Muslim Terrorist pleads guilty to plotting to kill President Obama

Mon, 2012-02-13 08:41 AM

Ulugbek Kodirov

A 22-year-old Uzbek national pleaded guilty in federal court on Feb. 10 to trying to kill the president and to supporting an Uzbek terror group.

Ulugbek Kodirov, who has been in the U.S. since overstaying a student visa in 2009, pleaded guilty to charges of threatening to kill President Obama, possession of an illegal weapon and supporting the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is a U.S.-designated terror group.

Kodirov’s plea comes as several other Uzbeks have either been designated as global terrorists or have been arrested on terror charges in the U.S. In late January, federal agents arrested Jamshid Muhtorov, 35, at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on charges of providing and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which is a designated foreign terrorist organization. Three days later, the U.S. State Department designated brothers Yassin and Monir Chouka and Mevlut Kar as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, saying the Chouka brothers were fighters, recruiters, facilitators and propagandists for the IMU, while Kar is a facilitator and recruiter for the IJU.

Kodirov had been indicted by a federal grand jury on the presidential threat and terror charges in July 2011 after he tried to obtain an automatic weapon to kill the president in a federal undercover operation that had been spurred by confidential informants.

Federal prosecutors praised the Birmingham, AL Muslim community for helping law enforcement identify and arrest Kodirov. Kodirov was “self radicalized” and had viewed Islamist Web sites and had sought out “like-minded” individuals, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said after the plea.

In his plea, Kodirov admitted he had been in communication with an individual whom he believed to be a member of the IMU and interpreted the conversations to mean that he should kill President Obama. Court documents also said Kodirov showed jihadist Web sites and videos on his computer to another individual and told that person that he wanted to assist others in jihad overseas.

Kodirov admitted to having lengthy conversations last July with another unidentified individual about his desire to kill President Obama and ways to carry out an assassination. That individual, said court documents, traveled to Birmingham, AL to meet Kodirov and introduced him to an undercover agent, from whom Kodirov intended to obtain weapons he would use to kill the president.

The three men met on July 13, 2011, at a motel in Leeds, AL, said the documents. During the meeting, the undercover agent offered a fully-automatic Sendra Corporation Model M15-A1 machine gun, a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight and four disassembled hand grenades and asked Kodirov if he would like to use any of them to “carry out his plan to kill the President.”  Kodirov chose the machine gun and the hand grenades and left the meeting with the weapons. Agents arrested Kodirov before he left the motel.

Kodirov had entered the U.S. on a student visa in June 2009, but it was revoked on April 1, 2010, when he failed to enroll in school. After that, he was living unlawfully in the country and was holed up in an extended-stay motel in Pelham, AL, at the time of his arrest.

He faces maximum prison sentences of 15 years on the terrorism charge, five years on the charge of threatening the president and 10 years on the charge of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm. Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

 The FBI, ATF, HSI and Secret Service investigated the case.

“Today, Ulugbek Kodirov became the first person to be convicted of providing material support to terrorist activity in this district,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. “Kodirov was apprehended during an undercover operation in which he was attempting to obtain weapons and explosives that he intended to use to kill the President of the United States. Effective action by law enforcement protected our community and potentially our country,” she said.

“I also want to express my appreciation to the Muslim community of Birmingham, which was instrumental in helping law enforcement shut down this threat,” Vance said.

 

 
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Afghanistan: Slave Nation

They believe in a religion that is grounded in the 13th century.
If someone insults the pope, he doesn’t send people out to kill you.
If you insult a Rabbi he doesn’t send people out to blow you up.
These people do.
Their beliefs haven’t evolved like Christianity and Judaism.
Those two are thousands of years old.
Islam is 700 years old.
A guy, usually a minority, gets drawn into or is a member of the community of Islam and typically is doing okay in America, then he has marital problems, and financial problems.
He gets depressed and wants to die, and rather than die a loser, he can die as a hero.
They convince themselves that they are acting as weapons of Islam.
We kill some Muslims in Afghanistan and they try to kill some of us.
Sometimes they use this as an excuse for their own failures .
Sometimes their frame of mind is, “They killed a hundred of us, in this or that village so we are going to kill a hundred of them.”
We need to fight these Jihadi with power and vigor.
We have to be honest with each other, Islam, or at least a significant portion of it, has declared those who don’t follow their religion to be the enemy.
They don’t wish to be brought into the 21st Century, they think the 13th century was better.
They see influence with their atavistic religion as blasphemy.
Their beliefs codify oppression of Jews and Christians, and returning woman to the “good old days”, when one could beat and rape his wife, and she was a slave.
That’s the bottom line.
As you can plainly see in Afghanistan and Gaza, when this portion of Islam gains power they are brutal to the extreme.
To me, however, the most obvious crimes of these Islamic  Republican Governments or regimes is their treatment of women.
The religion is primitive
We have to fight them, but I do think one idea might help a little.
We should change our role in Afghanistan to where we are bombing less and causing less casualties.
We should, the civilized world, tell the Muslim countries that are brutalizing and enslaving women, that this is a crime, and we are not  going to tolerate it.
The burka is not a fashion statement, it is a sign if inferiority, a sign of submission.
In Afghanistan women are forced to wear burkas that cover them head to foot, with a small gauze outlet, so that a man can’t get a good look at her eyes and be tempted to rape her.
Their have been women in Islamic countries that have been sentenced to be publicly whipped, after reporting a rape.
Because Islamic judges determined that the women in question seduced the rapist by, perhaps a glimpse of hair, or not having the gauze over her eyes, or dancing.
Some people have said to me, “Well, that’s their custom, it’s not up to us to make them change their customs.”
If their customs allow them to brutalize woman and girls, and basically prevent a female from having any opportunities in life other than having babies on demand, and their customs allow men to beat women for whatever reason,
We have every right in the world to interfere.
We have the duty to interfere.
Women’s groups in Afghanistan have ask for protection, what the military calls security.
There are stories of barbarians overpowering civilizations because the civilized countries didn’t realize the nature of the threat from the barbarians.
They attack us in Gaza and from Gaza, and the world hears about the  “quaint Arab chieftains” of Hamas suffering under our oppression.
One important factor in our thinking should be a consideration of what the impact of casualties will be over time.
A certain amount of innocent people will be killed in any type of warfare, what is the impact of that going to be?
Imagine you are sitting at home, you haven’t done anything harmful, and suddenly a missile crashes through your roof and wipes out half your family.
Then you walk up and down the street, and your neighbors homes have been bombed too.
People are killed and crippled all around you.
Then imagine the military shows up and says, “Well, we were after so and so, and to get to him we had to soften up this area. Sorry. It’s for a good cause.”
Or, “We shelled your house by mistake.”
I’m just wondering, will we be creating as many terrorists as we kill?
I’m just wondering what the ratio would be, 10 terrorists for every innocent person we shell?
Less or more?
Afghanistan is asymmetrical warfare, we are not going to conquer the Radical Islamicists in the usual sense of the word.
What we may need to do in Afghanistan is change the focus of the mission from killing Taliban members to protecting the people of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan women’s groups have asked for security, for protection of the schools where girls are learning, for the first time in their lives, many of them.
They have been told that we can’t afford it, or in the words of one Congressman, “We expect you to take care of that yourselves.”
If we were dealing directly with women’s rights, at least the women of Afghanistan would support us.
Slavery is wrong, whether the slave is black or white or male or female.
The literal enslavement of women in Afghanistan  is a horror that goes unremarked upon for the most part.
I saw an interview with an Afghanistani woman recently, she had 8 kids, she didn’t want anymore, but her husband did.
She was asked, “Who will make the decision?”
She pointed to her husband and said, “He does. We have no choice.”
The  reporter, a woman, asked, “Do you know what rape is?”
The woman’s eyes grew large, and she looked uncomprehending, “No.” she answered, quietly.
This abuse of human beings should be stopped.
That should be the focus of our efforts in Afghanistan.

Are feminists in love with the surge?

In Afghanistan, the Taliban nailed a 70-year-old woman to a tree for allegedly talking with the enemy.

Human rights violations widespread across Afghanistan
Human rights violations are widespread across Afghanistan

The struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan is a struggle for Human Rights.
Please check out this site for further information and videos on Afghan Women who are heroically waging this battle.   Michael
Earlier this week, Dana Goldstein, writing for the Daily Beast, explored “the left’s latest divide,” pitting feminists and nation-builders against antiwar sentiment. But where does this leave Afghan women?
Goldstein bases a large portion of her piece around the argument of women’s rights activists who explain that leaving Afghan women is not part of the deal. Using Obama’s Afghanistan strategy speech as a springboard, organizations like the Feminist Majority Foundation are raising their voices in support for continued engagement in the country for the benefit of women. Not everyone is an enthusiastic about our prospects. Goldstein explains:
Other progressives, though, say the women’s rights activists are naïve, and have failed to grapple with the fact that feminism was never more than a rhetorical ploy in debates about the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, whose real goal has always been to root out al Qaeda. They also point to the occupation’s high cost in dollar terms, as well as the American public’s limited tolerance for foreign wars. A recent Pew poll found that isolationist sentiment is at a four-decade high.
Even if the administration was willing to commit to a nation-building project in Afghanistan, it would be with an Afghan partner whose own record on women’s issues is mixed at best. Though President Hamid Karzai recently signed the new Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women-which ups the penalties for rape, domestic violence, and child marriage-he also supported, earlier this year, the Shia Family Law, which subjected women in the Shia minority group to a number of discriminatory laws, including rules regarding when they can and cannot leave home unaccompanied by a man. Karzai has also made political alliances with warlords who hold regressive opinions on women’s rights.
There is good reason to be worried about women. According to the Human Rights Watch:
Eight years after the Taliban were ousted from power, rapists are often protected from prosecution, women can still be arrested for running away from home, and girls have far less access to schools than boys, the report says.
With the insurgency strengthening in the south and making inroads into the north, the few gains made for women’s rights since the US-led invasion of 2001 could be further eroded if Hamid Karzai’s government and the international community push for peace talks with factions of the fundamentalist movement.
Elenor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Helen Cho, a board member for the Feminist Majority foundation, co-penned a piece in the Huffington Post, arguing that securing women’s rights would call for a lot more investment in the region.
[M]ake no mistake. Afghanistan is in terrible shape. The Taliban have gradually returned. Nothing is as it should be, which is why we are asking for no less than a Marshall Plan to rebuild Afghanistan, the same way we did for Germany and Japan after World War II. Afghanistan’s water, sewage, electrical, and their once proud hospital systems have been all but destroyed by 30 years of war. We bombed it. We have an obligation to rebuild it.
Though we’d prefer that all U.S. funding be spent on development aid, we cannot in good conscience advocate the immediate military pullout that some are suggesting. The 2009 UN Humanitarian Action Plan noted that in 2008, “Approximately 40% of the country, including much of the South, remains inaccessible for most humanitarian organizations.” Last year, 92 aid workers were abducted and 36 were killed, double the number from 2007. In recent public opinion polls, Afghans put security in their top three concerns right after food. Without stabilizing the country, there can be no significant redevelopment effort.
In March, President Obama announced a significant change in the Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy. He shifted the focus from Iraq to this troubled region not a moment too soon. The Taliban had taken over the Swat Valley in Pakistan and were within 100 miles of its capital. In case anyone was wondering if the Taliban had changed its ways, they promptly closed girls’ schools, began flogging young women publicly, and committed other atrocities. In Afghanistan, the Taliban nailed a 70-year-old woman to a tree for allegedly talking with the enemy.
The new administration’s strategy recognizes the need for development and reconstruction. The military appears to be changing its priorities, announcing that protection of civilians is their first priority. Virtually everyone knows that a military solution alone won’t work. Yet, we cannot ignore that security and the Taliban are among Afghans’ top concerns.
Linda Bereystein, investigative journalist, points to a different perspective on her blog.
Westerners usually frame the debate over U.S./NATO policy in Afghanistan is usually framed as a choice between handing the country back to the Taliban or propping up the Karzai regime. The latter is assumed to be a dramatically better option for women’s rights.
Karzai pays lip service to women’s rights, but jettisons them whenever they need to make a compromise to stay in power. It should be noted that the Karzai government was responsible for the infamous Shia Family Law which legalized marital rape within Shia marriages.
Last month, Malalai Joya, a former member of the Afghan parliament, told Michelle Goldberg of the Daily Beast that the situation for Afghan women is every bit as bad under Karzai as it was under the Taliban. Joya is also concerned that civilian casualties are fueling popular support for the Taliban.
RAWA and its grassroots allies think that pro-democracy forces could transform the country on their own without U.S. military occupation. That’s a point of view we seldom hear in U.S. media.
I don’t know how realistic it is to think that pro-democracy forces could prevail against warlords and the Taliban, but the question hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as the issue of whether the U.S. could force reform at gunpoint. Maybe RAWA and its allies would have a better shot at power if the occupation wasn’t shoveling billions of dollars to the most reactionary elements in society.
Over on GritTV, a woman known as Zoya, representing RAWA, outlines many of the issues with our current strategy in Afghanistan. After 30 years of war, Zoya discusses how the US occupation is still undermining Afghanistan, by propping up some terrorist groups to pursue others. After regretfully admitting the most realistic options for many women if Afghanistan were either leaving the country or suicide, Zoya explains why she was motivated to join RAWA and describes how Afghanistan needs a resolution.
Zoya:
These videos that your are showing about the rape and domestic violence against women, [is happening] under the domination of the United States. It’s a time when thousands of troops are present. It’s a time that [troops and groups from] more than 40 foreign countries are inside the country. […]These things are [still] happening daily. This is the proof that America cannot do anything. The only solution – that RAWA was always saying – is that domestic violence [always depends] on political situations. It very much depends and relates to that. So as long as we don’t have a democratic government, who cares for women’s rights, how can we expect rights and the liberation of women?
Zoya explains that there are other alternatives to occupation, like helping to disarm the various factions that are fighting for dominance. She challenges Americans to rise up and tell the government to stop supporting warlords and criminals. She believes this is the best way to help, saying:
If you cannot to help us, leave us. But if you want to help us, the first help is to remove all these fundamentalist, these viruses that the United States government created for Afghanistan.
Send an email to Latoya, the author of this post, at latoya@racialicious.com.

President Obama: How He Came To Decision On Afghanistan

This is a fascinating analysis of President Obama’s thinking regarding the War in Afghanistan.

MB

President Obama paying respects to fallen soldiers

By PETER BAKER

WASHINGTON — On the afternoon he held the eighth meeting of his Afghanistan review, President Obama arrived in the White House Situation Room ruminating about war. He had come from Arlington National Cemetery, where he had wandered among the chalky white tombstones of those who had fallen in the rugged mountains of Central Asia.
How much their sacrifice weighed on him that Veterans Day last month, he did not say. But his advisers say he was haunted by the human toll as he wrestled with what to do about the eight-year-old war. Just a month earlier, he had mentioned to them his visits to wounded soldiers at the Army hospital in Washington. “I don’t want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight years,” he said then.
The economic cost was troubling him as well after he received a private budget memo estimating that an expanded presence would cost $1 trillion over 10 years, roughly the same as his health care plan.
Now as his top military adviser ran through a slide show of options, Mr. Obama expressed frustration. He held up a chart showing how reinforcements would flow into Afghanistan over 18 months and eventually begin to pull out, a bell curve that meant American forces would be there for years to come.
“I want this pushed to the left,” he told advisers, pointing to the bell curve. In other words, the troops should be in sooner, then out sooner.
When the history of the Obama presidency is written, that day with the chart may prove to be a turning point, the moment a young commander in chief set in motion a high-stakes gamble to turn around a losing war. By moving the bell curve to the left, Mr. Obama decided to send 30,000 troops mostly in the next six months and then begin pulling them out a year after that, betting that a quick jolt of extra forces could knock the enemy back on its heels enough for the Afghans to take over the fight.
The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House — intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved. It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president described by one participant as something “between a college professor and a gentle cross-examiner.”
Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of pages of documents.
This account of how the president reached his decision is based on dozens of interviews with participants as well as a review of notes some of them took during Mr. Obama’s 10 meetings with his national security team. Most of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, but their accounts have been matched against those of other participants wherever possible.
Mr. Obama devoted so much time to the Afghan issue — nearly 11 hours on the day after Thanksgiving alone — that he joked, “I’ve got more deeply in the weeds than a president should, and now you guys need to solve this.” He invited competing voices to debate in front of him, while guarding his own thoughts. Even David Axelrod, arguably his closest adviser, did not know where Mr. Obama would come out until just before Thanksgiving.
With the result uncertain, the outsize personalities on his team vied for his favor, sometimes sharply disagreeing as they made their arguments. The White House suspected the military of leaking details of the review to put pressure on the president. The military and the State Department suspected the White House of leaking to undercut the case for more troops. The president erupted at the leaks with an anger advisers had rarely seen, but he did little to shut down the public clash within his own government.
“The president welcomed a full range of opinions and invited contrary points of view,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview last month. “And I thought it was a very healthy experience because people took him up on it. And one thing we didn’t want — to have a decision made and then have somebody say, ‘Oh, by the way.’ No, come forward now or forever hold your peace.”
The decision represents a complicated evolution in Mr. Obama’s thinking. He began the process clearly skeptical of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops, but the more he learned about the consequences of failure, and the more he narrowed the mission, the more he gravitated toward a robust if temporary buildup, guided in particular by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
Yet even now, he appears ambivalent about what some call “Obama’s war.” Just two weeks before General McChrystal warned of failure at the end of August, Mr. Obama described Afghanistan as a “war of necessity.” When he announced his new strategy last week, those words were nowhere to be found. Instead, while recommitting to the war onAl Qaeda, he made clear that the larger struggle for Afghanistan had to be balanced against the cost in blood and treasure and brought to an end.
Aides, though, said the arduous review gave Mr. Obama comfort that he had found the best course he could. “The process was exhaustive, but any time you get the president of the United States to devote 25 hours, anytime you get that kind of commitment, you know it was serious business,” said Gen. James L. Jones, the president’s national security adviser. “From the very first meeting, everyone started with set opinions. And no opinion was the same by the end of the process.”
Taking Control of a War
Mr. Obama ran for president supportive of the so-called good war in Afghanistan and vowing to send more troops, but he talked about it primarily as a way of attacking Republicans for diverting resources to Iraq, which he described as a war of choice. Only after taking office, as casualties mounted and the Taliban gained momentum, did Mr. Obama really begin to confront what to do.
Even before completing a review of the war, he ordered the military to send 21,000 more troops there, bringing the force to 68,000. But tension between the White House and the military soon emerged when General Jones, a retired Marine four-star general, traveled to Afghanistan in the summer and was surprised to hear officers already talking about more troops. He made it clear that no more troops were in the offing.
With the approach of Afghanistan’s presidential election in August, Mr. Obama’s two new envoys — Richard C. Holbrooke, the president’s special representative to the region, and Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired commander of troops in Afghanistan now serving as ambassador — warned of trouble, including the possibility of angry Afghans marching on the American Embassy or outright civil war.
“There are 10 ways this can turn out,” one administration official said, summing up the envoys’ presentation, “and 9 of them are messy.”
The worst did not happen, but widespread fraud tainted the election and shocked some in the White House as they realized that their partner in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, was hopelessly compromised in terms of public credibility.
At the same time, the Taliban kept making gains. The Central Intelligence Agency drew up detailed maps in August charting the steady progression of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, maps that would later be used extensively during the president’s review. General McChrystal submitted his own dire assessment of the situation, warning of “mission failure” without a fresh infusion of troops.
While General McChrystal did not submit a specific troop request at that point, the White House knew it was coming and set out to figure out what to do. General Jones organized a series of meetings that he envisioned lasting a few weeks. Before each one, he convened a rehearsal session to impose discipline — “get rid of the chaff,” one official put it — that included Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gates and other cabinet-level officials. Mr. Biden made a practice of writing a separate private memo to Mr. Obama before each meeting, outlining his thoughts.
The first meeting with the president took place on Sept. 13, a Sunday, and was not disclosed to the public that day. For hours, Mr. Obama and his top advisers pored through intelligence reports.
Unsatisfied, the president posed a series of questions: Does America need to defeat the Taliban to defeat Al Qaeda? Can a counterinsurgency strategy work in Afghanistan given the problems with its government? If the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, would nuclear-armed Pakistan be next?
The deep skepticism he expressed at that opening session was reinforced by Mr. Biden, who rushed back overnight from a California trip to participate. Just as he had done in the spring, Mr. Biden expressed opposition to an expansive strategy requiring a big troop influx. Instead, he put an alternative on the table — rather than focus on nation building and population protection, do more to disrupt the Taliban, improve the quality of the training of Afghan forces and expand reconciliation efforts to peel off some Taliban fighters.
Mr. Biden quickly became the most outspoken critic of the expected McChrystal troop request, arguing that Pakistan was the bigger priority, since that is where Al Qaeda is mainly based. “He was the bull in the china shop,” said one admiring administration official.
But others were nodding their heads at some of what he was saying, too, including General Jones and Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.
A Review Becomes News
The quiet review burst into public view when General McChrystal’s secret report was leaked to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post a week after the first meeting. The general’s grim assessment jolted Washington and lent urgency to the question of what to do to avoid defeat in Afghanistan.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the regional commander, secretly flew to an American air base in Germany for a four-hour meeting with General McChrystal on Sept. 25. He handed them his troop request on paper — there were no electronic versions and barely 20 copies in all.
The request outlined three options for different missions: sending 80,000 more troops to conduct a robust counterinsurgency campaign throughout the country; 40,000 troops to reinforce the southern and eastern areas where the Taliban are strongest; or 10,000 to 15,000 troops mainly to train Afghan forces.
General Petraeus took one copy, while Admiral Mullen took two back to Washington and dropped one off at Mr. Gates’s home next to his in a small military compound in Washington. But no one sent the document to the White House, intending to process it through the Pentagon review first.
Mr. Obama was focused on another report. At 10 p.m. on Sept. 29, he called over from the White House residence to the West Wing to ask for a copy of the first Afghanistan strategy he approved in March to ramp up the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban while increasing civilian assistance. A deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, brought him a copy to reread overnight. When his national security team met the next day, Mr. Obama complained that elements of that plan had never been enacted.
The group went over the McChrystal assessment and drilled in on what the core goal should be. Some thought that General McChrystal interpreted the March strategy more ambitiously than it was intended to be. Mr. Biden asked tough questions about whether there was any intelligence showing that the Taliban posed a threat to American territory. But Mr. Obama also firmly closed the door on any withdrawal. “I just want to say right now, I want to take off the table that we’re leaving Afghanistan,” he told his advisers.
Tension with the military had been simmering since the leak of the McChrystal report, which some in the White House took as an attempt to box in the president. The friction intensified on Oct. 1 when the general was asked after a speech in London whether a narrower mission, like the one Mr. Biden proposed, would succeed. “The short answer is no,” he said.
White House officials were furious, and Mr. Gates publicly scolded advisers who did not keep their advice to the president private. The furor rattled General McChrystal, who, unlike General Petraeus, was not a savvy Washington operator. And it stunned others in the military, who were at first “bewildered by how over the top the reaction was from the White House,” as one military official put it.
It also proved to be what one review participant called a “head-snapping” moment of revelation for the military. The president, they suddenly realized, was not simply updating his previous strategy but essentially starting over from scratch.
The episode underscored the uneasy relationship between the military and a new president who, aides said, was determined not to be as deferential as he believed his predecessor,George W. Bush, was for years in Iraq. And the military needed to adjust to a less experienced but more skeptical commander in chief. “We’d been chugging along for eight years under an administration that had become very adept at managing war in a certain way,” said another military official.
Moreover, Mr. Obama had read “Lessons in Disaster,” Gordon M. Goldstein’s book on the Vietnam War. The book had become a must read in the West Wing after Mr. Emanuel had dinner over the summer at the house of another deputy national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and wandered into his library to ask what he should be reading.
Among the conclusions that Mr. Donilon and the White House team drew from the book was that both President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson failed to question the underlying assumption about monolithic Communism and the domino theory — clearly driving the Obama advisers to rethink the nature of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The Pakistan Question
While public attention focused on Afghanistan, some of the most intensive discussion focused on the country where Mr. Obama could send no troops — Pakistan. Pushed in particular by Mrs. Clinton, the president’s team explored the links between the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, and Mr. Obama told aides that it did not matter how many troops were sent to Afghanistan if Pakistan remained a haven.
Many of the intelligence reports ordered by the White House during the review dealt with Pakistan’s stability and whether its military and intelligence services were now committed to the fight or secretly still supporting Taliban factions. According to two officials, there was a study of the potential vulnerability of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, posing questions about potential insider threats and control of the warheads if the Pakistani government fell.
Mr. Obama and his advisers also considered options for stepping up the pursuit of extremists in Pakistan’s border areas. He eventually approved a C.I.A. request to expand the areas where remotely piloted aircraft could strike, and other covert action. The trick would be getting Pakistani consent, which still has not been granted.
On Oct. 9, Mr. Obama and his team reviewed General McChrystal’s troop proposals for the first time. Some in the White House were surprised by the numbers, assuming there would be a middle ground between 10,000 and 40,000.
“Why wasn’t there a 25 number?” one senior administration official asked in an interview. He then answered his own question: “It would have been too tempting.”
Mr. Gates and others talked about the limits of the American ability to actually defeat the Taliban; they were an indigenous force in Afghan society, part of the political fabric. This was a view shared by others around the table, including Leon E. Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., who argued that the Taliban could not be defeated as such and so the goal should be to drive wedges between those who could be reconciled with the Afghan government and those who could not be.
With Mr. Biden leading the skeptics, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen increasingly aligned behind a more robust force. Mrs. Clinton wanted to make sure she was a formidable player in the process. “She was determined that her briefing books would be just as thick and just as meticulous as those of the Pentagon,” said one senior adviser. She asked hard questions about Afghan troop training, unafraid of wading into Pentagon territory.
After a meeting where the Pentagon made a presentation with impressive color-coded maps, Mrs. Clinton returned to the State Department and told her aides, “We need maps,” as one recalled. She was overseas during the next meeting on Oct. 14, when aides used her new maps to show civilian efforts but she participated with headphones on from her government plane flying back from Russia.
Mr. Gates was a seasoned hand at such reviews, having served eight presidents and cycled in and out of the Situation Room since the days when it was served by a battery of fax machines. Like Mrs. Clinton, he was sympathetic to General McChrystal’s request, having resolved his initial concern that a buildup would fuel resentment the way the disastrous Soviet occupation of Afghanistan did in the 1980s.
But Mr. Gates’s low-wattage exterior masks a wily inside player, and he knew enough to keep his counsel early in the process to let it play out more first. “When to speak is important to him; when to signal is important to him,” said a senior Defense Department official.
On Oct. 22, the National Security Council produced what one official called a “consensus memo,” much of which originated out of the defense secretary’s office, concluding that the United States should focus on diminishing the Taliban insurgency but not destroying it; building up certain critical ministries; and transferring authority to Afghan security forces.
There was no consensus yet on troop numbers, however, so Mr. Obama called a smaller group of advisers together on Oct. 26 to finally press Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gates. Mrs. Clinton made it clear that she was comfortable with General McChrystal’s request for 40,000 troops or something close to it; Mr. Gates also favored a big force.
Mr. Obama was leery. He had received a memo the day before from the Office of Management and Budget projecting that General McChrystal’s full 40,000-troop request on top of the existing deployment and reconstruction efforts would cost $1 trillion from 2010 to 2020, an adviser said. The president seemed in sticker shock, watching his domestic agenda vanishing in front of him. “This is a 10-year, trillion-dollar effort and does not match up with our interests,” he said.
Still, for the first time, he made it clear that he was ready to send more troops if a strategy could be found to ensure that it was not an endless war. He indicated that the Taliban had to be beaten back. “What do we need to break their momentum?” he asked.
Four days later, at a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 30, he emphasized the need for speed. “Why can’t I get the troops in faster?” he asked. If they were going to do this, he concluded, it only made sense to do this quickly, to have impact and keep the war from dragging on forever. “This is America’s war,” he said. “But I don’t want to make an open-ended commitment.”
Bridging the Differences
Now that he had a sense of where Mr. Obama was heading, Mr. Gates began shaping a plan that would bridge the differences. He developed a 30,000-troop option that would give General McChrystal the bulk of his request, reasoning that NATO could make up most of the difference.
“If people are having trouble swallowing 40, let’s see if we can make this smaller and easier to swallow and still give the commander what he needs,” a senior Defense official said, summarizing the secretary’s thinking.
The plan, called Option 2A, was presented to the president on Nov. 11. Mr. Obama complained that the bell curve would take 18 months to get all the troops in place.
He turned to General Petraeus and asked him how long it took to get the so-called surge troops he commanded in Iraq in 2007. That was six months.
“What I’m looking for is a surge,” Mr. Obama said. “This has to be a surge.”
That represented a contrast from when Mr. Obama, as a presidential candidate, staunchly opposed President Bush’s buildup in Iraq. But unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama wanted from the start to speed up a withdrawal as well. The military was told to come up with a plan to send troops quickly and then begin bringing them home quickly.
And in another twist, Mr. Obama, who campaigned as an apostle of transparency and had been announcing each Situation Room meeting publicly and even releasing pictures, was livid that details of the discussions were leaking out.
“What I’m not going to tolerate is you talking to the press outside of this room,” he scolded his advisers. “It’s a disservice to the process, to the country and to the men and women of the military.”
His advisers sat in uncomfortable silence. That very afternoon, someone leaked word of a cable sent by Ambassador Eikenberry from Kabul expressing reservations about a large buildup of forces as long as the Karzai government remained unreformed. At one of their meetings, General Petraeus had told Mr. Obama to think of elements of the Karzai government like “a crime syndicate.” Ambassador Eikenberry was suggesting, in effect, that America could not get in bed with the mob.
The leak of Ambassador Eikenberry’s Nov. 6 cable stirred another storm within the administration because the cable had been requested by the White House. The National Security Council had told the ambassador to put his views in writing. But someone else then passed word of the cable to reporters in what some in the process took to be a calculated attempt to head off a big troop buildup.
The cable stunned some in the military. The reaction at the Pentagon, said one official, was “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” — military slang for an expression of shock. Among the officers caught off guard were General McChrystal and his staff, for whom the cable was “a complete surprise,” said another official, even though the commander and the ambassador meet three times a week.
A Presidential Order
By this point, the idea of some sort of time frame was taking on momentum. Mrs. Clinton talked to Mr. Karzai before the Afghan leader’s inauguration to a second term. She suggested that he use his speech to outline a schedule for taking over security of the country.
Mr. Karzai did just that, declaring that Afghan forces directed by Kabul would take charge of securing population centers in three years and the whole country in five. His pronouncement, orchestrated partly by Mrs. Clinton and diplomats in Kabul, provided a predicate for Mr. Obama to set out his own time frame.
The president gathered his team in the Situation Room at 8:15 p.m. on Nov. 23, the unusual nighttime hour adding to what one participant called a momentous wartime feeling. The room was strewn with coffee cups and soda cans.
Mr. Obama presented a revised version of Option 2A, this one titled “Max Leverage,” pushing 30,000 troops into Afghanistan by mid-2010 and beginning to pull them out by July 2011. Admiral Mullen came up with the date at the direction of Mr. Obama, despite some misgivings from the Pentagon about setting a time frame for a withdrawal. The date was two years from the arrival of the first reinforcements Mr. Obama sent shortly after taking office. Mr. Biden had written a memo before the meeting talking about the need for “proof of concept” — in other words, two years ought to be enough for extra troops to demonstrate whether a buildup would work.
The president went around the room asking for opinions. Mr. Biden again expressed skepticism, even at this late hour when the tide had turned against him in terms of the troop number. But he had succeeded in narrowing the scope of the mission to protect population centers and setting the date to begin withdrawal. Others around the table concurred with the plan. Mr. Obama spoke last, but still somewhat elliptically. Some advisers said they walked out into the night after 10 p.m., uncertain whether the president had actually endorsed the Max Leverage option or was just testing for reaction.
Two days later, Mr. Obama met with Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker and a critic of the Afghan war. The president outlined his plans for the buildup without disclosing specific numbers. Ms. Pelosi was unenthusiastic and pointedly told the president that he could not rely on Democrats alone to pass financing for the war.
The White House had spent little time courting Congress to this point. Even though it would need Republican support, the White House had made no overtures to the party leaders.
But there was back-channel contact. Mr. Emanuel was talking with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who urged him to settle on a troop number “that began with 3” to win Republican support. “I said as long as the generals are O.K. and there is a meaningful number, you will be O.K.,” Mr. Graham recalled.
The day after Thanksgiving, Mr. Obama huddled with aides from 10:30 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. refining parameters for the plan and mapping out his announcement. He told his speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, that he wanted to directly rebut the comparison with Vietnam.
On the following Sunday, Nov. 29, he summoned his national security team to the Oval Office. He had made his decision. He would send 30,000 troops as quickly as possible, then begin the withdrawal in July 2011. In deference to Mr. Gates’s concerns, the pace and endpoint of the withdrawal would be determined by conditions at the time.
“I’m not asking you to change what you believe,” the president told his advisers. “But if you do not agree with me, say so now.” There was a pause and no one said anything.
“Tell me now,” he repeated.
Mr. Biden asked only if this constituted a presidential order. Mr. Gates and others signaled agreement.
“Fully support, sir,” Admiral Mullen said.
“Ditto,” General Petraeus said.
Mr. Obama then went to the Situation Room to call General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry. The president made it clear that in the next assessment in December 2010 he would not contemplate more troops. “It will only be about the flexibility in how we draw down, not if we draw down,” he said.
Two days later, Mr. Obama flew to West Point to give his speech. After three months of agonizing review, he seemed surprisingly serene. “He was,” said one adviser, “totally at peace.”

Reporting was contributed by Elisabeth Bumiller, Helene Cooper, Carlotta Gall, Carl Hulse, Mark Landler, Mark Mazzetti, David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt, Scott Shane and Thom Shanker.

Obama’s Brilliant First Year

By January, he will have accomplished more than any first-year president since Franklin Roosevelt.

By Jacob Weisberg

About one thing, left and right seem to agree these days: Obama hasn’t done anything yet. Maureen Dowd and Dick Cheney have found common ground in scoffing at the president’s “dithering.” Newsweek recently ran a sympathetic cover story titled, “Yes He Can (But He Sure Hasn’t Yet).” The sarcasm brigade thinks it’s finally found an Achilles’ heel in his lack of accomplishments.

“When you look at my record, it’s very clear what I’ve done so far and that is nothing. Nada. Almost one year and nothing to show for it,”

Obama stand-in Fred Armisen recently riffed on Saturday Night Live. “It’s chow time,” Jon Stewart asserts, for a president who hasn’t followed through on his promises. This conventional wisdom about Obama’s first year isn’t just premature—it’s sure to be flipped on its head by the anniversary of his inauguration on Jan. 20. If, as seems increasingly likely, Obama wins passage of a health care reform a bill by that date, he will deliver his first State of the Union address having accomplished more than any other postwar American president at a comparable point in his presidency.

This isn’t an ideological point or one that depends on agreement with his policies. It’s a neutral assessment of his emerging record—how many big, transformational things Obama is likely to have made happen in his first 12 months in office.

The case for Obama’s successful freshman year rests above all on the health care legislation now awaiting action in the Senate. Democrats have been trying to pass national health insurance for 60 years.

Past presidents who tried to make it happen and failed include Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Through the summer, Obama caught flak for letting Congress lead the process, as opposed to setting out his own proposal. Now his political strategy is being vindicated. The bill he signs may be flawed in any number of ways—weak on cost control, too tied to the employer-based system, and inadequate in terms of consumer choice.

But given the vastness of the enterprise and the political obstacles, passing an imperfect behemoth and improving it later is probably the only way to succeed where his predecessors failed. We are so submerged in the details of this debate—whether the bill will include a “public option,” limit coverage for abortion, or tax Botox—that it’s easy to lose sight of the magnitude of the impending change.

For the federal government to take responsibility for health coverage will be a transformation of the American social contract and the single biggest change in government’s role since the New Deal. If Obama governs for four or eight years and accomplishes nothing else, he may be judged the most consequential domestic president since LBJ.

He will also undermine the view that Ronald Reagan permanently reversed a 50-year tide of American liberalism. Obama’s claim to a fertile first year doesn’t rest on health care alone. There’s mounting evidence that the $787 billion economic stimulus he signed in February—combined with the bank bailout package—prevented an economic depression. Should the stimulus have been larger?

Should it have been more weighted to short-term spending, as opposed to long-term tax cuts? Would a second round be a good idea? Pundits and policymakers will argue these questions for years to come. But few mainstream economists seriously dispute that Obama’s decisive action prevented a much deeper downturn and restored economic growth in the third quarter. The New York Times recently quoted Mark Zandi, who was one of candidate John McCain’s economic advisers, on this point: “The stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do—it is contributing to ending the recession,” he said. “In my view, without the stimulus, G.D.P would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent.” When it comes to foreign policy, Obama’s accomplishment has been less tangible but hardly less significant: He has put America on a new footing with the rest of the world.

In a series of foreign trips and speeches, which critics deride as trips and speeches, he replaced George W. Bush’s unilateral, moralistic militarism with an approach that is multilateral, pragmatic, and conciliatory.

Obama has already significantly reoriented policy toward Iran, China, Russia, Iraq, Israel, and the Islamic world.

Next week, after a much-disparaged period of review, he will announce a new strategy in Afghanistan. No, the results do not yet merit his Nobel Peace Prize. But not since Reagan has a new president so swiftly and determinedly remodeled America’s global role.

Obama has wisely deferred some smaller, politically hazardous battles over issues such as closing Guantanamo, ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and fighting the expansion of Israel’s West Bank settlements.

Instead, he has saved his fire for his most urgent priorities—preventing a depression, remaking America’s global image, and winning universal health insurance. Chow time indeed, if you ask me.

A version of this article also appears in this week’s issue of Newsweek.

Clinton: Tough Talk, Few Results

 

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tense exchanges with Pakistani civilians and Arab diplomats over a harrowing week of foreign stops exposed the confining limits of her office.

On her most ambitious and contentious overseas trip as secretary of state, Clinton had to resort to damage control after she appeared to mangle the Obama administration’s message on frozen Mideast peace talks.

And while she scored points back home by standing up to angry Pakistanis who confronted her about drone-launched U.S. missile strikes, her blunt questioning of the resolve of Pakistan’s government exposed American impatience with the country’s incremental steps against terrorists.

In each case her extraordinarily public approach to diplomacy – for better or worse – reflected not only her personal style but also President Barack Obama’s promise to reach out openly to friend as well as foe.

What remains less clear is whether Clinton’s hot-button politician’s persona works any better at producing international results – let alone clarity – than a more classic diplomat’s cooler tact.

There were no breakthroughs, and it’s too early to know how her public and behind-the-scenes performances in Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Israel, Morocco and Egypt will play out. But Clinton emphatically followed through on a pledge she made last month when she said the time had come for the U.S. government to communicate more aggressively abroad and challenge U.S. critics on their own turf.

From here on, she said then, “we’re going to be in the mix and we’re going to be in the mix every day.”

It is a boldly political take on taking on the world, and Clinton is relying on some of her old campaign trail tricks and moxie to press America’s case.

In Pakistan, she aggressively sold the administration’s stance against al-Qaida during several crowded “town hall” public forums that had been her stock-in-trade during the 2008 presidential primary run against Obama.

But despite finding some success in Africa and Asia earlier this year communicating Clintonian warmth with foreign audiences, Lahore was not Portsmouth, N.H.

And a brash in-your-face style that won voters’ hearts and minds in the U.S. may have come off as confrontational to skeptical Pakistan civilians who responded in kind.

In Lahore, Clinton certainly won domestic consumption brownie points by saying what many Americans have complained about for years – that Pakistan’s government had done little to root out al-Qaida’s upper echelon.

“Al-Qaida has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002,” she said bluntly. “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to. And maybe that’s the case. Maybe they’re not getable. I don’t know.”

Pakistan’s leaders were not pleased – waiting until Clinton departed to slap back. But even when she had a second chance to scale back her remarks, Clinton softened them only by a hair.

She also dinged Pakistan’s leaders for diminishing their standing in Washington by complaining about tough new conditions set by Congress for providing billions in new aid.

“For the United States Congress to pass a bill unanimously, saying that we want to give $7.5 billion to Pakistan in a time of global recession when we have a 10 percent unemployment rate, and then for Pakistani press and others to say, ‘We don’t want that,’ that’s insulting,” she said.

That wasn’t what the Pakistani government wanted to hear, but it seemed to reflect Clinton’s determination to show the Pakistanis that they can complain about U.S. counterterrorism tactics and about strings attached to U.S. aid – but not without hearing the administration’s own concerns.

Clinton’s toughened public stance was less in evidence, though, when she turned to the stymied Mideast peace process. Instead of bluntness, she struggled repeatedly to cater to both Israeli and Arab concerns, making no headway in getting either side to move closer.

In Jerusalem, trying to mollify Israeli reluctance to agree to halt all future settlements as a pretext to renewed peace talks with Palestinians, Clinton floated an Israeli proposal that would restrain – but not stop – more West Bank housing.

Palestinian and Arab diplomats reacted with outrage, and the Clinton who had been tough in Pakistan was forced to backpedal. Arab officials questioned whether the U.S. had tilted toward Israel and abandoned its position that continued Israel settlements are illegitimate and must be brought to a full stop.

Clinton’s comments reflected a realization within the Obama administration that conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will not accept a full-on settlement freeze and that a partial halt might be the best lesser option. Her appeal seemed designed to make the Israeli position more palatable to the Palestinians and Arab states.

Clinton had traveled to the region reluctantly, concerned her visit might be perceived as a failure without clear results, according to several U.S. officials. She agreed to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders after pressure from the White House, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration thinking.

In Marrakesh, Morocco, two days after her controversial comments in Jerusalem, Clinton issued what she called a clarification. But she was dogged by questions about the settlements issue for the rest of her time abroad.

Asked Wednesday before departing for Washington what she believed she had accomplished, Clinton focused on the depth of the challenges she faced, not on what the trip delivered – or failed to deliver.

“Every issue that we touched on during this trip is complicated and difficult,” she said. “Each requires patience, perseverance and determination to see them through. If these were easy questions with simple answers, I wouldn’t have made this trip.”

EDITOR’S NOTE – Robert Burns has been covering national security and military affairs for The Associated Press since 1990.