Is the Trump Regime Making Peace or Selling Out Afghanistan.

Will all of the hub bub in Washington around Kanye West in the West Wing and Melania Trump’s visit to Africa and Jared Kushner’s lack of tax paying…this little story about an American diplomat meeting with the Taliban was buried in the main news section of the Sunday New York Times.

The diplomat is Zalmay Khalilzad who was born in Afghanistan. Mr. Khalilzad met with representatives of the Taliban in Doha Qatar and then flew to Kabul Afghanistan to consult with that nation’s president, Ashraf Ghani. So on the face of it, it could be some shuttle diplomacy here. And it sounds like the United States would like to see talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government…but the Taliban wants no part of that. In fact they want no part of actual peace talks until the United States ends their ‘occupation’ of the nation. And according to the NYT’s article they want no part of the upcoming elections either…elections that have already been delayed for years.

No, I’d like to see the US out of Afghanistan ASAP but it doesn’t sound like we can leave and expect any type of non-Taliban government to survive our exit. That’s not good. And I really don’t think the current hardline Taliban stance is a negotiating ploy. They can smell a victory in the current civil war if US involvement ends.

But I am really nervous about the current American diplomat entrusted with this decidedly delicate negotiation. Mr. Khalilzad was just appointed as special representative for Afghan reconciliation a month ago. And this was his first visit to the region and with the Taliban in this role. But he has a rather checkered past with the Taliban, the State Department, and Afghanistan.

During the Clinton Administration, Mr. Khalilzad was one of the leading Afghan specialists at State. And after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban he was quoted as saying : “The Taliban does not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran. It is closer to the Saudi model.”

That thinking prevailed in Washington for years and prevented the US from snatching Osama bin Laden from Taliban held areas of Afghanistan for fear of angering the Taliban rulers. That trend allowed bin Laden the safe haven to build al Qaeda and launch the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Shortly after making those pronouncements, Mr. Khalilzad moved on to Unocal as an advisor. While at Unocal, Mr. Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives in 1997 at the Watergate Hotel to help negotiate a pipeline deal through Afghanistan. At that time he was referred to as a leading Republican expert on Afghanistan.

Somewhere along the line, Mr. Khalilzad joined the RAND Corporation and reversed his position on the Taliban. He served on the George W Bush transition team and was appointed to run Condoleezza Rice’s Middle East directorate. And now he was concerned that the Taliban would corrupt Pakistan. I think that prediction came true to a certain degree.

It makes sense that the Trump regime would reach out to someone like Zalmay Khalilzad. They have no one in their inner circle with any kind of experience in the Middle East much less Afghanistan or Pakistan. And apparently he has great Republican cred. But with his history around the Taliban, I don’t know how far to trust him. He’s a retread. The State Department must have other more reliable Afghan experts by now! It’s been 17 plus years since 9/11 and nearly as long that we’ve been engaged in a war there.

Like the war, this has gone on too long. Do we trust Khalilzad? Do we trust Donald Trump on Afghanistan? The president has complained about lack of progress there…but is he just willing to cut and run and leave the current Afghan government to hang? Will we end up seeing another helicopter flotilla from the roof of the US embassy in Kabul in 2019? The selection of Mr. Khalilzad stinks to high heaven. The quiet maneuvering stinks as well.

I Don’t Want My CIA Doing This:

From the West Wing Reads version of the daily White House email newsletter:

I do not want the CIA wasting their time on what should be in the realm of traditional law enforcement. The CIA has other duties related to the protection and safety of Americans world wide without the added burden of tracking drugs. This certainly isn’t their area of expertise. I would prefer they just stick to international intelligence gathering…and this seems to be too ‘close to home’ for typical CIA operations.

And no, I am not belittling the opioid epidemic in the United States. It certainly is a major issue but it requires the proper attention from skilled professions. And we have a half dozen other federal agencies to handle it…on top of the various state and local law enforcement and health professionals who are already tasked with it. And maybe we could throw some comprehensive universal health care at the problem instead!

Making his list, and checking it twice.

As the ghost of President Richard Nixon roams the East Wing of the White House, President Donald Trump vindictively rescinds the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. But he’s not through there:

Striking at one of his fiercest critics over Russia, President Trump said Wednesday he has revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, and continues to review the clearances of other Barack Obama administration officials.

As critics accused Trump of seeking to silence opponents, the president added names to his list of other Obama-era officials whose security clearances are under review: FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Beyond the absurdity of this in the first place, what exactly is the president supposed to be doing on a Thursday morning other that building ‘enemies’ lists?

But the removal of an individual’s security clearance isn’t really a problem for the individual involved…it may be an issue in the future if their advice is requested by the current or a future administration.

Security clearances for ex-government employees are not that unusual, and those who have them do not always exercise them.

Former leaders of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to maintain access to classified information, both as a professional courtesy and so that they can consult with successors on certain national security issues.

But the White House can do as it pleases here…and it won’t reflect poorly on Mr. Brennan. It’s just mean spirited and vindictive on the part of a particularly vindictive president. But then as often happens, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders gets involved.

“Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information,” Sanders said in reading Trump’s statement.

Any benefit of consultations with Brennan is “outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior,” the Trump statement said, and that behavior “has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him.”

First, unless called upon by the government, Mr. Brennan doesn’t have access to classified information anymore.

Second, if anyone in the world is familiar with ‘erratic conduct and behavior’, it is Ms. Sanders and the rest of the staff in the West Wing.

So the bigger question: what is the Trump regime trying to divert attention away from this week with this silly event?

Waterboarding Is NOT Torture!!

Over the weekend, Green Beret Tim Kennedy, a former mixed martial arts fighter, livestreamed the 41-minute footage, which shows him being voluntarily waterboarded and answering questions between sessions. He claimed it proved waterboarding was not torture.

Ok, I didn’t watch the video…I read the article. Waterboarding is not torture. Horse Hockey!

There’s a very simple question to ask here: If waterboarding is NOT torture, why do we want to do it? Because we ran out of crumpets to have with afternoon tea? Couldn’t find the cards for our daily canasta session? Muslims don’t drink beer? So hell, lets waterboard somebody.

Waterboarding is torture. Otherwise it would have no place in interrogations…not one reason. None.

So let’s stop pretending. It is immoral. It is unethical. It is currently against the law. Approve Gina Haspel to head the CIA on whatever merits you feel comfortable with…but let’s stop pretending that waterboarding is not torture.