist group that was involved in mass kidnappings and executions earlier this week on the outskirts of Damascus.
All the US is asking is that they disavow al-Qaeda, who was also involved in those executions. It wouldn’t do for the US to be backing al-Qaeda, you see, but backing their ideological brethren so long as they’re at least nominally separate, that’s evidently fair game.
Britain raised the possibility last week as well, and was reportedly holding face-to-face meetings with Islamist leaders on the prospect of them aligning themselves with Western backers.


Why Remain in Afghanistan?

The White House is pushing hard to keep a significant number of American soldiers in Afghanistan contrary to President Barack Obama’s earlier pledge to have then all out by the end of 2014. As the United States President has demonstrated himself to be a habitual liar that failure to connect promises made in 2008 with promises broken in 2013 should surprise no one. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is resisting the effort, insisting that no such agreement be ratified until April of next year, which he well knows would be too late as the United States likely will accelerate plans to withdraw from the country completely by the end of 2014 if there is no agreement by January. Karzai, who will be leaving office next Spring and is undoubtedly looking forward to a comfortable retirement in Dubai in close proximity to the bank accounts holding all the money he stole, is quite likely relying on a continued US presence no matter what agreement is reached. Beyond that, he is playing off his various constituencies in Afghanistan in an effort to make sure that he and his family have a base of support after he leaves office – he knows that agreeing to a long term deal with Washington is unpopular and it is useful for him to appear to be a patriotic Afghan by demanding no more raids on Afghan homes and a framework for peace talks with the Taliban.
The White House’s official explanation for why the United States has to remain in Afghanistan goes something like this: al-Qaeda is still based in nearby Pakistan and is a threat that has to be dealt with. It is most practical to do so from bases inside Afghanistan, using drones and special ops resources. A small residual military presence could man the major US base at Bagram and several other drone bases around the country while helping to secure US diplomatic facilities in the capital Kabul. There are also a number of small CIA bases in Afghanistan as well as technical collection sites along the Iranian border that acquire signals intelligence relating to Iran, but they are relatively insignificant in the calculus being made regarding continued presence in Afghanistan.
As the remaining army units will not have the ability to initiate any major ground operations, the residual military force will be tasked with protecting the other components of the American presence that will not be leaving, which means the CIA facilities which operate the drones and also the diplomatic mission. The CIA bases, for both security and cover reasons, are generally embedded in military facilities, which would have to change. But the broader argument for remaining to protect those who are not leaving is somewhat shaky as the CIA will undoubtedly retain a robust armed presence inside Afghanistan and is fully capable of monitoring Pakistan while continuing drone operations. Indeed, it is more capable at those two tasks than the military because it also has a significant presence inside Pakistan itself.
The US Embassy in Kabul and whatever Consulates remain open will undoubtedly employ thousands of armed contractors as a security force, as the Baghdad Embassy did when the US Army left Iraq. For what it’s worth, all the redevelopment schemes, which have wasted billions of US taxpayer dollars will essentially be abandoned no matter what the outcome of negotiations to stay as the Embassy will not be able to maintain them without a security bubble and the NGOs that are involved will return home when the situation deteriorates, as it surely will no matter what agreement is reached.
A secondary reason for staying, which is only cited occasionally, is to protect the Afghan government itself, with US troops serving as an on-demand Praetorian Guard to keep the government from falling either to the insurgents or to other internal dissidents. Major General Robert Scales, desperately seeking and finding five somewhat overlapping reasons for staying the course that would appeal to his FOX News audience, has predicted that if NATO forces leave the country it would result in “total chaos,” akin to Iraq after the American withdrawal. American soldiers would therefore be seen as the antidote for chaos, unanticipated blowback from the policies in place over the past twelve years that have permitted the creation of the world’s most corrupt government in Kabul.
Americans who are not engaged in the groupthink that prevails in White House and inside the Beltway circles should be asking themselves whether any of the reasons being provided to justify an enduring US presence in Afghanistan make sense. Foremost is the argument about the threat coming from al-Qaeda in neighboring Pakistan. The group has, in fact, been devastated by US and Pakistani military action of various kinds since 9/11, culminating in the reported killing of Osama bin Laden. The most recent 2012 State Department annual report on terrorism hardly reveals a powerful and implacable enemy. It states that “The al-Qa’ida (AQ) core, under the direction of Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been significantly degraded as a result of ongoing worldwide efforts against the organization. Usama bin Laden’s death was the most important milestone in the fight against AQ, but there have been other successes – dozens of senior AQ leaders have been removed from the fight in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the most capable AQ operatives in South Asia, and Atiya Abdul Rahman, AQ’s second-in-command, were killed in Pakistan in 2011. AQ leaders Abu Yahya Al-Libi and Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti were killed in 2012. As a result of these leadership losses, the AQ core’s ability to direct the activities and attacks of its affiliates has diminished, as its leaders focus increasingly on survival.”
In reality, American cross border operations for the past five years have concentrated on attacking the Taliban in Pakistan, a group which has no agenda or even capability to carry out terrorist acts in the United States. So the threat of the return of al-Qaeda is more speculative than real. Would the United States actually be safer if it commits considerable resources to strike the al-Qaeda remnants in Pakistan? It would be difficult to make that case, particularly when genuine and lethal al-Qaeda affiliates have shifted their operations to places like Yemen, East Africa, Iraq and, increasingly, Syria.
So it does all comes down to propping up the Afghan government as it is now clear than no one believes that the constantly reengineered Afghan army and police are capable of defeating any opponent. Those who support that objective might argue that the presence would be temporary, i.e. taking only the time required to train local security forces to give the government breathing space to reform itself. Well, that training process has been going on for more than ten years already and is broken beyond repair. Foreign soldiers training Afghan troops carry their weapons, wear body armor, and limit their actual contact with their “allies” because they know the recruits cannot be trusted let alone relied upon. And government corruption is so institutionalized that reform is a fantasy.
Even in a worst case scenario of a Taliban takeover, no Afghan government would dare reinstall al-Qaeda as it would invite instant and massive retaliation from the United States. Because remaining in country will not lead either to government reform or national security in 2014 or any time thereafter, the intention of staying on to maintain the existing government is a fool’s game, with no real end in sight and no real objective beyond preserving the status quo, kicking the Afghanistan can down the road yet again for whoever becomes American president in 2016. The Afghans themselves clearly believe that the Taliban will somehow become at least part of their government in the near future, so it is perhaps time that Washington come to the same conclusion and cut a deal so it can stop wasting American lives and treasure on a losing cause.
A final possible reason for staying in Afghanistan is more-or-less invisible, and that would be Washington’s saving face for having killed thousands of people and wasted hundreds of billions of dollars. It would be to maintain the Obama fiction that Afghanistan is somehow a “good war.” An abrupt pullout will make it all look like another major foreign policy failure, a perception that will surely have a political fallout for 2016 after the American people realize that they have yet again been conned, as they finally concluded regarding Iraq. So I guess it all comes down to the art of obtaining power and keeping it, both in Washington and Kabul, which is not a very good reason for continuing a war that should have ended in 2002.