Thursday, January 28

State of the Union: Obama's 'Sounds About Right to Me' doctrine jells

This notice will be at the top of every post for the next few weeks:
In February HBO is re-broadcasting the documentary "Terror in Mumbai," which I discussed in the December 20, 2009 Alden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 2: Once upon a time in Saigon and Mumbai. See the HBO website for the airing dates. If you haven't seen the documentary yet please steel yourself to watch it; I don't think it's possible to fully understand this phase of the war on terror without seeing it. And don't be fooled by the captured terrorist's Abused Village Boy performance. From what was shown on camera it looked as if he fooled even the police interrogator -- at least until his life story became known.
Having campaigned on a personal history he rewrote until it suited him, Barack Obama as U.S. President has gone on to apply this winning formula to any facet of reality that doesn't sound quite right to him. Thus, for his speech in Cairo he rewrote part of Turkey's political history as well as Islam's.

In his State of the Union address last night Mr Obama tackled that pesky linchpin of fiscal responsibility, the concept of budgeting:
Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will. ... Now, I know that some in my own party will argue that we can't address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. And I agree, which is why this freeze won't take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger. That's how budgeting works.
All right; you have it from the President's mouth: a better-sounding definition of budgeting is that it's a fiscal discipline you practice once there's no longer a dire need to do so.

Other parts of the President's address to Congress also displayed his ability to file down the jagged edges of reality until they're as smooth as a baby's bottom. So Barack Obama turns out to be a perfect reflection of the American political system. He analyzed the system, saw it was stuffed with people as phony as the day is long, then gamed it according to its own rules.

If the leftists who glommed onto the Democratic party in the name of a fair shake for all and the anti-nationalists who took over the Republican party in the name of free trade aren't happy with the mirror Obama holds up to them, where is my Kleenex box?

Wednesday, January 27

Afghanistan War: McChrystal's Choice, and an updated version of "The Bridge on the River Kwai"

This notice will be at the top of every post for the next few weeks:
In February HBO is re-broadcasting the documentary "Terror in Mumbai," which I discussed in the December 20, 2009 Alden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 2: Once upon a time in Saigon and Mumbai. See the HBO website for the airing dates. If you haven't seen the documentary yet please steel yourself to watch it; I don't think it's possible to fully understand this phase of the war on terror without seeing it. And don't be fooled by the captured terrorist's Abused Village Boy performance. From what was shown on camera it looked as if he fooled even the police interrogator -- at least until his life story became known.
Ever the optimist, on Monday I announced that between Mark Safranski's beauty and my brains we were gonna straighten out the Pentagon's thinking on Afghanistan. Alas, the cavalry arrived too late; the fort was holding a prayer breakfast with the barbarian hordes.....

January 25, 2009: Nato chief seeks political settlement with the Taliban:
As a soldier, my personal feeling is that there's been enough fighting, and that what we need to do -- all of us -- is to do the fighting necessary to shape conditions where people can get on with their lives, and everybody can make a decision where fighting's not the direction that it needs to go in. I believe a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome -- and it's the right outcome."
-- General Stanley A. McChrystal, Commander, International Security Assistance Force; Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan
He was for victory in war before he was against it

It seems just a few months ago, in fact it was just this past September, that General Stanley McChrystal warned if President Obama didn't give him the troops he requested the ISAF mission in Afghanistan “will likely result in failure:"
“Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible,” General McChrystal writes. [... ] In his five-page commander’s summary, General McChrystal ends on a cautiously optimistic note: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.”
Ditching the Blacklist

Four months later, before the additional 30,000 troops that President Obama ordered to Afghanistan in December have been deployed, what is General McChrystal's idea of success?

This week we find him once again in London, from whence he launched a very public criticism last September of the delay in acting on his request for additional troops. Now Gen. McChrystal finds success not in military victory but in Hamid Karzai's government negotiating with the Taliban:
In an interview with the Financial Times on Monday, McChrystal said that political negotiations with leaders of the Taliban could help foster security and stability in conflict-plagued Afghanistan. [...] When asked if senior Taliban leaders might eventually become government leaders in Kabul, McChrystal said, "I think that anybody who dedicates themselves to the future and not the past, and anybody whose future is focused on the right kinds of things for Afghanistan might participate in government."

The remarks come as UN special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide has also called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the United Nations' list of terrorists, as a first step toward opening direct negotiations with the militant group.

"If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority," Eide said, adding that he believes the time has come to do it.

The United Nations' so-called black list contains the names of 144 Taliban leaders, including the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Under United Nations Resolution 1267, governments are obliged to freeze the bank accounts of those on the list and prevent them from traveling.

Some Taliban leaders say the black list has prevented them from entering into negotiations because they would be arrested if they showed their faces.

The move to reconcile with Taliban after eight years of a bitter US-led conflict in the war-ravaged nation has been described as a defeat for Washington and the Afghan government.[...]
Eide's comments raise the question of whether Karzai is bowing to UN pressure to accept Taliban into his government. Karzai, however, claims it's the other way around:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is pressing for Taliban names to be removed from a United Nations blacklist imposing travel restrictions and asset freezes.

He says his Western allies back his plans for reconciliation with those Taliban members who are not allied with Al Qaeda and who renounce violence.

"[They should be] welcome to come back to their country, lay down arms and resume life as citizens of Afghanistan, enjoying the privileges and the rights and the guarantees given by the Afghan constitution," Mr Karzai said.

He will attend a major conference in London on Thursday at which he hopes to win Western support for his plan to offer money and jobs to cajole Taliban fighters into laying down arms.

Mr Karzai's plan had previously met resistance but he says "there is more willingness that this can be reconsidered".

He wants to bring low- and mid-level fighters into mainstream society to end the gruelling insurgency.[...]
The British Betrayal

One can hardly blame Karzai for wanting to snatch peace from the ashes of defeat; he watched how the USAF prosecution of the war turned a nearly-decisive victory in 2001 for American and British forces into a victory for Pakistan and the Taliban -- and al Qaeda.

(I say "nearly" decisive because of Operation Evil Airlift, which saw Vice President Dick Cheney deciding to allow several key Pakistan fighters and their Taliban and al Qaeda stooges to escape Afghanistan ahead of U.S. capture.)

Karzai also knows what the British, or at least the Labor government, are like. U.K. Independent; February 4, 2008:
Britain planned to build a Taliban training camp for 2,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan, as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides, intelligence sources in Kabul have revealed. The plans were discovered on a memory stick seized by Afghan secret police in December.

The Afghan government claims they prove British agents were talking to the Taliban without permission from the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, despite Gordon Brown's pledge that Britain will not negotiate. The Prime Minister told Parliament on 12 December: "Our objective is to defeat the insurgency by isolating and eliminating their leaders. We will not enter into any negotiations with these people."


The computer stick contained a three-stage plan, called the European Union Peace Building Programme. The third stage covered military training.

Curiously, the European Union says the programme did not exist and there were no EU funds to run it.

Afghan government officials insist it was bankrolled by the British. UK diplomats, the UN, Western officials and senior Afghan officials have all confirmed the outline of the plan, which they agree is entirely British-led, but all refused to talk about it on the record. [...]
Karzai also accused the British ISAF of losing Helmund province to the Taliban. In short he learned the hard way what the U.S. command in Iraq learned about the mixed blessing of coordinating with the British in regions they still consider to be in their sphere of influence.

Last week, British Foreign Minister David Miliband told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Afghanistan strategy that he hoped this Thursday's conference in London would provide "a boost for an Afghan plan to lure Taliban militants away from violence." Translation: Brown wants Karzai to negotiate a truce with the Taliban.

What's McChrystal's Game?

On Monday's John Batchelor Show Simon Constable summed the latest turn of events by noting the terrible human rights record of the Taliban and saying the offer to negotiate with them "was like the Allies offering to negotiate with the Nazis in 1944."

Why, yes. So why would McChrystal voice enthusiasm for the negotiation plan, and so soon after opining that additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan could bring victory? What's his game? Aside from angling to become United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom after he retires from military duty? (Just joking.)

Simon also asked Bill Roggio, one of the war's most reliable chroniclers, whether he thought McChrystal was simply voicing commands from above him. Bill replied that he didn't think so, that McChrystal seemed to like the role of the gentleman diplomat soldier. That would be a rather odd temperament for someone who commanded the JSOC for five years and excelled at black ops.

But whether McChrystal is speaking from his own brief or the Pentagon's his remarks comport with the history of ISAF 'negotiations' with Taliban. So the question is whether McChrystal is any good at herding cats, which is what commanding NATO troops amounts to.

The Italian Job

The scandal about the British plan to train Taliban fighters was followed by the Italian scandal, which possibly has an American component. The First Post; October 2009:
[...] The story involves 10 French troops who died at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan in August 2008 because the Italians, who had been on duty in the region before them, failed to pass on vital information. Namely, that they had been bribing the insurgents not to cause trouble and the region's reputation for being relatively safe was therefore false.

As a result, when the French moved into the Sarobi area near Kabul and the protection payments stopped, the Taliban struck.

As readers of The First Post may remember, the horrible ordeal of the French soldiers was fully exposed with the publication in Paris Match of a series of photos showing jubilant Taliban wearing the clothes and other trophies taken from the dead French soldiers.

The insurgents were pictured with men's weaponry, walkie-talkies and even personal effects like a wrist watch. The publication of the photos provoked outrage in France, which was only increased with the news that many of the dead soldiers had been mutilated.

Now, the actions of the Italian forces in the region have been revealed by the Times in a report today. The paper says the clandestine payments to local militia were not disclosed to the incoming French forces, but they have now been revealed by Western military officials.

The Times says that because they did not know of the payments the incoming French troops made "a catastrophically incorrect threat assessment".

The paper alleges that US intelligence officials found out through intercepted telephone conversations that the Italians had been buying off militants and in June 2008, several weeks before the ambush, the US Ambassador in Rome even made a diplomatic protest to the Berlusconi Government over the tactic.

A fresh round of grieving has now begun in France in reaction to the news that their troops died needlessly.
It was not only the Taliban but also the Hezb-i-Islami faction which claimed responsibility for the attack -- meaning they also claimed responsibility for the murder and mutilation of the 10 French troops.

The Italian government hotly denied the charge, but the bribery was acknowledged by other officials. A question is why the U.S. government didn't directly inform the French about the phone intercepts -- or if it did, whether France's government passed along the warning to their ISAF command.

Taliban are not Viet Cong

The Italian bribery scandal folds into the story of widescale bribery payments to the Taliban so they won't attack ISAF supply routes. Shortly after The Nation published a jaw-dropping investigative piece on the bribery, Rufus Phillips told John Batchelor that the same thing happened during the Vietnam War, that U.S. troops paid Viet Cong not to attack U.S. supply convoys so "those people down in Washington" shouldn't work themselves into a lather about similar arrangements with the Taliban.

Beginning in 1954 Mr Phillips, who's a frequent guest on John's nightly Afghanistan War panel, "spent almost 10 years doing undercover and pacification work for the CIA and the U.S. Agency for International Development in South Vietnam," according to the publisher's review of his book about Vietnam, and he remained plugged into the Vietnam War throughout.(1) So I have no reason to dispute his contention.

However, I don't recall ever hearing that the Viet Cong shared proceeds from their moonlighting with people who plotted and carried off catastrophic attacks on the U.S. homeland. One problem with ISAF forces and their contractors bribing the Taliban to guard supply routes is that they never know whether they're inadvertently donating to Pakistan's military and al Qaeda. Yet evidentially the tack will be on the table during Thursday's summit in London. From yesterday's Q&A in the Financial Times about McChrystal's openness to negotiating with the Taliban:
Q: Can Taliban fighters simply be bribed?

A: Maybe. Western countries gathering in London for a conference on Thursday will pledge funds for a scheme outlined by Hamid Karzai, the president, to try to lure Taliban foot soldiers with job offers. Details remain sketchy. Insurgents may simply accept the incentives then return to the fight. The central problem remains: the Taliban may simply believe it can outlast the west.
Even assuming that the Taliban could be bribed, and that they'd stick to their agreement, this does not address the biggest issues. The overriding issue is how to prevent the Taliban from using force of arms to take over Kabul and launch a massacre of non-Taliban Afghanis if U.S. forces decamp.
The world's most hunted man warns America

During a 60 Minutes episode, which unfortunately got a small audience because it aired over the Christmas holiday weekend (December 27, 2009), Lara Logan got a rare chance to interview Afghan Intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh. From a partial transcript of the interview in the comment section of Small Wars Journal:
Asked what he thinks would happen in Afghanistan if the U.S. decided to withdraw, Saleh told Logan, "I am very clear on what will happen. First, a massacre campaign will start. The human cost in this country will easily be up to two million people killed, at least. It will not be a big news for Afghanistan. We are used to tragedies, throughout our history. But the cost for you will be bigger."

Since Saleh is the man responsible for Afghanistan's security, he has a more immediate concern: what's happening across the border in Pakistan.

"Al Qaeda and Taliban are now headquartered in Pakistan. The bulk of people we kill, neutralize or capture in Afghanistan are the expendable part of the terror network. The leadership is there, and they are not feeling the heat, apart from these occasional drone attacks," Saleh explained.
Although Pakistan's government would deny it, it is Saleh, not Osama bin Laden, who tops their 'Most Wanted' list. To listen to Amrullah Saleh and study his young face (in 2004, at the age of 32, he became what is surely the world's youngest intelligence chief) and thousand-year old eyes, is to understand why.

You've heard the expression, "A shadow passed over my grave?" That is what it's like to hear Saleh talk about the Taliban and Islamism, which he refers to as "the forces of darkness," in the interview. He has escaped death at the hands of those forces so many times there's a dryness in his voice when he estimates the number of Afghanis who will be murdered if the Taliban return to power. Yet Saleh is under no illusions that the majority of Taliban are anything more than puppets.

Controlled Chaos

From an August 12, 2008 interview he gave Susanne Koelbl for Germany's Spiegel Online:
SPIEGEL: Mr. Saleh, is it possible the Taliban could win with its insurgency in Afghanistan?

Saleh: We have a lot of security problems, there is a lot of violence. But this is a violence unleashed with the help of Pakistan. They want to pull the brakes on us in order to hinder the coming elections. Afghanistan itself is not the source of the problem.

SPIEGEL: Who are these fighters who are not only killing Afghan and Western security forces, but also predominantly innocent civilians? And who is deploying them?

Saleh: The tribal agencies of Pakistan, like Bajaur and North and South Waziristan, are kept by the government as a strategic pool of fighters. From there, fundamentalist warriors are sent to fight in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

SPIEGEL: So you're saying the government in Islamabad has absolutely no intention of putting a stop to this militant movement?

Saleh: The international community has often asked them to stop allowing fighters to infiltrate into (Afghanistan) from the tribal areas. The answer from Pakistan is that they do not control the situation. When the Americans offered to fight the fighters themselves, the Pakistanis rejected them, saying you can’t go in, we are a sovereign state. The true reason behind this is that Islamabad is providing the militant groups with ammunition and training.

SPIEGEL: What is Pakistan seeking to achieve?

Saleh: It has always tried to make sure that Afghanistan remains on the level of a backward country, as well as to isolate us and hinder any kind of contact with the West. In the 1980s, when the mujahedeen were fighting against the Soviet occupiers, Pakistan had considerable influence over large parts of Afghan politics and Islamic Pakistan sought to establish its hegemony in the region. But now we are back, we are building up our country, we are unified and we are working to strengthen our sense of national pride. That makes our neighbors nervous.

SPIEGEL: Pakistan has feared its ability to hold itself together as a nation since its very founding. And even today, Afghanistan refuses to recognize the disputed border, the Durand Line. Wouldn’t that step move Afghanistan closer to peace with Pakistan?

Saleh: We have never crossed that line.

SPIEGEL: What proof do you have that the government in Pakistan is behind the attacks in Afghanistan?

Saleh: In 2008 alone, according to our very conservative estimate, the Taliban have probably fired 30 million rounds from their Kalashnikovs. Where did they get their weapons and munitions? Can you go to Russia or China today and say, "Hey, I'm a member of the Taliban, please send hundreds of AK-47s and weapons to my village." Is that possible? No. It's the Pakistani army that is providing them.

SPIEGEL: Those are serious accusations.

Saleh: It is a fact. The Pakistani army is a very disciplined force, and I respect that. And there are no rogue elements in the army as is often claimed.

SPIEGEL: Who are the masterminds behind the scenes?

Saleh: How much patience do you have? The army leadership and the Pakistani establishment. We have piles and piles of evidence to support this.

SPIEGEL: Do you have details?

Saleh: For years we discreetly passed intelligence information about training camps, addresses, telephone numbers and names of terrorists groups on to Pakistan. But they didn’t act. There was no meaningful response. We have arrested many suicide bombers shortly before they could kill themselves and others. They frankly told us how they have been trained in Pakistan and by whom.

SPIEGEL: Can you cite some examples?

Saleh: In Khost we arrested a man just a few minutes before he was able complete his mission. He was trained by a commander named Nazir in Wana in the tribal areas. Just before, the Pakistani government had signed peace deal with the same commander and only short time later he sent a truckload of suicide bombers to kill international forces. The Pakistanis have always claimed they couldn't find Commander Nazir. But how did he sign the peace deal then? Did they e-mail him?

SPIEGEL: But that’s not proof that Islamabad is commanding the insurgency. Is it possible that Pakistan perhaps long ago lost control over the border areas?

Saleh: Nobody lost control. Pakistan is staging controlled chaos in order to undermine Afghanistan's development. The Pakistani army is very strong and when the government has achieved its aim, it will immediately take control again of the tribal areas.

SPIEGEL: In northern Afghanistan German soldiers are getting attacked increasingly often. Last week a suicide bomber blew himself up in an attack that took place between Kunduz and Pul-i-Khumri. How are these attacks that are taking place far from the border to Pakistan organized?

Saleh: Terrorist elements are ordering Afghans to attack our army units and ISAF convoys or to burn schools. The perpetrators make videos to prove what they have done and once they provide this proof, they are rewarded with money from Pakistan. In the Kunduz area, the plotters of these acts are the Taliban commanders Mullah Rustam and Mullah Salam. Both are Afghans, but they live with their families in Pakistan. If the two would be permanently in Afghanistan, we would have caught or killed them or brought them to justice. Here’s another example: Why is the Taliban commander of Ghormach --

SPIEGEL: A hard-fought district on the edge of the area under German command in the north --

Saleh: -- whose name is Abdul Rahman Haqqani, currently being given medical treatment at a hospital in Peshawar after he was heavily wounded in recent fighting? Why? It's because Pakistan is his base. [...]
I think Saleh got a voice in a German publication at that time because of the July 7, 2008 Taliban bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, which Indian and U.S. investigators traced to Pakistan's military. From The New York Times, August 1, 2008:
WASHINGTON — American intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan’s powerful spy service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to United States government officials.

The conclusion was based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack, the officials said, providing the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat militants in the region.
The American officials also said there was new information showing that members of the Pakistani intelligence service were increasingly providing militants with details about the American campaign against them, in some cases allowing militants to avoid American missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Concerns about the role played by Pakistani intelligence not only has strained relations between the United States and Pakistan, a longtime ally, but also has fanned tensions between Pakistan and its archrival, India. Within days of the bombings, Indian officials accused the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, of helping to orchestrate the attack in Kabul, which killed 54, including an Indian defense attaché.[...]
And how has this stunning revelation been processed in the United States? Well, there have been leaks to the press about secret meetings in which U.S. officials tell Pakistan's government to cut it out, and this zinger from Robert D. Kaplan in response to news that the ISI was behind the bombing of the Indian embassy:
"You would think that the Bush administration would be coaching the Karzai government not to antagonize Pakistan unnecessarily by cozying up to India."
Bad Karzai! Bad Dubya! Scaring Pakistan into naughty behavior!

The Bridge on the River Kwai, updated

David Lean's film is the tale of Colonel Nicholson, a British POW, who keeps his fellow prisoners' morale up by getting them to fully commit their energy and ingenuity to building a sturdy bridge for their Japanese captors, then gets so carried away with the project he warns the Japanese commander when he discovers the bridge has been wired with dynamite.

That, in a nutshell, is the story of the U.S. government's involvement with Pakistan. If thousands of Americans hadn't been killed and maimed because of this nuttiness it would be funny, if your taste in humor runs to black comedy.

At least Nicholson comes to his senses in the final moment of his life, crying, "What have I done?"

No such cry rises from the Pentagon, the White House, or Congress. Instead:

  • NATO has just rewarded the British for their duplicity in Afghanistan by handing Mark Sedwill, Britain's ambassador to Kabul, what will be one of the most powerful positions in Kabul: coordinating most of the reconstruction and development work across Afghanistan. (Someday, maybe a century from now, Americans will feel their way toward the discovery that there's no such thing as 'teamwork' to the imperialist mind.)

  • Karzai threw in the towel the other day and took himself to Istanbul, where Pakistan had conveyed a summit of eight nations to "foil Indian designs of gaining a foothold on Afghan soil." The other attendees were "China's foreign minister, Iran's vice-president, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Britain's foreign minister and the deputy to US special envoy Richard Holbrooke. Officials from Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Nato and the European Union were also in Istanbul."

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Stanley McChrystal, and other American attendees at Thursday's London summit are bracing themselves for the possibility that Karzai's speech before the gathering will make a huge pitch to the Taliban by accusing the ISAF of being baby killers.

  • (The last item explains the timing of the 'leaked' publication on Monday of the entire contents of the two cables sent by the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry, last November, which were also leaked. The abbreviated versions of the cables expressed serious concerns about Karzai's leadership. The decision to allow The New York Times to publish the complete cables, just a few days ahead of the London summit, is a preemptive strike -- in case Karzai says the same things at the summit that he did to al Jazeera several days ago. See the above link.)

    Here I find myself recalling Major Clipton, the British medical officer POW who in the final scene of Lean's film comes upon the bodies of Nicholson, the Japanese POW camp commander, the American soldier killed trying to dynamite the bridge, the wreckage of the Japanese train and the matchsticks left from the dynamited bridge that Nicholson died trying to defend. All Clipton can say is, "Madness. Madness."

    McChrystal's Choice

    He can ruin a fine military career and risk facing courts martial by ordering his troops to stand down until Washington does something about Pakistan. Or he can muddle through in the face of madness: continue to send his troops to be slaughtered by Taliban under the direction of Pakistani intelligence officers who know the ISAF's every move in advance.

    There is a third choice, provided McChrystal realizes he's not Sophie and SecDef Robert Gates remembers General Curtis LeMay's dictum that you shouldn't go to war unless you're prepared to use every means to win.

    McChrystal could recommend to General David Petraeus and Gates that they supplement their COIN-centric approach to Afghanistan with one he's had tremendous experience with, and tremendous success. That would be the black ops approach former CIA officer Henry Crumpton suggested in his interview with Lara Logan for 60 Minutes, which took up the other part of the December 29 segment I mentioned above.

    In 2001 Crumpton, along with other CIA operatives and a handful of Special Forces, led a rag-tag army of Afghan warriors to victory against al Qaeda and the Pak-military backed Taliban. If not for Operation Evil Airlift, just eight American men would have masterminded the decapitation of a monster.

    And so I return to the beginning -- to Mark Safranski's discussion of the limits of counterinsurgency tactics. A close reading of his essay makes it clear that while counterinsurgency can include covert operations, black ops are not COIN -- and that COIN is not predicated on troop size. To say otherwise would be an attempt to portray the OSS as a COIN operation.

    If the Pentagon can untangle their thinking about COIN, even at the Eleventh Hour it would be possible for the U.S. to turn around the military situation in Afghanistan and in spite of NATO.

    The catch is that going through Door Number Three might mean that McChrystal would need to hand off much of the responsibility of his command to his deputy, Lieutenant General David Rodriguez (Deputy Commander, ISAF and U.S. forces in Afghanistan).

    Or Bob Gates could bite the bullet and replace the top U.S. command in Afghanistan so that McChrystal would be completely free to do what he does best. McChrystal probably wouldn't get any credit until many years after his death when documents were declassified. But he'd go to his maker secure in the knowledge he'd done everything in his power to honor the sacrifices of Americans who fought and died in Afghanistan.

    See also Alden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 1, in which I address how the U.S. made Pakistan into a client state, and the horrific consequences across decades.

    1) The publisher's review also notes:
    Phillips details how the legendary Edward G. Lansdale helped the South Vietnamese gain and consolidate their independence between 1954 and 1956, and how this later changed to a reliance on American conventional warfare with its highly destructive firepower:
    Ah, but it's the adventures of the CIA in Indochina prior to 1954 that are of riveting interest, as I mentioned in Part 2 of Alden Pyle in Pakistan ....
    This entry is crossposted at RBO with some very evocative illustrations. Thank you, Brenda.

    Monday, January 25

    The cavalry has arrived: Mark Safranski takes on COIN; Pundita takes on Pakistan

    "Unfortunately for the COINdinistas, as George Kennan discovered to his dismay, to father a doctrine does not mean that you can control how others interpret and make use of it." -- Mark Safranski

    In The Post-COIN Era is Here, a new essay that is close to epochal, Mark Safranski argues that counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine has been abused and misapplied, and most notably in the course of the Obama administration's quest for a magic bullet in Afghanistan.

    The essay couldn't come at a more important juncture in the Long War; it's a 'must read' for policy makers, and for every American who's trying to understand how the Pentagon is approaching the war. Readers who aren't steeped in defense issues will have no trouble following Mark's discussion because he begins with an overview of the phoenix-like rise of COIN from its Vietnam War ashes, which was given a big boost by U.S. successes against the insurgency in the Iraq theater of war.

    Afghanistan is not Iraq, however. But because on paper COIN is cheaper and generally less bloody than traditional warfare, and because it has a smaller footprint than an 'overwhelming force' military approach, what is supposed to be an operational tool has been elevated to the status of war strategy. As such, it's appealed to the Obama administration and to Democrats trying the balancing act of supporting Obama's decisions on Afghanistan while maintaining an anti-war stance.

    The problem is that COIN has not worked in Afghanistan; my view is that this is chiefly because there's not a classic insurgency in the country. Many of the insurgents are Pakistani soldiers in beards and baggy pants, as Rajeev Srinivasan succinctly put it.

    Yet to confront COIN's limitations also means taking on its near-cultic following, both here and abroad. (After spending years smirking at America's COIN approach in Iraq, the British military flipped the other way and now has its own contingent of COIN worshippers.) So, along with praise, I advise Mark to dig a deep foxhole because he could get strafed by the Faithful. And yet, as he observes in closing, "We're all COINdinistas now." His intention is not to damn COIN but to save it from gross misapplications that will once again get it tossed in the Pentagon's dustbin.

    All this leaves the question of what COIN should be replaced with in Afghanistan, or at least how it's to be augmented. Washington is not the bastion of intellectual foment, even in the best of economic times. So while the full solution to the problem of Afghanistan resides in a new 'grand strategy' that's yet to emerge, Mark argues that the bottom line will have much to do with shaping ongoing U.S. defense strategy, and that this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    I agree to the extent that grim fiscal realities in the USA will greatly impact the U.S. prosecution of the war. Yet somewhere between grand strategy and budget-driven ad hoc decisions is common sense.

    I believe the United States continues to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey in Afghanistan because the 'Get Russia' crowd wants to hold onto Pakistan as a U.S. ally; this, on the chance the Soviet Union will reconstitute someday. When this argument is cornered by logic, the Get Russia crowd hauls out the excuse that we can't let Pakistan's nukes fall into the hands of terrorists.

    Does that crowd read the papers? The nukes are already in the hands of terrorists; the terrorists are Pakistan's military and its intelligence branch.

    It's time to remove the blindfold and acknowledge the destructiveness of this silly game, which has hurt Pakistan's democratic reformers as much its neighbors and the ISAF troops. If Washington's political class -- the one that's still listening to the Get Russia crowd -- shows just that much common sense, the intractable problems the United States face in Afghanistan will vanish.

    That's not to say every problem will be solved, but it will chop the remaining ones to human size. Right now the United States is trying to fight the weight of history in Afghanistan and just digging a deeper hole -- and making the hole even deeper by misapplying COIN tactics that were used in Iraq.

    The centerpiece of COIN in Afghanistan is building up the Afghanistan National Army. But former British Army officer Bob Churcher minces this tactic. His solution to Afghanistan -- find a resolution to Indian Kashmir -- is off the beam (and a perennial affectation of the British government) but he's giving the straight goods when he analyzes the ANA:
    [...] Made up from the recombined remnants of Northern Alliance militias, held together by British and American money and training, the army has nowhere near the numbers needed nor claimed. Drug addiction and demoralization are rampant among its soldiers.
    Most importantly, the ANA is a largely Tajik army. Tajiks are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and are based in the north of the country. The Pashtun are the largest group and dominate the south. The Taliban draws its support from the Pashtun. Tajik and Pashtuns are bitter rivals.

    In the eyes of Tajik leaders, Karzai (a Pashtun) isn't "their" president, and this isn't "their" war, nor are Tajiks too keen on getting killed in it, as many US soldiers have noticed.

    Even if Tajik forces were willing to fight and replace NATO soldiers, sending the Tajik dominated ANA into the south to control the Pashtun would not amount to a "national army" fighting "its own" war. The Pashtun would and do see these Tajiks as invaders.

    In short, this is not the force that will beat the Taliban. [...]
    There is more bad news, which Churcher doesn't address in his critique. Illiteracy is so widespread in Afghanistan that a recent nose count turned up only 200 Afghanis who were capable of running a modern government bureau.

    Once again this is ignoring differences between Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq under Saddam Hussein had a large literate bureaucracy (and large educated expat community eager to return to Iraq) that while needing modernization was capable of retooling in fairly quick time for the modern era.

    The Pakistan military, through its Taliban proxies, made sure that Afghanistan couldn't produce a government in Kabul strong enough to stand against Islamabad in the wake of Russia's pullout. To accomplish this they deployed the same tactic they did against East Pakistanis many years earlier: they murdered off Afghanistan's educated class: the teachers, academics, civil servants.

    So it's gong to take a generation of hand-holding before Afghanistan builds up an adequate pool of educated Afghani civil servants.

    These are the realities, which call for the U.S. to shove Pakistan back across their side of the line. This requires a major change in the U.S. approach to Pakistan. How to distance the USA from Pakistan without setting off a shooting war?

    Again, common sense applies. If you were foolish enough to break the cardinal rule never to become best friends with a co-worker, don't compound your error once you realize your bosom buddy is cutting you up behind your back. Don't stand on the conference room table and announce your former best friend is actually the devil's handmaiden. As you didn't become best friends in a day, don't try to scale Everest in one afternoon. Just stop attending the co-worker's backyard barbeques and don't invite him to yours. And in countless other ways signal if he keeps attacking you behind your back you'll reciprocate.

    In the same manner, don't keep handing Pakistan's military a list of grievances. And stop trying to condition their behavior by leaking damaging information about them to the press. That is just making them lose face, and that's making them even angrier. Instead:

    1. Call off the UAV attacks on the Pakistan side, which are only angering the Pakistani public.

    2. Quietly roll up the CIA station in Islamabad; stop sharing intelligence with them and stop asking them for intelligence. I know this will be met with protests that the Pakistanis are the only U.S. recourse for HUMINT in that part of the world because few Western CIA officers can blend in. No they aren't the only recourse, and the CIA needs to take better advantage of another obvious recourse.

    3. Behind closed doors, tell the truth. Explain to Pakistan's military command that since the discovery that Afghanistan is filthy rich in key natural resources, and given that every government on the planet will make a beeline for the resources once the global economy picks up, the United States plans to stay on in Afghanistan for the next thousand years to help play traffic cop.

    A rhetorical flourish would be to add that given the long-term U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, there's no need for Pakistan's military to worry anymore that India will invade Afghanistan. That is not a real worry but it's one the Pak military has been trotting out to rationalize their continued support for tribes that attack ISAF troops.

    As to what to tell the Americans who still believe the 2011 withdrawal date that Obama gave -- there's no need to tell them anything. Oil, natural gas, copper, iron, you name it; it's there, in Afghanistan, waiting to be developed. China's government is already mining a copper lode. So just start leaking reports to The New York Times and Washington Post that Afghanistan is the world's Cinderella nation. The American public will get the picture, which is already known to Islamabad, New Delhi, Moscow, Tehran, Riyadh -- and, of course, Kabul.

    (If Afghanistan can rather quickly develop its natural resources, does this mean they could afford to buy themselves an off-the-shelf bureaucracy manned by foreign contractors? Yes, but that's getting ahead of things.)

    4. Quietly 'delay' all aid to Pakistan. Don't say why, and don't lecture them. They're adults; they'll know why it's being done. After a few weeks of silence, mutter to a high-ranking officer in the Pakistan army that it would be nice if the ISAF and their contractors could get supplies through Pakistan without having to pay a toll to Taliban.

    5. Yank Richard Holbrooke. I don't suppose he would strike most Americans as a bigot but my Sahib-0-Meter is set to hair trigger. There are subtle giveaways that Mr Holbrooke has contempt for people in that part of the world. Because of this he substitutes a patronizing attitude for real dialogue. One giveaway is his public use of the conflation, "Afpakia," and unnecessary insistence in public that he was the first to use the term -- even though that's not true.

    6. As to a substitute for Mr Holbrooke -- If I could wave a wand, I would impose on (Ret.) General David D. McKiernan to act as special envoy to Pakistan. Yes, this is the same General McKiernan SecDef Bob Gates fired to make way for two COIN-oriented commanders in Afghanistan.

    And find a career foreign service officer to act as special envoy to Afghanistan; the idea here is to build up a long-term relationship with Kabul that outlasts a couple U.S. presidential elections.

    These moves would irritate the Pakistan military, which viewed McKiernan as too sympathetic to Hamid Karzai when McKiernan was in command in Afghanistan. That would be the point: another signal that the U.S. was writing a new chapter in relations with Pakistan.

    In any event, disentangle from the ungainly position of having one envoy deal with both governments, which means the envoy has to expend too much effort trying to make a show of not playing favorites, and making too many opportunities for serious gaffes.

    7. Never again send a high-ranking U.S. military figure, such as General David Petraeus, to Pakistan. Never again send the Secretary of Defense. This advice has to do with Pakistani society; believe me when I say that such visits are perceived as slavish.

    8. Never again send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Pakistan. She showed extraordinary courage by going there, but her welcome to Pakistan was a horrific bombing of a market that was exclusively reserved for women and children. Only someone who is studiously naive would believe the ISI had no foreknowledge of the attack.

    One must know some things about Pakistani society to understand why Clinton's visit was seen as a very deliberate insult by the U.S. government, particularly after her highly symbolic tribute in India to victims of the Mumbai massacre.

    The same things explain why Benazir Bhutto's in-your-face politicking in Rawalpindi, the bastion of Pakistani masculinity, got her killed after she signaled that she and not the military would run things in Pakistan once she was in office.

    The difference is that Benazir knew what she was risking and believed she could pull it off. President Obama did not know what he was risking by sending Clinton to Pakistan. If he didn't learn the lesson after studying photographs of the carnage at Mina Bazaar, he should be forcefully told to sit on his fantasies about Islamic culture in Pakistan, which is not Indonesia.

    From here forward do let's try to get as few innocent Pakistanis slaughtered as possible, eh?

    In all dealings with Pakistan, the U.S. military, intelligence, political and diplomatic establishments should be wise and bow to certain realities because the U.S. objective is to stabilize Afghanistan, not reform Pakistan's society. Any questions about the fine points of the realities -- ask India's Ambassador to the United States.

    9. Send signals to Pakistani tribes that are furious at the United States for supporting Pakistan's regime that the support is being scaled back. Tell two tribal leaders who really want the U.S. to stay on in Afghanistan that we're there for the long haul and be sure to finish with, "Now please don't tell anyone."

    10. Don't expect a miraculous turnaround by Pakistan's military within a couple weeks. Do expect rage and threats, and a spike in attacks on ISAF troops. But just keep repeating steps 1 through 9 and don't back down. If they get really nasty remind them that two can play at the beard and baggy pants pantomime, and start giving donations to tribes that want to overthrow Pakistan's government.

    However, much of the current situation is Pakistan's military seeing how far they can push the envelope, then pushing more each time Washington pretends they're not already way over the line.

    There are tactics that obviously follow from the above ones, but that's enough to get the ball rolling. As for al Qaeda: If you just keep falling back on common sense, they might be so stunned the Americans have wised up they'll head for somewhere else. If not, first things first: restructure the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Then see what's left of al Qaeda and the insurgency in Afghanistan.

    And be sure to read Mark Safranski's essay.
    This entry is cross-posted at RBO.

    Sunday, January 24

    Haiti Crisis: Attention Somali pirates! Put your money where your mouth is! Call toll-free 1-877-99-HAITI to donate!

    Brenda Elliott at RBO linked this morning to an article in Australia's Green Left Weekly, which reports: "Spokespeople for the so-called Somali pirates have expressed willingness to part of their loot captured from transnational boats to Haiti," then goes on to note that the report is translated from its source, an organization called Aporea.

    From the above quote my guess would be that English is not the translator's first language. But ever the optimist I refuse to buy into the notion that some hack for Hugo Chavez made up the story from whole cloth. Those who don't have quite my sunny disposition can read Brenda's interesting deconstruction of Aporea.

    For my part I put out a challenge to Somalia's pirates, which I base on these quotes from the Aussie rag:
    A Somali “pirate” spokesperson said: “The humanitarian aid to Haiti can not be controlled by the United States and European countries; they have no moral authority to do so.

    “They are the ones pirating mankind for many years.”
    Right on, brothers and sisters! It's about time a few of the world's downtrodden got sick and tired of the real pirates throwing around billions in aid! Best news I've had all year, if you're taking up the burden of donating to the neediest.

    People of Somalia, YOU can make a difference NOW! Text, email, or phone your tax-free donation to the relief organizations now working in Haiti to save lives. They also accept checks and money orders. If you can't figure out which of the organizations to give to, go to the Hope for Haiti Now website for insight.

    If Somalia's pirates prefer to donate supplies and personally ferry them to ports in Haiti or the Dominican Republic -- blankets, food, bottled water, solar-powered flashlights, medicine and surgical equipment are but a few of the things that are desperately needed.

    And if you happen to come across a container ship loaded with rebar, well, I'm not going to tell you to hijack but rebar in large quantities is also on Haiti's 'Must Have' list.

    I'll close with a plea to Green Left Weekly staff: Say, do you think you could pitch in and donate five dollars, in the name of your publication, to Haiti's earthquake victims? Thank you very much.

    Glaciergate, and would you rather be blown up by al Qaeda or have lunch with a Hindu?

    I interrupt my coverage of the Haiti crisis to bring news from my favorite Hindu Nationalist, the very smart and well-informed Rajeev Srinivasan, who is right 99 percent of the time (okay; sometimes only 97.5 percent) in his analyses of Pakistan and the present government in New Delhi, both of which he detests.

    He's also not a fan of India's JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) so he was delighted when I sent him RBO's January 17 Glaciergate post, which I crossposted) because it makes unfavorable mention of the research of one Syed Hasnain, "a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi."

    Rajeev has been avidly pursuing the story ever since. Now he's snapped up a U.K. Telegraph report by Christopher Booker, datelined yesterday, titled: Pachauri: the real story behind the Glaciergate scandal. Glaciergate, for those who are new to the story, is the first spinoff scandal of Climategate. Booker writes:
    I can report a further dramatic twist to what has inevitably been dubbed "Glaciergate" – the international row surrounding the revelation that the latest report on global warming by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contained a wildly alarmist, unfounded claim about the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

    Last week, the IPCC, led by its increasingly controversial chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, was forced to issue an unprecedented admission: the statement in its 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 had no scientific basis, and its inclusion in the report reflected a "poor application" of IPCC procedures.

    What has now come to light, however, is that the scientist from whom this claim originated, Dr Syed Hasnain, has for the past two years been working as a senior employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the Delhi-based company of which Dr Pachauri is director-general. Furthermore, the claim – now disowned by Dr Pachauri as chairman of the IPCC – has helped TERI to win a substantial share of a $500,000 grant from one of America's leading charities, along with a share in a three million euro research study funded by the EU. [...]
    I don't know which is more fun to read, the rest of the report or Rajeev's comments about it -- although I suppose most of his observations would seem like hieroglyphs to Americans who know zilch about Indian matters. However, there's no better time for Washington to start paying a little more attention to what Indians think and a little less to what Pakistanis think. Even if this means official Washington sitting on its prejudice against Hindus.

    Incidentally, sometimes I wonder if the U.S. Congress would rather be blown up by terrorists working with Pakistan's military than have lunch with a Hindu. If you think I'm taking it over the top, do you know anything about (Ret.) Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed, who was head of the intelligence branch of Pakistan's military at the time of 9/11? And the response of the 9/11 Commission to requests to investigate the financing of the 9/11 plot? If not, maybe you should find out.

    Saturday, January 23

    Hope for Haiti Now music telethon: People around the world dig deep into their pockets and donate record $58 million

    This is the first and probably last time I'll report on a telethon; I don't like them, particularly the ones in which lefty musicians who know nothing about the realities of trying to help the world's poorest get preachy. But George Clooney, who started the ball rolling for the Hope for Haiti Now telethon and has overseen it, is very hip. He was clearly aware of criticism of earlier aid concerts; last night's fundraiser, televised globally, reflected that.

    No preaching, no grandstanding, no applause. Just two hours of mostly great music (okay, "great" depending on your taste in pop music) interspersed with brief, inspiring anecdotes about survivors of the Haiti earthquake and a few shots of Hollywood biggies at the phone banks chatting with donors.

    In fact the telethon was maybe a little too low-key; a major 'selling point' for donating wasn't mentioned: 100 percent of the donations goes to aid agencies already working on the ground in Haiti. There are no 'back-end' fees being taken out of the proceeds; everyone connected with the effort waived them.

    See the Hope for Haiti Now website for an extensive FAQ about how the fundraising was done and where funds are going; it's a top-drawer operation.

    As to whether I actually watched the telethon, yes, and I even liked a few of the performances. However, I can't tell you the name of the performers I liked best; by a process of elimination I'm guessing it was Slash with a bunch of other musicians around him, although I've never seen Slash before -- if I heard him years ago with Guns 'N Roses, I wouldn't recognize him if I tripped over him.

    They did their improvisation on New Orleans Creole-style funeral procession music. Just as with the street music it was heavy on brass instruments. I can't recall the lead singer's lyrics but the band had me on my feet dancing. To me it was the most authentic of all the musical tributes to Haiti, even the two done by Haitian performers, because it seemed so spontaneous. The performance reminded me of the joyful singing street processions in Port au Prince the day after the quake. Maybe that was the band's inspiration.

    But the music mavens at The New York Times and Los Angeles Times didn't even mention the performance and I can't find discussion of it anywhere on the music blogosphere at this time, so what do I know?

    CNN, 7:35 PM ET:
    Los Angeles, California -- Friday night's [two hour] star-studded "Hope for Haiti" telethon has raised a record-breaking $58 million, with more donations continuing to pour in from around the world, the benefit's organizers announced Saturday.

    The preliminary figure is a record for donations made by the public through a disaster relief telethon, according to a news release from telethon organizers.

    Additionally, the "Hope for Haiti Now" album, a compilation of the night's musical performances made available on Apple's iTunes, was the No. 1 album in 18 countries Saturday. Sales figures for iTunes are still being calculated, and the preliminary figure of $58 million does not include donations from corporations or large private donors.

    People will be able to make donations to "Hope for Haiti" via phone, Web, text messaging and regular mail for the next six months, according to the news release.[...]

    Haiti Crisis: Reportedly only 10 percent of aid getting to Haitians

    "Edmond Mulet, acting head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said on Friday that coordination in delivering aid in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere had improved and was getting better every day."

    The report about continued aid-delivery snafus was at 6:05 PM ET tonight, from Fox Cable News correspondent Rick Levanthal in Port au Prince. He told the Fox anchor that from what he had been hearing today only 10 percent of aid was getting through to Haitians.

    He didn't elaborate on where the bottlenecks were -- whether inside Haiti or because of backlogs in delivery to the country. He only mentioned the many obstacles still on the roadways -- concrete rubble, and so on.

    Over at CNN, at about the same time Levanthal was reporting, Wolf Blitzer was re-airing a report from late last night from Sanjay Gupta, who said there were still bottlenecks at the airport. So I assume the situation is basically unchanged from last night if Wolf decided to run with the same report.

    I understand that the main seaport and airport are hobbled (although the airport is probably taking more flights since the U.S. military gussied it up than before the earthquake). And I understand about the road blockages. The roads were a mess even before the earthquake; many are just dirt tracks. And I understand about the normal snafus when so many aid agencies are trying to mesh gears. But 10 percent distribution of aid already on the ground in Haiti would be unacceptable.

    A correspondent, who is very well informed, told me that the United Nations is to blame in this situation and that an agreement signed yesterday between the United Nations and the United States is "worthless." (See Reuters report below.)

    The agreement came the day after Sanjay Gupta's investigative report for CNN about aid delivery delays.

    I would not be surprised to learn that the UN is being obstructive or worse. However: If a man robs you, that's his fault. If he robs you a second time, you're both to blame. Third time, it's your fault.

    In the same manner, I'm having trouble accepting that President Obama's administration can't arm-twist UN officials about this issue. If UN Ambassador Susan Rice doesn't want to get Ban-ki Moon upset, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or even President Obama has to do the job for her.

    I am now on a very short fuse about the situation; this, after receiving a Bloomberg report that the UN has an "emergency" summit planned for January 25 "to coordinate aid for earthquake-stricken Haiti."

    When you read further, this emergency summit is to discuss "long-term reconstruction and arrangements for a donor conference to be held in March, the UN said in a statement."

    Uh, how about an emergency summit right now to discuss problems with the short-term aid?

    With that off my chest here's the Reuters report:
    UNITED NATIONS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The United States and United Nations signed an agreement on Friday clarifying the world body's responsibility for coordinating the international relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

    The agreement comes after U.N. officials, aid workers and diplomats had complained privately about tensions between the United Nations and U.S. military in the early days after the Jan. 12 earthquake, as governments scrambled to get urgently needed aid to the poor Caribbean nation.

    "This agreement formalizes the working relationship between the United States and the United Nations on the ground in Haiti, and ensures that this cooperation will continue in the challenging days and weeks ahead," U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said in a statement.

    With an enlarged maximum strength of 12,651 troops and police, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, is responsible for helping Haitian authorities maintain "a secure and stable environment," the agreement says.

    "The United Nations is coordinating the international response to the Haitian earthquake," it says.

    But it makes clear that the Haitian government has primary responsibility for the response to the earthquake, security and in leading the recovery and reconstruction process.

    The agreement also says the U.S. military, which has over 13,000 military personnel on the ground or offshore in Haiti, will not don blue helmets but operate under U.S. command.

    It says the U.S. government commits to supporting relief work the United Nations says should have priority.


    Edmond Mulet, acting head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said on Friday that coordination in delivering aid in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere had improved and was getting better every day.

    Haiti Crisis: CDC, other health agencies gear up to avert feared 'second wave' disaster in Haiti

    From the same Miami Herald report that broke the news today that the search and rescue effort was still on in Haiti, and which I thought important enough to merit its own post. I've added my commentary after the quotes:
    On Saturday, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and USAID established a public health surveillance system to begin tracking -- with the aim of preventing -- emerging health threats in some of the 600 camps that are now housing those without homes.

    Public health experts said they fear an outbreak of disease such as measles could cut through the camps rapidly, causing more deaths.

    ``It's one thing to save someone immediately after the earthquake with surgery, but we don't want them to die two weeks later from bad water,'' said Lise Martel, a public health advisor for the CDC. ``It's not as dramatic as broken bones, but we've got to think long term what we can do to make sure nothing spreads.''

    The team has designed assessment forms designed to alert them immediately to potential problems -- and provide information about emerging threats.

    ``The initial focus had been acute care, trauma and hospital care, but we have people living in settlements and we need to know the conditions,'' said CDC medical epidemiologist Muireann Brennan. ``The next step is an assessment of all those, how are the conditions, the shelter, the food and the water.''

    Working with Haiti's Ministry of Health, the groups have identified 31 hospitals and large clinics which will collect and report the data to the CDC. Among the incidences of diseases the survelliance system will monitor is dengue fever, malaria, outbreaks of diarahea that could point to more serious diseases, pneumonia and tyhphoid fever.

    Public health authorities would be alerted immediately to a single incident of a communicable disease like measles, but would also track spikes or clusters in ailments such as direha to identify patterns that could signal a problem with a water or food source.

    ``The bigger the numbers in some of these places, the more of an opportunity to spread disease with people living so close together,'' Brennan said. ``These 31 will serve as sentinel sites, alerting us to problems.''

    Brennan said there had been a similar public health system in place in Haiti, but like most of the government, it took a hit in the earthquake.
    You might roll your eyes at the bureaucratic delay of designing an assessment form but in this case a comprehensive form is important, given that volunteers who don't necessarily have medical or public health credentials will be tasked with the gigantic job of monitoring for disease outbreaks.

    Dr Sanjay Gupta is not as concerned as some others about a 'second wave' hitting the survivors and I'll pass along his opinion in a later post. But it is a great relief to me (and I'm sure to Dr Gupta, as well) that public health officials are moving fast to get ahead of any infectious-disease outbreak in Haiti's overcrowded tent cities.

    The Wall Street Journal's Betsy McKay reported on the issue in her January 22 article Disease, Malnutrition Risks Grow in Haiti and during her interview with John Batchelor on the same day. See the 77 WABC radio website podcast archives for the interview.

    Haiti Crisis: Israeli Defense Force rocks; U.S. Senator Bill Frist, M.D. lists specific medical supplies urgently needed

    Thanks to Brenda at RBO for both reports:

    Please see Senator Frist's blog for the list of cricially-needed medical/ surgical supplies and where to send them.

    I note the Israeli Defense Force, at least of the time of their update (23:09 today) is under the impression, along with a great many others, that Haiti's government called off the search and rescue effort. Boy oh boy. There is gonna be a flap about the UN announcement yesterday that the effort was called off. It's still on, according to the latest news.

    Anyoo, the IDF is staying on Haiti and they have been doing very practical and urgent work in addition to medical relief and search and rescue. And trust the Israelis to zero in on the critical importance of clean water:
    Update on IDF Activities in Haiti, 23 January 2010

    The IDF aid delegation in Haiti will continue to provide assistance and support in various ways to the local population. Today, three water towers capable of holding up to 12 thousand liters of water each, were built by the delegation’s representatives in order to supply the residents with a water infrastructure.

    Shelters and tents have also been constructed in order to provide refuge for those who have lost their homes. Civil engineers in The Israeli delegation in Haiti also opened central traffic routes that had been blocked in the aftermath of the earthquake.
    These missions were enabled through the computer analysis of aerial photographs of the area of Port- Au-Prince, stricken by the earthquake, providing real time situation analysis.

    Thus far, 720 people have been treated at the IDF field hospital, 233 life-saving surgeries were performed, 10 babies were delivered, two of which in Caesarean births. Most of the patients currently being cared for in the field hospital are considered to be in moderate condition.

    Today, 15 patients from the Israeli field hospital in Haiti will be transferred to the U.S. Navy hospital ship “Comfort” in order to receive further medical treatment. This transfer was coordinated with the American delegation in Haiti. Additionally, two premature babies delivered in the Israeli field hospital will be transferred to a local hospital later today.

    The Haitian government announced on Friday, January 22, 2010, that the rescue efforts in the country have officially ended. The IDF rescue teams have began to operate based on specific indications or calls for help.

    Also on Friday, a 22-year-old Haitian man was saved by the Israeli Search and Rescue team from the ruins of a three-story building, near the presidential residence in the southern side of the city. The rescue was enabled due to information received by Population Management officers from the Home Front Command directed to the location of the trapped man by local residents. The man was transferred to the IDF field hospital in stable condition in order to receive further medical treatment.

    On Sunday, the Home Front Command will conduct a status assessment regarding the IDF’s future activity in Haiti.

    The Israeli field hospital was established in order to provide a first response to the citizens of Haiti until the arrival of additional medical forces capable of dealing with the magnitude of the situation.

    Haiti Crisis Breaking News: Search for survivors still underway

    UPDATE 4:08 PM Eastern Time
    Brenda at RBO has been keeping me updated on Haiti news at Twitter; at 3:58 PM ET she reported this Tweet: "French official says man found in good condition under rubble of food shop 11 days after Haiti quake – AP." From the AP report via 9&10 News
    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A French official says a 23-year-old survivor of Haiti's earthquake has been found in good condition. Rescuers have tunneled beneath the rubble of a fruit and vegetable shop to get water to him.[...]
    And moments ago she sent this BBC report from today, time stamped 20:56 GMT:
    "We have positive detection of a live victim in the building," US firefighter John Boyle told Reuters news agency.

    The trapped man is thought to have said five others are also alive under the ruins of a hotel and supermarket in the capital, Port-au-Prince. [...]
    From the rest of the report the Beeb was still under the impression that the search and rescue effort has been called off. The same for the AP report, although I don't know the exact time; by now at least AP knows the search is still on.
    I'm not sure how to report this: Either someone at the Associated Press or the United Nations screwed up, or Haiti's government backtracked today after hearing howls of protest from around the world. Either way, this morning the Associated Press and the (U.K.) Times Online (and a few other news organizations) ran with an alleged confirmation from the UN that Haiti's government had called off the search for survivors:

    "Today the United Nations confirmed the government in Haiti has declared the search and rescue over, 11 days after the earthquake hit."

    Not so, according to breaking news from the Miami Herald (no time stamp on the report):
    Breaking News: Haiti officials: Search and rescue efforts still on


    PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Haitian government officials say they are still looking for earthquake survivors, despite earlier reports that they had called off search and rescue efforts.

    "There has been a misinterpretation of the president's declaration," Haitian Minister of Communications Marie Laurence Lassegue told The Miami Herald.

    Before making a final decision on future search and rescue efforts, Haitian officials are waiting for operators on the ground to give President René Préval their recommendation.

    Earlier Saturday, the Associated Press, citing a United Nations statement released Friday, reported that Haiti's government had declared its search and rescue phase for survivors over.

    But U.N. officials in Haiti told The Miami Herald the government did not tell them it was calling off search and rescue efforts.

    Amid the confusion, other rescue teams are still looking for survivors would continue their searches, a U.N. spokeswoman told the Associated Press.

    On Friday, rescue workers with Israeli Defense Forces freed a 22-year-old man entombed in the ruins of Port-au-Prince for 10 days. [Another team rescued an 84 year old woman from the rubble yesterday, as well.]

    All together, 132 people were rescued from the rubble between Jan. 13 and 21, according to the U.N.

    Some 49 international search and rescue teams -- down from 67, were still in Haiti as of Saturday, the U.N. said. [...]

    Reporting from Haiti: no getting comfy in hell

    Even in a war zone there's always one hotel that's a haven for correspondents, although they may live with the thought the place could be shelled during their sleep. There is no haven in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where the angry earth continues to roil. There have been more than 50 aftershocks since the first strike, and several of those have been strong.

    Reuters Senior Correspondent for Mexico & Central America, Catherine Bremer, provides an inside look at what it's like to be filing reports from hell. I see from her report that the by-now legendary Hotel Villa Creole ("Hotel Haiti") has a role in her account.

    The hotel is charging now, at least for storing gear, which is only fair; the owner couldn't keep letting rooms for free as he did in the first days after the quake. This reminds me I forgot to mention in the Hotel Haiti post that the hotel had also set up a makeshift medical clinic, at least in the first days.

    Catherine's account backs up what can be seen by following CNN's coverage of Haiti: many reporters do help Haiti's survivors in personal ways. Then comes the high-wire balancing act of being involved without overly identifying.

    I think the latter happened to CNN's Soledad O'Brien. Doubtful she lacks physical courage or stamina but she's the mother of four; she was admittedly blindsided by having to watch orphaned children and babies go without critical medical treatment and suffer for lack of food and water in stifling heat. Then she became involved in a mission to get a group of orphans U.S. visas that ended in their being turned away before even reaching the U.S. embassy's gate.

    She didn't lose it on camera. But from her on-camera outburst, once she returned to the CNN studio in the USA and discussed the issue of visas for Haitian orphans, I suspect she had to be yanked from the assignment. It happens, in any event. The journalists who can get involved and still maintain perspective while standing witness to horrific events are a special breed -- first-responder types. Without those types the news of the day would often be unbearable to watch.
    Haiti: emotional, logistical roller coaster for media
    Catherine Bremer
    January 22, 2009, 12:51 PM ET

    PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Tents, satellite receivers, laptops and cables cram the garden of a partly collapsed hotel in Haiti where journalists frantically type, shout into satphones, curse when the generator cuts out and run to the poolside each time an aftershock hits.
    Hundreds of reporters, photographers and TV crews descended on Haiti after the January 12 earthquake that killed up to 200,000 people in the Western Hemisphere's poorest state.

    Many wear the same filthy clothes every day, rinse their underwear during a daily three-minute splash in a shared bathroom and sleep well away from walls because of constant aftershocks. Using the cracked hotel's basement toilets is nerve-wracking.

    In downtown Port-au-Prince, another damaged hotel sheltering foreign media has no running water, so journalists lather up in the swimming pool in their underwear.

    Others camp out on the runway at the airport, where they can get better Internet connections with big satellite dishes. They live on crackers, peanut butter or army rations, use putrid toilets and get little sleep as military planes thunder about and aid trucks offload boxes of food aid.

    "The pool has been a boon for us, we've all been washing in it. Every morning we stand around and do our ablutions -- they just stick a load of chlorine in it each day to clean it," said Sky News correspondent Robert Nisbet at the Oloffson hotel.

    The logistical challenges of covering a story in a country whose infrastructure is in ruins come on top of the emotional toll of bearing witness to decaying bodies, orphaned children, casualties with hideous wounds and a sea of hungry refugees.

    Many reporters admit to having cried. Most have handed out bandages, antiseptic cream, water, food or cash to earthquake victims and several have intervened to save lives.

    One journalist called a military unit and refused to budge from a casualty scene until they came to fly out a boy with a gangrenous leg. Another carried a girl with a serious leg wound down a mountainside to get her to a surgeon.

    "Her father was crying and crying. He lost his wife in the quake so the girl was all he had left," the journalist said. "I just couldn't leave her there knowing she would die."


    Many of the foreign media who first raced into Haiti after the magnitude-7 quake ended up at the Villa Creole hotel, which, despite having its middle part turned to rubble, has sheltered scores of journalists, aid workers and medics.

    Media groups pay for rooms to store gear -- correspondents sleep on the grass, on the roof or in vans but rarely inside -- and outgun each other with flashy Bgan Internet systems, wireless radios, inflatable mattresses and big frame tents.

    The hotel's indomitable staff serve up hot meals despite shortages and come round each night with blankets.

    Few reporters could sleep the first few nights, lying in the garden haunted by groans and wails from the injured and dying on the other side of the wall.

    "We are all just processing so many images and emotions. It's the first time I've covered something where you drive past bodies in the street," said Nisbet. "The first time, everybody in the car was silent for ages. The smell is the worst thing."

    Each night photographers sit around the pool editing sobering images on their laptops.

    Everyone works until they collapse, but they chug beer too -- and the French journalists conjure up red wine -- to try to wind down from the day's grim scenes.

    Haitians pester journalists for water, food and face masks, or offer their services as fixers and drivers. Reporters pay inflated prices, knowing how badly the money is needed.

    And there are moments of hilarity. Wednesday morning's strong magnitude-6 aftershock jolted everyone out of their tents at dawn and sent two reporters racing stark naked from their bathrooms to the poolside breakfast area.

    Reporters strive to write stories that will draw aid and medics, and try to comfort victims. Workaday items become their most treasured possessions: a notepad, boots, head mask and head torch. One cherishes a tube of apricot scrub to rub her face each night to get rid of the stink and grime from hours of riding a motorbike through scenes of hell.

    A coveted pack of chocolate biscuits is given away in an impulsive moment to a pair of hungry orphans. It was worth it to hear them giggle, the first laughter heard in days.

    (Editing by Doina Chiacu and Alan Elsner)

    Friday, January 22


    In Haiti, the children go to school in the afternoon. So at 5:53 PM on January 12, at the time the earthquake struck, all the schools in Haiti were packed with children and teachers.

    January 22:
    Amid streams of aid workers and troops, some Haitian civilians boarded charter flights out of the country. There is still no commercial air service.

    Among those leaving was a group of Haitian employees of the Inter-American Development Bank, including a young woman who would give her only first name, Francoise. She was going to the Dominican Republic with her 15-month-old daughter.

    Her house was damaged, but survived. But she was leaving, even though she and her husband have good jobs and own rental property. Each aftershock terrifies her, she said, and she worries about her daughter breathing the stench of decomposing bodies. On Thursday, someone tried to shoot her husband in a brazen mugging.

    "I just can't take it anymore," Francoise said. Her husband is staying, she said, and she'll return someday. But she can't see much hope right now.

    "What they need to do is really break everything and rebuild it, she said. "Evacuate the city, because it's beginning to stink." Then she carried her daughter to the makeshift passport-control desk and out onto the tarmac.

    Haiti Crisis: Questions about aid distribution network (UPDATED 3 X)

    10:30 AM UPDATE
    CNN has released the video of Sanjay Gupta's visit to the airport yesterday to collect medical supplies, and which I discuss at length in this post. The CNN website also provides a summary of the report, including quotes from Col. Ben McMullen:
    U.S. military personnel in a warehouse tent at the airport gave Gupta a trash bag full of supplies to take back to a hospital he had visited earlier but couldn't explain why there seemed to be no organized system for distribution.

    "There is stuff here waiting to be taken out, that's a true statement," said Air Force Col. Ben McMullen, deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Air Component. "Is it a lot? I can't speak to it. I will tell you the reason you got it is that everyone on this side, specifically the U.S. government side, is dedicated to getting as much stuff outside as they can. ... [CNN's ellipses, not mine]

    "It's a shame, because you would hope that everything could get out there within seconds. But that kind of infrastructure just isn't in place."
    The Port Odyssey

    I'm going to have to eat a little crow -- just a wing mind you, not the whole bird -- about my smug remarks yesterday in defense of Brigadier General Mike Dana's optimistic remark on January 19 that the pier in Port au Prince would be open in "two or three days." The port did reopen yesterday but this seems to be a finger pier, not the main pier, from what John Batchelor reported on his January 21 show during the closing segment (12:50 AM ET). And it's a pretty rickety finger pier at that, from a Channel News Asia report today:
    ... gaping fissures still slice through the pier where ships unload, and it wobbles during each of the terrifying aftershocks that have succeeded the original temblor.

    "It's not good. It's a very unstable platform at this point," US Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Mike Pierno told AFP.

    US Navy and US Army divers were due to start repairing the pier Friday -- work that was expected to last at least several weeks -- while US Coast Guard and Haitian officials will ensure it is not overused.

    "Right now it's in a state where it can be repaired and we don't want to do any more damage," Pierno said.
    And talk I picked up from a CNN reporter yesterday afternoon about a "south" pier seems, after I took in a different CNN report, to refer to one part of the same pier -- although I'm not entirely clear on this point and my reading of five reports filed by other news organizations didn't help clarify.

    So what I'm going to do is delegate discussion of the technical aspects of the port problems to Batchelor. If he blogs on the situation today I'll link to it; otherwise you can listen to the podcast of his closing segment, which should be posted soon at the WABC radio website archives.

    However, I will not resist passing along General Dana's latest prediction, from the same report I linked to above; I figure that given he's in charge of logistics for the US operation in Haiti, he's not making this stuff up out of whole cloth:
    "The port is probably at 30 per cent of its capacity right now. After 21 days it will be at full capacity."
    Well, from the accounts I've read it seems to be operating at 10 percent capacity as of yesterday. Anyhow, if the capacity gets up to 50 percent in a month I'll consider that great progress and be overjoyed if it's higher. Dana also said that fuel would be shipped to the port this weekend.

    Sanjay Gupta's Airport Adventure

    The good news is that 10 (or 30) percent port capacity is better than nothing.
    UPDATE 9:50 AM
    Agencies can pick up their supplies directly from the port. It's not clear from the report I just saw on CNN whether all the supplies are picked up, or whether some are trucked to the airport for distribution from there.
    The bad news is that there's still a distribution bottleneck at the airport; I doubt UN and U.S. officials can continue denying this after they see Dr Sanjay Gupta's report last night for CNN, which was filmed earlier in the day. Here's my summary of the report for a correspondent:

    "Sanjay Gupta was at a hospital that had no medicine. So he walks to the airport, which takes him about 10 minutes, and there's maybe 100 people -- he thinks they might be from aid agencies, trying to get authorization or waiting to pick up supplies -- behind a chain link fence; they're looking onto the airfield.

    Gupta walks to the terminal with his cameraman; he tells the camera it takes him 5 minutes to get through the checkpoint. Then he walks onto the airfield. Camera shows pallets stacked up.

    Soldier walks up to him, Sanjay asks can he look through pallets for basic medical supplies? Soldier says sure, but takes him to a small tent. (There are a few other small tents nearby). Camera isn't allowed to follow him into the tent. Cut.

    Next part shows Gupta walking out of the tent holding a small plastic trash bag full of medicine bottles -- wide-spectrum antibiotics, painkiller, etc. He delivers bag to hospital.

    He also interviews Ben McMullen, Col. USAF, who is in charge of -- something -- at the airport; didn't catch his title or it wasn't mentioned.

    McMullen is obviously under pressure about how to answer Gupta's questions: Who's in charge of distribution network and why the bottleneck? McMullen says in essence he feels everyone's pain, military doing best they can, plenty of supplies have been delivered.

    To be fair the stacked pallets on the airfield are not a forest; clearly offloaded supplies are being delivered. But McMullen's remarks sound evasive to my ears, and there was no activity at the airfield to load the waiting pallets onto delivery trucks while Gupta was there.

    Weren't USAID and UN, or one or the other, supposed to be in charge of supply distribution?"
    9:15 AM ET UPDATE
    A few minutes ago Sanjay Gupta elaborated on his experience at the airport yesterday and CNN re-broadcast some of the same footage of him at the airport. Gupta explained that there was some kind system in place; agencies get an authorization number to pick up their designated relief supplies from the airport but the system has obviously not been working well. And from a second look at the footage: while it isn't a forest there were more pallets stacked at the airport than I took in during the first viewing. Gupta also said that Col. McMullen was clearly frustrated with the bottleneck. However, I stick by my original impression that he was speaking evasively. So my guess is that he's not tasked to discuss the distribution system at any length because it wasn't created by the military.
    Bad memories of FEMA

    CBS reporter Peter King, filing yesterday from Port au Prince, backs up what Gupta's airport adventure showed:
    There is still no good distribution system for food, water or anything else. I’m absolutely floored by this. We’re told that supplies are arriving daily. We see and hear the huge cargo planes landing, but we have no idea who’s running the show, nor where all of these supplies are actually going. I may be going out on a limb here, but from what I’ve seen, this operation makes Brownie’s FEMA response to Katrina look like a crowning achievement in emergency response. That’s how bad it is.
    In some places the distribution is great. According to what USAID head Dr Rajiv Shah said yesterday, there are now 300 food/ water distribution sites in the stricken areas. And according to one report I saw yesterday on CNN or Fox, U.S. helicopters are making runs every 10 minutes to drop supplies at the golf course in Port au Prince, where several thousand homeless Haitians are camped.

    However, one reporter after another, from one news organization after another, is making basically the same observation that Gupta and King make. And I saw several TV interviews yesterday with aid agency and hospital people around the city that report the same. There is no question there are serious problems with the supply distribution network and that it's still unclear who's in charge of the operation.

    The situation is becoming critical with regard to medical supplies because as the days wear on the injured survivors are becoming more and more ill, and developing a host of additional health problems without adequate medical treatment.

    Rajiv Shah

    At the same time Rajiv Shah is having praise heaped on him for his leadership of USAID during the Haiti relief operation. Dr Shah was sworn in as head of USAID just five days before the Haiti earthquake.

    Several months ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nearly got her wrists slapped for asking in public when President Obama was going to get around to nominating someone to fill the empty post at USAID. This was after she'd tried with no success behind closed doors to get Obama moving on the nomination. And it wasn't until November that Obama came up with a nominee.

    As to Dr Shah's qualification to lead USAID, the funny thing is there's no way to tell whether his credentials would suit him to lead the agency. That's because the USAID mission is murky and it's been so for years. Let us hope that Dr Shah, to whatever degree he's responsible for the distribution of supplies in Haiti, is able to quickly streamline the distribution system.

    Thursday, January 21

    Haiti Crisis: U.S. military gets Haiti pier reopened today, lays road into the capital, starts building dirt runways at airport

    Brigadier General Michael Dana, of the J4 Logistics Directorate, told Reuters on the 18th that the port would reopen in "two or three days" and the port reopened today. On the 18th I got into a debate with a correspondent about Dana's prediction; I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, the correspondent said Dana was blowing smoke because no way would the port be reopened.

    Well it turns out there's a north pier and a south pier and it's the south one that was reopened today so I will magnanimously split the difference on who won the debate.

    The reopening, as great as it is, is only part of today's good news:

    > The U.S. military now has 63 helicopters in the region and Canadian troops are working to open an airport in Jacmel. See the CNN report below.

    > CNN also reported just now on TV that the U.S. has begun extensive medevac operations, air-lifting gravely injured people to the gigantic full-service hospital ship, USNS Comfort.

    > The U.S. military has also streamlined operations at the airport and is now logging 160+ flights a day.

    > And Reuters reports:
    Small grocery shops and barber shops, as well as some pharmacies, were open again in Port-au-Prince, some extending credit to regular customers short of cash. Banks were to reopen on Friday in the provinces and on Saturday in Port-au-Prince, giving most Haitians their first access to cash since the quake hit [...]
    Now here's the CNN report:
    Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Relief supplies were heading into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from ships docked at a reopened pier Thursday, brought into the city on trucks traveling on a repaired gravel road leading from the port.

    A Dutch Navy ship, the Pelikaan, was docked at the city's south pier Thursday, unloading 90 tons of humanitarian aid. Two other ships previously unloaded containers.

    The reopened pier is older and smaller than the north pier, which was rendered unusable by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the Haitian capital January 12.

    The south pier was damaged, but Haiti port authorities and the U.S. military were able to put it back in shape, although repairs continue. Workers also repaired the road leading into the city and laid gravel on it.

    Unloading of aid, however, was a slow process. The road allows only for one-way traffic, meaning a truck drives to the end of the pier, is loaded with supplies, and then drives out. Also, because of concerns about overloading the pier, only one truck is allowed on it at a time.

    Repairs on the pier continue, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Mark Gibbs. "We're working on it. We've got a long ways to go. ... If we lose this pier, that's it. We can't bring in anything."

    However, the reopening of the pier and the repairing of the road represented a major development in efforts to get aid to earthquake victims, in that ships can carry much more cargo than air airplanes.

    Authorities hope to get two-way traffic going on the pier by Friday, which would speed up the process.

    A 5.9-magnitude aftershock Wednesday stopped efforts at the pier for about three hours. U.S. Navy divers had to go back in the water and reassess the pier's structural integrity, officials said. There was no immediate word if two less intense aftershocks Thursday, measured at magnitude 4.9 and 4.8, also caused a delay.

    Lt. Gen. Douglas Fraser of U.S. Southern Command announced the pier's reopening on Thursday in Washington. Officials hope to move about 150 containers of aid Thursday and 250 on Friday. They want to increase that to 800 containers a day.

    The reopening comes as U.S. officials have been stung by criticism of aid efforts in recent days.

    Some of that criticism has been leveled by aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders, who blamed five victims' deaths on delays, saying several flights carrying medical supplies had been diverted from the Port-au-Prince airport into the neighboring Dominican Republic.

    Working under adverse conditions with limited supplies, medical teams have been forced to improvise.Renzo Fricke, field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders told CNN this week that staffers had to buy a saw in the market so surgeons could do amputations. A CNN crew loaned a medic a pocket knife for another operation.

    Lacking rubbing alcohol, doctors have used vodka to sterilize equipment and instruments. Surgical patients are being given over-the-counter pain medicine because doctors lack any stronger medication. One nurse used a string of Christmas lights as a makeshift extension cord. A belt was used as a tourniquet, and when that broke, a garden hose.

    Canadian troops, meanwhile, were working to open an airport in Jacmel on Thursday, another step that could speed delivery of relief supplies.

    And U.S. Southern Command, through its component Air Force South, conducted an air drop of food and water over Mirebalais, Haiti, on Thursday. Mirebalais is 25 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince. A C-17 delivered water bottles and 17,200 meals ready to eat, the military said in a statement.

    Troops secured an area in which to drop the supplies and, once the supplies were on the ground, the military, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other personnel distributed them, the statement said. Nepalese troops also assisted, the Air Force said. Thursday's air drop was the second since the quake; the first was Monday.

    Fraser said Thursday that 120 to 140 flights a day are coming into the single-runway Port-au-Prince airport, compared with 25 per day just after the quake struck last week. More than 840 have landed since the airport was reopened, but there is a waiting list of 1,400 to come in, he said.

    A senior administration official acknowledged that not all aid, particularly medical supplies, is getting through fast enough but said that in recent days, at least half of the flights entering Haiti are carrying humanitarian supplies. Most of the other 50 percent of flights, including those of the U.S. military and foreign governments, are still carrying some kind of aid.

    "Of course I'm not satisfied with getting material and personnel in for everyone who needs it," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier Wednesday. "Realistically, I am aware of the difficulties that this terrible natural disaster has posed."

    The senior administration official said that more than 300 aid distribution sites are up and running. Fraser said more than 700,000 meals and 1.4 million bottles of water have been delivered, along with 22,000 pounds of medical supplies.

    About 13,100 U.S. troops are in and around Haiti, nearly 2,700 on the ground and another 10,400 off shore. Many Marines spend time in Haiti during the day but sleep on ships at night. More U.S. troops are scheduled to arrive by this weekend, bringing the total to about 4,600 troops on the ground.

    At least 72,000 people -- including dozens of U.N. staff members -- have been confirmed dead in the earthquake, according to the country's prime minister.

    International aid contributions have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, but relief agencies working in Haiti say transportation bottlenecks and poor communications have slowed the delivery of food, water and medicine to survivors.

    On Wednesday, U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Rajiv Shah ordered more medicine and other supplies to be sent within the next 24 hours, the administration official said.

    Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, the head of the U.S. military task force in Haiti, said any aircraft identified as carrying medical supplies would have priority for landing. They are turned away only "if there's no parking space on the ramp, and they don't have sufficient fuel to hold in their holding pattern," he said.

    Another senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that the priorities for aid flights are set "by the government of Haiti first and then by the U.N. second." But the number of flights that can land at Port-au-Prince is "a sheer issue of physics and geometry; you just can't get them all in there."

    To improve the flow of air traffic, the U.S. military said Wednesday it had obtained landing rights at the Dominican Republic's air base at San Isidro, about 135 miles (220 kilometers) east of Port-au-Prince.

    The U.S. military has the ability to build dirt runways that rugged cargo planes such as the C-130 Hercules can use, but the equipment needed to build those is "always at a premium," the senior official said.

    The military has 63 helicopters in the region, Fraser said.