05/02/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

AT WAR: Roger Ailes Pans Afghan War (VIDEO)

We are blogging the latest news about America's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Email us at AfPak [at] Follow Nico on Twitter; follow Nicholas on Twitter. See archives of 'At War' here. With additional reporting by Faiz Lalani.

Fox News president pans Afghan war. Arch-conservative Roger Ailes, president of the Fox News Channel, suggests in a new interview with the National Review that there is no definition for success in Afghanistan.

I didn't think that escalating 400,000 more troops [was] warranted [during Vietnam] in a jungle where I didn't know what we were going to win. It's a little bit like Afghanistan right now. Now I understand the nuclear issue, but there is a problem -- when you send people into war, you have to tell them what they're trying to win.


As John Cook notes, Ailes' position is basically that "we are escalating a war that we cannot win because there's no definition of winning -- [which is] diametrically opposed to virtually every utterance on the subject of Afghanistan that his network has ever broadcast."

5:30 PM ET -- Pakistani militants blamed for last Friday's attacks. Afghanistan's intelligence agency is now blaming last week's series of attacks on foreigners in Kabul on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), even though the attacks were initially claimed by the Afghan Taliban.

AP reports:

The assertion that the attacks in the Afghan capital were the handiwork of Lashkar-e-Taiba - the same militants that India blames for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist assaults that killed 166 - could jeopardize recently restarted peace talks between Pakistan and India.
The Afghan Taliban insurgents already claimed responsibility for the attacks, which killed 16 people, including six Indians, after a car bomb exploded and gunmen wearing suicide vests hidden under burqas stormed residential hotels popular with foreigners. At least 56 people were wounded.

Saeed Ansari, a spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his agency has evidence that Pakistanis, specifically Lashkar-e-Taiba, were involved in the attacks. He also said one of the attackers was heard speaking Urdu, a Pakistani language.

The four attackers wore burqas to conceal their Kalashnikov rifles and suicide vests, while one stayed back in the van to detonate a bomb. Ansari dismissed the Afghan Taliban's claims for responsibility, saying that the group lacked the logistical capability and the detailed knowledge to carry out such an attack.

Last Friday's car bombing killed 17 people, many of whom were medical staff at the Indira Gandhi Hospital. The blast targeted a hotel rented by the Indian embassy where Indian doctors and nurses were staying. Now, Hoda Abdel Hamid of Al Jazeera is reporting, the entire medical staff has returned home, which means that the 500 patients the hospital saw each day will now go without medical attention.

4:00 PM ET -- Pakistani Army captures key Taliban and Al Qaeda base. Dawn reports that the Pakistani Army has captured a key Taliban and Al Qaeda base in the Bajaur region, one of the seven tribal areas of Pakistan. The army reports that during the offensive 75 militant were killed, 76 arrested, and 364 surrendered. The base served as a headquarters for militants in the region and harbored foreigners suspected of links to Al Qaeda.

3:30 PM ET -- 2/3 of Afghan police recruits drop out. According to Lieutenant General William Caldwell, the US army officer in charge of training Afghanistan's new security forces, the current attrition rate of 67 percent among police was "far too high," AFP reports. Caldwell said the task of training the police force was proving to be far more difficult than training the Afghan army.

1:50 PM ET -- In Marja, as combat winds down, new government steps in. Gen. McChrystal, along with Afghanistan's second vice-president and other high-ranking officials, landed in Marja on Monday to assess the situation and mark the end of the combat part of the offensive. McChrystal contended that while combat operations were not entirely completed, it was now time to establish a new governance structure in the former Taliban stronghold. But as the U.S. and its Afghan partners try to put in place a legitimate government, they face many challenges.

From the Washington Post:

"[S]kepticism toward the government runs deep among many Afghans, and many see the police in particular as a corrupt and predatory organization. Some in Marja are angry about damage to homes and fields during the fighting. One elderly Afghan man with a long white beard approached Khalili after his talk and began shouting that his home had been destroyed in the operation. Khalili stood silent as the man went on, then told him that his home was too close to the road, according to a translation of his remarks.

Joshua Foust at World Politics Review argues that the long term task of building a government in the area will be a hard one. Collecting taxes, fighting corruption, and protecting property rights--these are just some of the hurdles the new governor, Haji Zahir, faces, Foust writes. The previous government was so notoriously abusive and corrupt--beheading those who refused to pay bribes, for instance--that the locals turned to the Taliban for protection. Foust worries that if the U.S. doesn't establish a functioning government, "the West will have to remain in Marjah, and Afghanistan, forever."

1:40 PM ET -- Why Baradar remains in Pakistan custody. While Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar's capture in Karachi two weeks ago elicited cautious optimism among American officials and analysts, Pakistan's refusal to extradite the second highest ranking Taliban leader to the Afghan government has "dealt a serious blow to the Barack Obama administration's hopes for Pakistani cooperation in weakening the Taliban," writes IPS' Gareth Porter. Porter speculates that Pakistan is holding on to Baradar in an attempt to bolster its influence over peace negotiations with the Taliban. Pakistan hopes to secure a permanent settlement in Afghanistan that would keep pro-Pakistani elements in power. It has even limited the Central Intelligence Agency's access to the detainee--a move that, Porter believes, will allow Pakistan to control the pace of negotiations.

The primary evidence of the Pakistani military leadership's intentions is the Pakistani refusal to allow the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to question Baradar in the days following his initial detention, as revealed by the New York Times on Feb. 18, and the Los Angeles Times the following day. The CIA was denied direct access to Baradar for "about two weeks", according to the Los Angeles Times story.

The view from Pakistan is, however, different. The Nation reports that Baradar's extradition was blocked by the Lahore High Court, Punjab province's top court. A petition filed by Khalid Khawaja, a human rights campaigner, challenged the Pakistani government's initial plan to send Baradar to Afghanistan, where he would be potentially interrogated by both Afghan and American officials. The petition halted the extradition of not only Baradar but many other suspected militants in Pakistani custody.

From the Nation:

"[Khawaja's] counsel Tariq Asad contended that the detenus were nabbed in a joint American and Pakistani agencies raid on February 16 from different parts of Pakistan. They include Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's senior military commander and a close friend of Mullah Omar, Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban's unofficial political chief in Kunduz, acting also as the group's senior military commander, Maulvi Kabeer, the Governor of Nangahar province East of Kabul during the Taliban regime, Mullah Muhammad of Baghlan and Ameer Muawiyia, described as the Taliban's liaison officer for al-Qaeda militants based in Pakistan's Tribal Areas, close to the Afghan border."

The Lahore High Court has given the government until March 15 to reply to the court on the matter.

11:55 AM ET -- Militant leader killed in Pakistan. An U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's tribal areas killed Qari Mohammed Zafar, the head of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (JeV), the BBC reports. Zafar and the JeV, which has close links with Al Qaeda, are suspected of militant attacks in Karachi and of involvement in the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl. The group is also believed to have been behind the string of attacks against Pakistani military installations in 2009. Zafar was killed on February 24, 2010, but the group only revealed this to the BBC recently. Mufti Abuzar Khanjari succeeds Qari Mohammed Zafar as head of the banned militant organization.

11:20 AM ET -- Quick Reaction Force to protect U.S. officials in Pakistan. DawnNews reports that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Pakistan has requested $22.9 million from Congress to fund a Quick Reaction Force intended to protect the U.S Embassy in Islamabad and the U.S. Consulate in Karachi. The force would be charged with protecting American diplomatic personnel and property from terrorist attacks. The U.S Consulate in Karachi has been attacked by militants thrice since 2002.

From DawnNews:

As part of the program, [the U.S] will deploy 25 additional special protective specialists and 4 diplomatic security agents at its missions in Pakistan.

The proposed force will provide the regional security officer, a special agent in charge of security at a US Embassy, the capability of defending the Embassy and Consulate compounds against attacks from terrorists.

However, the Quick Reaction Force is expected to raise concerns. In the past, U.S. consular officials and their security personnel have been harassed by Pakistani officials and have been the subject of much controversy because of their specific security measures.

10:10 AM ET -- UK soldier killed. Britain's Ministry of Defence says a solider was killed by small arms fire in Helmand province.

10:00 AM ET -- Afghanistan government denies reports of media ban. Conflicting reports are emerging from Kabul about the Afghan government's apparent new ban on live media coverage of Taliban attacks. Reuters reported yesterday that the move was intended to prevent emboldening militants, who may use such coverage for propaganda. The ban was announced by Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS). But the president's spokesman, Waheed Omar, contradicted that message today, saying that the government hadn't issued a ban on such coverage. Although the government was concerned that the militants were using the media to give instructions to fellow insurgents, and that live filming may threaten the lives of journalists, the Afghan government was not going to impose a banl it will instead issue guidelines for journalists, he said.

{In addition to thwarting the goals of militants, Omar said the guidelines also would serve to protect journalists at the scene of attacks.

"These are the two things we'd like to address with the cooperation of the media," Omar said. "We hope that can happen through a mechanism that doesn't restrict anyone's access to information or restrict the presence of media on the scene."

Kabul cannot legally ban or restrict media coverage, noted the head of the Afghan Independent Journalists Association, Rahimullah Samandar. Thus far, journalists have not received any written notices, and still maintain the right to cover all events in the country.