Jim Hoft falsely claimed that Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley said that the "Taliban" are no longer in Afghanistan, and Hoft added that Coakley is "not just wrong- She's dangerous." In fact, the context of Coakley's comments makes clear that she was talking about Al Qaeda, not the Taliban; indeed, military experts, including Gen. David Petraeus and national security adviser James Jones, have stated that Al Qaeda's presence is diminished in Afghanistan, and intelligence officials reportedly estimate that there are fewer than 100 Al Qaeda members there.
Hoft falsely claimed Coakley said Taliban is "'not there' anymore"
On Wednesday December 30 Jordanian doctor and Al-Qaeda blogger Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi killed 7 CIA officers in a suicide bomb attack at an outpost in southeastern Afghanistan. Before he murdered the Americans in Afghanistan he recorded a tape with the local Taliban leader. The Taliban released the tape after his death.
On Monday Senate Candidate Martha Coakley told Massachusetts voters that it was time to pull out of Afghanistan. The Taliban was "not there" anymore.
"I think we have done what we are going to be able to do in Afghanistan. I think that we should plan an exit strategy. Yes. I'm not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that. They're gone. They're not there anymore."
She's not just wrong- She's dangerous.
In his "martyrdom" tape Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi warned that the attacks would spread outside of the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.
But Martha Coakley says they're not there anymore.
Coakley clearly was referring to Al Qaeda, not the Taliban
Hoft did not include portion of Coakley's remarks in which she referred to Al Qaeda. During a January 11 debate at the University of Massachusetts, after the moderator asked Coakley how the United States can succeed in Afghanistan, she replied -- as Hoft indicated -- that she was "not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was -- and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that goal. They're gone. They're not there anymore." In the next sentences, which Hoft omitted, Coakley made clear she was referring to Al Qaeda: " They're in, apparently Yemen, they're in Pakistan. Let's focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is and not always decide that we need to --"
Hoft's editing of Coakley's statement was noted by the National Security Network.
From the debate (remarks come around 6:25):
DAVID GERGEN (moderator): Miss Coakley, how do you think we then succeed in Afghanistan?
COAKLEY: In Afghanistan?
GERGEN: Yes, and Pakistan.
COAKLEY: I think we have done what we are going to be able to do in Afghanistan.
GERGEN: You think we should come home?
COAKLEY: I think we should plan an exit strategy. Yes.
GERGEN: And -- then how would we succeed?
COAKLEY: I'm not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was -- and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that goal. They're gone. They're not there anymore. They're in, apparently Yemen, they're in Pakistan. Let's focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is and not always decide that we need to --
GERGEN: Would you then send troops into Yemen where Al Qaeda is?
COAKLEY: No, I -- that's exactly the point. This is not about sending troops everywhere we think Al Qaeda may be, or where they're training. We have all kinds of resources at our disposal, including CIA, our allies who work with us. And the focus should be getting the appropriate information on individuals who are trained, who represent a threat to us, and use the force necessary to go after those individuals.
Military and security experts and officials agree that Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan is diminished
Jim Jones: "The Al Qaeda presence is very diminished. ... No bases. No ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies." CNN's John King asked Jones, "[D]oes the return of the Taliban in your view, sir, equal the return of a sanctuary for al Qaeda?" Jones responded: "Well, I think this is one of the central issues and, you know, it could. Obviously, the good news is that Americans should feel at least good about in Afghanistan is that the Al Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country. No bases. No ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies." [State of the Union, 10/4/09]
Wash. Post: Senior U.S. military intelligence official says Al Qaeda has "fewer than 100 members" in Afghanistan. Reporting on "the relative decline of Al-Qaeda" in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported: "Although the war in Afghanistan began as a response to al-Qaeda terrorism, there are perhaps fewer than 100 members of the group left in the country, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence official in Kabul who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official estimated that there are 300 al-Qaeda members in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where the group is based, compared with tens of thousands of Taliban insurgents on either side of the border." [The Washington Post, 11/11/09]
NY Times: Senior White House official stated that Al Qaeda has fewer than 100 fighters in Afghanistan. The New York Times reported that a senior Obama administration official stated that "Al Qaeda has fewer than 100 fighters in Afghanistan." [The New York Times, 10/7/09]
Petraeus: "Al Qaida, if you will -- is not based, per se, in Afghanistan." In a May 2009 interview, King said to Petraeus, "No Al Qaida at all in Afghanistan. Is that an exaggeration, General Petraeus, or is that true?" Petraeus responded:
PETRAEUS: No, I would agree with that assessment. Certainly, Al Qaida and its affiliates. Again, remember that this is, as I mentioned earlier, a syndicate of extremist organizations, some of which are truly transnational extremists. In other words, don't just conduct attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and India, but even throughout the rest of the world, as we saw in the U.K. a couple of years ago. They do come in and out of Afghanistan, but the Al Qaida -- precise Al Qaida, if you will -- is not based, per se, in Afghanistan, although its elements and certainly its affiliates -- Baitullah Mehsud's group, commander Nazir Khaqani (ph) network and others, certainly do have enclaves and sanctuaries in certain parts of eastern Afghanistan. And then the Afghan Taliban, of course, has a number of districts in which it has its fighters and its shadow government, if you will, even.
But I think, no, I think that's an accurate assessment, and that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan -- that very, very mountainous, rugged terrain just east of the Afghan border and in the western part of Pakistan -- is the locus of the leadership of these organizations, although they do, again, go into Afghanistan, certainly, and conduct operations against our troops, and have tried, certainly, to threaten all the way to Kabul at various times. [State of the Union, 5/10/09]
AP: McChrystal stated, "I do not see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now." The Associated Press reported, "The top commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan said Friday he sees no signs of a major al-Qaida presence in the country, but says the terror group still maintains close links to insurgents," and quoted Gen. Stanley McChrystal at the Dutch Defense Ministry commenting, "I do not see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now." [Associated Press, 9/11/09]
Hoft also claimed al-Balawi appeared with a "local" Taliban leader, but it was a Pakistani Taliban leader
Hoft: Bomber "recorded a tape with the local Taliban leader." As evidence that Coakley is "wrong," Hoft further claimed, "On Wednesday December 30 Jordanian doctor and Al-Qaeda blogger Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi killed 7 CIA officers in a suicide bomb attack at an outpost in southeastern Afghanistan. Before he murdered the Americans in Afghanistan he recorded a tape with the local Taliban leader. The Taliban released the tape after his death."
In fact, the man in the video is reportedly the Pakistani Taliban leader, not a "local" Afghan Taliban leader. According to a January 9 New York Times article, al-Balawi "was shown sitting beside another man, whom a Pakistani news report identified as Hakimullah Mehsud, the aggressive young militant who took the reins of the Pakistani Taliban after Baitullah Mehsud's death and has spearheaded an intense string of terrorist attacks." It added, "That image, and Mr. Balawi's praise for Baitullah Mehsud, seemed to support the Pakistani Taliban's claims that they were the main player in the attack and had trained Mr. Balawi."
The National Security Network has more on Hoft's distortion.