This New York Times piece about a shift in the NATO-Afghan plan to secure Kandahar from Taliban insurgents to a focus on civilian efforts is kind of
This New York Times piece about a “shift” in the NATO-Afghan plan to secure Kandahar from Taliban insurgents to a focus on civilian efforts is kind of overstated. It’s true that over the last couple of weeks U.S. and Afghan officials have de-emphasized military operations and stopped using the word “offensive” to describe their approach to the city of 850,000 Afghans. And I haven’t ever been to southern Afghanistan, so I take reporter Rod Norland at his word when he alludes to background briefings earlier this spring that left the impression that there would be some state-change in U.S. military presence in the city.
But for the past several weeks, U.S. officials have described a “process” for an incremental troop buildup in Kandahar and described military activities in terms of what they won’t resemble: the invasions of Fallujah in 2004 or Marja in February. That’s to assuage local fears of disruptive, bloody urban confrontation. And from the start, McChrystal has portrayed military action in the city as secondary to political and governance activities, rather using than the typical “clear, hold, build, transfer” shorthand typical of recent military operations. “One of the things we’ll be doing in the shaping is working with political leaders to try to get an outcome that makes sense,” McChrystal said in March at his first Pentagon briefing on Kandahar. “That would then be supported by security operations, and that will, in some cases, be increased partnering inside the city with the Afghan National Police.” He did not use the word “offensive.” Civilian officials in Washington have provided similar background briefings for months on civilian-driven political and economic action in Kandahar.
It’s possible that now Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his local commander, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, are overcorrecting, and setting too low an expectation amongst the populace for normalcy when they’re about to have 11,850 NATO forces and 8,500 Afghan soldiers and policy on their doorsteps by September. But that itself follows Norland’s strongest piece of evidence that McChrystal adjusted his strategy for the city: locals didn’t want big, disruptive military activities. McChrystal’s staff has described a months-long and ongoing process of engagement with local leaders to gain a sense of their degree of support for any foreign military presence (and, indeed, for local security forces, too), and to plan military action accordingly. “What remains to be done is determining the nature and scope of the effort,” McChrystal spokesman Tadd Sholtis told me in April, discussing outreach to Kandahar notables. Seems prudent — and preferable to deciding on a course of action and then pretending that the locals backed it.
More worrisome in Norland’s story is how disconnected the effort actually appears. Afghan civilian officials do not understand the strategy for the Kandahar “process” as their NATO colleagues do.
Views vary widely as to just when the military part will start. General Zazai says it will begin in July but take a break for Ramadan in mid-August and resume in mid-September. A person close to Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar, says it will not commence until winter, or at least not until harvests end in October.
Giffords shooting leads nation to introspection and political finger wagging
In the wake of the shooting in Arizona this weekend that critically injured Rep.
EPA Administrator Addresses Concerns About Oil Spill Waste Management
At a hearing of the national oil spill commission today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed concerns about waste disposal from
E-Verify Mandate Begins Today
The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm
EPA administrator defends allowing Florida to write its own water pollution rules
The EPA seal (Pic via sentryjournal.com) The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire for its decision to allow the state of Florida to write its own water pollution rules (known as “numeric nutrient criteria”). EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming is now firing back, writing that the Agency commends the state Department of Environmental Protection for its draft of a proposed standard. A host of environmental groups filed suit in 2008, seeking to compel the EPA to implement a strict set of water pollution standards in Florida, arguing that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act.
EPA administrator fires back at critics in op-ed
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson penned a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times , criticizing House Republicans desperately seeking to undermine the authority of the agency they have dubbed a “job killer.” Arguing that the environment affects red states and blue states alike, Jackson writes that “it is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water.” As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans and GOP presidential candidates who say the agency’s regulations are an undue burden on businesses that have to cut jobs simply to comply with clean water and air rules. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has pledged to end the EPA if she takes office. “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws,” writes Jackson.
EPA administrator says federal nutrient criteria is a ‘myth’
In testimony given late last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that false accusations about her agency’s numeric nutrient criteria to govern Florida waterways are proving to be a detriment to their implementation. # Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee, Jackson said her agency’s work was often “mischaracterized” and addressed several myths surrounding its work
EPA announces hold on nutrient standards if Florida can come up with own criteria
The EPA announced today that it is now prepared to withdraw a portion of its proposed numeric nutrient criteria (a set of standards governing water pollution in inland waters) and delay the portion related to estuarine waters, to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own criteria. # From a statement released by the EPA earlier today: # EPA recognizes that states have the primary role in establishing and implementing water quality standards for their waters. Therefore, EPA is prepared to withdraw the federal inland standards and delay the estuarine standards if FDEP adopts, and EPA approves, their own protective and scientifically sound numeric standards
EPA Analysis Says Climate Bill’s Cost for Households Would Be ‘Modest’
All the attention on the energy front today is going to the BP spill, but the Environmental Protection Agency quietly released its long-anticipated analysis of
EPA and California Near Deal on Fuel Efficiency Standards
Two weeks ago, the Obama administration raised fuel efficiency standards by an average of two miles per gallon -- a modest change that disappointed some