Commentary by Kay B. Day
As a US soldier awaits President Barack Obama’s response to a petition, new information about al Qaeda in Afghanistan has surfaced. That information indicates a sophisticated network in mid-2010, with tentacles spreading throughout the war-torn country.
Despite US national security statements downplaying the presence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2012, al Qaeda still maintained an active presence, having built an organization of jihadis evidenced by a memo dating to mid-2010. News of the terrorist organization’s strength broke during the trial in New York of alleged terrorist Abid Naseer, a native of Pakistan. A June, 2010 memo described “a significant presence” for al Qaeda. Repeated attacks in years that followed indicate the terrorist group was not as weak as Americans believed in 2012.
The new information was found as a result of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. It was disclosed at Naseer’s trial.
There is little reason to believe that presence had seriously deteriorated by mid-2012; attacks indicate the opposite.
Former 1LT Clint Lorance is awaiting a response to a petition filed on the White House website ‘We the People.’ The petition asks for a presidential pardon and it has been signed by 124,157 people to date.
What’s the protocol once all the signatures are gathered?
The White House website explains how petitions are handled:
“The White House plans to respond to each petition that crosses the signature threshold…In a few rare cases (such as specific procurement, law enforcement, or adjudicatory matters), the White House response might not address the facts of a particular matter to avoid exercising improper influence.”
The White House website featured samples of responses to a variety of petitions, including subjects like gluten-free labeling, ‘Happy Lunar New Year’, and the White House beer recipe. Other petitions addressed more serious subjects such as pediatric cancer and online piracy. A favorite topic of the site seemed to be immigration, reflecting the Obama administration’s intent to increase the number of guest workers and foreign nationals in the US.
Lorance’s case is not very complicated. He’d just become leader of a platoon in early July, 2012 when he and his men went out on patrol. Lorance perceived men approaching on a motorcycle as a threat and he permitted his men to fire on them once they had disembarked. Military officials charged Lorance with murder and he was convicted in a court martial.
Lorance’s attorney discovered critical evidence that was withheld from the defense during the court martial, including ties the men on the motorcycle had to terrorists. The defense also found a number of legal errors in the court martial process. Thus far, the government has offered no relief to Lorance, even missing a deadline to respond to legal motions.
Some of Lorance’s men disagreed with firing on the men on the motorcycle, and they testified against him. Some who did that had received immunity. The men, by necessity because of political policy, accepted the narrative the administration promoted claiming al Qaeda had been weakened despite the fact the platoon had been attacked recently and even the leader Lorance replaced had been seriously wounded.
The documents disclosed in the alleged terrorist’s trial in New York, coupled with attacks across Afghanistan and in the area where Lorance’s men were patrolling, paint a different scenario than that promoted by both the administration and media.
An article at the Long War Journal, a well-regarded site covering the wars, noted the International Security Assistance Force issued statements that conflicted with the administration’s claims. Those statements drew little attention as the US headed towards the 2012 presidential election. In August, 2012, The Long War Journal noted, “Al Qaeda presence is pervasive in Afghanistan.”
A number of attacks occurred in the southern portion of Afghanistan where Lorance was stationed. In June, 2012, a motorcyclist detonated a bomb in Kandahar and a suicide bomber followed up with another. At least 22 people were killed.
The Long War Journal article linked above recounts many attacks over a period of years.
In March, 2012, a truck burst into flames as the secretary for the US Dept. of Defense landed at Camp Bastion. The same day 8 civilians were killed by an IED.
In early September, approximately two months after Lorance’s patrol incident, Camp Bastion was attacked. John D. Gresham, writing for Defense Media Network, called the attack “arguably the worst day in USMC aviation history since the Tet Offensive of 1968.” US media paid scant attention to the devastating attack that occurred shortly after the attacks on US interests in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.
In a recruiting effort, a jihadi magazine in 2013 praised a specific type of motorbike as key to terrorist attacks:
“[T]he call to arms appeared along with an homage to the Honda 125 in its Steeds of War feature, crediting the $700 motorbike with helping defeat ‘crusader’ forces.”
Attacks continue in Afghanistan, with a wire service reporting today the killings of “eight civilians, including women and children” by roadside bombs.
In late January, 2015 news broke about the chief of military justice for the division handling Lorance’s case : “An officer who previously served as the chief of military justice for the 82nd Airborne Division was convicted Sunday of rape, forcible sodomy, assault and disobeying an order from a superior officer.”
Lorance’s defense now plans to submit a motion for retrial. Meanwhile, for a judgment call made to protect the lives of his men, former 1LT Clint Lorance is serving a 20-year prison term at Ft. Leavenworth.
Official sites/Clint Lorance
New Petition at The White House
New evidence & clemency information
Facebook page for Clint Lorance
Official website for Clint Lorance
Day on the Day articles
Lorance not the only soldier punished for targeting enemy (February 6, 2015)
New evidence in Lorance case calls platoon mates’ claims into question (January 17, 2015)
Clemency denied: Pitfall for presidents who used same tactic as soldier (January 5, 2015)
Gateway article to 15-part series on the case of Clint Lorance
(March 2, 2015)