Pompeo ready to pull the world over

And what's Erik Prince up to these days?

1. Afghan President Ghani: US-Taliban deal to come within days

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told a panel at the Munich Security Conference that his government is taking a practical approach to resolving the 18-year-long Afghan conflict.

"We are not going to solve this conflict on the basis of 'paper discussions,'" the Afghan leader added.

Ghani expressed some doubts about the Taliban's intention, alluding to the "Trojan Horse strategy," but said that he needed to test the group's commitment nonetheless. "We are going to take a substantial step forward and test. Testing is going to reveal [if the peace with the Taliban works]."

That guy will be on the first thing burning out of the airport once a deal gets signed, because there is no way the Taliban are going to let him stay in power as president. That’s not based on any kind of insider knowledge, just knowing that the Taliban refuse to recognize the government in Kabul as legitimate. And by “government” they mean Ghani and his CEO.

After nearly two decades, it looks like peace is a real possibility. So Trump gets to add that to his campaign speeches in the coming months. Not that anyone really cares about the war, but it’s going to get super political here real quick.

2. US accuses Huawei of stealing trade secrets and assisting Iran

U.S. prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the U.S. battle with the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker.

In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Huawei Technologies Co was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organized crime.

It also contains new allegations about the company's involvement in countries subject to sanctions. Among other accusations, it says Huawei installed surveillance equipment in Iran that was used to monitor, identify, and detain protesters during the 2009 anti-government demonstrations in Tehran.

Not sure what Huawei did to piss off the Americans, but the United States keeps on kicking the Chinese tech giant. Which given that the UK is pretty OK with Huawei, this only serves to further widen the gap between the Americans and their European allies.

3. 'Westlessness' is the west really in a state of peril

Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, said the future of the Middle East was no longer being decided in Geneva and New York, the residencies of the UN, but instead in Astana and Sochi, the cities where Russia, Turkey and Iran meet. The cause he said was the White House decision no longer to play the role of omnipresent policeman. The US departure left what Maas described as “geostrategic gaps”, and these were being filled by countries whose values Europe did not share. All this required Germany to answer Emmanuel Macron’s call for a strategic dialogue, especially on defence.

These events used to be a victory lap for the United States, or at least that’s how the security conference in Munich went once upon a time. Now that the Americans have all but abdicated their role as the world’s policeman, other countries are more than happy to step in and fill the gaps. Always find phrasing like “European values” adorable, because I feel like I should be reading that with a pith helmet.

The Daily Beast had some of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s finer bits:

“I’ve seen, we’ve all seen, democratic leaders questioning America’s commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance and America’s leadership in the world. I’m here this morning to tell you the facts. Those statements simply do not affect in any significant way or reflect reality. I am happy to report that the death of the trans-Atlantic alliance is grossly over-exaggerated. The West is winning. We are collectively winning. We’re doing it together.”

Because so help him, Mike’s ready to turn this world right around if the West doesn’t knock off the grabass and get in line with how great the United States is.

4. The Inconvenient Truth About ISIS

Eager to move on, President Donald Trump has declared victory over ISIS. Nevertheless, the conflict is ongoing, and to the extent that the Democratic presidential candidates mention the fight, it’s to express their desire to withdraw troops. The reality, though, suggests that a definitive end to the conflict remains out of reach. Even after America spent billions of dollars during two presidencies to defeat ISIS, deployed troops across Iraq and Syria, and dropped thousands of bombs, ISIS persists. If anything, it stands ready to exploit Trump’s impatience to end America’s “forever wars” and shift the country’s focus to countering Iran.

Nothing terribly new here, but remember this piece when we have to fight off ISIS 3.0 in about 5 years. Or when the affiliate has managed to rebrand itself outside of the Levant and a larger, more unified organization continues to spread across Africa. Because what the DoD has said all along is that ISIS is not, in fact, defeated, but is actively trying to regroup and continues to be a real threat to the West.

5. Trump White House Weighing Plans for Private Spies to Counter “Deep State” Enemies

The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals.

“Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.”

First off, it’s The Intercept, which has made its raison d'être covering itself in tinfoil and pointing out that war is bad and governments have monies. So let's all let that bit of salt marinate a while before we go tearing around worrying about whether this is legitimate or not.

But it’s not the first time that Erik Prince and his associates have pitched a privatized version of government efforts. And Trump having his own spy force would certainly appeal to the president. Except that this whole thing reads like a direct-to-DVD reboot of the National Treasure franchise, with Mickey Rourke playing the lead as they discover the secrets of presidential plastic surgery.